My Week in Media

Oh dear, I’ve been tagged for a meme by Meg, who got it from Neil, who got it from James. It’s been a while. It’s 3AM as I notice this. I must brood on it over the weekend.

Alright, I’m done brooding.

What I read
I haven’t read a book in ages. I still buy them, though not as often as before, but they sit on my shelves unread. I canceled my subscription to NRC Next because I no longer have a commute, at least not one long enough to read anything, my tram ride lasts about five minutes. The only magazine I currently subscribe to is The Word, formerly known as Word. I never read them when they arrive, but I keep them for when I travel or when I finally get tired of the internet. Is it me, or is Word slowly becoming more like Q magazine? It doesn’t seem as decidedly different from the mainstream music mags as it used to do. Over the Christmas holiday I did spend some time reading an issue on the couch and promptly fell asleep. At work, I try to start the day reading our own newspaper, DAG, but there’s usually some other pressing matter concerning our tv guide to attend to.

What I watched
I watch so many tv shows I hardly ever get round to films. But as my favourite shows are either on strike or suspended over the Christmas break, I caught up on some films. I checked the Times Online’s 100 best films of 2007 and picked The Last King of Scotland, Atonement, For Your Consideration, Bridge to Terabithia and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. All of which I enjoyed to varying degrees, but none of them blew me away as much as my favourite film of the year, Babel, which I would have liked to see again. It’s on my iPod, lacking essential subtitles. I watch quite a bit of video on my iPod in bed, over the last couple of weeks I have been falling asleep watching entire seasons of Battlestar Galactica. (Gaeta is so the fifth remaining Cylon.)

I wish I’d seen all of The History Boys on the BBC, I had planned on watching it, but forgot and only caught the second half. I liked it, but half expected the boys to break into song, it had that kind of stagey rhythm to it. Talking about singing… When Joseph met Maria was a lot less engaging than Lord Webber’s actual competition was and it just reminded me that the blandest candidates won. Bland… yeah, I’ve never liked Tom Hanks much and he didn’t do anything to impress me in the awful The Terminal, which I also managed to see half of.

I also caught Catherine Tate’s Christmas show – and was a little taken aback by her ‘Northern Irish Christmas’ sketch, but George Michael made up for it with his scarily effective Shane McGowan impresssion. I also saw the Extras Christmas special, which I thought was just a rehash of one of the regular episodes. I caught bits and pieces of Dara Ó Briain’s stand up gig on the Beeb. I can’s stand him when he’s on panel shows like Have I Got News For You, but didn’t mind him that much on his own.

I almost forgot the Doctor Who Christmas Special. Maybe that’s because I didn’t find it too memorable. Kylie and Tennant worked well off each other, but the story was a little is that all there is. I hope the much hyped start of Torchwood’s second season (January 16) will be more exciting.

What I listened to
I don’t listen to the radio, haven’t really since college. Since I got the iPod a few weeks back, I have set up an elaborate playlist which ensures I won’t hear a track twice. I’m doing this because there are way too many songs in my collection that I’ve never listened to, because I tended to put favourites on repeat before. I’ve exported my playlist from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve for your perusal: listened.txt

Other than that, I spent many hours transferring some of my own old DAT and MD bootlegs to hard disk, splicing them up in tracks and uploading the full shows to a private tracker. I made a handful of people very happy and I enjoyed reliving the memories that go with the concerts and the friends I went with. Precious moments.

As for albums, that dying breed of a format, the new Einstuerzende Neubauten ‘Alles Wieder Offen’ is really, really good. If you’re the kind of person who dismisses them for being German, or ancient, or just… ‘weird’, now’s the time to actually listen to their new work. It may surprise you. Or, you know, confirm your suspicions. If the single Weil, weil, weil puts you off, give Nagorny Karabach a go.

What I surfed
My usual haunts. Television Without Pity for my daily portion of undiluted snark. Our own Whedonesque, of course – things got rather heated over Christmas. I still visit Metafilter though not as often as I used to. I checked out Derek Powazek’s new magazine blog I also spent time on various tapers related forums like, looking for information on the hardware I use to record, or to find out the best ways to reduce hiss and remove pops and clicks. Most of the time, though, I was probably reading what folks were up to on Twitter.  

What I played
Meg added this one to the list of questions. I’d really love to have more opportunities to play board games, like we used to in college. On New Year’s Eve I played one round of Trivial Pursuit which I enjoyed a lot. It’s probably the only game I have some chance of winning as I’m useless at all tactical games like Risk.

Who I tag
Please feel free to join in, or not: Derek Powazek, Hydragenic, maybe I can wake Reluctant Nomad from his slumber and I know it’s not going to happen, but I’d love to read what Stephen Fry’d make of this meme. Last but not least I’m going to try to infect the Dutch blogosphere (oh god no, I’m using the b word) and that’s why I tag Erwin Blom, who doesn’t visit here I’m sure, but if you all click on the link a few times he might get the idea.

The five best gigs of 2007

As the first couple of tickets for shows in 2008 are coming in, it’s time to look back and recognise the best of 2007. Where possible, I’ll quote from my earlier reviews.

1. Marc Almond – Paradiso, Amsterdam, October 27

Even before he’s sung a note, he’s welcomed with a thunderous applause
and the crowd’s enthusiasm doesn’t wane over the full two hour show.
They sing along, the hands go up, the tears run rings and hearts swell.
We’re close to a conga-line here, it’s that kind of atmosphere.”
This show in Amsterdam was nothing less than triumphant, so good in fact, that I’ve got to see it twice. That’s why I’ve booked to see him in Dublin in February.

2. The Church – Paradiso, Amsterdam, April 20
“I go see bands full of expectations and come away disappointed a lot of
the time. So when I went to see The Church I expected them well past
their heyday, coasting on past glory. Instead I watched four guys
soldiering on with more fire in the belly than a lot of the new
‘The’-bands put together. Overcoming ridiculous technical problems,
they played blistering versions of songs from their vast repertoire.”
When I’m willing to travel to Hengelo to see a band a second time, you know I’m on to something good. The Church quite simply blew me away and they’ve since climbed to the #1 spot in my chart for 2007 with 527 songs scrobbled.

3. Amy Winehouse – Paradiso, Amsterdam, February 8
After The Church, Amy Winehouse was my most played artist this year (342 songs) eventhough I didn’t listen to her much in the second half of the year. Amy played a late night show at the Paradiso. I suppose we were ‘lucky’ for her to show up at all, let alone play a fantastic set. She isn’t much of a performer, but with pipes like that, she doesn’t need to be. I’m glad I got to see her at her best. And I hope someone, family or friends, will look after her and help her deal with whatever it is needs dealing with.

4. R.E.M. – Vicar Street, Dublin, July 3 and 4
‘This is not a show,’ we were told plenty of times. R.E.M. used five nights in front of a real audience in Dublin’s beautiful Olympia theatre, to ‘rehearse’ songs for their upcoming album, which, by the sound of the songs played at these shows, will sound a little more like the R.E.M. we knew before they – briefly – went mega. Well, I enjoyed these ‘rehearsals’ very much. Stipe really doesn’t have to do much to entertain, doesn’t have to work for it, he is just naturally charismatic. I can never figure out whether he’s a nice bloke or not, but I’m told he is. Good for him.

5. Cathal Coughlan – Sugar Club, Dublin, March 25.
There are a couple of artists on my list that don’t tour that much or at all, which means I have to travel to go see them. Cathal Coughlan is one of them. I’ll happily jump on a flight to see him in London or Dublin. It’s an easy choice to make when you know someone’s going to deliver. And deliver he did at the intimate Sugar Club, playing a short solo set before a full run through his grand opus, Flannery’s Mounted Head, also known as Foburg. I really wish he’d play more often.

Also seen:

Jarvis Cocker – not quite as good as hoped for, but he’s adorable.
Brett Anderson – better than expected
Camera Obscura – really not my thing
Moke – derivative and calculated
Interpol – not great
Justin Timberlake – shite seats, crap sound
The Bravery – good energy
INXS – J.D. was better on TV.
The Police – I shouldn’t have gone.
Luka Bloom – I have seen him do better
Arcade Fire – fantastic show falls flat in large venue.
Sinead O’Connor – can do no wrong
The National – impressive show marred by abrupt end.

And then of course there were the eight Nothing Like The Sun shows, in Stratford, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Nottingham and Gent. So totally different from everything else mentioned here I decided to leave them out.

All the photos are copyright © 2007, cvodb.

Working girl

The sound of fireworks is fizzling out only thirty minutes into the new year.

Bye bye 2003, I hardly knew ye. I’d do a best of list if I could, because I did see films and I did read stuff and I did hear music, but I really don’t remember much other than that there never seemed to be enough time to enjoy anything.

I won’t remember 2003, the year I turned 40, for much else than the fact that I turned 40, that I did it in London and that I was surrounded by good people. Everything else is a blur.

My temp job lasted and still lasts, though probably not for very much longer. It’s been mostly good – it covered the bills (but not much more), but there was always the pressure of budget cuts and reorganisation, of being understaffed and overworked.

Apart from the full time job I wrote two books for Omnibus Press in the evenings and on weekends. I have no idea how I did that. The first one nearly killed me. The second one I would have killed not to do.

Somehow I managed to run my websites as well. thrived despite my involvement, survived by some clever hiring of staff.

In the second half of the year most of my energy went into ‘supporting the arts’, playing personal googlist and — I believe it’s called — confidante to an entertainer. Of all the work I do, this is the closest to my heart. It’s also the most draining. The judges are still out on whether it’s the most satisfying or frustrating.

So I worked. I worked. And I worked some more. Yet I feel as if I accomplished nothing. I’m tired of tying up the loose ends of other people’s lives. I’m just tired.

If I believed in New Year’s resolutions I would promise to live more and work less. As unemployment is a very real possibility this year, that doesn’t seem too much of a challenge.