I Use The NME

I feel like the reaction of ‘the NME got bad one year after you left university’ takes over the end of the NME’s printed edition miss the point. I know that the period I read it was not a great one. It did not have Morley, Penman, or Sinker. But…it was how I was introduced to Spiritualized, Asian Dub Foundation, Atari Teenage Riot, Sleater-Kinney, and countless others. It had Kitty Empire, Sylvia Patterson, and Steven Wells.

It was there: week in, week out; Fifty pages of music every week. Sometimes it’d be terrible, other times it would be great. At times, it would get me so angry that I’d scribble a furious missive, one of which even got published1. Every Wednesday afternoon, we’d have a free period in the Sixth Form common room, sharing the week’s NME and Melody Maker between us.

Of course, you could say that it’s not needed any more, but…while, sure, the day-to-day ‘MUSIC! NEWS! INCOMING! PETER! YOU’VE LOST THE MUSIC NEWS!’ is handled well by the Internet, I feel that we’re missing something by not having a weekly that ends up taking the piss as much as it takes things seriously2. And it was a weekly that paid real money to writers, something that’s lacking in our bold new era of Digital Content.

But obviously, I haven’t bought the NME since I went to UNC in 2002. I could never bring myself to buy Q or Word (okay, I did buy them a couple of times, but that was for when my online work got featured in them), or god forgive us, Uncut. And the writing on the wall had been there since it became a free sheet. In many ways, it’s a mercy killing. But it’s another avenue closed off, another chunk of something intensely…well…British3 disappearing into the mists.

Let us remember those that fell in the ‘hip-hop wars’.

  1. It was Stereophonics slagging off Kenickie that finally got me into the letters pages. The gall of Kelly Jones still angers me to this very day, obviously. [return]
  2. I still miss NTK’s weekly British-slanted take on technology news [return]
  3. British in the way I remember it, in the immortal words of Your Sinclair: ‘it’s crap. in a funky skillo sort of way’ [return]

We're The Goodies

“Wait, you can tell whether somebody is Catholic or Protestant there just by their name?”

“Often, yes!”

“What would ‘George’ be?”

“Obviously, 100% Protestant.”

“Why are the Catholics leaving on the 12th?”

Watching Derry Girls with Americans is interesting. There’s so much of it that is just pure-NI (and pure 90s Britain) that you don’t get a chunk of the jokes if you weren’t there. I also discovered that Americans don’t know who Whigfield is either…

I’m just past the half-way point of my current visit to Cincinnati, and the realisation is setting in: there isn’t going to be a next ‘visit’. The next time I come back here, at the end of April, I will be following a large lorry of books, and I won’t be going anywhere after that. In eight weeks, I’ll be gone from Durham.

While that’s more than a little terrifying, I think it’ll be good! I’ve already seen more people this week than I have in the past month back in NC. Plus more kitchen space, less grass in the back garden, and well, the new house has a built-in bar. You can’t really argue with that. I have even driven in Cincinnati this week! Admittedly, it has been ‘turn left, then go straight for about 2 miles and then turn right into Target/Kroger’, but it’s a start…

By the way, everybody is invited to my bar in May for a Eurovision party. It has been seven years since first mooted, but finally (finally!), everything is place for it to actually happen!


It turns out that this area of Ohio (and Kentucky) has had a lot of rain this week. A lot. Whilst my house is far enough uphill that I wasn’t flooded (I’m basically on top of Mt. Airy!), it did take on water. The continued joys of home ownership! So in my first week back in Cincinnati, I’m having visits from electricians and people who specialize in waterproofing basements. Hurrah!

(LATE BLOG UPDATE: I have working sockets! And presumably more waterproofing…but they left without saying a word so I’m not entirely sure on that one)

Meanwhile, I am just pretty much being tired all the time. Maybe March will be better.

A message from back home

The Secret Service And Other Stories

Well, I was going to write something about the Californian Ideology and how it got us into our current nightmare, but Dan Hon has said it better than I would. I’d only add that we’re likely downplaying just how much tech people bought into the things that brought us here, just like how we downplay how the IEA went hand-in-hand with pirate radio, swinging London, and Keith Joseph. There’s a direct line from the hippies to Thatcher/Reagan, and there’s another between the cipherpunks and today.

Now, in happier news, I need to tell you about a book. I haven’t finished it yet, but you need to run, not walk, and get hold of The Secret Service. You should probably get the eBook rather than hunting down an expensive physical copy (h/t Jennifer Hodgson).

It’s a book about spies in the early 19th century that can turn into objects. It opens in medias res with one of the main characters as a goblet. It is absolutely glorious. Run, don’t walk.

Finally this week, I recommend that you all, like me, watch Taggart from the beginning. The Glasgow high-rises! The early episodes switching from 16mm to videotape at a drop of a hat! The Biscuit! A very naked 21-year-old Alan Cumming! Taggart taking the piss out of Jardine every five minutes!

What's A Computer?

I am struggling to think of anything interesting that happened this week here in Durham. I sent off tax documents! I hoovered up! I discovered that I had missed the last two re-releases of Blue Monday, so I ordered them! I…went to Kroger! And…and…no, I’m afraid I have nothing.

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I did make some chocolates with a fancy new mold…but really that’s it. I have let you all down and I can only apologize.

Panic In Granadaland

Unlike many (at least 50,000, right?), I wouldn’t class myself as a huge fan of The Fall. I bought Hex Enduction Hour shortly after graduating from university, liked The Classical but bounced off everything else. And I never really went back to the well, aside from rediscovering Hit The North a while back. Through somebody else who isn’t with us anymore.

But it feels like another big chunk of the North was lost to us this week (it’s no mistake that I picked a clip with Tony Wilson, obviously).

Two things, though. Firstly, a lot of the eulogies skipped over or made light of just how bad Mark E. Smith could be. Secondly, I had no knowledge of him actually assaulting people…except when a friend on Twitter called out a few people for erasing this part of his life, I found my way to the NME story. Which is datelined March 16th 1998. During the time where I bought and read the NME every week. There’s no way I didn’t come across this news story when it actually happened. And yet, it made no impact on me.

This is not to Milkshake Duck the man. But it’s probably better not to sweep the uncomfortable parts under the tables. He’d probably not want it any other way, either.

Back in Durham and I’ve stopped looking at this house as a home and more of a collection of ‘well, I’m going to have to pack those up and do I really want to take that?’ Which is perhaps not the healthiest attitude to have, as I’m still here for quite a while yet, but I can’t really help it. A few months left…

The Ant-Let And Other Stories

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Robert was sad that I shot down all the antler-themed suggestions for the bar downstairs, so I gave in to the ‘ant-let’. That’s it, though! Anything larger and it starts to resemble something out of Hannibal.

I have met neighbours. They seem nice! And happy that the house is going to be lived in (even if that’s going to be sporadic until May). I have learnt gossip about the former owners and I have shovelled my driveway clear of snow. Am I a Midwesterner now?

One more week here in Cincinnati, and then back to Durham again! I feel like I have made a start on moving in (even played the first board game in the house and put up a bookcase!), but still early days yet…

View From The New Office

Picture the scene: on the left, a terrified British person clawing at the seat, trying not to be obvious about it, but as usual hating every moment of the flight to Chicago. On the right, a slightly older man, holding a double vodka (on the rocks, of course), who we’ll call Blake.

Blake: I’m a VP of a packaging company, and I’m a great negotiator. You should do this, this, and this at your job.

Terrified British Person: nods politely, trying not to wince out loud when the inevitable conversation about Churchill comes up.

Blake: And the thing about Churchill is that he was a hero, standing alone!

Terrified British Person: nnnnnnng

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the flight back to Durham a lot more, as my neighbour was asleep. Still, at the very least, I did make sure to point out who won the 1945 General Election.

Anyhow, after a short trip to Chicago for something I can’t fully reveal yet, I’m in Cincinnati for two weeks. Yes, after buying a house and running all the way back to Durham, I’m finally here again.

And of course, my trip coincides with a winter storm. Inches of snow on the ground. I haven’t really had to deal with snow before! After an embarrassing event where Tammy and I had to improvise to dig her car out of my driveway, I have ordered a shovel, and I must forever hide from the neighbour across the road who was clearly judging us as he used his fancy snow plough to clear his driveway.

Still, the view is pretty, right?

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(my next door neighbour, who I met today after deciding that dumping the post and running wasn’t polite, assures me that I won’t see this much snow every Winter)

Thanks to Tammy, I have a house full of furniture, the beginnings of a full-on library (insert evil cackle as I imagine ALL THE BOOKCASES), and an actual bed to sleep in. Hurrah! Oh, and enough Diet Coke to last 14 days. Maybe. If I ration it. It’s becoming more of a home!

Painting All The Things

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A new year, and the beginning of a new era where I spend half my time in Durham, and the other half in Cincinnati. Hopefully, this should only last as long as it takes to get Driver ready for sale and all my things moved up north, but at least this week it means I only faced temperatures of -12ºC instead of -20ºC.

As part of fixing the house up, Tammy came down for the New Year and painted the bathroom and the utility room. While I did roll some paint across walls, I just took orders from the person that knew what they were doing. And you can’t argue with results - the main bathroom actually looks like a finished room…which is something it has lacked since 2013. So, hurrah!

Next week Chicago for a day(!), and the first real trip to my new home. Expect fun photos of a new washing machine in your exciting future!