‘You said you wrote a page about me / In your diary’

typed for your pleasure on 14 January 2011, at 8.06 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Valerie’ by Broadcast

It is with great sadness we announce that Trish Keenan from Broadcast passed away at 9am this morning in hospital. She died from complications with pneumonia after battling the illness for two weeks in intensive care.

Our thoughts go out to James, Martin, her friends and her family and we request that the public respect their wishes for privacy at this time.

This is an untimely tragic loss and we will miss Trish dearly – a unique voice, an extraordinary talent and a beautiful human being. Rest in Peace.
Warp records, 14 January 2011

1997 was when I first learned of Broadcast; their debut Cd ‘Work and non work’ had come out on the Drag city label. I’d read about them somewhere — can’t recall where, but it was a case of ‘if you like Stereolab, you might also like Broadcast’, recommendation and similarity being the way I find a good number of groups. ‘Work and non work’ was really a compilation of their first three 7″ releases; the three-year wait until ‘The noise made by people’, their first proper release, would be excruciating, as I found myself listening to ‘Work and non work’ far more than I thought I ever would, and was eager to hear new material.

The comparison to Stereolab is actually a bit tenuous — sure, both groups traffic in retro-Sixties-sounding music, but whereas Stereolab’s basis draws from motorik, tropicalia, and easy listening, Broadcast took their influences from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, avant-garde pop groups, and Eastern European film soundtracks. Admittedly, one of Trish’s favourite films was the dreamlike Czechoslovakian entry ‘Valerie and her week of wonders‘, and having seen it for the first time a couple of years ago, it totally made sense why she loved it, and why both Jaromil Jireš’ direction and Luboš Fišer’s soundtrack were such a heavy influence on their sound. Stereolab overall are brighter and poppier, but Broadcast projected a mood akin to a year-long autumn. Their music and images complemented each other, but the thing that tied it all together was Trish’s voice — vulnerable, but simultaneously strong.

Broadcast were one of those rare groups where each successive release was better than the previous one, going from ‘The noise made by people’, to ‘Ha ha sound’, to ‘Tender buttons’, to their collaboration with The Focus Group’s ‘Investigate Witch cults of the Radio Age’, from 2009. They can quite literally be said to be the originators of a new genre of music: hauntology. Groups like Moon wiring club, Research Laboratory of Electronic Progress, Mordant music, and every artist on the Ghost box label create nebulous sounds, couched in the past, like soundtracks from déjà vu experiences from places you’ve never personally visited and occurrences you’d never personally witnessed. We’ve all been there. But do you recall that voice you’d heard in the background of nearly all your dreams? That whisper like a familiar but slightly chilling breeze? Naturally, that was Trish.

I’d say she’d be missed, but she’ll always be with us. Especially in our dreams

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‘Neither you nor Buddy know how to talk to people you don’t like.’

typed for your pleasure on 28 January 2010, at 4.48 pm

Sdtrk: ‘When it rains, the puddles shine black’ by Leyland Kirby

It appears that another one of my favourite authors has passed away: Jerome David Salinger has died of natural causes at his home in New Hampshire, at the age of 91.

JD Salinger, in a recent photo

Obituary: JD Salinger
BBC News | Published Thursday, 28 January 2010

When The Catcher in the Rye first appeared in 1951, chronicling 48 hours in the life of a teenage rebel, Holden Caulfield, as he wanders the streets of New York in a state of mental collapse, it enjoyed early, but modest success.

But within a few years, it had become a bible of teenage dissent in America and a staple of high school and freshman college English courses.

A study of adolescence — at once tender and harshly honest — it spoke for millions of young people who didn’t want to be “phoney” in a commercial, materialistic world.

Caulfield became a cult figure comparable with James Dean, but it seems the novel also had an undesirable influence on Mark David Chapman, who said he killed John Lennon to promote Salinger’s work, and the man who shot and wounded Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley.

Almost immediately after “Catcher” was published, Salinger became disillusioned with publishing.

He hated interviews and contact with the public and in 1953, increasingly fed up with publishing and the public, he bought a house at Cornish, New Hampshire, and retreated into a seclusion that was to last for the rest of his life.
the entire article is here

Like many people, I was introduced to Salinger through ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, which stands as an honest tale of disillusionment. It may be slightly dated — it takes place during the very late Forties — but its sentiment still holds true. But then I began reading his other stories, and pretty much fell unhealthily in love with the Glass family, a family of five brothers and two sisters. They were blessed with precociousness at a young age, which was exploited for years through being panelists on a radio quiz show, and suffered the price for it as they grew older.
From Holden to the Glass family, as well as many other Salinger characters, the underlying theme of many of his stories is that of a dissatisfaction with the way society is, and how short of falling into lockstep conformity, living a decent individualistic lifestyle can be extremely difficult.

Salinger is once quoted as saying that he was in this world, but not of it, which is a sentiment I can completely empathise with. It may sound strange coming from someone who enjoys being a public face for the community that he represents, but apart from the resonant and bittersweet tone of his characters, I always admired the fact that Salinger was a recluse’s recluse, and yet still managed to garner the attention of millions. That’s really something to be proud of

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‘I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.’

typed for your pleasure on 7 August 2009, at 2.41 am

Sdtrk: ‘You’re not the only one I know’ by The Sundays

So upon getting home from work this eve, I learned that John Hughes, director of two of my favourite films, ‘Ferris Bueller’s day off’ and ‘The Breakfast club’, passed away today at the age of 59.

Comedy director John Hughes dies
BBC News | Published Friday, 7 August 2009

The US film director and writer, John Hughes, who created some of the most famous comedies of the 1980s and 1990s, has died at the age of 59.

The director died after a heart attack in New York, his spokeswoman said.

Hughes was the director of such successful films as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

He was also a leading script writer, penning films such as Pretty in Pink and Home Alone.

Over the past decade, Hughes withdrew from Hollywood and became a farmer in the Midwestern state of Illinois.

Hughes had been in Manhattan on a family visit when he died.

1980s zeitgeist

The BBC’s Vincent Dowd says Hughes had not directed a film since Curly Sue in 1991, but it did not matter – his early movies had become part of the 1980s zeitgeist.

If, in 1986, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off owed something to the on-screen energy of the young Matthew Broderick, it also benefited from Hughes’ sharp script and direction, our correspondent says.

He worked well with young talent, as he had already shown the year before in The Breakfast Club starring Emilio Estevez and Mollie Ringwald, he adds.

In the high-school story, our correspondent says, Hughes cleverly portrayed teen America to itself – and the box office was enormous.

“Many filmmakers portray teenagers as immoral and ignorant, with pursuits that are pretty base,” Hughes told the Chicago Tribune newspaper in 1985.

“They seem to think that teenagers aren’t very bright. But I haven’t found that to be the case. I listen to kids. I respect them. I don’t discount anything they have to say just because they’re only 16 years old,” he added.
the rest of the article is here

What he’d said above completely fits in with the way that ‘The Breakfast club’ starts — at the end of the opening credits, on the screen is an excerpt from David Bowie’s ‘Changes’:

…And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consolations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…

The films of John Hughes will always evoke an acute fondness for the Eighties, my formative years, as I’ll always see parallels between his characters and the friends that I grew up with. I’m sure countless others will as well, no matter what decade they grew up in

EDIT (10.11am): You’ll definitely want to read the witty, heartfelt, and, well, John Hughes-esque post over at ‘We’ll Know When We Get There‘, concerning one person’s pen-pal relationship with the man

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Now it can be told

typed for your pleasure on 4 July 2009, at 2.16 pm

I’m not one for emotional posts; frankly, I think there’d be extended wincing on both the side of the reader, and the side of the writer. But y’know, sometimes these things are unavoidable.

Back in 2007, my mum went into hospital for a routine check-up. When all the tests came back in, they called her back, saying that they’d found what may be a cancerous growth. Turns out that yes, it was colorectal cancer. So they got Mum into surgery, had it out, and had her on chemo/radiation to make sure. Eventually, she was given a clean bill of health, and we all thought that was that.

Late last year, we discovered that wasn’t that, as the cancer had returned. So Mum started treatments again. It took place over the course of winter, which was doubly-hard on her, as the treatments made her more susceptible to cold environments. But she took it all in stride, as she was never one to complain about things. Well, at least, not at length.
Round the beginning of 2009, the hospital said they were going to try out a new and experimental treatment with her, as the previous one wasn’t getting the immediate results. Thing is, there were a limited number of slots for treatment, as it was on this ‘you’ll have to wait in the queue when your turn comes up’ system. As she was waiting for her date to start treatment, the hospital discovered she was having liver problems, which would’ve prevented effective and safe treatment, so they had to get that sussed first. A couple of outpatient surgeries later, they attended to her liver issue (it was blockage) as well as they could. However, as she had to get that done — and that required scheduling, which is never immediate — Mum missed her slot for the new treatment, and so had to wait for another open slot. Of course, that meant the cancer was still progressing in the meantime.

I’d seen her in April, checking up on her and whatnot, and asked if she’d started proceedings. She replied no, as she was still having some liver-related issues. In between waiting on slots and waiting on surgeries, she’d actually developed jaundice, which again, postponed cancer treatment. She was annoyed, but still optimistic. She wasn’t a pessimist, but she tended to have a realistic outlook on things. In the case of something like this, however, optimism is what everyone aims for.
During another check-up call on Mum in mid-June, I spoke with her for only a couple of minutes, as she was in some amount of pain. The drugs she were taking were exhausting her, and making her tired and irritable. She told me that she wanted me to come round, as ‘we need to talk’, which is a phrase that, considering the context, I didn’t want to hear.

As she, my dad, and I sat in the basement watching coverage of the Iran election cavalcade, they laid it out for me: essentially, the doctors had told her that between the tag team of cancer and jaundice, things had gotten to a point that they were discontinuing treatment, as there was nothing more they could do. They estimated that she had about six months to live. Insert line about ‘you never think it’ll happen to you’ here.
Six months was a hugely optimistic estimate. Between her liver, the cancerous tumours on her liver, and her original colorectal cancer, she was in a very rapid decline. I promised to stop round on Mondays and Saturdays to see her, and over the course of two weeks, her health had degenerated in no time flat.

I stopped round after work yesterday, as we’d gotten off early, and Mum had been in bed all day, and was so weak that she couldn’t even really speak. Sitting with her was Gran, who’d flown in from Alabama on Wednesday. We chatted for a bit, and she went downstairs with Dad so I could be with Mum alone. I held her hand and talked to her — I told her how I was dragged to that hideous Transformers movie, and she managed a smile — but otherwise, she was barely lucid. I probably took off from there about two hours later, telling everyone that I’d be back Saturday morn.
As is our wont, on Friday eves, my good friend Marika stops round, and we watched the last two episodes of Ashes to ashes (hell of a show, it goes without saying), and she decided to crash here for the night, as her car was having problems. Whilst she was reading on the loveseat, I was scheduling about three posts to automatically post to ‘Shouting etc etc’, when Dad rang at a quarter to 5am. As you suspect, Mari and I spent a couple of hours crying after I hung up.

Although I’m an atheist, I can say without bias that she was an example of a perfect christian — never wished ill will upon others, always was there for practically anyone when they needed help, never smoked, drank… hell, she even quit swearing sometime in the mid-Eighties. She was someone who legitimately made a difference in society by being a good human being.
All of my friends knew that Mum had cancer, but I only got a chance to tell some of them. Part of me wanted to wait for the ‘right’ moment, and part of me was still in denial about everything. So now the world knows, and clichéd as it sounds, the world is dimmer for Mum no longer being in it.

I love you, Mum. Always have, always will.

21 Sept 1948 – 04 July 2009

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typed for your pleasure on 26 June 2009, at 10.57 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Pencil skirt’ by Pulp

You know how it goes with these things — celery debts come in trees. Wait, that’s not right.

Ed McMahon (06 Mar 1923 – 23 Jun 2009): Back in highschool, I could usually be relied upon for a decent Ed McMahon impersonation. Let’s see if I can still pull it off… *clears throat*

‘Heyy-o!! That’s a good one Johnny, and topical, too!’

Yep, still got it

Farrah Fawcett (02 Feb 1947 – 25 June 2009): As my mind is firmly stuck several decades in the past ninety per cent of the time, I nearly typed ‘Farrah Fawcett-Majors’, there.
Singlehandedly responsible for the sexual awakening of many a young lad during the Seventies thanks to ‘Charlie’s Angels’ — with the exception of myself, as I always preferred Kate Jackson — Farrah never did any harm to anyone. And good on her

Michael Jackson (29 Aug 1958 – 25 June 2009): Hurrr. As the adage goes, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Mmm hm.
Let’s just say this: growing up during the years back when the mighty MTV walked the earth, I liked MJ. I can recall back in eighth grade, my homeroom class was herded into the school’s library, where we all watched the full-length version of the ‘Thriller’ video. For a while, I even had a cassette copy of that album. But as time passed and I got older, I began refining my musical tastes more. Sure, I used to like MJ, but then, I also used to like Wham! and Prince. I used to like eating flapjacks with catsup slathered all over them, but I grew out of all of those things. Also, for sure he was a bizarre individual, but eccentricity should be praised, not damned. But I would say that.
So I suppose ultimately I didn’t dislike him because his music didn’t appeal to me, or because of his strange behaviour, but really it comes down to the whole child-touching thing. You know.

See? I managed to not say anything that can’t be considered not nice about Wacko Jacko! O, wait

Epilogue (this happened today before my work shift began):
WOMAN AT WORK: I know you a Michael Jackson fan, right?
ME: No.
WOMAN AT WORK: Awww! Well, I’m devastated.
ME: Huh.

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18 May 1980

typed for your pleasure on 18 May 2009, at 12.23 am

Hangman looks round as he waits,
Cord stretches tight then it breaks,
Someday we will die in your dreams,
How I wish we were here with you now

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typed for your pleasure on 19 April 2009, at 4.24 pm

Sdtrk: ‘NCR’ by Ike Yard

James Graham Ballard, one of my favourite authors, has passed away today at the age of 78.

Cult author JG Ballard dies at 78
BBC News | Published Sunday, 19 April 2009

The author JG Ballard, famed for novels such as Crash and Empire of the Sun, has died aged 78 after a long illness.

His agent Margaret Hanbury said the author had been ill “for several years” and had died on Sunday morning.

Despite being referred to as a science fiction writer, Jim Ballard said his books were instead “picturing the psychology of the future”.
the rest of the article is here

My first encounter with Ballard was back in the Nineties: my best friend Sean and I were getting into Industrial music — the proper stuff, such as Throbbing gristle, SPK, and the like — and I’d picked up an issue of a counter-culture magazine with a very sporadic release schedule called RE/Search. The issue I’d bought was number 4/5, and dealt exclusively with Throbbing gristle, William S. Burroughs (another author I admire), and Brion Gysin. As there was no other publication out there that we knew of that covered the subjects and topics we liked, we figured RE/Search would be worth keeping an eye on. Issue 6/7 was the highly-influential Industrial Culture Handbook, whose interviews with luminaries of the scene such as Genesis P-Orridge, Boyd Rice, Monte Cazazza, and others, make it entirely invaluable. Now, there had been mentions of J.G Ballard in both of those aforementioned issues, as his erotic-yet-clinical style of writing was an inspiration to many in those circles, so our interest in him was piqued. So when we managed to find issue 8/9, which consisted entirely of interviews and articles concerning Ballard, it was a must-buy.

The thing I liked most about him is that he wasn’t a science fiction writer; he trafficked in speculative fiction. His earlier works were arguably more straightforward scifi, to which I admit I haven’t read them, but the works he’d written that really resonated with me were stories like Concrete island (a businessman is stranded on an abandoned section of land beneath a motorway overpass), High-rise (the micro-society within a penthouse apartment rapidly degenerates into chaos and warfare), The Atrocity exhibition (a series of experimental short stories that dealt with deviant medical professionals and pop culture icons), and one of his most infamous, Crash, which, in a nutshell, dealt with the sexualisation of automobile accidents, and was made into a reasonably-good film adaptation by David Cronenberg in 1996. The speculative fiction label comes from the fact that the events in aforementioned stories are something I could readily see happening if people in society were given that little extra push, the push that strips away all semblance of civility in a person and reverts them to an instinct-driven being that either has morals that are purely self-serving, or who no longer has any morals at all.

Apart from doing things such as writing fictional stories in the style of medical reports or biographical appendices, his stories were populated by characters who were extremely sexual, yet simultaneously incredibly detached. There’s a starkness to Ballard’s stories that appeals to me — Sean had once mentioned that after reading High-rise, he felt as if he’d been beaten with a baseball bat — and his style will always remain unique and undisputably original

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