May 10, 2015

Fractions 12: Clouds


Every now and then, I make little videos for a series of fictional fragments called Fractions. Here's the latest one. This edition is 'Clouds' and it's about clouds.

The text is taken from the Jusbin Bebber Twitter account (something I also write as a kind of sandbox for stupid ideas). See those tweets below the video.

 


May 9, 2015

Five ways to survive the next five years of Tory government


The Tories won the election and this can only be bad news for the vulnerable and the poor. Many people won't know what living under a Tory majority is like: the last time they won an election, Right Said Fred and Altern-8 were in the top ten.

It's okay though because I have sure-fire methods so we all survive the next five years.

1. Dig a hole

It doesn't matter where you are - in your garden, in front of the toaster, in the shower - start digging. Make it a good and deep hole. Climb into the hole on regular occasions.

Make friends with the worms. The hole is your home.

2. Make a Baked Alaska

Is it hot? Is it cold? It's both, but how can that be? Baked Alaska is the most demonic of all the desserts and its contradictions can never be understood. Make a Baked Alaska.

Then bury it in the hole for it must never be mentioned ever again.

3. Rant on social media

Rant on social media about how awful the government is. Your followers in your part of the echo chamber will love you for this, because they agree with you and deserve to be castigated for that. Whatever you do, don't write letters or contact those in power.

Install broadband in your hole.

4. Arm yourself

When the hospitals get sold off to casinos and every third child is converted into Tesco shares, you'll need a high profile and shocking strategy. Have several dozen extra arms grafted onto your body. Run down the street flapping your new limbs like an octopus on Free Scallop Tuesday.

Be careful not to fall down a hole. There will be a lot of holes by now.

5. Rent out your chin

Rent your chin to campers and caravanners. Offer cheap toilets and good drainage. Show them the view from your forehead. Tell them this is as good as anywhere on Anglesey, although the crazy golf is shut for the summer. When they ask you about your ill-advised goatee, change the subject. Perhaps suggest they move their tent into the hole. It has Baked Alaska in.

Mmm, Baked Alaska, they'll say as they lick their CamperGaz stove with longing in their eyes.

In summary...

Many will suffer under this government. Ranting on social media will not be enough. Choose your campaigns, whether it's 38 Degrees or Liberty or Quaker Social Action. Whatever. But choose something and start small, for you will need your energy.

Be active, be kind, be focussed.

You didn't expect this to suddenly get serious, did you? I'm thinking through how I can become more socially active over the next five years: when I do this, my imagination throws out a load of junk. Hence the arm/chin nonsense above.

Sorry about that. There is no such thing as an octopus-human. And Baked Alaska is kind of disgusting.

We need to protest as much as we did back in the 1990s. You are not in a hole. You can stand tall, and you can speak to power. In the words of Right Said Fred, it's time to Activ-8.

Wait.

Wrong band, dammit.

May 4, 2015

Letting music decide the 2015 UK general election, obviously


This year's UK general election has left me wavering like never before. I don't have television, so the leaders' debates were lost on me. We have a couple of days before the polls open, and I am truly undecided.

So I decided to ask music. If I was to judge the party leaders, it would be through the filter of a gramophone, my head jammed into its horn while they dribbled on about immigrants and deficits and tax credits.

In reality, it's down to the red and the green. But let's take all five main parties into account...

Tory

David Cameron is firm and unwavering. A bit plain, as if he's just come out of the packaging. He is minimal techno. He is Robert Hood. If you like Robert Hood, vote Conservative.



Labour

Ed Miliband is inaccessible and awkward. Spend enough time with him and you may begin to understand him.  He is Autechre. If you like Autechre, vote Labour.



Liberal Democrat

Nick Clegg is someone you drifted from a long time ago. You wonder how you were ever into him because he seems so, meh. He is Zero 7. If you like Zero 7, vote Liberal Democrat.



Green

Natalie Bennett is different from the others. In some way this is good. In some ways this is bad. Listening to her is not always the most pleasant experience. She is the hardcore gabba band Neophyte. If you like Neophyte, vote Green.



The other one

Nigel Farage is awful, like something on the bottom of your shoe that could be a slug or someone's excrement, you're not sure. And yet, he's so listenable. Catchy, even. He is LMFAO (pictured). If you like LMFAO and think women should "shut the f*** up" (Redfoo, 2014), vote Ukip.



I don't have a Plaid Cymru or an SNP near me, but obviously they'd be Boards of Canada and Scooter respectively.

That's decided it then. I think.

Did Emily Davison throw herself under those hooves just so I could ooze this kind of nonsense all over my blog? Has Simon Cowell bought the copyright on the X we have to place in the box on Thursday? Am I going to have that LMFAO track in my head for much longer?

All will be decided in the 2015 UK general election. Whoever wins, we're going to have to listen to them for five years.

The Chemical Brothers - Sometimes I Feel So Deserted


This track (see below) feels like all build-up, but that's no bad thing considering it's the opener to the Chemical Brothers' new album. Sometimes I Feel So Deserted could have done with a pneumatic drop at that three-minute mark. Still, it's acidy and deep and bodes well for their first studio album for five years.

I recently wrote up a review of Leftfield's first album in 16 years. You'll have to wait for the next Electronic Sound for thoughts on that one.

May 3, 2015

Curating your life with Toast


I did a ten minute performance on the theme of 'curating your life' at the closure of the Toast art space in central Manchester. At least, I think that's what was happening. I went into the gig knowing pretty much nothing.

Sometimes, going into a gig blind isn't a good idea. What I found was a makeshift, friendly, scrappy, laughy affair in a place that was clearly in the advance stages of being junked.


My fellow performers included Tales Of Whatever's Mark Powell and my longtime pretend twin brother Lee Moore. The set-up was a bit, um, minimal, so we put a load of chairs out and nipped to the Co-op to buy beers for everyone. We took donations, and there is a special place in hell for the people who dumped foreign coins on us.

I read an updated version of my tweets from David Cameron, a couple of short stories and, in what has turned out to be a live favourite, an untitled piece about an attractive stranger told through web searches.

We left when people started wrecking stuff. Went to a bar. High-fived a DJ. Sorted.


Apr 28, 2015

From a poke to a shove: Facebook has chucked me off their site


Facebook has deleted me. They've picked my up by the scruff of my (rubber)neck and thrown me out of the number one social media party. You'll find me in the alleyway at the back door, sprawled among the bins.

The site's insistence on real name usage is a matter of public record, and it left a lot of internet noses out of joint. That policy has now locked me out of my own account.

My name is "not approved". I need to "try again".


Try again at what? I've been Fat Roland online since the 1990s, before Facebook was invented.

I'm not one for skeletons and closets, so I'm not hiding anything. Indeed, my real identity is on numerous websites. You can see my name here and here and here and here and here and here and here

But making my pseudonym my primary web identity allows a healthy distance between me and the web. It is a choice; a carefully selected choice.

It's good for my creativity and headspace. Also, I don't want to be tracked down by the bullies from my primary and secondary school days. That said, I'm not going to be a victim about this. There are transgender people, for example, who have much more legitimate beef with the 'book than I do.

Mention Facebook to many people, and they sneer like it's a piddle-stained relative they haven't quite got shot of. Part of me is glad it has gone. However, I will lose touch with people I love. And it will affect my ability to promote events for Bad Language and Blackwell's.

I don't think there will be a fast fix. In the meantime, this is what my profile looks like.


If you need me, I'll be on Twitter and maybe even Ello (!).

And if you fancy joining me in living a Facebook-less life, delete your account and we'll have un-status un-updated adventures together.

Apr 25, 2015

Blaming my weirdness on music that happened in the 90s


Last night, with my head deep in the bowels of YouTube, I realised how much of an island I was.

YouTube is probably one of the most common ways to listen to music. That compression must really bring out the bass. Ahem.

I decided to playlist my evening with a whole bunch of 90s YouTube techno, from The Advent to Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia. I even remembered the Genaside II project which the Prodigy would apparently sample for Firestarter (although on a quick listen, I can’t hear it myself).

And then I realised that I was the only one listening to this stuff. Among my friends, that is. The ones I hang-out with month-in, month-out. I feel like I’m the only post-rave kid in town.

Everyone else is either eighties post-industrial electronic music with its awkward lip-synching chart crossovers or they’re from that post-Kid A world where computers became so ubiquitous for so many types of bands, dance music was no longer a political and musical protest against the norm.

There’s a longer article in this. I may write it for Electronic Sound.

I guess I’m just blaming my weirdness on knowing that there was a third part to Orbital’s Lush 3-1 and Lush 3-2, or that Fish & Chips wasn’t just a seaside indulgence but was one of the 90s’ most blistering acid workouts.

People need to know this stuff. It should be on the citizenship test.

What do you know about 90s dance music that makes you feel like a little island of knowledge? Leave a comment or tweet me.

Apr 20, 2015

New musical excess


Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because I no longer blog much, I no longer listen to music. I got loads of musics, mate. Pouring out of my ears, mate.

Actually, pouring into my ears. Let’s not get hoist on technicalities.

Now that I’m only four years younger than Ed Miliband, which is how most age should be measured, I’ve realised I’m surrounded by people that don’t listen to new music. They stopped with Fleetwood Mac in 1984 or with Nirvana in 1993 or with Fatman Scoop in 2001.

Instead they listen to the chiming melodies of mortgages or new-born sprogs. Meetings. Commitments. Responsibilities. Other long words.

“I wouldn’t know how to find new music these days,” they say, despite the internet providing numerous behemoths championing new bands: a far cry when it was basically a choice between a couple of inky weeklies and Top Of The Pops. “It was better in the olden days,” they spout, while cementing up their earholes and burying their head in sand.

At least, I thought so. Yet when I put this to Twitter, the reasons for missing out on new music weren't so simple.

For some, new music can be noise, and noise can be bad for mental health - or conversely, a release. It could be you're catching up on all the old new music, or you could have a time-guzzling project on the go (referring here to Friends trifle star Neil Kilham's impressive plan to listen to all 18,000 of his mp3s - in order).

While some delight in the past and simply have no problem with it at all. Which is kind of lovely.

Although if Fatman Scoop (pictured) really was the last new music you listened to, not even a bloke only four years younger than Ed Miliband can save you now. Lawks.

Mar 1, 2015

Shutters - actual shutters


I’ve taken myself away for a 24-hour retreat. I’m in the beautiful Cumbrian town of Kendal. The hotel room has shutters.

My problem is that boredom frightens me. People always tell me how busy I am, but the alternative is slowing down until I freeze into a waxen statue of greasy failure. That’s why this retreat is only 24 hours long – within four minutes of a newsagent – and not some wind-swept three month sabbatical on a sheeped hill in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve used the local library to update blogs. I’m juggling story ideas in high street cafes. I even performed an open mic slot at Verbalise, a live literature night up here in Cumbria that prompted me making this trip. The event featured, among others, Big Charlie Poet and headliner Simon Sylvester (Not The Booker). Both incredible talents.

The next thing on this deeply philosophical silent retreat is opening these shutters, taking breakfast with the hotel cats (pictured), and crossing the lake district on a replacement bus service. Passing the newsagent on the way, of course.

Feb 22, 2015

Dramatic PowerPoint Slide: performing in Sheffield


I managed to get lost at least 92 times in Sheffield the other night, but that didn't stop me performing a co-headline set at a prose special of poetry night Word Life.

There were some great open mic acts (a Louis Armstrong trumpet and comically-timed side effects information come to mind). My own piece was 20 minutes of deadpan PowerPointing (as demonstrated by the slide, above) where I careened between dog lists, yes dog lists, and proper short stories ("He sagged like an old house. He... dripped time.").

The turn-out was impressive and the hosting was great. Word Life's next event is in March and it will tap into Yorkshire's radical history.

Earlier this month, I teased an audience with non-origami at a Blade Runner-themed Flim Night. This was one of those moments when a new night has such an energy about it, you know they're going to have a good year. Get preppy for their next one, based on Mean Girls.

If this makes you want to book me and you run something good that's not one of those rubbish nights where everything goes on fire, then get in touch. I don't say yes to everything, but it's worth an ask. Meanwhile, do allow me some shameless self-promotion...


Feb 14, 2015

I too am a book killer: the Manchester Central Library book disposal

This is a rant. I have edited it down as much as I can. But it is still a rant.

Firstly, have a look at this story about a Manchester library disposing of books. It's an echo of a similar story in 2012.

Here are my bookseller thoughts.

I don't get the furore over Manchester Central Library​ pulping books, if indeed they have done. We all think about classics and rarities, but most old books are without value, however you choose to define value. Just look at the 1p sales on Am*z*n.

I once found a recycling bin containing old books at the back of a Manchester university. That too was a quiet disposal, albeit on a smaller scale. I was initially shocked - but all of them were crap old academic stock no-one would have been interested in.

Let's assume the reported 240,000 figure is correct. 50 Shades Of Grey weighs 396 grammes. 240,000 50 Shades would weigh 95 tonnes. (That's the equivalent weight of a free Renault Clio given to every member of Take That every day for a month. And I mean a March or July month, not a February or June month.) That's a lot of weight. And space. And 24-hour storage, which costs.

We *could* pour taxpayer money into storing four copies of the third edition of, I dunno, Understanding Glass Making, with all of its out-of-date techniques. I'm presuming their techniques have changed. Bad example. Anyhoo...

Or we could close the beautiful new Archives-plus room at the library so they have space for them all.

Or we could dispose of the old stuff. We could leave it to their hugely experienced expert librarians to save what is worth saving (and there will have been lots of great stuff I'm sure they have kept) and then to choose all the gubbins we never saw or wanted to see anyway.

What's the other option? Produce a 240,000-book list and submit it to a public vote?

And here's the rub. The book industry pulps books all the time. Booksellers fill "red" boxes for that very purpose. I recently filled one of those boxes with a book written by a Manchester lecturer whose department used those very recycling bins I mentioned earlier. That's karma for you. It wasn't a bad book. It was just, well, our industry pulps books. Storage is not infinite but our capacity to produce new books is. It's an uneasy truth for book lovers.

I love books but I am also a book killer. Pulping makes us gasp with horror, but pulping helps new books survive.

I should point out that the full truth of the Central Library story is not clear at the time of writing, and this is indeed a possibly ill-informed rant. They may well have dropped the ball. They may just need better PR. But the public debate needs to hear this: the industry value of books may define 'value' in a way you haven't considered before.

Feel free to throw books at me the in the comments.

Jan 19, 2015

More new electronic music for January 2015: Cain, AI, Black Sites


Let's fondle my record bag until it calls the music police.
 
From the snow-capped mountains of the highlands comes an India-flavoured EP from Cain (pictured). It has that same epic playfulness of Loop Guru (indeed the title track of the Savan EP could easily have been plucked from mid-90s Nation Records). More of that playfulness on the upcoming debut album, please.


Speaking of stuff that takes me back to the past, AI drop a debut Forgotten Truths EP for Metalheadz. You remember Metalheadz? Co-founded by the bloke with the shiny teeth that went on to waggle sticks at orchestras? Anyhoo, this is very much in the vein of classic 'headz and it's no worse off for it.


There's droning acid galore on Black Sites' Unit 2669: the track is over ten minutes long and I'd put money on its distorted nastiness destroying your head in a third of that time. One half of Black Sites, Helena Hauff, runs a club called Birds And Other Instruments. With that in mind, Unit 2669 is a twitching, stub-footed town pigeon with a loaded machine gun. Lovely.

Catch my previous new electronic music round-up here. Oh and psst, remember me banging on about Kiasmos? Grab a free Erased Tapes compilation here.

Jan 18, 2015

Reaching peak Peak District


I've been a bit too busy to blog this week, so please make do with this tryptich I snapped when I rambled through the frozen wastes of the Peak District.

An icing-cake blizzard was astonishing in its brevity and beauty, especially when the skies cleared and the sun turned everything proper lovely.

Of course, if I told you the middle picture was taken from the wood-fired comfort of a friendly pub, you might doubt my commitment to braving the bracing winter air of the peak district. I let my chips get a bit cold: is that enough for you? Pah.

Jan 12, 2015

Prodigy: new album and single and, probably, membership to the National Trust


The Day Is My Enemy is the name of the first studio album for six years from beatpunk fire-botherers Prodigy.

Liam Prodge has already described the new album as “pure violent energy”, and with track titles like Wall Of Death, The Death Ray and, er, Ibiza, he’s not wrong.

But you have to wonder how much fight is left in the old boys. Their artwork is a cute little fox. Look at its little ears. Alright, it’s probably going to bite your face off, but you'll hardly find a fox in a pill-spittled chill-out room in the corner of a heaving club.

If John Lydon went all buttery and the bloke from Scooter did a Kerry Katona, then it’s not too much of a stretch to expect half this new album to be a nature documentary. Smack My Badger Up. Less night owls, more… actual owls.

The Day Is My Enemy is an anagram of Tiny-Eyed Mayhems and Eh, Yes My Dynamite. What do you think it means? Let the National Trust know. They’re waiting for your call.

Anyhoo, here's the first single. It's called Nasty and it's probably directed by David Attenborough.



Further Fats: A History Of The Prodigy For People That Can't Be Bothered Reading The Wikipedia Article (2009)

Jan 9, 2015

Seven pictures on my hard drive that I hope never get discovered

Seriously.

There should be a way of hiding this stuff, right?


Because I'm not sure what all this says about my mind.

At least that one's factually accurate.

Oh come ON. There's probably a medical term for my kind of brain.

Although I call my brain "Keith". Not Keith. "Keith" in speech marks.

THANKS, "Keith".