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November 2014
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January 2015

Hotel Rooms 2014

Names on the framesTaki. Sakura. Ninja.

I spent all of last week in Japanese hotel rooms that had names on them rather than numbers. You'll soon hear a lot more about what happened when I wasn't in those rooms, don't you worry about that.

But the rooms themselves deserve a page to themselves, for this reason: they became the suitably unexpected finale to a year-long wanky art project of mine that ends today.

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Sweet Christmas

Merry Christmas from Spank The Monkey and The Belated Birthday Girl. And from Japanese punk princesses Shonen Knife because, well, you work it out.

Everywhere Is Monsters: Pick Of The Year 2014

...tits out, wet-mouthed, heads back, shouting and screaming just to prove they exist...No round numbers, no meaningless anniversaries to celebrate: it's just another standard one of those Pick Of The Year compilations I've been making since 1982, cramming my favourite tunes from the preceding twelve months into an arbitrary 120/180/90/80 minute framework depending on the storage medium used. (It's 80 minutes this year, as it has been since 1998. Although for the first couple of those years I was using a crappy CD burner that gave up after somewhere in the low 70s.)

Once again, there's going to be a competition (closing date 11.59pm GMT on January 31st 2015) for anyone who wants to win a CD copy of this compilation: and to give you a bit of a heads-up, passing familiarity with the previous 32 may be helpful to you this year. But we'll get to that eventually: for now, here are my 17 favourite songs of the year, with videos for the 16 of them whose rights aren't being administered by over-zealous Japanese record companies. For example, this first track coming up below.

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MOSTLY FILM: Jakarta The Unstoppable Sex Machine

For a few days last month, I was a GODDAMN MILLIONAIRE. (Yes, I know that wodge only amounts to around fifty quid. Shut up.)You could argue that although my Moderately Responsible Job In The Computer Industry gets me out to exciting places, it's generally the same few exciting places. For the last couple of years, international business travel has usually meant Scandinavia, plus one or two trips a year to the Middle East. But once in a while, my work schedule throws me a curveball, and last month's visit to Indonesia definitely counts as one of those. The chance to spend four days in a country that I'd never visited before, plus - inevitably - the opportunity to catch a couple of movies for reviewing purposes.

Over on Mostly Film, you can now read Jakarta The Unstoppable Sex Machine, the seventeenth episode in the ongoing series Monoglot Movie Club. (Yes, you're right, it's a bloody terrible title, partly inspired by my being here the night before I flew out.) The usual rules apply - I watched a couple of the local movies, and attempted to engage with them as best I could without the benefit of speaking the language. Meanwhile, over here in the bonus Red Button content, I'll tell you a few things about the overall experience of travelling and working in Indonesia.

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Chasing The Kerstman: Christmas In The Netherlands, 2013

FUCK LAND I'M ON A BOAT MOTHERFUCKERThe clues have all been there for anyone who was paying attention.

Clue #1: a series of articles covering the various places that The Belated Birthday Girl and I have visited for Christmas over the last decade: New York, Brighton, Copenhagen, Prague, Newcastle and Belgium. The last one of those was for Christmas 2012. 2013 is notable by its absence.

Clue #2: a piece on Mostly Film entitled All The Blobs, discussing some films we saw in the Netherlands during Christmas 2013. At the same time (February 2014), I wrote the following on my own site: "you'd imagine that the Red Button backup content for the Mostly Film piece would be several thousand words of travel writing about where we slept, what we ate, what we looked at and how we got from one place to another. That article is definitely in the pipeline: it's just not quite ready yet."

Clue #3: a later Mostly Film piece (published June 2014) on Scandinavian cinema was accompanied by a backup post containing the following lines on my Copenhagen hotel. "The key to the Cabinn Metro is in the name: the rooms (or at least the single room I was in) have been made as compact as humanly possible, like a cabin on a ship. In fact, it was very reminiscent of the cabins The Belated Birthday Girl and I occupied on our ferry to the Netherlands last Christmas, which I still haven’t told you about yet. (That particular piece has been delayed so much now, I’ve taken the decision to hold it back till next Christmas, when it might be of use to some people.)"

At the time of writing, Christmas 2014 is about three weeks away. Still not made any plans yet? Then have a look at what we did for Christmas 2013, and see if it gives you any ideas. We went on a ferry, you know.

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Simian Substitute Site For December 2014: MailChimp


Food and Drink: You'd have worked it out soon enough, but let's make this clear upfront: this edition of Month End Processing is going to be a Manchester special, inspired by a recent trip made by The Belated Birthday Girl and myself to celebrate the former's birthday. We've been there together a few times in the past, so some of the time was spent revisiting old favourite haunts, i.e. bars (BrewDog Manchester and Cloud 23 in particular). When it came to food, though, we sought out the unfamiliar. The best American-style breakfasts to be had in town are at Moose Coffee, huge affairs full of fried stuff and/or waffles according to your preference: you'll probably need to queue for at least half an hour to get in on a Saturday morning, but it's well worth it. More traditionally English breakfast fare is on offer at Superstore in the trendy Northern Quarter, with a supermarket in the basement whose astonishing range of beers matches the equally unexpected selection at Aberdeen's just-about-to-change-hands Thistle News. Later on in the day, afternoon tea appears to be a major thing in most parts of the UK now, but I don't think we'd appreciated just how true that was until we were given a gift voucher and had to choose somewhere to redeem it. Hey Little Cupcake!'s teas are a lovely mix of savoury sarnies and sweet nibbles, washed down with a big pot of the good stuff. But our best overall meal was the dinner we had at Opus One, situated in the Radisson hotel on the former site of the Free Trade Hall. It's only got a small number of tables, but everyone who's eaten there has gone on to start their own restaurant.

Music: Why were we in Manchester that weekend? Blame Everything Everything. A few months earlier, they'd announced their curation of a week-long festival to tie in with the re-opening of the newly refurbished Central Library. Entitled Chaos To Order, it would be a mixture of ticketed events, things you could drop into, and happenings that would just take place in the library when you least expected it. We turned up for the last day, and ended up seeing two of these - an enjoyable afternoon performance by a group of young musicians who'd been collaborating all week, followed by an evening event that took over the whole library. The Melodico Ensemble Choir greeted us in the foyer with a couple of pieces sung from the balcony: Jesca Hoop performed an astonishing solo set in the middle of the reading room: and then in the performance area we got to see Everything Everything themselves, presenting some tunes they'd been working up in full public view during the week of the festival. You can read a full official report of that final gig here: there's some bonus fun hidden inside for those of you who know us.

Travel: Actually, if you're visiting Manchester, Central Library is well worth a look even when there isn't a pop band kicking up a filthy racket in there. I haven't been inside it since I was a kid, when it was obviously all just books and no public IT worth speaking of. Nowadays, it's a full-blown information hub in the modern style, but areas like the ground floor Archives + have a wealth of data on the city and its inhabitants. The BBG challenged me to find some sort of reference to myself in there, and I eventually tracked down a 1960s street directory that mentioned my nan. Success! And if you've got the library bug at this stage, and have, say, an hour to kill before your afternoon tea in Spinningfields, then the old John Rylands Library is an astonishing building holding an equally astonishing collection of ancient volumes. Many of those are locked away for safe keeping, but it's delightful to go there on a Sunday and find students using the space to work, because Central Library isn't open that day. So yeah, it was a weekend almost entirely dedicated to libraries, food and drink. Thanks to the Ibis hotel for looking after us during the few hours in between all that.

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