Archive for May, 2009

Flying Saucer Rock & Roll Radio

Posted in music on May 22, 2009 by richardblandford

The Devil talks to children via the radio.


I have recently been getting to Spotify which, for the uninitiated, is a massive online music library (over 6 million tracks, I believe, and growing) with high quality streaming audio.  It’s a very exciting thing indeed, the true level of its very excitingness I’m only beginning to grasp.

One of the very exciting qualities that it possesses is that you can make playlists from the tracks available and share them with other Spotify users.  Assembling these is a bit like doing a mix tape, only without the click between tracks where you press the pause button and the awkward seduction technique associations.

Because of this, I have been inspired to launch ‘Flying Saucer Rock & Roll Radio’.  This is not a radio station.  It is not even a radio show.  The title is totally misleading.  

It is in fact an hour-long(ish) playlist assembled by me, hopefully on a weekly basis.  It will consist of tracks arranged in an artful manner that are either favourites of mine, are considered interesting by me, or just have the power to really do people’s heads in.  

In this way, I shall demonstrate how music, and indeed all existence, is tied up with the opposing forces of ‘rock’ (Dionysian, destructive, spontaneous) and ‘roll’ (Apollonian, ordered, rational), with harmony achieved only by the mysterious balancing presence known variously as ‘and’, ‘&’ and ”n”.

In the first week, through the medium of music, we explore how rock ‘n’ roll itself is a) revolutionary b) conservative and c) from Mars, take a trip to three different moons of varying hues, find out what colours the respective Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are, and hear Paul McCartney inventing acid house. 

By this time next week I’ll have a link on the sidebar to the right that will take you to the latest playlist, as well as posting links via Myspace bulletins and Twitter.  Anyway, If you give it a play, please drop me a line, not least because otherwise I have no way of knowing if people are actually listening or not.  

So to hear the first one (if you’re based in a Spotify-friendly country, which as I understand it is much of Europe – bad luck, rest of world!) go here to rock, roll and, most importantly, &.


Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older

Posted in Books on May 15, 2009 by richardblandford


I said I wasn’t going to write about my non-fiction library book reading pile. I also said I probably wasn’t going to write anything on this blog for a bit. Well, here I am doing both. But as Walt Whitman said, ‘Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.  So, you know, just fucking get over it.)’

I just wanted to draw people’s attention to one book I found particularly interesting, this being Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older: How Memory Shapes our Past by the Danish psychologist Douwe Draaisma.  It’s essentially a collection of essays dealing with questions regarding memory such as that which gives the book its title.  Also dealt with are subjects such as photographic memory, déjà vu, why our lives may flash before our eyes before we (almost) die, and why we forget being a baby.

The thing about memory is that by its very nature it’s a subjective experience.  Consequently, there’s not an amazing amount that can be said about it with any certainty.  Perhaps because of this, Draaisma talks around his subject rather than answering his questions directly, examining different possibilities and suggesting as to why one might be more likely than another.

What makes this book truly fascinating are the remarkable examples Draaisma finds of people’s attempts throughout history to preserve their memories.  For example, there’s Richard and Anna Wagner, a married couple who took a photo of themselves enjoying Christmas in the same room, every year from 1900 to 1942.  The slow process of aging, invisible on a day-to-day basis, is all too observable in the series of photos.

Then there’s the case of Willem van den Hull (1778-1858), a most peculiar Dutch gentleman who was a schoolmaster by profession.  Near the end of his life, van den Hull wrote his autobiography, in which he detailed all the personal slights borne him over the course of his life.  These include being caned in front of his own pupils by the school’s headmaster, being mysteriously laughed at by a group of young ladies, and the emotional fall-out that resulted from his eleven year obsession with a young woman who was probably completely unaware of his existence.  If only his life story were to be translated into English, I for one would definitely buy it.

If you’re even remotely interested in psychology, and why we remember (or don’t remember) things the way we do, Draaisma’s book is well worth checking out.  That is, if you can get all the way to a bookshop and still remember how to spell ‘Draaisma’.  Best if you write it down.

Please Hold

Posted in Film on May 10, 2009 by richardblandford

I’m not updating this blog much at the moment, as I’m trying to get to grips with a particularly tricky section in the novel I’m writing, and there are enough distractions as it is, what with All Creatures Great and Small AND The House of Elliott being repeated on Freeview.

So in the meantime, here’s a video of John Wayne punching Baldrick into the Thames, then jumping Tower Bridge in a Ford Capri.