Archive for September, 2011

Getting loaded

30 September 2011

I was prompted by an interview with Bobby Gillespie to dig out a copy of Screamadelica, a record I’ve always liked. Listening to it again after a while I was struck by – and maybe this is obvious – the extent to which it sounds like  mid-period Rolling Stones reinvented through a haze of ecstasy. (I’m talking Exile on Main Street-era Stones here; the comparison is not a dismissive one). Certainly tracks like ‘Movin’ On Up or Loaded or Damaged could have been covered by the Stones before they descended into caricature, and without seeming out of place.

Primal Scream, of course, have marked the 20th anniversary of Screamadelica by reforming and playing the album in concert. Personally, I usually find this depressing: in the words of the Irish poet Paul Muldoon in Hay,

All great artists are their own greatest threat

As when they aim an industrial laser

At themselves and cut themselves back to the root

But I’m going to argue with myself here and cut Primal Scream a little slack. Perhaps playing concert versions of Screamadelica is just a way of acknowledging that they understand, in their 40s, that for a moment back then they were touched by greatness.

The picture at the top of the post is from the Bagging Area blog, and is used with thanks.

Measuring porridge

25 September 2011

I like porridge, especially as the days get colder. But I get put off by the instructions.  Take these, from a packet of Quaker Oats, for example:

Mix 45g of Quaker Oats with 340ml of milk or cold water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

45g? 340ml? You need to get the scales out, and a measuring jug, unless you happen to have a brain that’s finely tuned to metric measurements. In a rush, on a cold morning, that doesn’t happen. You guess, and you hope.

So you can imagine my pleasure when I bought a bag of Pimhill’s porridge oats, and found these instructions:

For creamy porridge use 1 level cup of Pimhill Porridge Oats and 2 cups pf cold water or milk.

Cups? Cups! Everyone has cups, and they’re usually close at hand in a kitchen. You don’t have to be on Masterchef to realise that you can use small cups or large cups depending on how much porridge you’re planning to make, as long as you use the same cup for both oats and liquid. And it’s so simple that once you’ve read it you’ll remember it – even when faced with instructions that expect people to think like computers. A wonderfully simple piece of user-based information.

The picture at the top of this post was taken by Andrew Curry. It is published here under a Creative Commons licence: some rights reserved.

Mano a mano

8 September 2011

There are times – rare times – when professional cycling resembles nothing so much as boxing, but without the physical contact: two riders, usually at the end of a mountain stage, well beyond their physical limits, slugging it out with each other. Indeed, some of the most famous moments in cycling are about this: Anquetil and Poulidor duelling on the Puy de Dome, of which fragments remain, Hinault and Lemond (on the same team!) battling their way up Alpe d’Huez before eventually acknowledging each other in a gesture of mutual respect and crossing the line together.

Cycling fans were treated to a similar duel yesterday between two relatively unheralded riders, Christopher Froome of Sky and Juan Jose Cobo of Geox, who started the stage second and first respectively, separated by just 22 seconds. The stage was the last mountain finish of the race, so represented the last opportunity for a decisive attack.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, in case you don’t know the result, but Froome attacks with about 1500 metres to go, on a climb that varies between one-in-seven and one-in-five (eight minutes into this Procycling video); he looks as if he’s created a winning advantage; Cobo, the race leader, staring at losing the whole race, digs deep into his reserves and slowly cranks himself up the hill, before launching his own counter-attack.

I was breathless watching it; I can’t imagine how deep into oxygen debt the two cyclists were when they finished, but Froome later said it was the hardest day he’d had on a bike. For the rest of us, only gratitude; days like this are the reason cycling is such a special sport.

(The result is here if you can’t be bothered watching the video).

The picture of Cobo leading Froome just before Froome’s attack was taken by the incomparable cycling photographer Graham Watson, and I hope he’ll forgive me using it. Please go and look at look at his other Vuelta pictures on pictures on Velo News.