Friday, June 30, 2006

Feel The Poo!

Went to a preview of the Natural History Museum's "Dino Jaws" exhibition last night.

It was very good fun. I got to feel simulated dinosaur poo and everything. And I managed to identify my personal mystery dinosaur first time round, finally confirming that I genuinely do have the intelligence of a twelve year-old.

Best moment of the night, however, was the discussion in the bar afterwards, speculating on the final two-part story of Doctor Who.

The episodes might be officially be called "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday" but a friend of mine put forward a much more amusing title for the story as a whole.

"Kill Billie".

I rather like that. I always like a good pun.

Or a bad one.

Puns generally really.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Maybe (They Needed a New Gimmick)

Let's look at the evidence...

  • Searchin' (I Gotta Find A Man)
  • Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)
  • Back in my Arms (Once Again)
  • No Fool (For Love)
  • Maybe (We Should Call It a Day)
  • ESP (Extra Sensual Persuasion)
And that's all in a fairly short span of chart success.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Hazell Dean. Surely the most parenthesised woman in pop history?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

All I Ever Wanted

I have a friend who - for the purposes of sparing his blushes - I shall give the pseudonym "Orlando".

Now, Orlando has a recurring affliction. Whenever he sees mention of the Human League's song "All I Ever Wanted", he always goes "oh I like that one, it's fantastic".

And then invariably manages to undercut any feelings of solidarity I have with him by then singing:

"All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in my arms."

At which point I feel invariably compelled to point out that the song he's just sung is entirely different, is in fact entitled "Enjoy the Silence" and is performed by Basildon-originating popular beat-combo Depeche Mode.

We have this conversation every few months and each time it's almost entirely identical. These days I start feeling distinctly deja-vu when the subject hoves into view on even the most distant horizons of the conversation.

But, Orlando - if you're reading this - I would like to assure you that you are not alone. This very Monday I saw a review of the Depeche Mode set at the 02 party-cum-festival what was held over the weekend, and I must admit I was horrified to discover that the reviewer clearly hadn't the faintest clue what they were on about.

According to the aticle the Mode's best-remembered classic hits are "Personal Jesus" and a little known number called "All I Ever Wanted".

The fact that I can find no reference whatsoever to them having a song of the name "All I Ever Wanted" therefore leads me to believe that possibly the Evening Standard is employing people who really know nothing about that with which they are supposed to be acquainted.

So Orlando... you may be chronically and consistently unable to remember a small - and admittedly trivial-to-anyone-but-me - fact about one of the most classic songs ever written (or for that matter the Human League's wonderous flop single with which you consistently confuse it)...

But I think we can all be thankful that you don't work for the Evening Fuckwit as well.

Judging by recent weeks that powerful organ (oo-er) is starting to really work that infinite number of monkeys hard - a fact which, if I'm honest, I am bound to find rather encouraging.

After all, the Associated Press are, surely, but days away from finally printing absolute gibberish - an achievement which will surely represent a significant advance from the usual low standard of journalism they seem to represent.

They must be so proud.

Burn Baby Burn

For a week now the gym has had no air conditioning.

It's a basement gym, unfortunately, the reception on ground floor level, reachable only by a series of flights of stairs (oh, and a lift but that never works and always strikes me like cheating anyway). Last Wednesday I arrived and felt the heat rising up the stairwell and though "oh, this isn't going to be pleasant".

It wasn't. By the end of the session I couldn't decide whether to pass out or hyperventilate. Or indeed be a bit dramatic and do both.

Interestingly now my body does, after 15 minutes, sort of self-regulate and I start to feel cool again, but it doesn't make it easier to breathe. Today I turned up, found the darn thing was still pumping warm air into the place (bless the apologetic notice)and almost cried.

Still, it was at least better than what happened on Monday.

After a fairly unpleasantly sticky, sweaty and breathless session in the hot warm atmosphere I had almost reached the end of my session (panting away on the cross-trainer to Kylie as it happens) when the fire alarm went off.

Evacuation; the standing wrapped in towels whilst wearing a very wet gym kit on the cold drizzly streets of the City of London for twenty minutes; the calling for and subsequent cancellation of the fire brigade: I just knew when I started the day that things wouldn't quite work out as planned.

When the panic was all over and I decided I wouldn't chase those remaining fifty calories on the cardio device thing I went downstairs to change.

And broke a shoelace in the process.

When things start going badly they tend to carry on for a bit, have you noticed that? I seem to be caught in a run of bad luck at the moment, and I keep hearing of other people who are too.

Hmm. What's the moon up to at the moment? Could that explain it?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Stay Young, Stay Beautiful

Something I was rather enjoying before The Incident rendered The Device unusable was the new single by Veto Silver (careful - it's a dreaded mySpace link, but their website's shite).

It's called "Stay Young, Stay Beautiful" and would have been out on Monday had it not sold out on presales alone and they had to put it back a week. No-one's told iTunes though so I managed to buy it from there on Friday.

Anyway, I rather like it and they're rather pretty.

That is all.

Le Device Est Mort

Things that don't mix #1289896...

  • One badly-stoppered bottle of red wine.
  • One MP3 player.
The Device is dead.

4.5Gb of carefully and lovingly collated crap wiped in the space of a few moments.

I feel like I've lost an old friend.

Still, it just goes to underline my general view that I can't have anything nice happen to me (like, say, a pleasant garden soiree with friends and mild acquantances) without something desperately annoying and inconveniencing happening to undermine my good humour.

The universe is a cold hard bastard and I can't seem to bloody win.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Love and Monsters

It's already next week and I just realised I haven't posted my by now sadly traditional comments on last week's Doctor Who.

This was the double-banker episode. The one that doesn't feature the Doctor and Rose much because they were busy filming another episode at the same time, so it was an interesting experiment. And on the whole I think it was a successful one.

It was at times funny, touching, poignant, cartoonish, serious and it did also feature one of the most singularly terrifying and hiding-behind-a-cushion moments of the series so far.

I am, of course, referring to Jacqui Tyler in full-on seductress mode. Frankly I'm not sure even I would have had the guts to turn her down if cornered like that. [Shudder.]

Once again, though, the weak link was Russell T. Davies' continuing inability to do a convincing denouement. This coupled with his overriding urge to do something for the joke or some heartwarming schtick, is becoming rather grating. I could forgive him during season "one" because they were still figuring out what to do, but now it just seems that he's determined to do what he likes and bugger logic.

He tries to teflon-coat it by banging on about emotional truth and all that but unfortunately what he doesn't seem to realise is that emotional truth isn't truth if it makes not one tiniest little bit of sense.

Someone at BBC Wales, or at the BBC in general, just slap him please.

Still, otherwise it was an enjoyable 45 minutes of hokum. A flawed experiment, but worthwhile nonetheless. And the underlying subtext of "it's okay to be a fan, a lot of good can come from it as long as you're not too fanboyish" was one I think that needed to be said.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lemon Tops

Many of my friends will be aware that my alias online is generally "lemonfresh" (except for those are occasions when some other blighter got there first, which happens more often than you'd think).

This is all due to an off the cuff conversation I had online with someone who wanted to get into my pants, many years ago when I first moved to the great metropolis. (And yes they succeeded - I was going through "a bit of a phase" at the time.) Now, to be fair it's a bit weak to have based an entire online persona on it for so long, but there we are: I've never laid any claim to originality and I see no reason to start now my braincells are depleting as rapidly as they appear to be.

Despite this, however, I've never really thought of lemon as a colour much - and even less considered wearing it - but the other day I found myself requiring an emergency t-shirt for a last-minute social engagement and so I blundered my way into Next on a mission.

Now, I'm currently in a transitional period regarding my wardrobe. I'm trying to avoid that look that men in their mid-thirties get when they dress like they're still twenty. You know the one - the one that's rather less "age-defying" and more "mutton dressed as Spam". My general ethos now is to start smartening myself up a bit and avoid anything which might be regarded as an ill-advised attempt at "cool". So it's away with busy patterns, bagginess, slashes, and Top-Shop style adornments, and in with simple colours and lines.

So I wandered the racks of Next muttering dark things about the world cup (how many ways of stylising the Saint George cross are there for God's sake?), mentally discarding many of the items based on aesthetic offensiveness alone. Finally I found some plain T-shirts, simple, not too tight generally but tight enough on the chest and arms to show off the improvements in those areas fit, so all in all they were just what I wanted.

Trouble is the colour options were pastel pink and lemon. I wasn't sure I could get away with this to be honest, but my options were limited and they were only six quid a-piece so I thought "sod it" and got them both.

As it turns out that night I wore the lemon one. And do you know something? The bar staff were practically fighting to serve me. People in the street looked me up and down as I (minced)past.

I honestly don't think I've ever had such attention in my life. So I've decided: I must wear lemon more often.

Sadly if truth be told I was meeting former colleagues in a pub where there was some later inevitability of catching the England / Sweden game, but I think I coped admirably.

And you needn't worry I might be getting drawn into the hysteria. My only notable utterance on the proceedings was - appropriately enough - on the outfit worn by a lady commentator.

"Oh dear," I said. "You really shouldn't have worn that top with those shoulders, darlin'."

Just Five More Minutes...

I have succesfully, I think, finally broken my run of waking up with bags of energy and doing household chores before going off to work. It was getting somewhat distressing: I was consistently bouncy, brain buzzing and motivated.

I mean... it so wasn't me.

But now after a run of nights out all of that has changed. Interbank LGBT Pub Quizzes (top stuff - great fun), dinners, and drinks with former colleagues - all culminating in misguided and ill-fated attempts to get the Northern Line "Service" home* - have finally left me wrecked and a pale shadow of this dynamic former-self.

Indeed I made the fatal mistake of turning off my alarm this morning and thinking "oh, just five more minutes" and then waking up again an hour later all a-fluster.

A quiet night in for me, I think. A bath, panelbeating, horlicks and maybe a whisky-with-a-Night-Nurse chaser so that I can sleep the sleep of the damned.

*It really is astonishing how shit the Northern Line's become over the last couple of weeks. The management and the infrastructure people should clearly be fired - preferably through a 12th floor window.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

No-no! Please Don't Think!

I'm sure we've all been frustrated in the past by customer service people who blindly and inflexibly follow procedure and simply refuse to think. It's a standard complaint after all, but of late it has become equally obvious to me that if they do try - in a half-assed way - to think and make life better for the customer then the results can be even more trying.

Our washing machine has been dying a death for about a year now. It's been rented by our landlord for about ten years or so and it was finally decided that he'd actually be better off buying one and having a service agreement on it.

So, the Landlord rang up the rental people and a supplier of washing machines and - mindful of the fact that Chris and my own excessive size results in acres of laundry and we couldn't do without for more than a couple of days - arranged for pickup and delivery of the respective machines on the same day, Saturday the 10th June.

And there was much rejoicing in the Lemon and Panda Dosshouse and Vintners.

Sadly the rejoicing was short-lived - it lasted right up until the flatmate got a call from the rental people: "Just to confirm, we'll pick it up on the 5th."

Chris was stunned. "No, it's the 10th."

"Oh no we cancelled that one, we thought you'd like to get rid of it sooner."

"Er... no. There will be no-one there and we don't want it picked up then anyway."

"Oh well... we'll come anyway just in case."

I mean, bless them for trying to be efficient but somehow they just seemed to assume that someone with a washing machine would be at home all day.

As it happens that was the Monday I was off sick so I was home. Warned that they might be coming I ended up hiding at the back of the house when they arrived and keeping quiet until they went away. Once they did, Chris ended up fielding phonecalls saying "we can't pick it up, there doesn't appear to be anyone there" at which he was going "well, you were told".

Landlord finally rearranged for them to pick up on the 10th as originally agreed. Sighs of relief and life goes on as normal.

Until (of course) the afternoon of the 9th. The Friday before it was all arranged.

Call from the rental people: "Just to confirm, we'll pick it up on Wednesday".

"No, you're picking it up tomorrow."

"No we can't do that I'm afraid."

"Fine, it'll be waiting outside for you."

"No you can't do that!"

"Tough. There will be no-one in on Wednesday."

"Okay, we'll come Tuesday then."

By this point it was getting like banging your head against a brick wall.

Anyway, Saturday the 10th came and went with no pickup (as expected) and no new washing machine either (a bit of a surprise).

Landlord checks his order confirmation: "Oh, they're not delivering until the 17th."

So... to cut a long story short ("too late!") the old one got picked up on Saturday morning. The new one arrived early Saturday afternoon. And despite the best efforts of all companies concerned we miraculously managed to avoid either having no washing machine for days on end, or having to store two in what is a modestly sized flat.


That said, both companies managed to send groups of men along, amongst whom at least one member needed to be violently introduced to the concept of deodorant. I can only assume it's some contractual obligation or union requirement or something.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Colour Co-ordination

Something I noticed on skin-tone/clothing combinations as I was driven along on the number 43 this morning...

People with olive skin wearing green tops: good. Pleasing on the eye.

People with deep tans wearing orange: bad. Jarring in a Guatanamo-jumpsuit kind of a way.

(Mind you, God knows what'd go with my mottled complexion. Paisley probably.)

It Just Doesn't Feel Right...

Despite the frequent frustration of having 400 channels and finding nothing to watch, cable does sometimes conspire to bring me whole new obsessions with which to feast my appetite for television.

Recently I've had the good fortune to find myself able to catch - on different channels - several episodes of Murder She Wrote. You know, you turn over from BBC One to UK Drama and then turn over from that to UK Rerun... (oh, sorry... UK Gold) and at every turn you'll find the one-woman harbinger of death that is Jessica Fletcher ingratiating herself into yet another mystery.

I found myself thoroughly enjoying it I must say. After all it's just the sort of comfortable undemanding programme that suits doing the ironing.

Two episodes in particular have been joyously entertaining - albeit for the wrong reasons. In "The Corpse Flew First Class" for example, one notable feature was the presence of Kate Mulgrew amongst the guest cast. The sight of Captain Kathryn Janeway vamping it up outrageously in a huge fur coat with a large amount of costume jewellery kept me as entertained as some of the lousy English accents on display from some of the other cast members.

But it is the episode "Sing a Song of Murder" that really had me agog. It's actually set in London - so naturally more dodgy clipped accents abound - but amazingly the worst by far is done by Lansbury herself. She ends up playing a second role as chirpy cockney barrow-girl-cum-actress who happens to be Jessica's cousin. It's a stunning piece of overacting to be sure, and it's only matched by Patrick Macnee's hammy Scots accent (even with which he still manages to be the most naturally English-sounding person there).

But in case that wasn't enough to disable the viewer's ability to suspend disbelief, there was one more factor at work to completely undermine any pretence at realism...

There can, I feel, be fewer sights on television more jarring for the British viewer than an American city attempting to stand in for a British one. It's like some handome jock actor in a romantic comedy trying to pretend to be the geeky shy kid who can't get the girl - you just don't buy it because it's so obviously totally wrong.

In this case grimy downtown Boston fails completely and predictably to look anything like the East End of London: the streets are too wide, the architecture too dissimilar, the bins too markedly different. They tried, bless 'em, but even a dodgy matt-on-glass-painting of Saint Paul's whacked over the skyline failed dismally to convince.

Doctor Who, of course, gets away with it. The production team are, after all, still filming in this country and Cardiff can stand in for London quite respectably since bits of it do actually look like bits of London. England and New England, however, are too far apart in terms of visual style to ever really be as interchangeable. (For one thing the weather's better over there.)

It occurs to me that it must be a terrible shock for those Americans reared on this sort of TV trickery when they finally turn up in this country.

Everything must all seem so terribly small.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Only a Week Late...

I was mildly amused to note, as the reciept was spat out of the self-service desk at Tesco's this morning, that the total for my consumable purchases had come to the worrying figure of £6.66.

Clearly my lunch is going to turn me evil.

So, if you hear of an IT consultant going bonkers in the Cheapside / Poultry area this afternoon, put it down to the Sour Cream and Chive Snack-a-Jacks would you?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Just How Deluded Are These People?

"I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of warfare waged against us."


Because of course being locked up and treated inhumanely for months and months wouldn't drive anyone to despair. Oh no.

Bloody lunacy.

The Satan Pit

Okay, I swear if the Tenth Doctor does any more of this "humans are just sooooo amaaaayyyyzzzing" shtick I will have to hunt down the writers and jolly well smack their bottoms.

Hard. With my paddle.

I'm afraid that this tendency and his habit of saying "sorry... I'm so sorry" at the slightest papercut (well, okay, minor fatality) are two affectations that are really beginning to grate.


Anyway, rant aside... The Satan Pit was rather good wasn't it?

Couple of minor niggles about the rediscovery of the TARDIS (handy it was upright after falling all that way wasn't it), and the "oh no it's all alright, we're not being sucked in any more" resolution to the cliffhanger, but otherwise I felt it was a real humdinger of an episode.

I know the pacing in last week's annoyed me - although this wore off on the obligatory (for me) repeated viewing - and to be fair this had just the same speed, but somehow it just felt right this time. I think what didn't work is the cut-off in the middle of the two parts. The Impossible Planet just feels dead without the follow-up - but together they're a pretty impressive combination.

Not sure what lessons Doctor Who is teaching its younger viewers though. I'm not sure I want kids to learn that attractive people are irredeemably evil, invariably possessed and should be shot out into the unforgiving heart of darkest space.

Ah... and a virgin too. Poor Toby.

Friday, June 09, 2006

And So It Begins

I have, for many years now (well, four) had a slight "badger-brow" issue.

The occasional silver hair would suddenly show up in my almost-well-groomed eyebrows, screamingly loud in amongst the brown. Naturally I'd panic, grab some tweezers or a wrench (depending on which was closer) and have away with the recalcitrant hair immediately and examine the traitor suspiciously.

The weird thing is, they'd always appear to have started off brown. The tip would be coloured but it would only be the back end that was gr... silver. Almost like my body's internal colourist had just given up and kicked back with a glass of wine.

Yesterday morning as I ran out to work, however, I found another.

And this one was gr... silver all the way through.

I just know they're going to go completely grey by the time I'm thirty and it'll look like I'm dying my barnet. Damn things.

Is that the Jaws theme I can hear?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Cottage Industries

Many moons ago when I worked for Canadians (lovely chaps, all of them) one of our product managers came over from Toronto and took our team out for dinner at a Belgian restaurant which I have rather come to love called Belgos.

During the course of the conversation he let slip that he liked nothing better than a spot of cottaging up in the hills of a summer.

At this confession there was generated a hushed silence, snorts of laughter and then I, for some reason, was nominated to inform him that to us the term "cottaging" is in this country at least taken to mean "having sex in a public toilet". He enjoyed this revelation enormously and then assured us that to him it meant going up into the wilds of Canada and spending time in a log cabin, partaking of innocent country pursuits. Quite quite different.

It was just one of many linguistic differences between our teams that we discovered over the years. They were always fascinating to me - as a cunning linguist - and generally they've subsequently proven moderately useful as anecdotal material. *

Today it transpired that one of my current colleagues is off to Canada for two weeks and so I got the opportunity to wheel this one out again. Cryptically one of my other colleagues then remarked "but do you still need a big brown bag"?

I blinked and looked quizically at her for a moment, many horrible ideas for what this could be referring too formulating in my all too fertile (not to mention fertive) imagination.

"It's to stand in," she explained. "One of the gentlemen will stand in the bag so from outside the cubicle it only looks like there's one set of feet and a bag in there."

All I'll say is... you live and learn don't you?

* Other occasions included the time I told him over the phone my boss had gone out for a fag (this was followed by a long pause and the simple utterance "you mean cigarette, right?") and the time I almost had him completely convinced that the term "munter" was from Antony and Cleopatra.

Well... he hadn't heard the term before, accused me of making it up and so I ended up quoting completely made up Shakespearean passages along the lines of "she is not quite the munter they had led us to believe, my liege" at him. He was almost convinced by the end, and it was only when one of my other colleagues choked laughing on a mussel that the illusion was shattered.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Three Days to Go...

... and I'm bored of it already.

The World Cup that is.

Okay, so I was never going to be desperately excited by it - it's football after all - but the saturation coverage by every single channel has begun to grate.

I'm sure I didn't see one single advert yesterday which didn't have some kind of World Cup link in one way shape or form.

Roll on the end of July.

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Danger to Myself and Others

End of last week, I looked pretty booked up. A sojourn at the Fitzroy Tavern, a mate's 30th, a preview at the Natural History Museum and the opening of Other Rob's latest club. Frankly my social diary hadn't been so full in ages.

So naturally I managed to end up in the path of some god-awful cold which has put me completely out of action and meant I missed the lot. (Apologies to all - I hope you had lovely times without me.)

I hate being ill. It's so tedious. I can happily spend days home alone without seeing a soul and just spend my time pottering on projects, but actually confine me to the place due to illness and I get serious cabin fever. It's the ever-present threat of enforced daytime television, I think.

Last time I was ill I got so distressed I resorted to watching Reign of Fire, that's how bad I was.

Still, one of the advantages of being fitter than I have been in years is that they're fairly rapid blighters now. None of these long slow lingering colds that last a month without really doing anything for me any more, oh no!

No, I get much better quality ones now. Ones that regard my immune system as an interesting challenge and attack in force.

So here we are. Bunged up and grotty. Yum.

So anyway, I was pampering myself earlier with a nice hot bath. Indulging in a spot of light panelbeating to lift my mood. Facepack, exfoliant and a nicely therapeutic wet-shave.

Of course given that I was coughing like a tramp in a subway tunnel I should probably have concentrated a little more carefully on the razor-blades.

I use a Mach-3 Turbo razor, I do. It has three tiny sharp blades in it.

And one slip of the mind and hand later I acquired three corresponding lines across my right cheek below my eye.

Some people find scars sexy of course. But I suspect this little mishap isn't going to improve my street-cred any.

The Impossible Planet

Another week, another Saturday, another Doctor Who...

And I don't know why, but I didn't find it anywhere near as enjoyable as I'd hoped it would be. It all felt rather too ploddy, really. There was a lot of good stuff in it, of course - not least Will Thorp who I found oddly attractive even with red eyes, doodles and a demonic grin (hey I'm a sucker for bad boys) - but overall I felt the whole seemed rather less than the sum of its parts.

I suppose part of the problem is that I'm a relatively seasoned TV viewer. Faced with the fact that it was a two-part story, the pre-publicity had banged on about "under the planet something is waking", and the next part's called "the Satan Pit" it didn't take much guesswork to figure out what the cliffhanger would be. It's all very well having a slow buildup to something, but sadly this viewer was there about half an hour earlier.

I also had the unnerving feeling I'd seen it all somewhere before. Then I remembered: Buffy Season 7.

That said, it was all pretty good - I'm just hoping the build-up pays off in the next episode.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thank God It's Not Just Me

The concluding part of The Line of Beauty hit our screens last night, and very good it was too.

What was most heartwarming, however, was that the flatmate finally staggered in before the end and peered round the living room door to see what had captured my rapt attention.

He stared at the screen which was, at the time, occupied by Alice Krige playing Rachel Fedden and then chimed in with exactly the same comment I had made only a few weeks previously.

"Oh my God," he chimed, "it's the Borg queen!"

It's scary living with someone who has the same mind as you, it really is.