Friday, 26 October 2018

Two Wheels Bad?

Having posted in successive weeks with 'Moan Moan Moan' and 'A Moaning Free Zone', the votes are in.

You lot prefer moaning by a massive margin. Well, you can't say you didn't ask for it.

I'm typing this with even shakier hands than usual this morning, and not because I haven't had my usual breakfast Chartreuse. I may have mentioned in passing that I'm a cyclist, just now and then. I cycle for pleasure and leisure, but I also cycle to work and back every day for convenience and because I take environmental issues really seriously. I've gradually extended my commute to make it a decent work out, and I'm scrupulous when it comes to the rules of the road: no cycling on pavements, no slipping through red lights or jumping pedestrian crossings, I have full lights and I stick to speed limits. My current route takes me past a private school, a grammar school, two primary schools, and FE college and several multi-lane junctions and roundabouts.

This week alone, an SUV driver fully blocked the pavement as I walked along and motioned me to move onto a busy road to get round him, while on the bike two vehicles have pulled out of junctions when I'm actually crossing it, another overtook me as I signalled to change lanes, two more have deliberately run fully-red lights, and one of my own colleagues made me skid to an emergency stop this morning when he turned right into my path to get into the staff car park. I actually pursued this one to have a word and all he could say was that he 'didn't see' me: it's a bright sunny day, I'm wearing bright colours and the road was otherwise empty.

The school run drivers are worse, and there's obviously an economic/class element to it: the private school and grammar school drivers are the least attentive, and they drive the biggest cars: most of the worst behaviour is by 4x4 owners. They're also the ones most likely in my experience to indulge in a little recreational cyclist abuse: apparently buying a 3-ton 7ft-wide 5.0 litre vehicle to transport one or two people is 'normal' while owning a 12kg one-wheel drive vehicle that emits nothing more than CO2, sweat and – under pressure – fruity language is freakish and selfish.

I'm no saint. I'm bitter, sarcastic, far too angry about too many things and generally misanthropic, but I do see cycling as my contribution to the common good. I could have spent my money or got into debt to buy myself a Range Rover. Instead, I've removed virtually all the metal and fossil fuels that go into producing a car in favour of something that runs on lard and pork scratchings. I've helped cut down on congestion and my reward is a twice daily faceful of poison, terrible road conditions, no serious cycle lanes, a near-daily encounter with mortality, abuse from motorists and a completely indifferent response from my employer, which provides no facilities for cyclists and has long since given up on even maintaining a facade of environmental concern.

My immediate colleagues get a lot of thoroughly justified amusement from the sight of me in lycra and helmet: it's very far from being a pretty sight. That's fine, but what really worries me is that when this city and places like it need a break from cars – every single school round here is bathed in illegal levels of NOx and the city is being throttled by congestion – the only cyclists out are angry road warriors armoured and paranoid. If I'm out there wondering whether today will be my last because that school run parent is too busy texting to look while he or she pulls out, what hope is there of getting children, commuters, the elderly and leisure cyclists out there? What hope of ending the slow suicide of combustion engines when a massive proportion of the motor industry depends on persuading people that having a massive vehicle is a sign of success and power (SUVs, or 4x4s, were developed after the American motor industry discovered that their potential purchasers were paranoid sociopaths, and decided it was a good dollar, as Keith Bradsher's excellent book High and Mighty explained years ago). One would have thought that having been caught deliberately poisoning the planet, Volkswagen might have learned a little humility, but no: here we find them advertising their latest SUV to aggressive, selfish people.

I'll say this. The majority of drivers I encounter are careful and courteous, especially lorry and bus drivers who have clearly been well-educated for the most part. I'm also aware that there's a small minority of cyclists who take stupid risks or ride dangerously to others. However, on a social level we have organised working life and our living and working spaces to make them as immediately and longitudinally dangerous as possible to the most harmless people pedestrians, cyclists, children and the elderly.

OK, and breathe. Off the bike it's been a fine week. Friends have succeeded at things, others have had babies and teaching has been a delight (Hamlet in one class, The Handmaid's Tale in another). I'm halfway though Jonathan Coe's Middle England and mostly enjoying it, and I'm re-reading Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race in preparation for next week's classes. It's bracingly blunt. Most enjoyably of all, I went to an amateur dramatic production of Agatha Christie's Black Coffee last night, featuring several of my colleagues. Obviously being a ironic cynic (or cynical ironist) steeped in literary satire, my expectations of Am-Dram were snobbish and mean: The Play That Goes Wrong, Noises Off (OK, not about Am-Dram but theatre nonetheless) and many more had led me to think this would be amusing rather than absorbing. Plus the opportunity to tease my friends couldn't be passed up. I was so wrong. The play itself was terrible: almost a parody of its own genre, the country-house murder with added McGuffins, but every time I thought it was irredeemable, a really sharp line popped up, particularly about Italians and their supposed penchant for poisoning. Not many of the audience laughed at these: I hope because casual Europhobia isn't funny any more, but maybe because the Brexit-age crowd may not have seen them as satirical. But anyway, it didn't matter that the script was dreadful and occasionally an actor forgot a line: it was just lovely to see my friends and their colleagues having so much fun and putting themselves out there for the entertainment of the crowd. I certainly couldn't do it. It ended up being one of the most enjoyable nights out I've had in ages - bravo!

Friday, 19 October 2018

A moaning-free zone

No moaning this week. Even though moaning is clickbait: last week's post, entitled 'Moan Moan Moan' attracted 2500 readers - the previous one managed a paltry 140. Clearly you're all monsters delighting in the spectacle of misery.

So anyway, no moaning, despite having plenty to moan about. Instead: happiness. Not solely because the new Doctor Who is very good – friends have had great successes this week, other friends are about to have a baby, another one delivered (see what I did there) an inspiring professorial lecture yesterday and my students made teaching this week a joy. The stars aligned for once, fate failed to vomit on my eiderdown, and the dew did not fall with a particularly sickening thud (bonus points for spotting the origins of those references).

The teaching highlights were this week's Shakespeare and We Are Many modules. Having shown the students the Helen Mirren/Russell Brand film version of The Tempest last week (I'm allergic to RB but he was very good as Trinculo), my lecture looked at race, power and colonialism in fairly standard ways, but the two-hour seminar concentrated solely on the opening scene aboard the foundering ship and required the students to puzzle out the dramatic and interpretive difficulties by acting it out. If that wasn't difficult enough, we gave them Renaissance-style scripts: only their own lines plus the last word of the previous speaker's line.

It worked really well. This scene is easily passed over as a device for getting the cast on to the island but actually it's packed with the themes that get taken up in the rest of the play. The sinking ship is an island of its own. It has multiple rulers claiming authority from different sources: the Master who knows how to actually sail the thing and the aristo passengers who think (like Cnut didn't earlier and Charles I later did argue) that rank outweighs competence (oddly enough, we're having the same argument here at work – so far the rankers are winning). Amidst impending death, they all stop for an argument during which the Boatswain puts forward the basically treasonous argument that unless the courtiers do what they're told rather than interfere, they're all going to die. Once on the island, of course, you have Caliban, Prospero and Trinculo vying for authority on various grounds, while the real work is done by Caliban and Ariel, and Gonzalo adds his vision of a utopian state.

It was really good fun taking the words off the page and making them do more work than advancing the plot: talking through the Master's and Boatswain's works and social responsibilities, how to handle their changes of mood, how to distinguish the various toffs in the space of only a few lines, and hardest of all, how to act when you don't have any lines at all. It helped that these students had taken my Making a Scene module last year so were used to climbing on stage, but they put in two solid hours of really good work. Going over the same forty lines multiple times could have been deathly dull, but they pulled apart the different potential meanings and tried different deliveries and had some good-natured disagreements about what was going on until suddenly our time was up. I was exhausted and no doubt they were too, but it really felt like new vistas had opened up.

The other class looked at Virginia Woolf's Three Guineas and Valerie Solanas's SCUM Manifesto. One is carefully constructed 1938 epistolary  in response to a gentleman who asks how the daughters of educated men can contribute to the elimination of war. The other is a late-60s onslaught on society as a whole, the diseased product of male culture with only one solution. Its opening lines, with declarative cadences reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice's beginning, are
Life in this society being at best an utter bore and no aspect of society being at all relevant to women, there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation, and destroy the male sex. 
Woolf's essay is patient, witty, exhaustive, detailed and complex. Having explained that the uneducated daughters of the affluent have subsidised the private-school-and-Oxbridge trajectories of their brothers ('Arthur'), however dim, she poses the question of whether allowing middle-class women access to the professions (law, medicine, politics, the armed services, the clergy and academia) will reform them to the point that war becomes impossible, or whether women will have to conform to the expectations and cultural norms of this Establishment, thereby doing nothing to avert war. She has a couple of answers. Firstly, economic independence leads to intellectual and political freedom: women should join the professions. Secondly, women should simply withdraw from warlike activities: not protest or oppose, but ignore those who do engage, and not work in the industries which serve the prosecution of war. Compelling, but a difficult case to put as WW2 loomed large and a conundrum which may have contributed to Woolf's decision to end her life in 1941. Women's roles in militarism also contributed to LM Montgomery's death too: the later novels in the Anne of Green Gables series promote participation in WW1 as a way to establish manhood and a true Canadian identity – Montgomery later agonised over the possibility that her work may have led to enormous numbers of Canadian men's deaths, and that WW2 was going to repeat the same mistakes. Certainly the final novel in the sequel, The Blythes Are Quoted sees Anne reverse her support for imperialist warmongering: this is probably why publication was declined in 1942. 

The class was meant to start with a 20 minute presentation by a small group: the discussion provoked last 90 minutes, despite some of them not having read either text (grrrr, but that's another matter). Solanas went on to shoot Andy Warhol and died young after a miserable decline, but the Manifesto isn't, as some of my students suggested, a howl of anguish produced by someone with mental health issues. It's a provocation along similar lines to Swift's A Modest Proposal (tl;dr version: nobody likes the Irish, they're starving and having too many babies: their parents can breed them for food and profit) – in that it follows scientific and political concepts to (and perhaps beyond) their logical conclusion. It's scathingly satirical, funny, serious, rooted in Freudian psychology, reacting against 50s McCarthyites and 60s hippy cults alike, and fascinatingly, comes out as anti-sex. Where Woolf believes that social reform is possible, Solanas insists that the whole edifice, from men to money to the nuclear family, has to be ripped down and replaced by an all-female society of fully-automated luxury communism. While many of the students (all but one female) insisted that their experience of men wasn't anything like what they were seeing on the page, I couldn't help seeing Donald Trump's face as the selfish, oppressive, exploitative Daddy of whom Solanas writes:
If SCUM ever marches, it will be over the President's stupid, sickening face; if SCUM every strikes, it will be with a six-inch blade'. What makes you a member of SCUM? '…you've got to go through a lot of sex to get to anti-sex, and SCUM's been through it all, and they're now ready for a new show…these females are cool and relatively cerebral and skirting asexuality…the least nice…too uncivilised to give a shit for anyone's opinion of them, too arrogant to respect Daddy, the "Greats"…given to disgusting, nasty upsetting scenes, hateful violent bitches given to slamming those who unduly irritate them in the teeth.

Thrilling stuff, but underneath the confrontational style not dissimilar to Woolf: both are adopting a literary style previously the preserve of male writers and turning it against its former owners. I hope it would get a good argument going and it did - occasionally drifting away from the cultural and political points being made, and slightly undercut by some students' unfamiliarity with the texts, but a little provocation goes a long way. It really was exhilarating. Handmaid's Tale next week (and yes, I did put it on the syllabus before the TV adaptation came along, so score one for me on the zeitgeist board).

Have I read anything this week, other than the texts for class? Not a lot actually. Jasper Fforde's Early Riser was disappointing: a neat idea for a comic sf-ish novel (humanity evolved in cold conditions by hibernating every year; our hero is one of the cops who stays awake to keep things going) but all the effort has gone into developing the concept rather than the novel. I've started Jonathan Coe's latest novel in his Rotter's Club series, Middle England, having gone to see him in (entertaining, thoughtful) conversation with Sathnam Sanghera at Birmingham Literature Festival – I'm only a couple of chapters in but it's promising. The rest of the week's entertainment was watching Michael Otsuka (@mikeotsuka) and Sam Marsh (@Sam_Marsh101) publicly rip apart the posh university pension scheme managers' dodgy maths, used to pretend that the fund should become meaner and more expensive. My own pension was downgraded to general public uninterest some years ago, but I've a feeling the USS pension debacle may lead to total victory. After all, there's already a Downfall parody on the subject.

Teaching Hamlet next week. A good excuse to show you my favourite version of 'that' soliloquy.

(And hey: almost no moaning).

Friday, 12 October 2018

Moan moan moan.

No doubt you all turn to me as the still small voice of calm in a culture increasingly given over to intemperate, oppositional exchanges. Not today, I'm afraid. While this week has included many pleasures – friends, teaching The Tempest and Cwmardy to delightful students, my employers have excelled themselves in their ongoing pursuit of casual insult and deprofessionalisation. Some of it is so petty – especially given the sickening portrait of working life that I've just had from a student – that I quail at the thought of presenting it to you, but I do so because the very pettiness gives one an insight into the thoughtless nature of our managerial class.

OK. As you probably know, universities run open days at weekends to give potential students a chance to see what we do. I do my fair share of them and generally enjoy doing so. People usually laugh, and I like to think it's at my jokes rather than my face, clothes or commitment to literary study as a means of liberation. That, and I think our degree is really very good and student numbers have plummeted, so we need to try our best. So anyway, academics, administrators and students take a day away from our families, beds and bottles on a voluntary basis for the good of the institution. In some institutions it's a two-day event, so colleagues might be in work without a break for twelve days in a row.

Are we, therefore, received with gratitude and solicitude by our senior management (one of whom manages to appear for the first half hour before disappearing in an SUV)? We are not. Our briefing this year started with a dire warning that any informational errors made will result in disciplinary hearings because fo the Consumer Marketing Act. This is followed by an announcement about refreshments, which I reproduce here in full with the original emphases.

·      There is free tea and coffee for visitors in Campus Life. 

·      Catering for staff There will be no packed lunches or lunch vouchers provided by External Relations for Open Days. Feel free to bring in your own lunch or purchase food from MC Courtyard Kitchen and Starbucks. Please feel free to use the water fountains around the Campus.

Don't know about you, but the bit about water fountains reminds me of the dog bowls provided at railway stations for people's pets, while the bold and underlined bits seem calculated to rub it in. My management has imposed permanent austerity on (non-manager) salaries, staff recruitment and student welfare, so it makes sense that the extra £500 needed to give staff a sandwich for working on weekends might be what tips us into bankruptcy, but it feels that little bit more insulting when I recall that the numbers and renumeration for senior staff go ever upwards, the VC has a chauffeur-driven limo and we sponsor – for no justifiable reason, alongside a Chinese restaurant and a dental surgery – a cricket club in Sheffield – while nobody else has had a real-terms pay increase since 2008. I guess someone's got to pay for that, and the £11m ploughed into a short-lived University Technical College and the derelict brewery we as yet haven't managed to organise a piss-up in, but economising on a cup of tea won't pull us out of those holes.

I'm also insulted by the idea that having given up a day of our weekend (because the alleged day off in lieu never actually happens and besides, you can't take your kids, partner or friends out on a working day), we're invited to donate our own cash to the tax-evading multinational coffee outlet we've invited onto campus. Marketisation in action. I've emailed senior management a fairly sarcastic letter but don't expect any response other than a howler inviting me to a disciplinary hearing for unauthorised use of irony.

The other kicker this week is the news that supervising PhD students no longer counts as teaching for workload purposes. This may appear arcane, but it makes a difference. Teaching hours attract preparation hours at a one-to-one ratio, so that our teaching is pedagogically and critically cutting-edge. PhD supervision is intense and very time-consuming: whether you're analysing experiment methodology or critiquing a 20,000 word chapter, it takes time. Moving it to another category means that either we use up hours already earmarked for other duties or we short-change the students when it comes to giving the attention they deserve for working so hard. I totally admit that the kind of stuff I'm talking about today seems minor compared with other peoples' lives, and that I can cope without tea or a couple of hours' thinking time, but there's still a tiny part of me that clings to the idea of professionalism: that I'm responsible to society for how I conduct my teaching, research and behaviour to students and colleagues. That part of me is flickering towards extinction as the structural and experiential conditions of my working life militate against doing my best for others, or even being able to operate in a civil fashion. Will I find myself turning down bright new thinkers for supervision, or explaining that maybe a chapter will change the way we understand literature in some way, but I don't have time to read it? What a depressing thought.

Sometimes I wonder how a group of people (especially the few who were once teachers and researchers) come to spend their lives actively making their so-called colleagues' working conditions and professional experience that little bit nastier (or as they no doubt see it, efficient)every day. Nature or nurture? Are they thoughtless, selfish or cynical? Is it self-preservation? Do promotions flow from their ability to evidence the ways in which they've made life tougher for us bottom-feeders? Is it simply the case that management see degrading working conditions as a tool for getting people to resign? Whatever the answer, it gets harder to hoist the grin and tell our potential students what a great place this is to study.

Anyway, have I done anything to take my mind of this rubbish? Teaching has been a joy, and I've marked an excellent MA by one of our students and an M.Res by one from a different university, ready for examination shortly. That one quotes me in ways that made me reconsider what I think of the novels in question, which I take as being a very good thing. I saw my mother for her birthday (present: a quince tree) and I went fencing on Wednesday only to face an international sabreur nobody else was foolish enough to take on, so everything hurts now. I saw BlackkKlansman for the second time and it really stood up to re-watching, and I read a couple of books: The Alone to the Alone and Cwmardy for work (both wonderful), Masefield's The Midnight Folk which reminded me how subtle Masefield can be, and VE Schwab's Vicious on the urging of a student. It's kind of a millennial's mash-up of Frankenstein and X-Men with some angst on the side. A fun read with some neat twists. The highlight was Chris Reynold's The New World, an elegiac, beautiful, uncanny and spare graphic novel that I bought solely on the strength of a good review in a newspaper. Next up is the reissued How To Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic, a Chilean manifesto published in 1971 and publicly burned by the military regime that murdered Allende in 1973 for annoying the money.

Ignore me. Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, 5 October 2018

A rag-bag of passing thoughts

This week has been the first on win which we teach: new students and returners get to experience the full horror (or, potentially, delight) of my colleagues and I getting stuck in to new texts or familiar ones creatively defamiliarised. This semester I'm only teaching the second years, on the core Shakespeare and the English Renaissance module and my solo We Are Many: Literature and Protest module. The first Shakespeare lecture involved me introducing the concept of the Renaissance and then us pulling it apart as we discussed the multiple ways in the concept can be constructed and the political and social implications of marking off the past as somehow barbaric and culturally unimportant. It's an old argument but one that still works well. We'll still run a module with Renaissance in the title though! After this week we do The Tempest, Hamlet, Malfi, a collection of sonnets and flytings, then Paradise Lost. It's one of my favourite modules, though I wish it were a year long. Or perhaps two.

The other one is meant to examine literary responses to various social and political movements: not just what gets written about and when, but the cultural tensions inherent in turning events into forms which have their own structural implications – how to fit mass unemployment or hunger marches into the classic bourgeois novel form which privileges individual consciousness and success, for instance. We looked at Gwyn Thomas's 1947 novella The Alone to the Alone this week: GT was a spiky character who used a form of loquacious absurdism ('Chekhov with chips', he called it) to depict the stasis of Welsh valleys unemployment in the 1930s. His central characters, the 'dark philosophers' sit on a wall and observe the trap into which their community has fallen with moral and social sophistication and wit. They know exactly what has happened to them and they respond with the only weapons at their disposal: laughter and scorn.

Next week we'll compare GT's work to Lewis Jones's Cwmardy and We Live: ostensibly orthodox communist socialist realist novels set in a neighbouring community at roughly the same time. These novels struggle with the tension between mass and individual: they have a central protagonist whose experiences are the focal point, despite appearing to be chronicles of the eponymous township. Most critical views see them as interesting failures: too dominated by the novel form (especially the melodrama) to be sufficiently revolutionary for some, too communist for others. I think they're much more sophisticated: that the damaged hero stands as a critique of authoritarianism as much as capitalism. They end in his foreshadowed death in the Spanish Civil War: not heroically, but as the only respite poor harassed Len can get from the contradictions of his existence.

As you can probably tell, teaching is uppermost in my mind at the moment. It's genuinely lovely to see the students, who seem eager and willing to join in. Everything else is terrible: morale, timetabling, rooming, the VLE, but just talking to interesting people about books is wonderful. Other than that, I feel like I've mostly slept and ironed things. I had my second weekend fencing coaches' course – exhaustion set in on the second day and I'm not sure I performed to the best of my abilities when observed, but hopefully I've passed. I discovered a Cory Doctorow novel that actually worked as a piece of fiction, which was quite a turn-up. I taught Little Brother last year but despite their excellent politics, it and several of his others are too authoritarian (to use Susan Suleiman's term) to be bearable. However, For The Win, a YA novel promoting online anarcho-syndicalism for the dispersed proletariat of the tech economy genuinely worked well as a piece of realist fiction (I'm not a big fan of realism, but if you choose that mode, you've got to do it well). You can read it and all his other novels for free on his website, though I've bought paper copies for the same reason I buy music: I want people to make a living from their art, and I like to scribble notes on books. The only other novel I managed to get through this week was John Masefield's The Midnight Folk. I know its sequel, The Box of Delights, inside out but for some reason never got round to this one. (The dated but still wondrous BBC adaptation of The Box of Delights is on YouTube in its entirety. Whether or not you can get through it depends on how much you can stand privately-educated child actors).

As children's literature, they're both top-notch: rollicking adventure, a real sense of wonder, some of the mysticism so often found in Edwardian children's fiction, cracking baddies (in Delights, Miss Pouncer and Abner Brown have a Scrounger, which turns impudent children into dog biscuits) but also – as befits a prominent poet – some really sophisticated narrative techniques and turns of phrases. The narrator's use of free indirect discourse to convey his governess's opinion of young Kay is really beautifully done. Next up is Sylvia Townsend Warner's Lolly Willowes, which again I've meant to read many times and never got round to.

Other than that, the cultural highlight of the week was going to see Okkervil River*, as my belated birthday present from my colleagues. A fine night was had by all. I was a bit surprised by how sparsely attended it was, but the band gained my admiration for giving it everything as though it were a packed out stadium gig. I saw the Charlatans do the same once on a wet weekday in Stoke when they weren't at all fashionable, and admired them very much for it. The other things I liked about OR were the tumbling, lyrics spilling out over the tunes, and the way songs started off pretty musically orthodox and then went to very odd places – interesting chord progressions or key changes that were very unexpected. One song was about the lead singer having a tracheotomy and listing all the other actors, singers and public figures who'd had them too. Some challenging rhymes in that one…

* I seem to have a liking for aquatic bands. Also in my collection off the top of my head: Lanterns on the Lake, East River Pipe, State River Widening, Silver Seas and Novak's 'Silver Seas', Hydroplane (a John Peel discovery), John Luther Adams' Become Ocean, Tindersticks' The Something Rain, Vaughan Williams's Sea Symphony, Bonnie Prince Billy's Pond Scum, Sally Beamish's River, Madder Rose's Swim, Aqua's 'Barbie Girl', Neil Young's 'Down By The River', PJ Harvey's 'Down By The Water', and Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, Bill Callahan's Dream River, The Pond's album The Pond (they had a song called 'The River')Hannah Peel's The Broken Wave, Songs: Ohia's Didn't It Rain, Morphine's sublime 'Sharks Patrol These Waters', The Stone Roses' 'Waterfall', Eric Whitacre's 'Cloudburst', the chorus to Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's 'Patio Song' ('Mae'n bwrw glaw…'), REM's 'Nightswimming' and 'So. Central Rain', Eliza Carthy's Neptune of course, many many Kate Bush songs like this one, the Broken Family Band's Cold Water Songs, Joni Mitchell's Clouds, Timothy Andres's Fast Flows The River, Backwash by Talulah Gosh, Sea Shanties for Spacemen by Snowpony, Vaughan Williams's 'Full Fathom Five', Jon Boden's Songs From The Floodplain, 'Melt Away' by Galaxie 500, Beth Gibbons and Rustin' Man's 'Sand River' (what a lost classic that album is), 'Oily Water' by Blur, Trembling Blue Stars' 'The Rainbow', 'Draining the Pool for You' and 'Spring Rain' by The Go-Betweens of course, Tystion's 'Tryweryn', Rain Dogs by Tom Waits, Sugartown's Slow Flows The River, 'Teardrop' by Massive Attack, Paradise Motel's 'Derwent River Star', Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement, Enya's 'Orinoco Flow', Last Splash by the Breeders obviously and Sparklehorse's 'Rainmaker',  There's only Stornoway's Tales From Terra Firma and PJ's Dry making a stand against liquidity. It must all mean something.