By the by...

I think The Corner are going to be disappointed if they’re not thrown in gulags by the end of 2012…

And Again! Yay For David Mitchell!

How Britain came together in this time of crisis.

Grits, Grits, and more Grits!

Some of you with very long memories may remember that I once spoke of Durham in less-than-glowing terms. I’m happy to say that five years later, downtown Durham is a much brighter place than it was on that January morning. Maybe not all of the empty shop berths have been filled, but many have, and a decent amount of people in the area means that it no longer feels like ghost town. The only slight downside is that a lot of the city’s old buildings are being torn down to make fashionable condos for the gentrifying sect. Which is a shame, and perhaps unnecessary; I’m sure hipsters would jump at the chance of living in a converted tobacco factory.

Anyway, our Great Grits Gambit began yesterday in Durham. Two days, lots of grits. For those of you who think I might have gone crazy and started trying to eat the contents of gritting lorries, grits is a corn-based breakfast substance. There’s been a long-standing joke that Stacie and I would go off to a restaurant in Chapel Hill so I could taste them for the first time, only to either forget, or get there after they’ve stopped serving breakfast. So this time, we’re doing it properly - tasting the grits available in the Chapel Hill/Durham area!

We have problems.

Aside from the grits, we met up with Christa yesterday, interrupting her as she battled to get through her graduate work, kidnapping her scooter…the usual sorts of things. Plus a wander through Franklin Street, stopping at the new location of Chapel Hill Comics, Pumpkin Spice at Locopops, all while the sun beamed down on us. Oh, and we voted too! Well, I stood by while Luke went in and voted anyhow…

The Cat Is Stroking My Laptop

I’m not sure if it’s the credit crunch or American Airlines just taking advantage, but flight AA173 doesn’t seem to have taken the transfer from Gatwick to Heathrow all that well. Gone is the ultra-modern 777 with extra leg space and fancy game-playing TV sets mounted in the back of the seats, and in is a rather rickety 767-300 with three LCD panels for the entire cabin and a bit more room than your standard Ryanair trip. And the flight is an hour longer than it used to be. Still, considering the route doesn’t really have a reason to exist I can’t complain too much, I guess. Plus I still the new terminal at RDU to look forward to! And that airport won’t have the smug face of George Osbourne glaring at me from all the screens like in Heathrow this morning.

I miss my polls. I’ve lost an entire day of watching - I boarded the plane at 10 am GMT, so it was before the R2K poll was announced - I have no idea if it’s still 5045, or anything…it disturbs me that the first thing that I want to do after clearing Customs is to go to openleft.com and check everything that’s been released. I can’t be cut off from the information four days out! It’s not right!

Although, as it turned out, the plane landed an hour early. The new RDU (open for about a week or so now) is pretty good - the long queue for customs officials has disappeared (it took me two minutes this time, and most of that was winding through the empty queue barriers), plus no more having to redo the security controls afterwards! Wonderful stuff!

My first night in the Triangle? Going out in Durham, knocking on people’s doors and making sure that they know where their polling place is and that North Carolina has early voting that extends until Saturday at 5. In a non-partisan manner, I swear!

Leaving On A Jetplane Part 10? 11?: We're Stunted You And I

Off again. Check back soon for shenanigans!

You Are Beautiful. You Are Doomed.

It might not be an album. But gosh, it’s a pretty little package.

This Could Happen To You

Perhaps you’ve seen it. You’re at somebody’s house, a party, a bar, whatever, when somebody disappears for a moment or two. Maybe it’s a smoking break, you ponder. Five to ten minutes later, they come back, muttering under their breath; you can only catch certain words and phrases: “Rasmussen down by two”, “call those internal crosstabs fairly weighted?” and “Zogby couldn’t even place a may pole properly.”

Sad to say, my friends, this person has come down with a severe case of Poll Fever (closely related to the disease “When-Oh-God-When-Will-This-Election-Enditis”). Luckily, the stricken case will probably recover after November 4th, but until then, you need to be prepared for the major symptoms:

  • A need to be around a computer at certain times of the day.
  • Knowing exactly when R2K, Rasmussen, SurveyUSA, announce their polls, and refreshing Drudge at six every evening to see if the Zogby has leaked a good McCain result.
  • Sarcastic asides that if Pennsylvania is still considered a battleground state, then so is Kansas.
  • A need to cry out “Why can’t they hold this thing today and be done with it?” during days of fluctuation.
  • A rash that mirrors the Gallup tracking poll, complete with roll-off and roll-on of new dates (in major cases).

If you are suffering, then please, think of your loved ones. And try and not make too much of a big deal of a point decrease in Ohio.

The ritual is almost comedic at this point. The polls come out at roughly the same time every day (this is altered for us here in the UK right now as we’ve moved our clocks back); if the poll is good for the Democrats, Republican sites rip the internals apart claiming that there’s no way there’s that many pinko-communists in America, whereas a good McCain day in a tracker poll makes half of DailyKos take to their office ledges.

But it’s almost here now. Less than a week to go, and the Democrats still have a decent lead in the national tracking polls plus a commanding lead in the state polls. Early voting in Southern states appears to be going through the roof (as does the African-American vote), and Senator Ted Stevens can’t vote for himself, being a convicted felon and all. Mind you, as we’ve seen so many times, never underestimate the ability of the Democrats to shoot themselves in the foot.

Meanwhile, Obama has just admitted what we knew all along. He is indeed a Communist sleeper agent:

In other news: what we learn from all this is that Andrew Sachs doesn’t check his answerphone regularly. And that I don’t understand how my country works half the time.

Out of Control? Out of Ideas, More Like! <em>(trad.)</em>

Now I may have developed a tin ear for this sort of thing, but Out of Control sounds absolutely awful on a first listen. Even the Pet Shop Boys collaboration sounds tired and dull (it happens to be one of the best things on here, though). And Sébastien Tellier should probably get on the phone to his lawyers about Rolling Back The Rivers In Time, as the backing track is eerily similar to Divine.

(the album art seems to be trying to make Tangled Up look better in retrospect, as well)

Oh Xenomania, what has become of you?

Send Me Stationery To Make Me Horny

I can taste the sweet smell Of success on your breath I know where it came from No need for chewing gum

I had meant to write about Kenickie last week, but I got distracted by the election. In the meantime, Kieron has put it better than I could. Damn him.

(did our glitter-encrusted book of goodbyes ever make it to the band? I think I destroyed my copy of what I wrote for it)

There’s always the worry that you’ll never have one of ‘those’ moments again. The rush and exhilaration of hearing a new song that sends a shiver down your spine; turning you into a devoted fan. A worry that the next band you fall in love with will be your last. After Kenickie, I cast my net overseas and stomped for Sleater-Kinney, before returning home to the past, rediscovering New Order via Temptation and the astonishment of hearing This Is What She’s Like for the first time.

Then there was Johnny Boy, of course. A band that I could probably have wrangled an interview through my Static connections, but actively avoided because I would have turned into a gibbering loon if I got within ten feet of Lolly and Davo. Then I hitched my colours firmly to the Poptimist mast for a few years, reliving my Smash Hits days. But I was drifting a little.

There was only one thing I could do: I joined the International Tweexcore Underground.

I can’t quite put my love of Los Campesinos! into words yet (I’m working on it for the end of the year, obviously). There’s the titles - come on, how can you not adore a band that has a song called This is How You Spell, “HAHAHA, We Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams Of a Generation of Faux-Romantics”? Or the songs themselves, unquestionably British, indie, bouncy, all over the place, but on message all the time SUGAH! Ramshackle, full of doubt, guilt, vindictiveness, and the joys of having a good time. Just like Kenickie.

Hold On Now, Youngster has been a staple on my iPod shuffle all year round. You could have seen me bounce down the Banbury Road in the middle of April, or in the dying days of June, staying up all weekend fighting with InDesign, deadlines, and being permanently scarred at seeing pictures of our students playing strip poker. It was all for the very best of causes. When I saw that LC! were heading out on tour again (after missing them by one! ONE! day when we were in Madrid), I had to go.

My notes from last night of scribbled and hopeless. Except at one point I wrote that they’re what Godspeed You Black Emperor would sound like if they had been born in Britain. I’m not sure how serious I was with that. Then, there was That Moment. You’ll Need Those Fingers For Crossing. The words are too early, and wrong, but hey, isn’t that Kenickie’s Millionaire Sweeper, I hear you say? Oh yes. A grin on my face, a quick smile from Gareth out to the audience before launching into the song proper. Everybody bouncing down in the front; us in the middle doing a respectable amount of bouncing ourselves. Climbing up on the speaker stacks and singing from inside the crowd. How everybody sang along in a non-obnoxious manner, and how we all counted in My Year In Lists. Gareth sticking to his guns by calling We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed their new record.

Los Campesinos!, then. A band to fall in love with. A band to inspire a thousand fanzines soaked in glitter and PVA glue. A band that moves you to write over-the-top blog posts that you’ll come back to in ten years and not be embarrassed, because they’re that good. A band that has a huge chunk of Kenickie’s Catholic guilt, eyeliner and park shenanigans deep in their DNA. A band that can say “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed” whilst dreaming of being Tony Cascarino. Circa 1995.

Shred Yr Face. SHRED YR FACE!

Shred Yr Face

Red stains all over the place…