Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The importance of context

I've watched this several times over the last couple of weeks and it seems very worth sharing. I talked about David Byrne's book The Bicycle Diaries a while back and the same sentiment of thought and linked ideas comes though in this video.

Get right back on the horse

The roses in the picture above show that since I posted this in March I have neglecting to write. However, it seems like the best way to make out you've never been away it just to keep on going where you left off. So that's what I'll do.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Austin Texas Day Two

A round of Wataburgers later and it's time for bed again. Today was one of those that feels like two or three days fitted into a single 24 hours. Exhausting but pleasing at the same time.

I'll back up a little. Here is the house I'm staying in with the bands and the other label folk. Unlike most things American it doesn't look big from the outside but, like most things America it is enormous on the inside.

This morning I caught the No.37 bus for the ten minute ride into central Austin. Nothing here is designed for walking, so the gentle morning stroll to the bus stop became a exercise in not being run over. Once in Downtown it's all a little more chilled out, especially as it's festival time. Many of the streets are blocked of for vehicles so people are left to stroll freely around about 5 blocks. This is an aerial view from the Orion hotel where I had a lunch time meeting and it looks down over the many music venues.
The collective hubbub of bands is incredible and to take a walk along any road is like having a indecisive fidget in control of the stereo. Each frontage you walk past presents a new blast of sound.

Some things I like liked on my travels today. There is this out door solar powered charging station for mobiles made to look like an old style gas station. I love it all the more because it's clearly a permanent feature and not shipped in to make the conference feel better.

Then there's this tower which looks as if it has a cathedral sitting on its roof. I'm going to try and get up there tomorrow.

More on day two in the morning.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Austin Texas Day One

This is a simple introduction to proceedings hazed in tiredness. It's 1am local time in Austin (6am body clock time) after flying in earlier today.

I loved these huge swathes of empty check in desks in New York, plus SO many staff all doing menial jobs - plenty of them doing the job of a directional sign, and often doing that job in front of the actual sign.

That's how the government here deals with social support - make up jobs. I can't figure out what is better for both the person and the state. On the one hand people are "doing" something so are in theory more fulfilled than simply collecting a dole payment. But on the other hand what they are "doing" is so menial and demeaning that I question how fulfilling it can be. Obviously the state wins as they would be paying the money out any which way so they may as well keep their unemployment stats down.

My final picture is from the moving cab window on the way from Austin airport to Downtown Austin. The plan tonight was to get to the house I'm staying at, head into town, register at the conference and then go on to see a couple of bands. Thanks to a slightly delayed flight, the onset of tiredness and some sensible thinking on my part, the reality was much calmer. Eating pizza on the porch step in the warm air, a couple of beers, then bed.

Talking of bed...

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Roses are red... and yellow and pink and white and cream

Outside the office is a pretty Square. It's a Round really. Over the last two weeks all the spring bulbs have been popping up painting a yellow and purple carpet around its circumference. It's hard to believe that only a few short weeks ago the whole place was covered in thick snow, peppered with snowmen, snow women and for almost a week a snow armchair. With spring here the city gardeners are out and have planted this lovely circular bed of roses. I'm going to try and capture it in each stage of growth through the summer and will post the results up as we go along.

This is the first time in years I have had the luxury to even think about watching something as simple as a rose bed grow and change over the seasons. I've always been moving on or working away or just too blinkered to notice. It's been a long time coming and hard work to get to the happy place I'm now, where simple pleasures like this come first but it has been so so worth it.

What job?

I went bike shop browsing on my way into town today. From home I was able to do a meandering route which took in five different stores, all accompanied by Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's album The Blue Trees. Beautiful.
I'm now a little further down the track in understanding what type of bike I might like - simple, elegant and unfussy. My next step is to browse the second hand bike stores.

Later on my walk I couldn't help but chuckle at a shop window which had a pink sign advertising a job vacancy for what seems to be the world's most unstable job. The first sign giveth while the second sign taketh away! It's no laughing matter loosing your job through redundancy (I've been there and didn't laugh once), but at least whoever gets this one will know they won't be selling feather boas for very long.
It's hard to see in that first picture, but it was made even more chuckle-some when I read the job description. Here is a closer view - I really like, "Huge Potential Earnings".

I've been mulling this over for most of today, but if they mean they need someone who can use a Search Engine I think they will have no problem finding a suitable applicant quickly (hopefully before the store closes down). But if they truly want someone who has knowledge of "how Search Engines work" I'm guessing there will be a long wait for an unemployed Google engineer to happen across the advert.

Get me one of those two wheeled horses

Today my copy of The Bicycle Diaries arrived with which, after dinner and a film, I put a record on and settled down with. Until the last couple of years I've always had a bike. I still technically do have a bike, it's just no longer in any form of working order and isn't likely to be ever again - I bought it secondhand from a friend of a friend at University nearly 10 years ago, so it had a good run. But recently I've been hankering after the freedom and brilliantly altered view of our surrounding environment a bike offers. It's been bubbling and gestating inside me to the point that, after reading the first few pages of the book I was tipped over the edge; I am going to start looking for a new bike. The first new* bike since my 11th Birthday.

In the book David Byrne has perfectly captured the wonderment cycling brings as he describes his experiences of cycling around many of the world's cities. I couldn't agree more. A bike gave me my first sense of true freedom when, as a young boy, I realised I could really start to explore the country roads and paths that surrounded the small town I lived in. It was at my own pace, under my own power and I could stop wherever and whenever I liked. Unlike driving cycling is almost always at a pace which allows the rider to take in their surroundings while still covering some serious ground. Like driving you are forced into a wonderful state where a section of brain is required to focus completely on the task at hand, working away at it almost automatically, which magically allows other parts of the brain to simultaneously wonder and create. It is a precious thing.

*Note: It probably will be secondhand!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The sky is falling

Last night the sky was on fire, and these trees looked like black forks of lightning reaching back up to the clouds. A beautiful sight to present itself as I cycled over the crest of a hill.

Some things aren't what they seem

I have held a distant and, until very recently, unrequited love affair with a pub opposite St Mary Redcliffe Cathedral called the Colosseum. From the outside it doesn't look like much; 1960s brick, flat roof and featureless windows, but the little of the interior I could see from the outside held huge intrigue for me. It had the air of an American dinner, come bar and over the years I had mentally fitted the place out to the point it resembled nothing less than the bar in the TV program Cheers. At night the effect is heightened with the numerous flashing neon signs saying "Budwiser" and "Bar". I knew full well it would never live up to my mental image but none the less last Friday morning when running early for a meeting I decided to break nearly 4 years of wondering and stopped in for a coffee and breakfast.

Oh MY. The disappointment was palpable. Not a cowboy in sight, but it wasn't the Colosseum's fault, it was mine. I should have either stopped building it up years ago, or continued to admire it from a far in all its totally fictional Americana glory.

In my refusal to sit inside I did however get to take in the long shadows and the morning sunshine along with a great view of the Cathedral over my Daddies sauce.
And the scores on the doors: Coffee, 6 on 10. Breakfast bap, 4 on 10.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Packets of joy

There is nothing much more exciting than receiving a package in the post*.
Except when you open the package and inside is a beautiful 3 disk vinyl album that looks as good as this.

* Note: The excitement is somewhat diminished if the postman knocks on the door when you are in bed or an advanced state of undress requiring you to grab the nearest clothes heaped on the floor, hurriedly throw them them on while simultaneously running down stairs and attempting to double check everything is on the right way round, taking a second to compose yourself at the door, before opening it calmly as if you have been up since 6.30 am baking, cleaning and doing the tax returns as a way to pass the time before the postman arrives.

Tapestry of light

While walking home through Bristol from a friend's house last night I set myself the challenge of photographing as many glowing lights as possible. When you start looking they really are everywhere in the City. As I moved from roads, through parks, past rivers and back to roads it occurred to me that each light was doing a job, burning bright through the night keeping us safe and guided in the correct direction. I made this tapestry of light from everything I saw.

Staring into the image makes different lights combine and morph, constantly forming new images, some rushing off the page and some seeming to gently drift apart in the surrounding darkness. I feel like this is the beginning of a bigger project....

Friday, 26 February 2010

Daylight water fireworks

Today was the first truly spring like day walking through Bristol. A key indicator being that I had over dressed for my walk through town. A stark difference from just one week ago when I was still having to make sure that under my winter layers I wore a t-shirt long enough to tuck into my pants! My sure-fire way of keeping the cold out. Try it. Even the water faeries were celebrating the windswept spring day by kindly putting on this beautiful daylight firework display reflected in the windows of a boat for all the passers by.

I haven't really been able to celebrate in the same way, what with our office being tucked away in the belly of a Bristol recording studio. Very little natural light gets down here which is lovely on cold winter days when you can hide away, forget that it's already dark at 3pm and ignore the snow and rain. It's not so great when you want to jump around in the sun. A day like today is made for windsurfing - an activity I adore but now rarely get to do.

On a day like today I can almost smell the wind and waves in this photograph I took of close friend of mine when we were last sailing together. I can feel the water beneath me being made solid from the speed. The hollow skimming noise of the board as it clips the crest of each ripple, barely touching the water and the power of the wind as it takes my breath away. It all combines, forming shivers in my spine like the shimmering reflected sunlight in the video above.

Tonight I celebrate with my lady. I can't wait.

Save some breath

I have just realised I could have concisely summed up the controlled chaos I was talking about in my last post by simply referencing this:

Stop Making Sense concert film featuring Talking Heads - 1984

On that note there is a new documentary film Ride, Rise, Roar, which follows David Burns' most recent 2008 tour. It releases at SXSW in March this year. The trailer is here and I think it looks and sounds ace.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Order in Chaos

Rock and roll is cool. Pop music is cool. Indie music is cool. Music on the whole is cool but across all the genres live music tends to be the coolest of all the cats. I think that is mainly thanks to the unknown and potential variations from recorded versions of songs we know and love. Nobody jumps off the stage on a record no matter how many times you listen to it, but they just might when it's played live. It's that possibility which adds to the excitement. So why is it then that The Ventures performing Wipe Out, all standing in a line, doing nothing more than occasionally turning to their right to face the drummer, are so darn cool? I'm as certain as there will be rain that none of them will be stage diving any time soon.

If I had to be any of The Ventures I would be the bass player standing on the right, Nokie Edwards. He's got a little swagger and glint that says "I don't always want to be in this line, but I know where my bread is buttered, and right now that is in this line; hey don't I look cool?" Nokie, yes you do.

On a slightly less cool note, on the way home I was looking to distract myself so did a little peering through the window of a rather ramshackle secondhand shop, which for me always brings to mind a jar of multi coloured boiled sweets.

The ordered chaos like this shop display draws me in. In the same vain I think that's why I love greasy spoon type cafes: confused colour schemes, chipped melamine tables, bench seats with slightly torn garish plastic covers and cutlery that doesn't match. As with a live music show it's the combination of the unknown and unplanned coupled with someone's care, attention and desire for it to all come together, that gives me a little buzz of excitement; countless opportunities for a single moment of brilliance created from nothing. In this case a slightly startled bear questioning why I was photographing his tea set.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

One of those February days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold

I'm not a fan of dogs but when two run so enthusiastically in a game of chase as I witnessed today it is impossible to begrudge them the simple and childlike joy of being free. I was in no doubt their bounding around, up over steps, through bushes and at one point hilariously circling round and round after each other in a flower bed, was nothing more than a fun game triggered by the sun peeking out the first time in a several months. It took some will power to not join them. Walking on I was listening to one of my new favorite podcasts, passing the free-sandwich-and-squash religious stall that has recently appeared on my walk to work when I came across nothing less than this bargain of a cocktail bar.

It's a most dazzling combination of awful design and magnificent design all rolled into one Only Fools and Horsesesque piece of furniture that everyone can live without. A fact reinforced by the £50 price tag. Except, I wanted it. It has three tiers! I'm assuming it was the burgeoning spring air filling my lungs and clouding my judgement but I managed to come away without purchasing it using only the deepest reserves of self reasoning. Well, that and my little logic angel pointing out that there was no way on earth I was going to pick it up and stroll the rest of my journey through town with it under my arm. Oh, for the endless energy of a silly dog.


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