The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

December 2005 Archive

December 01, 2005

Inspected with pride

I found this little card lying on the floor in an electronics shop, where it must have fallen out of some package. I took it of course, because it was so instantly compelling. You may remember that two years ago (has it really been this long?) I already talked about inspectors who leave cryptic sheets of paper inside boxes, but Inspector Forty-Three impressed me particularly because he is the first one whose notices I've ever encountered who does his job "with pride".

I tried picturing Inspector Forty-Three proudly inspecting products, but somehow it didn't work out. Pride seems to be an odd concept on the assembly line.

I checked the company website to find out what kinds of objects Mr. Forty-Three is inspecting, and it turns out they produce accessories for laptops and other mobile computing equipment. It also turns out that the home page of their website has a link to "Important Recall Notices", where they are currently warning customers about two specific items, both of which can apparently give you electric shocks and/or set your house on fire.

Perhaps someone ought to tell Mr Forty-Three to inspect his products with care, rather than with pride? Just an idea.

Posted by Horst at 02:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 02, 2005

Tonight, 8:30pm, Café Kafka, Capistrangasse 8, 1060 Wien: Labyrinth Poetry Open Mic. I will be reading a few new poems and possibly be doing a Mercurian impersonation.

Posted by Horst at 02:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

December 05, 2005

I think that Murphy's law of public transport says that as soon as you approach the station, you will notice there's a tram/bus/train there, which will leave immediately as you move closer, and then there'll be some sort of disruption and you'll be waiting for the next tram/bus/train, like, forever.

At least that's what happens every morning when I leave the house to go to work; I see there's a tram in the tram station right on the other side of the street, and never manage to catch it before it leaves. The alternative is seeing a tram that has departed something like 20 seconds ago further down the street. In any case, there's always some kind of disruption afterwards, so I have to wait at least 10-15 minutes for the next tram.

Interestingly though, this doesn't happen when I don't intend to go to work, but elsewhere. Anywhere else, for that matter.

Even more interestingly, when I go to my favourite Indian restaurant and leave there late in the evening, there's always a bus coming around the corner that will take me home. Like, it's always coming, even though it's late at night and there's officially a 15-minute interval at the time, and it's always coming in such a way that I only have to wait for half a minute or so, and I always manage to catch it.

If I were to believe in karma (which, incidentally, I am), I would draw my conclusions here.

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December 08, 2005

One of the things that are good for bringing on a minor flash of midlife crisis is when you start noticing that wherever you are going, even if it is your favourite Indian restaurant, you seem to be surrounded by people who are not only significantly younger than you are, they also seem to be having more fun than you.

And they're playing around with strange gadgets that you would never play around with in a restaurant, like mobile phones, digital cameras and some electronic thingmajig that you've never seen before and which looks like a 3" by 3" blackish box and which seems to be fun in some way, but your own understanding for this kind of object stopped right after your iPod, which seems to be the only thing left that is connecting you to the younger generation.

Fortunately, you notice at some point that all they seem to be talking about is money and electronic gadgets, so it's kind of easy to snap out of this and enjoy your own age again, and concentrate on your meal and other things that really matter.

They are just kids after all.

Posted by Horst at 03:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 10, 2005

It's that time of the year again when music magazines everywhere publish their annual music polls, even though the year is not quite over yet; I presume they are doing it so that you can still buy your last-minute stocking fillers in time for Christmas.

Anyway, who am I not to join the trend? Over the next few days I will publish a number of articles about my favourite records of 2005. All of this is necessarily incomplete and subjective, so beware.

I'll start with this year's five biggest disappointments, i.e. the records that I expected to be good, but which turned out to be worse than expected. If you are wondering why this does not include Paul McCartney and other artists resurrected from the dead by the record industry in time for Christmas, well, I didn't expect them to be any good.

Sun Kil Moon: Tiny Cities - After recording my favourite album of 2004, this record of Modest Mouse covers is about the most uneven (and at times, boring) thing Mark Kozelek has ever done. Which is why the Special Award For Biggest Disappointment In 2005 goes to this record.

The Decemberists: Picaresque - Never a band with a particularly strong focus, they lose themselves in, well, picaresque and arabesque ornament and release a perfectly mediocre record that may appeal to fans into circuses and freak shows, but not to me. And I liked the two previous albums so much! Sob.

Broken Social Scene: Broken Social Scene - Another band with great potential and total loss of focus. This is not even particularly bad, it's just that I think they could have done so much better.

Beck: Guero - Okay, maybe it was silly of me to expect anything of this man, whose best times are obviously long gone now. But I hadn't expected anything this boring.

Interpol: Antics - Considering everybody except me seems to like this record, it's probably me who has the problem, but I consider this to be the most annoying record of the year, even more annoying than Franz Ferdinand, and that means something.

In part 2, to be published in a few days, I will be looking at a couple of records that I discovered this year and found really great, but that were unfortunately published before 2005.

Posted by Horst at 04:13 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 11, 2005

English breakfast

This is for Mr deedee and Ms pinkNgreen, who had been invited to a special English brunch today, but who unfortunately got sick and couldn't come. This is what the two of you missed today, and what you will get as soon as you're well again. So get well soon!

Posted by Horst at 03:25 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

December 12, 2005

After watching the UK snooker championship on Eurosport, where Ronnie O'Sullivan lost against Mark King, I got stuck on that other sports channel again and they had yet another one of those stupid quizzes going on, which mainly consist of getting people to call and spend €0.49 (Germans) or €0.70 (Austrians) per call in the hopes of winning a fairly unreachable €40,000 prize.

They had a grid filled with letters this time, and the task was to find four car brand names that were hidden in there vertically or horizontally. The obvious thing was that the grid contained a lot of misspelled car brand names, such as "Tojota", "Nisan", "Matzda" "Renaut" or "Lanzia", and a few car model names such as "Golf" or "Twingo", but the only correctly spelt car brand name that I could spot was "Fiat".

Well. After about 50 people had called, repeating "Tojota", "Nisan" and "Matzda" over and over again, it was finally revealed that the four correct car brand names were in fact "Fiat" (ah!), "UAR" (huh?), "ASD" (huh?!) and "AIL" (huh?!?).

As I have been quite unable to find any information about any of the latter three car brands, I'd be interested if any of you, my dear readers, have ever heard of them.

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Ultimately, the really important point is not whether Governor Arnold "Terminator" Schwarzenegger stops or does not stop the execution of killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams tomorrow. It's not what he does in this case, which has become more of a media event than anything else, it's more what he believes in generally, and I'm not sure if he believes in anything other than his social status and poll results. And even that's okay; it doesn't really matter because more than anything else, Schwarzenegger is a representative of a society, and as such it's not so much himself that counts, but the society that elected him and that he represents, that he is supposed to represent even.

And so it's really all about whether that society condemns or accepts the killing of people. If the society condemns it, then this will be reflected in the state's politics, which will aim at protecting the lives of all citizens at all costs, with no exceptions, not even Tookie Williams. However, if this society accepts that killing people is okay, then this is just what will happen, with or without the death penalty. It's as simple as that.

Posted by Horst at 11:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

December 14, 2005

Someone set fire to one of our libraries. At least 20,000 books have been destroyed. Click here to see what's left of the Biology library. Click here to see what it looked like until yesterday.

Posted by Horst at 07:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

In an attempt to transcend my male gender identity, I will co-DJ with Ms Pix in an evening advertised as Damenwahl ("Ladies' Choice"). No, actually the plan was that Ms pinkNgreen would co-DJ, but unfortunately she's still ill (get well soon!), and I have the honour of filling in for her.

Ladies' Choice, featuring one lady and one gent, and hopefully one or two of my dear readers as audience, is taking place on Friday, 16 December, 9pm till late, at the Blue Box, 1070 Vienna, Richtergasse 8.

Posted by Horst at 07:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 16, 2005

Sometimes it's both interesting and revealing where certain words come from in different languages. Let's take for example the word desperate and its German equivalent verzweifelt.

Desperate contains the Latin word spes ("hope"). The prefix de- denotes a downwards movement. A desperate person is therefore one whose hope has gone down. Literally, being desperate means having lost hope.

Verzweifelt on the other hand, is built on the German word Zweifel ("doubt"); combined with the prefix ver-, the word literally means "tangled up in doubt" or "full of doubt". A verzweifelte person is therefore a person who has lost all sense of certainty. You could say that being verzweifelt means having lost faith.

Posted by Horst at 08:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

December 20, 2005

Considering the way some Austrian politicians are behaving right now, claiming that a mob of Communists and leftist revolutionaries (huh?) drove Arnold Schwarzenegger to sever his ties with his former home town, you'd think there would really be more substantial things to talk about.

Like the death penalty, which is apparently okay for them as long as there's a law that says it's okay. Or at least a couple of Austrian politicians said something to that effect the other day. The Nazis passed a law that made the extermination of the Jews legal. I wonder if those politicians think if that was okay, too. After all, the existence of the law made killing the Jews perfectly legal, didn't it?

Who cares about Schwarzenegger anyway? I mean, good riddance and everything.

Posted by Horst at 07:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

December 21, 2005

As it turns out, some of my favourite albums this year weren't released this year at all. I made some late discoveries, which can't make it into the official polls, but which I nevertheless listened to quite extensively.

A Ghost Is BornWilco: A ghost is born. Probably my favourite album this year, but, alas, released last year. For some reason I totally ignored it when it came out, but then I bought the vinyl, which was released this spring, and was instantly hooked. I prefer this a lot to their much-lauded previous album because it has a few more edges, but it delves into a similar musicality and range of ideas. It's good to see that someone still cares to make records like this.

You Are FreeCat Power: You are free. Even though it is a bit overlong, I still admire this album for its barrenness, its bleakness and its fragility. It's a kind of music that I only realized I'd wanted once I'd found it. Hard to describe really; I guess you actually have to listen to it, but it's hard to deny that there is power behind that frail voice. I wouldn't call it "cat" power though.

Bryter LayterNick Drake: Bryter layter. I will probably remember 2005 as the year in which I discovered Nick Drake. This may seem awfully late since he recorded his albums well over 35 years ago, but it was this year that all of a sudden I stopped complaining about the string arrangements and recognized Drake's songs for what they are: brief moments of perfect beauty; and some of these songs are so beautiful that they make you cry. It's true; I swear.

The TainThe Decemberists: The Tain. Much as the Decemberists' new album disappointed me, their previous one became one of my favourites this year. It's a lengthy narrative very much in the tradition of Jethro Tull's Thick as a brick, and it's impossible to deny that there's more than a structural resemblance. Jimi Hendrix's "Manic depression" also makes a brief appearance here, but for all its pastiche, it's a remarkably powerful and remarkably original recording.

Posted by Horst at 10:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

December 22, 2005

The last Message from the Lost Continent was sent today. Writing this throughout the past six months was good fun -- thanks to Gina, John, Mig, Richard and Shira for participating. Now if only this found a wider audience... I'm considering publishing it in book form though. Feedback would be nice. If anyone has actually read it.

Posted by Horst at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 23, 2005

Before we come to my favourite albums of this year, today's installment of my annual record review covers my favourite reissues.

Complete Peel SessionsThe Fall: Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004. Massive in scale, this 6-CD box documents all 24 radio sessions (97 tracks!) that Mark E. Smith and his mighty band The Fall recorded for John Peel's radio show during 26 years. Sadly, Peel's untimely death makes this a definitive, complete collection, and it shows the band through all its ups and downs, triumphs and embarrassments. Maybe not the perfect way to get to know The Fall, but still recommended for fans and non-fans alike.

Peel SessionsTh' Faith Healers: Peel Sessions. Unbelievably, eleven years after they disbanded, an obscure Americal label releases this CD of sixteen tracks that th' Healers recorded for John Peel, and like the set by The Fall, this is much appreciated (even if it is not complete) and a wonderful record. Documenting the period 1992-94 (the 1991 session was released earlier), this features well-known and unknown tracks, but there's not one dud on this. Perfect.

Early YearsChet Baker: Early Years. Buying heavily into Chet Baker's back catalogue this year, I am now convinced that most of his best recordings are really from the last decade of his life. I still wholeheartedly recommend this newly released 4-CD box from Proper Records, because it gives a good, fairly complete overview of Baker's recordings 1952-54, and it comes at a totally decent low price.

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December 24, 2005

kingsNo matter whether you are celebrating anything today or not, I'd like to take the opportunity to wish you health, love, hope and peace; wherever you are, whoever you are.

(Picture borrowed from The Cartoonist)

Posted by Horst at 06:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

December 29, 2005

Before my favourite records of this year are finally revealed, I am dishing out some special awards to those who really deserve them.

Mittelpunkt der WeltBest Lyrics Throughout an Entire Album
Element of Crime: Mittelpunkt der Welt. Considering how awful most German song lyrics are, it is barely believable that the award for best lyrics should go to a German record, but Sven Regener, singer and lyricist of Element of Crime and recently also acclaimed novelist, has clearly outdone himself. Even when they wallow in sentiment, his lyrics stay clear of kitsch; throughout the entire album, they're intelligent and touching and always feel genuine. A rare feat.

Still Feel GoneBest Neil Young Song Not Written Or Sung By Neil Young
Uncle Tupelo: "Looking for a way out". Sorry for overlooking this little gem for so long. I know this came out 14 years ago, but I only came across it this year. Uncle Tupelo's Still Feel Gone is a strange album that is full of songs that let the band's influences shine through only too obviously: a couple of songs seem to be stolen right off R.E.M's Out of Time, also released that year. "Looking for a way out" is very obviously a heavy nod to Neil Young, but what a great one. It's almost like the song that Young never managed to write, and you can see in it the foundations for Jeff Tweedy's later songs that came to full fruition on Wilco's A Ghost Is Born.

The Best Party EverCutest Album Cover of the Year
The Boy Least Likely To: The Best Party Ever. Infantilists rejoice: here is a perfectly cute album wrapped inside a perfectly cute album cover, and it's still intelligent enough not to make you feel all dumb. A touch of Belle and Sebastian perhaps, but who the heck cares with a cover like this?

You Could Have ItMost Overhyped And Overrated Album of the Year
Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better. I'm not surprised that this album sold so well, because bad albums usually do. I'm more surprised that even discerning record critics liked this lame excuse for playing the same song thirteen times and then release it as an album.

Kidnapped by NeptuneMost Abrasive Female Singing Since PJ Harvey's Rid of Me
Scout Niblett: Kidnapped By Neptune. This is not an easy album, nor is it an album that you are ever going to really like, but it's a pretty good one. You never quite know whether Scout Niblett is really such a twisted, tormented personality or whether it's just part of her act, and that puts her firmly in the ranks of scary female singers. Although it's obvious why she is often compared to PJ Harvey and Cat Power, she brings in enough original style and madness to make this an original, if totally spooky record.

A Ghost Is BornBest Neu!/Byrds Crossover Song So Far
Wilco: "Spiders (Kidsmoke)". The rhythm pattern is stolen from krautrockers Neu!, the guitar solos could be right out of the Byrds' "Eight Miles High"; both elements and an instrumental chorus (I love those!) are amalgamated into one of the most hypnotic 10-minute songs recorded in the past decade. You either love this or you hate it, but you'll always treat a song like this with respect.

Posted by Horst at 09:05 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

December 31, 2005

I'm not really sure what happened to music this year. A couple of strange developments, both in terms of retro movement, hystericism and stripping down to bare essentials occurred this year, which is why much of this year's music is more reminiscent of late 1960's/early 1970s than anything else. Whereas chart music has mostly turned into forgettable trash, the indie/alternative fringe seems to have grown older with most of its listeners and critics. Not a bad thing at all, but a record like Sufjan Stevens' Illinois or Devendra Banhart's Cripple Crow would have been inconceivable five years ago.

Anyway, let's cut the crap and talk about my favourites:

Man-MadeTeenage Fanclub: Man-Made. Neither particularly surprising nor particularly innovative nor overly ambitious, Teenage Fanclub's new album is simply a logical progression from their previous albums. Recorded in Chicago with John McEntire, they have recorded their best album ever, 12 songs without a single dud, just beautiful music from start to finish. Along with Wilco's A Ghost Is Born, this is the record that had the most rotation on my stereo and iPod this year.

IllinoisSufjan Stevens: Illinois. Certainly the most ambitious album of the year, and probably the one that with the most cult potential. With its compelling, at times eccentric storytelling, Illinois expands like a cinemascope movie in front of your mind's eye. It may be a bit too long and occasionally a bit overindulgent, but it's simply impossible not to acknowledge the effort.

EmohLou Barlow: Emoh. After an extensive discography with Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion, Lou Barlow's first solo effort turned out to be a fairly pleasant surprise. While all the trademark elements of his previous works are still there, this largely acoustic set is more consistent than any of his previous albums and based on stronger melodies and lyrics than ever before.

In the ReinsCalexico - Iron & Wine: In the Reins. Considering that I'm usually not the kind of person who is attracted to Country Music, this collaboration by Calexico and Iron & Wine took me completely by surprise. Again, this is beautiful music that immediately grabs your attention, and the sentimental moments are either few, or they simply feel so right that you can't complain about them at all.

Apologies to the Queen MaryWolf Parade: Apologies to the Queen Mary. At first I thought they were too hysterical, then I thought they sounded too much like the Arcade Fire, but then I started to like both the hysterical, tormented singing and found that they were actually better than the Arcade Fire because they seem to have a wider musical range and less inhibitions.

Honorable mentions:

Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production of Eggs
Sleater-Kinney: The Woods
Wilco: Kicking Television - Live in Chicago
The Fall: Fall Heads Roll
Archer Prewitt: Wilderness

For more great albums, see the special awards posted earlier.

Posted by Horst at 10:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

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