Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 198 - 5,000 up!!

Today's soundtrack: Soft Cell - The Twelve Inch Singles

Oh my - Check out the little counter thing at the bottom of the left hand column of stuff - at the time of writing it says '5,033'. That's over five thousand 'hits' on the site since i started this thing, oh, 198 days ago.

A rough bit of mental arithmetic makes that an average of around 25 'hits' per day. Not quite up there with the BBC or Google, admittedly, but I am quietly impressed, I have to say. Impressed (and slightly concerned) that there are around 25 people who are interested/bored/sad enough to read my daily ramblings.

Of course that's a bit of a sweeping assumption. It could be that it's a different 25 people every day who come along once, say 'what is this rubbish' and never come back again. But no, it looks like I've got a bit of a hard core following out there, who keep me doing this every day. What will you do if/when I ever get back into gainful employment? Expect me to carry on on a daily basis?

You would, an' all.

But without coming across all Simon Bates, I'm glad you're out there and - whether you like it or not - I'll keep this going as long as I realistically can.

Some progress on the job front today - I gave my feedback on Friday's interview to the recruitment consultant for follow-up, and got in touch with the business in London about the contract opportunity passed on to me by my former colleague. At this stage I just wanted to put them in the picture about my availability, as well as expressing my definite interest in the role if circumstances allow. It would not be fair to agree to the role, then try and wriggle out of it half way through because I had a permanent role to go to.

Although chance would be a fine thing.

Anyway, we are to continue talking - an initial phone call tomorrow to talk about the role and firm up on interest, if circumstances allow.

After a bit more internal admin-type things (audit committee expenses, house insurance, updating my jobseeking activity and the like) I forced myself to get the ironing board out again. Looking back, it was day 157, the last time I blogged about ironing - and looking even further back, ironing seems to rear its head every forty days or so.

So. Forty days worth of ironing. That's a bloody big pile of ironing.

This time, rather than do all the ironing in the kitchen, I thought I'd lug it all up into the lounge and do my ironing up there, catching up on the DVD pile while I did so.

Which would have been fine, apart from two things.

Firstly, I discovered very quickly that my multitasking skills do not stretch to ironing and watching TV at the same time. This slowed things down considerably.

Secondly, the plug sockets in the lounge forced me to iron right handed instead of left handed. Now I do have a degree of ambidexterity, so this was not impossible, but it did slow me up even more.

But no matter - it was a lot more entertaining than standing in the kitchen doing the ironing.

So what did I (try to) watch while smoothing away? Two things - secondly the DVD of Magazine performing in Manchester that I mentioned recently, but I started by watching the recently-released Stones film, 'Gimme Shelter', about the performance at Altamont that ended with the death of Meredith Hunter, murdered in front of the stage (and on camera) while the Stones were performing.

I'd not seen it before - it is a very powerful film, particularly the moment when Hunter draws a gun in front of the stage, before being stabbed in the neck and dragged away by the Hell's Angels who were notionally responsible for security on the day.

How could such a thing happen? Or rather, how could the event have been organised in such a way that the possibility of such a thing happening could arise? I think Altamont has to be viewed in the context of the times. Earlier that summer, Woodstock had taken place and - chaos and disorder notwithstanding - had passed off entirely peacefully and calmly. This gave rise to the feeling that such behaviour was the norm, rather than the outcome of a relatively unique set of circumstances.

The Stones, who had missed out on Woodstock, clearly felt the need to have their own, mini-Woodstock in San Francisco, as the climax of their 1969 US tour. Working under the naive impression that it would all just come together and be groovy, man, such fundamentals as finding a safe, appropriate venue, with a full infrastructure including - crucially - security, were glossed over, rushed, and subject to some very bad decision-making.

The worst decision was to entrust security to the local Hell's Angels - a completely different organisation to the 'weekend Angels' entrusted with a similar role at Hyde Park in London earlier that year. The San Franciscan Angels came fuelled with strong drink, armed with weighted pool cues that they were keen to use, and prepared to 'own' their territory in front of the stage, regardless of the bands and their fans.

Watching the film, in the context of festivals I have been to myself, the most striking thing is the height of the stage, and the lack of distance between the band and the crowd. No real secure area in front of the stage, which must have been a maximum of four feet above ground level - this to serve an audience in excess of 300,000 people.

It is clear from a very early stage that the Angels are out of control and are uncontrollable. The violence meted out is shocking, as is the bands' and organisers' inability to cope with it. Eventually everything descends into anarchy and mayhem.

The end of the Aquarian dream, the Woodstock era? Maybe. The inevitable consequence of a badly organised, naively controlled event, inappropriately policed? Almost certainly. Whatever, 'Altamont' will forever be remembered as one of the days the music died.


Today's actual soundtrack comes from Soft Cell, Leeds synth-poppers who come with ladles of camp and buckets of sleaze. 'Pop' is probably an unfair epithet to bestow upon them, because whilst they were certainly popular, their music and subject matter is as far from mainstream pop as it's possible to get - stalking a seedy underworld of freaks, sordid and extravagant sexuality and misery.

The duo were at their best on the twelve inch single, as this collection shows. They were able to stretch out, turn their songs into extended vignettes on the sleazy underworld they took as their subject matter.

This was as good as they got - Say Hello, Wave Goodbye. It lacks the extended intro that comes with the twelve inch version, but does get straight into the meat of the story.

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