Saturday, April 30, 2005

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

Went and saw the new Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy film yesterday.

I suspect I'm going to be in a minority here, but I rather liked it.

The previous versions have all been largely different from one another and this one's no exception. The main change is that instead of a directionless ramble through The Mind of Douglas Noel Adams (TM) the central ideas have been balanced against an action/adventure plot with a proper ending. (Which I think is what's been pissing off the purists no end.)

Martin Freeman makes an excellent Arthur Dent. He's less thrown by events than the original, and thus spends less time trying to latch onto things he can't have any more, thereby seeming far less stupid. And it's also made clearer why Ford saves him in the first place, something which I never understood in the first place.

Sam Rockwell also makes a far better Zaphod than Mark Wing-Davey ever did. And I'm not just saying that because they finally got to CGI him properly - the portrayal is far more manic and egotistical, totally in line with my feelings about the character.

The parts of Ford Prefect and Tricia MacMillan suffer a bit though. Trillian seems a bit weak, albeit the only one with any sense - and who has a lovely scene with the Point of View gun - and Ford is barely intelligible, sadly.

Stephen Fry, of course, is perfect as the voice of the book. And Alan Rickman does actually make an excellent Marvin. The Marvin costume too actually manages to convey misery and depression despite being a gleaming shining white object - all a testament I guess to the guy inside it.

Trouble is that it's hard not to compare it with the ones you know and love. Inevitably some of my favourite moments were cut out to make room for a plot, and chunks of expositional dialog earlier on really grated. Plus the delivery of some, for me, pivotal lines lacked the perfect comic timing of the BBC versions (the initial "I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed" and Slartibartfast's "It scares the willies out of me" for example).

But on the whole it was great fun, pacy, gripping, made sense and yet still had Adams' incredible ideas pushing it along. It was never going to be the same as the TV or Radio versions or the books themselves, but they're not the same as each other and whichever one you pick as the definitive the film was never going to match.

Personally I thought it was a fun couple of hours and consider them a couple of hours well spent. And not just for the theme song (Joby Talbot is God) or the in-joke cameos by Simon Jones (the original Dent) and the original Marvin costume.

7/10. Much better than it had any real right to be.

Friday, April 29, 2005

How I Learned To Hate Rock and Roll

There's been uproar of late as Sean Payne, drummer with the Zutons, has recently dismissed Kylie's scheduled appearance at the Glastonbury festival this year as a desperate attempt to get her some credibility. He's also dismissed her appearance as something only to appeal to students and gays, by implication suggesting that they aren't able to deal with the sort of "real music" that a credible act like the Zutons performs.

To which I can only say "what a fucking knob-end".

To be honest I do get rather fed up with the sneering that indie and rock lovers do towards pop music. Why is it so difficult to understand that not liking a style of music says nothing about the value of the object of your derision? It only says that you don't like it.

I mean, I can't stand Kate Bush or Morrisey - in fact I'd rather gouge out my ears than listen to them - but I'm quite happy to admit that it's just about me me me. It doesn't make them bad, it just means that I don't like them. That is all. Let's live and let live.

Personally I always feel it's rather sad that those lovers of "serious" artistes have to spend so much time putting pop music and its adherents down and dismissing such music as lightweight and throwaway and cheesy (which in itself proves they're somewhat missing the point anyway.) The implication seems to be that "you like lightweight, therefore you're lightweight and that makes me much better than you, so ner". Not so much the argument taken by a sophisticated member of the cultural intelligentsia is it?

Well, babies I've got news for you: just because I like something that doesn't have much depth doesn't mean I don't have any myself. In fact (if I might be forgiven a moment's egoism) I think I have plenty. Frankly if I felt so inclined - and at the moment I'm spitting bile about this and so I am inclined - I could easily draw the conclusion that those who spend their entire time desperately searching for depth and credibility in their music are doing so because they don't have any in themselves.

Okay so I've turned and sneered myself. But it's only polite to return a favour.

My theory may be anger-fuelled and defensive - indeed it is - but it's also one which is supported by the actions of some of the Zutons' message board members who flamed another who stood up for Ms. Minogue. Frankly some of the messages were quite clearly posted by homophobic, self-aggrandising, narrow-minded little cunts.

Well... so much for those who purport to like depth.

Um... what?

Hmm.

I've now heard in full Geri Halliwell's latest single "Desire" (with many thanks to Lee, my camp-dealer).

It's odd. Very odd. I was kind of hoping for more in the way of high camp or punchy stomptastic songs from her (like "Bag It Up", "Ride It", "Scream If You Wanna Go Faster", "Feels Like Sex" and so on) but it's a sort of plodding, jittery number with odd electro bits in.

And I kind of like it, but I'm not at all sure why.

It's no hit single though, sadly. Silly mare.

Mind you I do kind of wish she'd stop trying to be mature. All her attempts at self-awareness, spirituality and sophistication all sound like she's just quoting verbatim from a textbook without really understanding the real world.

Just like - if you'll forgive the aside - student union officers spouting word for word the NUS line on equality, politics and student issues. Sometimes I really wish both they and Geri would stop just absorbing what they hear and just try thinking for a change.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Gloomy Moods and Inspiration

The other day I was discussing The Device with various colleagues, all in possesion of similar Devices of their own, comparing music formats and so on when one of them suggested we should all swap playlists.

I demurred, suggesting that possibly my choices would shock and terrify them all, at which one of the sales guys commented "it's all ABBA and Scissor Sisters isn't it?"

He was in fact wrong - something I realised with a certain amount of surprise. Neither of those bands were loaded onto the player at all.

I still haven't done any Scissor Sisters - frankly I've heard that album to death now and since there is no chance of Jake Shears becoming my love slave I'm not about to - but I've now remedied the ABBA situation with a collection of obscure album tracks and B-sides.

About an hour's worth as it turns out.

I've been listening to them a few times on the way in recently, and one of my favourites is the track "Me and I". I must say I really do strongly identify with the lyrics.

Scuttle Scuttle

Somehow I have contrived over the last few years to not see a single solitary spider in our flat - something which I am rather glad about considering I'm terrified of the fuckers.

This morning however, having come out of the bathroom where I had performed my morning panelbeating session, there was a rather large one crawling inquisitively over my discarded dressing gown.

Cue comedy scream (shrill, short and piercing) followed by a series of thuds, crashes and exhausted gasps as I chased the bloody thing round my room with a size 12 shoe and eliminated the threat.

My flatmate didn't show up for a good half hour after this chaotic event. I can only assume with the general level of noise that he assumed I was being sexually assaulted by an intruder and - with my best interests at heart - decided to leave me to it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Crock of Shite

...is my official retitling of April's Doctor Who DVD release "The Claws of Axos".

Oh, it's got some nice flourishes I'll grant you. The Axon ship is suitably organic and icky and the various organic "effects" mixed in are quite good but the whole thing does feel more like a story by numbers Doctor Who than anything else I've ever seen.

Not that Doctor Who of this era was ever anything else. It was all rehearse-record in order of shots, episode by episode (mainly) so you had limited sets to use per episode, limited filmed inserts you were allowed and so on. But a lack of good writing makes it feel even more like a "how the hell do we make this work" than most.

I mean, the episode two cliffhanger has the Axons attacking in their tentacled and icky "real" state as opposed to their gold adonis look they first used. This is clearly to make the cliffhanger more "exciting" (despite all watching going "oh, kill him, make him turn into Tom Baker please!") but the first thing they do after the reprise is "repersonalise" back into the gold version again.

It just smacks of "oh shit we need a cliffhanger and someone with a gold wig ain't gonna cut it" and makes the new series' general lack of cliffhangers seem like a very wise choice indeed.

Roger Delgado once again shines as the Master, but his role is so cursory the character might as well not be there in the first place. The only thing he does of note is fix the Doctor's TARDIS (coz the Doc has had his knowledge of how it works removed by the Time Lords as part of his exile).

And everything else is just so standard. I'm sure the episode plan for the series had this one marked out as "Generic UNIT Story". And there's nothing in it that Nigel Kneale hasn't done better but twenty years before.

It really is mind-blowing hackery of the highest order.

Frankly Pigbin Josh, the tramp, speaks the only bit of sense in the entire story.

And that's only "Oo-ar!Ooo-arr? OO-ARR?"

Two fucking hours of my life and £17. What a chiz.

For Those Even Remotely Interested...

I did make it to the gym. So yay me!

But I failed to not do any weight training (well, I was there, the equipment was there so why not, eh?)

I then got home shattered and tried to kill my body with vast quantities of salad.

And kill my brain with BBCtv's Doctor Who: The Claws of Axos on DVD.

I'll review it later - if I can really be bothered to try remembering any of it.

For now I have clients in. To train.

Amazing how I've developed the ability to put a tie on without a mirror isn't it?

Monday, April 25, 2005

I Have Made A Decision

I am going to the gym every night this week.

Insanity I know, but I don't have much else on and since I can't drink (no, no I mustn't) I'll probably need something else to take out my frustrations on.

And in the absence of a man, the gym will have to do.

I'm obviously not so daft as to do the weights and everything every day (that's not really good for you from what I can gather) but I think a daily hit of the bikes and crosstrainer will probably do me the world of good. (There's a very big history of heart disease in the family for example, and my normal sedentary lifestyle does mean that rapid activity can leave me a little breathless).

But if nothing else I intend to lose a couple of inches round the waist by the summer and I think this is my only hope - unless of course the bonus comes in at a reasonable size and I can afford some backstreet lipo (viz and to whit a scalpel, syringe and a cunningly directed dustbuster).

To this end I have purchased a second gym kit at vast expense from the shysters at Marks and Spencer. The idea is I can thus wear one whilst the other is in the wash and don't have to plan my gym attendance around wash days.

Plus, in theory the cost will compel me to justify the purchase by using the damn thing.

Wish me luck.

Don't Panic! Don't Panic!

I've got clients coming in for training next week. Tuesday through to Thursday, and it was all signed and sealed early last week. So I booked the PCs, arranged for them to be delivered and then - caught up in a whirlwind of meetings with our developers, plus taking time off and so on and so forth - promptly forgot that I hadn't booked a rooms, projectors or lunches for the occasion.

Until of course the early hours of Sunday morning when I could do fuck all about it apart from panic for half an hour.

Thankfully I got in today and found that all resources were free all week and bookable.

It was certainly a great load off my mind, but I think I really must focus more.

A Good Weekend

It has been, you know. Aside from my constant witterings over the course of it (see below) the other highlights have been as follows:

  • Being manhandled by all and sundry (well, okay four people) as I occupied Retro on Friday night during a sort of begrudging celebration of my inexorable aging process. I was described on Saturday night as having spent Friday acting like a middle-aged divorcee propping up the Bar. Since I can do this apparently without effort I intend to keep it up.

    Many thanks to all who appeared, though; I love you all - but I must confess I do wish Retro bar was somewhat larger so we could all have room and congregate in one place.

  • Doctor Who was great fun despite Russell T. Davies' rather hamfisted attempts at doing a sort of sexless love story between the Doctor and Rose. By the "Next Time..." trailer came on I'd already enjoyed myself enormously, but by the time the credits rolled I'd almost done a sex wee in my pants. Roll on Episode 6 - this is where it should be getting really good.

  • The hedgehog (see below). I still go gooey when I think of it.

  • Discovering how good Girls Aloud's "Wake Me Up" is to have on when doing free weights at the gym.

  • Taking the pledge on Saturday and thus spending the last two nights off my tits on more diet coke than can be good for anyone (look, you can get drunk on anything if you have enough of it).

  • Naked Will Kemp in Van Helsing. Being horribly high on Diet Coke I suggested watching this abortion of a film again to see if it was as bad as I remembered. And it was (although still heaps better than the League of Extraordinary Codswallop). Naked Will Kemp (TM) and a brief appearance of The Torso of Huge Ackman (TM) are the only saving graces of an otherwise appallingly illiterate film written and directed, apparently, by someone incapable of due care and attention.

  • Loading up The Device with loads of camp old nonsense and realising (again) just how much of it I have.
And those are just the bits I remember.

I'm in an oddly buoyant mood today. I must try keeping it up.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Oh, if Only They Wouldn't Speak

Changing back into something more comfortable (i.e. that fits my current extra baggage) after my session at the gym today, two blonde adonises walked in after their sessions.

One, slightly chunky (but in a solid-set way), with an interesting tattoo - which incidentally I'm developing a liking for in the same way as I've developed one for eyebrow piercings - and quite chiseled.

The other, already shirtless as he walked in revealing a six-pack, C3PO-style leg/torso interface, lithe with a hint of muscle and a light sprinkling of body hair and treasure trail.

I was quite transfixed.

Until of course a heavily glottal conversation kicked in, through which the following was expressed: "Cor, I'm facking knackered me", "Yeah, right, me an'all", "well I facking went art didneye yestyday?", "fuck right, me an-all!".

It wasn't so much the accent - which I must say seemed a bit put-on somehow, like they were replicating something they'd heard on the telly (possibly the Fast Show) - but it was the complete lack of any real content other than a barage of blokey expletives definitely shattered the illusion for me.

And so I adjusted my crotch and stalked out - Girls Aloud blaring though the headphones of The Device - before mincing off to Sainbury's for something sinful to reward my gym-attendance.

For England and St. George

"Why is it," the more small-minded of my fellow Englishmen demand to know, "that we have to celebrate festivals of the various other cultures we put up with in this country, but the English aren't allowed to celebrate St. George's day?"

The most obvious response I can come up with is that St. George was a Roman hired killer and that possibly mercenaries who weren't born or resident in this country aren't great icons to be celebrated when you're trying to persuade people that you aren't warmongering imperialist bastards anymore (President Blair aside, obviously).

Besides, the thing for me is that we could happily celebrate it, and that national pride is a very good thing when it's pride about your country, but national pride is very closely related to nationalism which, frankly, I consider to be far less of a good thing.

It's all very well celebrating a land of opportunity, and the many good things that this country stands for, but you just know that the right will pretend they're adopting those perfectly good points whilst at the same twisting it into an implication that we're better than Johnny Foreigner and that many English people want nationalism back again.

The right is good at that I've noticed. Even now in the election the Conservatives keep saying things I have certain sympathies with but I know full well that given a hint of power they wouldn't think twice about shifting that up a gear into something desperately xenophobic and unpleasant. I tend to regard myself as conservative by nature, but definitely not Tory; they're far too good at adding a spoonful of sugar to their medicine to make it seem a little more palatable.

Besides, quiet dignified resolve and understatement are supposedly quintissentially English characteristics. I can't help but feel that going about quietly doing your bit to make this country a nice place to live is probably more useful than getting pissed in Trafalgar Square and waving banners and flags cut out from a tatty little rag like the Sun.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Strange Requests

I suppose I shouldn't be shocked these days by anything my friends request of me since they are, by and large, an odd bunch with some extremely eclectic tastes and I'm kind of used to (and indeed thankful for) this.

But once in every while they do manage to surprise even me.

Just two minutes ago I was asked if I have the "Joan Hickson theme" - by which I can only assume that Ben was enquiring after "the theme by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley for the BBC tv series 'Miss Marple' starring Joan Hickson."

Because if that is the case then what possible answer could I give but "yes, yes I do"?

I'm listening to it now. It really is one of the best theme tunes ever and I love it to bits, but why is it that every time I hear it I feel compelled to put an Almighty-esque four-to-the-floor disco beat behind it?

So Sweet!

Popped down the road to get some sundry consumables and there outside the little corner shop were a group of people coo-ing and ahh-ing into a cardboard box.

Hello, I thought, what's going on here then.

I instantly switched myself on "dry cynic" mode (I occasionally switch it off so it isn't worn out) and approached with caution.

To find that inside the box, en-route to be let loose on the heath, was a previously injured but now recovered hedgehog.

My heart melted. It was soooo cute.

You Could Be My Industry

I just made my first legal download and synched them over to The Device.

I feel so smug. (More so than normal that is.)

And what did I choose? None other than "Industry" by a little-known band The Modern.

Frankly I think from the snippets on their site that "Discotheque" will be a corker of a track, but sadly that isn't available for download yet. :o(

Vote Insanity!

I think I've found my natural political inclination.

http://www.omrlp.com/

Good sound policies for a fairer Britain can be found in their Election 2005 Manicfesto.

The New Device

Well, my birthday (and Christmas) present from my aunt was an iRiver H10 MP3 player.

For which I am incredibly happy.

Why not an iPod you might say? Well, mainly because I dislike iTunes intensely (I've never been able to get to grips with the interface) and until the iPod mini came out I was one of the few people who couldn't stand the iPod design.

The interface on the device itself is very iPodesque, but then I think that's increasingly true of all such devices. (And at least for a change Apple can justifiably complain people are stealing their ideas - unlike the whole Windows-style-GUI-interface wars which Apple users seem hopelessly ill-informed about.)

The iRiver scores for me though on having a removable battery, better battery life and a colour screen capable of showing pictures. (Naturally I tested the photo viewer with those "arty" pics of the French Rugby team in the buff. Well, you would wouldn't you?)

Downsides, the software's still shite. It's almost brilliant but it's not fully featured enough for my tastes. Main reason being that it can't convert files from MP3 to WMA as it transfers to the device. But it will happily do that when going from CD. This isn't a big deal since I was planning on getting another application to batch convert my MP3 collection over anyway, but it's a bit of a niggle.

The other downers are the case (which is shite) and the lack of a remote control on the headphones. Both are fixable by buying external accessories (which I shall do on payday) but it's details like that which annoy me. The Device itself however is a delight and the sound reproduction is superb.

So now I am in the process of reorganising my MP3s into directories based on bitrate so I can convert them to the equivalent WMA format. Good thing about that is that I'll end up with much smaller files and thus save a bit of space as well as just being able to drag and drop the files to the Device like it's a hard disk drive (the Creative Muvo Slim I had was a bit picky about that).

And since the new Device supports DRM I shall now be able to start getting legal downloads too. Wooohoo!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Awww, Bless!

One of the most touching things I recieved yesterday was a card from the lovely 'Stina who is well known for her love of hand-crafting stuff.

I think she pretty much managed to sum me up in one go, don't you?



I'm still giggling that it has a Slitheen from BBC TV's Doctor Who in it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Just My Bleeding Luck

I managed to co-incide my birthday for a day when everybody in my office (bar three people who've broken legs or some down with the black death or both) is actually in the building.

Not that this would be a problem in a sane environment of course, but in common with several offices in which I've worked in the past my colleagues all believe that those people who have birthdays are honour bound to buy everyone else cakes.

This seems deeply suspect to me, and always has done. It flies in the face of all common sense, surely?

So I totalled up the numbers in, blanched slightly and headed off to Marks and Spencer's to raid the bakery.

As I loaded up tubs of bites, boxes of cakes and packs of... um... other cakes onto the conveyor belt the (rather nice) chap behind the till smiled at me sympathetically. "Birthday?" he asked at which I nodded ruefully.

Clearly this malaise is much more widespread than I had first thought. I think we should campaign for it to be stopped.

Mmmm. Synchronicity.

Considering that today is the anniversary of my appearance on this benighted planet, it seems oddly appropriate that my Forgotten English calendar is today giving a word oddly appropriate to my life:

Ostentate. To make an ambitious display of; to show or exhibit boastingly.... [Hence] ostentator, one who makes a vain show; a boaster.
I'm convinced the universe does this sort of thing to me deliberately.

The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

So here I am. 28. And do I feel any different?

Do I buggery. It's all business as usual really.

Spent last night panelbeating. I think despite my lack of action I still keep topping up my gay points by dint of my (admittedly not regular enough) maintenance nights, viz and to-whit:

  • Facial Steam

  • Cleansing

  • Shave

  • Facepack

  • Nail-trimming

  • Assault on cuticles

  • Nail polishing
I'm sure that means I get bonus points on my gaycard I can use to get another Kylie CD.

So, presents, of course are the main and only difference between a birthday and a normal day once you've grown up and so far here's the rundown:

The family did manage to get the vouchers and CD I'd asked for so that worry is now all over. No clothes were purchased and sent up (hurrah!).

My aunt I shall be seeing tomorrow anyway for a lunch so nothing from her yet, apart from a fantastic card which read "Birthdays are like men", with the inside proclaiming "It's nobody's business how many you've had".

How right she is.

The award for gratuitous insanity, however, goes to the flatmate. Because we're both people who get the things we need when we need them, we tend to just go a little bit mad. For his birthday I got him a build-it-yourself Mars Rover kit, a Bonsai Potato growing kit and a Cat-A-Pult (with four model cats and a quite lethal trigger action) that seems to have been inexplicably popular.

He went a little bit more off-the-wall than even I'd expected though and went for a Thundercats motif.

I am now the bemused possessor of all 130 episodes of that series on DVD. This is remarkable on two counts: 1) that there are so many of them when I seem to remember them all having roughly the same plot; and 2) because such a set hasn't been manufactured. There are people out there, believe it or not, who are gleefully infringing copyright by mastering all the video episodes onto DVD. (And it comes in a lovely silver box.)

And then he got me a wallmounted, glowing, etched-glass Thundercats logo. It is genuinely the most bizarre thing anyone has ever given me, ever.

And that's saying something.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Don't Call Me Baby

Hurrah!

Client are getting a fourth single in Germany and it is the blissfully and delightfully poppy "Don't Call Me Baby" - for me the highlight of their "City" album.

Apparently it'll be available in the summer, so I'm twitching with anticipation.

I do hope it comes with some of the kick-ass mixes I've come to expect from their releases. I'm not importing it otherwise.

Objection!

The new Bodies Without Organs video is online now - and it's for a rather pleasant little ballad called "Open Door".

Popjustice piqued my curiosity by stating that it features Martin naked in a flotation tank, but having seen the video I feel I must object.

There's about one shot where he might possibly be naked that lasts for all of a second, and the rest of the time he's in it he's clearly wearing trunks.

No fair!

No-one Expects the German Inquisition!

Bugger. Ratzinger's the new pope.

This of course means that frankly he'll be just as conservative, dictatorial and unbending as the last bugger, causing equal amounts of misery, suffering, self-hatred and persecution.

On the other hand he's quite old, which is obviously a plus.

What's worrying though is that compared to some of the other candidates he's quite liberal. One of the others was intending to reform the Inquisition and re-introduce the stoning of homosexuals. (And I suspect this would be the bad stoning, not the good kind.)

Frying pan. Fire. Frying pan. Fire.

All Change!

As of 5:00 EST yesterday I am no longer employed by Canadians.

My company has been purchased by another one and so I am now officially employed by an American firm.

Yesterday we had a presentation from the Vice President of the firm to introduce us all. It was all very positive (as these things generally are) and quite fun - especially since Pizza and wine were laid on for us - but I must confess I did have a slight urge to start singing "ooh, stick you, your products too, and your daddy".

I'm actually quite excited by this takeover (apart from the US angle, obviously) so in all honesty the lyric really had no reason to be there other than my natural tendency to be gloriously inappropriate.

Anyway, after massive consumption and excess, our product team (plus the Canadian developers who are over) all went out for a meal at Belgo Centraal which is one of those places where you just have to sample as many of the odd beers they have on offer as you can.

Of course at this point I was remembering the old adage about "wine and beer". But I suspect I'm way too far down that track now to worry hugely.

The Green Thai Mussels were very nice, I must say. Although the richness of the food has left my stomach somewhat unstable this morning.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Hunt for King William Street

So, last night Daniel and I decided, in the interests of checking our facts for the next installment of Vitriol and Old Lace, to do a bit of checking around the London Bridge / Monument area for disused Underground remnants.

First was checking where the old entrance to London Bridge station is. That wasn't too much bother - it's at 1, London Bridge Street, a fabulously tiny corner building which has now been converted into a ventilation shaft for London Bridge underground station. Considering the numbers of people who must have used it I'm not surprised they had to relocate to a bigger building.

Then we hurried along London Bridge station (discussing the last Doctor Who episode natch), shifted up a street and followed the line of Swan Lane and Arthur Street up to King William Street.

Why? Well, because originally the Northern Line (or as it was then, the City and South London Railway) only went from Stockwell, via Elephant and Castle, and Borough and then up to King William Street, and after crossing the Thames followed the lines of these streets. Unfortunately Arthur Street has a very tight curve and a steep incline which would have been fine with cable haulage (as was originally intended) but when the cable company went bankrupt before the line opened they switched to the new-fangled electric system.

Unfortunately King William Street station was miles from the generator, meaning that there often wasn't enough power available to get a decent run up the hill. Trains often found themselves having to slide back down and have another go.

And after ten years they gave up, rebuilt the CSLR to go via London Bridge up to Bank instead and closed the line from Borough to King William street.

It all still exists, disused tunnels and all that, and apparently the station is still accessible - albeit from the basement of an office block that was built above the original station site (Regis House, 45 King William Street).

Geeky I know - especially since there's not much you can actually see, so it was more just a way of seeing the lay of the land - but I do find the history of the Underground endlessly fascinating with all its abandoned bits. I'm happy enough with the history I can see before my eyes, but the bits I can never see I find incredibly intriguing.

Frankly I'd kill to visit a disused station.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Nathan Jones

There are contrary to popular opinion, not just two different versions of Bananarama's cover of the Supremes' song "Nathan Jones".

There are in fact (at least) three.

The popular single one that turns up on all the greatest hits and so on, is actually a re-recording, post Kylie's shock success, remade at the record company's behest to sound more like the cliche PWL template of the time. It's jaunty enough, but a tad bland and uninteresting.

The original version - available on the "Wow!" album - is, however, a work of genius. It features heavy drums, an odd bassline and lead pipes dropping all over the place. (No really, the middle eight goes "Clang! 'Nathaaaaaaaan!'"). It's Bananarama doing randomised drum and bass whilst stoned off their tits.

You can't dance to it of course. But it's great.

But there's a third I randomly unearthed a while back (alongside a demo of a track called "Ain't No Cure" which simply pisses over the final studio version) that appears to have been an early abortive attempt at redoing the song for single release.

Bizarrely it got canned in favour of the final single, but managed to escape into the world by getting included in the masters used for the Canadian vinyl version of the first greatest hits (just the vinyl one, mind, the Canadian cassette and CD got the proper single version).

Naturally it's this obscure one that is my favourite of the versions. It's sometimes known as the Analog version and features heavy arpeggiation to open (maintained throughout) and a bizarre harmonising riff in the choruses that should never have been dropped.

It's closer in style to the single mix, but infinitely better in my opinion. And it just randomly popped up on my MP3 player while I was having a walk at lunchtime - hence me realising I should tell the world.

I have a feeling I may slip it into my next Windypops! set (should I be asked to do another, of course) it's that good.

Not that you probably give a damn, of course. I just got excited about it and needed to get it off my (slightly furry) chest.

Strange Sequences

I spent a worrying amount of my weekend stuck in front of Fruity Loops.

Mainly I was trying to rescue some stuff I'd written yonks ago in an earlier version before I rebuilt my computer. In desperation I had to replace many of the drum samples and synths in all the files to get anything working - and oddly enough ended up improving most of it.

Proudest moment was discovering my arrangement of ABBA's best B-side "Should I Laugh or Cry" wasn't half bad. Still needs a bit of work (the chord sequence I found online is fundamentally wrong at one point) and a few bits of colour added, but on the whole I might actually have it finished before too long (assuming I don't get bored again).

I also re-discovered a sort of S/A/W clubby sort of drum sequence and bassline I'd put together ages ago. No song to go with it yet, but again its something that could probably do with more work and turn into something quite good.

Still not happy with my arrangement of Nine to Five, though. I think I may scrap it all and start again.

Lustpuppy

Okay... this is worrying. I seem to be plagued with "ooooh... he's pretty" thoughts this weekend and I'm fairly certain that some of them aren't.

Last night I ended up barking at:

Christopher Gorham. Attractive in a geeky sort of a way, I think. He was the lead in the ill-fated series Jake 2.0 and there was something delightfully inept about his character. I felt quite maternal and "awwww" about him.

Drew Fuller. Dark, smouldering and brooding - a combination I am a complete sucker for. He seems to have gained attention from being in Charmed although since I haven't watched the series in years I really have no idea what his role is. It all seems very confusing from what I saw last night.

James Franco. Peter Parker's (ex) friend in the Spiderman movies. Good bone structure and a pout - again something I tend to go for in a big way.

Shawn Ashmore who aside from putting a foot wrong by starring in Earthsea, has been Ice Man in the X-Men franchise too. I did feel somewhat dirty about this one, but since discovered he's only two years younger than me so it's viable...

Unlike Bruno Langley. Now it's bad enough finding an ex-Corrie star kind of attractive - but he's going to be in Doctor Who! I can't have that sort of thought running round my head whilst watching that show now can I?

I am seriously worried, to be honest. Why? Because there's something rather... boyish about this lot, which isn't my usual thing at all and makes me feel a little bit of a perv.

I'm wondering where all the solid beefy guys seem to be now. Why aren't they on TV tempting me as well, eh?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Mmmm, Lurvely!

A good night's sleep, awaking to find bright morning sunshine streaming through the window. Tossing aside the remaining patch of duvet covering you and just lying there soaking up the rays and knowing you don't have to go anywhere or do anything for hours.

Nice huh? Well that was my start to the day. Can there be any greater pleasure?

I think not.

I actually purred.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Creative Bursts

It's very odd.

I woke up early this morning with a song forming in my brain. I mulled it over whilst washing up and then set about trying to key it into Fruity Loops so I don't lose it (and discovering in the process that I really need a MIDI keyboard).

Christina's often said we should write songs together. I think I may bung the existing bit over to her for a chorus and see what we can come up with.

One concern, though: I don't think it's normal for songs to be in C Major. And I'm fairly certain it is.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Oh Balls

Just remembered someone sent my phone a multimedia message on Saturday.

Of course since then I've gone on auto-pilot and trashed my inbox so I've no idea what the hell it was.

That'll serve me right for putting it off until later. Memory like a sieve.

Eat and Drink

I haven't smelled mothballs in ages you know. Strangely I found the aroma oddly comforting. I think I instantly regressed back to my childhood as a five-year old boy in Portsmouth, finding the wardrobe in the spare room with Dad's navy coat in it.

Of course the last place I expected to smell this was in the loos of a Chinese restaurant, which did rather take the edge off it a bit.

Last night I was out on a "thank you for choosing our product" meal with one of my new clients. This is the first time I've done a corporate client-facing dinner and I must admit I was dreading it somewhat. The fact that the clients turned out to be a bunch of hardened partiers and sarcastic bastards meant that I needn't have worried, it was - all in all - rather enjoyable.

Main reason I was there, frankly, was to pad out the numbers. There were nine people there from our client so my colleagues were in danger of being a bit swamped.

Obviously I restrained myself on the alcohol front. I don't mind getting hammered in front of my colleagues (and in fact have done frequently) but when clients are involved you do have to ease off a bit.

Thing that does interest me, though, when the group's been whittled down to a handful of men who've all had a drink is how laddy the conversation inevitably gets. There seems to be an implicit "straight until proven faggy" assumption which I could find offensive, but just amuses me to a certain extent.

So last night I was listening patiently to all their stories and in places found myself agog with a mixture of laughter and shock at their antics and anecdotes and thinking the whole thing was a bit of an odd experience for me, and feeling slightly uncomfortable.

But then of course I thought about some of the stories I hear when I'm out with my friends (not to mention one or two of my own) and I suddenly realised that I could probably shock this group into silence without even breaking a sweat.

And that made me enjoy myself all the more.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Influence and Insertables

Bizarrely, I received in my home email yesterday an MP3 file of some review song extolling the virtues of the Colo-Rectal Surgeon. It was, I must admit, vaguely amusing and full of wit and wordplay.

Thing is... it was sent to me by my father.

I am increasingly of the opinion that he really isn't cut out for the church at all: last Thursday I met him at the Tate Modern for lunch and casting his eye over the London horizon his gaze lighted upon the Swiss Re Tower. After a brief pause - mainly to check my stepbrother wasn't listening - he asked the obvious question: "What's the glass dildo for, Rob?"

After a wry smile I had to explain "not much". Apart from Swiss Re themselves it's not hugely well occupied; people apparently prefer sitting on them to working in them. At which he laughed and muttered something about that figuring.

I dunno. It's becoming increasingly difficult to tell which of my father and I is exerting the most corrupting influence on the other.

As an aside I did once hear the lovely story of some Spanish friends of one of my gayest colleague who, when walking along the river, burst into a fit of giggles at the sight of the Swiss Re tower - for now obvious reasons.

Not knowing the English for such a device, however, the lady of the couple said "But... but... it looks like a... a... Consulator".

"A Consulator?" My colleague asked, perplexed. The explanation in slightly halting English finally revealed "it's a thing a woman gets to use when her man is away".

Took me hours to figure out she wasn't referring to a TV remote.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Ye Gods

Just discovered this.

I couldn't decide for a while if I was fascinated or appalled.

Then I realised I was both.

If I could afford it I'd be tempted to order one just for the sheer horror value. But thankfully I can't tell whether I'd be medium or large from the information presented.

Bless You, But No...

I just got stopped on the street by a young girl wanting to know if I'd like to take part in the London Triathlon this year.

Now whilst I was vaguely flattered that she seemed to think I was up to the job, I must confess that I declined on the spot. I can't, on principle, partake in any exercise that involves me moving above striding pace whilst actually moving forwards.

Why?

Well, because frankly I run like a twat.

Bring Something Back!

Well, last night I finished extracting all the joy from the Quatermass Collection DVDs.

Somewhat perversely I watched it all over several nights, but in reverse order (that is in reverse order of stories, not episodes - I'm not that perverse). As a result my views on these are presented here in reverse order too for those bored enough to want to read them

Quatermass and the Pit is, quite simply, one of the best pieces of television ever made. The opening couple of episodes are quite leisurely by today's standards but that just makes the panic and hysteria building up in later episodes even more effective. And Andre Morell is for me the definitive Quatermass: debonair, authoritative, moral, inquisitive, and not afraid to accept the implausible if it fits the facts.

It's not without its faults. The live nature of the broadcast means there are fluffs and clunky bits to allow for actors to move to another set, but it's still incredibly watchable. As the later of the three it's also the best recorded, meaning not only was the film in good nick but they've also been able to treat it so it looks like crisp sharp video.

Quatermass II has by far the worst Quatermass portrayal of the lot. John Robinson is plummy, stiff and terribly RP. Thankfully the supporting cast make up for it, and again the increasing sense of danger and paranoia is exceptionally well done. Sadly this one hasn't been treated so well since the masters weren't worth giving the VidFire treatment to, but it's still interesting.

The Quatermass Experiment, of course, is the first one ever. Sadly due to recording techniques in 1953 they recorded the first two episodes they broadcast, had a look at the quality of the recording and decided not to waste any more film on doing more. It's a real shame because on the evidence of the episodes presented here, it was really rather good (and the insect running around the inside of the lens is quite fun to watch in episode two, as well). Reginald Tate makes rather a good Quatermass, and it’s a shame he died before they made the second - although if he hadn't pegged it at all we wouldn't have got Morell for "and the Pit" so I suppose its all swings and roundabouts.

Fascinating pieces of TV history then, and also the storylines are the first instances of the three main Sci-Fi storylines used in TV series: Rockets bringing something "other" back to earth for "Experiment", the aliens invasion being well under way without anyone noticing for QII (especially with the industrial setting), and the discovery that aliens influenced mankind's development way back in the past (and gave rise to superstitions and black magic and ghost stories in the intervening years) for "And The Pit".

In many respects, watching them I was reminded of Jon Pertwee's era of Doctor Who - and not just because "The Daemons" is a complete and blatant rip-off of the third Quatermass tale. (The same story elements are there, the Doctor just takes over Quatermass' role, and UNIT provide the military angle that Quatermass needs, but also finds himself in conflict with.) The only difference is that I quite like Quatermass, whereas the third Doctor is a pompous, sneering, arrogant little wanker.

So all in all it's one of the best purchases I've made over the last couple of months. Highly recommended.

Pissing-While

It's not often I do a double take when I see today's entry on my Forgotten English calendar, but today I did.

The term "pissing-while" is fair enough - it's in "Two Gentlemen of Verona" and literally means "a short while" - but the historical note underneath it was quite expansive on the subject of the many and sundry uses of urine (or "lant") up to the 19th century.

What really got me though was that people used to store it - so it could be collected and used by various trades - in pots called "lye-pots" or "lant mugs".

Except apparently they didn't call them that in Yorkshire, oh no.

Up there these vessels were saddled with the delightful name of "Pissing Nancy".

Now if ever there was a post that needed a comment from Darren it's this one...

A Lavatorial Mind

I was vaguely amused to read a report yesterday which suggested that the software product I support has a much greater client base than many of our competitors, thus making it an industry standard.

This was nice, of course, but what clinched it for me was the way they expressed this.

We have, apparently, "a much larger client penetration" than many of our rivals.

I'm sorry to say I laughed muchly about this.

It's terrible. No matter how often I can come across as a wordsmith, a man of subtlety and discernment and dignified restraint, there's probably twice as many times as you can make me laugh out loud with some lavatorial innuendo and a fart gag.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Switch Off Your TV Set? Never!

Last night I was back in front of BBC Four (still almost singlehandedly justifying the licence fee) to catch a documentary on Russell T. Davies - a programme which only served to remind me what a televisual genius this man is.

A list of the programmes he's written reads like the milestone programmes of my childhood.

Why Don't You? he transformed from a crappy magazine show presented by kids, into a crappy magazine show presented by kids but with underlying daft sci-fi plots. A process through which he rendered it almost watchable.

Dark Season was his first drama serial and was essentially Doctor Who with kids in the lead, was genuinely creepy, featured a young Kate Winslett, and had lesbian Nazis and Jacqueline Pearce to boot.

Following that he did Century Falls which was the most singularly disturbing thing to have been written for children's telly ever and knocks spots off most adult dramas let alone "kids stuff". (Three years ago I managed to acquire an off-air recording of it on video and it remains to this day one of my most treasured possessions.)

There's a very good website here about both these programmes actually. I was rather impressed by it.

His most notorious piece of work though took me completely by surprise. Queer As Folk had an incredible effect on me as a relatively newly out person at the time. This wasn't a show about bland "tv-friendly" gay men who never had sex, it celebrated and depicted gay life in all its irritating diversity and put it slap bang in the mainstream.

(I've seen the US version of QAF, incidentally. It seemed to me to be more graphic, prettier and yet incredibly bland. It had no gritty edge whatsoever. I was singularly unimpressed.)

Anyway, as far as I'm concerned Russell T. Davies is for television what Richard X and Alexander Bard are for pop music.

Frankly I'd have his babies if I could.

Oh Lordy.

Just remembered.

No fewer than five times yesterday I used the phrase "fantastic!"

Two of them occuring within the space of one two-minute phonecall.

Now it's a word I've used frequently before, but suddenly - thanks to Christopher Ecclestone - it has certain connotations and I feel slightly menky about using it.

I suppose I should just be grateful I didn't gurn after saying it.

(Well no more than normal, but that was supposed to be a smile. They just look similar on me.)

I've Felt Your Presents

One of the hazards with phone calls to the family at the moment is the oft-repeated phrase (getting more oft repeated as there's now less than two weeks to go): "what do you want for your birthday?" and the subsequent exasperation they express when I inevitably go "oh, I don't know!"

Thing is, I don't. This year, as I've mentioned before, is a 28th birthday which is not exactly a great milestone and since my twenties have been somewhat up and down I'm really focusing on making my thirties go without a hitch in a couple of years time. So what I might like to receive this year is really not uppermost in my mind.

I've settled for Marks and Spencer vouchers from my Dad and my Stepmum. This is largely in a vain bid to stop them buying me clothes, since family are genetically incapable of getting this right. Not that I don't need any clothes mind, in fact I need a spare gym kit and new socks, but I can't trust anyone to get me anything I like in that line apart from me. (Okay, my stepmother got lucky at Christmas and got a jumper I liked, but this was very much a one-off and they both usually screw it up.)

Having been forced into giving up this piece of information I was then bullied into coming up with something "more exciting" my stepbrother could give me. As I desperately trawled the net for ideas I realised the new Fischerspooner album is out so I suggested that, meaning at least one of the things I've been putting off buying until I can afford it is catered for. (I resisted the temptation to ask for the new Garbage album as well, since I'm not sure my family would feel comfortable buying an album called "Bleed Like Me".)

Now I just have to come up with something my aunt can get me. Because she's banging on about it too and won't give up.

Thing is, anything I actually need I tend to get when I need it, and I'm not great at recognising needs in advance. The only things I am currently unable to get are a new MP3 player (I have my eye on the iRiver H10 because I need the larger storage and it's got a removable battery and a proper charger, unlike the evil iPods) and a PDA (because I genuinely couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery and my life needs organising better). But both of these items are expensive, and therefore not the sort of things you can justify asking for as a present.

So anything else is essentially a frippery, and fripperies don't tend to stick in my mind long enough to stay there for when people ask.

So the continued re-occurance of this repeated question is one which actually makes me dread the run-up to my birthday even more.

For God's sake people just give me alcohol - it won't last I know, but it'll doubtless make me very happy.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Two Things To Amuse the Rob

Two things have happened this afternoon that have gladdened and amused this tired and jaded onanist.

First is word from my stepmother that 12 year-old Daniel, my half-brother, was scared by Saturday's Doctor Who. Apparently he woke early Sunday morning from a bad dream because of all the dead bodies wondering around on their own.

To which I say: result!

(And doubly so because, despite her disapproval, he still fully intends to watch again next week.)

The other was the arrival of a pack of pathetic vouchers from Boots, the leading UK pharmacist. The details of one of these offers reads as follows:

"20% off Boots Ibuprofen.
(Contains Ibuprofen.)"
Well, golly. Who'd have thought?

Oh Thank God!

It seems there's still hope!

My life has just been given an 18 rating.

Click to find out your rating!

Go click. See what yours is.

Finding a Good Fit

Receiving the delivery from Tesco yesterday within five minutes of the start of the slot I'd booked, did provoke me to think about how some people seem to have no trouble at all with companies, whereas others find the company can't do anything right.

In the case of Tesco, I've not had a single problem with my orders - although I think I got a substantial amount of someone else's once, but that worked in my favour after all. My flatmate, however, never ceases to have trouble.

For me if they're going to turn up early they ring up and ask if it's alright. For him he comes home to find an annoyed driver sitting outside the house muttering. For me they've never been late once, for him he's lucky if it arrives anytime before the booked slot ends. For me they seem to figure out that of three possible options, flat two must be the middle bell (bloody obvious I'd have thought), but for him they get the neighbours out as well, and so on.

I've noticed this sort of thing with phone companies too. I was with Vodafone for a good few years, but kept getting crappy upgrade deals, shirty customer service people who clearly couldn't be bothered, a lousy tariff when they changed it all, and no access to online billing because my original contract had been bought via a third party who Vodafone then brought in-house.

So I gave up, threw a hissy fit and switched to 02 who have been wonderful. Everything on time, online billing, swift responses to queries, muchos cheapness and a service which I've had no problems with at all.

But I know various people who've had no end of trouble with O2 and prefer Vodkafone. It's very odd. And my initial reaction is "why?" but their experience just turns out to be totally different.

I just get the feeling that sometimes people and companies suit each other - in the same way that relationships between individual people can go well. You just both occupy the same wavelength and nothing much ever goes wrong. Some of us fit hand in glove, whereas others fit fist in face.

It's nice sometimes to find a relationship where you both suit nicely with no effort at all. So yay for Tesco, and yay for O2.

Now all I need is the same principle to apply to getting a man.

This, I fear, is a trickier prospect.

Robbo and the Jet Set

Good Lord.

Not only am I off to Gran Canaria this year, but I'm now prefacing that with a long weekend in Oslo in June.

Cheap as chips it is too, despite it being the tail end of Europride that weekend.

That and the sunshine seem to be cheering me up no end.

Despite the fact I made the most boring sandwiches today.

Sunday Sunday

I had quite a productive day all told yesterday.

Actually it wasn't at all productive, but I felt it was full.

The flat got further cleaning, Tesco delivered a load of groceries I couldn't afford, but couldn't have survived without, I paid of loads of bills, sorted out paperwork and piles of stuff I'd been putting off, watched vast quantities of Quatermass II (all of it in fact) and managed to bully myself into going to the gym again.

I think I like Sunday visits to the gym. I've been twice now on this day, and on both occasions it's been quite quiet and unstaffed (which makes me feel far less self-conscious) and there is a more relaxed feel about the whole thing.

Plus the few men who are there tend to be quite fit and normal as opposed to the sports mad macho guys who by Sunday are drinking beer in front of the footie. There was one there yesterday, for example, who I would happily have tripped up whilst contriving to be there to cushion his fall.

Thing is I'm coming to the conclusion that I need some way of motivating myself to keep going. The "it's for your own good" approach doesn't work since I'm naturally drawn to things that are bad for me, and the "think of all the boys you can pull if you have a body beautiful" is clearly just a pipe dream. I need targets and challenges, something which actually persuades me that the effort is at all worthwhile.

Wallflower Techniques

Something that occurred to me today - inspired by what I could not say - was the realisation that almost all of my clothing seems to be specifically chosen to help me melt into the background.

Colourwise I tend to go for blacks, light blues, beiges and so on. None of which are bold kick-out "look at me" type colours and are in fact more sort of "nothing to see here, move along now" type things.

I also realised that many of the people I go out with (and indeed in a few notable cases have been out with as it were) are quite loud and socially assertive, which I also suspect suits me fine most of the time because again it takes the heat off me a bit.

So, how do I change this attitude so I actually come forward more? How do you change a trait which is so ingrained into your psyche that the very thought of trying to change it terrifies you?

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Whore's Drawers

Last night's Doctor Who was a corker. The series just keeps getting better, although the 45-minute format is creaking a little under the strain of trying to maintain the series' standards of characterisation, plot and wit.

You know the series has arrived, of course, when you get complaints about its content. This complaint was on the Points of View Message board today. (I must confess I could barely hide my glee.)

Sadly though the evening went somewhat downhill from there. I've already mentioned that I was supposed to be at this pre-Gran Canaria drinkies but by the time 7:00 came round my enthusiasm for leaving the house for the evening had completely evaporated. After Who had been and gone, I was then effectively bundled out of the house against my wishes, bullied into going out under the instruction (and I quote) "you'll come out and bloody well enjoy yourself".

Needless to say, instructed enjoyment never works. We went to Bar Soho which I disliked from the moment we were waiting outside with the bouncers who seemed ill-inclined to let us in. We couldn't find the Gran-Can lot so headed to Trash Palace, which I rather liked previously, but the combination of a downwardly spiraling mood and some fucking awful wine (no really, it was dreadful, worse than most GayBar Brands) and being elbowed out of the way by various arrogant fashionistas fulfilling an "alternative" gay stereotype really put the tin hat on it.

I managed to escape home, depressed that I really don't fit into the scene at all, having felt desperately alone in company I know, and just wanting to avoid people wherever possible for the rest of my life.

I seem to be back to normal today - but sadly it's the standard normal. Slightly melancholic but "well, sod it" in attitude.

I'm really a little concerned. My mood seems to be up and down quite a lot at the moment. I can be deliriously happy one minute and then have a mood which gives me a face like a smacked twat the next.

If I was on drugs that might explain it, but sadly I'm not - it just seems to be me.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Perils of Being a Menk

Well, one peril really: it can really interfere with your social life (assuming you have one, of course).

Thing is, I'm off to Gran Canaria in the summer.

It's a week with a load of OUTers admittedly (we're pretty much taking over an entire apartment block apparently) but since I didn't have a holiday as such last year I kind of accepted that fate. I know several of the people going and hopefully should be able to cope with most of the others if I keep a can of Mace on me at all times.

But to kick the whole thing off some kind souls have organised a sort of pre-GranCan drinkies for us all to say "Hi!" to one another beforehand.

And it starts at 1800 hours tomorrow.

Saturday.

When Doctor Who is on at 1900, with Doctor Who Confidential on at 1945.

So obviously I'm going to be turning up to the drinks rather late.

I mean, I like a drink as much as (and indeed more than) anyone but this is important!

The Hammering in My Head

Colleague's Leaving Drinks: Why do they always end in pain?

My head hurts. And I'm having difficulty concentrating.

I'm really too old for this sort of thing now. My body, it seems, just can't take it.

I clearly have to find something else to recklessly overdo.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A Decidedly Odd Mood

Yesterday and today I seem to have been suffering from what can only be described as an "odd mood".

I seem to be happy.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm often happy. But that tends to be event-driven happiness - being in the company of friends, hearing a bad joke (the more groanworthy the pun the better), watching some dross on television that appeals to me, listening to a slice of infectious and utterly valueless pop music, that sort of thing.

This is more a sort of background level of happiness that seems to be drowning out my normal level of cynicism and low-level melancholia. I'm feeling bouncy and optimistic and "can do" and so on, bursts of random ideas hit me and I seem to be lateral thinking more than is usual for me.

I honestly don't know where it's come from - yesterday I'd put it down to a release of endorphins into my bloodstream from going to the gym but it's still going strong.

If I wasn't enjoying it so much I'd probably be quite concerned.

Democracy in Action

And so it begins: the general election - a process in which we of this benighted country get to choose which party (from a selection of pious, self-serving, pompous lackwits) gets to shaft our country silly for the next five years. Today I found in our letterbox the first of the small forest of leaflets I can expect to receive aiming to swing my ill-informed judgement over the coming month.

As you can probably guess I'm not convinced our electoral system works. It probably works better than the US one, but for me the trouble with the democratic "one man, one vote" system is the other people who have the vote. Frankly most of my fellow voters I wouldn't trust with a sandwich toaster, let alone deciding who runs the bits of the UK we haven't outsourced to the Highlands and valleys.

So what are my choices? Conservative (right wing bigots and reactionaries from Daily Mail land - which as we know is about as far removed from reality as it's possible to get), Labour (insincere, warmongering, Bush-lapdogging liars and spin-doctors) and the Liberal Democrats (who I'll probably end up voting for despite the fact they haven't got a hope in hell of winning).

I really wish there was an "overhaul the democratic system" protest vote available.

The only thing which gives me any hope (as it does every time) is that no party wins an overall majority and that we thus end up with a hung parliament.

Trouble is, I'm not sure that means what I hope it does. But just on the off-chance I'm wrong I'd be quite happy to supply some of the rope myself, okay?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Gay Toilets

Following a brief conversation with fellow work-fag Mark on the state the breeder-males leave the loos in here, it did occur that the gays' reputation for cleanliness, tidiness and high-living is actually not 100% accurate.

The real clincher is the toilets in gay bars. I don't know what my non-UK readers find in their countries of residence, but here in Blighty we seem to have a slight problem in that most gay bars and pubs have disgusting toilets, and given our reputation I can't for the life of me think why.

Admittedly you kind of expect it at certain "specialist" places (and 79 CXR, which isn't a fetish bar, but where I was horrified by the simple fact that such a thing as "farming" could happen in a public place). But the thing is, that in the ordinary bars too there seems to be a determination that at the very least, "sodden" and "run-down" are the season's most desired decorative styles. And this is more often the case (in my experience) in gay venues than it is in straight ones.

Why is this? Is it because of some misguided idea that if the loos are nasty then the gays will be so horrified they'll just piss and go? Is it really a clever tactical device to stop us spending any time in there and thus minimise the chances of cubicle-based man-boffing?

Coz if so I can assure them it ain't working.

Stiffness Ensues

Oh yes it does. And why? Well, because yesterday I went to the gym again for the first time in about eight weeks.

Reasons for not going have been many and varied - social engagements (and subsequent appalling hangovers), back injury, colds and business trips. But the trouble is that the pattern of training I'm on makes it difficult to miss out even a week let alone more, hence the last couple of weeks I found myself putting off my return.

On Monday it suddenly occurred to me I could just go back to square one on the routines and start from the base level again. No harm in that, and it'll get me back in the running after all. Of course yesterday I almost put it off again. On the tube I had a fierce internal argument about being tired, not feeling like it and so on. Until finally my little internal voice pointed out that I wasn't doing anything else, I've started to get a bit porky and I was just being pathetic.

Suitably chastened I went along and although I half knackered myself doing it, I must confess I'm rather glad I did.

The other major decision yesterday was based on the realisation that I actually had £10 a day left for the rest of the month. Well, actually it's £10.67 if you want to be exact, but even so it was a bit of a shock. I've reduced my outgoings this week by going for packed lunches but I can tell it's going to be a frugal month for someone with my admittedly expensive tastes. I'm now somewhat regretting the CDs, DVDs and so on - not to mention the other outgoings I couldn't avoid but wish hadn't turned up this month.

In order to stick to this I've decided that I'm going to try physically having the £10 in actual cash on me, rather than use my debit card. I've always had something of a problem understanding the value of money and I have a feeling this may help.

So yes, my conclusion last night was that in so many areas of my life I really need to exercise more control over myself. I need to be disciplined Goddamnit.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Completely Uncollectable

I'm loving eBay - despite the fact it won't keep me signed in from one visit to the next - since over the last month I've managed to track down several items on CD single to replace my vinyl-to-MP3 conversions from a while back.

Today, following previous arrivals of Sonia's "Only Fools" and The Parade's "Terrorize the Dancefloor", my copies of Kim Appleby's "Don't Worry" and "G.L.A.D." turned up - from Germany of all places.

In both cases although I have the 12" singles (and the mixes rock), I wanted to get the CDs. Reason is that now I'm DJing occasionally I prefer to us real CDs to burned CD-ROMs since they're a tad more reliable (although this has more to do with the Mucky Vulture's decks than the CDs I think).

But it's strange. I know people go on about how much nicer sound is from vinyl, but my play-throughs so far from the CD have given me a lot more pleasure than the platters ever did. I've heard so much more of the twiddly bits in the arrangements now than I'd ever realised was there before.

Some people may think digital is cold, but frankly I rather relish the clarity.

Anyway... now I'm desperate for a CD copy of "Never Felt As Good" by Belvedere Kane. If anyone has a copy they don't need then I'm not above giving away sexual favours to get hold of it.

Pope Still Dead Shocker!

People seem slightly surprised and shocked by this considering his age and frailty.

The change in his life-status is apparently quite big news. Sadly I wasn't hugely impressed at the huge blue BBC newsbanners over Quatermass the other day telling me to switch to BBC News 24 for breaking news (my reaction: "NO! Fuck off!).

I was rather more irked by the announcement since every time I caught BBC News prior to this event the headlines were all "Pope not dead yet" "Pope clinging on for dear life" and "Pope's Death: How Will It Affect Property Prices?" (Okay, I'm paraphrasing a bit, but the last one could have come from the Daily Mail if they'd thought of it first, I'm sure).

The saturation coverage has also affected me slightly in that I now keep typing popejustice.co.uk into my browser of a morning, which is just idiocy of the highest order on my part.

But now we have this rather tasteless and showy outpouring of grief from all sides which rather offends me. I mean okay, if you were genuinely a devout catholic then you might be upset, fair enough. If you'd met him and liked him, fair enough. But everyone else? Hypocrisy of the highest order, methinks. You can't grieve for someone who never touched your life okay?

Personally I thought he was out of touch, bigoted and espoused some extremely dangerous opinions. His views on contraception alone have probably caused more disease and death than you can imagine - and all this from a great supporter of human rights, apparently.

Okay, so I wouldn't wish anyone dead, but beyond the general sorry-another-human-life-has-been-snuffed-out I can't say I'm terribly upset about the fact he's gone. In fact I feel rather more sympathy in my heart for those people who are grieving, if you see what I mean.

In any case, I think I'm far more worried about what the next one's gonna be like.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I'd Like To See You Try

Today I was faintly amused by a florist's stall opposite Marks and Sparks in Moorgate.

Somewhat implausibly they were offering "Flower's Made To Order".

Apostrophe aside, I almost went and asked them to make me a yellow and violet polka-dot carnation.

The Best Laid Plans

Last night I was intending to have a quiet and booze-free evening with nothing in the way of danger or excitement - largely to prepare myself for Ben coming round this evening to watch Saturday's Who (he was in Paris over the weekend for some obscure reason).

However, on Bens return from Paris we were summoned to the Yard for drinks and fun and shits and giggles. It was a slightly odd evening - Mikey and I made good our escape when Chris and Ben were latched onto by a drunken irishman, Ben was extremely drunk indeed by the time we arrived (always fun to be sober in the face of drunkenness) and the Yard is one of those desperately overrated places which costs the earth and is full of preening nancyboys. But it was still quite relaxed.

Unfortunately I then had enough to drink to suddenly get a burst of energy and want to go clubbing. Thankfully I drank through that, but did suddenly rush into a "bookshop" in Soho to pick up a book I'd avoided buying on Saturday when looking for Chris' birthday presents.

I still can't believe that I ran gleefully into a shop with neon signs reading "Licenced Sex Shop" just to pick up the collected ABBA sheet music. I swear I'm actually getting gayer...

On another note, FruityLoops was delivered on Sunday afternoon and I thus spent several happy hours testing synth presets, trying out drum patterns and then constructing the beginnings of a remix of Pay TV's "Trendy Discotheque".

The benefit of my drunken state on my return home was that it did actually give me inspiration on how to make the bassline I'd constructed less clunky. So far it's all a bit bare bones - except for the opening "aaaahhhhhh aaaahhhhhh " bits which are pretty much finished - but in a couple of weeks I hope to have a first draft version of it ready to expose to the world.

I then went to bed - after ejecting a caterpillar from it.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Oh Bloody Hell

I really am a menk of the highest order.

The OUT threads are buzzing on the subject of last night's Who, but I've twice felt the need to correct people over some misconception about the whole "TARDIS causing you to understand alien tongues" thing.

Apparently people are regarding this as a new development in the series (and a rip-off of Douglas Adams' Babel Fish at that). Which has led me to become uber-geek and point out that it was dropped in way back in 1976 in the Masque of Mandragora - two years before Hitch-Hiker's was released.

And a little piece of me has died each time.

The next person who says that Daleks never went up stairs in the series before is not going to know what hit them. And I shall then doubtless get horrible greasy skin and a brand new anorak.

Saturday Night

And I stayed in and watched telly.

First up... Doctor Who (of course). Episode Two was "The End of the World" and was an absolute corker. I wasn't expecting it to be as funny as it was - and even better that it was intentionally so.

Okay, so I was vaguely irritated by the sonic screwdriver being the all-powerful macguffin again, and Ecclestone really shouldn't gurn when he's trying to portray happy and excited, but he really does make an excellent man of mystery and emotional depth. His scene with Jabe was just lovely.

And Billie Piper, again, is proving to be utterly brilliant. I'm stunned by how good she is.

Then after that (and Doctor Who Confidential of course) I watched the live broadcast of the Quatermass Experiment on BBC Four which I did kind of enjoy. The acting started off a bit wooden, and there were a few fluffs (not least of which was it under-running chronically), and the ending was kind of sudden but it was still an interesting experiment anyway. Nigel Kneale created some fantastic shows - I'm not surprised the X-Files wanted him.

Not for the first time I then found myself glued to BBC Four for the rest of the evening. Following Quatermass they put on a documentary about live TV in the early days of television, and then one on the proliferation of fantasy series in the sixties. Both of these were from their "Time Shift" strand which is such a well researched, unsensational and quality documentary series that it alone proves BBC Four is too good to be a minor digital channel.

They should scrap the awful mindless tripe of BBC Three in its entirety and move this channel up one.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pillock

Slept like a log last night - which is not to say I was shedding bits of bark everywhere, but simply was out like a light - only to wake with a jerk this morning.

That is to say I had one of those sudden horizontal bed jumps and an "oh God, I need to get up now" moment, instinctively slamming my hand on the cancel button on my alarm clock to silence it.

Only to realise, of course, that my alarm wasn't actually set for this morning and I was just doing that out of habit. Dur!

But this after a dream in which I'd been doing lines of coke at Madonna's mansion with her and Billie Piper (during which Billie tried to steal Madge's earrings) before we had to fight off hordes of the undead means that I am feeling somewhat bewildered this morning.

On the plus side, I've just spent a stupid amount of money ordering the latest edition of Fruity Loops Studio and some synth plugins for it. When the registration codes arrive I'm sure I shall be happy as a sandboy making awful squelching noises and putting together handclappy drum sequences to upset the flatmate.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I'm Inna F - F - U - F - U - N - K

Yes, I am.

Don't know what it is, but since the middle of the week I've really been finding it very difficult to get motivated or excited about anything all of a sudden.

I feel listless, unenthusiastic and lethargic. I suspect this has got something to do with loads of things I was channeling my energies into and looking forward to all passing at once. Vitriol and Old Lace finally got updated, Doctor Who finally aired, the charity Windypops! came and went (with a variety of incidents I'm far too discrete to relate here in order to protect the guilty), pay reviews happened, Easter weekend with my Aunt passed by and now I'm left with a feeling that I'm going to be doing a Buffy-esque "Going Through the Motions" for the next few months.

Thing is it's not like there isn't stuff for me to get into: I'm specifically not leaving the house on Saturday because not only is the next Who on, but also BBC Four are doing a live recreation of the original 1953 Nigel Kneale play "The Quatermass Experiment" which as any British TV Historian will know is one of the most seminal TV Dramas ever (and you all know how I like a bit of semen). But this is more academic interest than genuine buzz.

On the 21st of this month I turn 28, and frankly I really can't be fagged even marking the occasion. I'm not worried about growing old really (actually I think if I keep up eating properly and get down the gym again I might age rather well) but somehow it all seems to lack any kind of real meaning so why should I celebrate it?

And next month I get to see Kylie. Which I really do feel I should be happy and bouncy about (coz the pictures and stuff look great) but somehow it seems to be so far off as to be a lifetime away.

It's one of those periods when I start to wonder what it all means, and whether being me is really doing me any good, come to the conclusion it isn't and if I'm not careful may end up trying to be someone else.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I really need a slap.

How Very Odd

I don't know quite what's caused this but suddenly of late my body has decided to kick-start various growth processes that have hitherto lain fairly dormant.

Sadly this is restricted to hair growth (which is just getting stupidly fast now) and for some bizarre reason my fingernails.

Not toenails, incidentally, fingernails. And specifically the ones on my left hand.

Utterly bizarre.