Friday, December 29, 2006

One of the Problems...

...of being a Doctor Who fan - aside from the nerdy obsession, the introversion, the lack of social skills and desire for 12" remote controlled Daleks (although these are obviously issues) - is that one can find it almost impossible to spell the word "doctor" without capitalising the D to make it a proper noun.

I've done it three times today already.

I really have to think about spelling it right these days.

Sick and Tired... (3)

Oh for heavens' sake... I have another ear infection now.

Barely a week after the last one cleared up, the same ear has now developed another one. It's not the same one, though - how could it be? I like variety after all.

Last one was a middle ear infection. This one is an outer ear infection.

On the bright side, however, I have at least been put on a different type of antibiotics. Normally its Amoxicillin or Erythromycin, but just for a change I'm now on Flucloxacillin. So I suppose you could argue I have at least succeeded in my aim of having different drugs for a change.

Blimey, if I see in 2007 without illness it'll be a bloody miracle I tell you.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Point of No Return

I think it says something about the increasing Gayness and Nerdiness of Rob (were that really conceivable) that my by far and away favourite present this Christmas stands 12" high and is black, covered in bumps and battery controlled.

This comment is not in any way undermined by the fact is also screeches "Exterminate!" and a variety of other sound effects on command.

In my heart I shall forever be eight years old.

The only difference being that if I was really was eight years old I'd be waiting twenty-two years for merchandise like this.

Of course my sixty-four year old aunt felt compelled to play with it the minute it was unpacked as well. Bless her.

Hope you had a good one people! Welcome to the other side!

Friday, December 22, 2006

A whole plateful of Ow!

You'd have thought that someone would have told the spammers by now wouldn't you?

At least point out to them that assurances like "your dick will yell" are not necessarily good advertisements for any product, not least something medicinal.

But then I suppose that it's by far preferable to the even more terrifying claims that seem to be even more predominant in my junk mail folder these days.

Frankly the idea that my "dicks will be exploded" is a far too painful one to contemplate.

Hogfather

Surprisingly - given my propensity for various classics of UK cult TV - I really don't get on with science fiction or fantasy literature at all.

Most of the time it's that I find myself bored of the prose within seconds since for some reason SF and fantasy writers tend to fall into one of two traps. Either they seem to feel that they can construct the most terrifyingly soulless and bland prose ever seen because the ideas alone will grab you or alternatively they'll write in the most convoluted and impenetrable way possible, leaving you wading through swamps of verbiage that bogs you down completely (Mr Tolkien I'm looking at you).

Neither of these approaches appeals much to me I must say. I'd much prefer a happy medium.

But there's also the fact that if you put something containing an elf, a goblin or a sorcerer in front of me I almost instantly lose the will to live.

So in some ways it's surprising that I actually like Terry Pratchett's stuff.

It's an up and down relationship admittedly. I find him somewhat variable to be fair and his early stuff I don't much care for at all, but even when he's not on form he usually has much to say about the human condition, psychology and the nature of belief. And at his best he manages to combine that kind of thought-provoking content with outright belly-laughs so that his books are more often than not a pleasure to read.

Hogfather, it's got to be said, is not one of my favourites, but even so I looked forward to Sky One's adaptation of it with some anticipation.

Overall, I've got to say it did seem a bit slow. The first episode took ages to get going, with the director spending far too much time dwelling on the scenery (presumably making sure the budget got shown on screen), and far too much that was frankly irrelevant to the overall story remained. There is, after all, a point in adaptations where you can't be too slavish to the original material.

It was also glaringly obvious that it under-ran the four hours allocated even with adverts since episode one had a huge "next time on Hogfather" stuck on the end. And then episode two started with a similarly lengthy reprise followed by an opening that was almost a duplicate of the first and made me wonder if they'd got the wrong tape by mistake.

So yes, I think all told it would have been better served by being a fair bit shorter.

But beyond that it was rather lovely. Everything looked the part. Death was impressively realised - Ian Richardson's plummy tones were just perfect for it - and Michelle Dockery inhabited the role of Susan perfectly. Admittedly David Jason was so far off my image of Albert it almost hurt, but he was enjoyable in the role anyway. Mr Teatime was a slightly jarring portrayal but I can't help but feel that was part of the point anyway.

And to be honest you've got to love a production which features an "Oh God" of Hangovers.

I think the thing that sums up what I love about Pratchett though is the final admittance by Death of why he quite likes humans (you can add your own capitals if you want):

"Did you know that in a world so full of wonders, they have actually invented boredom?
Quite astonishing."

Somehow you can't really fault that kind of thinking can you?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Spirit of Hogswatch

Finally, with the inconvenience of Christmas cards and present-buying behind me, I am starting to feel moderately Christmassy.

It helps, I think, that the weather has finally decided to become moderately seasonal. Admittedly even in the wilds of Highgate we're not battling our way through snowdrifts or building snowmen with carroty noses, coals for eyes and gourds for genitalia, but a certain holiday-esque kind of weather has crept up unannounced.

Every morning I throw open my curtains to find the world outside looking almost sugar-coated with a sprinkling of frost, tendrils of fog tentatively curling round trees and lamp-posts, and that special kind of biting chill that you can only associate with the bleak midwinter.

As someone with a decidedly melancholic temperament it does my heart the world of good, I can tell you.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Shopping

Once again I have managed to spare myself the pain of most of the Christmas shopping by doing it online and having it all delivered. This can only be A Good Thing(TM).

But yesterday I went out and hit Camden in a vain attempt to find a little something for a friend of mine - a trip which ultimately had to be abandoned as a bad job.

I did however, buy something for me. A huge nicely bound copy of all the Strand Magazine illustrated Sherlock Holmes stories for £20.

Nice one. I go out for other people's presents, and instead I find my own.

My self obsession's still ticking over nicely then.

Sick and Tired... (2)

Yay! Turns out I've not just been malingering. I was officially ill.

I finally got fed up and went to the Quack's on Friday and came away with the full and certain knowledge that I have actually had an ENT infection for weeks now.

Inevitably the prescription was for Amoxycillin. I invariably get prescribed either that or Erythromycin when I go to the doctors so I wasn't entirely surprised.

It's working like a charm already I must say.

I can only assume I have a natural affinity for it due to the "mox" in the name.

A Night at the Trash Palace

So, last Tuesday after the quiz at Wyvils, Other Rob caught me on the hop slightly by asking if I fancied DJing at his club night at Trash Palace.

I must have been thrown because I agreed. There then followed a couple of days of "oh, why did I agree to that, there'll be people there!" and so on. Normally my past form at Windypops! has been to basically just play indulgent tat to a group of friends and acquaintances. Doing Hello Hooray! at Trash Palace however actually ran the risk of people being there I didn't know and - to be brutally frank - it is a fairly "alternative" venue (to the point that its punters can be a bit up themselves).

Thankfully it all turned out to be awesomely good fun and I had what I believe is known as "a total blast". The prospect of real people meant I inevitably upped the game a little bit and tried my hardest to make a chunkier set than normal whilst still not compromising my belief that pop is king.

I opened with my favourite track of the moment, The Dragonette's "I Get Around" before blundering into ABBA's "So Long" which amusingly someone from Sweden didn't believe was ABBA (to be fair it's a much rockier number than people expect).

At this point my only planned aspects of the set were done and so it all became a bit of a blur. I know that I went with Matinee Club's "Tokyo Girls" next and then had a panic because someone - much to my surprise - asked for the Spice Girls. Getting from a solid electro stomper to a cheesy pop song without throwing everyone was an interesting task, but thankfully I had "Pull Shapes" by the Pipettes to hand which bridged the transition to "Spice Up Your Life" rather well.

Then I know we had the 'Frapp's "Ride a White Horse" and I remember ending my main stint on Girls Aloud's "I Think We're Alone Now" (the far superior single version naturally, not the awful album one). Later on we all took turns to do a couple of tracks and I was gleefully happy to see how well BWO's Sixteen Tonnes of Hardware went down with the crowd. I then too the opportunity to put The Holy Trinity's "Tell Me When" on before I fled to the dancefloor to actually dance to it.

Scared as I was to start with, though, It was a good experience. It was odd to have people I'd never met come up to chat about tracks. One girl for example came and had a chat about the Pipettes because she knows their lead songwriter or something like that.

Small world, sometimes, it really is.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Asia De Cuba

Well, a few of us went out last night for a fairly wallet-busting meal at a resturant called Asia De Cuba in St. Martin's Lane.

I thought I'd mention it since I can heartily recommend a visit some time. Especially if you can expense it.

The downside? They do two sittings (6 - 8:30 and 8:30 to 11) and they're not afraid to throw you out once you've overstayed your welcome - although they are very courteous about it.

The upsides? The food is absolutely amazing.

They do little bento boxes, but the real fun is in getting their appetisers and main courses since each dish is designed for sharing in a group. Between a sizeable group we had a few of each and managed to gorge ourselves splendidly, trying allsorts of interesting dishes in the process. The Asian Pesto Grilled Prawns were particualrly good, as were the Honey-Rum Glazed Pot Roast of Pork, and the Chocolate Cheesecake (with Mojito Sorbet no less).

So anyway, if you can swallow any qualms you might have about running up a chunky bill then I'd advise a visit.

It's a great venue as well, very stylish.

Monday, December 11, 2006

BWO : Chariots of Fire

Ladies and Jellyspoons... the new single from Bodies Without Organs, "Chariots of Fire":



Martin in just his pants. Martin with a riding crop. Marina just being fabulous.

It is, to be fair, less disturbing than some of their other videos.

The vampirism of "Sunshine in the Rain":



and the really odd "Conquering America" (so much blood!):

It's not just me is it?

But that new M&S advert for Christmas is a bit worrying isn't it?

There's just something fundamentally wrong about hearing Shirley Bassey telling us how she "can go for miles, if you know what I mean" isn't there?

Shudder.

Torchwood : Random Shoes

I haven't written at length on CSI:Cardiff recently largely because I got bored of doing one a week, but I have to say the last three episodes have, for me, shown genuine signs of promise.

As has been noted by very many commentators, the first few episodes were - whilst superficially enjoyable - all like episodes of six different series. The smaller more personal episodes like "Ghost Machine" and "Small Worlds" felt more mature than the others since they relied less on blood and gore and swearing, but they were lost in the middle of a series that felt it was all over the bloody shop.

But "Greeks Bearing Gifts" (despite me sitting there thinking "Buffy!"), "They Keep Killing Suzie" and now "Random Shoes" have actually managed to seem more settled. The characters have finally become a bit more likable despite their flaws and so on.

"Random Shoes" in particular I felt was just lovely. In a sort of heart-wrenching way, admittedly. As a nerd and loser-type myself I felt very sorry for Eugene, and the effect his death had on his mum was gutting to watch.

The only real problem I had was the use of "Danny Boy" at the funeral. It's a song I loathe anyway, to be honest, but here it was a bit of a heavy-handed attempt to make a scene sad - something which it really didn't need since it was already.

Frankly that was a great a steaming turd in an otherwise rather lovely, personal story.

I still have my reservations about the show, mind. Even with what I feel is a large improvement I still feel that the series is just "okay to moderately fair". Episodes like the last three should be the baseline the series doesn't stoop below, really, not the highpoints. But hey.

But given how many hours of telly BBC Three are getting out of it, I suspect there'll be a second series.

Sick and Tired...

...pretty much describes my general physical state these days. I can't remember ,many days in the last six weeks when I haven't had a sniffle, or a sore throat, or a blocked nose, or felt in some way far from in peak physical condition (not that I think I actually have one).

And I'm so tired. I've been generally fatigued for months now, the job finally grinding me down to the point I was really only capable of getting home and slumping on the sofa at the end of a day. The realisation of this, of course, then lead me to a sudden and bloody-minded decision to go out lots, burning the candle at both ends somewhat.

This has lead of course to me being more tired, and presumably is where the spate of general background illnesses started, but I suppose a richer social life is a good thing.

So all things considered I haven't really stopped for a few weeks and have been feeling increasingly blurred round the edges. No more so than on Saturday night when I went to two parties in separate parts of London, the latter of which ended up with me snogging four guys despite being - somewhat miraculously - stone cold sober by that point.

And the next two weeks show no sign of letting up. Pretty much every night has something on - except today because I'm off work being (you guessed it) violently sick which started with stomach cramps in the early hours of the morning.

I think either my mind or my body are trying to tell me something. I think it's "Stop!"

What I stop however is the big question.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wyvils Pub Quiz

So this weekend - as well as catching up on all the admin and a spot of Christmas shopping - I have been working on another Qwiz for Halfway (I like to have one in hand so I can just step into the breach if needed) and also my questions for the inaugural Wyvils pub quiz which is happening on Tuesday.

Basically Other Rob has become Assistant Bar Manager at Wyvils and asked me to lend a hand devising the format and then asked if I could co-write and co-host it to help get it off the ground. I agreed and once we'd come up with the format I've spent some time pulling together the questions for the two rounds I'm writing.

Its proven to be an easier one to write I must say. For Halfway you have to come up with 50 questions total all of which are a mixed bag and the standard format demands a certain number of double questions, music questions, picture questions and so on. Balancing all those requirements is a pain in the bum, but since that is the (usual) format that's what I do.

For Wyvils though we're only doing four rounds with bonus prizes for each that anyone can win - not necessarily the team that did best - and each round is on a specific (yet not too specific) subject so I managed to get most of it got written in a couple of hours yesterday morning. I've done some polishing and replacing since then so I think it's almost there. I just need Rob's questions now.

Hardest was trying not to have any "gay" questions in there. The bar was gay before it got run down into the ground but Rob and John have decided on a "no attitude" entry policy instead. This means I could have people there who wouldn't necessarily know what Elton John's message to the Australian Prime Minister was this week. (That was one that got ditched pretty quick let me tell you.)

Anyway... hopefully I've pitched it about right.

It's on at 7:30 on Tuesday at Wyvils in Vauxhall which is rather a nice venue in itself. Do come along one and all. The map is here.

Shock of the Week

I enjoyed Robin Hood last night.

Yeah, I know. I was a bit stunned. I think part of this was because it further developed a couple of the most interesting parts of the series (aside from the gorgeousness that is Harry Lloyd's Will Scarlett): the uncomfortable relationship between Guy and Marian, and the similar strain between Guy and the Sheriff.

Much was also finally given something to do other than complaining and being the "comic" relief. Indeed he showed depth, compassion, intelligence and even brought out the good in someone in a way which struck me as very much something the Doctor would do.

With that in mind I should have guessed one of the Who writers Paul Cornell had written this one. He also wrote one of my favourite Who episodes: Father's Day - one I still can't watch in company because even after several viewings it gets me close to tears every time (as per my post here).

All told the series does seem to be developing some teeth which I felt it was sorely lacking to start with. It's been a slow process, but I think they might have cracked it.

That said, Nottingham Castle is astoundingly badly defended isn't it? Not a week goes by without the Outlaws getting in there and out again relatively unscathed. You'd have thought the Sheriff'd train up the guards a bit wouldn't you?

It was also rather better directed too. I commented on this to the flatmate who agreed wholeheartedly, and then we realised it was directed by Graeme Harper who has so far been responsible for a couple of "classic" Doctor Whos, and the block which yielded Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel and Army of Ghosts / Doomsday for the last series.

I'm increasingly of the opinion he's one of the best directors in TV today. I'm surprised he isn't parachuted into more series to give them a bit of spit and polish, frankly.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Mind Boggles

In the interests of keeping everyone informed and up to date with the company's progress, my employers regularly send out informational email on new client signings and project live dates and so on.

on arrival this morning one had dropped into my inbox overnight which contained the following fascinating insight.

"The project started off with difficulty after changes were made to the client’s Project Manager a few weeks into the project."
Which does rather make me wonder precisely what changes precisely were made. Brainwashing? Nosejob? Partial cybernisation and the fitting of an emotional inhibitor (not that most project managers need the latter in my opinion but hey).

All told the sentence does, however, put me in mind of one of those fake letters home that used to appear in books like "2001 Jokes for Kids" where one correspondent stated to their loving son:
"I have had all my teeth taken out and a new fireplace put in."
The path of the English is filled with many potential dangers and pitfalls. Not to mention some terribly uneven paving slabs.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

That is the question...

Been doing a bit of fine tuning to another set of questions for the Halfway II Heaven pub quiz today.

Faced with the complaint last time that it was pretty tough I've been more mindful this time to try and balance it. Damnably tough job it is too.

Still, so far the questions feature the words "tosser", "poove", and "execrable" so I'm reasonably happy.

I've even managed to stop myself asking the really obvious question: "just how has Robin Hood managed to get a second series?" (Mainly, I suspect, because I still can't believe any of the answers I keep coming across.)

Anyway, I'm hosting it on Wednesday. Should start on the dot of 8:00ish.

Do pop by if you're in the vicinity.

Welcome to the Cyberdisco!

It's a guilty pleasure, but I'm rather fond of the fan remix site Whomix, a suppository for people to publish their own versions of the Doctor Who theme.

There's a lot of rubbish - as my version would be were I to try it no doubt - but there is some amazing talent out there noodling away at versions of one theme.

The ones I don't care for are the ones which simply try to emulate a "real" version of the theme. But some of them are complete ground-up reworkings.

My personal favourite is Anthony Perry's "Industrial Cyberdisco Remix" which I think is a work of genius.

His exact description of it from the remix page is as follows:

I think the best way to listen to this one is to imagine the TARDIS materialising in a huge 'abandoned' space freighter as a squad of Cybermen come marching around the corner in time with the beat. Got it?

OK, now imagine that instead of being in the freighter, they're in a disco with some nice rope and strobe lights reflecting off their shiny heads making them look like psychotic glitterballs. And instead of marching in time with the beat they're actually doing some really crap 80's robotic synchronised dancing. Ooh yeah, get down and cyberboogie...

There's even a nice 'chill out' section in the middle where they can sneak off to the toilets for a crafty squirt of WD40!
Gotta love it. Who'd have thought the theme could end up so camp, eh?

An Excess of Weather

Lord.

Well I don't know what it's been like for you lot, but over here at Highgate Towers in the last hour we've suffered from what can only be described as an excess of weather.

High winds (which were rattling away at my window all night, damn them) brought along spectacularly low-level cloud which then decided to wring itself out and give us an onslaught of driving rain. After a short burst of this it all settled and we then got a brief but vigorous storm of lightning and deep ominous growls of thunder.

And yet now we have a combination of light rain and bright sunshine.

I love this country. It's so unstable in so many ways.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Robopop: The Return

The first major release from synthpop label Planet Clique hit my desk this week: Robopop: The Return. 17 tracks of electronica which I must say is, on the whole, very good.

Now my one big problem with synthpop is that all too often an artist can stray into weird noises without bothering with a decent song. And there are a few tracks on here which are a bit like that. Frankly I think Temposhark's contribution sucks and it is part of a stretch of the album from tracks 11 - 14 that really leaves me somewhat cold. And for me an earlier downer comes from the Knife who I have to say have yet to release anything I can bear listening to.

Thankfully the rest of the album is very good. Goldfrapp hopefully need no introduction and "Ride a White Horse" is one of my favourite synth tracks ever. As in fact is Tiga's "(Far From) Home" (and by golly that boy's hot).

Matinee Club - née The Modern who surely need to make it big soon - put in a solid track called "Tokyo Girls" which is very good despite being possibly a little bit crass ("they love you long time tonight"?) but for me the definite highlight is "Got to Get Some", a genius offering from Superjupiter who are definitely ones to watch.

Dragonette's "I Get Around" has a hideously infectious chorus and rapidly rises above what is, to be fair, a pretty generic stuttering-synth opening to become a song worthy of special mention. Performance's "Surrender" never quite lives up to the promise of its gloriously euphoric opening but after a few listens it definitely grows on you. Formatic and Macondo's offerings are also extremely creditable material too.

I still can't quite get my head round why I love Knights' "Limousine" so much - especially since it starts with the nightmare announcement that the bar has closed - but I still find myself grinning when I listen to it. Similarly Lorraine's "I Feel It" is one I've come to like after months of wondering why Popjustice was raving about this group (I still think they've yet to do anything as good as "Transatlantic Flight" mind).

All told it's a very solid album. Personally I don't care for tracks 11-14 at all but even without those for £8 it's a bloody good value CD set.

Heartily recommended.

Jam and Jerusalem

Jennifer Saunders' new project started last night on BBC1. "Jam and Jerusalem" set in the village of Clatterford St. Mary, it focuses on village life and the goings on of the local ladies' guild.

I must say, I did find it very uncomfortable vieweing since various parts of it bore more than a passing similarity to Vitriol and Old Lace. Indeed at times I wondered if Jennifer Saunders or some of the rest of the production team had been on the judging panel of the BBC Talent contest we put the first episode in for all those months ago.

Even the flatmate went "my God, they've nicked all your ideas!"

Ladies Guild with insane members? Check. One of them incredibly terrifying with an unusual mode of transport? Check. Funeral with a vicar trying to keep a lid on the chaos? Check.

Most disconcerting. And of course despite us working on our sitcom for years now, Jam and Jerusalem will be regarded as the first and we run the risk of looking like we're ripping it off. Gah!

What's most irritating of course is that it was actually very good as well.

Daniel and I will probably have to have long discussions about what to do next, I think. There are a lot of differences between the scripts too, of course, but we may need to be careful how to direct this so it doesn't echo J&J too much. Later episodes I suspect won't, but we need to avoid too many comparisons to start with.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Rude Awakenings

Had a fairly unpleasant start to the day, today.

I was jerked awake at 6:30 by the insistent piercing screeches of my alarm clock for one thing. This in itself is a fairly unusual occurrence since I'm normally starng blearily at the display a good ten or so minutes before then and turning the alarm off to avoid an assault on my ears.

I then did my usual trick of thinking "oh, just five more minutes" and turning over for that special privilege of staying in bed a bit longer than you really should.

Three quarters of an hour later I resurfaced from some very strange dreams with a relaxed stretch in the sure and certain knowledge that it was Saturday.

Obviously when I finally caught up with reality there was a very immediate flurry of headless-chicken-like activity and a mad dash to work from which I've only really just recovered.

Now admittedly, getting up and going to work on a weekday is an activity I have increasingly come to resent of late anyway. But to suddenly have the joy of Saturday effectively snatched away from me as well has invoked a level of dissatisfaction with my lot that is has proven quite pervasive.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Prestige

You may have seen a few adverts on television for the Christian Bale / Hugh Jackman (huge what?) film "The Prestige" lately. All looks very glossy and diverting and full of distorted Victoriana which usually appeals to me I must say. (Obviously I was wrong with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was fucking awful, but you can't be right all the time.)

Anyway my interest in the Prestige was piqued enough to actually do some research and discover it's based on a book by Christopher Priest which I then just happened across - purely by chance - in Waterstones.

I've just finished it. It's very very good. A brilliantly written and subtle novel with several twists and turns leading to an odd yet satisfying conclusion.

The film, I gather, is a very different, simplified affair - yet with a goodly number of positive reviews - but the book itself is absolutely brilliant.

I can heartily recommend it.

Change is Gonna Come...

My life on a personal and professional level has left a lot to be desired this last week. In fact I think I could go as far as to say it sucked.

I need to get a grip on a lot of things I think.

First up tomorrow is a meeting with my boss.

As far as my job is concerned, for one thing, I've had enough.

Bad Gay! No Biscuit!

I came to the conclusion recently that I am a bad gay.

Evidence:

  1. I don't care much for clubbing.
  2. I don't really go in for casual sex.
  3. I have never seen the Wizard of Oz.
  4. Nor do I have any desire to.
  5. I can't stand the Sound of Music.
  6. Or Labyrinth.
  7. I loathe the Carpenters.
I could, if I tried, go on. But I have a feeling that based on these alone the gay council will be revoking my licence imminently.

Interestingly I saw the other day some vacuous column in Boyz magazine (yeah, I know... take your pick) in which a lady - I forget the name - tries to give fag hags a voice.

Usually it's fairly readable if lightweight stuff, but last week she put forward the theory that actually we gays should be saluting George Michael and applauding the various sexual and drug-related antics that keep him in the public eye because at least he isn't conforming to some sanitised gay stereotype.

At which I must admit I prickled somewhat and was vaguely stunned by the lack of vision that this friend of friends of Dorothy had. She seemed completely unable to grasp that there are a great many gay stereotypes out there. Gay men are really an incredibly diverse species even within the smallest categorisations (and in fact we even have the luxury of switching between stereotypes depending on our mood if we feel like it).

So as far as I'm concerned the "mustachioed leather-bound Heath-cruising druggie" is just another one, love. And frankly just because he hasn't conformed to one stereotype, doesn't make the one he does conform to big or clever either.

Although you could argue I just haven't forgiven him for raping a perfectly good song and using it as the basis for the utterly dire "Shoot the Dog".

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Climate of Fear

I must confess to being slightly bemused by the BBC News headline this morning.

"Terror priority if Brown is PM".
For a moment there I was convinced he was going to cause it, not tackle it.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Groovie Goolies

Strange how the past can suddenly come flooding back isn't it?

There's a documentary on Doctor Who : The Invasion DVD which looks at the way some fans - way back in the days before VCRs - used to record the soundtracks of TV shows with a microphone held quite near a TV speaker.

These days, after so many of the episodes have been lost due to the BBC's infinite wisdom, this act of supreme nerdery has resulted in some quite valuable recordings - two of which enabled the Cosgrve Hall team to use cleaned up versions of them as the soundtrack to animated episodes to replace the lost films with animation.

The results are actually surprisingly good (more please) but it brought back memories of me doing something very similar when I was young.

Only it wasn't Doctor Who (I became a fan quite late in my teens) it was an oddball little show by Filmation that I taped a few episodes of before - as I invariably did - getting bored of my new hobby.

The show in question was "The Groovy Goolies" and I've just discovered you can get it on DVD.

But you know what... I'm not going to. I am very much - as my regular readers will know - unapologetically in touch with my inner child and as such have no qualms about purchasing DVDs of things I loved from my childhood to love and love again. But in this case I think I'll leave well alone. My overriding memory at the time was that it really wasn't as good as it should be and since the memory invariably cheats and makes things better than they were I suspect I'll be appalled at the waste of money if I do.

But just for a moment there I was transported again back to a more innocent time where you had to be resourceful and make do with what you had to preserve the things you loved. I remember the joy of going back to check it had recorded in all its tinny glory and finding it had worked and playing it over and over again.

Of course, being a fickle gay it almost certainly got recorded over with Kylie a few years later. But such is the way of Rob.

The Quantity Theory of Insanity

Will Self - to my mind a deeply variable writer but capable of much genius - once wrote a book called "the Quantity Theory of Insanity" which suggested that there was a limited amount of insanity (and thus sanity) in the world. Thus if you cured insanity in one place an outbreak of insanity would occur elsewhere to balance it.

I always liked this idea, and there are two pretty good recent news events which we can use as evidence for it.

The US gets an outbreak of sanity and gives control of the Senate and House of Representatives to the Democrats. [Story here.]

But to counter it, the UK clears the leader of the BNP - the most terrifyingly bigoted, unpleasant and divisive political party ever (even considering the Conservatives and Republicans) - of race-hate. [Story here.]

What a world, what a world!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Torchwood : Cyberwoman

One of the main niggles for me when the Cybermen returned to Doctor Who this year was the conversion process. For me - a Whoer brought up in the eighties - the Cybermen were always more interesting than the infernal pepperpots because they had once been humans but had lost their humanity due to science, but aspects of their original physical form remained - one of the eighties costumes even went as far as to have a panel which showed a withered and blackened jaw moving in the helmet when the brutes spoke.

The fact that there was still a supported organic element within them - remnants of the original body grafted with the augmentations - was what made the process of being changed so scary. If the process was interrupted or only partially completed (Lytton from 1985's Attack of the Cybermen, Toberman from 1967's Tomb of the Cybermen, Vaughn from 1968's The Invasion) then a human being could be wandering around with metal bits added, caught in a state between human and Cyberman.

Rise of the Cybermen / Age of Steel, however, made it clear that all that was happening was a brain was being stuffed inside a robot suit. Which I suppose is a more direct approach - maybe quicker if you have the suits to hand - but somehow less interesting.

Episode four of Torchwood - lamely entitled Cyberwoman (ugh) - however reverted back to the old body-conversion which was something of a relief for me. Finally the process actually seemed scary and more visceral again so hurrah for that.

Visceral's quite a good way of describing the episode actually. The whole episode was gory, grim, claustrophobic (probably to justify the cost of the Hub set) and had everything going to hell in a handcart. It does seem that the series is slowly finding its feet, but whilst I'm finding it all very enjoyable I'm still not totally convinced the series justifies its existence yet.

At the moment it's certainly not proving to be much more than Doctor Who with blood and swearing, which - whilst I have no problem with either (and all my friends will be aware of the more puerile parts of my sense of humour) - doesn't really to my mind make it more "adult".

Indeed the Cyberbabe outfit alone was kind of pandering to the "teenage heterosexual men only" label that Science Fiction has struggled with over the years, and so far most of Torchwood does seem to be stuck in that mindset too - which is surprising considering how much of a hit the rejigged Doctor Who has been with the ladies.

Still, it's pretty, pacy, dramatic and funny and follows in the grand British tradition of doing SF telly which is really just a live action cartoon strip - a la the All New Doctor Who Show, the Avengers and so on. Of course this could be what will make or break it really. The slightly unreal (or as I prefer hyper-real) edge is something that obviously works for me, but I get the feeling that many (slightly) younger viewers - reared as they have been on a diet of purely US shows for years - are finding it hard to swallow.

Perhaps the magical, hyper-reality of Avengerland can't really accommodate the harsher world of Torchwood effectively for a sustained wider audience? Only time will tell.

(And on another note aren't BBC Three getting their moneys worth out of it? The only day they don't show it seems to be Thursday! I suppose it would have been a very costly production, but even so...)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

And we have a winner!

Following on from the Girls Aloud competition win the other day it appears I have newfound competition winning abilities (at least that's how Other Rob put it).

It seems I won some money in the (slowly going under) Monday Charities Lottery last night.

It's a sign, I think, of how unimpressive my life is that when I win gig tickets I get four songs, and when I win the lottery I get £14.

Still, never look a gift-horse in the mouth and all that.

Monday, November 06, 2006

What, you as well?

So, there were three of us sitting down last night, discussing life, love, Patrick Wolf, Girls Aloud, the Cyber-breasts in Torchwood, and work.

Turns out all three of us are currently hating our jobs and trying to figure out where to take our careers next.

Is it some kind of seasonal thing do you think? Or have they started putting something in the water?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who'd Have Thought?

I have to say I think the guilty verdict against Saddam probably ranks as one of the biggest pieces of "no surprise there" that has ever been classified as news.

To be honest, I'm still more surprised they even bothered with a trial. (Although I suspect that he was given one purely because Dubya would have preferred not to.)

Now they just have to sort out the God Almighty cock-up of a situation that has resulted from deciding to remove Saddam in the first place.

What's worse is that some people the US and Britain are probably thinking that killing Saddam in some way evens the score (because of course "an eye for an eye" is such a civilised way of dealing out justice) or suggests that in any way the situation is moving forward instead of being mired in chaos and devastation.

Of course what's really sad is that if it wasn't for it being Saddam this'd just be yet one more Iraqi life being taken. And who'd notice that at this late stage eh?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Go Girls!



It was way too early in the morning.

It was only a short set.

But as far as competition prizes go, being invited by Mohammed Al-Fayed to Harrods for a private Girls Aloud gig was kind of a cool way to spend half an hour of a Saturday morning.

And the fact that they were so clearly enjoying themselves doing it just made me love them all the more.

They were all in very good voice, I must say - I was very impressed.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Nigel Kneale

Just seen that Nigel Kneale, creator of Quatermass, the Year of the Sex Olympics and so on, has passed away.

Given how much I love Quatermass and the Pit and the Stone Tape - two of the best pieces of television ever - I am somewhat saddened by this news.

He was a truly great writer and there are few Science Fiction / Fantasy series in the world today that don't owe him a great debt - all the more unusual when you consider his distaste for the genre.

But anyway, fare thee well Nigel - and thanks for the thrills and thoughts you've given us over the years. There have been few like you (and frankly I think we're dire need of a few more).

It Is Finished!

Postman just arrived bearing with him the final "completion sticker" for the Merlin Doctor Who sticker collection.

You see, I wasn't going to collect them. But the sticker album came with the Radio Times and then the shop at the end of the road and the Co-Op were both selling packs of stickers and frankly there is a part of me which shall forever be eight years old (and equally frankly I don't think that's a bad thing) so it was kind of inevitable that I'd buckle really.

I have, after all, the breaking strain of a kitkat.

So eventually I got to the point when I had less that 25 stickers missing so I sent off an order for those, which then duly arrived (sans completion sticker - they were out of stock) last week.

And now it's all done. I feel an odd sense of sadness (in the anorak sense) and achievement. I've collected stickers before of course. "The Real Ghostbusters" one was the last big push, but I never actually completed it, so this is officially the first time I've ever finished a sticker collection.

This in itself is making me grin like a kid, but more importantly it's also as far as I can tell the first time someone in my family has ever completed a collection. Every album of old cigarette cards that my Dad ever showed me, for example, was missing loads.

I feel I may have broken a family curse. From now on we Morrises are going to complete the things we start and damn anyone who gets in our way.

That said, the sticker itself was a bit dull. But there we are.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bear with me...

I've just upgraded my blogger template to the new Beta Blogger template style meaning all of my customizations must be carefully reapplied. Hopefully normal service will be resumed by the end of the day.

Takes all sorts...

Once again I find myself amused by the search terms that bring people to this backwater of the interweb.

Looking at my statcounter information for yesterday I see that at least one person has been dragged here after searching on Tiscali for "where to go cottaging in Leicester".

They will have been sorely disappointed by the result of this search I fear.

More bizarrely I find that someone is looking for the "big fish little fish cardboard box lyrics" so they will have been probably quite surprised to come across the tongue-in-cheek whimsy that is the "K9 and Company : The Next Generation" episode guide that Glitter for Brains Lee and I wrote years back.

I still find that one amusing as it happens. As it happens Lee and I wrote three pieces of somewhat inspired Who-ery at the time - the others being a brilliant Julian and Sandy Sketch called "Bona Cybernetics" (which I may yet publish here one day) and also one which is potentially our finest hour: a spoof history of the true beginnings of Doctor Who which must never see the light of day due to the potentially libelous nature of much of its contents.

Which in many respects is a great shame. It means the wider world will never know of the secrets of the Blue Peter brain garden, nor of Who's early East End Mafia connections, or the precise quantity of opium needed to hallucinate CS Lewis.

But there we are. Such is the hazardous path a writer must tread.

Strumping About

One of the words served up by my Forgotten English calendar last week was the wonderful "strump" which I must confess is a word I had ne'er encountered before.

Turns out that it means "to tread heavily or pace about; whence, probably, strumpet, a street walker".

I find it fascinating isn't it that a derived word such as strumpet can happily remain in use (albeit in less common usage than I'd like) whereas its origin can just fade slowly away.

I shall be using "strump" more often in future I can assure you.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Weekend in the Provinces

Sad fact # 15436387625. It takes about 1.5 hours to travel from London to Canterbury. It also takes about 1.5 hours to travel from the improbably named Ashford International (trust me - Ashford is a dump) to Brussels.

I know this because on Thursday I wandered down to Canterbury to spend the weekend with the folks and on Friday we all went to Brussels for the day to celebrate Dad's 60th Birthday.

Our rail network's a joke it really is.

Anyway, a pleasant weekend (near not a single computer) was spent. I actually did some work on my novel on Sunday - at least until the cat decided to involve himself in the creative process and sit on my notebook - read a lot of newspapers, enjoyed the Pet Shop Boys live album "Concrete" (oddly Rufus Wainwright's delivery of Casanova in Hell didn't irritate me this time round - I must be warming to him) and enjoyed having various meals prepared for me. The added hour in bed on Sunday meaning I felt quite refreshed by the end of it.

I must admit I didn't take to Brussels. It had some fine lovely old buildings, but at the same time the city as a whole just seemed scruffy, seedy and unkempt. And it didn't seem to offer much in the way of attractions beyond lace, chocolate shops and art galleries. As it was Dad's birthday we did the Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts which, it has to be said, bored my stepbrother and I silly.

Okay, there were a couple of pieces which caught my eye - being of unusual tones and composition - but on the whole I don't care for oil paintings. The tones and colours are just dreary (mainly due to the age I know) and to be fair there are only so many paintings of the crucifixion that one can take.

We ended up amusing ourselves with deciding what the rooms would be used for once we'd taken over the world and made it our palace.

Plus we had a couple of nice meals (oh I do love mussels) and I managed to buy myself some Kwak beer and one of the special glasses to drink it from (scroll down that link - you'll see why it appeals) so all told it was quite a fun trip - and Dad enjoyed himself enormously which was the main thing.

That I didn't have to fly to get there was also a definite plus.

So yes, by Sunday - despite having had something suspiciously akin to an ear infection for several days now - I was feeling bouyant, relaxed, refreshed and ready for anything.

Sadly yesterday afternoon on my return I became subject to a sore throat, this was joined in the evening with a blocked nose, and then alternate hot and cold flushes decided to join the party overnight to stop me sleeping.

This is what happens when I finally unwind - I get ill.

So I'm at home to recover. Except I'm not recovering. I was going to sleep it off, but it seems that next door have building works going on.

And as far as I can tell the workmen are using Thor's hammer to do the work.

My head is killing me now. Gah!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

So... Torchwood

Well, I think it's fair to say we enjoyed Torchwood the other night. Sunday evenings will never be the same again, I think.

My only real niggles were that for a series which we were so repeatedly reminded was going to be separate and distinct from Doctor Who, there were some heavy nods to the other series. The TARDIS being the cause of the perception filter and Jack's feverish attachment to the Doctor's hand-in-a-jar were both references I felt were just a bit too much. Still I suppose anyone who hasn't seen - or indeed won't see - the other series will not be bothered too much.

I can also see Jack not being able to die causing some dramatic difficulties, aside from stretching credibility a tad too much. I mean, unable to die or no, he's now got a sodding bullet lodged in his brain. That's gotta cause complications, surely?

I did also feel the resolution of the first episode was a little illogical - why would someone intentionally test such a device when there was a risk of them being identified as the killer by the person you're reviving? Eh? Eh?

I suppose you could just argue she was unhinged of course. You can get away with quite a lot like that.

But still, despite those niggles, it was pacey, gory, twisty, funny, beautifully shot and also managed to have some very classy titles and incidental music which didn't drown everything out - the latter two points being ones on which it scores highly over Who in my opinion.

And there aren't many series around where you can see a guy get shagged to death by an alien after all.

If I could choose a way to go I think that'd probably be it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Covered in Bees!

Yesterday, in amongst a plethora of other activities (I just don't seem to have stopped doing one thing or another so far this weekend) I popped up to Colindale to meet my dad for lunch at the National Honey Show.

This was actually not so much "popping" as slowly and painfully making my way there since (again) the sodding Northern Line was having engineering works on our bit - and will apparently be doing so for a few more weekends damnit. So it was all slow and painful and cramped conditions a-go-go on Rail Replacement Buses and so on, but I got to the RAF Museum conference centre anyway.

Now, I'm afraid that for the uninitiated seeing yet more jars of honey on display does tend to get a bit dull after a while - but in any case, amongst a couple of other wins, Dad managed to get a first prize in a national category which was gratifying for him and which certainly deserves a big "yay".

Yay!

It was however in the exhibition shop that my interest in the hobby was truly piqued.

No, it wasn't a boy (although one of the exhibitors - from KBS I think, whoever they are - was bloody hot) but merely my discovery of a couple of books on the subject of "Queen Rearing".

I pointed this out to Dad who just grinned at me and went "it's a technical term, Rob, you needn't don't get too excited".

So I didn't.

However, the subsequent idle conversation (regarding Johnny Kingdom rearing badgers) did result in the discovery that my half-brother Daniel has developed an incredibly dirty laugh.

Seriously. He'll be like Sid James in a couple of years I bet you.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Day Two

Today is the second day on which I have been wearing my glasses at work.

Both the standard and tinted specs turned up on Monday, see, both in very cheap cases (you'd have thought Armani would be a tad more generous considering the sodding cost) and I was reasonably confident in their suitability to decide to take the plunge and wear them to work.

Surprisingly few people commented considering no-one had ever seen me in them before. There have been one or two double-takes and a couple of intrigued "so why start now?" conversations, but otherwise it's been a pretty positive reaction, all told.

Thankfully the prescription hasn't been too difficult to get used to, in fact my only real complaints are two-fold: 1) that I'd forgotten how often you have to clean the darned things (damn my long lashes); and 2) the bridge on my nose is making me paranoid about grease forming. I feel quite icky just thinking about it, to be honest.

I must admit I am still putting my lenses in for the gym, though. Not just for vanity - considering the presence of one or two über-fit boys - but also because I'm too scared they'll bounce off or get crushed or something.

And at their price I ain't keen on that happening, I will admit.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Walking Wounded

So last night we had the second Rampant Thingbox Sauna Party which - despite me no longer qualifying for membership due to my departure from the site - I gatecrashed due to it being: a) a public place, and: b) organsied by the flatmate.

No, I didn't partake of any action. Aside from the fact I'm really not casual-encounter oriented by nature (you know, fine if the mood takes me but it rarely does) I also managed to rip my knee open as I got out of the pool which kind of crimped my style.

Let's face it a great big bandaid isn't exactly sexy - I might as well have been covered in plaster-of-paris or have "damaged goods" stamped on my forehead.

But it was fun, nevertheless; to be honest I'm more happy about getting interest than actually getting it on, and I do genuinely enjoy the purging effects of a sauna and steam. This time I even splashed out on a massage which was - after a now typically hellish, hateful and soul-destroying day at work - extremely welcome.

And then of course we trolled along to Pizza Express for the meal and drinkies which it seems is now part of the tradition. Here the conversation veered between alcoholic beverages, Lidl, the importance of teaching Polari to the new generation of pooves (I have a feeling the Campaign for Real Polari - CARP - will be starting soon), and various intriguing and possibly wildly insane artistic events that young Howard was devising on the spot.

I do feel increasingly it's what life's about. Engaging conversation, good food, good wine, relaxation and the opportunity to see one or two very fit people with next to no clothes on.

This is not, I feel, in any measure a bad way to spend an evening.

Shoes Glorious Shoes

Our office cleaner, it must be said, is a bit crap. The devastation she leaves in her wake (mice hanging down the back of desks, broken cups, books and work-related documentation switched between desks) is always vaguely annoying but last night it appears she excelled herself.

I keep my shoes at work, switching to something more comfy to travel in (as indeed I do my work trousers during the week). I place them well out of the way under the desk and thus far nothing untoward has happened to them.

Until this morning when I reached for them and found one solitary lonesome shoe under my desk.

To make matters more interesting, it wasn't even my shoe. It was a size 10 with a buckle, not a lace-up size 12.

Further hunting around the immediate area revealed a second shoe which was mine, but no companion.

Luckily I twigged who the buckled shoe belonged to, and found my missing shoe right next to their pair's other half, tidily placed side by side under the IT manager's desk.

I'm charitably assuming this wasn't just a half-arsed job, and more some kind of intelligence test to see if I'd notice. But I think even I would struggle to fit into a size 10, and if I did I'm sure it wouldn't take me more than an hour or so to start wondering why they were pinching so much.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Goodbye Lenin

I am, despite my obvious pretensions and sneering arrogance, something of a cultural philistine really.

For instance, I'm not really into films - preferring marathon runs of TV programmes - and I rarely go to the cinema. In fact the last time I went to the Odeon on Holloway Road it was to see Van Helsing.

You can see why that might put me off, right? The most entertaining moment during the whole experience was when the flatmate leaned over in a practically deserted screening room and whispered about the couple in front "he's going down on her".

To be honest even as gay men we understood the comparative appeal of cunnilingus compared with the sewage being sprayed across the screen, so we didn't complain. (Although equally we didn't offer words of encouragement either.)

But if there's one type of film I tend to avoid like the plague even at home - aside from anything starring Will Ferrell, natch - it's anything with subtitles. Mention that it's a foriegn film with subtitles and my guard goes up in an instant. I usually get suspicious and start making excuses about one hundred things I have to do first (have all my teeth pulled, whitewash the cat, buy a cat first, that sort of thing).

To be fair, I suspect this isn't much to do with the fact it's a foreign language. That's certainly the case with pop music - if it ain't in English then I can't understand the lyrics so I'm just not interested - but I have no objection to watching a film which is in a language other than English if they'll subititle it.

But no, the problem is that most of the films that get classified as world cinema just don't interest me at all. The style and subject matter wouldn't interest me if they were in English either. Or even if they were in American. Suggest something along the lines of "Un homme et du Sel" or whatever and my gaze could freeze the blood in your hand.

But there is - as always with me - an exception. It was on BBC Four last night, and it's called Goodbye Lenin and I love it to bits. I was planning on doing allsorts of things last night but the second I saw it was on I dropped everything and remained glued to the screen.

I was, also, quite fortunate in that the flatmate was out and so I could happily indulge in the flood of tears the ending evoked in me (loss of parent issues, I get this from time to time). If you haven't seen it you really should because it is utterly beautiful, touching, heart-rending and yet at the same time preposterous and funny.

And I find myself vaguely surprised that a forign language film with subtitles should come along which vaults its way into the very short list of my favourite films ever.

Van Helsing, you'll be relieved to hear, doesn't even get a footnote.

This is MySpace

"He took her to a disco to dance the night away.
He took her to a disco - a discotheque Francais."
One of the things that surprises me most about MySpace is not so much the appalling customisations that people make (my eyes! my eyes!) but that so many artists and record companies stream entire tracks on them.

I mean, surely people must know that those of us with something like Total Recorder installed can record any streaming music and dump it on our MP3 players?

I suppose they rely on that fact that only about 10% of computer users actually know what they're doing, or actually want an unreleased track that badly, but it still surprises me really.

That said, I am also a big Modern/Matinee Club fan and so I will naturally be buying their new material when it finally comes out anyway.

I've just been waiting for a proper copy of "Discotheque Francais" for about three years now, damnit.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Charlotte Church Show

Well, I've got admit, it's recieved some fairly bad press but I for one have found the Charlotte Church Show to be rather an enjoyable series all told.

I've never been much of a Church fan to be honest, but having accidentally tuned in to an episode during a channel-hopping Friday night, I've decided I've got rather a lot of time for her.

It's a tad shambolic, and some of the American guests clearly haven't had an idea what the hell they were doing there, but it was all good fun with a presenter who clearly is having a good time, is refreshingly honest, and is prepared to take the piss out of herself as much as anybody else.

Last night, however, was doubly worth it for the sight of Miss Charlotte completely wiping the floor with Amy Winehouse. I've never seen anything like it. Winehouse was clearly completely wasted, could barely talk let alone sing, and was all over the shop during their duet.

And it wasn't even as if Charlotte actually had to do anything other than sing her part. But by doing so she made effortlessly made Winehouse look even more of a fool. It's not as if she drew any further attention to Winehouse's performance, she just rose above it and carried the song solo, which in a way was far more damning than any joke or look askance would have been.

Frankly if that ain't star quality I don't know what is.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bastards!

One weekend. One weekend is all we've had of there not being any suspension on our part of the Northern Line.

And after that one weekend they've decided they're suspending it again.

So, if I do want to do anything this weekend, Camden is essentially the furthest I can reasonably get without having to take supplies and a sherpa.

It's cruel to give people something and then snatch it away, you do know that don't you TFL?

Bad Cover Version

I popped along to the opening night of Other Rob and Darren's new club "Hello Hooray" last night at Trash Palace. Which was rather fun, albeit totally out of bounds to me 90% of the year due to it not starting until 11:00 PM. However, since I have today off I popped along and had a time suitably enjoyable to be regretting this morning.

Ow.

Anyway, there was one moment when it was probably a good job I don't have powers of telekinesis since the bar would have been demolished within minutes. It was during the playing of "Does Your Mother Know" quite late on in the proceedings that I suddenly felt irked.

Thomas noted my puzzled frown and in response to my question "who's this" he then had cause to look puzzled himself and go "well, it's ABBA". I was, in response to this, equally adamant that it sure as hell wasn't. The arrangement was almost identical - I could have conceded a slight remix maybe - but there was something about the vocal which made me sure it wasn't.

There was a slight to and fro between us at this point because he was as certain that it was ABBA as I was that it wasn't. So I said "one way to find out" and went and asked Other Rob who was playing it at the time.

As it turns out I was right - proving once again that I have more of a producer's ear than I do any creative talent for music - and it was actually Ash performing the track - at which point I joking announced that I wanted them dead and crushed my plastic wine-cup in my hand.

But I was only half joking. I mean, I like cover versions (I have dozens of the buggers after all) but I really couldn't see the point of Ash's one. After all, why do a cover of such a famous song if you're not going to do anything different with it?

Stock Aitken and Waterman, it must be said, were never ones for straying far from their formula, but when they picked a cover version for their artists at least it adhered to their formula.

Okay, the single version of Bananarama's "Nathan Jones" sounds like someone trying to do Motown horns sounds with a Yamaha DX7 and a drum machine, but it's still an obviously PWL / Nana's sounding track. (And if you want to hear a really bizarre take on the song, the version on the WOW album is just a bizarre atonal, clanking industrial-estate type mix).

In any case Nathan Jones is an interesting choice of track because the original song itself is somehow vaguely obscure despite being a big hit at the time. (It's largely airbrushed out of Supremes history because it was recorded after the Uber-Bitch Ross left the group. )

Cover versions, I feel, are always at their best when they either rescue something from obscurity or when the artists doing the cover brings something fresh to them. The Lemonheads, for example, have a great version of "Video Killed the Radio Star" which - amazingly - makes it sound refreshingly new and different.

Similarly Erasure's Abba-esque EP contains covers of ABBA tracks which make them sound like they were Erasure's all along (albeit with better lyrics). In response Bjorn Again did the Erasure-ish EP and took "Stop" and "A Little Respect" and made them sound like ABBA songs.

In all cases the different sound only goes to re-enforce the fact that the songs themselves were so strong they could be arranged in any way and still be great.

Ash, by contrast, made "Does Your Mother Know" sound almost exactly like ABBA which just seemed singularly pointless except perhaps in the eyes of humourless musos who won't admit to liking an ABBA track. (And as we all know anyone who doesn't even remotely like ABBA is dead on the inside.)

Robbie Williams, I'm afraid, has also made the same mistake with the Holy Trinity's "Louise". It's a singularly disappointing affair in so far as the bassline, chords and middle-eight are just carbon copies of the original. Slightly different sounding synths and drums, mind, but not very.

Still it is at least different to the League's version because Williams' baritone can't hold a candle to Phil Oakey's. In fact I feel rather embarrassed for him. And in terms of the arrangement I was hoping for something rather more unusual from a William Orbit collaboration.

So yes, artists and remixers of the world: by all means bring a whole new audience to great but forgotten songs. But if you must do do your own take on a big famous classic, try to make it your own take; bring something of yourself to it and make it your own.

Otherwise you might as well just be doing karaoke. And that's rarely a good thing.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Time Out

I have two days off work now. Marvellous.

I'll be honest. It's been wearing me down and wearing me out. The workload is such now that it's just crushing, and I am increasingly feeling I just don't want to do it any more.

So I'm basically enjoying four days where it's all about me. Today I'm just relaxing, doing a spot of reading and a bit of admin. And for the next few days I'll be considering my options, hopefully kicking my creative drive into gear again by starting my novel properly, and maybe doing a spot of light shopping tomorrow as well.

It's about time I started focussing on what I want to do, rather than what I think I have to. For too many months now my life's been about somehow getting through it, without any real consideration of whether where "it" is getting me to is where I want to be.

And I realised just last week that it isn't.

Something's gonna change. I'm just not sure how yet.

My... That's a hard one!

Well, apparently the Qwiz - despite my best efforts - was a bit hard. Okay, I did make a mistake in that I put some of the hardest questions at the start, but I'm still a bit surprised people thought it as hard as they did. There were, after all, no actual trick questions.

In any case everyone found it equally hard and various people found different bits harder than others so since there were no major anomalies between the scores I'm not too fussed.

It's good to have a hard one occasionally after all.

The worst bit though was the logistics. For starters getting the private booking out again in time to start the thing proved tricky and talking over them was even worse, but that soon got sorted.

Then Halfway have consistently failed over the last few weeks to repair the microphone so I had to do it by voice alone. As Colin pointed out shouting was a bad idea but it took a while to remember my old drama training and manage to speak loud without actually shouting.

It is hard work, though - especially without the mic. I've always found performance slightly draining - be it stage, training or doing the Qwiz - but in this case the crowd is fairly rumbunctious and backchatty as well so you have to fight quite hard at times to move it along and keep a lid on things.

But of course it's worth it. If only for those moments during the answers when someone got something right and they cheer or just go "yesssss", and for those moments when someone realises they should have got that one but for some reason didn't.

Oh, how I live for those moments.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Almost Prepared

Well, Wednesday's qwiz is finally written.

Most of it was done on Saturday morning, to be honest, but there have been a couple of tweaks here and there since. Daniel cast an ear over the music qwestions and - once he started to cry - I decided to switch one of them out for something else in the interests of balance.

It's been interesting writing one again, actually. They're quite an art. It's been a couple of years since I'd last written one and I'd forgotten how much of a balance you have to try and strike, making sure it's a blend of subjects and questions at varying degrees of difficulty and so on.

Make it too hard, of course, and it can seem that all you're trying to do is prove how clever you are. Make it too easy and you run the risk of not challenging or surprising anyone (and personally I do like to be a little stretched).

Still, hopefully I've managed to pitch it at the right level - only time will tell of course.

Thats if we get to do it. Apparently it's a late start due to a private party so we won't start until 9 at the earliest which is less desirable, but hey.

My only worry now, of course, is two worst-case scenarios I have to contend with on Wednesday: one, next to nobody turns up; two, loads of people turn up.

I've always preferred a happy medium.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

So... Robin Hood

Well, unlike every single one of the miraculous arrows he let loose, last night's "season premiere" of Robin Hood somehow didn't hit the spot did it?

Unlike Daniel, whose verdict as the credits rolled was that it was utterly shit, I didn't feel it was irredeemably awful but there were some aspects of it which I did feel were somewhat crippling.

One of these, to be fair, wasn't the "modernisation". Yes there was a lot of anti-war stuff, female empowerment and so on which always feels a little anachronistic in any historical drama, and yes the budget was clearly spent on making it as nice on the eye as possible whilst avoiding too much detail.

This, however, I have no problem with whatsoever. It's entertainment for a modern family audience therefore it's not supposed to be an accurate depiction (although how you'd do Robin Hood accurately given it's largely a big fuck-off myth I have no idea).

So no, all the touchy-feely new-man stuff didn't grate on me at all.

But some things did seem a little bit off. First there was just a little bit too much make-up on the ladies for one thing. The mascara and lipstick were quite liberally applied and this was, for me, pushing a little too hard at the limits of how far I could suspend my disbelief. (And as a self-confessed Who-er I can suspend it quite some way, believe you me.)

Secondly it was way too quiet. I had to crank up the volume on the telly in order to hear a word, but found the increased amplification meant the actors were competing with the hiss from the speakers for my attention. (Which, given the ridiculous size of my aural appendages, meant I did worry how much trouble other people might be having.)

The third problem is really two problems, but I think they kind of interlink so I'll blend them here. The episode did suffer badly from first-episode-itis. It was quite a ploddy setup show, to be frank. Compared with "Rose", the first episode of Doctor Who's revival (the success of which has led to the Beeb doing Hood), it did take pretty much forty minutes for any action to really happen. Okay, so dramatic convention insists the big turning point had to happen at the end of the episode, but I kind of wished that a few things had happened prior to that too.

And what made the ploddiness even more frustrating for me of course is the fact that it's Robin Hood. Anyone who's ever picked up a book or watched television in the last twenty years already knows how the setup goes, it's ingrained in our culture. And since you already know that Much, Will Scarlet, Alan a Dale and so on joined the band the conclusion therefore was pretty much foregone. The only people who could possibly find this all new are the eight-year-olds that the family drama serial is, first and foremost, targeted at.

Ah yes, the younger part of the family audience. I've yet to speak to my stepbrother on the subject, but I do know how much - at 12 years old - he finds a big snog on screen to be something irritating and a suitable reason to sigh loudly and mutter. And I remember being like that at that age too, so all things considered I suspect Robin's roving eye and propensity for sticking his tongue down the throat of women he's never met before might be a slightly alienating factor for that core part of the audience.

Still, it wasn't all bad. The performances were pretty good, particularly Sam Troughton who I last saw being dazzling in Hex and thankfully seems to have inherited his father and grandfather's talent for blending drama and comedy. He's just always watchable. Keith Allen didn't really shine out in this episode as particularly evil, but I think that this side will come out more as his schemes are continually thwarted and I kind of liked the fact he was just a complacent bully to start with.

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne was quite interesting, too, and I did enjoy the fact that he never took his eyes off Robin when the two of them were together - yes, in the absence of being drawn into the plot, Daniel and I were busy building homoerotic subtexts into it all.

And on that note, it's probably a bad thing to say this, but the main positive factor for me was the presence in one place of a lot of male eye candy. And eyes is the operative word: several of the male cast seem to have been hired because they have amazing peepers: Jonas Armstrong (Robin), Joe Armstrong (Alan) and Harry Lloyd (Will) had something about the eyes that was desperately attractive. Joe and Harry would have made me sit up and take notice anyway, mind, but the eyes were very much the icing on the cake.

And in Alan a Dale's case I suspect I'd have been on my back waiting pretty much the moment he walked into my glade (Historically I do have a thing for solid, charming, pathological liars).

So, yeah. Not that impressed all told. I'll probably watch a couple more just to see how it improves, but it does have a lot of improvement to do.

Okay, so Doctor Who admittedly didn't hit the ground running - it took about half a series to really raise the bar - but, based on last night's episode, Robin Hood hit it at a mild saunter and has yet to stop gawping at the scenery.

Kick it up a gear please. And urgently.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Brainstem! Brainstem!

Busy writing Wednesday's Halfway II Heaven Qwiz (do pop along - it'll start promptly at 8:00ish) so can't update you on anything much.

By way of an offering, however, I present "The Parts of the Brain" (which actually is not totally unrelated to one of the questions).

Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Food for Thought

So following my sojourn to Optical Express on Friday, I went again yesterday to actually have the eye test and then actually pay for the glasses once they'd got the prescription made up.

I am currently trying terribly hard not to think about how much the two pairs cost me.

Every time I do, I wince.

However, the optician did mention in passing that he also felt I'd be an ideal candidate for laser eye surgery. My actual eyesight's bloody lousy, admittedly, and he did say that it's pretty much at the limit of what they can treat, but apparently the other characteristics of my eyes are unlikely to cause any complications.

Which is certainly an interesting piece of information.

I'm going to have to think very hard about this.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Weekend in Brief

Gosh, that went by a bit fast didn't it?

Still, I got a fair bit done over the weekend, so it's not all bad.

One of my current ongoing projects is a rejig of the Vitriol and Old Lace site. For one thing it's to make it a bit prettier, but alongside that is a need to have it database-driven so it's editable by Daniel and I wherever we happen to be. This also means brushing up my PHP knowledge which I'm glad to say is coming on fast apace.

Managed to get some of next Wednesday's pub qwiz written too, which is shaping up very nicely (the music questions could, as it turns out, be utterly evil, but I think they're dead simple).

And yesterday I went over Daniel's to have lunch and go through the V&OL script and see what we wanted to change prior to hawking it round a few people soon.

As it turned out it wasn't the most focussed of script-sessions, essentially being more lunch with friends (not in itself a bad thing by any means, though), but the Lady Miss Roberta did drag Orlando out for a walk at one point so Daniel and I could scribble over a copy of the text in peace for a while.

Gratifyingly we found it wasn’t in too bad a shape. The main problem was the excessive verbiage which was fairly easy to remedy ("Cut it! Cut it!"). We also found two scenes we want to completely rewrite, so we scribbled down a few notes as to how they could be beefed up with extra horridness.

On the whole, though, it's looking rather good. Whether of course anyone will take up a script involving old ladies burying each other alive, accidentally taking E, forcing hearses off the road and living inside the bonnets of invalid cars is, of course, debatable - but Daniel and I are pretty pleased with it anyway.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Speccy Git

You may recall that last year I finally bit the bullet and went to the opticians to get my contact lens prescription checked out and finally - after years of not having any - buy some glasses.

I was told at the time that I really needed to be using my contacts less and my glasses more. A couple of days a week at least.

And I intended to, I really did. But I very quickly figured that the frames I'd chosen didn't really suit me - they didn't quite work, close but no cigar. But I managed to wear them more, just never in public.

But then of course the summer hit and I quickly found that I needed to wear my lenses more so I could wear sunglasses and not accelerate the crow's-feet situation any further.

So, on Friday I thought "sod this" and popped into an optician with the expressed intention of finding some frames I liked first, then sorting out a pair each of normal and tinted prescription lenses.

I spent ages in there, checking out various types and styles, getting advice from the daisy on hand, and no matter how hard she tried we kept coming back to the same frames.

Naturally I was destined to go for the most expensive. Bloody typical.

Still, I've always wanted to wear Armani. I just hadn't imagined it would be on my face.

Friday, September 29, 2006

On and on and on...

So... the bathroom saga gets better.

It appears that when the builders first fitted the bath they tiled over the side panel in its entirety, encasing everything within - pipes and all - for eternity. The landlord noticed this and demanded that an access panel was put in so that if we ever needed access to pipes and so on it could be done.

With much muttering and grumbling the builders redid the side panel.

When the landlord rang me on Wednesday I asked about how much effort looking under the bath would be. The landlord explained that he'd demanded an access panel and joked that the way things were going it'd probably turn out to be fake.

There are, it seems, some things you should not joke about. Because as it turns out, the "access panel" was just four screws made to look like they gave you access.

Judging by the sawdust and the powder strewn over the bathroom last night, the panel is now definitely real, and it seems that the seal round the bath has been redone so with any luck downstairs will no longer be endampened in the future.

Only time will tell, of course.

I still can't quite believe that the builders would try and get away with the dummy panel, though. Surely they didn't honestly think that no-one would ever notice?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

How Did I End Up Here?

There does seem to be a common factor to the results of me getting absolutely hammered - especially if it involves that variety of wine I can only describe as Gaybar White.

Now I'm not referring here to the subsequent throbbing head and general lack of interest in interacting with the universe (although I will confess this problem is much in evidence this morning) but instead to the fact I can never remember the journey home.

I always remember getting home and everything that occurs from putting the key in the lock, and I remember the goodbyes and everything that precedes the journey, but everything in between is invariably shrouded in mystery.

Last night for example I have a vague idea that I took the tube, and judging by The Device this morning I was probably plumbed into The Pipettes whilst I was on it (just been introduced to them by the lovely Lee and they're terribly good), but there's a definite vagueness about all of this compared to the concrete certainty that exists before and after.

I can only assume that my brain decides that given my state of inebriation it'd probably a good idea to conserve some mental energy for a bit and so it just stops recording what's going on around me. (Which seems fair enough given that what would have been going on around me would have been the Northern Line.)

That said I do remember a few things from last night with astonishing (nay terrifying) clarity.

  1. Writing on a nice young gentleman's stomach.
  2. Having my arm written on by another nice young gentleman (who was of the opinion that my arm was pretty good shape apparently - and he wasn't drinking).
  3. Agreeing to host the Halfway to Heaven Qwiz on the 11th October.

Ho hum.

On the latter point, incidentally, do come along if you're free.

And please, keep me away from the Pinot.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lawks

This happened just round the corner from where I work.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/5382368.stm

I saw the aftermath yesterday on my way back from the gym. I only realised the anti-terrorist shelter was knackered today though when I finally registered the twisted and torn metal posts sticking out of the ground.

Mind you, I think "anti-terrorist hut" is a bit of a grand name for it.

It was just a one-man booth with no door and a big window, to be honest.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Umm...

It seems Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas is releasing an album.

Now, I know my attempts at pedantry have been a tad off of late, but I have problems with the album title.

The Dutchess

Am I missing something?

Apparently (according what sounds suspiciously like a press release on Wikipedia) the title is "a play on the former Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, with whom she shares a surname and popular nickname" but somehow I can't help but feel that there still shouldn't be a "t" in it.

(I'm sure Si will correct me but at least I'm living and learning.)

That said, you can understand my suspicion considering the video for her (s)hit single "London Bridge" featured her mainly in front of Tower Bridge instead.

Comparatively Sober

Years ago, before Civil Partnerships and, yay, e'en before Ken's Register, gay men used to signal their total commitment to each other by moving in together and getting cats.

This weekend, whilst relaxing with my aunt in front of a Quatermass serial, I was asked - in fact for that read "demanded" - round to a flat in Clapham South where two friends of ours, Chris and Ollie, have done just that.

Frankly it's nice to see people keeping up the old traditions.

I arrived after my aunt's excellent dinner to find Chris, Ollie and the flatmate already pretty far gone. (The flatmate had reached that sort of giddy-smiley expression that babies get when wallowing in their own filth.) I was therefore exhorted to play catch up, something I feel I did with remarkable aplomb.

And much fun it was too. Frankly I hadn't seen either Chris or Ollie in far too long (Chris is, believe it or not, worse at keeping in contact with people than I am). And it was extremely nice to pick up where we left off and catch up again - even if said catching up did raise the worrying prospect of a New Year cruising round the Norfolk Broads.

I mean... it's damp enough during summer, but going in the height of winter is just asking for hypothermia and fungus of the knees.

Still, anyone who wants to know the reason I could barely string a thought together for much of yesterday now knows why. Frankly I'd forgotten what a committed liver-poisoner Chris is.

He makes me look positively tee-total.

As the old saying goes...

...it never rains, but it pours.

It's just a shame that "it" seems to be pouring into our downstairs neighbours' flat.

They popped up last night to say that there was once again a large damp patch in the ceiling of the room just under our bathroom.

Since there isn't a crack in our bath any more - due to its recent replacement - this can only mean something else is leaking. Something which is now buried under tiling and floorboards with a view that they need never be raised again.

Gah.

I knew the builders would be a bad lot when they turned up on horseback with lassos.

Monday, September 25, 2006

How many?

I've just realised that the flatmate has six different types of toothpaste on our bathroom shelf.

I'm quite staggered by this.

I have one.

Cheapo Goodness

So, I had my first ever experience of a Lidl on Sunday morning.

I popped over my aunt's this weekend to give her a hand with moving stuff, taking down curtains and so on (well, she's 64, widowed and understandably doesn't fancy standing on ladders without anyone there to call an ambulance if necessary).

On Saturday night we decided - based entirely on the attractiveness of the men in the catalogue - to visit the Matalan in Greenwich and see what was up for grabs. (In particular I was duped by the "well, he's pretty, so if I wear that I'll be just as hot" mentality that such marketing requires.)

I found the shirts I liked in the catalogue.

They were a lovely pattern. They were my size.

They were also made from the most horrible fabric ever. The expedition was, therefore, aborted.

So anyway, while we were there we bounded over to Lidl because my aunt's suddenly into tropical fruit juice in a big way and thought she could probably get her own weight in it there for 20p.

Which she did. But two things struck me.

First was that everything there seemed to be imported from Germany. All the juices were "Saft"s like Apfelsaft and so on. All the cooking instructions were "DE". And there was a huge pile of cans of Sauerkraut. It all seemed a bit strange. I felt like I was back in Berlin.

Second was that considering the somewhat cheapo reputation of Lidl, I had a very definite view of its target demographic and was therefore totally thrown by the horse-blankets and riding helmets they were selling at knock-down prices.

This may be my bad, of course but I hadn't really considered Lidl as the natural home of the gymkhana set.

Clearly I was wrong.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Saturday Freebies

Well, it's Saturday... so how about a couple of free MP3s?

Some of you may enjoy these after all.

First up is "Cold Light" by Things We Made - a track from the Popjustice Singles Club. Most of what Popjustice gives away I think is utter rubbish, but this one I really like. It's quite a polished slice of synthy goodness and I find myself smiling every time I hear it.

Next up is a remix of an old favourite of mine, The Human League's "One Man In My Heart". EMP's 2006 "Stronger Than Faith" mix is a bit different from the usual EMP mixes since it isn't exactly club friendly - well it's just not that sort of song really - but I think is especially stunning given that like all "fan" mixes it was done without access to the master tapes. (And I love the distorted "Love Action" sample threading through it, too.)

For those interested, this and other such mixes are generously hosted on Afront's Pansentient League website, so thanks to Afront whoever they are!

Of course, the lyric of "One Man..." does rather suggest that Sue's got four men on the go, but that - for me - is a reason to love it even more. You go girl!

Okay... Didn't Expect That...

There are few occasions in this life when you get far more than you expect, but it's always a joy when the universe slips you a bung you weren't quite prepared for.

And no, despite my phrasing above I'm not referring to that night I was left practically unable to walk by a particularly well-endowed gentleman of my acquantance, but to the rather more mundane arrival of the new Scissor Sisters album on my desk on Monday.

Having been off work ill for a couple of days, of course, I didn't get it until Wednesday. And I was a little surprised by the packaging I must say.

I'd ordered the two-disc special edition version, as is my wont. The picture shown to me by Play at the time I ordered looked something like this:



So I was expecting a fairly standard jewel-case containing two CDs.

What actually arrived was a fairly large cardboard thing like this:



And when you pull the block on the right-hand side, both sides slide out to reveal the discs and the lift-doors open to reveal the booklet and a poster:



I mean, how cool is that?

Of course, as a cardboard item of dubious lengevity I may have to get a normal copy as well so I don't damage it too much.

As for my view on the record itself, I'm giving it a first listen now - haven't had a chance so far this week, I seem to have been sociable instead (I know... it's most unlike me).

So far there's only been one track I didn't think much of, but it's early days yet.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Richard Hammond

Following the unfortunate accident which has put Richard Hammond in hospital, one of my colleagues has taken to regularly checking up on the latest details on BBC News.

Transpires that Hammond's nickname amongst the Top Gear team was "Hamster", which lead to a rather unfortunate comment by said colleague just moments after checking one of the articles yesterday afternoon.

As he closed down his internet browser he said, and I quote, "Come on the Hamster!"

I just don't think those four words really belong together, do you?

(And incidentally, why is "Hamster" so difficult to pronounce without a "p" in the middle of it?")

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Tall One Walks Among Us

So last night I had a deeply enjoyable time at the Halfway to Heaven pub quiz after a personal absence of many months. The "Qwiz" was - as ever - raucously enjoyable in its own right (although we didn't win) and I feel a definite urge to attend a few more of them, and maybe even host one again.

(If truth be told I also had the enjoyable experience of getting flirty and tactile with a couple of people I rather fancy - which I always find is a welcome boost to my self-image and general mood.)

There was one odd experience, however. One of the young gentlemen attending was, in addition to being irritatingly and heart-achingly attractive, also upsettingly tall.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm tall myself (6'5" if you're asking) and I'm sure that many of my shorter hobbit-like friends will relish the fact the fact I've finally suffered from such an encounter.

But the fact of the matter is he was only slightly taller than I am. Barely an inch in it. And the thing is that I found it genuinely unnerving despite the fact that when faced with people significantly taller than I - say 6'7" or 6'8" - I don't bat an eyelid.

I just find it interesting that a subtle difference like that could make me think "hello, there's something wrong here", when major differences don't bother me at all.

There's probably a fancy name for that kind of reaction.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Independent Thinking

So obviously the world is still reeling from the Military Coup in Thailand which has just taken place - with a surprising swiftness it must be said.

I was, however, caught between hysterical laughter and disbelieving despair at the headline of the Independent today when reporting it.

"One Night in Bangkok".

Really.

Still, media coverage on the BBC is little better. Picture spreads such as "Thais wake to coup" (which when spoken out loud makes me imagine a country of Pigeon Impersonators) pale in significance against the stimulus-response journalism of "Thais wonder at coup aftermath", the opening lines of which go as follows:

Thailand has been in political limbo for months, but the events of Tuesday night still took everyone by surprise.

"What happened last night took me by surprise," admitted Giles Ungpakorn, a political commentator at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.
Frankly it just reminded me a little too closely of KYTV.

Still, if nothing else it's raised a smile.