Retrospective: Stop Making Sense

Talking Heads were the first band I was can remember being ‘aware’ of.

I mean, I understood music in a general sense. I understood “songs”. I understood that there were songs that scared the crap out of me (I used to challenge myself to listen to Ray Parker Jnr’s theme from “Ghostbusters” in the dark, alone. I don’t think I’ve managed to do it yet) and I understood that there songs whose videos made me laugh (Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life”). But I really didn’t understand the concept of “bands” until quite late.

When I was about four or five, my sister – ten years older than me and a die-hard Prince/Adam Ant fan – challenged me to name the bands I liked. So I named “Talking Heads”, the only band I was aware of.

“Arty wanker.”

(I was **five**)

It wasn’t until much, much later that I understood what she meant. Talking Heads did their best to skirt the line between art and commercialism, occasionally pushing one more than the other. Sometimes this produced something difficult and awkward (like the deliberate nonsense-language of “I Zimbra” on “Fear of Music”). But sometimes, it produced something beautiful. Like “Stop Making Sense”.

The few concert videos that stand out as something special do so because the artist and the director have a clear definition of what they want to achieve (and both have the talent to support it). Other examples, such as Prince’s *Sign O’ The Times* and Scorsese’s *The Last Waltz* are both as entertaining to watch *as movies* as they are to listen to. Stop Making Sense represents a band at the peak of their abilities with enough of a vision to, if nothing else, produce something completely unique.

I’ve always been just a casual fan of Talking Heads. I’d never seen Stop Making Sense, but I thought I’d gotten everything I could out of their music. Until a few weeks ago. I was at a Skinny Wolves night in Bodkins. At these things, they usually accompany the music with movies projected on a big screen without the sound – things like the Clash’s Rude Boy and Devo Live. This particular week, they were showing Stop Making Sense.

Now, it may have been the copious amounts of booze sloshing around my system, but I was completely mesmerized. I must have come across as a rude sumbitch because I think I spent most of the night ignoring all attempts at conversation. I was completely transfixed by these bunch of complete… well, there’s no other way to put this… *geeks* doing the coolest things I’d ever seen on stage.

Throughout the entire thing, David Byrne moves his gangly body in strange, hypnotic ways. And the entire band puts out enough energy to power the show themselves. For example, the entire band jogs its way through *Life During Wartime*. During the guitar solo, David Byrne jogs around the entire stage, again and again and at the end, goes back to singing without being even slightly out of breath.

There are set changes, costume changes, instrument changes, but none of it seems forced. It seems progressive. It gradually, sensibly builds up. Rather than blowing its load right at the very start (like U2’s technically impressive Zooropa and Popmart tours), *Stop Making Sense* has a structure. It starts off with David Byrne coming out to a bare stage in a suit, with an acoustic guitar and boombox, and announcing to the crowd that he’d like to play a song. He launches into a version of *Psycho Killer* that is so different from the album version as to be almost unrecognisable.

For the next song, part of the band comes out. For the next, the backing singers come out. And so on. By the end of the show, there’s a small country on the stage.

And, like *Psycho Killer*, each song on *Stop Making Sense* is radically different from the album versions which makes them instantly compelling. And more significantly, they’re arguably better than the album version. When it came to producing a “Best of”, Talking Heads chose to present two songs from *Stop Making Sense* instead of their album versions, *that’s* the kind of quality we’re talking here.

It’s easy to understate just how amazing this movie is. Even if you’re only a casual fan of Talking Heads, I’d encourage you to hunt down this movie and be won over for yourself.


The state of Irish Open Source

Reading an article about how [Europe is falling behind on open-source](, I can’t help but think of the recent ICT Expo, which took it on itself to dish out “Industry Excellence” awards. Except it got so much wrong, it wasn’t even funny. It looked more like a bunch of old boys meeting together to congratulate each other than an actual representation of the Irish IT industry.

Ignoring all of the other categories and just focusing on the “Open Source Project of the Year”, we can instantly see that there’s something very wrong here. The two nominations were

1. Soft Telecom
2. Enovation

### Soft Telecom

I have no idea what these guys do. Or did, since currently their website [redirects to their Ensim administrator page]( So, regardless of exactly what kind of open-source project they’re undertaking, this hardly reflects any kind of “Industry Excellence” so far.

### Enovation

When the winners were first announced, I looked very hard, but couldn’t see what exactly Enovation actually *did*. If they provided open-source software, [their site]( certainly didn’t mention it. Now they’ve got a large banner which explains [exactly what they did to win the award]( – they set up Moodle for a college.

That’s it.

I mean, Jesus. This is frightening.

But thinking about it, what else is there? [ILUG]( is a useful resource, but not particularly pro-active. Likewise, [BUGI]( has been spluttering its way into actual usefulness for the past few years. [OpenEir]( has potential, but is still in its infancy.

Are there any significant Irish Open Source projects?


Minor update

I’m still waiting for Irish Broadband to contact me about an installation date, so I’ve had four days away from a computer. And so much has happened.

[Apple to use Intel Microprocessors beginning in 2006](
This had been rumoured for a couple of weeks now (and a couple of years before then), but still… wow. John Gruber suggests that [Apple may not transition to x86 chips]( But then again, he also [discounted the possibility of Apple releasing the iPod Shuffle]( and last week attempted to [debunk the rumours of Apple switching to Intel]( But this is so completely *huge* that it’s easy to understand why he was a litle skeptical. Apple say they’re looking at completing the transition to the Intel chips by the end of 2007.

[Nintendo Revolution’s classic Nintendo games will be free](
Nintendo, who have been keeping quiet in this round of “Our console will have hi-def” “Ours will massage your feet while you play!” have dropped a bombshell in the form of massive amount of backward-compatibility for free! They will be releasing almost every game they published for their previous consoles as a free download, available from the launch of their new console, the Revolution. This includes things like *Ocarina of Time*, *GoldenEye*, *Perfect Dark*, *Zelda II* and one of my favourite games, *Uniracers* (*Unirally* over here). Miyamoto (the creator of Mario and Zelda) has said that he’s tired of sprawling epic games and is appealing to developers to create something unique and fun (but not neccessarily *huge* or *big-budget*) for the Revolution. I guess this is Nintendo paying attention.
**Update**: [Full list of games available for download](

My copy of [Difficult Questions about Videogames]( was waiting for me when I arrived in work today. This should give me plenty to chew through for the next couple of days, at least until [GTA:SA]( and [God of War]( arrive and start soaking up all my free time.
**Update**: A few pages in, and I’m convinced of something that I’d always suspected – [Kieron Gillen]( needs to find himself an editor.