November 22, 2013

First World Problems

In case you were wondering: on the whole, no, it hasn't notably improved.

Actually, that's not quite the case everywhere. Some of the software is longer quite the unmitigated catastrophe it used to be, in consequence of my having rewritten that horror from the ground up. At some point I'll probably post the new stuff on github or wherever for the enjoyment* of all.

But in most other respects it remains the fucking pits.

The last time I hated work this much I was getting paid twice as much, and would probably be getting double that again if I'd stuck around in that benighted realm. I mention this not because I'm concerned about the money; au contraire, mon frère. I gave that up happily for the prospect of doing something interesting and fulfilling that I cared about.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what this isn't.

I can't tell whether every day I get through without resigning is a success or a failure. But it looks like this has been another one.

Next week I have not one but two work Xmas dinners, on successive nights. (Yes, I know it's only fucking November.)

I don't know, maybe if I get drunk and abusive enough on Thursday I'll be able to get disinvited from Friday's...

* Ha ha fucking ha.

Posted by matt at 3:52 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2013

Difficult Listening Hour

Good evening. Welcome to Difficult Listening Hour. The spot on your dial for that relentless and impenetrable sound of Difficult Music. So sit bolt upright in that straight-backed chair, button that top button, and get set for some difficult music.

Actually, it wasn't that difficult at all. Music in 12 Parts is a bit of a marathon, but it generally gets more interesting as it goes along. And while Come Out the following night seemed a little pointless in a live concert, Music for Pieces of Wood was great and the main event, Music for 18 Musicians, was an absolute triumph, Reich's masterpiece performed beautifully by the Colin Currie group.

And while Ubu at the 100 Club was certainly a horse of different colour, David Thomas surely also qualifies as a grand old man of American music, showing the whippersnappers how it's done.

Posted by matt at 5:09 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2013

News from nowhere

In case you were wondering, I fucking hate my new job. I hate the place, I hate the work, I don't go much on most of the people and I don't believe in the methods. The only reason I haven't quit already is that the joint awfulness of (i) failure, and (ii) job hunting again is slightly worse. But even then it's balanced on a knife edge.

Posted by matt at 3:41 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2013


I liked Upstream Color a great deal. It takes awhile to settle down and is a little overcomplete -- it could do with stopping maybe one scene earlier -- but it's very smart and really quite affecting, with achingly sympathetic central characters. Likely to be one of my films of the year.

Where the original Kick-Ass was witty, charming and clever, its sequel is witless, charmless and stupid. Ack.

Elysium was unreasonably ponderous and unengaging for something with so many promising ingredients. As with KA2 it was hard not to compare it unfavourably to its predecessor and find it wanting in every way.

Of course, as leaden blockbuster epics go, Elysium was as nothing in comparison to Man of Steel. I'd say it was the last word in joyless, humourless, self-important, noisy and interminably dull superhero toss, but that's just wishful thinking: they're still letting that prick Zack Snyder make films.

Oh, there was Star Trek Into Darkness too, wasn't there? Eh. At least JJ has some sense of fun.

The Book of Mormon was very, very funny, and also surprising clever and humane. I had no real idea what to expect from it, and was not particularly optimistic, but I had a great time.

By contrast, the recent version of Merrily We Roll Along left me pretty cold. This is a piece I've liked since I was a teenager, but Maria Friedman's production was strangely unengaging, never quite managing to make lead character Frank into anything other than an irritating twat. The TV interview scene was very well done, though.

The Drowned Man is a staggering exercise in set dressing, and also a very enjoyable evening, much bigger but considerably less coherent than the most obvious recent comparison, Shunt's The Architects. Much of the time it seemed more like Myst or Riven than "theatre", whatever that is, vast and detailed and somewhat open. I could easily go again.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Puz/zle was my favourite of the many dance shows of the last few months, certainly a bit noodly in places but shot through with some fabulous images, as well as, pretty early on, a moment of shocking violence that had me quite off balance for much of the rest of the show. The nearly-final set piece was a moment of such precise theatrical perfection that I almost burst into tears right then.

Two Akram Khan pieces a few weeks later probably didn't benefit from the proximity. I liked significant parts of iTMOi, Khan's meditation on The Rite of Spring, which had some nice dancing and some nice images, but overall it seemed just a wee bit laboured. Much worse was the highly-praised full-length solo Desh, which consisted of a few lovely moments padded out with interminably self-indulgent mime, monologuing, and mawkishness. There's no denying that the set for the closing section is fantastic, though. I can only assume that the piece's admirers were so bamboozled by it as to forget the preceding hour and a half.

Hofesh Shecter seems all too much like a one-trick pony these days, but The Art of Not Looking Back at least offers a slightly different angle on his MO, with an all-female cast caught between balletic purity and contemporary roughness, to an uncomfortable soundtrack of intense mother-hatred.

Laurie's concert night with the Kronos Quartet was an odd combination, and probably didn't play to her strengths, but I really enjoyed it all the same. The KQ are certainly brilliant virtuosos.

And finally -- for now -- The Perfect American is very much unlike the Philip Glass operas we know and love, with a much more conventional and grating relationship between the vocal lines and the orchestral score, reminiscent of John Adams. The Improbable/ENO staging is brilliant, though, and it's certainly an interesting take on Uncle Walt -- not one that's likely to make you love him.

Posted by matt at 1:55 PM | Comments (0)

September 3, 2013

Media Whore

Back from the canal trip with a cold. Grrr. But apart from that it was all pretty good. Piloting a narrowboat turns out to be fun, as does negotiating the locks and bridges. And the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is, as expected, long and high and not very wide at all. There's a video, which in all likelihood you have already seen, unless you got here by some terrible mischance, but WTF let's embed it anyway:

The background music was a typical hack job, thrown together on my phone one evening aboard. A simple drum machine sequence piped through some effects, it's heavy on the stereo reverb which basically means it all goes to mush if you listen through your computer speaker or whatever. Headphones, folks, headphones -- yes, I know that's basic schoolboy bad mastering, but so be it.

The track is posted on my recently acquired soundcloud. As with other media sites to which I belong for no good reason, it overlaps with stuff posted here and elsewhere, but not completely. Here, for example, is something previously unheard on WT:

What with SoundCloud and BandCamp, Instagram and YouTube and Vimeo, my media output -- and there's been a brief productivity spike in recent weeks, thanks to the job gap -- really does seem to be all over the damn place. Perhaps I should consolidate. I could post everything here and be done with it, but that would just guarantee that it all went unseen. I could capitulate to The Man and put it all on Facebook, but fuck that. I prefer this current rather ramshackle, scattershot approach. Let us embrace the fragmentation and revel in confusion.

Posted by matt at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2013

Island Jitters

Posted by matt at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2013

Filler 61

I'm basically only posting this to get that hideous colour scheme off the front page.

You might have noticed -- were you the sort of person who visited often enough to make such a thing noticeable, which, of course, no-one is -- that WT was offline for the best part of a week. The reasons for this are still far from clear, but ultimately boil down to my hosting provider being rubbish. I really must get around to relocating the site somewhere better, but it's such a drag. If there's one thing you can rely on in this world, it's inertia.

I actually have various things to report, but I'm not going to right now as I must dash. So let me just place this as a marker for if/when I get around to a fuller elucidation:

  • Mormons
  • Amanda
  • Sark
  • Drowned Man
  • Mind the Gap
  • etc...

And actually I don't think I said anything about Puz/zle, iTMOi, Desh, Merrily, Scala 20, Laurie & Kronos, Walt, Hofesh, Fairport. Nor did I post plant pictures or give detailed reports on my guitar exploits. Or even just the odd preening selfie. I so fail at blogging these days.

Posted by matt at 12:26 PM | Comments (2)

July 29, 2013

The Dogfight Missile Designed to Dominate its Decade!

When WT started, chances are you'd never heard of a credit crunch, triple dip recession, or Barack Obama. Facebook didn't exist, neither did YouTube and especially not Twitter. "Smartphones" looked like this:

The next big apocalypse was going to be SARS. An Arab Spring was a gymnastics move, Katrina a Eurovision singer and tea parties involved Earl Grey and French Fancies. London bombings were the province of dissident Irish republicans, London Olympics were grainy newsreels of 1948 and London venues were thick with smoke.

The King had yet to return, the Sith hadn't revenged and Batman hadn't begun. Doctor Who was a fondly-remembered historical relic for nerds of a certain age, rather than a global brand. Sherlock meant Basil Rathbone, James Bond was Pierce Brosnan with an invisible car, and movies of V for Vendetta and Watchmen would have seemed pretty bloody unlikely.

Civil partnerships were not legal in the UK, let alone gay marriage. Ian and I had no nephews or nieces. Peter was alive and well (as were Pina Bausch and Steve Jobs; I had barely even heard of pancreatic cancer).

I hadn't even the vaguest thought of becoming a scientist. I made mostly pretty dumb software for very dumb platforms. I also danced and bounced and flew and cycled and taught aerobics.

I didn't know you.

Here's a little scrap of topical noise. See you in July 2023. Or, y'know, possibly before.

(I promise not to use this stylesheet again before then...)

Posted by matt at 1:23 PM | Comments (0)

July 28, 2013


She'd want you to have it, Veronica. She always said you couldn't accessorise for shit.

Posted by matt at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2013

Bob & Judy

So, I got the job. This is almost certainly a good thing, although as I mentioned before it's some way out of my comfort zone. You have to do that from time to time, right? I'm apprehensive, but also looking forward to getting my teeth into something new. It starts on 16 September.

One immediate problem is trying to maintain enthusiasm for the work I'm clearly not going to finish before moving on. This is frustrating, because some of it is pretty promising, and with a few more months it could actually be worthwhile. But there aren't those months -- in theory I finish in a fortnight, though of course it won't be quite that clear cut -- and if I try to carry this stuff on alongside my new job it'll just drag on forever, getting nowhere with exponential slowness. I've seen plenty of those Zeno papers, 90% complete at the end of someone's term, getting intermittently worked over in odd interstices for years and years, unable to keep up as the field moves on around them, gradually acquiring semi-mythic status, like spectres haunting the halls of the department, occasionally glimpsed with clanking chains and severed head tucked under arm, irrelevant but glumly immortal. Every now and then you'll walk into the office and there's that erstwhile PhD student, several post-doc jobs down the line, back for a meeting with the PI as if there was still any fucking point to the whole business.

So, um, not that.

It's all about handing over, I think. Not that there is really anyone to hand over to, but still. If it's somewhat documented and vaguely functional and at least a bit usable someone may eventually use it. And if they don't, well -- that'll no longer be my problem.

Posted by matt at 9:04 AM | Comments (0)