Hot Water Music @ The Old Blue Last 2nd May 2012

CONFESSION TIME. I’d never actually gotten around to listening to any of their music. Not really. I had an mp3 of Jack of All Trades somewhere and I’d heard one of the new songs but that was it.

Which is really weird because back when HWM did that split with Alkaline Trio, I got hold of all the Alk3 tracks and liked them and thought “well, you know, the HWM tracks will probably be good too right?” AND THEN JUST NEVER LISTENED TO THEM.

Weird. I know. I even saw Chuck Ragan on The Revival Tour last year and once again (like.. a decade after that Alk3 moment) thought “I should really listen to Hot Water Music, I like all of their friends’ music…”

So yeah. I jumped on getting a ticket for this because…I figured that it was as good a time as any to really listen to a band for the first time and OMGOMGOMG IT WAS AWESOME. :D:D:D:D

Admittedly, that’s somewhat similar to my reaction to the Avengers film when I saw it last week. You get the point though.

And they played the two songs I was vaguely familiar with, so bonus.

HildaMay were cool. I confess here that I didn’t look them up online anywhere so was genuinely expecting a girl band because of the name. I still liked them though.

Sharks were the same as they usually are. I’ve realised that I keep seeing Sharks when they’re supporting someone else. I don’t think I’d put the effort in to see them headline, but they’re ok.

Review: The City & The City

The City & The City
The City & The City by China Miéville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Something a little tangential to start with.

I was thinking about this quote I had rattling around in my head and knew that the original piece was said by a man to a woman but I couldn’t quite remember if it was in text or on film, in real life or in fiction but that I had heard/read it twice. In the end my google-fu turned up the film Bright Star which covers the relationship between John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

So.

That quote:

“The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out, it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery.”

Keats says this to Brawne after she turns up for her first lesson in poetry and he starts to wonder if he’s really up to that kind of task or if it can really be taught.

Anyway, having finished The City & The City, that line got me thinking about something Mieville said in the past about monsters.

“So I want to have monsters as a metaphor but I also want monsters because monsters are cool. There’s no contradiction.”

AND THEN, also about something that I occasionally hear from my favourite DJ on my favourite radio station, what seems like one or two people on tumblr and a handful of my music-loving friends on twitter…which is usually some variation on “Participate, not document” in regard to going to gigs and the sea of fellow attendees with cameraphones held aloft videoing the proceedings (I’m a phone Luddite, so generally I may take an actual camera with me but I still treat my digital camera like it’s a disposable film camera and if I do take pictures, I tend to end up with about 5 or 6 choice moments that may or may not be a little blurry).

(And no, I don’t entirely know what my point with that tangent was.)

The sort of general theme of wallowing in the experience probably applies to most of my take on existence. Which, I suppose, makes sense. I wallow in it. I don’t think too much about what the lyrics to a song might mean, but I enjoy the feel of them in my mouth.

And that’s the kind of approach I had with this book. I realise that, yes, there must be undertones of various messages threaded throughout…but for me that’s not the point. When I’m there, inhabiting the brainspace of the main character Borlu, I’m there. In Beszel or Ul Qoma. Unseeing and seeing. Weirdly (or not) I hear Borlu’s dialogue in Mieville’s voice. Another thing that occurred to me was that I regard both cities as somewhere much like Istanbul, but not. More almost but not quite, which I guess may be the point since any place mentioned in a detective story automatically becomes the alternate reality of whatever real place it might have been set in.

I liked it though. At one point I thought that Yolanda and Mahalia were the same person. I wondered if fic had been written of Corwi and Dhatt working together. I was highly suspicious of that one character who asked those very insistent, pointed questions. Other things.

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Review: Kraken

Kraken
Kraken by China Miéville

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love books that deal with religions. Especially made up ones. I love books that deal with the whole world within a world/city within a city/otherside/invisible reality trope.

This kind of SMOOSHES them together. Which is ideal really.

I did read a few reviews where Mieville is accused of sticking in too many made up words and that making it harder to understand. I didn’t get that at all. If you need a word or term for something and there isn’t one, then make it up. At lease he draws on existing language to actually make the new terms make sense.

Although that might just be me, as I learnt a good deal of the vocabulary I possess by figuring out what words meant in context. It’s a pain in the next when I actually have to explain something to my mum, but it does come in handy with crosswords.

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Review: The Journey Toward Reconciliation

The Journey Toward Reconciliation
The Journey Toward Reconciliation by John Paul Lederach

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked the theme of reconciliation being a journey in this books and the discussion of the various methods that can be used to make this journey. Lederach has very easy to read, almost conversational style – which definitely helped. So often I’ve found that the texts I have to read for my course are an awful slog. This is far from that.
Peppered throughout are stories – from Lederach’s personal experience, from the Bible or ones that have been told to him. This offered a nice break from the more “thinky” parts of the book and offered their own points to consider in a different way.

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A Child of Two Worlds

Spock
Sarek: "You will always be a child of two worlds. I am grateful for this, and for you."

I am of mixed ethnicity. Shock horror. I know. So really, I’m a bit like Spock here, only I’ve got just the one slightly pointy ear.  Now, I’ve ranted a little elsewhere about my various issues with how I get treated, so I won’t really go into that here.

Suffice it to say, I’m Chinese and Caucasian. Or actually more specifically, Malaysian Chinese and White British (randomly, it’s kind of interesting how the  word order goes in both of those phrases).

There are attitudes, habits and tastes that seem prevalent in the British/English world and there are others that are prevalent in the Malaysian Chinese world.

As a child of two worlds, I’ve pretty much grabbed a handful from each pile. One of these is that I don’t really get the real aversion to going back to live with your parents after university (or for that matter, the perceived eagerness of parents to watch their kids fly the nest as soon as they hit 18). In the Chinese side of my family, going home to live with Mum and Dad is totally expected and normal. In the English world I grew up in? Not so much.

There’s also other things like how the elderly are treated (they seem to be put out to die more in the English world), how extended family relates to each other (possibly just a personal thing, but as soon as my English grandparents died, we stopped really seeing the rest of that side of the family) and smaller silly things like taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s house (in Malaysia, you ALWAYS take your shoes off).

So while there’s a lot of sort of English things I don’t get, I don’t think I could ever live in Malaysia. Buying clothes there is a pain in the neck, possibly because I’m just looking in the wrong places but mostly because I’m twice the size of nearly all the women on that side of the family (I’m just built differently). The mosquitoes. I am allergic to the damn mosquitoes. It’s not a good thing. The bruises left over from the bites I got last December have just about faded. The weather! I am not a hot, humid weather person. Give me cloudy, overcast, cool days ANYTIME.

Tea. Oh God. As much as I enjoy Chinese tea and Teh Tarik in all its forms, making a decent cup of “English” tea has proved almost impossible unless I’m in a hotel. It might be the milk. It might be the water. It might be the teabags. Who knows?

The traditional Chinese family structure is also kind of out for me – with the father as the dictatorial head of the family, especially now that I’m an adult. I’m pretty easy-going, but there is only so much being told what to do that I’ll put up with. There’s also the expectation that I’ll get married and have children (but I suppose, that’s a universal thing) – as someone who has seriously considered entering the religious life (and it’s not something I’ve totally ruled out yet), I am content with the idea that I might never marry or have children.

Oh. There’s also the small issue of all the bands I like not visiting Malaysia. I don’t think I could live in a place where I’d never go to see live music. What little I’ve seen of popular culture in Malaysia…seems to be all the stuff I avoid at home in the UK.

There’s also attitudes to sexuality (and the issue of homosexuality being illegal in Malaysia), to women, to race, to censorship and the corruption seemingly rife within  not just the political system there. There are complex issues there.

In the end, despite being a child of two worlds, I’m pretty much English/British with the occasional moment where  I identify as Chinese.

Review: Stewart Lee!: The ‘if You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One’ Ep. Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee!: The 'if You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One' Ep. Stewart Lee
Stewart Lee!: The ‘if You Prefer a Milder Comedian, Please Ask for One’ Ep. Stewart Lee by Stewart Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll admit that I am terribly biased when it comes to Stewart Lee because I loved him when I was a teenager and he was skinny and not old. Luckily for me, Lee is still incredibly funny (and admittedly, still adorably cute – though that’s possibly not an adjective normally attributed to him).
This book is basically a transcript of his “If you prefer a milder comedian, please ask for one” show but with DVD extras (aka, the best footnotes of any author ever). It’s probably not the thing if you’re not familiar with Lee’s style or his delivery – you won’t hear his voice when you’re reading and I think that’s important because. Well. It’s a transcript isn’t it? The awkward pauses and repetition and failboatiness of his style is an integral part of what makes Stewart Lee funny and without prior knowledge of this…well, maybe get a DVD rather than a book.

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Tinnitus Awareness Week

Since it’s now about halfway through Tinnitus Awareness Week, I figure I should actually get around to saying something about it.

Some of you who know me in real life (and probably a few who only know me online) might be aware that I suffer from what I would call fairly mild tinnitus or that whenever I go to gigs or sing-a-long movies or anything potentially loud, I wear earplugs. My tinnitus is pretty much down to going to gigs and rocking out at the front and totally not looking after my hearing while I was at university. Looking back, I remember seeing Alec Empire at Reading when I was about 17 and being almost completely deaf for a little over an hour after leaving the tent he was performing in. Alec Empire was great and with all the excitement of seeing all the other bands I wanted to check out at the festival, I didn’t really give my hearing any real thought – other than it was a bit inconvenient that I couldn’t hear how much credit I had left on my mobile. I was young and invincible, right?

After that I went to other gigs. I remember marvelling that coming home after seeing Queens of the Stone age, my ears didn’t ring half so much as they did after I’d been to see Idlewild. Incidentally, that Idlewild gig left my ears ringing constantly for over a week. Again, I was young and invincible.

Until, after one gig I went to (and I don’t remember which one) the ringing didn’t go away. It just stuck about. Pretty quietly, but there.

Most of the time, I don’t notice it. I’m doing other things or listening to music and so long as my hearing hasn’t really been overstimulated during the day… I can go to bed and it’ll still be very quiet and I can just go to sleep like most people. Sometimes though, if I’ve been somewhere loud or right after doing the vacuuming, the ringing in my ears dials up to 11 and stops me from being able to get to sleep. Now, there are ways of dealing with it and I tend to turn the radio on very quietly and then my brain can latch on to that sound as something to pay attention to, instead of the riiiiiiing in my head (I find Ancient Faith radio or Classic FM to be pretty good for this).

The best thing is not to get to that stage in the first place and that’s why I now wear earplugs at gigs. Also, when I vacuum. It always feels like my hearing’s been pretty sharp anyway so I carry my earplugs everywhere and if I think something’s too loud, regardless of what it is? In they go. Best investment ever. I have custom earplugs which are moulded to fit my ears exactly and they are great. They live in a little purse in my handbag and I take them everywhere.

So. If you like going to gigs, wear earplugs. They don’t have to be the custom fancy pants expensive kind – for years I used to pop into Superdrug every so often and pick up a box of the foam kind. They don’t tone down the sound with the same kind of quality, but they still protect your ears and really, that’s the important part.

And finally, a word from Eddy Temple-Morris on Tinnitus, because he’s a boss and I got a discount on my earplugs thanks to him.

 

British Tinnitus Association

So this Stop Online Piracy Act…

You know how, before a film like Captain America or Thor or any of the films of Michael Fassbender, the internets explodes with fangirling and fanboying and stuff?

If this SOPA thing actually went into effect, does that mean all the free advertising and hype-making from rabid fangirls gets banninated? If so, how is that good for the film industry?

The Kids Are Sick Again

I actually hate being sick. It’s normal to dislike it, I know, and most of the time I ignore it and carry on with what I am doing until it goes away.

What I hate most is when I am too sick to carry on with what I am doing and yet not tired or lethargic or whatever enough to be content with doing nothing. It sucks.

On the other hand, at least I don’t get throat infections every year, now that I have grown into my tonsils.

Chapel Club @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire 18/10/11

Confession time. I only really know the one Chapel Club song – All The Eastern Girls. This will be important later on.

So – Elephant. Two guys and a girl. One of the guys had a fascinating jumper & Mr T-style gold chain combo going on, which was a tad distracting. The other guy… he kept disappearing. No idea why. The girl had an elephant pendant on a really long chain. Other than that, and that one of the songs had purring in it… I can’t remember their music at all. Sorry guys.

Other Lives on the other hand were amazing. Everyone in the band appeared to be a multi-instrumentalist. Their music is pretty epic (possibly in part to the breadth of variety of instruments available – kind of sweeping and layered and generally rockin’. I’d definitely see them again.

The main event of course was Chapel Club. I’ve already admitted that I only really know the one song (though I do own it on vinyl and took the trouble to record a mp3 of it for ease of listening), so it’s no surprise that I was a bit wary of the musical plan for the evening – there was a first set of entirely new music and a second set of old music. The new stuff was less guitary than the Chapel Club I’m used to, but ok. The old stuff (if music probably at most 2 years old can be called old) was pretty much what I was expecting. Chapel Club have a sort of warm languid sound – something like being tucked up in a warm bed on a cold day. I left after All The Eastern Girls, even though I think there was probably another song left at least…mostly because I was tired and wanted to buy Other Lives’ album.

All in all, it was pretty ok.