Sunday, December 30, 2012

Facebook review of the year

For posterity - here is my Facebook review of 2012, comprising mainly Rachel, bees, cats and escaping the cheese.

Video of the week - Professor Elemental: Fighting Trousers

I'm not sure about the chap-hop micro-phenomenon as a whole - I feel a whole 'nother post coming on about it for the New Year - but this track from Professor Elemental is a rather excellent, very English battle rhyme with some rather marvellous cosplay in the video.

Also: first citation of Peter Duncan in rap? 



Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hear Magpiemoth read Christmastery and more!

You can hear me read Christmastery - my seasonal poem for 2012 - alongside other Christmas treats on the Bibby Factors Christmas compilation.

Many thanks to Adam Ings, who compiles a set of Christmas tracks every year and then makes them available on Soundcloud

Other than my own contribution, my other three favourite tracks are:

Drivin' Home For Christmas (In My Van) by Nathan's Belly - A sweary Baby Bird take on the Chris Rea ... er ... classic.
Rock 'n' Roll Santa by Lindsey Dupler & Adam Ings (feat Viola) - Exactly what it says on the (shortbread) tin
Cheryl The Mince Pie by Ruth Baker If Peaches did a Christmas record it would probaby sound like this.
 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gin & Flamingoes present Christmastery - final version

For the second year running, I've been working on a spoken word piece for the Bibby Factors Christmas compilation. Here's a final version with contributions from @Rae102011

Any resemblance to a certain best-seller is entirely intentional.

“It is time” he says “It is time” says he
As the clock strikes twelve on Christmas eve
“Sign this contract and enter my dark yet glamourous world of X-M-A-S”
“And holy crap!” thinks she for the twenty-fourth time
That night; struck dumb by his ridiculous handsomeness (insert four repetitive paragraphs here)
She signs in golden, glittery ink, and that's that.

“Now”, he says, “Now” says he
“Here are the Rules you must follow for me.
Be of good cheer from dusk till dawn
Have a Santa Stop sign on your lawn
Never refuse a mince pie
Obey Christmas laws with a twinkle in your eye.”

“Behold my room of special toys.
For nice AND naughty girls and boys.
Come my love! It would seem rather timid,
To make the Dr Who Christmas Special your hard limit.
And there may be times you cannot go out
Until you've partaken of the Christmas sprout.”

Though the millionaire toy-maker acted so grim
- in his red woolly jumper with festive trim -
Oh my, our heroine was drawn to him
Isn't he Byronic, dontcha think?
With his glower and power and Christmas kink?

She had realised deep in her medulla oblongata
That these festive fetishes were his desiderata
Her inner goddess saw it as a good sign
That his favourite tune was Mistletoe and Wine
As Foucault The Red Nosed Reindeer played
They danced until the Eve became Christmas Day

But as Yule went on she regretted her decision
His baubled palace seemed more like a prison
She realised her character was badly drawn
And had fallen from fanfic into supermarket porn
And he: more arsey than Darcy; from that voice
Issued endless demands that denied her Christmas choice.

On and on he went, sternly.
Every festive detail spelt out, eternally
“Stuff. The. Turkey.
It's in the contract.
Watch. The. Queens. Speech.
It's in the contract.
Lose. To. Me. At. Scrabble.
It's in the contract.
Deck.The.Halls.
It's in the contract.
Drink. The. Sherry
It's in the contract.
Morecambe. And. Wise.
It's in the contract
Flambe. The. Figgy. Pudding.
It's in the contract.
Pull. The. Cracker.
It's in the contract.
Read. The. Joke
It's in the contract.
Laugh. (Ha. Ha. Ha).
It's in the contract.
Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.”

With chains of tinsel and of paper
She bound him with the product of her own labour
So that when he woke upon Boxing Day
She fixed him with a smile and a spoon to say

“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.
“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.”

Friday, December 21, 2012

Video of the week - Japan: Life In Tokyo (extended disco mix)

I like to think of this song - this aesthetic - as the point at which New Romantic was born.  And I - unironically, you understand - love the dandy look David Sylvain's rocking here. I think it's great that he and the rest of the band can be presenting a very different masculine image than the usual.


The CAPSLOCK King

The Capslock King is shouting again 
With love, with joy, with mild exasperation 
At the life he leads 
Strange the lack of punctuation 
As he reports, exhorts, confuddles the meaning of LOL 
Exhales for pause 
THEN HOLLERS

NB - Some people I know do status updates in caps ironically, as an intentional stylistic tic. Relax, this is not about you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Using Storify: Local Goverment 'n' Cuts musing

I have just discovered I can embed a sequence of tweets into a blog post using Storify and some Java embed code. Seriously people, this is awesome.





Monday, December 17, 2012

Providing precious Hobbit quoteses for Friends of the Earth

Earlier this year I got asked to provide a quote for Friends of the Earth about the significance of The Hobbit to the environmental movement, following an enquiry by the Readers' Digest. i didn't think it got used, but apparently so! 

I'm recycling it here to mark the release of the first Hobbit film.

***

While The Hobbit lacks the anti-industrial overtones of parts of The Lord of the Rings, what shines through in the travels of Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves is Tolkien’s affinity with the British landscape.

His world is full of creatures that cherish nature – from the Hobbits’ enjoyment of the Shire and the elves’ connection to their woodland home, to Bilbo’s adventures through awe-inspiring landscapes.

If The Hobbit is about one thing, you could argue that it’s about ordinary people like hobbits rising to protect a way of living in harmony with nature – small wonder that Tolkien struck a chord amid the ‘back to the land’ sentiments of the 1960’s and 1970’s, that saw the birth of the environmental movement.

Books like The Hobbit certainly played their part in inspiring me to take environmental action – it’s everyday heroism like Bilbo’s that we encounter in people finding their voice for the first time by supporting wind-farms or opposing airport expansion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yesterday's dilemma, starker terms

Campaigners, activists, attend!

Chris Maloney was consistently the most popular X-Factor contestant for the first seven weeks of the live show, as voted for by the public. He couldn't half belt them out, launching crushing orbital rods of cruise-liner balladry right every Saturday night.

Technically allright, musically not my thing at all. Alright, I wanted to go easy on him, so let's just say I thought he was terrible and move on.

Sorry, no, I can't move on. His music is exactly the sort of emotionless melange of schmalz I dislike intensely and it was on prime-time television. All of this makes me inclined to thumb my nose at mainstream culture and in my darker moments discard it utterly.

He wasn't the kind of act the X-Factor has a good track record of launching either. What the poor chap was doing in front of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the first place is anyone's guess.

And still, despite all of this, the public voted for him.

.

So... 

We not have to persuade people who like this man and voted for his laser-eyed power ballads (watch the whole of the video and you'll know what I mean) to support our campaigns. Actually, that's not enough, we have to empathize with them too.

[sound of gauntlet being thrown down]

Monday, December 10, 2012

The X-Factor has a socratic question for you. campaigners!

Do you know how much mention there was of The X Factor final on my Twitter stream last night? A couple of posts from Caitlin Moran, the Times journalist with a deep and irreverent interest in pop culture, but that's it.

I follow nearly 300 people and organisations on Twitter. My feed is full of users with a pronounced environmentalist and political slant, but not exclusively so. And the majority of these accounts aren't 'corporate users' - i.e. they come with the rider that all comments and views are the tweeters' own.

So why so little mention of the X Factor? Two theories on this one

Primus, you all have fantastically good taste in music and TV and don't tend to the Notes on Camp approach to popular culture espoused by the Guardian Liveblog on the X-Factor and Strictly.

Maybe you were watching that nice BBC programme on Rome - as several members of my newsfeed were - maybe you weren't watching TV at all.

You have resisted the lure of Cowellian mass culture. Congratulations.



photo courtesy Alison Martin of SimonCowellOnline.com.

Secundus, you tend to focus your communications on work-related issues and are (justifiably) wary of showing Tweeterdom a human face. In other words, you don't like to admit to the world what you watch on a Saturday or Sunday night.

I want to come back to the second point in a future post, but the first, this resignation from mass culture, is the thing that concerns me as an activist and organiser.

Even in a bad season, the X-Factor final pulled in 9.5 million viewers (as against Strictly's 12.5 million), not counting watch-agains.

That's in a population (as of 2011 census) of just over 63 million. So around a third of the population were watching either programme live.

Were you?

Don't worry, I'm not going to make you feel bad for not watching it. You may regard The X-Factor as exploitative, as the bin ends of our culture and our corporate music industry. You may have conceived a passionate dislike for Gary Barlow. You may ask 'Who is Olly Murs?' And you'd be justified on all counts.

But my question to anyone serious about change is simply this: how can we bring people together and make things better if we can't at least empathise with the mass culture that they endorse and participate in?

Another example: I live in a town where a large 24-hour Tesco has just opened next to a small but thriving high street. Many of us know the environmental, social and economic arguments against the big supermarkets well enough I won't rehearse them here. But on Twitter (I search by the hashtag for my town), the consensus seemed to be that this was the most exciting thing that had happened here since the mines closed.

Again, we might tear our hair out at this, but isn't this dumbfoundedness telling? It doesn't mean we're wrong, just that we're not on the same page as many other people yet. And they have may have things to tell us about their lives we can learn from before engaging mouth, brain or well-crafted petition.

I have no solutions to offer in this post, but I'd be really interested in hearing your reflections.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Video of the week - A Forest Of Stars - Gatherer Of The Pure

Got Victorian Waitsian gothic metal? Got amazing shadow-puppet theatre video? Yes on both counts

Warning: video is not that gory, but contains several puppet murders, so NSFW.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gin & Flamingoes presents Christmastery - draft of spoken word piece

For the second year running, I'm working on a spoken word piece for the Bibby Factors Christmas compilation. Here's a good if not yet finalized draft with contributions from @Rae102011

Any resemblance to a certain best-seller is entirely intentional.

And yes, the ending in particular still needs some work.

Christmastery

“It is time” he says “It is time” says he
As the clock strikes twelve on Christmas eve
“Sign this contract and enter my dark yet glamourous world of X-M-A-S”
“And holy crap!” thinks she for the twenty-fourth time
That night; struck dumb by his ridiculous handsomeness .
She signs in golden, glittery ink, and that's that.

“Now”, he says, “Now” says he
“Here are the Rules you must follow for me.
Be of good cheer from dusk till dawn
Have a Santa Stop sign on your lawn
Never refuse a mince pie
Obey Christmas laws with a twinkle in your eye.”

“Behold my room of special toys.
For nice AND naughty girls and boys.
“Come my love! It would seem rather timid,
To make the Dr Who Christmas Special your hard limit.”

(she realised deep in her medulla oblongata
That these festive fetishes were his desiderata)

“There may be times you cannot go out
Until you've partaken of the Christmas sprout.
Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.
Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.”

Though the millionaire toy-maker acted so grim
Oh my, our heroine was drawn to him
Isn't he Byronic, dontcha think?
With his glower and power and Christmas kink?

Her inner goddess saw it as a good sign
That his fiscal Cliff was Mistletoe and Wine
As Foucault The Red Nosed Reindeer played – a composition of his own design -
They danced until the Eve became Christmas Day

And on and on he went, sternly.
Every festive detail spelt out, eternally
“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.
Watch. The. Queens. Speech.
It's in the contract.
Lose. To. Me. At. Scrabble.
It's in the contract.
Deck.The.Halls.
It's in the contract.
Drink. The. Sherry
It's in the contract.
Want. The. Figgy. Pudding.
It's in the contract.
Pull. The. Cracker.
It's in the contract.
Read. The. Joke
It's in the contract.
Laugh. (Ha. Ha. Ha).
It's in the contract.”

Bind him as he sleeps
With chains of tinsel and paper
So that when he wakes upon Boxing Day
Greeted him with a spoon, and a smile and say

“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.
“Eat. The. Sprouts.
It's in the contract.”

Monday, December 3, 2012

Video of the week: Hexvessel - Sacred Marriage

Hexvessel is the folk-rock project of a British chap living in Finland calling himself Kvhost (he's from a black/experimental metal background) and his local collaborators.


I have no idea why everything seems to be coming up spiritual folk for me at the moment, musically speaking, but let's roll with it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why Pinterest is great for event follow-up

I haven't quite gotten into the sharing side of Pinterest - a friend describes this aspect of it as being like Tumblr without the porn.

But being able to great your own pictorial noticeboards and link libraries is great for following up on events. I hate the endless bullet point notes that training sessions generate and what's worse is I don't think anyone actually reads them.

For example, here's the follow-up pinboard I did to a small outreach session on The Bee Cause in Daventry back in November using Pinterest.




There - isn't that much nicer? And if you insist on notes as well, type them up, copy/paste them into a paint program, save them as a JPG and upload them. Sorted. :-)

Oh, and if anyone wants me to come and do a talk about our Bees campaign, have antennae, will travel, so just call on me...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fabric mosaic photos - from Sack Sales on New Street

Photograph of readymade fabric art 'found' in a new school pop-up jumble sale (or Sack Sale, hipsters) on New Street now on Flickr.

Untitled


If you want to check it out for yourself it's next to Cafe Rouge near the top end of the street. There's also a more traditional vintage clothing boutique on the ground floor.

A black flower blossoms