are the stars out tonight?

life and stuff

round robin

well, it's been a funny old year here at atsot...

no, i just can't do it. I was going to give you a 'comedy' recap of 2004, but i find the prospect frankly repulsive. it's just a little bit too self-congratulatory and generally unpleasant.

suffice to say that it's not been a bad one - i got a menial job, passed my masters, i met a lot of interesting people, i saw my friends (maybe not as much as i ought to have done), i worked very hard, and listened to quite a lot of christmas music.

i've become slightly addicted to mp3 blogs. in particular, copy, right and spoilt victorian child. copy, right fits strangely well with my own desperate love for unlikely cover versions (some of my favourites: the foo fighters' baker street, the flaming lips' suspicious minds and the magnetic fields' if i were a rich man).

anyway the point of that was to introduce my 'christmas gift to you'. not that i'm becoming an mp3 blog or anything, but i'd hate it to be said that there was a bandwagon upon which i hadn't jumped.

i offer this first one because it is a simply brilliant song and the single to which it was the b-side has been discontinued. the band have had some success in the last year or so, but this single was released in 1997. i do recommend you visit their website, and maybe pick up a copy of their most recent album welcome interstate managers, which features the rather fun stacy's mom.

fountains of wayne - the man in the santa suit (3755k)

the second one is just here for comedy value really.

the white stripes - silent night (1308k)

the deal is that you click on the links above and download the tracks from yousendit (right click/ctrl click on the link that says "click here to download the file now"). hooray.

happy christmas.

spreading it

a while ago, i signed up for an online listings email thingy called flavourpill, this week they're carrying a review (by me) of my favourite bookshop, daunt books.

i dearly love daunt books, i've been going there for years - as a sickly youngster, visiting harley street specialists, a trip to daunt books was always an enormous treat. even going there last week to get some research for my review was a delight (even if i actually ended up spending more in the unusually cheap oxfam books a few doors down)

one of the things i like best is the idiosyncracy of the shop - unlike borders or waterstones, there are no specific sections for, say 'popular science' or 'music'. instead, the non-fiction that doesn't relate to a specific country is simply divided alphabetically - so nick hornby's 31 songs nestles snugly next to a brief history of time.

in the back room, books are organised by country - the italy section is particularly good. here, again, there isn't any separation of cookbooks from literature from history from biography... it has that travel agent air of 'where do i want to go today'.

in these days of homogenous bookshops, with their identically black-clad staff (or worse the online bookshop/warehouse) and their impressive three-for-two deals, daunt books is an oasis of randomness. yay.

the very thing that cheapens me

the manics have re-released the holy bible in honour of its tenth anniversary. what can i say?

i desperately, desperately love thb. when i first heard it (about a year after richey's disappearance) it told me everything i thought i needed to know about myself. you can read a review i wrote of thb at the age of 16 here. for a long time, my love for the manics defined who i was. even my nom de plume comes from part of the manics fan uniform.

now the holy bible is the only manics album i listen to. it's really the only one that really speaks to me. not that what it says is particularly nice:

"such beautiful dignity in self abuse". "i hurt myself to get pain out". "self-disgust is self-obsession, honey", "scratch my leg with a rusty nail, sadly it heals".

it reminds me of who i was, but also it is really a stunningly good album - disregarding all the baggage that richey's disappearance and my own history bring to it. the guitars sound perfect, the almost industrial sound matches the lyrics, james' voice, for once, is just right, the lyrics.... the lyrics are the real reason that the holy bible will always be the manics' masterpiece - and i don't deny that the "mr lenin awaken the boy" rubbish of revol doesn't always disappoint (although for some reason it was always a favourite).

at the same time, i'm sad that they decided to re-release the record. to my mind, the manics of 1994 and the manics of 1996 and onwards have always been different bands. as different as joy division and new order anyway. and after all, what band would put out a re-release (thb) so close to an actual new release (lifeblood)? this of course also illustrates the difference in quality between msp 1994 and msp 2004.

nonetheless it feels cynical - here is a band trying to get their 'new fans' to buy into something that other people have loved for years and years by offering what? a dvd? the american mix of the album? of course it's not aimed at people who've bought empty souls - it's aimed squarely at people like me, who never really got over richey's vanishing, and who truly believe that msp will never release a better record.

will i be buying it? we'll have to see if i get any record tokens for christmas.

outside your window with my ukulele

all i can think about at the moment is how much i want a ukulele. i blame stephin merritt pretty much entirely, since he managed to make ukulele-playing look fucking cool. and also he said in an onion interview: "o: what about the instrument appeals to you? sm: Well, I'm short. It's small.". thus it is the perfect instrument for me.

i've been looking at ukulele pr0n, like ukulele beatles fun and the implausibly brilliant ukulele chord finder and fantasising about how incredible it would be to play pinball wizard on the ukulele.

you can't deny it would be.

other than my ukulele obsession, my life is fairly dull. though i did go and see the douglas coupland exhibition at the canadian embassy with stu and louise.

it was mostly noteworthy because in order to get in you had to go through an airport security-style checkpoint. i duly emptied my pockets of metal things and walked through and set the gate off (it made a noise a lot like my stylophone actually). i took off my gap carrie bradshaw flower thing and put it in the bucket, walked through and set it off. this happened several times and the nice security guard finally decided to sweep me with the metal detector. there was a buzzing around my crotch area. "are you wearing a belt?" "er, no,". i was frankly disturbed by the situation. and then i realised... my coat has very deep pockets, and there at the bottom was my little tin of vaseline. i doubt i was the first pseudo-terrorist wielding lipbalm though.