Monday, July 30, 2007

Another Director Bites the Dust

Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) Sorry to be so crass, but when I finally made it back to my office today at 3.30pm after a long hard morning meeting in Battle, I wrestled with the work computer, got firefox up & then saw the news on the BBC website. WHAT???! It was only week before last that Channel 4 put on a week-long retrospective of his life & work. I knew I was going to be busy in the evenings, then away in Birmingham so I asked Stuart from to record it for me since I knew he'd be watching it (and he did, kindly sending me some bonus CDs as well!) Bergman (not to be confused with Ingrid, as so many people do) is in my all time top 10 list of film directors. Unfortunately, I'm still totally exhausted from the weekend to wax lyrical, but here's a nice little write up from Stuart's site: "I hope I never get so old I get religious." -- Ingmar Bergman

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Back from Frequency

I am way too tired to think, much less type. I finally made it home from Frequency Festival, just outside of Brighton. Sun, rain, swimming pool, raves, sleepless days and nights, mud, stinging nettles and campfires, balloon, friends and happy people. I do envy my friends who don't have to go to work tomorrow. A write up will soon follow.

In the meantime, have a look at this article about my university (college), Sarah Lawrence, which was in the running for Gawker's "Most annoying liberal arts school in the US". I don't think there needs to be any competition. Anyone who has ever been to SLC can attest to the numerous ways it should win hand-down. But winning isn't part of the school's vocab, hence the second prize is fitting. Thanks to Maria for sending it over -- it made me laugh !! Mud-soakingly yours, Amy x

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Meanwhile, back in New York.....

Outside Barnes & Nobles bookshop, Union Square, 21 July, on the day the new Harry Potter book was released on to the world. This is my best friend's shop & as she writes, she "survived the absolute worst twenty hours of my professional career, barely. Not much more to say about it, as I'd rather not revisit all that chaos. I was quite upset and drained for a whole day in the aftermath."More
Okay, I know I choose to live my life in a media-free vacuum to some extent or another, but I was really (fill in the blank) when I saw this picture. Dangerous dark flashbacks to 1993 when I was working at Westgate 8 screen cinema and "Jurassic Park" came out that summer. Oh my god, was it a complete and utter nightmare. We had people camping outside the mall for days. This must have been HELL. She deserves the two-weeks off.

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"First Times" -- Copenhagen, Denmark

1. First time someone touched my breast 2. First time someone close to me died 3. First job 4. First time I dyed my hair blond 5. First time someone broke up with me 6. First time I paid the rent 7. First time I read a word 8. First newspaper I worked for 9. First time I slept with someone other than my boyfriend 10. First time I took drugs 11. First time I felt like a woman

Various destinations around Copenhagen.

Written by Johann. Travelled by Oli. Photo from: Abi Rahman (from Been There)

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"First Times" -- Brighton, UK

1. First time I lost a tooth 2. First time I wanted to kiss a girl 3. First time I said “I love you” 4. First time I made a tree house 5. First time I learned about rainforests 6. First time I got served in a pub 7. First time I felt like a man 8. First time I felt rejected 9. First time I felt heartbroken yet strangely elated 10. First time I went swimming naked

Across the road and down the hill from 363 Ditchling Road 20 meters up Trafalgar Street Arundel Road South end of Queen’s Park Queens Park Road Clarke’s Shoe Shop, Western Road Shoreham Harbour Provident – seafront

Church hall, just up and on the right from Five Ways St Luke’s swimming pool

Brighton 1 Written by Oli. First time he was born: 10/11/77 Photos from: Matt Locke

[The two photographs are from Matt Locke, who runs techie site and is a self-admited "geek", but also takes stunningly cool photographs. I found these in his archive.]

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

SuperSonic hits America (well, sort of)

Hey everyone For the past couple of months, I've been chatting with Lori, who runs music site Trash Menagerie, an American cousin site to Brighton's own Brighton Fusion. There is, of course, no direct connection between the sites apart from a shared love of electro, good music and COMPLETE AND UTTER DEBAUCHERY. haha, I'm just kidding. It's all about the music. And so, I'm pleased to say that my account of SuperSonic Festival 2007 has hit their top of the site's homepage as of this evening. In all honesty, it's very similar to the below, but it means all of my American brethren will be able to revel in the bizarre but delectable electro-heavymetal-indie world of the Festival this year. I am hoping to bounce between the two sites like the skilled literary acrobat that I am what the fuck am I talking about. Yeah. The Brighton club nights will continue to live and breathe within the alcohol-fuelled walls of Fusion, but I will hopefully be furthering my writing about music in strange and beautiful ways and I promise I will never use the word delectable again.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Report from SuperSonic Festival 07

Pharaoh Overloard: pic from _Imax Qui: pic from katiecarnage

The Accidental Tourist: A Look-in at SuperSonic Festival 07 Friday 13th & Saturday 14th July 2007, Custard Factory, Birmingham


I came across SuperSonic Festival by chance, but chance in this case took the form of a series of logical musical steps: a massive consumption of French electro vis a vis the Fluokids made a natural segue into 26-year-old New York City electro grime-techno DJ & producer Drop the Lime (DTL).

When I saw DTL was performing at a then unheard of festival in Birmingham this summer, I picked up a ticket, deciding I would do the festival solo if need be. The line-up information provided me with the impression that the weekend programme was eclectic to say the least, a giant mashup of djs, bands, experimental musical mentalists and it was all taking place under the auspices of a former custard factory. Brilliant.

What I wasn’t expecting was the fact that part of this year’s festival would be a homage and symposium to Metal. As in Heavy. An aspect of the Midlands (West Midlands to be exact) I never considered much was that was it was kinda the birthplace of heavy metal and all its beautifully strange progeny. For the past five years, the festival has been curated and produced by Capsule’s Lisa Meyer and Jenny Moore, who are “Birmingham's most innovative art and music promoters, with the ears of true fans and a DIY commitment providing a regular flow of cutting edge, vital new music + art”.

Friday 13th July Fuck Buttons: pic from Upstairs at the Custard Factory: pic from Niall.

So here we were, Friday night, and the sun was only just starting to set across the city. My friend Niall and I travelled up together from London Euston. We arrived, dropped off our stuff at our budget hotel and took a taxi to the industrial section of the city not far away. After walking up the cobble-stoned road and heading towards the Custard Factory banner billowing in the wind, we joined the queue. And it is then that we made friends with three Birmingham natives, Dave-Becky-Adam.

“You came all the way from Brighton just to come to this festival?” Becky asked. I nodded. Niall elaborated – “It seemed like a cool thing to come to.” It was. A lovely group of people, Dave-Becky-Adam were our friends for the remainder of the festival, nipping us out to a local pub for cheap pints and shots of Sambuca. Let’s get this party started.

Friday’s line up sprawled across two stage areas – the Medicine Bar and the Kitchen. The Medicine Bar was the live music stage, and the Kitchen featured DJ and live electronic music sets. Friday was, for all intensive purposes, the electro-tinged aperitif. It goes without saying that I spent most of the night in the Kitchen. Fuck Buttons were a two-man law unto themselves, performing with the aid of a keyboard-filled suitcase and a day-glo toy loudhaler. I wasn’t overly impressed to start and was further perturbed that everyone around me was close-eyed, swaying and looking like they were experiencing a communal holy wank. However, Fuck Buttons ambient music-making did grow on me and I got into the subtle vibe. For a bit.

Towards the end of the Fuck Button set, I wandered off. I was standing in the back of the Kitchen talking to someone when I saw him. Drop The Lime. “Hey look, it’s Drop the Lime,” I said to DTL. Okay, I was a bit drunk by this point (five cans of K cider, 8.4% of total badness, on the train might explain a little of that) and I do have a penchant for making an ass out of myself with DJs, which they either really love or really hate. I think in this case thinly-veiled confusion was the reaction. Bless.

DTL looks like he does in his picture, but is much cuter than that. “Would you like some cider?” I asked DTL. He looked at his guide for assistance; the guide shook his head. DTL smiled and said, “No thanks.” For a moment, he looked at the crowd and then returned his gaze. ”I’ll tell you what I want: I want that crowd to dance.”

And like the fool I am, I proceeded to jump on stage at the start of DTL’s set. The packed room quickly roused themselves out of their opium-induced slumber. It was an art school rave minus the glow sticks. It was hands in the air and a serious competition for dancing space on the stage (where I was). For the rest of the weekend, I was known to strangers as “oh, you’re that girl dancing on the stage!” DTL came in hard, fast and dirty, less “Good Inside”, more “Hear Me Monster”. DTL was followed on by a dj set from fellow American, Oakland boy Kid 606. He’s more or less on the same bass-heavy tip as DTL and but has more of a fucked up utilitarian militaristism to his 4-4.

The night, both my memory of it and my non-memory, was capped off with some drum n bass from Birmingham’s own PCM. I have a memory of being randomly snogged by some boys, then being dragged away by Niall. “You said you were hungry. Let’s go.” As we left the Custard Factory in search of food, Niall started talking about how good the drum n bass was. “Really?” I said. “What drum n bass?”

“The drum n bass we were dancing to.” Oops.

I bought a chicken burger and fries, then we caught a taxi. I refused to share my fries with Niall. I asked Niall what he thought of the festival so far. “It was good but there weren’t enough birds. I liked it, but I didn’t know what I was watching.” I pointed out that it might have been because he was drunk. “Oh yeah.

Saturday 14th July

Woke up at about 11am totally hung over and drinking small plastic cupfuls of water that I got from the sink tap. Nasty. I heard a small moan and looked up. Niall was sleeping on the top bunk and I could see him wince as he shifted. “Are you alive?” I asked. “Just about,” he said.

I managed to pull body, mind and soul together to go downstairs. Niall descended first. In the lift, I met some guys who looked like fairly nu-skool techno and metal ravers. “Were you guys at the festival last night?” All six nodded. A red-haired guy in a black zip up nylon jacket and glasses squinted at me and cracked a smile. “You were that girl dancing on the stage!” We discussed the music. They were all having a good time.

I found Niall sitting at a bright yellow table, clutching a can of Coke and looking very unhappy. I sat down and looked around. “What’s up with the all-you-can-eat breakfast?” I asked.

Niall frowned. “They finished about half an hour ago.”

I groaned. “We’re on the set of Holly Oaks,” I said, unnerved by the early 90’s décor. “Look,” I hissed. Rows of Batchelors potnoodles, Walkers crisps and Cans of cokes lined the café. Barf. “We need to get out of here.” Niall nodded and looked like he was going to be sick.

We managed to make our way out of the hotel and descended towards China Town. We ate at a Chinese café, had some smoothies, got our names written in Chinese script, checked out the Latin American festival near Town Hall, and then went to see “How to Improve the World”, a British 60 year art retrospective at the local gallery, which was actually worth seeing. It wasn’t the big names that impressed, but I did love watching two of Gilbert & George’s 1972 films “A Portrait of the Artists as Young Men” and “Gordon's Makes Us Drunk”. I also liked Jeremy Dellett’s 2004 mind map “History of the World”, which links Acid House with Brass Bands. For the next two days, I was plagued by Niall’s trumpet versions of Pendulum’s “Fasten Your Seatbelt” and Josh Wink’s “Higher State of Consciousness”.

Saturday was what Niall and I referred to as the heavy metal day. The line up, which was now accommodated over four stages, featured up-and-coming and more established bands, with a particular slant on the bass heavy and speaker smashing of the indie world. Cool. We arrived at 4.45pm, a bit tanked up already on vodka-spiked energy drink, and straight away we ran into Dave-Becky-Adam. Niall apologised to Dave for yesterday, who had bought him a pint, then Niall proceeded to walk off. We went to the Medicine Bar for drinks. Along the side, there were still mile-long queues up two flights of stairs, the same as yesterday – at first, I thought they were for the toilet; I later found out they were people waiting to buy records from the record stalls. Drinks were bought. Onwards to the music.

My first band of the afternoon was Crippled Black Phoenix at the Arches Stage. The 8-membered band were heavy metal, but with a cellist. Their sound was melodic and serious, buttressed largely by the three ten-foot walls of speakers that surrounded them on stage. The last song featured raspy vocals and a closer-to-god moment where literally all the guitarists and bassists were turned to the walls of speakers, then suddenly dropped the song into a canyon-sized break. The heavily-tattooed guitarist gets lost messing around with loop peddles, the song disappears, and then one by one, each of the band members drift off stage, leaving the keyboardist sustaining the last note.

I wandered over to the Medicine Bar Stage to check out two Birmingham bands back-to-back: Calvados Beam Trio and Bee Stung Lips. Calvados were an energetic three-piece who fumbled and played with music for music’s sake, seeing where an improv took them. Bee Stung were a four-piece band, who were very different to Calvados: shouting thrashy troublemakers with a lead singer who looked a bit out of place with the band, but hey, he was the one with the voice. I think I saw this band with Dave, who opted out of the moshing idea, quite sensibly.

At around 9pm, Dave-Becky-Adam and Niall departed to the pub, but I’d just run into my an old friend, Charley, who used to own and run an independent record called “Charley’s Orbit” back in 2000 so I declined and caught up with him. He and his partner Jo were living in Cornwall, still involved with bands. Charley tipped me off on a few bands to check out (Qui, SUNN 0)))). After getting reasonably fed up with the suited, pink-shirt boys with toys (literally) Modified Toy Orchestra, who seemed a bit gimmicky and bland to me, I drifted into the Arches to check out Qui. I found Charley up at the front, standing with another Brightonian, the owner of a clothing shop called Cutie. Charley explained that Qui was the brainchild of David Yow, of Jesus Lizard fame. I left after about 10 minutes though – I couldn’t stomach Yow’s shouting directly at you. It felt a little like going to see “Jerry Sadowitch the Musical” (that is, if they ever made it).

Being sans friends, who were still at the pub, I would have been totally bored bonkers if SuperSonic hadn’t also cleverly featured the 7inch Cinema, which was more or less like a dark chill out room. As luck would have it, I had planned on going to see “The World of Ian Helliwell” at 9.20pm anyways. Ian was another Brighton person and renowned filmmaker. As I slid into the seat, I was treated with artfully-worked porn and Super 8 celluloid.

After about 15 minutes, Niall plonked himself down on my chair. “Hey.”

“You missed the porn,” I whispered.

“What porn?” he said bewildered and slightly jealous.

I have few memories of the next two hours, from 10pm to midnight. I vaguely remember buying some coffee with the guys and I think I went to see OM. But I can’t be certain. I can remember I was with Dave and we were walking back from the Arches and a band was on. We might as well have come back from visiting the moon. “Who’s that?” I asked, squinting at a band in the (short) distance. “Mogwai,” Dave replied. “Are you sure?” He laughed. “Yes.”

Mogwai played from midnight to 1.30am. They were amazing. They sound like how you’d expect them to sound, which is amazing. How do you describe a sunset or staring up at the stars in a warm summer night out in the country? I don’t think you can. I first started listening to Mogwai when I was going out with Joe, who was an Oxfordshire indie boy. It seemed every other gig we went to was either influence by them or sounded like them.

The night seemed to end in a messy confusion of goodbyes, and though Niall and I vowed we wouldn’t take a taxi with the hotel being so near, we were both so smithereened that we fell into the first one that would stop for us. When we got back to the hotel, I ate two bags of Doritos, complained to Niall about god knows what, then passed out.

SuperSonic was a fantastic experience, and like my friend Charley, who goes once a year just to see friends, I will probably end up doing the same.

Super Sonic Festival is presented by Capsule []

Check out more pics from the Festival on Flickr[]

Look at more pics, video & comment on Created in Birmingham []

You can even check out the sets from the event on Last FM:

Loads of media sponsors: Drowned in Sound, Last FM, Plan B Magazine, Rock a Rolla, Rock Sound, Vice, Zero Tolerance.

Loads of stalls: Aurora Borealis, Bearos Records, Cold Spring, Holy Roar, lapetus Recordings, Static Caravan, Southern Records, The Speeding Train, The Wire.

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What Makes Me Angry

WHYWHYWHY does the government insist on changing the names of their departments every 2 or 3 years? "Three new departments were set up by the Prime Minister on 28 June 2007. They replace the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) is responsible for improving the focus on all aspects of policy affecting children and young people, as part of the Government’s aim to deliver educational excellence." "The new Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) means we can really concentrate on achieving these objectives." Does creating a new department really mean they'll do their job correctly -- now ? What were they doing before?! If I was more cynical, I'd say they're trying to throw the public off its scent. Ug. I've only recently learned that the Inland Revenue no longer exists. Double ug.

Check Me Out

Audio’s 3rd Birthday Party [16.7.07] I'm clearly not suffering for my art enough, but a club night on a Monday night. And I used to think that going to Supercharged on a Wednesday was decadent ! Audio's 3rd birthday was a real treat and it would have been extra sweet if they hadn't run out of champagne. Doh! Spent last weekend at Super Sonic Festival in Birmingham -- currently working on a write up of the weekend. The previously boring weekday evenings are conspiring against me this week !

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Day

4.03pm. From our office, which is spitting distance from Palace Pier and the beach, I can hear bagpipes. Yes, bagpipes. Elkie, our Australian temp, said she's never heard bagpipes in Brighton. We take turns sticking our heads out the window and look towards the ashtray-grey sea. It is a cold day. On the promenade across from the Sea Life Centre, I can see French young people in parachute-coloured windbreakers thinly huddled together, waiting for their picture to be taken. Beyond the pale turquoise railings, four boys shiver in the sea. In my office, we are licking crumbs of chocolate-covered biscuits and tapping our feet to the whirr of the paper shredder which should ideally be able to also shred the Top 40 chart tunes for the good of civilisation as a whole. The radio sits behind me (behind my left shoulder) and it single-handedly discolours my auditory palate on a daily basis, thanks to FREE GIFTS from Viking. There are 87 minutes left to do my work. I tell Elkie to go ahead and buy 100 reams of photocopy paper so that she can get the free Ipod Nano. Is that bad? The phone rings constantly. I am full of relief that I don't have to take the train anywhere today, even though I enjoy watching the cows and rabbits and clouds and everything else between Brighton and Hastings. The IT engineer has not turned up, so we call to complain. Helpdesk phones us back -- the engineer has gone missing. We wonder if he's decided to finally quit his job. I have had 3 cups of coffee today and tomorrow I plan on having 2. Soon I will have none and then I will be one of those saddos that drinks decaf "for the taste".

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Picture of the Day

My camera wasn't working this weekend, so unfortunately I didn't get any pics of Hanover Day & all the mayhem that ensured around either end. Above -- Chris aka Shiny on the day before his bday & friends. Footage of the Dalek race (from the Argus) :


The Writing Life

I'm in a dilemma. After spending the past 14 years devoting myself to the craft of writing (ie writing at least 1 hour per day, minimum), I'm finding I don't know how to write anymore. Which is not the same as writer's block, I don't think. I am writing. A lot. Every day. But I am writing and writing and maybe I'm not not actually getting anywhere and maybe that *is* writer's block. Against the better judgement of a journalist friend, who upon hearing I was returning to the unfinished manuscript for my second novel "2+2=5", moaned "Oh no", I am indeed returning to grapple with the story of five unlikely friends and the once invisible central character who doesn't deem himself worthy of having a friend to spit on. To be honest, it all just feels like fucking hard work when I get back to it. It's sure not like writing my fun and throw-away club reviews for Brighton Fusion. Nor does it match the intensity and perfect form of a short story. Nor are novels like life, which, although has a logic and symmetry all to itself, seems to just happen and sometimes seques into something else, but more likely than not, doesn't go on from there. Novels have a little more integrity than life. That is, if you're reading the right novels. Or maybe I'm just talking complete shite. Aw, fuck it, I'll just go back to writing and stop complaining here. Over & out "Watching out for the grammar police", Amy x ps. Pretty cool weekend, which puts everything into perspective: music, festivals, birthdays, roasts, people, fires, 50p bargains, bags full of cider, sunshine, Brighton, hills, massive gardens, bands, random meetings, cute boys (mainly one), old friends, drugs comedown, running, good food, capoeria dance moves, free stuff, and a chance to think and breathe & jump around.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Super Sonic Festival (Birmingham), or giving festivals another go

Shortly after my 32nd birthday, I began to wonder why I didn't do certain things, almost as though on principle. For instance, I had this fixed idea that "I wasn't a festival person" purely on the basis that I'd been to Glastonbury once (2000) and found the whole experience so distressing and apocalyptic that on some unconscious level, I must have decided I'd never do it again. The same could be true of loads of things I'd at some point in my life just decided "I'm not that kind of person", on the basis of what, I'm not sure. Another example is skiing. I've somehow come up with this idea that I'm not a cold weather person but the fact is I've really enjoyed staying in Poland and Berlin, feeling more at ease in those places than I did in sunnier Mediterranean countries in some instances. So, for the coming year I'm doing loads of things I don't normally do & first on that list is FESTIVALS, ESPECIALLY ONES WHERE YOU HAVE TO CAMP OUTDOORS IN NATURE. I got a ticket to Super Sonic after getting into Drop the Lime, a Brooklyn artist, and after following his trail to this Birmingham's "UK answer to Sonar", I immediately got myself a ticket, no matter if I ended up going alone. As it happens, I managed to find another music-loving adventurous soul to accompany this coming Friday. I plan to come back armed with pics & a write up. I'll be camping in a hotel for this one but the next two are definitely "twigs in the hair", "preparing for rain" sort of affairs. This includes: -- Brighton Frequency Festival (last weekend in July) -- a secret festival in a barn somewhere (UK) No camping, but perhaps some camp: --Le Name, which I've written about (Lille) Sadly, I'm not going to Glade, but you can't do everything & I've got plans for later this year. Never mind the continuous rain & grey backdrops, enjoy the summer.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Picture of the Day

"Lazy Sunday Evening Two Nights After Yet Another Car Bomb -- or Doesn't It Happen Every Day Here Too? "
[Photo taken by Niall O'Riain -- Sunday coming back from some pubs in Notting Hill after Simon's birthday -- the couple on the right are Simon's flatmates -- the couple on the left is Simon's flatmate's brother and his girlfriend -- no, not Simon's girlfriend, the flatmate's brother. I was there there too, but not then. I think I got off. Simon was there too, he's probably that white blurry bit or something. And I thought of the title, not Niall, who doesn't know I borrowed his pic. Oh yeah, it was taken with a mobile phone.]
I know pictures are a cheat when a writer's blog is supposed to be about writing, but I am too tired from work at the moment and too absorbed with stuff I need to do at home (after/before work), like --
a) I've picked up on development on my second novel, which currently sits at 40,000 words and was something I'd gotten stuck on when I couldn't make up my mind about the plot progression. I'm glad I left it for 6 months -- the time has cleared my judgement on things I probably should have cut out. b) I'm studying for my "Life in the UK" test. c) Other things which I'll disclose at a later date. x) I'm shelving the feature length script for a while. After being slashed and burned, then picking up some good ideas while in NYC, I need to let that one cool down. I'm letting go of a few things. Needs must. Work is really stressing me out at the moment, but my room has gotten a new revamp so it's easy to forget about once I get home. Oh yeah, and I got a new bike !

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