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

February 2006 Archive


February 01, 2006

Is there some trick how can you find out the URL of the website, or the contact e-mail address, or the telephone number of a club called "West Germany", located in Berlin? Is it likely that they would have neither? And why would they pick such an un-Googleable name for a club?

All I found was a postal address (Update: and an obscure mobile number that doesn't seem to be working). Seems as if I'll have to write an old-fashioned letter.

Posted by Horst at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)


February 02, 2006

Observation 1: The ideal length of a long play album is between about 36 and 42 minutes. Incidentally, this happens to be the average length of a vinyl record in the 1960s and 1970s. Interestingly, this is not just the length of a recording that you can fit on a vinyl disc without compromising the sound quality too much (if you don't care about sound, a vinyl record can carry well over 60 minutes of music), it also seems to be about the amount of music that an averagely gifted musician can produce in the course of a year (the Beatles, who made two l.p. records per year, or Mozart, who composed a lot more, are of course not considered "average").

However, this optimum record length has become a problem in the age of the compact disc, when you can fit about 80 minutes of music on a disc and most musicians therefore feel compelled to fill their discs with at least 55 minutes of music. With very few exceptions, all of these tend to drag. Actually, most CDs feel like they're at least ten minutes too long. I think this is because whatever you are listening to, everybody needs a break after 45 minutes. It's probably not a coincidence that classes at school and university are usually 45 minutes long.

Observation 2: I rarely listen to song lyrics. I appreciate their presence, but I usually notice them only if they're particularly good or particularly bad. Since I don't pay full attention, it might take me a while to understand song lyrics. Some I understand instantly and they make sense, more or less; some take a few listens until I get them. Some seem to be just jumbled sounds, and I might understand them at some point, or never. For example, I don't think I'll ever be able to fully understand what Mark E. Smith is mumbling.

Sometimes, however, I will suddenly understand lyrics that I've been unable to decipher for ridiculously long periods. For example, it was only yesterday that I understood that on "Another Girl", Paul McCartney is singing "Through thick and thin she will always be my friend". This realisation struck me no less than 26 years after I bought the record and first listened to that song.

Observation 3: You can still play a vinyl long play record if you accidentally spill yoghurt on it, but a CD that has been in contact with yoghurt will refuse to play.

Posted by Horst at 07:52 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


February 04, 2006

Th' Faith Healers. Photo by Mick Mercer.
Th' Faith Healers around 1991/92. Photo by Mick Mercer. Used with kind permission.

It seems there is an almost unbelievable explanation for the sudden spike of visitors to my Faith Healers fan website during the past few days. It also explains why I received an e-mail from Gordon Moakes of Bloc Party, in which he writes about his appreciation of th' Healers.

Th' Faith Healers reunite for a series of concerts in March and April 2006.

Oh my. It seems I will be travelling to Berlin and/or London pretty soon.

Posted by Horst at 10:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)


February 08, 2006

The logo of the discount supermarket chain Hofer is a big blue stylised "A".

Between 1965 and 1967 Miles Davis worked and toured with what is referred to as his "second Great Quintet", Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. They recorded what many consider to be if not Miles' best, so at least his most unique and groundbreaking records until then, E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer and Nefertiti. One thing that is interesting about these records is that up until then, Miles had always written most of the songs on his records himself. However, of the 26 tracks on these four albums, only three were by Miles. Most of the remaining 23 were written by Shorter, but even Hancock and Williams wrote more than Miles. Question: in a genre that is mostly based on improvisiation, does it matter? Second question: why did Miles stop writing almost entirely during those two years? Third question: how is the fact that most people consider these records Miles' best, connected to the answers of questions one and two?

I sometimes enjoy writing things that don't make sense. I also enjoy inventing things, making them up as I go along. The funny thing is, I can invent almost anything, and people will invariably believe every word I'm writing. On the other hand, in those rare instances when I am writing the truth, nobody believes a single thing I'm saying.

Had dinner with Mig tonight. Realised once again that the best thing to do to get ideas, any kind of idea really, is to talk to other people, no matter about what, just talk. Like once I got an idea about how to implement a fairly tricky thing in a website design after a colleague came in and we talked about molluscs for a while. It was something about how the molluscs he had collected in the lido of Venice had died when he had put them into clean water because they had adapted so well to the dirty water in the lido that clean water killed them almost instantly. Or something like that.

Posted by Horst at 10:13 PM | Comments (10)


February 09, 2006

I think I have the ability to spot people who will, at some point in the future, turn into maniacs and gun down either their families or random people on the street and then subsequently kill themselves. Whenever I see such people on the tram or on the underground I shudder briefly and hope they aren't carrying an uzi in their briefcase.

Or probably I don't have that ability at all. Just as I was perfectly unable to detect that the man who was living two stories above me was in fact the man who had stolen the saliera from the Museum of Fine Arts two years ago and that the saliera itself had been hidden in this very house, under that man's very bed, for a few months. But then an art thief with a saliera under his bed is not exactly the same thing as a potential manic killer with an uzi in his briefcase.

Anyway, why do some people look like potential killers? And I am not talking about the kind who looks like your average brutal thug from some TV series, but the kind who looks so frighteningly normal and harmless that you just know there is some demon/neurosis/psychosis sleeping in that person because otherwise there would be no way somebody would dress like this, have a haircut like this, wear glasses like this or clutch his briefcase like this.

And somehow it seems that this kind of person is appearing more frequently on the streets and in public transport lately. Is this just a fashion phenomenon, or are people becoming stranger? Or is it me who is becoming paranoid? What if I noticed one day that there was an uzi in my own briefcase? Would I be surprised, or would it be something that I had been quietly suspecting all along?

Posted by Horst at 07:29 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


February 10, 2006

I am currently trying to figure out the rationale behind why the motto on "Smart" cigarette packs has been changed from Semper et ubique to Life is a journey.

Posted by Horst at 09:06 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


February 13, 2006

Gah

I fear that one day, one of two things will be my downfall: chocolate that comes in cute wrappers or friends who talk too much about the cool books they are reading. That, or obscure Chet Baker records that I feel compelled to buy.

Posted by Horst at 10:32 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


February 14, 2006

Having mentioned "obscure Chet Baker records" yesterday, the one I linked to may have a goofy, unprofessional cover picture, but it's actually quite good. Very good, to be precise. However, in terms of buying records that really make very little sense, I am currently trying to figure out if I should really buy the reissue of what is generally considered to be Chet Baker's worst record, and from the sound clips that I've heard, it's really abysmally bad.

I've had it on order from Amazon for a while now, and more than once have I considered cancelling the item from my order. However, for some reason I never hit that "Cancel" button, much as I thought I ought to, so it's still in my order, it's become available now, and if I don't cancel it soon, it may be in the mail any day.

Arguments against cancelling: it might be interesting, for purely documentary reasons, to own the worst thing that Baker has ever recorded, if only to demonstrate it to people who might be interested how low he sunk at one point. Also, it's only €7, and I've bought pretty awful records for more than that.

Arguments for cancelling: the CD is bad. It's really bad. I am not going to listen to it very often. In fact, I may not listen to it more often than once. And €7 is the equivalent of two delicious portions of Dim Sum at Happy Buddha. Which are most likely much more satisfying than this CD.

It's painful enough to be a shopping addict, but there's this truly spooky feeling of uneasiness once you start buying stuff that's not just useless, but that you know you aren't going to like.

Posted by Horst at 10:35 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


February 15, 2006

road at night

I took the bus on my way home from work yesterday. I usually take the tram, but there was a disruption, so I took the bus instead. It was already dark outside and it was one of these new buses that are equipped with somewhat gloomy lighting, presumably to save energy or to keep vandals from damaging anything on the bus because they can't see it properly.

It was in that dim lighting that I had a flashback.

During my last two years at grammar school, I had this subscription for classical music concerts three times per semester. This involved a 75 mile coach ride to Linz, the city where these concerts took place.

Apart from the concerts, some of which were really good, I have this very strong memory of the coach rides back home. The concerts would end around 9:00 or 9:30pm, so it was usually a ride in the dark. As I tended to get sick on coaches, I would usually sit somewhere in the front.

I have this very strong memory of the coach gliding through the landscape almost noiselessly, which is most likely not true, but usually the concerts would leave most of us so awestruck and/or tired that there was next to no talking on the bus, so that might cause this false memory.

And I remember the dark interior of the coach, and the greenish night lights, and the dark landscape outside, where you could only see shadowy outlines of whatever it was that was out there. And the headlights of the coach on the street, and the white line in the middle of the road.

Posted by Horst at 08:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


February 16, 2006

Just a brief note that I have migrated my music page to Movable Type, meaning that the record reviews are now also available as an RSS feed.

Posted by Horst at 08:34 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


February 20, 2006

Not that I ever really noticed he was gone. Since I don't have any children, I easily overlook these things. It seems Barbie® and Ken® separated two years ago after a relationship of 43 years "because they wanted to spend some time apart". Strange how even Toyland more and more emulates the real world.

I never understood what Barbie® saw in Ken® anyway, just as I never understood what children saw in Ken®. He always seemed to be a bit of a bore. I also never understood the appeal of Big Jim® by the way, so I guess I just have a problem with action figures in general. Actually the first time I heard the term "action figure" I thought the term made no sense because I don't see the potential for action in them, only the potential for boredom. But I suppose that's just me. Oddly, in retrospect I now see Big Jim® more as an icon of the 1970s gay subculture. I somehow doubt he was intended that way, but you have to admit that he is a lot more gay than Barbie® ever came close to being a lesbian.

Anyway, Ken® is back, apparently after having had extensive plastic surgery. No idea whether he is here to stay or whether Barbie® will get bored with him again -- Ken® may have a new face, but apparently he still lacks any of the bodily features that can spice up relationships (I suppose He-Man® might be a more interesting partner for her, not so much because he is a Master of the Universe®, but mostly because he has a more masculine name).

However, I fear that most likely Barbie® and Ken®'s future relationship will depend more on economic matters -- what really matters is whether Ken® makes enough money.

Posted by Horst at 09:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)


February 21, 2006

If you went to a restaurant that had "Blütwurst" on the menu and you felt like eating some, would you pronounce it that way when ordering it or would you pronounce it correctly?

I somehow have the feeling that it says a lot about a person whether s/he chooses to say "Blütwurst" or "Blutwurst", though I'm not sure exactly what it says. Probably something about their sense of humour and how they are enjoying themselves. Probably that those who say "Blütwurst" are fun-loving individuals, whereas those who say "Blutwurst" only prove that they are

  • unimaginative
  • boring
  • normal
  • pedantic
  • pernickety
  • anal-retentive
  • teachers

or all of the above.

I couldn't bring myself to say "Blütwurst" today, no matter how much I tried and how much I wanted to. I am pathetic.

Posted by Horst at 12:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


February 22, 2006

So this thing begins with some tape background noise. Then there's a disaffected drummer churning out a Yanni-type pseudo-bossa nova beat, and immediately some kind of bleeping organ sets in, like those small Casios they had in the early 1980s, only it can't be because this was recorded about ten years earlier.

And then, a few beats later, a trumpet player appears in the right speaker, while the drummer and the Casio continue on the left, and it's obvious that this man can't play. At all. The song is only 2:38 minutes long, but he is struggling to get a straight tone out of his instrument every time he blows into it.

And the next song offers no particular relief. The Casio bleeps along again, and the trumpet player still hasn't learned how to play. At least on the third song, the trumpet is at some point drowned by a heavy-handed Hammond organ that was mixed on top of it, presumably because some sound engineer decided that no listener should have to endure this abysmal playing.

And you are asking yourself: "Why, oh why did they record this? And how could this ever end up in record stores? And what on earth were they thinking?"

It turns out that the bad Chet Baker record that I mentioned last week is really pretty bad. In fact, it completely redefines how the term "bad" can be applied to music recordings.

The story goes that the comedian Steve Allen was a big fan of Baker and let him appear on his TV show several times in the late 1960s when Baker was in pretty poor shape because he had lost his teeth and couldn't play the trumpet properly any longer as a consequence of this.

At some point Baker asked Allen for $5000, and Allen said he would give him the money, but he wanted Baker to make a record for it. And so they recorded Albert's House, a record of tunes composed by Allen, which Baker fans have since been referring to as "Albert's House of Pain".

What's so weird about this record is the acute sense of unintentional (or perhaps intentional?) irony about it. The liner notes call this "a welcome collection of warm new melodies" and say that there "is a quality in Baker's tone that is unmistakeable". Well, yes. The song "A Man Who Used to Be" is referred to as "a haunting waltz ... which may one day become a standard". Which is even true if you take "haunting" very, very literally. There is a reason why this hasn't become a standard.

Picking A Man Who Used to Be as the title for the reissue is ironic again considering Baker's biography up to that point, and issuing this rather hard-to-stomach record in the "Tasty Jazz" series seems pretty daring. Especially considering that it comes in a pseudo-luxury slipcase and is apparently a "24-bit high definition remaster". Considering the piss-poor sound quality of the original I'm not sure if it wouldn't have been preferable to do a low-definition remaster instead.

I don't think I have even one other record that is quite as bad as this one. There are records that are bad simply because they are totally average, or totally boring. This one, however, is an unique blend of incompetence and irony that alternatingly makes you wince in pain and laugh in sheer disbelief.

I'm not going to listen to it very often, but somehow it was worth spending €6.99 just to see how bad a record can actually be.

Posted by Horst at 10:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)


February 23, 2006

So this thing starts with some kind of background noise. White noise. Or pink noise, I forget which is which. How did they come up with those names anyway?

So there's this sound, like static, or whatever, and you think it's just noise until you suddenly hear something that sounds like

EMRAEHUOYNAC EREHTHGUACMAI YAWAOGTNOD
OWTYTROFEERHTYNEWTNEETXISNEETFIFTHGIERUOF

and you ask yourself, did I really hear this or did I simply watch too much Lost yesterday? Especially if you are perfectly aware that you did watch too much Lost the day before.

But something is not quite right, it's either the way the cat looked at you on the way to work this morning, or something in the colour of the sky, and you think that the mushroom sauce that you had for lunch might have been made of, you know, the wrong kind of mushroom.

But there's no proof to confirm your suspicions, ever. And this sort of thing just goes as it came, and you end up sitting in your comfy Poäng chair, the one piece of Ikea furniture that for some reason never shows up as a prop on any TV series, let alone Lost, and you start to wonder if all of this ever really happened.

And then you start wondering about why the Poäng chair never shows up as a prop on any TV series and you know that if you don't find an answer soon, then you might be in some kind of trouble.

And then you realize that you're already in some kind of trouble. Not very serious trouble, but trouble nevertheless.

Posted by Horst at 12:54 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)


February 25, 2006

So it starts with some background noise and the knowledge that you are in trouble because, as you know now, there really was the wrong kind of mushroom in the mushroom sauce and, much as you enjoyed the mild hallucinations, you are worried about your liver now, which probably wasn't in great shape to begin with, and as we all know, poisonous mushrooms can totally wreck your liver.

There was this French scientist called Pierre Bastien who wanted to prove that Vitamin C can prevent mushroom poisoning, so he injected himself with some serum based on Vitamin C and antibiotics and ate a mushroom ragout made with deadly amanita, containing a dose of the poison that could kill an elephant. If elephants ate deadly amanita. Interestingly, he survived, but his liver was pretty much ruined afterwards.

Not that this would be of any consequence in this particular case, as the mushrooms involved here and now were obviously not deadly amanita, because if they had been, there wouldn't have been any hallucinations, at least not mild ones, and you would be dead by now.

And as you are pondering the daily surprises that life has in store for you, you either start feeling really depressed that even a prosaic thing such as mushroom sauce can ruin your day, or you start feeling really glad that at least the sauce didn't contain any deadly amanita, especially as you aren't keeping any quantities of Monsieur Bastien's serum in your bathroom cabinet.

That difference is what either makes you a pessimist or an optimist.

Posted by Horst at 02:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)



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