Movember

I just wanted to reblog this, a lovely poem by my friend, and Renaissance man Rob Casey. It made me feel like a cynical fool for grumbling about the whole Movember endeavour. Also, check out his band, The Least Worst Candidates, the biggest thing to come out of Southampton since Leo and Kate.

Rob Casey

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Remember, remember
the month of Movember,
bumfluff, machismo and wax.
A time for awareness
by not being hairless;
growing a ludicrous ‘tache.

With whiskers we wish
issues to be listened to,
wearing our hair
while the ladies all stare,
there, where once it was bare
above our labia.
Yet now we proudly entertain ya
with our facial adornments,
more awful than full of awe ornaments
we clumsily fumble when it’s autumnal
to amaze.
A crazy way to make anyone wonder
why.

Why? I’ll tell you why.
To educate and empower other men
to take care about their health.
To visually signify the reasons why
we shouldn’t sit by
when male life expectancy in the UK
is nearly four years less than the fairer sex.
When men have a 14% higher risk
of developing cancer
and a 37% higher chance
of dying from it.
When obesity is easy to see
but…

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In Praise of… Run the Jewels

As I bemoaned earlier this week, rock and indie are in a bad way. But on the flip side of this, hip hop and R&B are flourishing in a new wave of creativity. I wrote a long form theory for this a while back, but since then, a strong contender for my album of the year has come out that I wish I could have mentioned at the time.

Killer mike (left) and El-P
Killer mike (left) and El-P

Run the Jewels is a collaboration between a long time guest on Outkast albums, Atlanta’s Killer Mike and the brilliantly dark producer, rapper, and sci-fi enthusiast, Brooklyn’s  El-P. They have between them been responsible for some of the best cuts of the last decade, but solo, neither had truly matched the potential they had shown when collaborating (not to say that they aren’t good!). The collaborations genesis was born on Killer Mike’s 2012 R.A.P. Music album, entirely produced by El-P, but Run The Jewels is a more equal collaboration, and they have both found their perfect partner here.

And a confession here, before I move on. When the first Run the Jewels came out, I was enjoying the equally dissonant, but more puerile thrills of Death Grips, and the frenetic fun of Danny Brown, and I didn’t give it the chance I should. I did enjoy it enough that I grabbed Run the Jewels 2 on it’s release last month, and both albums have been slowly creeping up on me since.

But this week, on the night of the verdict in Ferguson, Run the Jewels were playing in nearby San Diego. A clip of Killer Mike speaking before the show got online, and honestly, it’s one of the most honest, powerful pieces of oratory I have heard in recent years.

Sometimes, a record just needs the right time, and these are albums for a time when anger, and indignation fill you with frustration at the world. The hard, industrial beats, in tandem with some of the rawest, most vicious rhymes I’ve heard for a very long time, make it the right album for this time.

As with me, it may not grab you straight away, it is very aggressive, and almost dares you not to like it, but when it does, it holds on you like nothing I’ve heard in the last ten years. As most teenagers of the 1990’s will probably agree, Rage Against the Machine were both great to listen to, but also cathartic at the same time. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, it’s the knowledge that somebody is thinking what you’re thinking, and enough people are agreeing with it that it gets bought, and so you know you’re not alone in your feelings and thoughts. When Run the Jewels are angry and political, they are more than deserving RATM’s crown of raw politicised anger, which explains a fun cameo by Zach De La Rocha on the sublime Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck).

But even the above comparison doesn’t do them justice. I am not a great rap music historian, but these might just be the greatest screams of rage and antagonism since the two hander of Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet. The musical dissonance combined with over the top, violent expression make them worthy successors, and like those, these are albums that perhaps only sound right because they’re released in a time where again, an elite is becoming rich, as the poor and marginalised become ever more powerless and impoverished. When Dead Prez dropped Let’s Get Free, or even in the wake of 9/11 when a great many political records were released, the general sense of prosperity meant that even while you agreed with the sentiment, it couldn’t especially feel vital, and Important. But right now, this works. The world is in the wrong place right now, which is the right place for a record like this.

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And I have got this far without really raving about particular songs. Run the Jewels itself is a fantastic welcome to their world, a sucker punch of a track that immediately sets the tone for their sound. Banana Clipper shows what you should do when you get a big name to drop a guest verse- force them to do their best work over a beat you wouldn’t associate with them normally- and they really seem to have a habit of getting the best out of all their guests. Blockbuster Night, part 1 does more in two and a half minutes than other artists manage in five, and Close Your Eyes, mentioned earlier, takes the concept of A Milli by Lil’ Wayne, blackens it’s eye, and uses it to talk how sick the world is, rather than how ill they themselves are.

So. Go out. Get it. It’s brilliant. Even if you hate it, you’ll be doing good. Killer Mike backs up his feelings with action, and is working on opening a chain of 150 barber stores, called SWAG (Shave, Wash And Groom) in poor neighbourhoods, to provide skills training and employment to people there. And they’re also using Kickstarter to fund Meow the Jewels, a remix of the entire album using only cat sounds, with proceeds going to charity. So they’re not as po faced as I have made them sound above!

Sesame Salmon and Pesto Vinaigrette

I have neglected fish so far, so here’s a nice simple recipe for delicious salmon. Takes about 10 minutes tops, and makes for a luxurious feeling midweek tea.

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Two rules for me with salmon. Firstly, the middle should be hot but sashimi like (raw, basically), as the texture is much nicer, and secondly, the skin should be crispy- there’s a great Jamie Oliver trick to cheat at this, which makes the meal a treat.

Ingredients

  • Salmon fillets- I prefer the thin and tall ones from the tail end to the flatter ones. Shorten the cooking time for the latter.
  • Sesame seeds- enough to coat the top of the fillets.
  • Olive oil
  • 2 heaped tbsp Pesto
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Rub the salmon down with a little olive oil, especially the skin, as it will otherwise stick to the pan, which is a tragic waste. Season with a little salt and pepper, then sprinkle over a generous crust of sesame seeds. Pat this down so most of it sticks to the oily fish.

Continue reading Sesame Salmon and Pesto Vinaigrette

Now That’s What I Call Music 12

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This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Released- 11th July 1988

Music History

The first time there’s been a summer edition of the Now albums in a long while, and the start of it’s settling into it’s triannual schedule. In other news, French-Canadian Celine Dion got her big break, winning the Eurovision Song Contest, and Public Enemy and Guns ‘n’ Roses are competing to see who can scare the most parents within their respective genres.

Me History

I’m going to playschool. Which is all kinds of good. My best friend is a hyperactive loon who runs around shouting about being a fireman. He hasn’t changed all that much to this day, though he’s dropped the fireman bit, and become a civil servant. I still see the ladies from the playschool when I’m back in my home town, and it freaks me out that I’m taller than them, as I’m sure that they used to be giants…

If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were doomed to be remembered in the same manner in which we remember racist 70’s comedians, that track would be… Doctorin’ The Tardis by The Timelords. It’s likely to be my only chance to celebrate the antagonistic joy of The KLF, so it just beats out Push It by Salt ‘n’ Pepa by a whisker.

Track by track breakdown

Wet Wet Wet : “With a Little Help from My Friends”

Proof, if proof were needed, of how great The Beatles are. Even a cover which adds nothing (and indeed, subtracts something) save for some show off vocals, and it’s still a great song. Although I miss Ringo Starr’s ‘singing’. Amusingly, the B-side is Billy Bragg, covering She’s Leaving Home.

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 12

Pulled pork in a slow cooker, and the secret ingredient that makes it work.

Yep. I went clickbait for this one! I am sorry, but I’m so happy with a last minute save that made the meal work, that I’m going to hide it being the read more button. I am a shameful hussy.

Anyway, pulled pork is very fashionable right now, and it seems to have turned into a competition for who can cook theirs for the longest, to make it as tender and melt as possible. For real people, with actual jobs, it’s largely impossible to find 10 hours to do this in an oven, so a slow cooker is a godsend. Prep it the night before, put it in a slow cooker in the morning, and it should be done by the time you get home.

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However, slow cooking tends to leave too much juice, and the oven cooking tends to reduce this and let the meat soak it all up. I’ve tried to take this into account here, and hope that this recipe allows you to pull your own pork (fnarr) at home.

Ingredients

Morning

600g-1kg Pork Shoulder
Some carrots, onions and garlic
400g tin chopped tomatoes
Half a bottle of good ale
1tbsp cumin
1tbsp paprika
1tbsp sugar
Salt and pepper

Evening

1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp chilli powder
Juice of half a lemon
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tbsp secret mystery ingredient
Salt and pepper
1tsp cornflour

Continue reading Pulled pork in a slow cooker, and the secret ingredient that makes it work.

Music Monday Mixtape- Misanthropy (It’s in the air for you and me)

I have spent the last week or so bemoaning the lack of a new band for me to love. I have several handfuls of new hip-hop and pop to love, but in terms of actual bands, there has been nothing. The early noughties trend for copying something from about 20 years ago, and wearing really tight Top Man clothing being the only qualifier for success seems to have spread throughout the indie scene, metastasizing, killing the scene and leaving only a bland husk for the last remaining idiots to gnaw at the remains of.

The fact that the two great hopes this year, Royal Blood and Future Islands, can both be summed up by saying a band name with the word average before it (average Led Zeppelin and average Depeche Mode) pretty much says it all. In fairness, they’re both great live, so there is at least that to enjoy, but even that would be better if they had a single song worth listening to.

Do I sound bitter today? Well, listening to albums by both of these acts have robbed me of four hours I could have spent listening to much better things. Yes four hours, I was naïve and hopeful enough to give each album a second chance. More fool me. Amusingly, the best indie record released this year was a pop song released as part of the soundtrack to The Lego Movie…

This got me thinking about what it is I actually want from my rock and indie bands. Looking over a swathe of my favourite artists, I have come to the horrible realisation that I do love a good old fashioned misanthrope, and no band seems to have the guts to try being anything but some remote notion of cool, anymore. While most of them are capable of a fun and optimistic song too, Modest Mouse, LCD Soundsystem, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Pulp, Half Man Half Biscuit, and a good many more are at their best when laying waste to the human race. The aim on this one is to have a clear Side A and Side B, with one side dedicated to grumbling and misery, and the other optimism and happiness and such. But with the same bands on each side. Anyway, here it is, enjoy. Thank you bye now!

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. Rules are simple. Leave ONLY the ACTUAL LINK POST here and grab the code below and place it at your blog entry. You can grab this code at LadyJava’s Lounge Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Continue reading Music Monday Mixtape- Misanthropy (It’s in the air for you and me)

Toast, the long way round. Or a simple loaf of bread.

I was going to put up a lovely braised pulled pork recipe, but train cancellations led to me instead getting drunk in Birmingham Christmas market. Maybe next week.

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So here’s a simple loaf of bread I made at the weekend, and my favorite topping for this, toasted. I have never been a baker, and this is my first real attempt at baking in five years- the previous attempt were some scones that had the dense mass of a newly formed black hole. So rest assured, if I am able to do this, literally anybody can.

There’s something so much more satisfying about taking chunks off of a loaf made with your own hands. Every egg and bacon sandwich tastes like victory. And your home will smell lovely. Yes it takes about three hours. But about two and a half of those are spent doing nothing, so it’s not so hard.

Ingredients

250g Wholemeal bread flour
250g Strong white bread flour
400ml Water
1 tsp Yeast (or one sachet)
30g Salt

Method

Mix the yeast with some very warm (not boiling) water. Add the flours and salt to a large mixing bowl. Make a deep well in this and start adding water, about 100 ml at a time. Fold in the flour, making sure you mix as much as possible each time. When a fork becomes impractical, use your hands instead.

By the end you should have a single ball of slightly sticky dough. If it’s too sticky, add a little flour, too dry, a little more water. In both instances, it should just be a very little at a time.

Flour your work surface, and knead for 10 minutes. Use the ball of your hand, and it’s a gentle massage, not a vicious assault. If your arms ache while doing this, you’re going too hard. Seriously, a generation of TV chefs have sold a lie about this part of the process, in order to try and look more masculine while baking.

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As the yeast activates, the dough should start to feel more and more bouncy. Once it feels good and elastic, place it in a large, floured bowl, cover with a tea towel and stick it in your airing cupboard for 45 minutes. If you have no airing cupboard, balance it on top of a radiator. Warm and dry is the watchword here.

After 45 minutes proving, it will have grown as if it were alive, mostly because it is, in a way. Give it another near for five minutes, then put it on a floured baking sheet or tray, cover with a tea towel, and give it another hour to prove.

Yep. It’s huge now. Form it into a high ball, and stick in the oven at 170c for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn it down to about 140c, and cook until it makes a hollow sounding ‘donk’ noise when you tap the bottom of the loaf.

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Rest on a wire rack to settle then enjoy. with any luck, it should be light on the inside, but lovely and crusty out. If you’re making toast with it, do have one with marmite and one with picallilli. The contrast between pickled bitterness and salty richness is absolute heaven.

Now That’s What I Call Music 11

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This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Released- 21st March 1988

Music History

Rihanna was born, and Divine died. Make of that what you will. Morrissey goes solo, and frankly it’s a mixed bag, and Sinead O’ Connor comes onto the scene, so in both cases, a win for the loadmouthed truth speakers. House is a big thing now.

Me History

Thomas the Tank Engine is kind of a big thing to me. I wrote a letter to the Rev. WH Awdry and got a reply. I still think that that is the coolest thing ever. I’m all about Sodor.

If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were remaindered, that track would be…  Suedehead if only for the fact that Morrissey makes the world a better place.

Track by track breakdown

Pet Shop Boys “Always on My Mind” 

The worst Pet Shop Boys song yet. Recently voted the best cover of all time. That’s how good they are at their laziest. They’re just too good!

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 11

Now That’s What I Call Music 10

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This article is part of a series, chronicling a foolish attempt to chronicle the history of modern pop, through the Now That’s What I Call Music series. All the previous articles, and some other fun stuff, can be found here.

Released- 23rd November 1987

Music History

Kylie Minogue and Guns n Roses are a thing that is happening now, both missed from this album, as is Bad by Michael Jackson and Faith by George Michael. Cliff Richard and Johnny Hates Jazz make the cut. I assume the compiler was found murdered shortly thereafter.

Me History

At 3 years and 9 months, I remember being told off for throwing stones at spiderweb, that I had a Brio trainset which even now I think is 97 types of amazing, and possibly wetting myself at playschool. Amazing what stays. Also, the pinball machine video from Sesame Street which counts to 12, which I now know was by the Pointer Sisters. Yeah, the first song I loved is cool!

If I had to save one track from this album, and the remainder were  remaindered, that track would be…  Never Can Say Goodbye by The Communards. Sweet disco joy it’s good, and just edges out Heart.

Track by track breakdown

Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballé : “Barcelona”

Not even close to the best song he was involved in, but the fact that he can hold his own against an opera singer shows you the sheer power of his voice. The contrast with Monserrat Caballe actually lends Freddie’s normally brash, powerful voice a degree of vulnerability that isn’t normally there.

Continue reading Now That’s What I Call Music 10

Chicken, Mushroom and Pesto Lasagne

So, lesson one, don’t try to make pasta for the first time on a Monday night while hungry and tired! Apart from the stretchy, odd, undercooked taste of “almost pasta” though, the flavours in this were delicious.

Lesson two? Take your wedding ring off before working with any type of dough you idiot.

Pesto is possibly my favourite thing about Italian cooking. Basil, cheese and nuts. I can’t think of three more enjoyable things, without using the word beer.

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Ingredients

Serves 2-4, greed dependent

  • Lasagne sheets
  • 350g diced or minced chicken
  • 350g chestnut mushrooms
  • About 3 large handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 60g basil
  • 50g grana padano or other hard cheese, plus more for optional sprinklage
  • 50g pine nuts
  • A tub of ricotta
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Put your lasagne sheets in a bowl of warm water with a little salt, to soak a little until they’re needed.

Gently fry the chicken and mushrooms in a very little oil. While this is cooking, rinse the basil under cold water and pat dry.

Continue reading Chicken, Mushroom and Pesto Lasagne