Filler by Proxy XXXVI: Harry Pollock and the Halftone Prints*

Tuesday 4 July 2006

*Yes, it’s terrible. Just terrible. But I can’t be arsed finishing the longer post I was writing about art or something, and I’ve been ragging on Pollock lately. Also, this synopsis conjured up pleasing images of the series ending with a thick-set, balding Harry Potter getting liquored up and wrapping his car around a stobie pole. Thanks to the Flickr Crappy Bootleg DVD Covers Pool.

Previously: More fun with shithouse Chinese bootleg DVDs.

Filler by Proxy XXXV: More and more, these people run your world

Monday 3 July 2006

Found via Greg.org: The Online Photographer presents Great Photographers of the Internet:

Edward Steichen

Much too dark exposure and not sharp. I suppose you may say that you tried to make it unsharp but what the hell’s the point in that. I like things sharp. Maybe you should study some other peoples’ photographs here on this forum and get an idea of what a good photograph should look like.

There’s a heap more like this, in the same post and subsequent entries on the Online Photographer’s blog, culminating in some navel-gazing about how everyone feels compelled to point out “mistakes” photographers such as Cartier-Bresson have made by not following “rules” of exposure, framing and focus. Oh, and not using a Nikon. No, a Canon. No! A Nikon!

Taking a photograph in complete ignorance of the “rules” hurts no one, costs nothing, and might even be more fun.

You can read those posts and laugh at the silly nerdboys (there may be a girl or two in there) with their techincal hairsplitting, valuing process over results. But as you do, please spare a thought for those of us who tried to learn music composition at university. I doubt there is any other artform taken so seriously, which is so dependent on the same type of pointless nitpicking as which these internet kibitzers thrive on.
At about the same time as the Online Photographer was making his point, Kyle Gann at PostClassic had finished teaching another semester:

I’ve been becoming aware that, even among the Downtowners, there is a standard academic position regarding electronic music, and am learning how to articulate it. I’ve long known that, though much of my music emanates from computers and loudspeakers, I am not considered an electronic composer by the “real electronic composers.” Why not? I use MIDI and commercial synthesizers and samplers, which are disallowed, and relegate my music to an ontological no-man’s genre. But more and more students have been telling me lately that their music is disallowed by their professors, and some fantastic composers outside academia have been explaining why academia will have nothing to do with them.

Two generations ago, composition professors would promote the careers of unlistenably dull, academic composers who would say approvingly, in all seriousness, that a piece of music was “better than it sounds.” Today, those same fossils are still taking up space in most music schools, but now a whole new exciting branch of electronic music has opened up, so that a fresh batch of careerists can stifle it all over again; and refuse to state whether or not a piece of music they have heard is any good, until they know what technical equipment was used to make it.

Filler by Proxy XXXIV: Another Great Italian

Saturday 24 June 2006

In one of the later, more indulgent passages of Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhiker” novels, he describes an out-of-it band’s music (from dim memory) as one muso playing in 3/4, another in 5/8, while a third played in πr². It seemed like a far-out joke to your callow, nerdy self, right up until you heard the music of Conlon Nancarrow.
Nancarrow’s Study for Player Piano No. 40 is written entirely in the rhythmic relationship of e/π. How do you play something like that? You can’t, so you get a machine to do it for you. If you’re living in 1948, in an earthquake-proof bunker in Mexico City, in exile from your native United States without a passport because of your socialist beliefs, the machine in question is a battered 1920s player piano, and you punch the notes for its piano rolls by hand, one at a time.
Nancarrow was obsessed with hearing polyrhythms of a complexity the mind could perceive, but not imagine. He resorted to the player piano when musicians couldn’t, or wouldn’t (“they’ll think I’m playing wrong notes!”) play his music, and so expanded the realm of rhythmic and temporal possibilities beyond anyone’s previous expectations.
I’m only bringing this up now because 2 Blowhards (a propos of drugs) has linked to a page of audio samples of Nancarrow’s music at Minnesota Public Radio, including photos and more neat biographical material. Listen up, he’s fun.
Wait: more Nancarrow links.
  • In addition to the Other Minds page linked above, Kyle Gann has written the book about Nancarrow (literally), and annotates his list of works with the increasingly wild tempo ratios used in his music.
  • The Other Minds Archive has a recording of the long-lost Three 2-Part Studies, written back when Nancarrow was still writing for live pianists and was conventially jazzier, only this version has been arranged for two toy pianos (why yes, it is Margaret Leng Tan, how did you guess?)
  • More from Other Minds: Study for Player Piano No. 40b (i.e. the second and final movement of Study No. 40).
  • I get cranky about live musicians playing Nancarrow’s player piano music.

Filler by Proxy XXXIII: The World According to Google (Da Vinci Code Version)

Thursday 25 May 2006

Filler by Proxy XXXII: She Holds the Allen Key to My Heart

Sunday 12 March 2006

Some time ago I fessed up to my perfectly understandable obsession with Anna the Ikea chatbot, especially the brunette incarnation. Even then I knew I was not the only one vying for Anna’s affections, but still I felt a pang of jealousy to see that Minor Tweaks has made repeated advances to her for the past year. Luckily, he doesn’t seem to have made much progress:

Anna: I am opening a page now which you can use if you wish to contact Customer Services. Thank you very much!
Me:
Trying to get rid of me, eh?
Anna:
I will. Thank you for the encouragement.

Still the sweetest cold-hearted bitch on the planet; no wonder we just can’t keep away. Just don’t let her talk you into buying a cheap futon base.

Filler By Proxy XXXI: The Infamous London Records Chat Archive

Tuesday 21 February 2006

The masons have learned that different browsers treat alt tags and title tags differently when displaying images.

(Yes, the Masons are in distress again.) This is an old one and not pleasant reading, but it isn’t well represented on the web any more. Back in 1997 when corporations were pretty much clueless about the web, London Records (the American counterpart to Decca) launched their spiffy new classical music website, complete with a chat page:

We’ve included this area in the new site in response to the many requests for an on-line discussion forum. We hope that you will submit your comments and thoughts through the miracle of technology for others to absorb. Check back frequently as we’ll be refreshing this area with new topics.

Things started slowly in July and August, when most of the readers’ comments were about how lousy the London Records website was:

I have always held Decca/London in the highest regards for their recording quality, but the utter nonsense of this website greatly diminishes that reputation. This was truly a waste of my time.

By the end of August visitors were losing patience with the lack of updates and responses from anyone connected to the record label:

SO LONDON RECORDS THIS SITE IS SHIT AND MEANINGLESS. WAKE UP YOU BORING OLD FART OF A RECORD COMPANY… DO YOU HEAR ME!!!!!!!!@#@#$@#$$#@%

This message stayed up on the webpage for everyone to see. Finally, in September, Sir Georg Solti, one of the label’s greatest recording stars, died. Not a word from the London Records website, who contendly continued to list his forthcoming tour dates. And the floodgates opened. A message signed by Albert Imperato, head of London’s parent company Polygram, appeared on the chat page:

Hi there, this is Al, head of Polygram USA. Do you losers really think we care about your complaints? Shit, all of the money you chuckleheads spend on this classical crap would hardly buy me a noseful of decent blow. We’ll update this site if and when we fucking well feel like it, and I can tell you right now that it won’t be soon enough for you little crybabies. Why don’t you just stroke your little cocks if that’s all you want. As for Sholti, big fucking deal! I met him once and he blew me off, the arrogant bastard. Who cares about him now that he’s dead? Nobody at the New York office, that’s who!

For the next two months the page became a gratuitously offensive haven where, as Al himself put it, “potential customers have been asking their innocent questions for weeks, while persons sporting the names of top Polygram USA officers have been answering them with foul language, racial and sexual abuse, bad spelling and bad grammar! And that this has been happening on a server owned by Polygram itself.”

Eventually, the entire London Records website was taken down… except for the chat page.

Of COURSE it’s for real, you drop of piss from an old queen’s underpants. Look at the fucking URL if you don’t believe me. This is actually the server owned by Polygram Records, and this is all that’s left of the official London Records page. I am Albert Imperato, and while my title is Vice President of Deutsche Grammophon in the U.S. I am the guy in charge of marketing. I was given this job by my godfather (don’t laugh or I’ll have your eyes in a shotglass) after my cousin Cenzo screwed me out of some of the more lucrative family business out west… If I don’t start getting some RESPETTO I’m going to wipe some Clifford Curzon master tapes, and I mean wipe them on my ass after a prolonged shit. So enough of the stupid questions, and if you don’t like it you can fuck a donkey for all I care!

The almost-complete page has been archived, which, as I said, is not pretty reading but a good way to kill time if you like your trainwrecks long, slow, and laden with filth and invective.

London Records’ classical branch was closed down soon afterward. Polygram’s old web addresses now point to Universal Music Group; their classical site, iClassics, has a link to Sir Georg Solti on its front page.

Filler by Proxy XXX: Billy Stewart sings ‘Summertime’

Friday 3 February 2006

B-rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
Up-jump-jump
Chuka-chuka-jump-jump
H’uh! Jump!
(horns & instrumental begin)
A-summertime an the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumping
Don’t ya know my darlin’?
I-I said, a-right now
An a-cotton is high
Laka-laka-laka yo old daddy is rich, so damn rich, girl-a
An a-yo mommy’s good looking, yeah-ay
So, a-hush pretty little, baby
Don’t a, a-you cry
One-a-these, a-one-a-these a-one-a-these mornin’s come up, early
Ya gonna rise, ya gonna rise up, singin’
Then you spread yo little wings
Yo little wings
An-a take to the sky-la-la-la-lie
B-rrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Until a-that mornin’, you’re a free maid
There’s a-nothin’ a-gon’ harm you, girl
With a ‘dombie’, an a-daddy standin’ by
Yeah, blues!
(sax & instrumental)
Come a little la-a-a-ate
Payin’ up the dues
Give you the blues
I know my little darlin’ I love you, so
An a-never gonna let you go
Lord!
La, la-la-lie
Tell-a lie, tell-a-lie, another lie, another lie, another lie, another lie
Say, pretty baby
Cannot save the day yet, girl
Hush, pretty little bab, don’t wanna have you cry
Hush! Shush!
Don’t a-you cry, Lordy little darlin’, I say girl
No-po’ child, I said a-right now
A-listen, baby
I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t want you to die
Don’t-a, pretty baby child
A-don’t let-a tear, don’t let a tear
Fall from yo eyes!
Hey!
All that mama do to please you-ooo’
Cause she paid her dues with blues
Baby child, I said a-right now
Don’t let a tear, don’t let a tear, don’t let a tear
Baby doll, I said fall down a-from yo eyes
So hush, pretty baby
D’oh-whoa, oh-whoa oh-whoa, oh-whoa oh-whoa, oh-whoa, oh-whoa-ooooooh-n’t
You-ooo-ooo!
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
Up-jump-jump
Chuka-jump-jump
Little darling do not let a little tear fall-a from your eye-hi-hi-hi-eye.
(‘Whoa!’)

Filler by Proxy XXIX: Where spam comes from

Friday 20 January 2006

Do you ever get spam from dodgy Nigerians who have millions of dollars lying around the place, but need your help to get it out of the country? Sure you do. But have you ever wondered what sort of person writes and sends this stuff to you? Teju Cole has met one while sitting in an internet cafe in Lagos.
The man seated next to me my first time at Tomsed was composing a message by the hunt and peck method. He pressed one letter on the keyboard, searched for the next, pressed that one, and so on. It was his one-fingered technique that attracted my attention, but when my eye alighted – not entirely accidentally – on his text, I caught my breath. The man was composing a 419 letter. A real-live scam artist sitting next to me. The words were as expected: “transfer”, “dear friend”, “deposited into your account forthwith.” So this was the origin of all that flotsam.

They don’t use your banking details, by the way. The idea behind the scam is to nickel-and-dime you on “unexpected” banking and legal fees to allegedly grease the wheels of Nigerian finance. You can find out more about the 419 scam, and some creative ways of dealing with it, here and especially here. Meet the person who actually got some money out of a Nigerian conman!

Filler by Proxy XXVIII: The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall

Tuesday 10 January 2006


My biggest regret over my time in London so far has been blowing two opportunities to see the Fall play live. Apart from being pretty much my favourite band, I’ve missed the chance to watch a gig descend spectacularly into chaos, complete with equipment sabotage, onstage punch-ups and walk-offs by various band members. If you’re lucky, you might see someone get sacked from the group on the spot, or quit in disgust.
This all happens quite a lot, as the 43 former band members can testify. Recently, Dave Simpson attempted to track down every last one of them – from the keyboard player who lasted one day, to the drummer who has been sacked nine times – to see what they’ve been up to since they fell foul of band leader (and only constant member) Mark E. Smith’s desire to “freshen up” the band from time to time.
One is dead, one’s been sent to prison: not bad going for a relatively large sampling of rock musos. Former bandmates have ranged from teenagers who happened to drink at Smith’s local, to the manager of the Chemical Brothers, who was recruited as a last-minute replacement when the Smith threw the drummer off the tour bus at a service station en route to their gig at the Reading Festival.
Dewey was led to a darkened tour bus to meet Smith, “passed out with his shirt off. The guitarist had to punch him in the face to wake him up. Then they began fighting over whether or not they should teach me the songs. Mark said no!”
Since this article was published in The Guardian, Smith has vowed never to speak to anyone at that paper again. You can also look at a PDF scan of the original article, complete with photies and more survivors’ tales of being abandoned in a foreign bar for eating a salad: best of all is the concluding plea “If you have been in the Fall and we failed to contact you, email culture@guardian.co.uk”.
As one of the current guitarists says, “I have nightmares, but it’s never boring. It’s not Coldplay.”

Filler by Proxy XXVII: Welcome to the 21st Century; I challenge you to a loins-off.

Saturday 10 December 2005


Still waiting on that personal jetpack for the commute to and from my perspex geodesic dome, but in the meantime we can give sullen, grudgeful thanks for the few, glistening gems of Future Shock that are tossed our way. First, coloured bubbles! I cannot understand why I am so excited about this. It’s like cold fusion turned out to be real, only more fun.
Second, Neil Diamond has a MySpace page. Anyone unwilling to at least cut this guy an inch of slack has a heart of stone. The fine blog Heart on a Stick has collected the best of the many, many accolades the man has received in his short stay on the website, and in doing so has taken the pulse of a modern, media-savvy society when common toilers such as you and I are suddenly confronted by the presence of a genuine, undeniable star. WARNING: it’s a bit bandwidth-intensive, but worth the effort.

Filler by Proxy XXVI: Terry Riley Variations

Tuesday 29 November 2005


Opus 8 No.2 by Tom Phillips, 1968. First performed by Phillips and John Tilbury as music to accompany a student film, Wolverhampton 1969. Try performing it for yourself on your next bus journey.
I have been listening to a couple of Riley’s film soundtracks downloaded from UbuWeb, but they don’t seem to be available anymore. Pity: I’m getting to quite enjoy them now, having got past the hippie encrustations of titles like “Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector”. There’s an insistent drive and clarity of purpose throughout his music, when everything about his manner of presentation leads you to expect New Age gruel or Dead-like indulgent noodling.
Then I looked at his website. Jesus, what a hippie! My keyboard still stinks of patchouli, even after flushing the browser cache. Honestly, it sounds better than it looks.

Filler by Proxy XXV: Who to turn to when you’ve run out of Mitfords

Thursday 17 November 2005

If anything’s better reading than the London Review of Books’ personals column, it’s the Telegraph’s obituaries. Lady Sibell Rowley has died, aged 98. Being England, the death notices tend to get clogged with a lot of ancestral ruins such as these, perhaps out of a sense of heritage more than of aristocratic fealty.
In this case, however, the passing of poor old Lady Rowley is treated as an occasion to trot out gossip about her family. She was a daughter of the 7th Earl Beauchamp, KG, “and thus a member of the family that inspired Evelyn Waugh to write his celebrated Roman Catholic novel Brideshead Revisited.”
It’s good enough that the Telegraph feels obliged to employ the epithet ‘Roman Catholic’ as an advisory to its less stout-hearted subscription base, but things get better still:

…the youngest daughter, Dorothy (Coote), endured an unfortunate late-life marriage to Robert Heber Percy, known as “Mad Boy”, the eccentric squire of Faringdon and former boyfriend of Lord Berners.

Actually, the whole article should be imagined as it would be read by Vivian Stanshall:
The daughters, aware of their father’s nocturnal prowlings, would sometimes advise their boyfriends to lock their bedroom doors. Lord Beauchamp once complained at breakfast: “He’s very nice that friend of yours, but he’s damned uncivil!” Unfortunately, the problems proved more serious, concerning incidents with footmen, and as a result of a campaign instigated by his brother-in-law, Bendor, Duke of Westminster, Lord Beauchamp was forced into exile in Europe. The Duke tried to explain the circumstances to his sister, Lady Beauchamp, who failed to grasp the essentials. “Bendor says that Beauchamp is a bugler,” she announced.

Filler by Proxy XXIV: Please help this man sell a cheap Korean car

Monday 7 November 2005

The great thing about the internet is that it can put you in touch with people from all walks of life (except for the three-quarters of the world’s population who don’t have internet access): lives of excitement, adventure and heroism. And if you get tired of that, you can also keep tabs on the day-to-day life of a Kia salesman in London:
Sunday, 9 October 2005
Its the end of a hard Sunday in the showroom, tiring with loads of customers and just the two of us. Still have sold a mid-range Sedona at a good price to a nice Irish couple so all is not lost!
Mood: caffeinated
Monday, 10 October 2005
Monday… the dawn of a new week. Two test drives today. Why are Asian people such good and tough negotiators? Do they go to a special school or something? Involved the boss to try and put a blinding deal together on a Rio (which he did) and managed to get them more money for their PX than they thought and they STILL walked!
Mood: energetic
Friday, 14 October 2005
well looks like I cant keep this a daily thing so will write as often as possible. Got rapped on the knuckles by the boss again today … sigh. Loadsa new kias to sell by end of month…. Any ideas?!
Mood: lucky
Saturday, 15 October 2005
Mitch & Murray sent down some guy for a pep talk today. Something about how we can’t play the man’s game because we can’t close the leads, and how we need brass balls to always be closing or something.
Mood: zesty
Sadly, there’s no obvious information about who this man is or where you can buy a Picanto from him. He signs his first post ‘Malcolm’, but I like to think of him as Wendell Maas*. I’m waiting for him to begin a post with “Today was another defeat.”
In the meantime, checking his site for updates is as much fun as playing The Sims, only with the added advantage of not having to stand over him pushing buttons to make sure he remembers to take his daily half-hour crap. And if he doesn’t, there’s no way I’m test-driving one of his second-hand Sportages.
* Definitely Mucho, not Wayne Hoover.

Filler by Proxy XXIII: Lyric Suite

Thursday 3 November 2005

Can’t remember how I was pointed to this, but never mind: What major work of Alban Berg are you?
It may have been via Tears of a Clownsilly, which should at least be mentioned for managing to work Harrison Birtwistle and bukkake into a single paragraph.
I feel a little queasy after typing that last sentence. Fresh content on the weekend: something about Barcelona or Hackney.

Filler by Proxy XXII: Backstroke of the West

Monday 1 August 2005

A couple of years ago a friend of mine arrived home from China with a suitcase full of dodgy pirated DVDs. The prize specimen was a bootleg of The Fellowship of the Ring, with the artwork on the front cover doctored to persuade punters that the famous Tolkein adaptation starred Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – all wielding swords. The back cover featured screen grabs from a hardcore porno video, with a plot synopsis in gibberish (“Much confusion but enjoy the mutilation.”) and the credits for Black Hawk Down. The actual movie turned out to be some softcore French film from the 1970s, without dubbing or subtitles.
Thanks to the interweb you can savour the ineffable charm of East Asian counterfeiting without travelling all the way to the car boot sale taking place two blocks down. Flickr hosts a growing gallery of screen shots.
The hot ticket among cheap-arse VCD buyers these days is, of course, the new Star Wars movie. In particular, the Chinese edition with remarkably creative subtitles. Screen shots are collected for your enjoyment here and here.

You will be treated to dialogue that manages to improve upon George Lucas’ original script, learn of the Jedi Knights’ obsession with elephants, and gasp at the theological bombshell that Darth Vader is a Presbyterian. The wish power are together with you.