21 July 2009

Follatio bread

It was the big news of last week: Bread.

Not the shitty band, the food product. In what was probably one of the biggest news stories in the nation during the latter part of Wednesday afteroon, the debate raged as to whether folate should be added to bread (a process known by the technical name "folation").

It looks like the Government may eventually arrange for the addition of folate to bread. However, it won't be compulsory, according to the Timaru Herald: "While the Government says it will seek feedback on the moratorium and other options before a final decision is made, by signaling that a moratorium is its preferred option, Mr Key has effectively called a halt to the compulsory regime."

I think this is a good thing - I don't think bread should be folated against its will.

I don't usually do polls, mostly because I don't have any readers to answer them, but this is important. Should we be folating bread?

The polls are now open.

UPDATE: Polls closed. The overwhelming majority (75%) agree: It's hard to believe people voted for that dick Tony Ryall.
A quarter believe we should not add folate, and no one is in favour of folating bread.

03 July 2009

Bat for Bowie

Aging and death - fun topics, right? Well, they seem especially prominent to me at the moment. Publicly, there was Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson et al. Privately, my dad is not in good health. And I don't know about you, but I keep getting older. So I've decided to make two brief recommendations for your music collection that deal, to some degree, with such matters.

Firstly, the sublime Two Suns by Bat for Lashes.

Now don't be fooled, Bat for Lashes is a band only in the sense that Nine Inch Nails is a band. Bat for Lashes is really Natasha Khan, an England-based artist. This is from her website bio:

Born in 1979, yet combining influences that span decades, Natasha’s work dwells in the elemental, emerging in timeless forms.

But just ignore that Earth-child shit, her music is actually really good. The latest album is apparently largely inspired by "a coming together and journeying apart of two suns, two half hearts... a King and a Queen...". Thank God for relationships. If it wasn't for them not only may we not have been born, but no one would have anything to sing about.

Anyway, the last track on the album, 'The Big Sleep', addresses death pretty bluntly... but hey, you can make it your ringtone if you like!

Enough with the cynicism - Two Suns is a fantastic, dreamy and yet soaring collection of songs. Its gorgeous, delicate soundscape has a lullaby-like quality at times, and yet also features surprisingly funky beats. (The beat programming and bass was partly courtesy of Brooklyn psychedelic experimental band Yeasayer). As the music reviewer cliche goes, it's an album that rewards repeat listening.

Here's the first single off the album, "Daniel", mashed up on You Tube to go with the Karate Kid. [Edit: Sometimes that link works and sometimes not, but you can probably google the You Tube vid.]

(Update: I have just read this interesting article from The Telegraph (which coincidantly used the same photo as I did). It points out Natasha is the cousin of the famous squash player Jahangir Khan, whom her father, Rehmat Khan, coached for several years. This period included his exceptional five year unbeaten run that lasted more than 500 games, and was ended by New Zealand's Ross Norman.)

Along with Two Suns, I happen to be listening to a lot to the excellent David Bowie album Reality. In many ways Bowie is at the opposite end of the spectrum to Khan. He ain't young, he's not new on the music scene, and he's not a cute chick. But he is British and he is talented. Reality is generally accepted to be arguably Bowie's best album since Scary Monsters. (I've heard it argued that Let's Dance or Heathen are better.)

I think Reality is massive fun, and one of the great albums of this century. It does somewhat dwell on those issues of old age, death, isolation and so forth. At least half the tracks are overtly orientated to issues of old age, loneliness and approaching death. But it's sincere, thoughtful and good pop music all at the same time.

Not every song is ostensibly about such morbid matters. For example, there's the enigmatic lead single 'New Killer Star', with what seems to me to be quite humourous lyrics:

See my life in a comic
Like the way they did the Bible
With the bubbles and action
The little details in colour
First a horseback bomber
Just a small thin chance
Like seeing Jesus on Dateline
Let's face the music and dance.

Nevertheless, even on such tracks, death seems always on his mind. After all, the album's first line is a 9/11 reference: "See the great white scar over Battery Park". In light of this, the ambiguous but catchy chorus of 'New Killer Star' seems somehow poignant:

All the corners of the buildings,
Who but we remember these,
The sidewalks and trees...

Now, there's your earth child.