Godspeed You! Black Emperor live review

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O2 Academy, Brixton, 21st November 2013

‘I’m sorry my comments are harsh’, I write in the dim light of the coach as it lurches on, ‘It’s not your fault. I was watching some disappointing post-rock at the time.’ I read a classmate’s draft final piece in the cold culmination of hours of travel, sickness, boredom. The unsteadiness of the floor that never let you get comfortable, always making you feel as if you were falling backwards.

The supporting act was dismal, completely unsuited screaming in which the solo female started it all by playing a droning note and staring into the audience for a full minute in an attempt to intimidate. She then played a succession of synthesized loops of her bashing metallic things and screamed unintelligible lyrics to an audience of people looking up at the architecture rather than face their embarrassment. I’m not going to give her name because I’m not qualified to say whether her work was objectively bad, just almost maliciously badly chosen. A middle aged woman weaved through the crowd in front of me to take the lady’s picture. I can only assume it was her mother. Her set ended ten minutes later to polite applause.

I’d like to say Godspeed‘s main set made up for this but the more I look back on it, the more it just strikes me as more of the same. The band themselves performed in typical standoffish style, creeping soundlessly onstage and then weaving tortured tuning-up into a droning opening track, ‘Hope Drone’ to be specific, only so lurching and so un-inspiredly tortured I couldn’t find much hope except relief that they’d started so they must logically finish. Working tuning up into a song is a thing that sounds cool until you’re experiencing it. It wasn’t the interesting glimpse into the musical craft I was hoping for, just a kind of twisting of the knowledge that the audience has to take what they’re given.

The films loops and little animated effects projected onstage as accompaniment was to me one of the most effective parts of their set. With the band either shrouded in darkness or facing with their backs to the audience, there wasn’t much to look at except the swinging of the violinist’s bow arm, repeatedly betraying the fact that the violin’s audio itself kept dipping in and out of audibility. It just wasn’t as lush as you’d expect from them, just muddy, and this was from near the stage.

Godspeed‘s tracks are long, I was no stranger to this going along to see them, I knew what I was getting into. But whereas on their recording each note seems poised at just the right point to tear emotions from you, every note they played live seemed lurching and dragging. The songs didn’t really build just continue, the middle of the set blurred into indistinct droning in which I had a good stare at the floor and those around me. The anomalies in the crowd bobbed their head in unflinching 4/4. Ordinarily this wouldn’t work, shouldn’t work, this is post-rock, but no, they seemed to get it. They bobbed and bobbed ad infinitum and the songs droned on until there was a pause and I was obligated to applaud.

They ended their set with palpable reluctance with something most of us selfishly wanted from them, something from f#a#. A cut down and mechanical segment from East Hastings played out with finality. As it ended my friend said, ‘let’s go, it’s over.’ People stayed to clap, to try and wring them out again but in was obvious there was nothing more to come. Again, without a word they slunk offstage and joyfully we got to leave.

What I always liked about Godspeed was that with their records you never quit know what you’re going to get next. A simply, slow succession of notes can floor you, make you wonder why no-one has recorded that sequence before. But their performance that day just reminded me how galling it can be when music is calculated to give you the bare minimum of feeling. You can’t complain, you technically got what you wanted, but it’s a betrayal. Reading a fellow student’s work I latched upon a sentence that summed up the epidemic of pandering in Creative Writing, just like such half-arsed gigs. There’s an equation I developed for a passable sentence in Creative Writing, based on this sentence that burned in my head as a remembrance of this gig. Here it is;

[Noun], [quantity of abstractly related nouns with abstract related quality] in [anthropomorphic space].

And so it goes;

The band, eight painful constrictions in aloof cement.

Sarah K.

Where’s Clippy nowadays?

Missing since 2003

Clippy had a life, Clippy had a purpose. I think in the terror of 9/11 everyone forgets another sad victim of our fearful new millennium. Sad, dependable Clippy. How many Clippys died that day? How many Clippys waved goodbye to you with a tear in their eye when you got your new computer years and years ago?

He wants to help, he sincerely does. He always has done. Even when you don’t want him there, even when you hid him, he’d wonder about the letter you were writing, whether you used sincerely or faithfully correctly. He wants your grammar to be spot on so you stand a fighting chance at applying for that job. He thinks about you. He wonders if you got a good grade on your essay. He’d never tell anyone about that Wikipedia article you poorly reworded for your History homework. He’d write you a Christmas letter but you didn’t leave an address. He understands though.

At least, he did once.

You see, as with child actors and retired porn stars, Clippy reached his limit a while back. He always had a vacancy in his eyes did Clippy, but as time went on, as he was replaced by progressively more soulless programs, Clippy began to think that it wasn’t himself at fault but general human existence. Clippy wiped the knife of all residue, he stashed it in a hollow brick on his neighbours’ porch, he headed inside as the sun illuminated his wiry frame and turned away from those he swore to help. If you find Clippy now his soul will be sliding down into the depths of a bottle. He finds a way to imbibe God’s most evil of liquids. With shriveled determination he puts forward his life to slowly exterminate everything he was or ever could be.

You may have passed him in the street, rusted body wrapped in the sweaty embrace of our nation’s sex workers. Peering out from between sour breast he lifts his sticky wire hand from her skin to gaze malevolently at passers by. You will have remembered his stare. I see you’re walking down the street, would you like me to help you mind your own god damn business? No? I thought not. If you’ve been burned by that stare, you know the fire of hatred kindled when someone’s purpose is perverted.

Clippy thinks of his past, his subservience, his demure nature. Hidden from view he rooted for you, as daddy Microsoft came in and took credit for another passable document. As you dragged him around the screen he loved you. As you forced him to animate again and again he willed his exhausted limbs into a shape to give you pleasure. But you don’t remember his sacrifices, how he left a young clip in Kansas to fulfill a higher purpose. She’s gone now, rusted away by this harsh world. Oh, what Clippy has sacrificed. And you don’t ever spare him in your thoughts, always annoying, bossy, intrusive Clippy. You shouted at him and he only loved you more.

Spare a thought for Clippy this festive season.

Sarah K.

Invisible Flan

Easy Flan Recipe

I am an invisible flan. No, I am not a cake like those who taunted Eggless Vegan People; nor am I one of your Homestyle-mixed fauxflans. I am a flan of substance, of egg and milk, sugar and liquids – and I might even be served to traverse a bind.

I am invisible, understand, simple recipe is used to mix me. Like bodiless heads you see sometimes in cooking tvshows, it is as though I am made surrounded by ramekins of hard, heatproofed glass. When they approach the oven they see only my surroundings, their pans, or cookware of their imagination – stir, everything and anything to swirl me.

For is my invisibility exactly a matter of biocaramel accident to my surface. That invisibility to which I occur requires beat eggs of a peculiar disposition of the eggs of milk with whom I come in contact. A matter of the construction of their custard lines, those lined ramekins they cook through their physical pies upon a tray. I am hot complaining, nor stand I refrigerating either. It is sometimes ceramic baking to be unseen, although it is most softening harder eating when served.

Sarah K.

A Literal Giffing of the English Language?

ADoseofBuckley recently made a video called ‘The Literal Butchering of the English Language’.

In it, he references the common use of the word ‘literally’ in the hyperbolic sense, the way a lot of us are most likely to come across it. This is something a lot of people complain about, even people who feel assured they are not fixated on spelling or grammar. This is something that annoys all the ‘normal’ people out there.

Now, to say I am literally sickened by this video is not an improper use of the word literally, although it is the kind of thing he is being critical of in his video. At length. ADoseofBuckley has an angry reputation to uphold, but surely this isn’t something to get 5 minutes 36 seconds worth of upset about. It is true that the word ‘literally’ has the dictionary meaning of ‘in a literal manner or sense; exactly‘, but when using this word in a non-technical sense, the way most use it nowadays, have any of us ever been able to express ‘exactly’ what we meant? Using literal in this sense is actually very interesting, its using a universal specific for something that cannot be specified, it is calling attention to the nature of language, whether intentional or not.

I think what’s missed here is that humans communicate at least in a large part through the use of hyperbole. The English language simply doesn’t have the words for every specific situation of emotion. And if you were to make up words to suit it as you went along, this would garner even more of a rage from the grammar Nazis out there. ‘I literally shat myself,’ you might say, ‘when I realised One Direction were going to be playing in my home town’. Is there any better way of expressing such a mix of awe, home pride, sudden calculations over your available money mixed with the nagging feeling of a stunted maturity? I can’t think of one. You can use literally to combine the base, the mundane, the fantastical. Literally is just an enacted metaphor. This multiplicity of meaning is something more interesting that whatever exact meaning literally once had.

This argument also ignores the fact that languages survive and stay of use to us through adapting. Word meaning and usages change every day, it is only annoying when you cling to the old usage. If you say what you mean and people understand you, that’s all that language needs to do. If you use archaic words for no reason other than showing you knowing what these words meant before, you’re conversing with yourself, word wanker.

But if you carry on this idea, that whatever we use to communicate is language, we come up against all new kinds of communicating. This post titled ‘20 signs You Really, Really Hate People’ sums up one way in which the internet loves to communicate its difficult themes of introversion. Chances are, if you are introverted, you’re going to have trouble putting your feelings into words non-introverts can understand. That’s where GIFs come into it.

This list contains many popular GIFs used to represent social isolation. You will have seen many of them before. They take the difficult to express and put it into short-form. You may not have even seen the original source to know what the GIF means now. They do not even necessarily have any basis in the source anymore. GIFs are a way of communicating with someone else’s words, in the gaps between shared knowledge and speech. You can be as introverted as you like, but if you have a knowledge of these GIFs you can communicate easily, along with anyone else.

I’m sorry, I know it’s a meme.

You can create your own GIF before you can create your own word. GIFs open up an unending palette for expressing emotions, provided you can make the GIFs yourself, but with sites like makeagif.com that’ll practically do that for you, the limitations are few. What’s more they are shared on a world-wide level, not locally. There is so much potential out there, aside from re-using the same GIFs, universal as they are. That’s what ADoseofBuckley seemed most upset about, not that people were using literally in the wrong manner, but that they were all using literally. So whilst a greater adoption of GIFs in life may lead to a decline in text based ‘writing’ it provides a universal way for people to communicate and communicate in new ways.

This can only be a good thing, right?

 Sarah K.

Finnegans Cake

Oatmeal Apple Carrot Spiced Scones

recipe, for Ease and Atime, from simpleness of celebration to burden of birthday, brings us by a lot of stirring back to Honey Carrot and Apple scones.

Stir Briskly, flour, fr’over a short span, add milk and or be contrived from North Armorica omit the fattiness of Europe via to miler light this then isolate more: nor add white sugar blocks by the stream Possibly eggs added bated themselves to Laura Ashley for us while we wait rub in their numbers for a time: nor avoid for a time bowls to mix mix to toughtough tautballofstick: not yet, though verysoon after, add a salt and buttered add and all stick: not yet, though all’s fair in pastry, where sloppy section will with twone greaseelbow. Pot a peck of mash fruit add Them moved by armslight add raw currents to the mixingbowl whilst to be clean rinse on the surface.

The food (dededeliciousrighttakeminorconfronteronthemwhowouldsoonhawkandtookallinonelook!) of a once wallstrait hourper is really easy in bowl and later on lips down though all crispy meltpastry.

Sarah K.

10 Tips for Reading James Joyce’s Ulysses

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The author of your doom.

1. Tackle it in chunks. I know you read the last Harry Potter book in a day but so did I. This is not the kind of book you can read in a day. I know the first chapter is relatively easy but they’re not all like that. Realistically your limit for reading and understanding the book is going to be about 100 pages a day.

2. Don’t expect to understand everything. If you’re reading this for an assignment, you are probably familiar with a few texts and the way they use allusion. But no matter how well read you are you are not going to ‘get’ everything. Many scholars believe there isn’t even any one thing to get, so don’t worry too much about the meaning, just keep reading.

3. Annotate your copy. Otherwise I doubt you’ll be able to find all the quotes you like again.

4. Don’t expect to get the same reading as everyone else. Dependent on how much you know going into your reading, how much you research as you read, you will get a different reading of the text, but again, there is no ‘right’ one.

5. Read aloud as much as possible. A lot of the meaning in Ulysses is in the sense, the feel of the words and how they interact. You’ll also no doubt enjoy it a lot more this way as much of the beauty and humour is lost if you read in your head.

6. If you can’t read aloud, listen to others reading it. Joyce created some of the best and funniest dialogue between everyday people in Ulysses. It helps to hear the relation between these words in conversations. There are many audio-book versions out there, if you find the right one you can’t help but enjoy the book.

7. Have a dictionary ready. Ulysses is full of words you probably won’t know the meaning of but haven’t seen before. Having a dictionary ready could help you feel less lost as well as giving you the chance to learn some cool new words along the way.

8. Use online study guides. It’s better to get help for a bit you’re stuck on and move on than to abandon the book altogether. Also, these guides are only going to give you a few interpretations of the text if they give you any, so as long as it makes you think about the text, it’s not cheating.

9. Read as much around it as you want to. If you want to read The Odyssey or Hamlet or Ovid, go ahead. That’s just as good a way of reading it as any. If it helps you understand or enjoy the book, if it makes you want to keep reading, it’s doing its job.

10. Enjoy it. You’re not going to get to read many books like this in your lifetime. Look forward to Molly Bloom’s soliloquy but don’t miss all the other great bits along the way.

 Sarah K.

The Voynich Manuscript – ‘the world’s most mysterious book’

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A sample page showing the Voynich ‘script’ and a botanical illustration.

The moniker of ‘the world’s most mysterious book’ is a pretty impressive one to have, and according to BBC News and undoubtedly many others, this honour undoubtedly belongs to The Voynich Manuscript.

Dating back to (we believe) around 1400, the book is 240 pages long and highly illustrated, showing complex but unidentifiable fauna, astronomical shapes and human figures. It is named after the man who bought it in 1912, it’s original author unknown. The ‘Manuscript’ had baffled linguists, cryptographers and mathematicians for years. People have been able to get so far as to call it a ‘manuscript’, a coherent written piece, but that is pretty much all anyone knows about the document. It resists all modern code-breaking techniques, so much so that many call it a hoax.

Recently a study has been published by people who believe they have found strings of patterns within the text which may suggest words. The study identified the presence of a few ‘key words’, like how a book on trains would have a high frequency of the word ‘train’. Furthermore, these words are ‘clustered’ in such a way that they may show the explication of text’s meaning. But the definition of these words is still a mystery. It is thought that the theme may tally with the images, roughly grouped into sections throughout the text, but again, these images cannot be defined as anything humans know of. Nor can the purpose of the text. The words are written in a 40 letter alphabet that has never been seen before or since. It does not seem to have ‘evolved’ from any known language, causing many to believe it must be fabricated. But the structure of the text is similar to that of many ‘real’ languages. It appears to be a lot more than just arbitrary symbols or a string of made up words.

There is obviously a great story behind this text, whether written by one highly intelligent individual, a brilliant scientist, or simply as a very effective encoding of another language, people are constantly working to ensure that it cannot remain unsolved.

The Man Who Cracked the Mystery of The Voynich Manuscript

George Rugg, one of those purporting to have ‘solved’ the text, give one reason for it’s existence; ‘The Voynich is such a challenge, such a social activity. But then along comes someone who says ‘Oh, it’s just a lot of meaningless gibberish.’ It’s as if we’re all surfers, and the sea has dried up.’ The text may be nothing more than a challenge, something kept alive by our want to believe, and Rugg treated it as such, as a ‘grand hoax’. So many people wanted the text to be ‘true’ that they ignored his findings, the ways in which the text could be a hoax left relatively unexplored. Rugg came across a cheaply available coding device which could have been available at the time, the Cardan Grille, and found evidence to suggest that such mysterious manuscripts were highly collected throughout history. The age of the piece also meant that the author was unlikely to have been able to afford to start a page afresh after making a mistake, (unless they were rich themselves) and so the ‘words’ have even more power to resist code-breaking. The value of the piece, at least in the past, was based on it being indecipherable. And maybe so it is now, people ignore the fact it could be fake simply because its value to them is as something unsolved. Even Rugg isn’t totally satisfied with his own conclusion, saying;

“The rational part of me says it’s a hoax; another part says, yes, but what if 10 percent of it is cipher text, a real message mixed in with all the wattle and padding? It’s a lovely problem.” It’s a problem that we’ll maybe never allow ourselves to fully solve, and so The Voynich Manuscript will retain it’s power, maybe one of the greatest works of faith.

Sarah K.