Wednesday, 7 September 2011

London Festival Fringe

I've written a few pieces for the arts and culture website, London Festival Fringe.

Scathing review of the film 'One Day.'   Click here to read it.

Beyonce and Jay Z expecting a baby. Click here to take a look!

A piece about Absolutely Fabulous' return to the silver screen! Click here to read it!

Totally and utterly infatuated with Washed Out

After my elder brother accused me of being a 'music facist'- my CD collection was exclusively dedicated to guitar and drum-heavy rock music, with the likes of incubus and foo fighters holding the topspot- I took it upon myself to widen my somewhat narrow musical knowledge. This took me on a long, winding, and ear-tingling road to discover some fantastic bands, singers and genres of music, past and present. One such band is Washed Out, fronted and produced by American born, Ernest Greene. His music falls under contemporary genres such as 'synthpop,' 'chillwave,' 'minimalist,' and 'Lo-Fi,' and his combination of percussion, distant and repetitive singing has seen him take easy-listening to a new and exciting level.

 Having only hit the 'big time' in 2009, Greene has followed up his previous LPs and songs with a new album, 'Within and Without,' released July 2011. Crammed full of beautiful, subtle, euphoric and entirely original songs, it proved no easy feat picking out my favourite tune, but after careful consideration, 'Amor Fati' became my song de jour. Click here and Voila! You're hooked.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Peroni Collection

            This week I have been invigilating an exhibition called The Peroni Collection at No Wall’s Gallery in Brighton. It has been put on by Peroni, as a means of selling themselves as an Italian style brand – which is refreshing as usually lager adverts consist of a bunch of lads talking about football and acting in some derogatory way toward women.

                                                        Bitter Rice

The exhibition has toured the UK, from Edinburgh to London, Manchester to Brighton, and the last leg of the tour, is Cardiff and Bristol. The exhibition is curated by renowned photographer Rankin – who has taken some pretty cool photos in the past, click here to see his work – and fashion writer Anna Battista. The collection of beautiful black and white images from old films make up the exhibition, and there is a short film- which is admittedly just an overdone advert for peroni. The film attempts to present peroni in a stylish, Italian way, with a beautiful woman floating around the streets of Florence (I think) and drinking peroni as she catches the eye of a beautiful Italian man.
The images are stills from films such as Casablanca, Bitter Rice, War and Peace, Boy on a Dolphin all the way to the more contemporary Casino Royale. The images are of older movie stars who are far more elegant than a lot of our current ‘celebrities.’ Stemming from Sophia Loren to Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck to Daniel Craig- the exhibition has enticed a variety of people in; young and old, who gasp at the beautiful people in the photos or contend that cinema will never be quite the same as it was 50 odd years ago.

            In the evening I serve complimentary Peroni’s to age-appropriate customers. Unsurprisingly, quite a few friends of mine have popped in and taken full advantage of the ‘free beer.’ However last night was very quiet- which is strange what with the ice cold Peroni's ready on arrival. According to some guy, art-lovers would see the name ‘The Peroni Collection’ and assume it is exhibiting little more than a couple of large (empty) Peroni bottles, and those who are not into art would probably rather go to the pub and purchase a beer, instead of pretending to care about art work. Perhaps this is true. Perhaps it is not.

The Bank, who are the events company who help put this on, have kindly let me work on my dissertation whilst I am here, as long as I acknowledge people when they come in. Well, clearly I am procrastinating, instead of writing my dissertation I am writing about this exhibition. If you are in Brighton come along and take a look – it is only on today and tomorrow, 10am – 8pm, and if you are not in Brighton, sorry to bore you. Ha!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The King of Limbs

At long last! Radiohead are back with another delectable song for us to devour. Having heard little from the talented quintuple since their 2007 release of In Rainbows, the24-hour early release of debut album The King of Limbs was a pleasant surprise. The album is reminiscent of their prior album - In Rainbows- and has the unmistakable Radiohead imprint which makes for a familiar, but accomplished listen.
Their debut song, Lotus Flower, oozes lead singer Thom Yorke’s brilliance. The inspired combination of minimal beats, soft claps, and Yorke’s whirring voice, make for a great comeback song. A little further into the album, and I can honestly say I have few complaints. Morning Mr Magpie is an upbeat number; merging flickering guitar, simple percussion and that voice. Then there's Codex - an absolute favourite of mine – which merges sombre piano and hallucinogenic moans.
Although a mixed response from fellow Radiohead enthusiasts- for me, this album works because Yorke and the band, have stuck to what they know… and why not? They do it so well.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Bonobo, thank you.

Bonobo and his array of beautiful songs have pretty much become the soundtrack to my life. The musical genius has managed to tantalise my musical ear buds for a very long time, and in gratitude, I thought it appropriate to devote a post to the brilliance that is Bonobo - or more specifically Simon Green – the man behind the music. 

Simon Green has a twelve year career under his belt, a range of songs worth boasting about and has successfully put his distinctive Bonobo stamp on each and every one of these songs. His songs come to life from his recurring use of steady beats, soft jingles, and flutters of a flute, oriental twangs or African guitar. These melodic combinations work well enough on their own - but sometimes, to enhance his songs and offer something else to the music scene - Green incorporates the distinctive voice of Bajka.

In order to identify a couple of songs that were ‘that little bit above the rest’ - I sat down and listened to my vast Bonobo playlist. Although selecting my two favourite songs has proved much harder than initially thought – I have been ruthless and managed to pick the two songs most listened to, by yours truly. The first is the beautiful Noctuary. The amalgamation of effortless baselines with chirpy chimes, mellow beats and lingering oriental twangs, is chill out at its best. Listen to it here.

            Another treasure is the soulful Walk in the sky, which – if listened to - unsurprisingly came up top of my favourite Bonobo tracks. The unique vocals of Bajka grace the Days to Come song. The delicate tinkle, unmistakable thudding and the faint tooting of a saxophone underpin the song and Bajka completes it. She harmonises the song with her intricate and distinctive voice, bringing it to life. Click here to listen.

            Although well-known in the University sphere, those who have either, not heard of, given little attention to or have failed to appreciate the magnificence that is Bonobo, I highly recommend that you sit, listen and love. 

Here are a few more of my favourites

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Bush and his illegal use of torture

Although a bit out-of-date, this is the article I wrote for The Verse, which never went to print. Thought it may be worth publishing it on my blog. 
Bush and his illegal use of torture

Former US president George W. Bush has recently admitted to permitting the use of the controversial torture technique, water boarding, as a means to obtain so-called vital information, which he has argued has prevented future terrorist attacks on the likes of Heathrow airport, Canary Wharf and a variety of US targets. After years of denying the use of torture to retract information from suspected terrorists, Bush has declared in his newly published book – Decision Points - that water boarding was used during interrogations. With a now published confession that Bush and the US army committed serious war crimes against humanity, could result in Bush facing jail.

Water boarding is considered a form of torture under International Human Rights standards, and has recently been confirmed a form of torture by No. 10 Downing Street. Chief of MI6, Sir John Sawers, commented on the use of water boarding in a recent speech, describing it as ‘illegal and abhorrent.’  It requires the person in question being restrained, their head being tilted backwards, their face being covered with a cloth, and water being poured over the persons face in an attempt to obstruct their breathing passages. This causes the captive to experience the sensation of drowning. As a consequence this often causes an abrupt gag reflex, it can also result in tremendous pain, dry drowning, lung damage and brain damage from oxygen deprivation. It can also have side effects like broken bones from struggling against fetters, psychological damage and if unremitting, death.

Bush swore the notorious Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, ‘No one was more shocked and angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons,’ declared Bush. There is no doubt Bush shows some signs of remorse on having sent American troops into a country under false pretences, but reiterates the point that the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. It’s got to be said, it’s almost certainly the case that many Iraqis or Afghans feel the same way about him.

Guantanamo Bay, a US prison located in Cuba, is renowned for the holding of suspected terrorists. Bush describes Guantanamo Bay as a type of heaven in prison terms, and claimed that prisoners were well-fed and kept in ‘clean and safe shelter.’ However from the vast amount of photographs leaked from Guantanamo, one has to question Bush’s honesty. Bush claimed that Geneva conventions were met in the prison regardless of it being located in Cuba rather than on US soil, where the legal requirements under the Geneva Convention are not compulsory. It became evident that 3 known suspected terrorists were interrogated using water boarding. One of these, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claims to have been water boarded 183 times whilst interrogated by the CIA. "Damn Right! Had I not authorised water boarding on senior al Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked." Bush admitted to doing so to Mohammed, but claimed he divulged information of vital importance during his detention. He also stated that he would do it again to save lives. For Bush it wasn’t a question of morality, it was a question of the protection and the upholding of America’s reputation.

            The famous photos from Abu Ghraib prison, formerly the Baghdad Correctional facility, came to public attention in 2004. After photos had been leaked, Bush stated that he was not aware of such goings on under his presidency. Accounts of sexual, physical and psychological abuse occurred in the facility, committed by the military police of the United States Army. The United States Department of Defence removed seventeen soldiers and police officers, resulting in eleven being charged for abuse. President Obama is holding onto some of the more graphic photographs from the prison, of officers supposedly raping and sexual abusing prisoners. His choice not to release the photographs is because of the offence, trauma and unrest the photographs may cause. The response from the then president Bush was that these sort of on goings were of an exceptional case, claiming that these photos were in no way indicative of standard or tolerable practices in the United States Army. Evidently that was a lie.

            Decision Points tries to convey Bush’s’ presidency as one of success and foolishly tries to paint him as a morally just, ahead of his times, tenacious leader. But can one forget how he dragged America - and let’s not forget the UK – kicking and screaming into two catastrophic wars. Or his ongoing condemnation of civil liberties and international law, and of course, how he left the US economy, and along with it many other economies, in dire straights.

Monday, 22 November 2010

                              Me and my best, and the poem he sang/read to me on a pavement floor

 The Highwayman, Alfred Noyles  
The wind was a torrent of darkness upon the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight looping the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.

He'd a French cocked hat on his forehead, and a bunch of lace at his chin;
He'd a coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of fine doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle; his boots were up to his thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle--
His rapier hilt a-twinkle--
His pistol butts a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred,
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter--
Bess, the landlord's daughter--
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim, the ostler listened--his face was white and peaked--
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord's daughter--
The landlord's black-eyed daughter;
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say:

"One kiss, my bonny sweetheart; I'm after a prize tonight,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light.
Yet if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way."

He stood upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the sweet black waves of perfume came tumbling o'er his breast,
Then he kissed its waves in the moonlight
(O sweet black waves in the moonlight!),
And he tugged at his reins in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon.
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
ribbon over the purple moor,
The redcoat troops came marching--
King George's men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord; they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets by their side;
There was Death at every window,
And Hell at one dark window,
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had bound her up at attention, with many a sniggering jest!
They had tied a rifle beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
"Now keep good watch!" and they kissed her. She heard the dead man say,
"Look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I'll come to thee by moonlight, though Hell should bar the way."

She twisted her hands behind her, but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it, she strove no more for the rest;
Up, she stood up at attention, with the barrel beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing, she would not strive again,
For the road lay bare in the moonlight,
Blank and bare in the moonlight,
And the blood in her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love's refrain.

Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hooves, ringing clear;
Tlot tlot, tlot tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding--
The redcoats looked to their priming! She stood up straight and still.

Tlot tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment, she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight--
Her musket shattered the moonlight--
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him--with her death.

He turned, he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the casement, drenched in her own red blood!
Not till the dawn did he hear it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs in the golden noon, wine-red was his velvet coat
When they shot him down in the highway,
Down like a dog in the highway,
And he lay in his blood in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

And still on a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a gypsy's ribbon looping the purple moor,
The highwayman comes riding--
The highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard,
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred,
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter--
Bess, the landlord's daughter--
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.



                                                                          My loves