The Nails

I like list songs.

Mary Lou Lord performs one stand-out, ‘His Indie World’, a nicely twee tribute to boys who love a particular type of band. In it she reels off the names of a number of lo-fi types, even rhyming ‘Sebadoh’, ‘Sentridoh’ and ‘I don’t know’ in one verse. This takes a particularly rare kind of talent indeed.

Then there’s ‘I’ve been Everywhere’, most famously performed by Johnny Cash, but far more satisfying in its original Australian guise, if only because you don’t get to hear the names ‘Woolloomooloo’ and ‘Woodenbong’ mentioned in song too often.

My favourite, however, is ’88 Lines About 44 Women’ by The Nails, which is almost certainly unique amongst list songs in that you know exactly what you’re getting before it starts. There’s no messing around, no ambiguity: in all likelihood the single came shrink-wrapped with a warning declaring ATTENTION: THIS IS A LIST SONG. GOT THAT?

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It’s also a completely pointless record. It doesn’t really have a beginning, a middle or an end. There’s no proper verses and definitely no chorus, unless you count the tuneless humming. It’s literally a list of ladies and their likes, read out in increasingly hysterical fashion over an electronic backing that sounds as if it came free with a breakfast cereal.

It’s a triumph.

Update: It’s like waiting for buses. I haven’t written about music in an age, then three entries come along at once. The third is over at the Greencine blog, where I rattle on at length about some music films you might not have seen.


“We’ve always felt that in the battle between the corporates on the one hand and the nutters in bedrooms on the other, the latter would prevail. Hence we’ve hired our own nutter.”

I have a new job. Quite why this is the kind of news that makes the media pages of The Guardian (registration required), I’m not sure, but I’m not complaining, and do I love the quote. I feel like it gives me carte blanche to turn up on my first day at work on all fours, pushing a pea along with my nose, or to arrive by tricycle, dressed as Kate Bush, juggling soot.

More worryingly, I’m going to be surrounded by people who’ll know more about music than I do. So I’ve decided to turn blogjam into one of those occasional mp3blog type-things, at least until I get bored, or until the first cease & desist order arrives. This, of course, is a willfully crude attempt to curry favour with my new colleagues, and to give them the impression that I’m not the musical ignoramus they’ll no doubt suspect.

My first track is Dynamite Chair by The Poster Children, and because there’s a video on YouTube, I’m not even going to bother with the mp3.

I’ve never been convinced by the theory that music is supposed to mean anything, but it should make you feel something, and Dynamite Chair makes me want to bounce. Up and down. Frantically. Or if, I’m not in a environment where I can safely bounce, I’ll flail. No other track generates this reaction for me.

I have no idea what the song is about – the video may offer some clues, containing a series of rather spectacular explosions and a man being gaffa-taped to a chair before being offered sushi – but none of this matters.

Just bounce.

easyjet action

Some things appeal to the 12-year-old schoolboy in me. This is one.

Imagine the scene: You’re a bored junior designer at an ad agency. You’d love to be working on prestigious TV campaigns, but you’re stuck producing banner ads at the thin end of the budget. Your latest brief is for Easyjet’s summer promotions, and you’re struggling for inspiration.

Hmmm. Holidays. The Beach. Sun. Sunburn. Sun cream. Yeah, that’ll do. Whatever.

Then you spot something. You’ve noticed that often the bottom half of skyscraper ads drop below the fold, and with a cunning bit of graphical trickery you can make that lotion look like… well, you figure it out.

Or, to put it another way: I don’t believe this was an accident.

Silkworm Pupa Pizza

Without wishing to resort to racial stereotyping, the Asians really do appear to eat absolutely anything. Oxfam run a programme in India that pays locals to capture rats that are then sold for food. In Vietnam, delicious baby mice are served up on a bed of ginger, garlic, coriander and rice. The Burmese are fond of settling down with a nice plateful of grilled bat, while birds’ nest soup (actually made from saliva) is an expensive delicacy in much of South-East Asia. Give a Filipino balut (the partially formed foetus of a baby bird, served warm from the shell), and you’ll have a friend for life, whilst north of Phnom Penh there’s no finer Cambodian hospitality than that which is accompanied by deep-fried tarantula.

China, of course, excels at this sort of thing – visit the night market a couple of blocks east of the Forbidden City and you’ll be confronted with stall after stall selling scorpion and sea horse, while Beijing also plays host to an internationally renowned penis restuarant: last time I was in town I tried to drum up support for a trip to sample its glandular gastronomy, but nobody took the bait, and I don’t think it’s the kind of place you want to be seen visiting unaccompanied.

The tail-end of the same trip found me in Seoul, where I followed esteemed food-blogger Noodlepie’s advice and visited Noryangjin Fish Market in search of freaky food. It’s an extraordinary place, 6000 square metres of space containing 700 shops stacked high with all the creatures of the sea – every possible variety of fish, crabs, octopus, squid, prawns, abalone, clams, oysters, giant pink sea slugs… the shopping list is endless. The market seems to contain enough food to feed the World’s hungry, but Seoul chomps its way through through this mountain of sea-meat each and every day. It’s genuinely staggering.

While I’d like to try a slice of raw monggae (a mottled red sack of soft flesh covered in acne-like spots, and apparently delicious), it’s only 6.30 in the morning and the first floor restaurants aren’t yet open. I wander the streets for a while in search of food, finally grabbing some snacks from a 7/11, and it’s here that I strike the mother-load.

At first glance it looks like an ordinary tin, but turn it round so the English translation is visible, and voila! Salvation in a tin.

Yep, it’s silkworm pupa. Seasoned with soy sauce and sugar. Sounds like some kind of heavenly nectar, right? I’m determined to find out, so I stow the wormy wonder in my hand luggage and return forthwith to the UK, where I open the tin.

It doesn’t look good. If anything, the pupa resemble miniature cockroaches that have had their legs and antennae removed, as if to streamline their appearance.

Raw, it doesn’t taste great. Not that I’m an expert on bug eating or anything, but it kind of tastes like you’d expect it to; a bit dusty, a bit husky, with bits that get stuck between your teeth and probably don’t digest too well. Your Koi carp might disagree, but I think it needs cooking.

Pizza is the answer. I rustle up a batch of dough, add a layer of tomato paste, sprinkle some grated mozzarella over the top, then carefully arrange some asparagus spears clock-style over the base. (Note: this artistic flourish gives the casual viewer the impression that I’ve laboured many hours over the recipe, and that my cooking skills have advanced to a point where the fine art of final presentation has become as important as flavour. This couldn’t be further from the truth, of course: all this arseing around merely disguises the fact that I’ve made no effort at all). Finally, the pupa are laid out in their cheesy graveyard.

Visually speaking, it’s an obvious triumph. The asparagus wheel draws the attention, while the silkworm pupa nestle cozily in the melted cheese, wilted and glistening. Breathlessly I steer a pizza cutter through my doughy prize, carving out a generous slice of Korean-Italian ecstasy.

It isn’t very nice. In fact, it’s quite nasty. So I throw away the pizza and eat some toast. With jam on it. Nice jam.

Mmmm, I like jam.

pyongyang pc sale

Outside the Kimilsungia-Kimjonglia Exhibition Hall, home to Pyongyang’s spectacular annual flower exhibition, there’s a gift shop (wherever you go, there’s always a gift shop). This one sells the usual DPRK faire: seeds, ginseng, motorbike parts, postcards, that sort of thing… and it also sells computers. There’s a gleaming, unpriced Mac G5 sitting in the corner, while several PCs clutter up the counter-space. Unusually, a couple of them are priced in tourist currency (in this case $US, although the euro is more commonly seen) and North Korean won, suggesting that there’s a bustling local trade in used computers.

Modem apparently not included

One careful owner

On my flight from Shenyang to Pyongyang, I sat behind several rows of young North Koreans, Kim badges shining proudly on their lapels. Three of them were also wearing iPods. And if they have mp3 players, you figure they have access to computers. Perhaps they bought them at a flower exhibition.

propaganda poster poser

Last time I went to North Korea I brought back a trio of rather dandy socialist realism posters that Blogjam readers very kindly translated for me.

Rather splendidly, it’s that time again. So if anyone can translate the text in the poster below from Hangul into English, I’d be forever grateful. Personally, I expect it reads something along the lines of, “Hey! Did you spill my Taedonggang?”