Archive for the 'art and culture' Category

The indisputably correct list of the ten best albums ever

Here is the indisputably correct list of the best ten (non-compilation/ Greatest Hits) albums ever, in no particular order.

  • "Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols"

    The lurid, ransom note logo and album cover by Jamie Ried (cf my own at the top of this page). The sheer fucking excitement of the opening of "God Save The Queen" or "Pretty Vacant" makes this a fantastic album. The opening of "Bodies" still sends a shiver up my spine.

  • Blue – Joni Mitchell

    Mitchell’s guitar, dulcimer, piano playing is perfect. But it’s the songs that make it: the heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics, the melodies with their key changes. Sublime. Maaaan.

  • dubnobasswithmyheadman – Underworld

    Electronica with real vocals. Dada-esque cut-up lyrics. Dance songs and chill-out songs. I have vivid memories of getting stoned and travelling through the skyscrapers of Bangkok in the back of a taxi listening to this.

  • Loveless – My Bloody Valentine

    What on earth is wrong with this pressing? I asked myself on my 25th birthday as I played my brand new CD. Then every time I listened, I heard new sounds amongst the feedback and gently melodic crooning.

  • Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

    Nothing to be said that hasn’t already been said. Wonderful, even if it is hippie/ rock shit.

  • "London Calling" – The Clash

    I’ll never forget buying this double album in 1979 for £3.50 (the same price as a single album) and the first time I played it. It was the first time I’d heard political music. It was my first exposure to reggae; I know it was from white boys, but until then I’d only heard sanitised pop reggae. The Clash just melted down loads of influences into something amazing. The cover is great – and the Elvis reference is genius.

  • The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground

    Nothing to be said that hasn’t already been said.

  • Revolver – The Beatles

    It’s got ballads, kids’ songs, psychedelia, string sections. It’s got it all. The latest reissue, remixed into real stereo by Giles Martin, has crystal-clear bass that wasn’t really possible in the 60s (too much bass would cause record player styluses to jump out of the groove) so you can hear McCartney’s genius, and also the non-album single from the same sessions: Paperback Writer and its even more marvellous B-side, Rain, with its backwards vocals, stunning harmonies and bass.

  • Dummy – Portishead

    No-one had ever heard music like this before. Shares in theramins went through the roof.

  • Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan

    It’s got loads of great tracks. And “Visions of Johanna”, which is His Bobness’ towering achievement.

  • Bonus runner-up: Wrong Way Up – Brian Eno And John Cale

    Two geniuses, legendary pioneers of experimental music get together, combining loads of different and unusual instruments and cut-up loops. Instead of some unlistenable avant-garde weirdness, they produce an album of slightly off-kilter pop songs full of melodies and harmony. It initially sounds catchy but slight, and as you listen more, new depths are revealed. The album’s title comes from its song “Empty Frame,” a sea shanty about a cursed ship going around in circles, never returning to port. A lost classic.

Inclusive name inputs – because not everyone is called Chad Pancreas

Recently, “Stinky” Taylar and I were evaluating some third party software for accessibility. One of the problems was their sign-up form.

two inputs fields, labelled 'First name, minimum 2 characters' and 'Last name, required'

This simple two-field form has at least three problems:

  • The “first name” must be two characters or more.
  • “First name” and “last Name” aren’t defined; are they “given name” and “family name”?
  • “Last name” is mandatory

U Nagaharu was a Korean-Japanese botanist. Why shouldn’t he sign up to your site? In Burmese “U” is a also a given name: painter Paw U Thet, actor Win U, historian Thant Myint U, and politicians Ba U and Tin Aung Myint U have this name. Note that for these Burmese people, their given names are not the “first name”; many Asian languages put the family name first, so their “first name” is actually their surname, not their given name.

Many Afghans have no surname. It is also common to have no surname in Bhutan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Tibet, Mongolia and South India. Javanese names traditionally are mononymic, especially among people of older generations, for example, ex-presidents Suharno and Sukarno, which are their full legal names.

Many other people go by one name. Can you imagine how grumpy Madonna, Bono and Cher would be if they tried to sign up to buy your widgets but they couldn’t? Actually, you don’t need to imagine, because I asked Stable Diffusion to draw “Bono, Madonna and Cher, looking very angrily at you”:

Bono, Madonna and Cher, looking very angrily at you, drawn by AI

Imagine how angry your boss would be if these multi-millionaires couldn’t buy your thingie because you coded your web forms without questioning falsehoods programmers believe about names.

How did this happen? It’s pretty certain that these development teams don’t have an irrational hatred of Indonesians, South Indians, Koreans and Burmese people. It is, however, much more likely they despise Cher, Madonna, and Bono (whose name is “O’Nob” backwards).

What is far more likely is that no-one on these teams is from South East Asia, so they simply didn’t know that not all the world has American-style names. (Many mononymic immigrants to the USA might actually have been “given” or inherited the names “LNU” or “FNU”, which are acronyms of “Last name unknown” or “First name unknown”.)

This is why there is a strong and statistically significant correlation between the diversity of management teams and overall innovation and why companies with more diverse workforces perform better financially.

The W3C has a comprehensive look at Personal names around the world, written by their internationalisation expert, Richard Ishida. I prefer to ask for “Given name”, with no minimum or maximum length, and optional “family name or other names”.

So take another look at your name input fields. Remember, not everyone has a name like “Chad Pancreas” or “Bobbii-Jo Musteemuff”.

Maslow’s hierarchy of me me me

When I was in Thailand recently, I was wondering whether the ever-popular Maslow’s hierarchy of needs triangle had ever been tested against Asian cultures, in which the emphasis is on family and community rather than individualism.

When I asked on Twitter, Daniel pointed me to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need: Psychology Myth Busting #1 by Joe Leech who concludes

Self-actualisation, the idea of people becoming the best they can be is a very individualistic idea. Asian cultures are about the community and family that is collectivist in focus. Placing this very individual goal at the top highlights Maslow’s background, a man living in the individualistic USA.

There is also little evidence that the model is the same for men and women.

Nevalina pointed me to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: An Islamic critique which concludes

It is the basic line of the Islamic approach to strike a balance between material and spiritual needs in any situation of human existence, in times of saturation and need, stability and change, health and illness, happiness and distress. A model of a hierarchy of the different needs like Abraham Maslow’s can therefore not give credit to the reality of the interaction between material and spiritual aspects of the human being in different life situations, even if the spiritual aspect was to be named first.

It’s said that Maslow was influenced by the Blackfoot tribe of native Americans, but misunderstood them. In Maslow’s hierarchy connected to Blackfoot beliefs, Karen Lincoln Michel writes up a lecture presented by University of Alberta professor Cathy Blackstock at the 2014 conference of the National Indian Child Welfare Association.

“First of all, the triangle is not a triangle. It’s a tipi, Blackstock said. “And the tipis in the Blackfoot (tradition) always went up and reached up to the skies, she said.

Another difference noted by Blackstock is that self-actualization is at the base of the tipi, not at the top where Maslow placed it. In the Blackfoot belief, self-actualization is the foundation on which community actualization is built. The highest form that a Blackfoot can attain is called “cultural perpetuity.

So it looks as if a white academic male in hyper-individualist America thought that everyone in the world is like him. What a surprise. I hereby rename his over-exposed diagram as Maslow’s hierarchy of me me me and forbid you from ever using it again.

On #StopFundingHate and Center Parcs

I’m very glad to read the news that Center Parcs pulls Daily Mail ads over Tom Daley article of its advertisement next to a homophobic Richard Littlejohn article, the holiday organisation said “We felt this placement was completely unacceptable and therefore ceased advertising with the Daily Mail with immediate effect”. London Southbank Centre also said, “We monitor the environment in which our advertising appears, to ensure the values of a publication are compatible with our own. We have no future plans to advertise within the Daily Mail”.

Predictably, there has been a little faux-anguish about “free speech”, which is mis-placed. I’m a great believer that anyone should be able to say what they want to say (even “hate speech” as long as they’re not inciting violence). My position is “I disagree with what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it. But that doesn’t mean I want to waste my time listening to you”.

Similarly, I have a choice whether to fund your free speech. In our democratic capitalist society, I have a once-every-four-years opportunity to vote between largely-indistinguishable political parties in a General Election. But the true power I have is in my choice of goods and service that I consume.

So it’s a game of “follow the money”: Centre Parcs wants my money (that’s why they advertise); the Daily Mail wants some of Centre Parc’s money; Richard Littlejohn wants some of the Daily Mail’s money. (He’s perfectly free to set up a blog to publish his views, after all. He has every right to air them, and everyone has the right to read them, or not, as they choose.)

So if I tell a company that I won’t buy their products because they indirectly fund Littlejohn, or Breitbart, that is my right and my (only) leverage as a consumer. The key is to tell organisations why you consume their products or not. That’s why my tweeting “Good” to Centre Parcs is not “virtue signalling”; it’s letting them know that I will continue to purchase their products, and why. (The last good time I had with my dad who was gay three months before he died was a family holiday in Centre Parcs, which he paid for. We had a great time.)

Am I trying to close the Daily Mail down? Not at all. But right now, money I give to Co-op, Hertz, Visa etc indirectly subsidises the Daily Mail’s cover price. If those companies pull their advertising, then avid Richard Littlejohn fans can continue to pay to read it, they’ll just pay more. If they don’t want to pay more, and they stop buying it, that’s up to them. It’s called “the free market”.

There are many things to dislike about consumerism and capitalism. But the fact I can tweet to organisations and exercise financial influence is a power that I cherish, and will continue to use.

Feel my mighty influence!

The Birmingham Mail has published a totally scientific list of Midlands Twitter users who “have the ability to influence the UK more than most in the region”.

Apparently, I’m a respectable number 101 which means I’m more influential than

  • Black Sabbath (#191)
  • a Personal Beauty Shopper at Selfridges (#188)
  • Sutton Park Donkey Sanctuary (#164)
  • Birmingham city council (#120)
  • James Morris, Conservative MP for Halesowen & Rowley Regis (#115) – ha!
  • Solihull police (#112)

I was pipped to the number 100 post by Drayton Manor theme park. Now we know why they were so damn anxious to build their Thomas The Tank attraction, Thomas Land.

I’m now crowd-funding “William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch Land” to be built in my back garden, and am recruiting mugwumps. I must beat Drayton bloody Manor.

Review: Volpone, Royal Shakespeare Company

Volpone at RSC was very good last night. Sometimes the pacing was a little wobbly (mostly in the courtroom scenes), and Henry Goodman fluffed a line or two, but it was only the second performance. Goodman’s big set piece – Volpone pretending to be an Italian snakeoil peddlar – was hilarious (and he accused me of being a Norwegian from the stage in an audience participation section).

It’s a Ben Jonson play, so all of the characters are ciphers (and named according to type: Volpone the fox, Sir Politic Would-be, Corvino the crow etc) so don’t expect deep psychology, but more the Jonson parade of fools, monsters and freaks. The drawf, hermaphrodite and eunuch were excellent, and Trevor Nunn’s direction setting it in the Facebook and selfie era was inspired.

Shake your Brucie!

Once in a generation, there is a perfect combination of circumstances that leads to the creation of something truly extraordinary. Today is that day – the flawless union of programming, content, beauty and functionality.

This week at the Future of Web Apps conference, the Stella McCartney of geek crochet, Ruth John, gifted me with a hand-made, individually-designed crocheted mankini. A photo of me wearing it is available on my fashion blog What’s Bruce Wearing Today (caution advised).

At the same conference, Syd Lawrence demonstrated his accelerometer-driven app Shake Her Booty which allows you to control J Lo’s bottom (“booty”) by shaking your phone.

Claudia Snell asked “when can we expect the @brucel version?” so Syd mashed up some video he’d made of me dancing in the mankini at the FOWA after-party, and today has released Shake Your Brucie.

Just tap my booty to begin.

Enjoy.

My Krispy Kreme playlist: ten musical guilty pleasures

Like everyone else on the Web, I’m a musical snob. I’d far rather listen to arty difficult stuff like Can and My Bloody Valentine than Abba. But I’m also a musician so have a love and admiration for great catchy melodies and brilliant production. Here are top ten guilty pleasures – the Krispy Kreme Playlist – of songs that I genuinely love, not through wanky PoMo irony, but because they’re great.

Gita Gutawa – Bukan Permainan

This song obsessed me when I was doing a University lecture tour of Indonesia and heard it in a taxi. The helium voice, perfect production, harmonies and vocal line took residency in my brain within 4.3 nanoseconds of her starting singing. I attracted quite a crowd in a Jakarta shopping mall attempting to sing it to astonished music shop counter staff. They finally handed me – a middle-aged white man – a CD of a girl in a big pink wedding-cake dress who looked about ten years old. They must have thought I was Gary Glitter’s brother.

Wham – Young Guns (Go For It)

Sexist, crass and great.

Sugababes – About You Now

YouTube is full of videos of angsty teenage girls strumming moody acoustic covers of this in their bedrooms, but the mechanical drums and bounciness of the original makes it flawless in every possible way.

Oasis – The Hindu Times

Oasis are, of course, preposterous cockheads who steal their tunes, grunt their meaningless lyrics and walk like incontinent chimps. But this has a great moron riff and splendid changeover from chorus back to verse, thumping drums and a wall of sound. I bet even Blur like this.

Natalie Imbruglia – Torn

Perfect. Some splendid bass guitar wiggling around under Natalie. Lucky bass guitar.

Betty Boo – Doin’ The Do

Sassy girl singer, great bass, great video and great dance music. It was a hard decision whether to include this, or Dee Lite’s Groove is in the Heart, but she won because (a) she’s British and (b) I am genuinely in love with her and want to bear her children.

U2 – Where The Streets Have No Name

Undeniably, Bono’s a nob. Indubitably, U2 are flatulent stadium rock. But this is great and you won’t convince me otherwise with sophistry, even if you’re Lou Reed himself.

ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) – Midnight Blue

A lovely tune, so over-produced that it’s in grave danger of collapsing under its own ludicrousness like an orchid wearing loads of rapper bling and Argos sovereign rings.

Dexys Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen

The warbly vocals. The slow down and speed up again bit. Excellent.

Hanson – MMMBop

Anyone who doesn’t love this has cloth ears and no humour or soul. And that’s proven by science.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Murder On The Dance Floor

Oops – a number 11 in a list of 10. But this is too good not to listen to.

Here’s the Spotify playlist.

On sex education for 7 year olds in UK schools

The BBC reports that Sex education should start at seven, Lib Dems say.

Of course 7 year old kids should get sex education at school; puberty is from 8 years old for girls, 9 for boys.

The whole point of education is to prepare kids for life, so you have to tell them about stuff first (hint: that’s what “prepare” means.)

Sex education results in fewer sexually transmitted diseases and fewer unwanted pregnancies. This is not only good for the people involved, but is better for the whole nation – which makes it excellent public policy.

However, “parents will retain the right to pull children under 15 out of sex education lessons” according to the Daily Mail. Why? Do we let them take kids out of Maths or Geography classes?

There should be no opt-out from parents trying to foist their religion or sexual hangups onto their children. Education > indoctrination.

The fruitful lady of dawn

I really enjoy Brian Patten’s love poetry; he writes of joy and sadness and how the two can mingle, while never using words that you wouldn’t hear in an everyday conversation. He’s the only living poet whose works I regularly raid for my song lyrics. So when my battered old copy of his Love Poems fell apart, I invested in a shiny copy of his new Collected Love Poems.

Curiously, in a volume called “Collected Poems”, one of them is missing. It was in “Love Poems”, substantially revised from a previously published version, and revised for the better. But I can only assume Patten was still dissatisfied and so dropped it.

Because I’m talking online to some people about his poems (and who have bought his newest book on my recommendation), I’m copying the poem here so they have the text. Brian – if you want me to remove it, I will. But I think you’re mistaken; it’s a lovely piece. (And, sorry, but I stole the blue dress image for a song called “The girl in the room“.)

The fruitful lady of dawn

She walks across the room and opens the skylight
thinking: “perhaps a bird will drop in
and teach me how to sing.”

She cannot speak easily of what she feels
nor can she fathom out
whose dawn her heart belongs in.

Among the men she knows
she knows few
who understand her freedom.

Baffled by her love and by
how she withdraws her love,
she remains an enigma,

and under the skylight
puts on her red dress calling it a blue one.
She approaches breakfast as she would a lover –

She is alive,
and one of her body’s commonest needs
I have made holy.