Call me Russ L

Some bullspit about Moseley Folk will be coming soon

Posted in Linklog, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 3 September, 2013

In the meantime I would recommend that you have a look at The Paradise Circus Official Guide To The Quarters Of Birmingham, because it is very funny.

Alternatively, have a look at this duck singing a song on the subject of being about to whip somebody’s ass.

Linklogging, we’re linklogging, we’re what’s happening

Posted in Books, Films, Linklog, Modern Living, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 28 April, 2013

Okey-dokey my bredrins and sistrins, we did some videos yesterday and as such we’d probably better go about restoring the appropriate text-to-image balance (i.e. a metric blue whale-full more words than pictures, because verbal is cool and visual is… erm… ducking stool? I’m not making my own point very well).

~ 21 British problems (via Ben Swizzle, a while ago).

~ A Venn diagram of almost every Obama conspiracy theory ever (via Skepchick, a while ago).

~ Photos of melting glaciers (via Kottke, a while ago).

~ Occasionally we do have something that looks a bit like democracy, but basically you still have to raise a load of money for it to work.

~ On reading novels and forgetting the plots, which is something I am a blighter for (via Bookslut, forever ago).

~ All about the French New Wave fillums.

~ All about the Spaghetti Western fillums.

~ “Why on earth should finance be the biggest and most highly paid industry when it’s just a utility, like sewage or gas?” (via Kottke, years ago).

~ A map of the world with the size of countries matched to their populations (via Kottke, years ago, again).

~ E.B.White’s other pig story, and I should point out now as I always do that it absolutely blew my mind out of my ears when I realised that E.B. White of “Charlotte’s Web” fame was the pigmentless half of Strunk & White (via Maud Newton, years ago).

Coming to terms with the inevitable

Posted in Blogstuff, Books, Linklog, Modern Living, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 21 December, 2012

Done it again. Supersonic happened (hooray~!), and I actually managed to write most of my post about it. I genuinely did. I just didn’t finish that last little bit, and didn’t get as far as a post about anything I’ve done since either – nine gigs, four operas, a fillum showing with an organ being played behind it, a Christmas question-answerin’ trail, ice skating, a pub quiz, one world fair, a picnic and a rodeo.

We will draw a line here. A line of non-bloggery. I will finish the Supersonic one and there still are going to be digest posts for all of my operations from this year. I know my precise plans are of even less interest than the posts will be, but I do feel like I’ve removed a weight from my shoulders by making a decision to just leave the rest and so I’m going to indulge myself by writing some crap about the crap I didn’t write.

Some links:

~ It seems that there are plans for a Mo Yan theme park, now that he’s Nobel literature laureate. That’s brilliant and a thing that should be done with more of the winners. Can you imagine a Harold Pinter theme park?

“Two day tickets, please.”
“That’ll be £20.”

~ Point! (It doesn’t work in IE. Via SWSL).

~ The mouse that stole a leopard’s food – apologies for the Daily Mail link, but I do love the photographs (via Cute Overload, years ago).

~ Matoi Yamamoto’s salt labyrinths (via Kottke,years ago).

~ Hard Truths From Soft Cats.

~ I know that “I am an introvert” is the currently one of the Infosuperbahn’s most fashionable things, but this thing here really, really is the most perfect guide to talking to/dealing with me that anyone could ever have written (via Skepchick).

(A [B {C} B] A)

Posted in Linklog, Modern Living, Music, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 9 October, 2012

That half-asleep half-awake in bed state that you get can often be an effective spawning pool for utter nonsense. I’m sure you know what I mean and are more than familiar with those drowsy good-ideas-at-the-time. I would try and sell it as one of the universals of the human experience but, y’know, not everyone has a bed. I bet the “nonsense” parts of this are pretty widespread, though.

In this instance, this morning I was gripped by the thought of how ace it would be to give this post a nested structure, with a thought in the middle of it being surrounded by another, and that surrounded by another still. All up, one might say, on some Russian Doll isht.

In the cold light of day this was clearly very stupid.

I mean really now… ideas? Me having ideas? Pull the other one, sleepysnoozyfoolchild.

I think it’s best to put all of this behind us and never mention it again.

The Rootless Forrest turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. We went to Walsall to see it on the morning of Sunday the 30th, and found a rusty graffitied tub with a few straggly trees on. I wasn’t even initially sure if that was actually it, to start with – I’d thought there were supposed to be audio recordings and whatnot. I went back on the afternoon of Friday the 5th and found that it had moved over to the nearer side of the wharf, but there were still no recordings or anything else.

I was expecting more, somehow.

Ah well. Nevermind all of that, ‘cos on Wednesday the 3rd it was time for ‘Rina Round at the Hare-a Hound(s). Let us be real: once upon a time Carina Round was my absolute favourite popular musical artist in the world ever. Nowadays I’m not as fussed as I used to be. I still like her a lot, but her music has got a fair bit blander to me as she’s gone along. Not bland, I hasten to add, but bland-er. This less fuss-ed-ness has got to the point where I haven’t even got/heard the new album yet (“Tigermending” – I like that name, it makes me think of someone fondly sewing up a beloved soft toy animal. I think I’d like “Tigerminding” even more, though – that makes me think of looking after a tiger whilst its parents go out for the night. Possibly for a candlelit meal, to rekindle the romance in their marriage. The tiger should be in bed by nine, and you must make sure that she brushes her teeth).

The gig, then: I missed Dan Whitehouse, but he always plays with Carina and so I daresay I’ll see him plenty nuff times in the future. Venkman played that type of thing with those staccato runs of off-kilter guitar and bass that sometimes add up to groove and sometimes don’t. I swear there was a genre name for that sort of thing a few years ago, when loads of bands did it.

In the changeover between turns I noticed a bloke in the crowd who looked almost exactly like George Dawes. That was something.

Carina played nearly all new stuff, most of which I’d only heard at the last Brum gig last year. It seems a lot rocky-heavier, as I thought back then – that’s what comes from spending time knocking around with a bloke from Tool, I suppose. None of the new ones stood out as amazing on second listen, but it’s still early days. The highlight was definitely a version of “Elegy” that was re-aranged to build up to a massive crescendo. That was scorching. We also had the (by now) customary beautiful singalong during “Backseat”, and a very sexy “Down Slow”. The more rocky-graaargh style of “Into My Blood” seemed well at home with the new stuff, funnily enough. That was all of the older stuff, as far as I recall – nothing from “The First Blood Mystery” outside of a tease of “Ribbons” when someone called out for it. That was probably verging on cruel.

Really, for me it seems a lot less about “Carina’s songs” than it does about “Carina herself” nowadays – she might well have lost the top several buttons off her dress (poor flower), but she’s still such an engaging performer and endearing character. She even still occasionally does that thing with her voice that does things to my mind that I can’t describe, but if I had to try to transcribe would be sort of “… … … guh … … …” (nesting!) (Edit: I should also note that this was an attempted transcription of what it does to my mind, not the thing that she does with her voice itself. Although it would actually be fun to hear her try to sing that) and her between-song blarney was as fun as ever (as well as the amusement of her accent changing mid-sentence).

I was also more than happy to see the talking-over-the-quiet-ones wankers castigated from every side. They didn’t seem to realize what the problem was, but there we go. It was still fun to see them get called names.

I went on the against austerity/boo to the Tory party conference march on Sunday the 7th, for whatever it’s worth – I do really get the feeling that it’s a bit like your Romney 47% thing, and that they assume that anyone on an anti-austerity march would never even possibly have voted Tory in the first place and thus can be safely ignored (true in many cases including mine, of course, but – aside from that not being the point – it really does seem to be far from exclusively true…). Still, you’ve got to try. I liked the PCS pooch I saw with the little sash wrapped around her doggy coat. I was also tickled by the way that the coppers stood behind the rank of conference event security staff on Broad Street, where it would have looked unseemly to put the metal walls up.

Links? Goo on then:

~ Average Cats Are Average.

~ Douglas Adams wrote this about the internet in 1999. It still appears to apply to the way a lot of people talk about a fair few specific bits/uses of the internet. Astonishing.

~ I frequently (and sadly/reluctantly) feel like I haven’t had the training to understand K-Punk, but I did always like this post regarding the way that positive thinking is some sort of weird standard. While we’re there (and more recently), Olympics.

~ Florentijn Hofman’s giant rubber duckies (via Cute Overload, years ago).

Reluctantly abandoning the animal title theme

Posted in Combat Sports, Linklog, Stage by Russ L on 8 October, 2012

Question of the day: has anyone ever had both synaesthesia and colour blindness?

Right then so then, I was going to go to the boxing (for the first time in a couple of years) at Walsall Town Hall on Friday the 21st, but found out at a very late stage (very late. The ability to check things on the day they’re supposed to happen is one of the big advantages of these here internets) that the fight between Carl Johanneson and Wassul’s own Martin Gethin had been moved onto a Frizzank Wizzank bill in London. For some reason. That was the end of that plan, then – I wasn’t really in the mood to pay a fortune for the usual 40-36/60-54 stuff.

Martin Gethin did win in the end, though, so there’s some sort of happy ending.

I made one of my (nowadays) scandalously rare trips to the theatre on the afternoon of Saturday the 29th, for Out Of Joint‘s (in association with the Octagon Theatre Bolton and Birmingham Rep and no doubt all sorts of other groovy folks) production of “Our Country’s Good” at The Old Rep. I was familiar with the play but The Old Rep was actually new to me – surprisingly, I’d never been there before this. Once you get in there, it looks uncannily like a theatre that would be called “The Old Rep”. Which must be handy, in its own way.

So, it seems that Thomas Keneally wrote a vaguely-based-in-reality-but-not-quite book called “The Playmakers”. Timberlake Wertenbaker then adapted this book “The Playmakers” into a play. In this book “The Playmakers”, and this play adapted from the book “The Playmakers”, there is a play around which the plot of the book (or play) orbits. With me? Good.

The idea is that the humane commandant of a late 18th century Australian colony wants to see his transported convicts act out a play, to remind everyone around that everyone around is human. Some of his officers are opposed to any such thing happening. This leads us into a meditation on the redemptive power ( a trite phrase but a useful one. Or perhaps I’m just very unimaginative. Well, I’m definitely very unimaginative, that’s beyond dispute. I digress…) of theatre specifically and by extension creative acts in general. One of the officers cack-handedly suggests that the convicts will be improved by repeating lines of elegant language containing noble sentiments, and while that thought is clearly very silly in itself there it may be dimly and distantly related to something helpful if you can manage to both strip away the condescension and look at it obliquely – one thing that theatre (and whatnot else) can do for us is to remind us/make us aware that there are perspectives other than our own, and that our own interior sets of thoughts and feelings are not necessarily the default pattern for all of humanity. That which is different is not necessarily bad. This, as I’m fond of pompously telling people, is a lesson we should continually remind ourselves of.

It would seem to be underlined in this production by the fact that the actors are all playing multiple roles – the solipsism of any given character is completely undercut when you see the actor playing someone completely different two minutes later. Although maybe in practice it was just a pragmatic casting decision. I do not know (or mind).

Our star of the cast, anyway, was Ciaran Owens – his Major Robbie Ross exuded spite from every pore, and gave a thoroughly convincing blarney as the reluctant hangman Ketch Freeman.

I also thought that it was quite nifty that this one was directed by Max Stafford-Clark, who directed the play’s first ever production twenty-five years ago. Wonderfully cyclical.

My one minor complaint (and this is the play, not the production) would regard a missed opportunity – we have, periodically, an Aboriginal character flitting around the edge of things, and we later find that he and his fellows find themselves afflicted by diseases brought over by the westerners. I suspect that there may be a point I’m missing (there usually is at least one), but it doesn’t really go anywhere and seems to be a bit of a waste – somewhere could be gone with this. I did like his “a dream that has lost its way” imagery, though.

I suppose that it would seem appropriate after this play in particular to say that I should get out to the theatre more frequently, but I really should. I end up saying that every time I do actually go, though. I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it, as the lady said.

There have been More Things since I went to that, but I think this’ll do for the time being. Have a few links before I go:

~ The Doctor Who Role Playing Game (a video, not really a game. It tickled me though).

~ The pubs and breweries of the Midlands (via B:INS, years ago).

~ A caricature map of Europe in 1914, based on that 1870 one (via Kottke, years ago).

Hounds (with Hare), swans (vicious), butterflies (farm-based)

Posted in Food, Linklog, Modern Living, Music, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 18 September, 2012

Wha’blow, my little chickadees. I went to that Cheek Mountain Thief gig at the Rabbit’n’Rovers on Thursday night (I was, in fact, one of only a small number of people who went to it. I’m sure they could have had more if they’d pushed it a bit. Lots of people usually turn out for Tunng), and it met with my approval. They sounded exactly as I’d expected them to sound and didn’t really bring any surprises, but that’s no trouble when you’re as much fun as this. The combination of both the cold-snowdrift and bubbly-hot-spring aspects of what I imagine Iceland to be like with fun latterday-Tunngian folk-pop is an enormously endearing one.

Let us not forget bill-mate Katherine Priddy, either. I missed her at Moseley Folk (where her set seems to have been very well regarded), but here her NickDrake-esque (some songs trad, some songs new) hippy folk was very nice. She’s due to play in the very same public house (although I don’t know if it’ll be in the same room) with no less than Michael Chapman on the 15th of next month, so there’s something for you to think about.

Saturday saw a trip to Stratford that ended up being a lot more animal-ish than I expected. We did the bus tour with the five houses (sounds quite Mafia, that), but I hadn’t known beforehand that Mary Arden’s House is still run as an actual farm. We therefore got to see/fuss the beasties there as well as feeding the ducks/geese/vicious vicious swans at the river and visiting the happiest place on Earth, Stratford Butterfly Farm. A lovely day out, it was.

Do you know what’s puzzling me lately? The fact that (from overhearing various conversations I have established that) the currently fashionable thing for dieting plans appears to be to talk about the number of ‘sins’ you are allowed to eat in a day. I find the thought of bringing the terms of religious morality into it fascinating, but bizarre. A diet is not an eschatological process. If nothing else, reaching your target weight won’t be getting to heaven – you’ll have to actually keep yourself there. So why ‘sins’?

Also: sin eaters were a real thing (or, as I believe the young’ins say nowadays, “totally a thing”). So that could get confusing, too.



~ On the graphics of heavy metal (via, ages ago, Pete Ashton’s more recently abnegated Twitter).

~ “In Search Of A Black Country Legend” – On Bathams Best Bitter.

~ “The Cat And The Coup” – a computer game about the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup in Iran. Prettier and more interesting than it is actually fun to play, I thought, but worth messing about with for reasons of prettiness and interest. (Typically, I forget the “via”).

And finally: Bejaysus, get a load of this dancing/sport-disrupting priest (via Shit London).

Frogs (tree), Ocelots (absent), Capybaras (lovely)

Posted in Linklog, Modern Living, Music, Stage, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 10 September, 2012

Now I’m normally an ardent defender of Birmingham Artsfest*, but it ain’t what it once was. Never mind the fact that the main stage is smaller**, a more serious problem is that the programme really does seem significantly less varied than it used to be***. This year there seemed to be more organisational difficulties, too – I’ve never really known “having the turns start and finish on time” to be a problem at Artsfest before.

Still, it can still make for a very nice day out, and I had just such a thing with me mom on Saturday the 8th. Highlights included one-and-a-half comic plays from the Treefrog Theatre Company (we missed most of “For Poorer, For Worse” due to the thing over the way over-running, as per above. It really is a shame that Treefrog only appear to exist for one day a year, I’d happily pay to see them more often), a really fun selection of hits from the students of the Aston Performing Arts Academy, the usual few disconnected arias from the Birmingham Opera Company, and of course the firework display (alas with taped backing music rather than the CBSO this year, but it was a fantastic display). We went to Edgbaston nature centre too, which was nice although quite a lot of the animals were hiding/not there (where do they put the ocelots when their enclosure is being renovated? I’d be more than happy to look after an ocelot for a while. I want a capybara too. They’re so lovely).

Elsewhere: astonishingly, there are two things on the telly that I want to watch at the moment****. There’s new “The Thick Of It”! The predictable backlash appears to at last have started*****, but I thought it was hilarious. I also enjoyed the endearingly loopy episode of “Doctor Who” this week. It was certainly more fun than the Steven Moffat drinking game from the week before******.

Tip o’the week: Cheek Mountain Thief at the H&H on Thursday the 13th. It seems that Mick Lindsay from Tunng fell in love whilst on holiday in Iceland, moved there, and made an album that was influenced by his new environs. Such as I’ve heard so far sounds like a 50/50 split between Tunng and Efterklang*******. This is clearly A Good Thing.

Links for fun and enlightenment:

~ A map of gender-diverse cultures (forgotten the ‘via’, sorry, but there was one).

~ The Americanisation of Mental Illness (via Bookslut, years ago).

~ An elegy for the pub carpet.

* If they didn’t call it ‘art’sfest then fewer people would complain etc etc etc.
** Some people seem to have fixated upon the stage size. I don’t think it was really all that important apart from when it came to the ballet, and since their spokesbloke did more than enough tedious carping on about it during his introductions there’s no real need to go into that here.
*** Yes, I know it’s a budgetary thing.
**** Rather than the more usual “no things on the telly that I want to watch”.
***** Irritatingly, said backlash uses/feeds into that most tedious of tropes: “The fact that many people are sick and tired of our body politic is a sign of their own venality and cynicism, and not in fact a response to the venality and cynicism of our body politic”.
****** Or Moffat Bingo, if you prefer.
******* Since I mentioned them, check this. It’ll be amazing.

Cows (celestial), Birds (sea), Rabbits (anthropomorphised)

Posted in Blogstuff, Films, Linklog, Modern Living, Music by Russ L on 5 September, 2012

I must face up to the fact that I pretty much never get around to writing about anything nowadays. A change of approach is needed. I think that I’m going to shift sideways slightly and try writing rambly diary style posts, rather than posts that are ‘about’ something specific. There may in practice appear to be no difference, with the only distinction drawn being in my own mind. We’ll see.

The last few weeks have been good for ‘big’ stuff, anyway. There was the Flyover Show and the Helicoptera, both of which were ace. In spite of the above paragraph I do still intend, one of these never-never days, to write a big opera digest post (or series of posts). I’ll talk about “Mittwoch” when I do that. If. When.

I spent the weekend just gone at the Moseley Folk Festival, which is always lovely fun. It wasn’t quite as good as Mostly Jazz, Funk And Soul two months ago (that was probably the best multi-day-music-festival-type-thing that I’ve ever been to, even better than that one previous Supersonic and that one previous Moseley Folk, but I’m going to be sensible and acknowledge the fact that I’m never going to manage to write a post about it), but it was still fab.

Two minor teensy complaints:

1) There were sound problems. Never mind the fact that Guillemots suffered from the feedback mooing of The Celestial Cow and the fact that both Roy Harper and Ian McCulloch ended up repeatedly complaining to the monitor man, the bigger trouble is that (both at this and at Mostly Jazz two months ago) the second stage just wasn’t projecting. If you weren’t up the front, the Lunar stage simply didn’t have the appropriate volume. Quite a few bands palpably suffered from this, at both festivals.

2) Janice Long as compere, again. Although in the name of fairness I should point out that she didn’t seem anywhere near as drunk as last year, and even managed to get the names of the acts correct.

Carping aside, there were a whole metric bucketful of enjoyable turns. Listing band names tells you as close to nothing as makes no odds, but since it’s the most that I’m realistically likely to manage I’ll proceed:

1) The Destroyers were the best. Obviously. As I’ve said before now, having them on is unfair to the other bands.

2) Other particular highlight sets came from Guillemots (plus their aforementioned Celestial Cow of feedback), Echo & The Bunnymen (altogether fiercer sounding than when I saw them a few years ago), Devon Sproule (at least partly because of how personally personable she seemed), Goodnight Lenin (albumalbumhurryupandreleasethebloodyalbum), and Julian Cope (it was a small victory for him to actually bother to turn up [cf: Supersonic a few years ago]. That he also turned out to be a huge amount of fun was a happy bonus).

3) Direct hits were also scored by Abigail Washburn & Kai Welch, KateGoes, Beth Jeans Houghton, Laura J. Martin, Dark Dark Dark, Revere, Little Sister, Treetop Flyers, The Magnetic North,Lanterns On The Lake, Roy Harper, The Long Notes (both their first set and their ceilidh/hayfight), Spiro, Rapunzel & Sedayne, Paul Murphy, The Jasmine Moon Ensemble, Hassan Salir Nour & Joelle Barker, Cara Dillon, Village Well, and Steeleye Span.

The use of a camping chair proved good for avoiding The Aches. I think I might see about getting one of those leg-less ones you place straight on the ground for the future though.

The park is still lovely, of course. I find myself worried about it, though, even more than I was last year – not only are the two annual festivals taking their toll, the silly rain over this summer has turned some of the turf more-or-less inside out. There are now stretches of mud/dirt where there should be grass. What is to be done?

Ah well. I will finish on a song some links:

~ Since we were talking about their pop namesake, guillemots lay eggs that won’t roll off cliffs. They’re a bit Weeble-ish.

~ The stories behind 20 Muppet favourites (via Skepchick).

~ Interesting thoughts about numeric ratings by Tom Ewing (I’m no fan of marks-out-of-x, meself. I far prefer words to tell me what you think of something).

~ “Airbushed For Change” – Tory/Cameron poster parodies circa the last election

Linklogification – 5/6/12

Posted in Books, Linklog, Modern Living, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 5 June, 2012

Linklogification – 31/5/12

Posted in Books, Linklog, Modern Living, Music, Well, it passes the time by Russ L on 31 May, 2012

Doh. I haven’t done one of these posts for a while, but I have still been hanging on to worthwhile links. This means I now have a current backlog as well as all of the ones from the old link collection. Useless, that Russ L is.

Ah well. Here’s a selection of the newer ones:

~ Much of it seems hugely exaggerated, but I did quite like this one about the Stone Roses re-union.

~ “…being a member in opposition seemed like the right thing to do” – Jon Bounds wrote a lovely thing that’s primarily about the recent Birmingham mayoral elections (which were, obviously, nothing to do with me) but what struck me more was the bit about why he joined the current-day Labour party.

~ TV is broken (via Pete Ashton on Twitter).

~ “The Ontological Proof and Why I Think It’s Cobblers” by Lance Parkin.

~ “The Battle Of The Birminghams” – West Midlands vs Alabama (via Katchooo on Twitter).

~ “Brummies” – a one hour documentary from Carl Chinn and Malcom Stent (from the 80s, or maybe 90s. It’s difficult to say).

~ George Orwell’s review of “Mein Kampf” (via Bookslut).


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