In Defence of Mondays

Mondays always get a bad wrap. I mean the majority of people spend their Sundays dreading the return of Monday morning. “Someone’s got a bad case of the Mondays” and all of that. But this is all relatively unfounded.

I have become a big fan of Mondays. In fact I would even go so far as to say that Mondays are now my favourite day of the week. For me they present the start of something. An opportunity to start afresh, begin again and really get going. I haven’t always thought in this way. I used to, like much of the rest of the world, dread Mondays and all that they stood for. But, I suddenly began to see that the only thing needed to change this dread of the start of the week was a change of perspective. Now I look forward to Mondays. Sunday evenings are spent in anticipation of the restart, planning and getting ready for the week ahead without a sense of dread.

I propose that we try and change this hatred of Mondays and all try to be a bit more accepting, if joyful is too much of a stretch, and use them as a springboard for the rest of the week as opposed to some sort of trapdoor into the hellish world of drudgery and tiredness. Prepare for them ahead of time. Plan your morning a little. Set the alarm a little earlier than normal and go out for a run, or go swimming, or cycling or even just a little walk to get the oxygen flowing and the day started right. Come back and get a decent breakfast before going off to your daily commitments.  Avoid lazing around until the last minute, banging on that snooze button as if it pauses the entire world and then rushing around dopey-headed and stressed in order to avoid being late. Don’t go into the day with a bad mood and spread your message of despair to all that come near. Be positive, and embrace the start of the week.

If by this point you are wondering what sort of joyous prat would suggest such a thing, much less embrace it, then you are exactly the kind of person that needs this. Change your perspective and see Monday as a chance to start again after a rest. Get going on something positive and achieve something. Perhaps set yourself a simple goal to achieve by the end of the day and work to make sure you get there. Maybe some exercise-related goal, the start of a new diet, part of a hobby, be it new or existing, or maybe just to remain positive until the end of the day. Make your day about something other than being miserable that the weekend is over. Make it about the week beginning again.

Sunday Morning Album: Bill Evans – Sunday at the Village Vanguard

Good morning and a happy Sunday to you.

This morning the weekly album choice is Bill Evans’ aptly named 1961 album Sunday at the Village Vanguard. Anyone in anyway familiar with the wonderful world of Jazz will know the name Bill Evans. He played through a great career, trragically cut short as a result of demons that plagued him throughout his life. This album was recorded with his jazz trio, with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. Regarded as one the finest trios ever to play and record together, but unfortunately no longer still with us. 

The album itself is generally considered one of the finest live jazz recordings ever to have been cut. Within even the first few minutes of listening Evans’ tasteful piano voicings and Bud Powell-esque flourishes combine with the fine rhythm work of LaFaro and Motian to create that quintessential trio soundworld. As with all great trios they work as single unit, keeping a tight groove and playing off each other with almost intuitive precision. The ambience of the room with the sounds of the club flowing over some of the quieter sections generates a window into a lost time. Close your eyes and be transported to that room with the smoke curling, glasses clinking and Evans sat at his piano with the music just flowing out of him. This sets a precedent against which live recordings should be compared. Very few recordings actually exude atmosphere quite like this, but this does and in spades. 

Both LaFaro and Evans present wonderful improvisations with tasteful slower sections and more fiery faster runs that carry the motion of the tracks forward and present a sense of virtuosity without once stepping over the line into overindulgence or creating an intensity that overshadows the chilled vibe of the room. Motian follows the pair with unbreaking support and is understated and tasteful in his grooves. Together they present a great recording, one that deserves a place in everyone’s collections, even those who are not die-hard jazz aficionados, alongside ubiquitous albums such as Kind of Blue. It is an hour and 20 minutes of chilled grooves that functions as both full-concentration listening as well as background ambience. It can provide the soundtrack to your morning coffee, brunch, dinner party or evening drinks. 

Give it a listen. 

Happy Sunday 🙂 

Film Review – ‘The Perfect Host’ (2010)

“You can’t kill me, I’m having a dinner party!”

I should preface this by saying that I am not in any way a professional or even experienced critic. I would be hesitant to call this a review, and it certainly will not be comprehensive.

‘The Perfect Host’ has recently become one of my all-time favourite films. I must have watched it around 10-15 times, drawn back by some indescribable quality. The film centers around Warwick Wilson (played by David Hyde Pierce) who is throwing a dinner party when he is interrupted by the arrival of John Taylor (played by Clayne Crawford), who is on the run and looking for a place to lay low for a while.

The major plot twist happens fairly early on in the film but the continued character development and later, smaller twists carry the film on regardless. The entire production of this film (writing, acting, direction, set design etc.) is of stellar quality and it is a shame that it seems to be such an underrated film. I know that I would likely not have come across it had it not been for me running out of Frasier episodes to watch and so looking through Hyde Pierce’s body of work for new sources of entertainment.

The two main characters are so well-written and the to-and-fro of the plot-line make it difficult to root for either one for any length of time. The presence of two main characters that oppose each other yet neither taking the role of either protagonist or antagonist makes this a delight to watch. I must confess at this point that Warwick is one of my favourite on-screen characters alongside big-hitters such as Greg House and Jesse Pinkman. He has some fantastic lines delivered to perfection by Hyde Pierce who creates a character that becomes successively more and more creepy yet more and more likable as the film progresses. Any initial similarities to Niles Crane are quickly dispelled as Warwick soon reveals a very different side to his personality.

Crawford takes the role of the criminal who, whilst on the run from the law following a bank robbery, lands at Warwick’s doorstep in the hope of hiding out. Starting out as a well-organised, in-control thief he quickly discovers that not only has he been identified and is now sought for the robbery, but that he is no longer quite in control of the situation. It is difficult to say more without spoiling some of the better aspects of the plot but needless to say, the film is damn good.

Restaurants and Simplicity

I have been thinking recently about eating out in restaurants. Of course just the mention of ‘going out’ brings to mind Jerry Seinfeld’s bit on ‘going out’; “Of course we’re all out now, not one of us is at home right now…”. It’s a funny routine, if you don’t know it then check it out. But back to my thoughts. I’ve never been a big fan of restaurants. You may already be wondering why that is, but please don’t fret. You’ll find out soon enough if you continue to read this.

When I have broached the subject in the past people always have the same arguments for going to the restaurant. They say that it’s easier than cooking for yourself. Now, despite that being a monumentally lazy excuse, I don’t really understand it. I mean, there’s so much more involved. The entire process is much more complex than you think.

You decide that you want to go to a restaurant, then you have to decide who it is that you want to go with. What kind of food do you want? So, which restaurant are we going to go to? Then, these preliminary decisions made, you must decide when you are going to go. When is everyone available? Are you going to combine this experience with any other evening activities? Are we going to see a show? Are we going to have drinks? Are we going dancing? Then if so, what order are going to do it all in? It all comes down to that one big question; What time do you want the table?

Even once all that preparation is through, there is still more to come. The big day arrives. Everyone is excited in anticipation of the great feast. Some people will even have skipped lunch so that when the time comes, they can really let loose. Invariably you get dressed up and then you have to decide how you are going to get there. Are we walking or do we need some form of transport? If so, are we driving or drinking? Who’s driving? Who’s drinking? Maybe we should take a taxi? How many taxis do we need? Once all of this is sorted and you get to the restaurant, a whole new conundrum announces itself. Who is going to sit where? So once everyone is sat down, then comes the time to order. What are you getting? I don’t know, are you having a starter? Shall we get drinks? Do we want wine? Bread for the table? Even at the end of the meal there are problems to be overcome. Who’s paying, and how much should we tip?

There is no way to convince me that all of this is easier than a bit of DIY cookery. But this isn’t the only issue with restaurants. The whole concept of the restaurant I find a little unsettling. You don’t know what happens to your food before it arrives at the table. Some of the time you aren’t even 100% sure what is in the food. All we have to go on is a brief blurb written in the menu. You don’t know what it has been through. It gets prepared by a person you don’t know , in a room you can’t see, in far less time than you would reasonably expect it to take. These things concern me, but maybe I’m a little distrustful. Don’t even get me started on buffets. Where did that idea spring from? Who walked into a restaurant and thought; “How can we make this less hygienic?”

People also argue that you go to a restaurant for the ambience. I don’t really understand that either. Why do we pay to go and sit in a large, noisy room filled with people that we don’t know to eat our meals? Why do we reserve a time slot to go and relive the school canteen experience of our youth, albeit in a slightly more sophisticated manner? A brief search online reveals that almost every restaurant in the city in which I currently live will deliver the majority of items on their menu to your house if you are particularly set on paying through the nose for slightly fancier food. Perhaps this will become the future of dining. I suspect this will remain an aspect of our culture that I shall never fully understand, however clearly I am missing something.

The Start of Something… Interesting?

So, I have decided to start writing a blog. It feels like a good time to do it, I am imminently going to graduate and then be released out into the real world and so it felt right to find a place to collect my random musings and release them out into the world as well. I don’t currently have any agenda for this blog and so each post will likely contain various, seemingly random thoughts and perhaps the occasional insight. You never know.

Today in the UK it is St George’s Day, now traditionally this involves … well, I feel I should be honest here; I don’t actually know how St George’s Day is traditionally celebrated, so this may provide an opportunity for discovery. Unfortunately it turns out that apart from the legend about the dragon which is unlikely to be true and the fact that George was not in fact English or even a visitor to our pleasant land, that St George’s Day doesn’t seem to provide a wealth of excitement. In fact, it is seemingly just another event on the calendar which can pass by relatively unnoticed. Whilst on the subject of calendar events, yesterday was Earth day. Now, this seems like a much more worthwhile day. The main aims behind this celebration are to educate people on environmental and climate issues and the damage that ignorance of these can cause. Teaching people not to destroy the very environment in which we live seems like it should be an unnecessary task, however unfortunately this is not so. Across the world marches for science were held and large numbers of people turned out resplendent with their hand-made signs, some complete with ‘witty’ slogans. This display of solidarity shows humanity at its best and creates a sense of community among those preparing for the future.

Today is Sunday which, although you won’t yet know, is new album day. Each Sunday I like to take an album that I haven’t heard and listen to the whole thing in its entirety. This morning’s selection is Jack Johnson’s From Here To Now To You. As with all of Johnson’s work, this so far is filled with sunshine and warmth. The vibes seem to stretch out into the room and make you want to lounge around barefoot, drinking coffee, eating fruit and maybe watering your houseplants in the rays of morning sunlight. As a native Hawaiian, he manages to exude a sense of Polynesian calm through his music to the extent that even a small city flat in the UK in April can feel like a beach by the Pacific.

As a final-year undergrad my desk is partially filled by a large selection of books, many of which will remain mostly unread until the time comes to return them to the silent shelves of the library. Through some ingenious planning on my part coupled with some luck, my final deadlines fall in the first few weeks of May and unlike for many other students these are not followed by any final exams. This means that in just a little over three weeks’ time I will be officially finished with all the work for my degree. Whilst this does mean an end to the research, writing and re-writing of coursework projects that has filled the past seven months it also spells an end to the laid-back life of being a student.

So as I begin to run low on thoughts for the moment, these seems like a good place to draw this to a close for now. So, best wishes, good vibes and all that. I may write again soon, then again I may forget about this and never write again. We shall see. Until then. Love.