Wednesday, June 29, 2005

On the 29th June 1801...

... the first census to be undertaken in Britain was begun.

According to my favourite calendar ("Forgotten English" as many of you will by now know) residents were asked to provide details of their "rank, profession, or occupation" and thankfully for those of us interested in this sort of thing, some of the more obscure ones have been noted by the London Genealogical society.

And indeed some of them are particularly puzzling, viz and to whit:

  • Fish Bender
  • Cow Banger
  • Carrot and Mangle Salesman
  • Colorist of Artificial Fish
  • Invisible Net-maker
  • Maker of Sand Views
  • Disinfector of Railways (we could do with a modern equivalent); and
  • Drowner
So far, so bizarre. But we are also treated to:

  • Electric Bath Attendant
which is interesting. I can't help but feel, however, that an electric bath would be a desperately hazardous contraption so perhaps an attendant is necessary, in which case fair play. Then there's:

  • Count as Female
which has me totally lost. And then finally, my absolute favourite:

  • Boy for General Purposes
And I have no doubt that many of you will understand my amusement at that particular profession.

So... anybody know where I can get one? And is there a governing body?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Smells

Walked towards the kitchen just now where I happened to pass an empty area of the office that has, until today, had a test-erection.

That is an erection of marketing stands for trade fairs, not the good kind. It seems that today they decided to take them down and it took the judicious application of vast quantities of WD-40 to take it down again.

I then discovered something rather upsetting: I love the smell of WD-40.

And it's not just a "oh, that smells nice", it's far more primal and deep-rooted than that. It's up there in my favourite smells with freshly-baked-bread, Black and White Genuine Hairdressing Pluko, and very smoky Islay single malt whiskies. Whenever I get a whiff of any of these I feel transported, giddily happy and content.

Which is actually quite worrying. The whisky's fair enough (I love Islay single malts with a passion), baked bread is just gorgeous, and I'm really not explaining why Black and White should have the effect it still does (use your imaginations)... but WD-40?

I mean... what the fuck is that one about?

I really can't think of any reason why that particular smell should have such a positive imprint on my psyche.

Of course, technically since it does I suppose I should just sit back and enjoy it while it lasts. And I intend to.

But it's still a little perturbing.

On the Turn

A slightly odd thing happened yesterday.

At the pre-Windypops! session I ended up playing four games of pool (three against Gareth, one against Smess) and won every single one of them.

I suppose the regularity of these sessions did mean that my game was inevitably going to improve at some point.

But of course, this does mean - and I must warn you, there's a couple of totally unjustifiable stereotypes ahead - that I'm either becoming a straight man or a lesbian.

And I'm not entirely sure which is the better option.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Passion

Finally heard Geri Halliwell's new album yesterday.

Okay, so half of it's either bland or terrible, but some of it's surprisingly good. The two singles go without much introduction: "Ride It" is a fun slice of suggestive-camp, and "Desire" is a bizarrely engaging slice of electro which pushes the right buttons. (And both already have pride of place in my singles collection.)

Sadly only four of the new tracks really leapt out at me: "Superstar" was enjoyably celebrity obsessed and is the best of the filler tracks. "Love Never Loved Me" would be a creditable single, as would the catchy and anthemic "Don't Get Any Better". And despite my major misgivings about Geri's vocals on slower tracks in the past (the less said about ballads the better), "Let Me Love You More" is a lovely honeyed affair which perfectly complements her voice. It is for me one of the best non-dance tracks she's come up with, period.

Of the others, "Loving Me Back To Life" and "Surrender Your Groove" are passable. "So I Give Up On Love" is excreble, and the rest made no impression on me whatsoever, essentially being the musical equivalent of beige corduroy.

There is a certain tragic quality to it all, though; almost a desperation as she attempts by turns to do sexy, uber-kitsch, at one with herself, and introspective. Frankly some of the lyrics reek of chunks of self-help books, giving you the feeling that she, like so many who rely on that genre, has read and learned but not really digested or understood. And sometimes - especially on "Don't Get Any Better" - it seems she's actually trying to convince herself of what she's saying, not proudly state it as fact.

So even with the tracks that work and gel musically and vocally there's a certain car-crash compulsiveness to the lyrics that make you just wish she could be properly happy.

On the whole it could (and probably should) have been a lot worse. Her albums have always had extensive filler material, but the problem for me is that this one does seem to lack some of the great pop she's delivered in the past. Even the two singles so far, good though they are, don't really square up convincingly to the genius of past tracks like "Feels Like Sex", "Bag It Up", and "Look at Me" (or indeed my personal favourite, "Brave New World", which was criminally relegated to b-side status).

Still, it's mainly pleasing on the ear with a few standout moments. It certainly deserves more of a chance than most people will give it.

I think once it's remaindered I will shell out for it. But I suspect not before.

The Worst Feeling in the World... Ever!

I'm pretty certain a contender for this award is the feeling I experienced this morning, as I awoke gently from my slumbers feeling refreshed and content, soft fingers of bright sunlight caressing my skin, my mood bouyant and my general demeanour full of the joy that comes of having one more day left in the weekend.

You can see the problem already can't you?

It took a couple of minutes for my brain to catch up and let me know that it was in fact Monday and therefore I had to get up and go to work.

I swear I heard my world-view shatter.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Foolish Boy

Still haven't got used to wearing glasses.

The vision thing's sorted, mind. It's just the "remembering to take them off before you change t-shirt" thing I keep failing at.

Even with no-one watching you feel such a pratt, you really do...

Empty Compliments

Last night - it being the wrong end of the month - I decided to stay in and watch telly. (This has of course been a fairly standard Saturday night thing for a while, but hey.) With Doctor Who 2005 now complete and over until Christmas I decided to catch up on some of the "classic series" videos I dragged back from my Dad's last time I was in Canterbury.

At the prospect of an evening spent in the company of Jon Pertwee, an equally broke Ben naturally scurried over to occupy his favoured spot on our sofa.

Stupidly, we watched "Invasion of the Dinosaurs" - a collection of shockingly poor production values, padded scripts, plasticine dinosaurs and Carmen Silvera (who was, needless to say, the best thing in it, but sadly didn't sing).

Ripping it to shreds was quite fun in its own way, but by the sixth episode we were so bored we were having conversations about boys and shagging, one excerpt of which is presented here:

Ben: So why don't you have a boyfriend?
Me: Pfah. Can't give it away.
Ben: But why? You're not exactly ugly.
Me: Not exactly? Oh thank you so very much.
Ben: Oh, well, I'm not very good at compliments.
Me: That I gathered.
He's a charming little sod.

So after the interminable saga in which Pertwee lisped his way round London, we decided to start the 2005 series from scratch. "Rose" was paper thin plot-wise but engaging and set things up nicely. "End of the World" was gorgeous and funny, if suffering from a standard RTD "oh shit, how do I finish this one?" ending. It's looking worryingly like the new series actually does stand up to repeated watching.

We stopped there, having realised that we had consumed, all told, four bottles of wine between the two of us (including a bottle of Rosé which we opened, appropriately enough, in honour of "Rose").

I've just realised that I haven't so much slept as survived an alcohol-induced coma.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Down the Tubes

Finally got round to updating Vitriol and Old Lace just now.

With the monstrous form of Aunt Enid ensconced in King William Street station, the ladies are forced into taking desperate action to extract her. After the damage inflicted by the Peanut Brittle, will the Northern Line ever be the same again? (And more to the point, will anyone notice?)
We've had the bones of the chapter for ages now, but it was only over last weekend it got made. It brings the last events to a nice conclusion, and it's a matter of some pride we were able to bring so much accuracy to the scenes set in the abandoned parts of London Bridge and King William Station through various books and websites at our disposal.

Anyway, go take a look at Down the Tubes and see what you think.

Gratifyingly the hits are steadily increasing month on month, although I must admit the guestbook and mailing list seem to have stagnated somewhat. (Really not sure what to do about that to be honest. Gah.)

The Love That Dare Not Sing Its Name

At 2:15 this morning I was awoken by the sound of squalling.

This time it wasn't cats. One of the people down the street had decided to throw open their patio doors (lucky bastards) and treat us to a rendition of her singing along to "The Greatest Love of All" and some other dreary nauseating ballad that I didn't recognise.

After the third or fourth run through of this short programme I was getting a little narked. I blearily managed to locate my earplugs and was just about to yell out "Oi! People are trying to sleep you know!" when one of my other neighbours beat me to it.

Only he was slightly more direct. In fact his actual words were "Shut the fuck up you stupid fucking bitch!"

I sniggered to myself. I live in such an urbane area, don't I?

Bloody worked, though.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Ooohhhhhh

Positively throbbing with anticipation right now.

After an hour of light rain, I just heard a distant roll of thunder.

I'm so excited. I love thunderstorms.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Oooh. Cool.

Apparently proposals have been submitted for yet another new skyscraper, this one to go next to the Shard of Glass which recently received approval.

Now, I have my reservations about skyscrapers - purely on a safety level: I've seen the Towering Inferno and 9/11 footage - and with my fear of heights (or more specifically "drops") I sure as hell wouldn't like to work in one.

But I still look at proposals like this and get a thrill of excitement.

The future is on our doorstep Ladies and Gentlemen. And just think how quirky and elegantly beautiful it's going to be.

You Are Kidding Surely

Apparently Big Brother offers 'Role Models'.

Andy Duncan said the show offered positive values, transformatory experiences and examples of personal self-improvement and growth.
He added the contestants had "honesty, integrity, constancy and kindness".
Surely he must be talking about a different show.

The only example of self-improvement I can see in Big Brother is that you too can become wealthy and famous despite having no talent, a disregard for anything other than your own aggrandisment and being pretty unpleasantly self-obsessed.

I'm not sure that these are the positive values that Mister Duncan thinks they are.

Even his alleged examples of tolerance - that a couple of moxes, an evangelical Christian, and a transexual have won - I'm uncertain of. Call me jaded, call me cynical (no, it's okay, you can) but I can't help but feel that in all cases people voted for the obvious minority in a sort of "let's vote for the freak so we can say we are tolerant" move, rather than actually espousing that particular value.

Frankly I remain convinced that Big Brother is the most obvious symptom of an increasingly diseased culture. And trying to justify it in terms of a obviously hollow Christian context isn't going to make me think any different.

A Lack of Mystery

Well, despite my hopes, the combination of Summer Solstice and Full Moon produced only the following outcomes yesterday:

1) A consignment of blank CDs, branded with the product and company name, actually arrived without me spending six months haranguing the responsible person in Canada.

2) There was a powercut overnight, blanking out the clock on the microwave and screwing up our internet connection at home.

Frankly the inexplicable manifestations of mysterious forces ain't what they used to be.

The internet connection, oddly enough, I hadn't noticed so busy was I with panelbeating this morning. Finally it was Chris who emerged from his pit and muttered about it. Since in our partnership he handles real life and I do technology I was soon to be found on my hands and knees, arse in the air, buggering around under his desk resetting the cable modem and the router which allows us to share the connection.

"Ah," he said as I struggled amongst piles of crap that he keeps filed on the floor. "I've always wanted you in that position."

I think my silence spoke volumes. It's just possible my arse actually glared.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Ah... I Think You're Missing the Point

Ikea, fresh from the success of their "Elite Designers Against Ikea" advertisements, have recently started plastering a new run of adverts down the Holloway Road in time for the holidays.

One of them (and forgive me if I get a couple of the words wrong - I'm doing this from my increasingly unreliable memory) reads "St. Paul's Cathedral is awe-inspiring, but you can't get a hotdog on the way out" - accompanied by a picture of a hotdog and the price it is in the Ikea Dysentria and Eatarama.

Another goes "Big Ben: nice clock and all but you wouldn't fit it in your car boot" above a picture of a big kitchen clock that costs about seventeen of your earth pounds.

I can see what they're doing of course. They're trying to sell the idea of Ikea as being "a place you might like to go and visit", as opposed to "a place you have to go to because you're young and / or broke and need to buy your own weight in tea-lights for a fiver".

I have a problem with this premise. The problem being that it is all to easily undermined. When I went to St. Paul's for example (well worth a look inside by the way, if you - like me - love church architecture) I was more drawn to the attraction itself than the possibility of a hotdog.

Equally popping along to Ikea is going to pall a little if you want to see something as impressive as Big Ben (or rather St. Stephen's Tower since as I'm sure we all know, Big Ben is the name of the fucking bell).

It just seems to me that somehow trying to make Ikea a tourist attraction is somewhat confusing the functions of tourist attractions and Ikea stores. One is no good if what you actually want is the other. It's like going "well, it's all very well taking something to ease the pain of osteoporosis, but have you thought about shoes instead?"

However, if they wish to pursue this line of advertising then I'd like to offer my services as an ad-writer. I came up with this one just now, see what you think:

"Look, if you're going to spend an afternoon in the company of people you wouldn't piss on if they were on fire, surrounded by screaming children, and queuing for an eternity - you may as well come to Ikea because we don't charge you to get in".
And since I'm an equal opportunities cynic, I've done the following for the gay press:

"We're cheaper than Gaydar and you can buy soft furnishings too!"
My services are available at quite reasonable rates if anyone's interested.

These People Just Shouldn't Be Allowed to Breed

So... apparently Jordan and Peter Andre have announced the name of their first child.

"Junior Andre".

The poor kid.

I can see him being taunted at school by Shakespear's Sister tracks even now.

Evils of the World #499873676

Following from Sound Embedded in Web Pages (one of several reasons the official Doctor Who website pisses me off - although most of those are due to its navigational inadequacies) I have now found another evil which should be stamped out forthwith.

Re-dubbed European adverts.

I really don't understand why these are allowed. I mean... I know why the companies do them - they can take an advert they've already successfully run in one market and just get some cheap voiceover artiste in to redub it at minimal cost. But the lips and the words don't match. Ever. And it's terribly distracting and offputting. And frankly just awful.

Considering the price of some of these items you'd have thought they'd have a bit of cash sloshing around to do it properly. It kind of annoys me more because they seem to think that we won't notice, and that as customers we're not worth the additional effort.

The sods.

Tenterhooks

Well, yesterday was the longest day of the year (and boy it sure as hell felt like it), the Summer Solstice, a day of magic and mystery - and, as it turned out, Yvette Fielding geting terrified (again).

And today the moon reaches its "full" state, traditionally fortelling a day of madness and upheaval (as I've mentioned before, "lunatic" comes from "lunar").

With both of these mystical events in such close proximity I'm expecting oddness in the extreme at some point today.

Here's hoping, eh?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Once Bitten... No... Twice Bitten

My right shoulder has suffered two bites in the last twenty-four hours.

I haven't been bitten so much in one area since that holiday on the Norfolk Broads a couple of years back.

The second of them is causing me the most irritation as it happens. It's a genuine mosquito bite and is itching like crazy now.

The first, despite looking like it may leave a fairly angry scar last night, has more or less vanished now. Sadly that wasn't caused by an insect, since no insect alive could carve the dental pattern of a certain Windypops! club promoter into human flesh quite so accurately.

For his (and indeed my) pains, Smess got a clout round the back of the head and a stern ticking off that no-one bites me except during sex.

At this rate I may have to buy him a muzzle.

Hi, My Name is Rob...

...and I'm an eBay-holic.

I have what might be described as an addictive personality (something you may have noticed). Thankfully I also tend to get bored of the objects of my addition quite easily so they do tend to be quite short-lived additions.

Aside from a slavish devotion to telly and pop music obviously. They're permanent.

Last night however I realised that I've managed to spend over the course of a week, about £100 on eBay. This is not, all things considered, a huge amount (although if you're chronically broke like me it's still not good) but the shocking thing is that this has all been on CDs. And most of those are CD singles.

Thing is, I had all (or at least most) of what I'd purchased on MP3 so really their acquisition isn't something I can justify. But to be fair they were of varying quality and I've recently come to the conclusion that I prefer having CDs. Obviously I have to rip them for portability on The Device, but the source is invariably better. Plus it does mean that when I do manage to overcome my current deck-shyness and DJ again I'm less likely to run into problems that tend to occur with home-burned CDs.

So that's all fine. I can absorb the cost (just), I'm happy with the goods that are arriving, and they can be considered an investment (especially since I've seen some other copies of things I've got at a snip by being cunning, sell to other people for quite stupid sums of money).

But I still currently have 14 items in my watch list.

Houston. I think I have a problem.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Parting of the Ways

It's taken me a few days to gather my thoughts on this and try and come up with some kind of critical appraisal of the final Doctor Who of the season.

Sadly, after three viewings now all I can say is: "that was cool".

I laughed, I narrowly managed to avoid crying, and I was on the edge of my seat going "fantastic" a lot. And for once Russell T. Davies managed to have a resolution which was building up from quarter of an hour into the episode as opposed to it being bolted on suddenly at the end. Plus the effects were great and there was a satisfyingly high body count.

What more could you want from family telly, eh? And 41% of the television audience watched it too, making it a triumphant pissing in the grave of ITV for BBC1. Hurrah!

I'm now feeling lost at the prospect of actually going out on Saturdays now. The Christmas special seems a very long time away.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Does he? Not round here he bloody doesn't. In fact most of the time we're lucky if the bugger rings once.

Usually with packages what happens is that we receive a card through the door saying that they're sorry we were out. Said card then instructs us to pick up the item or ring them to arrange for it to be re-delivered. I have, however, lost count of the number of times that this has happened despite one of us being home - I am convinced they simply don't bring the parcel along at all and just slip the card through - because they sure as hell didn't ring the bloody bell.

And trying to get them to re-deliver is hell. The phone is rarely answered despite it ringing for five minutes solid, the fax machine is often switched off and even if you do get through and re-book a delivery they simply don't bother.

Yet yesterday at 7:00 as I was dozing happily (having been woken an hour earlier by the usual cat-fight) the buzzer on the door sounded forth and so I hurled myself bodily off the bed - yep off it, it was too hot for any covering at all - threw on a gown and bungled blearily out of the flat to the front door. There into my hand was thrust the morning's post, including a package for my flatmate - a man whose acquisitiveness astounds even me (and who is, bizarrely, running a bath and singing Donna Summer's "I Don't Wanna Get Hurt" as I type). I thanked the blurry figure, dumped the relevant stuff outside Chris' room and headed back to bed.

Half an hour later it rang again and, cursing inwardly, repeated the whole exercise. This time it was a recorded delivery for me so I scrawled something approximating my signature and lumbered back inside again.

By this point I'd decided that the world was conspiring against me so it wasn't worth trying to rest any more. I ran a bath, soaked, did the washing up and cleaned the kitchen (not from the bath obviously, I did get out again) and then, having thrown on some loose clothing, headed down to the Holloway Road Sorting Office.

This reckless act was due to the arrival of two cards during the week saying stuff couldn't be delivered. I'd offered to pick Chris' one up (since I was most likely to be awake before 12) and so Chris had signed his slip, given me his Credit Card as proof of his identity, and I picked up my passport and hauled my carcass down the road in a bout of already sweltering heat.

Naturally the bastards had randomly decided to re-deliver Chris' parcel that very morning - the first package as it turns out - which the lady was very apologetic about (unusually for Holloway Road staff she seemed capable of thought and empathy and everything). This left only mine which I thanked her for, picked up, turned on my heel and left.

By a bizarre coincidence it seemed that a DVD Chris had been wondering about was attached to my parcel with about fourteen elastic bands. So I did actually pick something up for him too, albeit something that would have fitted through the door and should never have been held back anyway.

By the time I got home I was just about ready for another bath and really - helpful lady aside - rather despairing of the Royal Mail.

Frankly I'm beginning to think it's a bloody miracle we get anything at all.

Friday, June 17, 2005

I Hate Green

It's true, I do.

Okay so in nature it's okay. I can cope with trees, and lawns, and plants and I can even manage it in vegetables now (although I'm still not a very veggie person - brocolli has to be coated in gravy or cheese to cope fully with it for example).

Oh, and eyes are okay. Green eyes I like. I find them oddly compelling.

But when it comes to trinkets, clothes or what have you, I hate it. I will not wear it under any circumstances and it even annoys me in the glass on wine bottles (largely because it invariably disguises a throat-assaulting wine which when poured appears to be of a colour that suggests the horse needs shooting).

So yeah, frankly as far as I'm concerned green can fuck off.

And what am I doing tonight? I'm off to a party where the theme is "green".

Oh how I laughed.

Thankfully I don't have to wear it, just bring it - so a couple of bottles of throat assaulter should do the trick.

I have however just managed to find the lovely birthday girl a couple of mini-pressies with a green element, but my God was that hard work. Basically it seems that the entire world has taken against green in a similar way to me and thus in an entire bloody gift shop I could find precisely two things in "that colour". And as for wrapping paper, no fucking chance... Not a trace of green in WHSmiths, Parchment or Clintons.

Why do people have to have themed parties?

And more to the point why do I feel compelled to conform?

Sneezle Sneezle

Old Jokes Home:

- I have a terrible condition: every time I sneeze I have an orgasm.
- Really? What do you take for that?
- Snuff.

Today's bizarre definition from my Forgotten English calendar is the wonderfully arcane "Sneeze-lurker" which is defined as follows:

Sneeze-lurker: A thief working with snuff, pepper and the like. To give on the sneeze, to dose a man in the eyes and then rob him.
John Farmer and W.S. Henley's Slang and Its Analogues, 1890 - 1904
What a fascinating profession.

Strangely I do rather enjoy a good sneeze. There's something very satisfying about this method of relief which I think can only be beaten by activity involving nudity, oil and a rather buff young gentleman. And in the absence of any of that sort of action I feel inclined to take my pleasure where I can.

There is of course a point at which sneezing becomes an irritation which I think is that point at which you've been doing it continuously for half an hour and your eyes are stinging, so hayfever sneezing is less good - hence my medication.

My aunt, strangely enough, always sneezes in threes. Always. This means that invariably those nearest and dearest to her wait for the third one before blessing her. Sometimes of course there's a gap before the third one - which means that all present sit watching and waiting expectantly for the payoff. Honestly, you could cut the tension with a knife.

And given the violence with which members of my family sneeze I have a feeling she's going to need some TenaLady pads to deal with this at some point soon.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Another Place and Time

I was quite a late starter in getting into pop music (this is quite common in clergy households) and it was of course Kylie's first album that effectively broke my album-buying virginity, but the album "Another Place and Time" by Donna Summer wasn't too long behind.

"This Time I Know It's For Real" was the only lead-off single. And in a world where three hit singles were usually released before an album, it struck me as odd even then that this was the only one before album launch). The track should hopefully require no introduction because it's a classic but at the time I remember being struck by two aspects of the production:

1) The choruses didn't fade out - she stopped singing and the track just faded out. This stunned me, such a novelty it was to my young ears.

2) The vocals overlapped. The "sky" in "write your name across the sky" is held onto and is overlapped by the beginning of the chorus. And later the final line of one chorus goes over the first line of the next.

This second point was a revelation to me: I suddenly figured that the record had been recorded bit by bit, not in one take, and mixed in separate tracks. (Not to mention figuring out that it would be next to impossible to do live.) I was frankly captivated by this shameless and blatant reliance on studio trickery and - rather than destroying the magic as it would doubtless do for many others - my eyes (or rather ears) suddenly got turned on to the possibilities and the intricacies of such things.

Such overlapping also happens on "Whatever Your Heart Desires" - a lovely little midtempo number (again cowritten by Donna with S/A/W) which is a definitely above-average album track and "This Time..."'s deserving B-side.

It also happens on "If It Makes You Feel Good" a song originally written by S/A/W for Princess and later given to Mandy Smith. Both previous versions were slow sensual numbers written for coquettish young girls, but Donna's is for me definitive. Sped up and blasted out with high energy rhythm's it becomes the thumping disco stomper it so deserves.

But the other singles from the album also gave me fresh insights into production and the industry. Following the album, "I Don't Wanna Get Hurt" became a single and got treated to a complete makeover in the process. The album version (the only one that ever gets put on compilations, oddly) is a thundering high-energy pounder. The single version gets a more chilled, "string"-laden arrangement - and on first hearing it I was stunned by how incredibly different and fresh it was.

With its release I'd now been exposed to the idea of a remix to encourage sales and I thought it was a stroke of genius. Even to this day I can't decide which version I prefer, but for rarity alone I guess the single version swings it (even though at Windypops I go with the more dancefloor-friendly album one when I get the urge).

Later singles lacked the radical remixing, but all of them were redone. "Love's About To Change My Heart" got a slightly more complex drum rhythm and twiddly arrangement. The UK version also suffered from a horrible "l-l-love's about" sampling monstrosity to fade out which the US remix was lucky to be spared (the only difference between them, but worth hunting down the US one for if you value your ears).

"When Love Takes Over You" was probably a single too far, but still it was edited down for length and given some more jazzy arrangement tweaks. Then after that the drums on the remix of "Breakaway" simply became more US hip hop dance-styled with a bit of street-talk sampling thrown over them.

Presumably by this point someone realised they'd released half the album now (with diminishing singles sales) so perhaps they ought to stop and send her back into the studio for some new stuff.

But singles aside it is a great album: even the filler tracks are good, the album's cohesive yet still has variations in mood and tone, and it's gotta be said the girl's got a good set of lungs on her. You just get the feeling that PWL really pushed the boat out on this one - and after hearing it I suddenly realised what a lightweight, underproduced and hurried collection "Kylie" was.

Sadly, Donna later turned down "Happenin' All Over Again" (leaving it to be picked up by Lonnie Gordon) and her association with S/A/W remains a shortlived blip. 1991's Mistaken Identity has a couple of very good tracks - and a scary blond wig on the cover - but frankly doesn't even touch the brilliance of its predecessor.

Another Place and Time - a slice of genius, and a musical awakening for this particular blogger from which I've never looked back.

Spoiled Child

Something very odd has happened to me.

I am not normally fussed about spoilers. I always find people who stick their fingers in their ears and go "la la la" about details on forthcoming episodes of TV series rather annoying, to be honest.

I've always maintained that it doesn't matter knowing in advance - for example - that Buffy dies at the end of Season 5. Arguably it may lack a certain amount of shock value when it happens, but as long as I still enjoy the episode and can immerse myself in it I really don't mind at all. Plus I am a knowledge-driven puppy anyway so knowing things makes me happy.

Basically knowing the ultimate destination doesn't bother me as long as I really enjoy the journey.

But this morning I found myself in the forums on Outpost Gallifrey and there were clear threads marked up about last night's BAFTA screening of the Doctor Who finale. The episode is screened on Saturday, but those who were there have posted up spoiler threads for those who want to read all about it.

And despite my normal love of spoilers I paused for a moment, and decided that I wasn't going to go in and read them.

Somehow I want to come to Saturday's episode fresh and unknowing. I mean, I know what the "God of all Daleks" looks like, but the actual overall plot, what happens to who and when, I somehow don't want to know. I want it to be a surprise, like it always used to be when I was a kid.

I guess that this particular series has drilled back into my childhood deeper than I thought. It's strange that it's never happened with anything else (like Buffy) but I suppose that's because I came to them as an ironic detached adult in the first place. This time, despite being a very swish update, it still brings back to mind the thrill I felt as a small boy all those years ago.

It really is an odd feeling. But it's really quite nice to connect back to that innocent and wonder-filled part of me I thought I'd lost.

I should connect with my inner child more often I think. He seems nice.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Hang On a Cotton-Picking Minute...

Was reading this article on the eBaying of the free Live8 Concert tickets and something struck me. It was in the bit which read:

The minister for music, James Purnell, said he "wholeheartedly" shared Geldof's annoyance and had asked the site to halt the sales.
"Um... hang on," I thought... "We have a minister for music?"

This is news to me. Perhaps we can ask him to do something about Coldplay. Maybe something involving cricket bats and rusty nails.

Maths Whizz

I'm feeling very virtuous at the moment. Every morning for about a week now I've treated myself to a tub of the "Marks and Spencer Fresh Fruit Collection" - essentially a fruit salad without the joy of syrup - as breakfast.

The reason is that I've been horribly aware of late that I've not been eating the requisite five portions of fruit and veg a day. So I thought I'd make a bit of an effort and start having smoothies and these fruit salady whatsits and so on to help that out.

Now apparently the government recommend five portions of fruit or veg a day. Which is fine. As is their assertion that one portion is 80g of a particular fruit or vegetable.

But despite the fact that the pack I've been buying is 400g, it apparently only counts as half of my 5 portions.

Someone must have their sums wrong surely?

TV Tie-Ins

Now, I'm used to odd merchandise for TV programmes. TV companies these days will do anything to milk a cash cow, but after last night's Most Haunted I was somewhat surprised by the turn the merchandise for that show is taking.

The DVDs I could kind of cope with, although I would never buy.

But now they have a soundtrack CD, which given the nature of music for the show (plus the promise that it features the voices of Yvette Fielding and Derek Acorah), I can't really see being something to settle down and do a Sudoku puzzle to.

The thing that stunned me most of all was the announcement that the Most Haunted EMF Ghost Detector is available now.

It is too. Take a look-see.

What next? Most Haunted Night-Vision Cameras? Most Haunted Do-It-Yourself Seance Kit?

Now... if they can manage a Most Haunted Ecto-Containment unit then I'll be very impressed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Price of Justice

So Michael Jackson has been cleared of all the charges against him.

I must confess to a slight element of surprise at this. I really was expecting - given the history and the longstanding concerns many have had about him - that he would be found guilty of at least one of the charges. But based on the evidence presented the jury felt they couldn't convict him of the charges as brought, which actually is a good thing for justice in that respect - they considered the facts and nothing else.

On the other hand the paraphernalia which have surrounded the trial - especially the fact that the jury gave a press conference afterwards - slightly odd. As a result I'm not convinced the American Justice system is one I'd like to be tried under. It all seems a bit tasteless to me.

That said I'm still of the opinion that Jackson's a very disturbed and strange individual. It is, for me, telling that one of the jury members has said that they suspected he is guilty of molesting boys anyway - they just couldn't convict on what was presented for the charges as they stood. I personally am inclined to agree.

So what now? Jacko's weakened and sick, debt-ridden and will face an uphill struggle to rebuild his career (even if he has the strength left in him to try). His prosecutors are likely to have destroyed their careers by failing to build a solid case against him in such a high-profile case which many believed was a dead-cert. And they also face the condemnation of the legion of fans who are almost certainly unhinged enough to cause them physical harm. (I mean... I know us Doctor Who fans are a bit obsessive, but some of these guys terrified me.)

Then the family at the heart of the case will be vilified and similarly attacked. Equally, Martin Bashir and Granada will also face professional ruin as a round of counter-litigation swings into action (although if Granada goes out of business ITV may have to be closed down which I personally wouldn't regard as a bad thing).

And of course the jurors are now public property and will never have normal lives again.

Frankly the overall human cost seems rather high to me.

And you just know we haven't heard the last of it either.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Pure Folly

Next have given me an account card, bless them.

I'm beginning to be sucked into Next, I must confess. Any remaining credibility I have may be destroyed by this, but I don't care. Admittedly their current insistence that any non-work shirt must be short-sleeved annoys me - but to be fair that's because I look phenomenally uncomfortable in anything of that ilk (which is odd considering I practically live in t-shirts).

Despite this however, I recently come to swear by them when it comes to shoes and suits. (Plus their flowerline is handy in an emergency when you've forgotten the birthday of a close female family member. Again.)

Anyway, I've been in a relatively buoyant mood for days now so I decided I would reward this levity with a pair of new shoes and some plain v-necked t-shirts. (This is also probably extremely unfashionable but I've never really liked round-necked t-shirts).

So as a result of this foray I've discovered there's something wonderfully liberating about swiping a card, signing a till receipt and knowing that somehow money hasn't actually been surgically removed from your bank.

It's like shopping without consequences. I feel the urge to skip.

Fruity Loopy Nuts are We

And so a pleasant weekend unfolded.

Spent much of it doing some more work on the various compositions I've been doing in Fruity Loops. By happy accident I created a noise I really liked, a riff on it that worked even better and then found that I couldn't fit either in to the track I was working on without it horribly overpowering everything else.

In the end I decided I'd build a different track round it, then before too long I had a rather cool fragment sorted with bouncing squelchy sawtooth basslines, pounding drums and the jagged riff cutting through it.

Not bad for an hour's work, I must say.

Of course the biggest problem I now face is getting some songs over them. The making odd noises bit's fun, but the actual writing bit strikes me as something to put off for a good long time.

On the other hand I did some mixes of various tracks and exported them to my MP3 player to see what they sounded like when heard through decent headphones and not crappy PC speakers. Listened to them on the way to Greenwich yesterday and found to my utter joy that they're not too bad at all.

Okay, so a couple of the synths need burying deeper, one bassline in particular needs a lot less reverb, and the kick drum on one caused me a headache so that needs to be turned down, but on the whole I was actually surprised how good it sounded.

This from someone who can play the guitar, but can't read music and sure as hell wouldn't know how to write a chord progression to save his life.

I may do the alterations later and give them another listen on the way to Limehouse this evening.

Yesterday afternoon was spent in Greenwich. Chris, SmessRob, Darren and I marauded our way round the various second hand music stores, bottle shops and then the Rose and Crown for the afternoon. And a modest haul was made: I'm still not sure quite what possessed me to get the Jason Donovan video collection (although the apostrophe in "Video's" offended me so much I instantly felt inclined to take it out of circulation) and frankly most of what else I bought was similarly worthless, but the sheer quantity of tat made me very happy.

Highlight was my purchase of the "Pink" annual from 1976. A tome I'd never been aware of before but which featured some wonderous tips on make-up, dating, popstars' cookery likes - Gary Glitter's into chicken apparently - and so on. I was sold the minute I saw the article headed "Pink Eccentrics" to be honest (tales of the "Mole Man of Morden" and the "Knicker Nicker of Knightsbridge") plus the comic strip which seemed to be about going out with a satanist from what I can gather.

The stars in them were interesting. Smess read mine and then demanded to know what I felt my best colour was. I instantly replied "purple" (let's be practical, it matches the thread-veins) which I think was astonishingly close to their recommendation of "indigo blue".

Actually I'm still a little unnerved by that.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

BAD WOLF!

Tonight's episode of Doctor Who rocked.

I mean... Russell T. Davies' single-part episodes have been variable. Always good, but sometimes - "End of the World" aside - eschewing "convincing plot development" in favour of a "last minute sudden saving of the world because we've spent too much time on character stuff" form of writing.

This could have been so bad. "Big Brother", "Weakest Link" and "What Not to Wear" parody on a "game station" in the far future. It could have been shallow and pointless, but instead we got cartoon shallowness masking a dark and sinister heart that just dragged you mercilessly in.

I'm still on a high.

Best praise came from my flatmate:

Him: "I didn't like that."
Me: "I thought it was great!"
Him: "No, it was very good. It's just left me... jittery."
Me: "I'm on an adrenaline rush."
Him: "Oh my God. That's it. I'm on an adrenaline rush!".

Followed by a scared and panicked look in my direction.

Result.

Heart Attack Actor 'Improving'

Yeah. That was the BBC headline on this story.

You can probably imagine my reaction.

Needless to say I wanted to read the reviews.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Calamity!

There are, I fear, no two words more detrimental to the condition of the human body than "company tab".

Last night was the leaving party for one of my colleagues. This was not the first leaving party for this person incidentally - we like a drink or two, so any excuse is good - but certainly this was the official and final one. For this paricular occasion, however, our new lords and masters had set up a tab. Thus "806" became the magic number to quote at the bar, and the evening rapidly dissolved.

I think, in retrospect, that the Tequila may have been a mistake.

Much fun was had, however. Long conversations with many people - some of them coherent (the conversations, that is, not the people) - laughter, merriment and so on.

I have also aquired more brusies. But I know where I got those from. At one point John - Mark's boyfriend - and I were deep in conversation when one of our managers rolled up, somewhat the worse for drink, and proceeded to tell us what a lovely couple we were. John introduced himself with the words "I'm John, Mark's partner" which somehow got heard as "I'm John, his partner" and the misunderstanding just grew.

It was at this point John and I decided to play along with it - since correcting at this stage would have been futile anyway.

In our defence we never actually made any untrue statements ourselves. We just let the hole be dug as John was told how wasted he was on me (and as you can imagine I felt great about this revelation).

Sadly the truth came out when the party-girl staggered up and corrected the misunderstanding (which was a shame - I was quite looking forward to revealing all this morning when hangover was in full swing). As a result of this I was slapped several times on the chest and arm and called a little bastard.

So at last someone recognises my true talent.

Surprisingly I feel rather well this morning. A little unfocussed round the edges, admittedly (like someone's applied a subtle Gaussian blur to me), but otherwise pretty good.

So... now I shall just watch the day unfold and see if any further fallout becomes evident. This could be fun...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Okay...

Just saw this article on BBC News.

I particularly like (the name "Wookey Hole" aside obviously) the following quote:

"the arm has been removed quite carefully, it hasn't been ripped off, there's no torture involved."
Presumably this is in reference to the BBCFC recently giving one of the new series DVDs a 15 rating because one episode featured a Dalek being tortured and they felt this was a bad example to set small children.

I love this country.

Oh, That's Worrying

There's a picture of U2 on the front pages of the Evening Standard's Metro Life magazine today.

It's got to be wrong to fancy Larry Mullen surely?

Get Up!

Lawks. How's this for synchronicity?

After my earlier post in which I praised Richard X and Deborah Evans-Stickland's cover of Walk on By, New York London Paris Munich put me on the trail of the Flying Lizards' cover of James Brown's "Sex Machine".

My flabber has honestly never been so ghasted.

It's got the same elements as "Money (That's What I Want)" but somehow - unlike Deborah's version of "Walk on By" - it manages to be pant-wettingly, hysterically bad (as opposed to curiously charming).

I have a feeling it's actually off the Flying Lizards album for which Deborah was apparently wiped and mimicked by an actress. But if we're honest I'm not sure that a "proper" version with her on would work any better. It's not a song that suits detached irony somehow.

Still, an interesting experience nonetheless.

Top 5 Musical Bits

Been thinking about this for a while after first seeing Yammer do one the other week. Now after a few days of umm-ing and ah-ing I think I'm now happy with my choices.

Bloody hard work narrowing it down I must say, but never mind. There probably won't be any surprises in here at all for those who've ever met me or have read my blog in any detail, but there we go. I'm nothing if not predictable.

Top Five Lyrics that Move Your Heart

1. Client - One Day at a Time
2. Garbage - A Cup of Coffee
3. ABBA - Slipping Through My Fingers
4. Annie Lennox - Pavement Cracks
5. Chess (OCR) - Someone Else's Story
Top 5 Instrumentals

1. BBC Radiophonic Workshop - Doctor Who
2. Henry Mancini - Pink Panther Theme (Fischerspooner Remix)
3. The Human League - John Cleese, Is He Funny?
4. Orbital - Waving Not Drowning.
5. Smetna - Ma Vlast.
Top 5 Live Musical Experiences

1. The Human League. Secrets Tour. London Astoria. 2001. Absolutely packed to the gills, right near the front and two and half-hours of non stop genius. Surprisingly there were a lot of new people there who were far too young to remember "that track from 1981", which was heartening - as was the fact I pulled.

2. Kylie - On a Night Like This Tour. Hammersmith, 2001. Smaller scale than her recent endeavors but somehow more personal, slightly less polished and thus to me, more enjoyable. Oddly enough I was not taken with then new-track "Can't Get You Out of My Head" at this point. Although when it finally got polished and released as a single of course, I rather liked it.

3. Client - "City" Album Launch, 2004. In a tiny club (I forget the name), packed with goths, indie-kids, elderly 80's electro-lovers and unashamed pop-junkies like me. Naturally the whole thing rocked, but despite the disparity between elements of the audience there was no attitude. Support act The Soho Dolls weren't bad either.

4. Silence is Sexy / Trademark, Electrogogo 2004. First time I'd seen the genius - and sadly now defunct - Silence is Sexy, but I was blown away by them. This was then followed by a gig by Trademark who I'd seen several times before, but who I always enjoy. (This time I even got to accidentally punch one of them on the face.)

5. Bananarama 20th Anniversary Gig. G-A-Y. 2001. It just defied description. Camp, highly choreographed with gorgeous dancers, and with a guest appearance by Siobhan who joined them for a powerhouse performance of "Waterloo". Flawless.
Top Five Artists You Think More People Should Listen To

1. Client. Easy. They deserve so much more recognition.

2. Bodies Without Organs. Big in Russia apparently, but hey. Responsible for the first great pop album of 2005 - a little samey, admittedly, but the standard is high.

3. Pay TV. My God. They're so brassy and bizarre you can't help but love 'em.

4. The Modern - punchy, classy and I think they might get big. They're how Duran Duran should sound, in my opinion.

5. Annie. Sophisticated and intelligent adult pop. "Chewing Gum" is a sing-along highlight of course but the rest of her album's excellent too.
Top Five Albums You Must Hear From Start to Finish

Tricky this one, because I so rarely listen to an album in that manner (despite what you might think) I am quite a stern critic. I can spot album filler a mile off and there isn't one album in existence that I wouldn't skip a couple of tracks on depending on my mood. But nonetheless:

1. Client - City. Still to my mind the best album of 2004.

2. ABBA - The Visitors. Standard response from people: "woah, you sure this is ABBA?" Less of the bright and spangly and more of the dark, moody, fragile or paranoid. The B-side "Should I Laugh Or Cry" is on the remastered edition too and I think is worth it for the lyric: "He stands in the striped pyjamas that I bought (trousers too short)".

3. Richard X - X-Factor Vol. 1. Worth it just for the version of "Walk on By" on which Deborah Evans-Stickland does vocal duty - and if you've ever heard her on the Flying Lizards' "Money (That's What I Want)" you'll just know why this is genius - but there's so much other good stuff on this album too.

4. The Human League - Octopus. Whilst "Secrets" was the critically acclaimed album, "Octopus" just about scores for me by being a little less rambling. It's a great showcase, demonstrating a surprising range from eerie electronica through to pure pop masterpieces like "Tell Me When" and "One Man In My Heart" stopping at various stations on the way.

5. Chumbawumba - Tubthumping. The title track belies an album of astonishing social commentary dressed up as dance-worthy (or possibly mosh-worthy) pop/rock tracks.
Top Five Musical Heroes

1. Phil Oakey. Obviously. Although he himself would quibble with using the word "musical" without "(non)" being in front of it. Lovely eyes too.

2. Richard X. A writer/producer and one of the only two good things to happen to British pop music over the last few years.

3. Xenomania. A writing and production team who are essentially the other good thing to have happened to British pop music over the last few tears.

4. Stock / Aitken / Waterman. Shame about the production line nature of a lot of their stuff, but when they were in genre-defining mode they were fantastic. Mike Stock's ear for a melody and a hook is just incredible, but he's not been quite the same without the input of the other two.

5. Delia Derbyshire. The woman who took Ron Grainer's scribbled theme for Doctor Who and realised it with a room-full of oscillators, valves and spliced together bits of tape. A true pioneer - no exploration of electronic music is complete without paying her vast bucketloads of homage.
So there we have it.

Dearie dearie me.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Rereading Headlines

The little adverts on the news-stands for today's Evening Standard have managed to catch me out twice so far this lunchtime. One confused me, another sucked me into believing something shocking had occurred when it hadn't (yes, I can be bloody naive when I want to be).

The first case was a genuine misreading of the phrase "World's Worst Hacker Arrested". At which I found myself thinking that if he genuinely isn't any good he clearly isn't that much of a threat.

I gather now from a reading of the article that the advert didn't actually mean "most terrible" but "most prolific". And I can't work out if my misreading is just me being crap, or sloppy phrasing. (As an aside, the actual headline in the paper says "Worlds Biggest Hacker Is Held" which seems a little unfair - he might be quite sensitive about his weight).

Then there was the "Desperate Housewife's Shock Confession" advert as well. Despite the fact that I have managed to miss every single episode bar one of this series I found my interest piqued. However, from the article I gather that Teri Hatcher has merely admitted that she finds being both a mother and a career woman hard work.

This is a shock confession? My God, life must be cosy in Daily Mail world.

Got To Be Certain

The other week I was surprised whilst DJing by a request from a gentleman for young Ms. Minogue's "Got to Be Certain", her second single - at least in the majority of territories. Eventually he plumped for the Movers and Shakers mix of "What Do I Have to Do" instead, but I was vaguely impressed that it had been his first thought.

I've often felt, you see, that GTBC is somewhat unfairly overlooked as a track, when to me it's something of an early gem. Sandwiched between "I Should Be So Lucky" and the decent version of "The Locomotion" I can kind of see why, but it's a pleasant, breezy number with more than its fair share of catchiness.

Of course, as I've mentioned before, it wasn't written for her. It was written for Mandy Smith, a lady of no little no-talent, whose acquisition of a record deal in the first place surely had nothing to do with boffing Bill Wyman. She had a few singles herself (the dire "Positive Reaction" - shortly to be released as an equally poor cover version by some plastic piece of maleness called "Baz" - and a deeply upsetting non-duet version of "Don't You Want Me") but Stock, Aitken and Waterman were apparently appalled by her performance on this particular track and thus withheld it.

Then of course to Mister Waterman's great surprise (so much for having your finger on the pulse Pete) "I Should Be So Lucky" was an enormous hit. Stock and Aitken duly got sent out to Oz with the backing tapes, apologised to Dame Kylie for the fact it wasn't meant for her and came back with a corker.

Why do I like it? Well, like its predecessor it's a happy upbeat little number about something really quite upsetting. I actually find the lyric rather tragic: the singer essentially espousing a pie in the sky idealism which just wouldn't - and in my experience doesn't - stand up in real life. Throwing away the chance of what could be a perfectly lovely romance due to fear and insecurity brought on by past experiences? Been there, done that, no way to live your life girl.

If you were inclined to over analyse these things, you could argue the singer knows that - it's why she's singing. Trying to explain and justify it and finding its patently insane. I suppose it's a tears of a clown type thing, something I'm always somewhat drawn to.

And then there's an interesting structural oddity. There's an extra bar just after the first verse that normally in the pop-song rulebook shouldn't be there. It's the bit where after singing "I know you'll wait for me" she goes "woah-woah-woah-woah". Normally you expect Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus, not Verse / Chorus / Verse / Random Vocal Bit for only a bar / Chorus. It's insane, but what makes it great is that it sounds cool and adds nothing lyrically to the song. It's there for no apparent reason at all. But there we are: in pop music, as in life, gratuitous is good.

There's some great mixes too. The "Ashes to Ashes" mix (presumably we were playing cricket against Oz at the time) is a standard 12" version that, as ever, builds in classic PWL style to the song, showcasing all the individual elements as it layers up to the main feature, mucks around in the middle, adds a couple of random samples - some "hey"s for some reason - and then bounces back out again.

And then there's the deliriously stupidly named "Out for a Duck, Bill, Platter Plus Dub" Mix. Or to put it another way, what we would call "the instrumental" (indeed the original single B-side listed it as such).

As an aside, the PWL tendency towards instrumental B-sides is something that always reminds me fondly of my childhood. Indeed I've tracked down many of them on MP3. Versions of "I Should be So Lucky", "I Don't Wanna Get Hurt", "I'd Rather Jack" and so on are, frankly, jewels in my collection and despite their obvious cheapness I rather love them.

But there we are. "Got to Be Certain". One of the best early Kylie tracks, recorded before she went with the "ah sod it" of "Better the Devil You Know" and the other strident sex-kittenish stuff of her late PWL era.

Worryingly I've listened to it three times already this morning.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Personal Demons

Everyone has at least one. Something they know they shouldn't do, something they know is really bad for them (be it physically or psychologically), something destructive at the heart of their very being that they know they have to control lest they be lost forever in a sea of eternal damnation.

Today I came horribly close to buying Geri Halliwell's new album.

I know, I know. But I'm getting that kind of horrified fascination similar to people who have to rubberneck at car-crashes, or those who buy copies of the railway timetable. A part of me wants to know if it's really as bad as it could be, knowing that it will be, but thinking that perhaps enough time and money could really have pulled off something to surprise even the most hardened critic.

But it's okay. I fought my inner demon and won. I returned to the office pure, my dangerous appetite having not been indulged.

Okay this is largely because Impulse were trying to sell it to me for over a tenner, but that's frankly irrelevant. The fact is I won. I am now king of my demons.

Unless I pass the offie later.

Fundamental Dichotomy

So there I was: just finished off at Supercuts (I'm cheap me), pleased with the burnished look of the tidy crop I'd just received, amazed by how much thinner a really close cut makes me look, magnanimously left a sizeable tip, then slipped on my jacket with a fluid motion akin to a flourish as I simultaneously strode terminator-like out of the door.

I then got to the escalators at Liverpool street and casually stepped on, gazing around keenly, meeting anyone's gaze who happened to catch my eye with a carefully studied and subtle smile.

You know... for someone who has no real self-belief and bugger-all by way of self-confidence I really can be an appalling poser sometimes.

I now have a nasty feeling that the appearance I was giving was not so much "purposeful, self-controlled go-getter who wears the city like a glove" but instead something more akin to "utter wanker".

Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

Thank God I didn't have an attack of hayfever. I'm not normally hayfeverish but I seem to be suffering quite badly at the moment. I'm also not sure the prickly numb feeling I get with Beconase spray is much of an improvement.

But I shall press on...

Medical Benefits

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a charity gig at the London Comedy Store.

I wasn't supposed to be going, mind you. My flatmate was cancelled on by a friend of his who had lined up a date instead - almost certainly a euphemism for "Gaydar Shag" we think - and thus I became emergency companion for the evening (I so need a TARDIS t-shirt made up: "Free for Use of Public - Pull to Open").

The gig was in aid of the Louise Gergel Fellowship, a charity set up to fund a fellowship for research into Hughes Syndrome, commonly known as "sticky blood". Following her death from this condition Louise's family campaign tirelessly to raise awareness and to reduce the number of deaths from it. Apparently it gets misdiagnosed all the time (MS and Chronic Migraine being just two of the common errors).

All of which is rather annoying considering that the treatment could be as simple as a Junior Disprin a day to thin the blood out.

Or a course of rat poison, as my father likes to refer to his Warfarin pills. (No really - it is rat poison. Worrying stuff.)

Anyway, since Louise was actually Chris' recruitment consultant, and he works with her brother in law and went to university with her sister (he, like me, suffers from a life like an Escher print; it keeps folding back in on itself) he got tickets and we went along.

And a good time was had by all. The lineup included Lee Mack (acidic compere), Andre Vincent (hilarious tales of cancer), Sean Collins(Canadian, I like Canadians), Gordon Southern (cute and hysterical stoner), Greg Burns (cheeky and affable), Will Smith (angry anal posh boy - I identified) and I frankly hurt by the end of the evening, through laughing.

I probably hurt less than Chris though; he was so drunk by the end he was craving a KFC - so not only will he be hungover, but he'll also be ravenously hungry (it doesn't count as food) and be suffering from the after-effects of deep fried chicken substitute.

I am vaguely sympathetic - I could have happily had a KFC zinger too - but then I remember that his drinks cost three times what mine did and my sympathy sort of evaporates. (Damn his allergy to anything that isn't distilled.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Well Zugger Me!

Today's Forgotten English is an odd one:

"zuggers: an interjection. This is a word, like others of the same class, the precise meaning of which is not easy to define."
And that's it.

Now, does anyone else think that this entry - found in James Jennings' The Dialect of the West of England (1869) - is a bit odd?

It strikes me that its existence smacks more than a little of "well, we don't know what it means, but frankly we're a bit short on the Zs so in it goes..."?

I do hope the compilers of modern dictionaries take more care.

Film Rob

I'm not really a film person, I'm afraid. I get somewhat bored.

I'm not sure this is an attention span thing though. I can happily watch hours of TV even if it's something I've seen before, but somehow films get me fidgety.

I guess I have a low tolerance of padding or something, and past an hour and a half I must admit that no amount of bangs, flashes or one-liners will convince me that some judicious editing would not have been in order.

If there's one thing that will put me off ever going to see a film it's the discovery that it's over two hours long - possibly as a result of my worst film experience ever: realising that I still had an hour and a half of the Phantom Menance left to go. As a result I have managed only to watch the first Lord of the Rings film (under protest - I'm afraid I've read the books and didn't like them), and not see any further Star Wars prequels either. The thought of catching up just leaves me with an overall feeling that life is far too short and I'd rather undergo some extreme dentistry.

This weekend however I actually saw two films. One on Saturday and one on Sunday. Neither were at the cinema, mind you, but in the relative comfort of my own home (which I think makes film-watching much more enjoyable).

First up "Team America: World Police". It was fun, I will admit. But I couldn't help but feel that they'd overstretched themselves even making it ninety minutes. South Park humour is just about bearable in half-hour chunks I find, but there's only so many puerile gags you can take before you start craving some genuine wit. The social satire was well-aimed, as is usually the case from Parker and Stone, but the main interest really came from an agog reaction that "I can't believe they just said that".

Then last night ITV2 - as if the one crap ITV channel wasn't bad enough we now have to suffer with three of them - randomly showed Mission Impossible which since I'm not a film person (did I mention that?) I hadn't caught before. I was with it right up to the end when even I - a Doctor Who fan and thus someone who finds suspending my disbelief extremely easy - was slightly concerned by the practicalities of rotor blades finding room to whirr merrily around inside the channel tunnel.

Diverting though. And Tom Cruise was quite fit in it too - something which had never hitherto occurred to me. Shorthouse he may be, but with good hair and good arms I suddenly saw him in an entirely new light.

In other news you'll be pleased to hear that with the application of herbal remedies and earplugs I've now managed a good night's sleep.

I could now do with approximately four more.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Four o' Bloody Clock Again!

Argh!

This time I was woken by two cats trying to outsing each other. And then, shortly after, trying to outsing a car alarm that started up in sympathy.

I could just imagine the actual scene too: hackles raised, screeching loudly, trying to intimidate and outdo each other until one of them simply gave up and went home, dejected and forlorn.

It then occured to me that such a system would make Eurovision so much more entertaining. I may have to suggest it to the organisers.

We could get Davina Macall to commentate on the fracas too. As compere on Big Brother she's surely used to hollering over the gibberings of an annoying rabble.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Say What?

From today's entry on my Forgotten English calendar:

...vin de singe, meant "wine which makes the drinker or drunkard pleasant, wanton or toyish."
Blink.

I can see it now:

"What ho, barkeep. I wish to become wanton and toyish, therefore I am desirous of a glass of your finest wine of monkey please."

Maybe not one to try in the Settle Inn, then...

Bless You Hazel For You Have Sinned

The jury is probably still out on which of dodgy early PWL-artiste Hazel Dean's releases (or escapes) is best. She did after all have a string of wonderful gems in the 80s - pearls, if you will, possibly that could be fashioned into a necklace - including "Whatever I Do, Wherever I Go", "Who's Leaving Who" and indeed a version of the early Kylie track "Turn it into Love".

Interestingly, of the two versions of the track Hazel gets the better arrangement and Kylie delivers the better vocal (I said interestingly, not surprisingly). This fact has led some wag to produce a version combining the better bits of both into one version entitled the "Going Down on the Dean Mix".

A title which makes me snigger like a small schoolboy.

Anyway, for me, the best of Hazel's songs is by far the early track "Back in my Arms (Once Again)" and specifically the Dance Mix of it - which actually only lasts about five minutes, surely the optimal time for an extended mix of a 3 minute pop song.

I love it for many reasons. First up is the fact that the drum machines give more handclaps and muted cowbells per minute than you would have thought could ever be justified. The whole drum line's so positively frantic if it were rigged to a lighting rig it could guarantee seizures in an entire stadium.

The other is a ridiculously repetitive bassline, combined with a wondrously discordant arpeggiated synth-riff that carries on throughout the entire song and really should throw the entire melody off. They tried a similar trick in the bridge of a later track "Always" and whilst the song as a whole is lousy, the bridge is great.

So taken as a whole the backing track is just completely relentless, and then they slapped Hazel's vocals on top of it with a trowel. Now she's not what you might call a subtle vocalist - in fact when she tries she lacks so much passion she might as well just be a session artiste plonked in to demo a song - but she belts this one out like her lungs need clearing of asbestos.

Bonnie Tyler would have been proud, I tell you.

The finished product is so lacking in subtlety, variety and finesse that it's just totally ridiculous, and for those reasons alone I love it. But the final cherry on top is the opening line: "And the words of a song say everything, when I switch on the radio".

I mean... it starts with "and". It's just so gleefully ungrammatical I can't help myself. It one of those tracks guaranteed to raise a smile in me every time I hear it, even though I know I should feel wrong about it.

It's much like "I Should Be So Lucky" in that respect - something I consider to be one of the finest pop songs ever written. And for this I shall probably burn in hell.

But to be honest I don't give a monkey's fuck.

The Dawn Chorus

Noisy buggers aren't they?

I have for many years now taken to sleeping with the window open - or at least ajar in cold weather - in order to avoid that terrible fug of Carbon Dioxide you can find yourself in when you wake in the morning.

Trouble is that the last few days the dawn chorus has been quite loud and busy from about half three in the morning which has woken me up every time.

Shortly after they've shut their racket up, somebody's dog starts up for ten minutes, and then when they've been let in two of the local cats decide to have a hissing match at each other.

After a week of this I am not entirely happy. I blame them entirely for the bad hair day I am currently experiencing since I couldn't settle at all for the last few hours of my supposed downtime. This of course on a day when I'm having an interview after work... ho hum.

And if that wasn't bad enough one of my colleagues left his phone behind at work last night and is currently receiving multiple calls from his operator to inform him of a voicemail message.

Every two minutes. With a dancey polyphonic ringtone. I suppose I should be grateful it's not a crazy frog, farting monkey, or shrill dragon, but it's still bloody annoying.

Ugh. What a start to the day.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Pass the Bleach!

I am convinced I have unusually porous teeth. They seem to stain like nobody's business.

I'd just got them nicely pearly again a couple of weeks back, but then a few days at home drinking mainly tea and coffee meant that stainage happened again.

It's most annoying. I have to avoid red wine wherever possible too. I mean, I prefer the taste, but frankly I might as well just rub my teeth with a permanent marker.

So, having been paid I've just gone and got another one of those whitening kits. They're such fun, really: five minutes with a lump of plastic and a load of acrid gel in your mouth, followed by twenty minutes cleaning your teeth to try and get rid of all the jelly and the taste of bleach.

Mind you they do work, though.

Until one of my friends offers me a glass of red, of course. (I'm convinced some of them have shares in Rapid White.)

Spam Spam Spam

My morning download of email is always interesting.

For one thing this is because the spammers art is slightly hit and miss. Initially I was rather upset by the deluge of offers of penis enlargement techniques, Viagra and Cialis - for one thing I assumed various exes had been talking - but I soon figured that since I also received various emails offering me "bored horny housewives" and "cum-hungry teenage sluts" (of the female variety) that these weren't actually in any way targetted so I shouldn't feel too bad.

Cialis, incidentally, is apparently known as "the weekend Viagra" which worries me. I mean, I have my moments, but one that lasts for a whole weekend? That's gotta hurt - or at least be an embarrassment when shopping.

Anyway... this morning Outlook happily filtered all the junk - I do love Office 2003 - which left me trawling through the various mails I get from mailing lists I'm genuinely subscribed to.

One of them, though, did rather suggest that the people in charge of mailing lists are just as bad at targetting as the genuine spammers. Internet retailer sendit.com often likes to send me offers for DVDs, CDs and shit, cunningly aligned with competitions I can be automatically entered for if I buy an item from them.

So far, so good. Perfectly fine by me. But today's competition was a short, all expenses paid break in a popular European city:

London.

Well, I mean... colour me underwhelmed.

Thing is... since my address is on their database you'd have thought they could be a little cleverer about the mailout wouldn't you?