Have You Costed This Sleeve?

Three Cheers for Mr. Biffo!

Broken Bow

It’s not often that a concert ends with a high chance of the entire audience being arrested.

To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about going to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor (aside: I really hope that the next release sees them change their name to Godspeed! You! Black! Emperor!, just for old-time YS/AP hilarity); their image suggests that they live together in a long-abandoned railway shack on the outskirts of Montreal preparing for the oncoming apocalypse. I was concerned whether seeing them live would break some of the mystery behind their music. Silly, I know.

It took them over half-an-hour to set up. There's nine members (five! guitarists!); everybody has a ridiculous amount of effects pedals (okay, so Norsola only had three — but when was the last time you saw a cellist use an effects pedal? Eh? Eh?) that need to be checked in a certain order, two drum kits need to be miked up, there's a glockenspiel to sort out, and so on. Eventually, they finish this labourious task, and begin the performance.

At this point, I realise that it might not have been such a good idea to be right at the front (and I mean right at the front; an outstretched arm would have have touched one of the guitarist's chairs). GY!BE are loud. Very loud. And I'm standing right next to one of the main speakers. For two hours, I feel every low-frequency note played on the stage. However, any worries I have about not being able to hear for the next week are far outweighed about two minutes after the band start playing.

As I'm standing straight in front of her, I spend most of the concert watching Norsola, the cellist. I was interested in her bow technique. Honest. And her inventive use of the cello as a percussion instrument at the start of 'Moya'. Or when she broke her bow towards the end of the same song; she calmly put it back in her bag, walked over the to the side of the stage, took another one out of the equipment boxes, and went back to playing. Very very fast...

I wish I could give you a set list; I remember that they played most of f#a#∞, all of Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada, and at least the first three tracks from Levez Vous Skinny Fists Comme Antennas To Heaven!. I don't think they played anything from Yanqui U.X.O. (strange, as it's their current album UPDATE: I'm an idiot. They definitely played "09-15-00" at least. UPDATE 2: And "Rockets Fall On Rockets Fall". I told you I was bad at set lists). However, it's mostly a blur of beautiful and mesmerising music, the soundtrack from the day after WWIII; filled partly with despair, destruction, and isolation; but mostly brimming with hope. They had a white sheet in the corner of the stage upon which they projected short films: images of deserted cities, burning oil fields, collapsing chimneys; alongside sunrises, country journeys and the hand-scratched title of "Hope". 'BBF3' is accompanied by footage of recent protest marches, and the song gets a laugh from the audience as the Minidisc-provided voice of Blaise Bailey refuses to speculate about the year 2003, as he "doesn't have a mind that inhumane".

After two hours, the concert ends, and the group disappears for the pre-encore break. When they come back, they play 'Moya', and then one of the group actually gets a microphone. He (I think it was Aidan, but I'm not exactly sure) says that the next song will be their last, but that some local people had spoken to them, and they'd be meeting in the car park shortly afterwards for a parade. Everybody was invited to join them.

When the lights finally come up, people file out to the car park. There had obviously been a little planning involved (although not much; I spoke to Matt, a sound engineer at the club whom I know from my course, and he said they came up with the idea about an hour before the band went on stage); people were being given paint-tin drum and rice shakers to make as much noise as possible.

And then we marched to Chapel Hill.

It took five minutes for the first police car to turn up. Thankfully, They decided not to arrest us all for disturbing the peace; instead, they held back traffic while we walked down the main street back to the town, and blocked us off at the end of Franklin Street so the crowd couldn't advance further than the courthouse. I quietly slipped away from the crowd at 1am, because I had to see Sona about getting a lift back from Durham train station next Sunday.

They weren't hooded hermits from a deserted shack in Canada. But they were still fantastic.

Next concert: Idlewild, this Sunday. By which time, I presume my ears will have stopped ringing...

currently playing: Dirty Three - Some Things I Just Don’t Want To Know

It's Montgomery Clift!

Today’s entry is something I’ve been meaning to write for several weeks now. I was going to wait until after my trip to Washington, but I’ve had a change of heart; I want to get it out of the way before I go away on Monday.

I'm coming back home in May.

It's a hard thing to finally say. It was always a childhood dream of mine to live in America. I'm here. After all this time, I'm really here. So why am I giving it all up and going back to the UK?

Maybe I went to the wrong college. I came to Chapel Hill mainly for the location and for financial reasons, rather than being enticed by the department's research interests. But I don't think this is the real reason. I'm no longer that interested in computer science; I don't want to be a programmer. Or a research scientist. I love it here, and I would stay if I could, but I can't leave the department and stay, unfortunately. I don't fancy the idea of living in America without a valid visa at the moment.

So I'm coming home.

What will I do? That's a good question. Having achieved one of my childhood dreams, maybe it's time to work on another. I going to try writing. Time to jump off a new cliff...

currently playing: Blur - Good Song

Tomorrow is...Brock Thursday!

I’m so dreadfully sorry about that. I’ve tried to keep dated-cartoon references to a minimum, but I couldn’t help myself.

Incidentally, iTunes just came up with the greatest segue in the history of pop: Madonna’s “Into The Groove” followed by Radiohead’s “Lucky”. I defy you to come up with something better…

currently playing: Interpol - Obstacle 2

Making a Cultural Point

I refuse to call today Fat Tuesday. That’s just silly. Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day if you must. Pass the tea.

That new Blur single is currently burrowing into my mind; I found myself humming it several times today. Still not entirely convinced by the rest of the album yet, but again I imagine it'll grow on me. Over in the 'instant crush' category, Black Box Recorder's 'Andrew Ridgely' is the best thing I've heard all year.

Finished all the marking last night, and so spent most of the day wandering around again. Two differences from Sunday: I managed to write seven pages of comic script, and this time I got lost in a residential area instead of woodland. It was like something from To Kill A Mockingbird — straight rows of wood-panelled houses. Very pretty, but I didn't bring my camera, so you'll just have to take my word for it. You can trust me. Even if I do harbour a secret collection of Cathy Dennis records. Curses.

And I didn't get any pancakes. *sniff*

currently playing: The Polyphonic Spree - Reach For The Sun

Hello, Mr. Blue Sky

Clear blue skies, another strange person ranting in the Pit (this time, a conspiracy theorist. A change is as good as a rest, I suppose): all is well in Chapel Hill. Except for the stack of papers I have to mark. Hopefully, I should be able to get through the majority of them tonight…

A further example of why I could never be a music critic: the new Blur album is rather pleasant. Nothing that you'd call outstanding or surprising, but listenable enough. On the other hand, my heart has already been won by the new Black Box Recorder album, and I've only heard the first track so far. I promise I will buy both eventually, but for the moment they'll be accompanying me on my trip to Washington via illicit CD-Rs.

According to a sign I saw in the town today, there's another Washington D.C. protest planned for March 15th. Which is my last full day there. That's going to be interesting, to say the least. RIOT IN DC!

currently playing: Black Box Recorder - The School Song

"So Do I" - Pulls Out Jacket

I just got an email from Sona. I was asking him whether he could pick me up from Durham station when I get back from Washington (I was stupid and booked the train back on a day when no buses run. How…clever), and that he needn’t worry about getting Catherine’s number, as I managed to find it myself. Anyway, he’s just replied; he’s in New Orleans at the moment, which is why I haven’t seen him for a while. He says that he should be back in time to pick me up, but we’ll sort it out on Thursday. Oh, and he found something out about Catherine which he meant to tell me before he left:

She's engaged.

I think everyone got their signal-reading abilities mixed up last Saturday, somehow...

currently playing: Aimee Mann - Satellite

I'll Just Go Out For An Hour Or Two

It was such a wonderful day outside that I couldn’t justify spending the afternoon checking out the latest flame-war on Delphi or watching the film that the Netflix genie dropped in my mailbox yesterday. The idea was to find a quiet place and get some writing done. An excellent plan. And like most plans, it was thrown out of the window within five minutes of getting outside.

Instead, I decided to walk through various miles of woodland, cross streams and interstates (I'm getting worryingly good at the latter, by the way), getting lost only to clamber out of the trees to find myself looking at University Mall. Have a look at some pictures:

Having walked several miles out of Chapel Hill, I remembered that I hadn't had anything to eat since last night, and that I was actually quite hungry. I was by now about two miles away from the centre of the town, but I was sure that if I kept walking in one direction I'd find something. Eventually I found a barbeque restaurant, and by this time I was hungry enough not to care about sitting alone in a sit-down establishment. Things I learnt whilst eating there:

  • You have to admire a menu that offers to cook a hamburger "anyway that the law allows"
  • Yellow barbeque sauce tastes much better than you think
  • When they say that the sauce is hot, they mean it. Seriously.
  • While it's nice to see that they have crayons and paper for children to draw pictures, the gallery of various renditions of pigs does tend to put you off your meal somewhat. "Look! You're eating piggy!"

A long walk back follows, and what originally was meant to be a two-hour walk ends up being five. Mind you, it was a very nice day...

This new Blur song is quite, well, nice, isn’t it?

currently playing: Blur - Out of Time

I Can Be Relied On To Make A Bad Situation Worse

The day is almost over, and I have not yet been hit by falling meteorite debris. There’s still two hours left, of course, so maybe I shouldn’t be quite so cocky. I even managed to dodge an $800 mistake (keeps fingers crossed); this is a Story For Another Time. All I’ll say for the moment is that I hate poorly designed websites.

I decided to go visit the mall today, mainly to buy a guide to Washington D.C. So far, the Lonely Planet guide has saved me $15/night by giving details of a cheaper hotel which is a bit closer to the centre of the city than the one in which I was originally planning to stay. Hurrah! Not entirely sure as to whether the site will be updated while I'm away; there appears to be a few cyber-cafés dotted around, so I may be able to post from there. Oooh. Free wireless access? I wasn't entirely convinced that I should take the iBook with me, but that's tempting.

One hour and thirty minutes to go.

currently playing: The Go-Betweens - When She Sang Angels

I Hope It Was A Nice Package, D. Bianco

Did I break a mirror on Sunday? Or accidentally kill a fairy?

Yesterday, I cancelled my normal office hours. This was partly due to not wanting to speak or see anybody ever again, but mostly it was because of a nasty sore throat which made it very hard to talk. So I rescheduled the time for this morning, as I thought (correctly) that I would be feeling better by then.

As I walked into my office, I saw the flashing voicemail light on my phone. I don't think I've spoken at length about my voicemail (and I'm sure you're all devastated by this lack of knowledge); my inbox seems to receive many messages that aren't meant for me. These come in two types: there's the short *click* as the person ringing realises that they've dialed the wrong number, and there's people who leave messages on subjects as disparate as "wanting to restart the mailserver" and wanting me to "fix the guttering on the Greenlaw building". One day, I'm going to go over to Greenlaw and start working on that guttering. They did seem rather anxious. Perhaps it's a trap; when I get there, I'll find myself confronted with a zombie workforce, all led to their doom by the odd phonecalls that the Zombie-Master of Greenlaw was leaving, all to build up a vast undead army which will rise up and defeat—

Oh. Sorry, I don't get out much.

Anyway, there was a message for me. At first, it sounded like another crossed wire, so I only paid cursory attention (getting the location of the zombie army's fortress for when the heroes have to go on a suicidal mission to save the Earth. Or waiting for the computer to boot up). It was somebody from the accounts department in the Computer Science building, wanting to know about some package which was sent in December, one which Kevin Jeffay—

(The professor who taught the course I was assisting last year. And I've suddenly become aware that this message is meant for me)

—has no idea why I sent the package, so could I come and see them about it?

I have no idea what they're talking about, but I go upstairs with a sinking feeling. I had thought this week couldn't get worse. But then they hand me an invoice from FedEx. They're asking for $141.50 for a package I apparently sent on the 19th of December, from my house to a D. Bianco, somewhere in New Jersey. At this point, I'm starting to think that joining the Greenlaw Zombie Army might not be such a bad idea. I don't even know anybody in New Jersey! I go back to my office with the invoice and start checking things out on the FedEx website. Which helpfully tells me that I sent the package, and that it arrived in NJ on the 23rd of December. But all I sent was the exam papers. Nothing else. Sure, I joked about how I had access to the UNC FedEx account, but I would never betray their trust in me by using the number for my own purposes. Who is D. Bianco? I'm becoming paranoid by this time, searching the Internet to try and find out something about this person, asking Bonnie if she knows anything (terribly sorry about that, by the way; I knew you'd probably be there to answer the mail, and I couldn't rely on anyone else). But I find nothing.

I eventually go back upstairs and tell them I know nothing about it. At all. They don't seem all that bothered, to be completely honest; but I feel terrible. And completely guilty. Even though I didn't send the package, or have anything to do with it, I must have done something which allowed this to happen. I've written an apology to Professor Jeffay, as I presume that this incident will reflect badly on him, considering he was the one who gave me access to the account number. I wish I knew what happened.

The week can end right now, as far as I'm concerned. I don't want to know just how bad Saturday and Sunday have to be in to top this. I imagine it'll probably involve a visit from Homeland Security and some rubber gloves.

Oh, and stop phoning me about credit cards. I have one. I'm not going to buy another. Besides, it's interferring with the zombie signals from Greenlaw...

currently playing: Slumber-Party - Fantasy