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The Amazing Life of Ant D - Page 7

  • My Year in Books

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    It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and therefore you'll be expecting the end of year lists to start clogging up your news feeds and I have never been one to disappoint a hungry public. This year though in a break from the norm I will add a new list to that of my singles and albums of the year, this time around I will share with you all the books that I have read this year. My 2014 New Years Resolution was to read more and for once I actually fulfilled it, I have read more books this year than I have in just about the rest of my life combined. So without further ado here is my list;

     

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    1. George Orwell - 1984

    The book that started my resurgence into the world of literature was a true classic. I had thought that if there was ever to be a piece of fiction to get me out of my slump that it would be this and I was right. I loved it, surprisingly enough I didn't really know the plot before I read it despite its classic status, yes I knew all the buzz phrases; Room 101, Big Brother, et al. but only through reading it did I really understand its importance. The first book this year and probably my favourite.

    2. Nicco Machiavelli - The Princeprince.jpg

    In truth this is a book that I really should have read previously considering it was one of the core books of my first year Politics degree but back then I just cleverly took passages that I knew would be relevant rather than reading it cover to cover. In doing so this year I discovered it a fairly harrowing read and for something originally penned in the 16th Century it is clearly still relevant to today's world. At just over 100 pages it should have been a fairly quick read but some parts I felt I had to go over couple of times for it to really sink in. A very interesting book indeed.

    brave new world.jpg3. Aldous Huxley - A Brave New World

    A Christmas present from my little sister this kept to my short lived desire to read Dystopian fiction and did not disappoint. Another classic by all accounts but, due to my embarrassingly limited knowledge of literature, a book I had not previously heard of. In reading it there are obvious comparisons with 1984 and it is easy to see in hindsight why they are the two leading lights in the field. On the whole I really enjoyed Brave New World even if I thought the last chapter was entirely unnecessary. 

    4. Karl Marx & Frederick Engels - The Communist Manifestocommunist manifesto.jpg

    Another shorty, I cheated really in my path to greater numbers, this is another that probably would have significantly enhanced my chances of getting a better mark at University but why live in regret when I can get the benefit of the knowledge 5 years later. The reading of this 'pamphlet' also coincided with the London Marx Walk that I took part in earlier this year, which as it sounds was a walk around some of the landmarks in central London that are significant in the life of Marx. Essential reading for any left leaner and still thoroughly relevant.

    shane macgowan.jpg5. Victoria Mary Clarke & Shane MacGowan - A Drink With Shane MacGowan

    This the first of the years biography section, this book was written as a question and answer session over the course of a couple of months between Shane and his wife Victoria. He comes across very much as I expected as a genius who is thoroughly out of his mind. Equal parts brilliant philosophical thought and drunken ramblings. Both give you a wonderful insight into the life of one of my favourite musicians. Quite a long read but then he has had quite an eventful life.

    6. Yevgeny Zamyatin - We we.jpg

    Another Dystopian fantasy, this one although a classic not quite as famed as the previous two. Again I had no previous knowledge of this book and only found it by searching for books in a similar vein to 1984 and Brave New World. For a short book it took me a while to get into it but when I did I found it as enjoyable a read as the others. Similar themes as expected but told in a different way, We is written as a diary of a man losing his mind/freeing himself from the state oppression. This book gained reputation across Europe far before it did in Zamyatin's native Russia, where the book was banned until relatively recently as anti-state propaganda, their loss though was the rest of the worlds gain.

    republic.jpg7. Plato - The Republic

    This one again, from my University reading list was the first book this year that I really struggled to finish. This is not to say that it isn't very interesting, it is just written in a way that is not particularly easy to read and considering that the original was written more than 2000 years ago I guess it is not too surprising. I hate to repeat or sound cliche but again this book is remarkably relevant for something that was written so long ago and some practices of a perfect democracy I would gladly see put in place today. Written as a conversation between intellectuals, the book tries to discover the ultimate good. Although not an easy read it is probably one of the more memorable books of the year.

    8. Flann O'Brien - The Third Policemanthird policeman.jpg

    It is hard to remember exactly why I chose to read this book, I bought it on the cheap off the internet, I THINK it was a recommendation from Shane MacGowan in his book. If it was I don't think I will listen to any more of his advice (On literature that is, his musical recommendations are exquisite). I found this book the hardest to read of the entire year, not that it was particularly difficult I just didn't enjoy it and I only finished it through sheer stubbornness. On the whole I am a fan of the 'weird' of this world but this seemed unnecessarily so and the ending was just the kind of ending I hate. I won't be reading any more of Mr. O'Brien's work in a hurry

    animal farm.jpg9. George Orwell - Animal Farm

    After the disappointment that was the Third Policeman I went for something that I knew I was going to enjoy and that would be short and easy to read. Having read Animal Farm previously as part of a school project I knew that it would be all of these things. Little did I know just how easy it would be, I finished it in two bus journeys in just the one day. It was just what I needed to get my year of reading back on track.

    10. George Orwell - Keep the Aspidistra Flyingkeep the aspidistra.jpg

    I had bought this and Animal Farm very cheaply in a second hand book shop in Wimbledon and after my previous two trips down Orwell way I thought this would be another delight. I'm going to be honest, I didn't love it. Not an awful lot happens throughout the book, just the decay of a privileged man. I understand the point of it but it did not capture me in the same way as 1984 or Animal Farm. Maybe it is that I prefer the political messages rather than despair at humanity angle that he has gone for in this encounter. This was another book that slowed down my reading for this same reason that I just didn't particularly enjoy the subject matter.

    how not to be.jpg11. Paul Merson - How Not to be a Professional Footballer

    This book was the easiest book that I read all year, despite being well over 300 pages I managed to polish it off in a three or four days. It isn't at all well written and not even remotely insightful, it was just some light relief. Merson's autobiography is a real gossip mag of a book concentrating on his descent into drink, drugs and gambling addiction and a small amount on his career as a professional footballer. It was a fun read and with chapter title's such as 'Do Not Shit on David Seaman's Balcony' you know what you are getting.

    12. Ray Bradbury - Fahrenheit 451farenheit 451.jpg

    My last foray into Dystopian fiction for the year and this time the tale of futuristic firemen who rather than putting out fires are instructed to burn all books that are found in the city. It is the tale of a Fireman who after an encounter with a free spirited young lady questions his whole being. Out of the 4 Dystopian novels that I read this year this was my least favourite but it was still good. I have very much discovered this year that these not too impossible versions of future realities I find fascinating and I will be looking into reading more of them next year. 

    libertines.jpg13. Pete Welsh - Kids in the Riot: High and Low with the Libertines

    A book that I have read half way before but didn't get around to finishing back in the days when literature was not my forte. Not that you can call Pete Welsh's account of boozy nights and obscene amounts of drug abuse high literature. The Libertines being my all time favourite band I can now say that I know far more about their beginnings and what was their inevitable end back in 2004. And I can't say that given me the greatest hope that this years reunion is going to be altogether successful in the long run. Another very easy read that I finished quickly. 

     14. Jad Adams - Tony Benn: A Biographytony benn.jpg

    A bit of a cheat really this one being on the list as I am only half way through it but at over 500 pages of particularly small print I have decided that it will very likely be the book that will see out my 2014. Reading about a great politician and a wonderful man who sadly passed away earlier this year seems a fitting way to end the year. As of now I am only into his early career but it is already amazing and for bonus points it taught me the word 'Recalcitrant'. If you don't know it, look it up, its a cracker!

    And so there it is, my year in books. I have thoroughly enjoyed this new chapter in my life (excuse the pun.. or don't, its your choice), and am planning on replicating it for next year and have already collected a number of titles that I am raring to read. If you lovely readers, any recommendations would be greatly received but if I don't like them I will go on at you about it. Just being honest. In the coming weeks expect my usual best of music lists for singles and albums. See y'all

    END

  • Why I don't buy Red Poppies

    For most of my life I have been buying poppies once a year from the Royal British Legion without really thinking about why. It has only been the last couple of years that I've really sat down and thought about it.

    The Poppy Appeal was originally set up as a way to help the families of those whose lives had been torn apart by the Great War. It was never intended to be something that was continuous as it was hoped, maybe naively, that it wouldn't be needed because the world would see how devastating the war was and would try to avoid it in the future. 

    But of course more war happened and more war happened and now here we are in 2014 and what has the Poppy Appeal become? Yes it is still raising money to help families but it seems to have lost its other equally important message, that war is dreadful and destroys the lives not just of those fighting but also the civilians who live in the areas invaded . 

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    But it is this picture that has led me to write this message today, the picture of what I saw in Kingston town centre just yesterday. The Poppy Appeal team parading around with a military vehicle, a vehicle designed to kill and cause damage, children going up and having their photograph with it. It's disgusting, this is GLORIFYING war. "Look kids, you could grow up to drive one of these and kill some nasty foreigners"

    Why is this glorification of war allowed to happen? Rather than a symbol for death and despair of what has past, I fear the poppy is being used as a symbol of Pride for the British army, of Pride that the Brits keep attacking other countries for little to no reason, at my most cynical it is being used as recruitment for a future generation of killing machines. No war is necessary and in this country nobody is forced to join the army, no one is forced to go out and kill. The military it is a choice made by the individual and drives like this are trying to show war as a glamorous career choice.

    I am by no means suggesting that the work carried out by the Royal British Legion is not worth while and you would hope that it is, according to their website the Poppy Appeal raised £36.6 million last year and I imagine this year that amount will be far higher due to the centenary. Once these soldiers have gone to war and assuming they survive, they ruin their own lives from the trauma that they have seen, they NEED psychological help a lot of the time just to get back to living normal lives but you don't see the Poppy Appeal handing out pamphlets on Mental Health Problems. 

    And now to the Government, in raising money for the Poppy Appeal it relieves the Government from having to deal with the repercussions of the wars that they start. Imagine that £36.6 million for rehabilitation had to come from their budgets, maybe the wars wouldn't look so lucrative after all? 

    20141109_153527.jpgSo anyway this year I have decided that rather than giving my money to a charity that unintentionally, in my eyes, is part of the problem I have donated to the Peace Pledge Union and am wearing a White Poppy this year and showing my support for Peace! A charity that since 1934 has been tirelessly campaigning for a warless world. If you want to do the same you can donate, buy a white poppy or just read about the work they do by clicking this link; 

    http://www.ppu.org.uk/

    Even if you don't agree with anything that I have said here, I hope I have at least made you think about why it is you wear a poppy.

    END

  • Best Albums 2013 Edition

    2013 has been over for all of two hours and rather than being in an alcohol induced stupor parading my dancing skills (or lack thereof) on the dance floor, I find myself sodden and sober after a fairly tedious work shift. When better then to discuss in length my favourite albums of the previous year. This year unlike the last I made sure I listened to as many new albums as I could so that I could compile as comprehensive a list as I could and I've got to say I am not displeased with it. So in reverse order;

     

    43a9bec07b9bde0b576ca83329ad4e24.jpg10. HAIM - Days Are Gone.  This entry by the Californian Family Trio squeezed into the top ten, relegating the likes of Kanye and Laura Marling to the outcast pile. A solid début from the much hyped Haim sisters is fuelled by four top quality singles and a number of album tracks that aren't too shabby either. For me the stand out track is Don't save me which was released as a single towards the end of 2012 but still holds strong into 2014.

     

     

     

    bcf2bf4ab81649366a8f21ddc271cb9c.jpg9. Frankie & The Heartstrings - The Days Run Away. A favourite of mine since 2011, this Mackem four piece have had a busy year. Not only have the band released their 2nd full length album and toured extensively throughout the UK, they have also opened their own multi-purpose store Pop Recs Ltd. The flamboyant front-man Frankie Francis lays his vocals over tracks which aren't ground breaking (in fact they often sound dangerously close to plagiarism) but provide an easy to listen to fun half hour of indie pop.

     

     

    3a85e4add0cc21132699b0d1cf970848.jpg8. Death Grips - Government Plates.  The Controversial Dance/Rap act released what they call a mixtape but to all extents feels like an album proper as a free download in mid November. Despite being their third album in 2 years it feels like it has been worked on in great detail and is possibly their most fluid sounding to date. This release will by no means be to everyone's taste but it is certainly different to most things that I listened to over the past 12 months, I would recommend This is Violence Now (Don't get me wrong) as a track to ease yourself in to their world but in truth it needs to be listened to in full to provide the desired effect.  



    684770a2caf2e7c109a40437624f39d4.jpg7. The Strokes - Comedown Machine. 2013 was the year of surprise releases and this effort from The Strokes was no different. After releasing comeback single One Way Trigger in early March, the New York bands 5th studio album came shortly after. What was seen by many as a return to form after 2011's Angles is still not their best but is yet very listenable and deserves its place in the top 10. Track 50/50 is one of the highlights despite sounding like something that The Paddingtons (anyone remember them?) would have released in the early 2000s 



    f2b71366fff63f5cb7039eb00c70a717.jpg6. Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. This 4th Album by the Glasgow four piece unlike the above two was very much expected having not released an album for more than 4 years. Unsurprisingly this did not disappoint, I was lucky enough to see this band twice in a week in August this year which really helped cement the album as one of my favourites of the year. The final track on the album, Goodbye Lovers and Friends, provides a great end not only to this release but most likely every Franz show for the foreseeable future with the last line stating "This really is the End". Either that or they have announced the end of the band which I really hope isn't the case.


    bf8e67a60f67ed280f06bed3efb30ba0.jpg5. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories. From the 10 second advert during the Super bowl to the slightly longer advert at Coachella Festival to the rumours of its first full play being at a farmer's festival in Australia the PR team working on Daft Punk's 4th album got everything right. By the time Random Access Memories was released it was the only thing that anyone in the world was talking about and what it provided was a completely new sound from the band, a sound that at first I wasn't too sure about but quickly became accustomed to. Having ditched their previous sample heavy melodies in favour of real instruments they may have lost a couple of their original fans but seemed to have gained an a whole lot of new ones. The stand out track for me is the initial release, Get Lucky featuring Pharrell Williams but again the piece works best for me when listened to in full.

    fa03a1fc6f99e41d8f545b4c9432f517.jpg4. M.I.A. - Matangi. Very much a make or break album for this local hero of mine and for me it hit all the right chords. Maya Arulpragasam's last album MAYA was without putting too fine a point on it terrible but with Matangi she has got the balance right between her political message and making good music to listen to. The Track that really got me into this album was Come Walk with me which immediately has a much more listenable quality than some of her previous work and this is echoed across the album but it doesn't take anything away from the personality that she has built up across her previous three studio and numerous mixtape releases.



    e998572c8521fe15b26d3c1635c1e0d6.jpg3. Drenge - Drenge. For me this is the most surprising entry into my list as it doesn't really fit into any category of music that I tend to like. Sure if you listen closely you can hear that it has influences of The White Stripes and Nirvana but at its most basic it is a straight out rock album, something which doesn't usually interest me. Nevertheless in Bloodsports you find my top track of the year and in all its self-titled glory this début from a couple of posh brothers from Derby have made one of my favourite albums. Having seen the band twice this year I do unfortunately have to say I think they are better on CD than they are live but this said I am not rating live performances so top marks to this effort.


    8327e22b734d465bf08141d6d1e63d9c.jpg2. David Bowie - The Next Day. Probably the biggest surprise to hit the music world this year was the release of the single Where are we now? on Bowie's 66th Birthday. I had heard rumours of ill health for the ageing star, so to see that he was in fact thriving and writing some of the best music that he'd released in years was an extremely pleasant turn of events. For me this really was the year of Bowie, this released spawned a new found desire for me to listen to all things the Essex wordsmith had made and this coupled with the exhibit in the V&A has enlightened me further to his talent and made him one of my all time favourite artists. Title track The Next Day as well as being one of my favourites on the album became one of the most controversial singles of the year with its video being banned from a number of TV and Internet channels for its less than favourable religious imagery.

    2012PalmaViolets180Press171212.jpg1. Palma Violets - 180. So we come to my number 1 and it is the début release from Lambeth Four-Piece Palma Violets. 180 is without doubt one of the shoddiest recordings on this list but in this it tries to keep the raw emotion and energy produced by the bands live performances. Unfortunately for me having seen the band three times this year and once in 2012 I have to say that it doesn't quite catch that but nevertheless it has enough to it to make my number one spot. It is obvious to me why I rate this band so highly as they embody all the good things that make the Libertines my favourite all time band and with that is the worry for me that their shelf life could be as short as my Arcadian heroes. I fear that this album could well be a fleeting moment which will soon be gone to soon which makes it that little bit more special. Unsurprisingly for an album that I have rated as my favourite of the year I like every track even the ones that on first listen I was unsure about but if I had to name a couple Best of Friends and Tom the Drum would probably just about pip it.


    Other honourable mentions go to Kanye West and Laura Marling as mentioned briefly above as well as the likes of CHVRCHES, Billy Bragg, Earl Sweatshirt and Peace to name but a few who only just missed out on a place in the top 10.

    The wooden spoon this year unfortunately is handed to the writer of of one my all time favourite albums, Akala. In his 'Thieves Banquet' album that he released in May this year I'm sad to say he shot and missed quite badly.

    And so we have it another year over, another year just beginning. Scary really how fast these things are going these days. By the end of 2014 I will be married and it will have been 10 years since the greatest year in my musical life. Crazy. Here's to another 12 months of great releases!

    END