Monday, December 21, 2009

It's a funny old world

Here we are then, the shortest day in living memory (of 2009) and the day before we (I) finish for Christmas. I can't wait.

My apologies to my readership (Hi Mum! Hi Dad!) for dropping off so suddenly from the blogging world. Moving to a new job of news reporting makes time a lot more precious each and every day, rather than a monthly/bi-monthly print magazines where busy-ness came in waves, rather than as a bubbling river (oh, a nice water metaphor there).

Snow and ice (more water!) on the ground makes things feel wintery doesn’t it? I remember being in Cardiff in 2005 and it being boiling hot on the last day of term and my personal tutor telling me he could remember snow being 2ft high and university closing in late November as it was impossible for anyone to get in. So I suppose global warming is in some ways very real? Is that right?

It's been a memorable year. I ran a marathon, formed a band (although only practicesed twice...bad form), broke a world record, went to Slovakia and flew in a Hind Military Attack helicopter, tasted whisky in Scotland (most northern I've ever been - except when I eat mushy peas), went to Benicasim music festival with very good friends, read many interesting books, gave an after dinner, black tie, speech, wrote more for The Guardian, for Word through some bizarre circumstances, and a couple of bits for Runner's World and a couple bits for Cornwall Today, got a new job, two of my best friends got engaged (to each other), and everyone else I care about is well and good and more.

Twitter took over the world, many notable people passed on (it's the first year of the endless deaths of media / mass entertainment personas if you ask me), Rage Against the Machine had a number one for Christmas (?), SuBo was discovered, we still haven't invented time-travel, and the world seems unsure whether it thinks money is good or evil. I think a bit of both.

In the decade itself we've had mobile phones, ipods, broadband internet, 9/11, foot and mouth, 7/7, Cristano Ronaldo, Obama, the rise and fall of Top Gear, the continued and unabated domestication of the dog (although nothing else - when was the last time we domesticated anything?) YouTube, Facebook, the decline of newspapers, I went, studied, and graduated from university (as did countless millions more), we had endless disasters, global warming became an issue, and a man named Howard became a minor celebrity through singing on adverts.

It's a funny old world.

See you on the otherside, Internet.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Comedy thoughts

Why is Russell Howard suddenly popular? He's rubbish. Like Justin Lee Collins he seems to have confused being constantly upbeat about everything as the same as being funny. It's not, it's just annoying.


Harry Hill is upbeat, manically so sometimes, but what he says is inherently funny as well. Howard just tells lame, pub-banter quality jokes that sometimes raise a smile because they are at least not unfunny, but why he has suddenly become the nation's darling is beyond me. And anyone who appears on Mock the Week, the worst panel show for years and years and years, instantly loses points. Including Frankie Boyle (I insult people, therefore I am funny. Or not).


I read a review of Howard's stadium show in the Guardian yesterday and couldn't help but wonder who would choose to spend all that time, money and effort to see a comedian of such limited ability. Apparently one segment included him imaging the Queen having sex. Wow. Hilarious. How original.


In the review it also noted that he says that 'Anne Robinson looks like "a fox in a wind-tunnel"'. This is a complete steal from Stewart Lee, a far, far better, edgier, cleverer, interesting comedian, who, on his Comedy Vehicle earlier in the year, described Andrew Lloyd Webber as looking like a "monk in a wind tunnel". Shameful.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Big finish

I love songs that build from humble origins to grand, orchestral, operatic finishes. My favourite example is You Set the Scene by Love, as well as notable mentions for Incident on 57th Street by Bruce Springsteen, One Day Like This by Elbow, You Can't Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones.

What's funny is I find myself almost willing the slow, non-dramatic bits to hurry up so we can get to the fantastic crescendos, and yet of course, that's the whole point; without the lead up to the big finish the big finish wouldn't seem so, well, big.

Sometimes I wish I could selectively delete bits of my memory so I could go back and get to rediscover great bits of music, TV, comedy and so on.





New beginnings

So I've spent the last week lazing around London town, going here and there, doing this and that, talking with you-know-who and what's-his-name, all because I was in the middle of a job gap between leaving my old job and starting my new job.

It's been a funny two years and two months at the old place. I had some great adventures -visiting Slovakia, going to a shooting range, wearing a Star Trek outfit for a company video, spending too much time at the NEC and so on - but the time came for a change and thankfully I found something that looked interesting and suited and, after the interview process and all that, I am off to a bigger company, based more centrally, and hopefully with scope to lead to other interesting, diverse places. Just have to wait and see.

Onwards, onwards, onwards, onwards...

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Burp

Went to the recording of Harry Hill's TV Burp last night in Television Centre, home of the B B C. We queued, we got some free beers, I bought a cheese and pickle sandwich from the canteen, we queued some more, we went in, sat down, they told off people for taking photos (why I have no idea; it's on TV right?) and then we watched the show being recorded.

The show was a typical Burp of this season, a peppering of great sketches and observations, with a couple of weaker, less good bits too. Hopefully the editing will drop the poor bits and keep the good ones. The director Spencer Millman is regarded as one of the top comedy directors you see so I am sure he will. I know this because the warm up act Bobby Bragg must have mentioned his name about 25 times during his warm up / continuity patter. It was very tiresome. He's clearly there to make Mr Harry's jokes seem even better by comparison and to make the funny clips a breath of fresh air against his laboured jokes, which are truly bad, yawn inducing stuff. I'm not being nasty, he seems like a nice chap, but even so...

I happened to walk past him at the end and overheard him say to a security chap that he'd back for My Family next week. But who on earth would go to a recording of My Family anyway?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Venetians were blind

I can stand it no more. I can only hold my tongue on this subject for so long until I must proclaim, 'Venetian blinds are rubbish'. There. Who invented them? The Venetians I guess. They work on none of the levels that window implements (i.e. curtains) are supposed too.

One: keeping out light. They fail here by about 237%. The moment the smallest slither of daylight begins to creep in over the Northern Hemisphere it pierces through the Bolton Wanderers defence sized gaps that exist on this ridiculous invention and means my room is flooded with light so that by 5am I am awake. Joyous.

Two: Warmth. They offer no heating insulation either. Where a large, thick, long curtain help keeps any warmth in, and any cold air creeping in through hairline cracks in the windows, if not out, then at least stuck behind the curtain, Venetian Blinds do absolutely nothing except let the airs all mix together and come and go as they please.

Three: Cleanliness. Okay, not as important as the other two but blinds gather dust in a way that curtains can only dream of (if curtains do indeed 1) dream and 2) dream of gathering dust.)

Four: Opening / closing: Unlike the fantastically simple 'drawing' mechanism of curtains, Ventian blinds require this ridiculous twiddling of a long often double-joined pole to open and close them, and then another system to pull them up to let more light in. This involves strings and hooks, loops and pulleys, and yet offers no other advantages over the more simple, traditional, and far superior curtains: (see above).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shhhhh!

I went to the British Library yesterday. It was enjoyable. I had a look around the 'Points of View' exhibition, - no, not the best of Terry Wogan sardonically replying to a letter sent into the BBC - but a look at the first days of photography and how it impacted on society.

Then I went around the rest of the building, looked at the historical first page of Tess of the D'Ubervilles, and Jane Eyre, listened to poetry on some headphones read by Ezra Pound (sounding strangely Scottish), made a failed attempt to decipher the handwriting of the Magna Carta (why couldn't people write neatly in those days?) and then had a sit in the 'Digital Space' section and listened to some famous speeches from history.

It's a great building, and seems to be (unless perhaps it's just me) somewhat overlooked among the things-to-see-and-do-in -London-list, as it houses some fascinating pieces of history and is all free too.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My year in books

So this year I have so far read 50 books. Below is the list in mostly chronological order (nerd alert!). Where there's a link it's to a previous review of that book. Might do a little 140-character review of the rest in time on separate blog post.

  1. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
  2. Black Swan Green (2-6 all reviewed on same link as this one)
  3. The Plot Against America - Phillip Roth
  4. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
  5. Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 - Hunter S. Thompson
  6. Mortal Engines
  7. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
  8. The Damned United - David Peace
  9. The End of Mr Y - Scarlett Thomas
  10. Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
  11. The Chrysalids - John Wyndham
  12. The Country Life
  13. The Remains of the Day - Ishaguro
  14. Under a Blood Red Sky
  15. How NOT to Write a Novel: 200 Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs If You Ever Want to Get Published
  16. The Olive Readers (worst book of the list without question)
  17. Viva South America!
  18. When will There Be Good News? - Kate Atkinson
  19. Survival of the Fittest by Dr Mike Stroud
  20. Shakespeare - Bill Bryson
  21. Neither Here Nor There - Bill Bryson
  22. The Never Ending Days of Being Dead - Chown
  23. In Patagonia - Bruce Chatwin
  24. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
  25. Blind Faith - Ben Elton (terrible)
  26. A Wild Sheep Chase - Murakami
  27. Attention All Shipping
  28. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time
  29. Leviathan by Philllip Hoare (best book of the year, without question)
  30. Moby-Dick
  31. Ghostwritten
  32. American Pastoral - Roth
  33. A Light Hearted Look at Murder
  34. Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
  35. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster (all Auster's covered on this link)
  36. Man in the Dark - Paul Auster
  37. Music of Chance - Paul Auster
  38. Leviathan - Paul Auster
  39. Dance Dance Dance - Murakami
  40. The House of Sleep - Jonathan Coe
  41. The Brooklyn Follies - Paul Auster
  42. Travels in the Scriptorium - Paul Auster
  43. Timbuktu - Paul Auster
  44. Mr Vertigo - Paul Auster
  45. The Trial - Kafka
  46. The Maze of Cadiz
  47. The Book of Illusions - Paul Auster
  48. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  49. Moon Palace - Paul Auster
  50. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
  51. Drown - Junot Diaz

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Word up!

In 2004 I was standing in Cardiff Central Railway Station's branch of WH Smiths. I was hungover and readying myself for a four-and-a-half hour train journey home. I had my sarnie, my water and I needed some reading material. The men's magazines looked as terrible as usual but, just I was about to give up the hunt, I spied the headline "Jeff Buckley lives!".

Now, during my first year at university I had become somewhat obsessed with the drowned-warbler that was Mr Jeff Buckley, after the recommendation of the album Grace from a friend, and so to see this headline, staring out at me among the sea of other "look at me" cover lines, felt somewhat serendipitous.

It was a magazine called "Word", something I was vaguely aware of but not really. Anyway, I bought it, I read the article, I very much enjoyed it. The rest of the magazine was equally compelling with intelligent, interesting, well-written, articles, reviews, interviews and so forth. Ever since I have enjoyed Word - mentioning it in my interview for the Cardiff Magazine course - texting Radio 2 when Mark Ellen was on the show asking for advice for aspiring journalists when I was in my university days, reading the blog of David Hepworth, having a subscription in the boom times (on the Christmas list for this year too) and so on.

Then, in October, I won a competition hosted by Word (by submitting this video), to play with the JD session group the New Silver Cornet Band - made of up musicians who have played with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, and so on. The day itself passed in a blur of nerves, missed notes, and a flurry of a guitar solo. Afterwards though, during the little interview I did with The Word's Andrew Harrison I offered (because you have to take advantage of the weird ways life can work out and play into your hands) to write something about the gig that was taking place two nights later, featuring Brett Anderson, Jon McClure and Carl Barat, and - perhaps because I had oh-so-subtly mentioned some of my other freelance work including The Guardian, and plenty of music reviewing - he said, "Okay, sure."

Much agonising over words later I emailed the copy off and sat back, waiting to see what would happen. Fast forward to today...after much peering at shelves in various corner shops in Pimlico (if they're not on a corner, what are they?) I found the December issue and there on page 49 is my review in full, complete with a small picture of me and the band from the rehearsal day, complete with a little, in-bold byline. Pretty cool.

Okay, so I got to write it via a competition entry I saw on Twitter (yet another tick in the pro-Twitter column) but hey, I can now say I've written for Word Magazine.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The age of Auster

In September both my housemates urged me to read The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. So I did. And thoroughly enjoyed it; a strange, hyper-meta-fiction work that subverts the crime fiction genre, while also being very compelling and confusing in equal measures. A cheap airport thriller it is not. After that I read Man in the the Dark, also lent by my housemate, and enjoyed that too.

Glancing down a list of other books by Auster I spied one called Music of Chance. I went into a book shop and, not only found it straightaway, but next to it was another Auster called Leviathan - it was clearly a sign. I read both of these while on my flights to and from Slovakia (see post below) and returned home eager for more. I found The Brooklyn Follies for £2 in a charity shop, and then bought Mr Vertigo, Timbuktu, Moon Palace, and The Book of Illusions from Amazon, while someone at work lent me Travels in the Scriptorium. I finished the last of these - Moon Palace - last night. Ten Auster's in two months.

Of these my favourites were Timbuktu, Mr Vertigo, Leviathan and Music of Chance. Timbuktu is told from the perspective of a dog, Mr Vertigo is about a boy who can fly - what's not to be intrigued about? Travels in the Scriptorium was my least favourite - a poor man's New York Trilogy - and the rest a mixture of the very good and some slightly flater moments - The Book of Illusions, for instance, starts off very strongly but fades off somewhat towards the end.

There are a lot of reoccurring themes, motifs and plots elements in a lot of these works. Many character come into money in different ways (inheritance mainly), eliminating Auster having to worry about what his character do to get by, instead having them spend time in long, strange periods of isolation, often retelling, or writing, stories, or spending time sat in rooms writing in notebooks. In both Moon Palace and Book of Illusions the central character spends a great deal of the novel - almost a third or a half - hearing the life story of another central character - thus the books are essentially two stories bound up in one.

Furthermore character names and historical figures crop up all the time too - Zimmer, Blume, Quinn, while Nathaniel Hawthorne and other Hawthorne family members are frequently referenced. There is always a section in which a character either goes to live in France, or has lived in France in the past - something Auster himself did - while they are almost always set exclusively in and around New York. Lots of characters start off intending to destroy themselves - "I was looking for a quiet place to die" - first line, The Brooklyn Follies - only to find themselves in a strange, quirky story which ultimately saves them - not in a Hollywood happy-ever-after way, more in a dark, life-goes-on way. Sometimes these repetitions of plot are irritating, and other times they are not. It's hard to explain that but although each time it happens it's easy to reference to the other book(s) where it happens it's more important when read within the context of the book and the story as to how noticeably it sticks out as another Austerism.

Auster's writing style is one thing I am a great fan of. There are some wonderful descriptions in each and every book - some sentence are so intriguing or well-written it make you stop and re-read them; often they are so evocative as to conjure up another entire story, as if they could be the first line of another complete novel. He has an uncanny ability to philosophise on ideas of chance and fate (in his characters voices') without it sounding trite or clichéd but fresh and original. There is also a great emphasis placed on detail for details sake, rather than merely to fill paragraphs with descriptions. Indeed, since reading Auster I have rediscovered my creative writing bug and written one short story - and put online here - and have a couple of others bubbling away on my Google Documents.

So yeah, Paul Auster. There you go.

Monday, November 09, 2009

From Slovakia with thoughts

At the end of September I went to Slovakia on a work trip - part of which involved a flight in a Hind Military Attack Helicopter (video), which was awesome - and I realise I never wrote anything on this. So now I will. Stand back...

Slovakia was a very interesting, pretty country - I saw the cities of Presov and Košice, the second and third largest, as well as a bit of the countryside as we travelled about by coach, and above from the air. The streets were classic Eastern European - covered in tram lines, little cafes, bistros, odd looking alleyways heading here and there and so forth. But there were clear signs of modernism too with Tesco, Pizza Huts and M&S all to be found in among the old gothic facades of the local shops. There were plenty of pinks, yellows and blues on the fronts of buildings too, giving it that chocolate-box (cliche?) feel you often get in quaint European cities and while there was little clear evidence of the Cold War or the Second World War there was a definite sense of history among the streets; the church in Kosice for example had that air of the old world, of the dates 1759 or 1816. The women were mostly stunning, the men, less so.

A few days in either town would probably suffice I imagine, but it was nice to have seen a couple of interesting places in Europe I doubt I would otherwise ever visit. It was strange to realise too that we were just 70km from the Ukraine.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Muppets

So it's been 40 years of Sesame Street; I can't think of much to say about it really except that I was absolutely terrified of Big Bird when I was a child. I think it's understandable really; this massive, yellow, huge nosed creature peering down at the camera with the slightly gorky, fluish voice saying 'ooh hello children, today's letter is the letter Ttttt' is terrifying. Ho hum.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

London aboveground


In the last ten days I've had the luck to fly in over London twice. Once around 3.30pm, as a low winter sun bounced off the Thames and the buildings, and then again last night, on a clear moonlight skied night, with every electricity-burning piece of equipment shining brightly below.

Both times it was absolutely stunning. The day time flight was incredible to see so clearly buildings like the Gherkin, St Pauls, the colours of the trees in the parks, especially my local Finsbury Park, or the winding Thames from such a unique perspective, as we flew into London City Airport. I didn't think much could top that but last night was even more spectacular.

Something about seeing the city so brightly lit, the cars, buses, trains and tubes hurtling this way and that, each famous monument bathed in assorted shades of colours, the parks' outlines clearly visible by their darkness in among the light - there Green Park, on to Hyde Park, up to Regents, then Hampstead, across to Finsbury Park, below the Emirates football stadium clearly visible - was just utterly beguiling. The boats on the river causing trails of white water, the city stretching away to the horizon, the idea of so many people out and about below us, barely acknowledging just another plane arriving from another party of the globe, all of it so mesmerising. We even did our flight holding path out over the city, and banked at Canary Wharf (ha!), making those towers of money seem beautiful.

Back on the tube, chugging slowly home, it's hard to appreciate the reality of London. But from above, the whole spectacle splayed out before you, it really is quite breathtaking. For a fantastic set of images (takes a while to load mind) taken by a photographer for the Boston Globe, check here (number 15 is my favourite).

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Z is for...

Zzz

Why are Zzzs representative of sleep? Is it the shape, the three layered positioning that could resemble the head, body and legs of a person in bed. Or is it meant to be snoring that makes a sound akin to zzz - because, if it is, it's not very accurate is it? A snore is more guttural, more nasally, than the soft, sounds of a Zzz. Make the snoring noise and you'll agree it's far more like this: 'Ckkkkkkk'. Or perhaps you have a better interpretation? Trying to write out sounds that don't easily fit into the sounds of letters is strange.

Did you enjoy the alphabet blogs then? I don't know why I started them, I just thought it would give me a good reason to blog (almost) every day and might through up some random / diverse / interesting topics. I hope it did at least.

A blog on London from above tomorrow. Pencil that in your diary.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Y is for...

Yachting.

Coming from Cornwall I've done a bit of sailing in my time - possible not enough in some respects, but I've been in to the Carrick Roads several times, to the Scilly Isles and back, and so on, and it's much fun, as long as you can get a nice bit of speed up.

Sailing around the world seems to be a challenge of human existence that remains a significant feat of endurance and ability. Of course, GPS and Sat Phones make it possible for people to be far safer by allowing them to keep up to date with the weather, and stay in direct contact with the outside world, but like climbing Everest, while lots of people have now done it, it still requires a level of dedication that goes beyond the everyday. I found out about the clipper yacht race in which people of all abilities, starting from no sailing experience at all, take boats around the world over nine months as part of a race. I thought, that sounds like fun. Cost to enter? £40,000. Shame.

This video of one of the Volvo Ocean Yacht race boats skimming over the waves, surfing at one point (20-23 seconds), is a great example of the speed and excitement sailing can provide (and has the Pirates of the Caribbean theme music too):

Friday, October 30, 2009

X is for...

Xs marks the spot.

One of my favourite all time Simpsons moments is when, and I forget why, someone is imagining pirates burying treasure. One, slightly foppish, pirate speaks up and says "Why are we burying the treasure, why don't we use it to buy things? Things we like." He's then shot but the lead pirate.

One of my other absolute favourite moments is when Homer visits a strange, edge-of-town car lot run by an eastern-European chap. Homer struggles to fit in the tiny, three-wheeled car as the sales man pronounces "It gets 400 hectares on a single tank of kerosene." Then, as Homer stalls the car and we see a shot of foreign symbols on the dashboard that might as well be Tetris pieces, the man shouts "Put it in H!" (I think you can watch all this here.)

One more: In the episode where Bart becomes the 'I Didn't Do It Boy' Homer is led to believe Bart has been crushed to death and turned into a box. We see him outside practicising various ways to break this news to Marge in that classic sitcom way that characters do. When Homer finally does break the news his exact words are: "Marge, I have some horrible, bone-chilling, news." Brilliant.

---

When I did Ten Tors training me and my 'tent' buddy used to keep our spirits up during the damp, boring nights in our cramp, uncomfortable tent by reciting our favourite Simpsons moments. Works well for other similar situations. Such a shame it had to jump the shark though.

W is for...

Whisky.

Whisky. Foxtrot. Tango. A bloody good night out.

I was in Scotland earlier this week for work and as part of the keeping-us-sweet part of the trip we got to do some whisky tasting with information and advice from a top whisky expert - who was German. He loved whisky so much he had moved to Scotland wound up ambassador of the society which I think is bloody fantastic. Take that Griffin.

It was interesting to hear him explain that watering down whiskey is perfectly acceptable - although not with ice - until the whisky gives off an aroma that your palette senses it will like: much like you inhale wine you do with whisky. If you use ice you can't tell how much water is actually in the whisky and you have to wait for it to melt down and so forth. So with this advice we tried some unique cask example of 40%+ strength, sufficiently watered down, to be a nice, mellow drink; I think I get the whisky thing now. It was very nice.

Oh and the notion of using coke, apple juice, lemonade with whisky is most definitely made clear to be Not On.

V is for...

Vinter

No, not a put-on German accent pronunciation of winter but the name of one of the four school teams at my secondary school. The others were Wickett, Smith and, confusingly, School. Each team had a very definite and distinct personality.

School (green) were the top level athletes, the captain of the first XI, the rugger boys, the century scoring cricketers. They were the team to beat and most years came away with the overall sports day crown.

Smith (blue) were the renegades, the wild, unpredictable mavericks. One year they'd lose 6-0 to School in the football, the next year, with everyone expecting another cake walk, they'd produce an inspired display of attacking flair and verve and win 2-1, throwing the competition wide open; but they almost always finished fourth.

Vinter (yellow) were, for the most part, those who considered themselves good at sport, but in reality were not that good. They were full of bluster, over the top pronouncements of how good they were, why this year they would win the football / rugby / cricket / sports day. When it came down to it though they crumbled, turned on one another, and always finished third.

Wickett (red) were School-lite. Each team member was a suitable talented sportsman, able to pass, catch, throw and so forth with competence, but never quite to the level of School. However, if they functioned as a team they were hard to beat, and once or twice came away with a win in the annual round-robin sporting events.

I won't tell you which team I was in, but you can probably work it out.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

U is for...

Underwater

Living underwater is often portrayed as a sublime, peaceful existence in movies or books - living in and among the fishes, using crustaceans as musical instruments, grabbing on to passing dolphins fins and riding along, but I'm not convinced it would be good. Sharks and conger eels, and manta rays and sea snakes also live underwater. I wouldn't like that.

Ringo Starr (stage name yeah?) wanted to cohabit with octopi, but I don't know why; the others had the right idea with their yellow submarine. "Out you go Ringo, you wanted to try it!" "Youse guys are having a laugh if you think I'm going out there."

Atlantis; that definitely didn't exist. We came from the water, why would we want to go back? Space, that's where we want to go next.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

T is for...

Twitter.

2009 has been the year of Twitter. Any end of year review surely needs to reference it. It should. As such I will touch on Twitter here in general sense but save my experience with it for the end of the year (another thing besides Christmas to get excited about). Needless to say though the site has, for those who have involved themselves in it (not all things are for all people of course), been something of a new dawn of internet usage. I say this with a straight face.

People are open, honest, engaging, friendly, argumentative without being ridiculously over the top (see Youtube), endlessly hilarious (in fact if Twitter has proven anything it's just how many staggeringly quick, clever, funny, creative people there in the world who work as everything from paramedics to students and back again) and above all, real. The idea of reality is what the naysayers use to discredit Twitter, suggesting it's for people who don't interact with the world, who sit at a computer all day rather than engage - but nothing could be further from the truth. It's for people who actively do engage with the world, who are happy to meet up with random strangers on the basis of conversing through a few 140 character messages on everything from cupcakes to the London Marathon. I'll touch on my own experience of this in future (as mentioned) but the Twestivals of February and September proved that there is nothing socially inept about the people on Twitter.

Here's an example today of something I saw on Twitter that I thought showed what the site has done to change the internet. David Mitchell, having appeared in the last episode of Peep Show series six on Friday was obviously sent several messages on 1) would there be a seventh series? and b) was an opinion expressed on the TV show about The Wire, his own view. Thanks to Twitter people were not only able to ask these questions in a way that wasn't intrusive or time consuming, but they were able to get answers instantly, straight from the man himself. The site has helped the internet become personable, human, interactive; a real time reaction to what people are thinking; not 'heavily orchestrated campaigns' as those of a certain intelligence believe it to be so, proving they don't understand.

Anyway, I could go on. Graham Linehan (aka @glinner), who's become something of an unlikely champion of the site, the man behind the #welovethenhs hashtag, wrote all the above on this excellent post The Conversation. I couldn't have put it better myself.

And, when something goes wrong, it has a picture of a whale (known as the Fail Whale by those on the site) to indicate this. What's not to like about that? 2009 was also the year of the whale it seems, in my world at least.

Friday, October 23, 2009

S is for...

Stream of Consciousness

You know, that idea of writing whatever enters your head at that moment, in an effort to replicate the way in which the human brain flits around all over the place, and was popular with writers like Joyce and Woolf. I once thought about renting Ulysses from a library to read it but I never did. I remember I was in Cardiff University library with a friend called Gareth, and I was hungover, and we were going to creative writing, which I did for two years, but for some reason I never did actually rent Ulysses out. We were the only two males in that creative classing, I think, so it was an odd set up but good fun. The first thing we were ever asked to write for that course was a piece of steam of consciousness prose and I did mine on a train journey I had done, when I went home from Cardiff to Cornwall. I can still remember it now, the train journey, the sun piercing the carriage, the mild hangover emanating from my skull, the cold, damp BLT sandwich I had bought, listening to Grace by Jeff Buckley on my CD player. CD players? A different era.

Written steam of consciousness still doesn't capture the true reality of the human mind as really it's unconsciousness that happens to you as you're wandering around, sitting on a bus, or whatever because that's when you don't even know where your mind is, why it's jumping from one subject to another; like that moment when you say 'oh what was I talking about?' or when you dimly try to remember something you've just been thinking about, that has passed on, but you don't feel you full got to the bottom of, often something that was a bad thing, a worrying thing, that you needed to think about more fully.

Have I Got News For You?

Yes I do. Last night I went to the recording of
Have I Got News For You. Such wit!

The guest host was David Mitchell, with guests Ed Byrne and Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry. Interestingly, these two, I felt, were funnier than Merton and Hislop, who while being very good of course, didn't seem to be on top form. Bryne, Grayson and Mitchell (isn't that a law firm?) more than made up for this though.

The show's set is strange as it looks very small in real-life (as opposed to the unreality of a television screen), and it's only when the lights are set to the traditional colour tints that it resembles the set so well-known to millions across the land. Hopefully that picture gives some idea of this

There were only a few re-recordings to be done after the 'end' of the show, which was a blessing as two hours sat in small, uncomfortable seats, having drunk two beers beforehand, plays havoc with your sense of priorities. Mitchell was a consummate host though (as he is on every panel show he appears on) and with only three bits to re-do, and a couple of 'watch this show' clips (including a brilliantly withering put down of a joke he had to read out that referenced the Ronseal advert that I hope makes the final cuts), we were on our way before the clocks had even reached 10pm.

Outside the studios there's a wonderfully 'ITV' piece of television indulgence in the form of a series of hand prints and signatures from such luminaries as Ant McPartlin, Vernon Kay, and Justin Lee Collins, alongside more high-brow members of the television fraternity, such as Lord Melvyn Bragg and Stephen Fry.

Overall, it's great to have been to see such an institution of television comedy, and with Harry Hill's TV Burp to attend in November (which I saw last year in Teddington as well) I have to say live TV recording of quality shows are definitely worth attending.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who are these people?

The following is completely true and took place about a month ago:

Sitting on the underground at Paddington, travelling home on a Sunday afternoon, I stood near two rather loud gentlemen who were having a conversation between themselves. A women boarded at Edgware Road and sat next to them. Instantly one of the two chaps broke off his conversation with his mate and turned to the women. This is what followed:

"You awight darling?"
"Yes thanks," she replied, clearly a bit taken aback by such over-familiarity on the tube.
"Had a good day?"
"Yes thanks."
"What you been doing? Shopping. Hahaha, women love to shop!"
"Haha (awkward laughter). No I've been seeing my mum."
"Ah, Mums are great aren't they. I love my mum (I swear this is true). What you do? Have a nice chat?"
"Yeah..." Is that it?, I could sense she was thinking.
"What else you do then?"
She inwardly sighed "We had a roast lunch."
"Ah I love a good roast me. Potatoes, meat, peas, carrots. Love a roast."

Yes those are the main components of a roast dinner I thought. The women merely nodded and smiled and quickly whipped out a magazine.

"Oh that's friendly isn't it?" he barked. "Look Dave (or Pete or something), she's only gone and got a magazine out. Some people are such c*nts aren't they?"
Friend says nothing. Man leans across to women.
"I was only being friendly."
"So was I," she replied, her voice cracking slightly at the bizarre hostility of the man.

He turned back to his mate and they started talking again. On we went through the darkness.

R is for...

Reading

Reading is a large city on the M4...no no no , reading. Oh I see.

Before I moved to London I had never heard anything positive about the London Underground, beyond the fact it was a very famous part of the city. It was all 'oh it's horrible: smelly, hot, noisy, expensive, late, bombed, delays, crowded...' and on they went, reeling off all the hardships I would face.

What I have discovered though, apart from some of the above being partially true, is that the tube is also a fantastic place for reading. A mobile library if you will. Albeit a noisy, smelly, expensive, crowded, often delayed one. Get a good spot though, where you can turn pages without the risk of flying into the person next to you when a driver is a touch over-zealous with the use of his brake pedal, and you can devour a book in a week as you shuttle your way under London.

My 25-30 minute journey each morning and evening gives me a solid hour of reading time each day. There's only so long you can re-read the poems on the underground collection - speaking of which why are so few of them ever about London or the Underground - so if you stick in some headphones and to block out your fellow passengers, you can read away until your stop arrives. Twice this year I've managed to miss my tube stop due to being so engrossed in the pages. Having mentally believed to be at Green Park, when in fact we were at Victoria, I found myself having to alight at Stockwell and head back to Pimlico.

I really wanted to come up with an underground/book pun for this (alongside the R is for... bit), but failed. Any suggestions?

BNP want BST for all-time.

Nick Griffin has pledged to keep British Summer Time if he is elected PM. Speaking to no-one in particular in an underpass the outspoken Euro-MP allegedly said: “I think I speak for a great number of people when I say I am outraged at the end of British Summer Time on Sunday. It’s another victory for the EU-sympathisers on the loony left. Time is part of what made this country great and by giving away our rights to our, historically pure British Time, it is the white, middle-class people of this country who are the ones to suffer. As they are time and time again. Ha Ha, do you get that?"

In a final flash of inspiration Mr Griffin added, “In fact, if I had my way, I’d rename it Great British Summer Time. Yeah, that'd show them.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Q is for...

Quantitative Easing.

No I am not really going to talk about quantitative easing, I am not qualified to do so. I could easily quote some experts but there's a risk it wouldn't be quite right so I think I will just stay quiet on the matter.

Q in Scrabble is worth 10 points, and if you play it with the letter 'I' it makes Qi which is the term for the 'Chinese life-force', It's a legitimate play and can make or break a game.

Q Magazine was originally going to be called 'Cue', as in 'to cue a record to play', but, apparently they (being Mark Ellen and David Hepworth (thanks Wikipedia)) thought people might think it was a snooker magazine, so changed it to the far more emblematic Q - and ruined John Virgo's dream of releasing a snooker magazine called Cue in the process.

Q is a troublesome, yet highly interesting, letter and almost all the words it begins with catch your eye in among a sentence of other more humdrum vowels and consonants.

For hardcore Scrabble fans out there, Qaid is a legitimate word too, meaning A Muslim tribal chief, judge or senior official. So there you go. No need to wait for that elusive U to show his horse-shoe form in order to play the killer Q.

Monday, October 19, 2009

P is for...

People

There are too many people. On Saturday due to 50,000 plus people going to watch 22 other people kick a ball around I couldn't get into a tube station, so had to walk home. I had to walk around people all the way, old, young, thin, fat, all of them. People everywhere. But I know we need these people. We need them to make food, to pull pints, to stop crime, to monitor the shipping lanes, to create adverts, to service heating systems, to referee snooker matches, to help ease the passage of other people into this world, to send people out of this world with dignity, and all the other things that we need to have done so the planet spin along through space. It's good, that we've found so many things for people to do.

In John Gray's Straw Dogs he makes the point that while advancements in agriculture, and subsequently industry, may have allowed us to support larger population, it didn't allow us to support these populations to a higher degree of happiness, or contentment. It merely meant once there existed the ability to make more food, we were able to 'create' more people to eat it. And so it goes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

O is for...

Opulent

- which is one of my favourite words. Other words I like are:

Plethora, Ramshackle, Hierarchical, Puzzle, Fluke, Horizon, Sublime and Effervescent.

Yours?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You're, You're, You're Gonna need a bigger boat

So this is the point of Posterous...Seeing an insanely clever montage video of various clips spanning several genres and decades of film and television, that uses famous lines and quotatons from these pieces of film, and splices them together into a musical piece that is both catchy and well-produced...and being able to instantly share it at the click of a button from your computer. I remember being told we were the creative generation on my course at Cardiff. They weren't wrong.

Posted via web from danworth's posterous


Of course if you're reading this on my Blogger then the reference to Posterous makes no sense, but the rest is apt.

Gordon Lightfoot The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

I have been listening to this for about three days now and bloody love it. Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, it's written in the Dorian mode, which is rare. So, there you go.

Posted via web from danworth's posterous

A short story

I've written a short story after being seized by the creative bug. You can read it here on my Posterous site (which is nicer to look at) so venture there and have a look. Any thoughts, comments, feedback etc much appreciated - either there or here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

N is for...

National Maritime Museum

If you want to visit the National Maritime Museum of Great Britain, or England at least, you have two options. You can go to Greenwich (very nice place) or Falmouth (very nice place). Why we need two national maritime museums I am not sure, but I suppose being an island means there's a lot of water to cover and it's been a big part of our history. Falmouth has had big part to play in this and its nice that my home town was recognised by being given a second national musuem. There can't be many of those in the country. I last went to the Falmouth one some years ago, and although it was good, it wasn't that good. It was okay.

The one in Greenwich I went to on Saturday and it was really good. I went ostensibly to see the North-West Passage exhibition about the men who sought out this fabled route through the ice floes of the Arctic to try and improve trading routes. Now, due to global warming, the route is easily navigable. Having wandered around this section it was on to the rest of the museum, including a sit down in bunks like those on the RMS Mauretania, a play on some morse code machines, hoisting some flags, and seeing the original coat Lord Nelson was wearing when some French sniper bloody shot him. Bastard.

I haven't been to the Falmouth NMM for long enough now to pass fair comment on a direct
comparison to the Greenwich NMM but certainly if you're London based a visit to the NMM (which is free, unlike the Falmouth one) is certainly worth a couple of hours of your precious, precious time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

M is for...

Murakami

I've had it with Haruki Murakami. I've read four of his books now and after each one I've found myself so frustrated by his meandering quasi-cryptic stories, the bored narrators, so full of ennui, who spend the entire story doing no work, drinking endless alcohol (yet never have hangovers), and who remain unreasonbly calm when confronted by Mafia bosses or weird, other-worldly sheep creatures.

The first book I read, Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was, admittedly, a good read: well paced, full of intriguing situations and descriptions, and at the time I was happy to let the ambiguous, odd ending slide as part of the style of that story. But it's been a recurring thing ever since. In Norwegian Wood, A Wild-Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance I have seen the same patterns in the stories repeating over and over only done with less panache or care as in Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

As Murakami used to own a bar it's unsurprising his character end up always drinking but it becomes such a boring thing to read over and over: "I sipped my beer" "I had a vodka and lime in the hotel bar" "I poured myself a whiskey before bed". It's borderline alcoholism throughout. Another theme is lack of work. For example, in Dance Dance Dance the main character is 29, does very little work, but has enough money to to do what ever he wants (including drinking endlessly), yet sees no oddness in this, no sense of being in a position quite unlike most people.

Later on in the book he barely makes any comment on being being sent to Hawaii, for free, to do nothing but surf, drink Pina Coladas and drive around listening to rock music all day. He just takes it all in his stride, doling out pseudo-philosophical thoghts to the other characters, who are all full of problems, while our hero just drifts through, sipping beers, watching from the side. He often ends up in weird etheral experiences, seeing skeltons in rooms, coming out of hotel elevators and emerging in other worlds, yet never even bats an eyelid at this. Throughout Dance Dance Dance the other characters tell him, 'You're pretty weird, you know that?' But he's not. He's just a git.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

L is for...

Lists...

I love a good list me. Franz Listz is my favourite, Listerine is a close second. Dave Lister from Red Dwarf a distant third.

The Telegraph has published a list of 'things Britons are confused by'. The list is utterly bizarre and includes items such as Poker, Donnie Darko, The clocks changing, Why Cheryl Cole is still with Ashley and, personal favourite, Stephen Hawking's theories.

Who are these people? Who is wandering the streets of Briton thinking, "does a straight beat a flush, and why does Donnie Darko have to be killed to save the world? I am so confused by these things."

Are people, sitting around at home on sofas on a Saturday night ready to watch X-Factor, saying, 'Oh that Cheryl, I don't know why she stays with Ashley, she's too good for him...and what does Dr Hawking mean when he says, "Quantum Gravity is based on a process of rapid expansion of neighbouring regions, with similar cosmic properties, to explain this growth spurt which they call inflation". Any ideas Shell? Dave?"

"Don't ask me, I'm wondering about the changing of the clocks, despite it not happening for another few weeks, and then it only involving putting a watch back, or forward, one hour, it's just so mind-bogglingly confusing."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

K is for...

Kafka

I've never read any Kafka, yet I've used the phrase Kafka-esque many times. I've always understood it to mean overly bureaucratic or Byzantine levels of management. Yesterday someone pointed out that most people who use the term Kafka-esque had probably never read any of his work though. He's right, I thought.

Then, later that night...I was reading The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster when two of the characters starting talking about Kafka, and what a fantastic writer he is, how well he understood the nature of humanity, and retell the moving, true, story of the doll and the girl in the park (you can read about that part of his life here, with reference to Auster's inclusion of this tale in the book).

So after this bit of serendipity I think I will seek out a Kafka or two, probably The Trial, and give it whirl, and then see what I think. If I am still using the phrase Kafka-esque after that I guess it means I was right all along.

Run Run Run...

If you like running you can read two race reports by me in this month's - November's - Runner's World UK. Another little freelance job.

Also, just when I was thinking about writing a post about how much I love The Only Living Boy in New York by Simon and Garfunkel I spotted David Hepworth has written something similar on the Word website about The Boxer.

What I like about The Boxer (on top of what it says on the Word site) is how it starts from such a simple, descending guitar pattern but by the end has turned into this loud, booming affair with big drums and duck whistles - inspired - and the repeating la la laaaas become almost hypnotic, a mantra, a chant. Meaningless but somehow sounding meaningful.

I'll do my post soon. Watch this space. Well not this space, nothing more will appear here. The space where that post will appear. Look, I'll let you know.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Bookish

One of the joys of travel is the amount of reading time it affords you. Four flights in three days last week meant I was able to read three books while sitting 30,000ft above the Earth – Paul Auster’s The Music of Chance and Leviathan and Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance (more on him in a few days time).

Auster is a writer I was introduced to about two weeks ago and already absolutely love. I read The New York Trilogy and The Man in the Dark after my housemate lent them to me and they are both utterly absorbing and written with prose that while inherently plain and simple (in the best possible sense) is also full of delicious turns of phrase or odd, quirky ideas. Sometimes it veers into the realms of meta-fiction but never at the expense of plot and story. Furthermore almost all the stories stay with you after you finish reading - leading you to question incidents that happen, or wonder further about the fates of the characters.

After reading TNYT and TMIND I popped into a bookshop to buy The Music of Chance mainly because in Ghostwritten by David Mitchell - which I read about two months ago - there’s a character in a band called The Music of Chance, which is referenced too, with the character noting, the band ‘is named after that book by some New York guy’. When I found MOC sat next it was sat next to a copy of another book of Auster's called Leviathan (the same title as my favourite book of the year so far) and so I picked that up too. Then, on Friday, I found The Brooklyn Follies in Oxfam for £2 and so grabbed that too, and started it today. From 50 pages or so read on the tube so far it seems as good as the others…

Over the weekend I also read The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe, which was really good – not quite as good as his What a Carve Up! – but still excellent. Confusingly, it features a character called Terry Worth, referred to mainly as Worth, who’s a film critic journalist. Lead to some sentences and phrases that sounded worryingly similar to my own life.

J is for...

Jelly.

Look at it move. Isn't it hypnotic?

I was talking to someone the other day about jelly and I opined that if a friend of mine made jelly, for no other reason than simple "to have some jelly", I would find that very odd. Something about actively making such a childish food seems wrong.

On Ten Tors (which I did in 2002) jelly cubes were an acceptable form of instant sugar and energy. I wondered if they would work for running / the marathon too?

Friday, October 02, 2009

H is for...

Heathrow

I was in Heathrow just last night, waiting at a baggage carousel for my luggage. They call it a carousel but it's not fun or brightly lit or anything like that. I've never seen a fake horse come round on one anyway. That would be a weird sight.

Alain de Botton just had his book about spending a week in the Heathrow published but I bet he doesn't make any observations as good as the above. Interestingly I did see in The Guardian that in his book he notes that on average two people die a week per terminal at Heathrow. Deathrow more like.

It's not a bad idea actually. Airports are huge yet you only ever see the same bits each and every time. The bit standing below the departure boards, the bit where you check in, the bit where you strip off belts and watches, and then the bit where you wait to be called. But beyond that ordered route there must be a huge maze of rooms and buildings all contributing, non-stop, to the airports life.

They should do a documentary on airport life actually. They could call it Airport. It would star a short, bespectacled man who's voice would be higher pictured than his slightly portly frame would suggest, which would make some of his exasperated comments more hilarious than they were. He would be called Jeremy Spake and he'd move into the lime light for a little while, then fade away again.

I think that would make a good story.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

G is for

Games

As in Monopoly and Scrabble, which are the main two really aren't they? Trivial Pursuit is just rubbish; an infuriatingly slow and dull game in which piece of 'pie' must be won by answering questions that range from the utterly banal, to the sublimely hard: 'The answers is moops'.



Scrabble is a game I like though. Remember a couple of years ago it became massively popular due to Scrabbulous on Facebook? Then Hasbro got a bit irate and told them to take it down. It was nice while it lasted and in that time me and my old housemate played it a lot and both got quite good at it.

Monopoly is good too, but requires a pre-game agreement, verbal or not, between all players to take it seriously and accept they could be in for the long haul. I like the Greens and Browns myself; everyone has a favourite set, don't they?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

F is for...

Fleet Foxes

When I and my ex-housemate were in training for the London Marathon (which seems a life time ago now), one of our training runs was at Silverstone race course for a 1/2 marathon, which you can read about here.

To get there we rented a car and drove the 75 miles or so up the motorway; it was a fun day out. On the way there, and back, we listened almost exclusively to the Fleet Foxes debut album to the point where now, whenever I hear Ragged Wood, or Sun it Rises, or any tracks from that album I can conjure up, or at least recall dimly, the sensation of that day. Hurtling down the motorway in the early morning sun, the sky a sharp blue, the air fresh with the mixture of spring warmth and chill, or later, sitting in the stationary car with the sun pouring in as we waited to enter the car parks, sitting in a traffic jam on the motorway heading back home, and the rest.

It's fascinating that music can become so synonymous with a situation or location that for days, months and even years after you only have to hear a line, a certain guitar intro, a piano fill, and you can be instantly transported back to another time, another place.

Monday, September 28, 2009

E is for

Earphones

Maybe this will make me sound old but some people on the tube listen to their music far too loudly. This is not new of course, people have been complaining about this for a while; in fact the Underground people now put posters up telling people to keep their music down. What would our Victorian forebears have thought of this all. Why did Victorian's keep four bears anyway?

This morning on either side of the carriage were two young dudes, probably about the same age as me actually, whose music was deafeningly loud. One was listening to the fudge of noise that comes from incessantly heavy bass (what is the obsession with 'bass' anyhow?) while the other had on some Rage Against the Machine style shouty rock. I could hear the guitar solos, hear them moving around the fret board, hear the drums when they kicked in and so on. Both of them looked utterly devoid of any enjoyment in the music, devoid of much life anyway. Why the need for it so loud? Showing off? Deafness? Purposefully annoying other people?

Friday, September 25, 2009

D is for...

Dick Dastardly.

In Wacky Races Dick Dastardly would spend the entire show zooming ahead of the other racers to set elaborate traps. Hilariously these would always back fire leaving him looking foolish and his 'faithful' hound Muttley (great name) laughing at him - until scolded for doing so.

It made no sense. He had the fastest car. If he didn't stop to set needless traps he'd have won ever race by an absolute mile.

Old dogs

Have you ever seen New Tricks? I seem to have a magnet in me that means I end up watching it every week when I am in on a Thursday. I don't know why. It's hardly good, the stories are always a bit flimsy, and by the end I'm never sure I've even understood what the outcome was.

I studied crime fiction at university - and thoroughly enjoyed it - so I've always had a slight affinity to crime shows, but Old Tricks ticks none of the boxes and yet I still seem to watch it. Dennis Waterman's character is 2D but Amanda Redman is good. One character has disappeared but I am not sure if we know why or not and the other character - played by Alan Armstrong - is always involved in the slightly silly plots - making friends with a radio enthusiast, awkwardly confronting a 'Polish' builder who turns out to be Albanian etc. So all in all, it's a bit weird that I keep watching it. Or, more than that, keep finding myself watching it without every really planning to.

That's all really.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

C is for...

Creativity.

Have you noticed how creative everyone is? Everyone has a good idea, everyone is writing a book, or running a website, or painting, or writing music. Youtube is awash with talented amateurs singing, playing music and other such things. Any journalist you speak to seems to harbour ambitions of writing a novel or a work of non-fiction (I am no different) and so on.

What is creativity anyway? Where do ideas come from. The best book I have read this year was Leviathan (which I wrote several blog posts about). Where did the idea for that book come from? To write an entire book, a 400+ page piece of non-fiction, about whales. Whales. Why? In the bath? On a boat? Driving down the M4. Undoubtedly he had probably always thought whales were fascinating but to final conjure up the whys-and-wherefores of turning it in to a book is something else entirely.

I did creative writing at Cardiff for two years. I always did my best work when I was slightly hung-over, a bit punch drunk. I found my mind would be flitting around on to different subjects and more often than not one would become a credible idea. When I sat down to purposefully write something though, out of this state of mind, I would find inspiration impossible to come by. The shower is also a good place for ideas - although it's hard to write anything down when they do come. Paper goes soggy and laptops break.

And writing it down is the key. If you don't do that the idea always fades, even though when you thought of it, it seemed as if it was so good it would never leave you. I did National Novel Writing Month last year - 52,000 words in one month. It was hard work but the ethos of 'write anything, forget about how good it is' was an important one as it is much easier to go back and edit work you have written, rather than getting snow blindness but just staring at an empty Word document all day - 'you can't edit a blank page'.

Still, my book was terrible and has been consigned to the dustbin of history. But I've got this other idea...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

You're not singing anymore

I went to Arsenal v West Brom last night as part of the usual once-a-year-Arsenal outing to the Carling Cup 3rd round (£10 tickets you see). It's always fun to go and be part of the throng of the crowd, cheer a few goals, boo a few villains etc and enjoy the pre and post match atmosphere.

One of my favourite things at football matches is the chants that make their way around the stadium. There were two good ones last night. At random moments the Arsenal fans would chant 'Who are ya?' at the West Brom fans who, after a moment of silence presented itself, would responded with, 'We are Al-bi-ion, say we are Albion'. It just seems so weirdly banal.

Second was the chant of 'Stand up...if you hate Tottenham, stand up...if you hate TottenHAM' (to the tune of, I believe, Go West). The best bit of this was when, as we started to hear the chant emanating from the other side of the stadium, two lads, no more than five or six-years-old, were the first to stand and in high, falsetto voices, proclaim their hatred for a bunch of people that live just a few miles north of them.

B is for...

Butterscotch.

A last minute request swung this one for me. Remember Angel Delight? I used to love Angel Delight, especially the strawberry flavoured stuff. Chcolate less so, but then I’ve always been a bit odd (apparently) in not liking chocolate based puddings (or not much anyway). Butterscotch though I couldn’t stand. In fact I doubt we had it more than once after the first time due to my protestations that it was ‘the most vile punishment ever ladled out upon man since the Tolpuddle Martyrs.’ I was a weird eight-year-old.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A is for...

It could have been aardvarks, it could have been Anne of Cleves, it could even have been Accrington Stanley, but no. My Great Twitter / Blog Crossover experiment (i.e. asking for people to suggest things beginning with A) resulted in anti-protons. So here are some words about a subject I know nothing about:

Anti-protons. Well, actually I am ProProtons. Or just Protons I suppose. I am also in favour of the unit of measurement known as a tonne. So I am Pro-tonne too. But I am no expert on this and so not a Tonne-pro.

Anti-protons are, actually, the opposite of protons. Obviously. If you wish to make them it's quite simple. Like any good journalist, I have taken the following from Wikipedia:

Their formation requires energy equivalent to a temperature of 10 trillion K (1013K). At CERN, protons are accelerated in the Proton Synchrotron (PS) to an energy of 26 GeV, and then smashed into an iridium rod. The protons bounce off the iridium nuclei with enough energy for matter to be created. A range of particles and antiparticles are formed, and the anti-protons are separated off using magnets in vacuum.

So you need a hoover, a fire and some iridium nuclei (most hardware stores stock this).

Now, before you go off to look for anti-protons you need to know they are really small. Think of a small bird - smaller than that. A grain of sand. Smaller than that. I mean they are really tiny. But if you stare long enough you'll see them dancing around with their little faces smiling up at you. Cute little things they are. In fact it's a little known piece of trivia but the Smiley Face is the exact anatomical structure of the face of an antiproton.

Perhaps I'll do B tomorrow - so if you want to suggest a topic, comment away...

Monday, September 21, 2009

OMG LOLS!

T-Mobile have recently been vox-popping complete morons on the streets of Britain.

They have been doing this to ask them what they would do with free texts for life. The answers I have heard / seen are 'I'd text all my mates about my DJ night', and, 'I'd throw a huge party and invite all my mates'. My favourite is the person who just says, 'I don't know, it's mind-boggling'.

No it isn't. As my brother said to me, 'nothing of importance has ever been sent by text message. It's always stuff like "see you in 5" or "put it on bbc2".'

Spot on. Furthermore, those answers make no sense. If you've got a DJ night on surely you'd tell your mates anyway? What sort of a friend only texts mates about something as important as that (to him presumably) if he can do so via unlimited free texts for life. Similarly, if you have a party you would never decide on who to invite on the basis of the fact you can text everyone for free. It's a party! Send an email, make a phone call, or just take the 10p text hit.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Meeting with disaster

I have always enjoyed a brief flutter on football. Nothing major, just a pound here or there. I do believe though that something is telling me to give up. Here are some bets I have lost recently.

In April I put a pound on a six way accumulator at 65-1 and with 5 results in the final score was 3-1 to the team I needed to win. There was 25 minutes to play and the other team came back to 3-3. Annoying.

Yesterday I had a four way accumulator at 24 to 1. With three games won, the fourth was one minute from finishing at the result I needed when Bolton equalised in the last minute of time to ruin that one.

Today, and this is the one that has a real air of finality about it, I had a hugely random, gut feeling 50p on United and City to draw 3-3 at 70 to 1. So £35 for 50p stake. This happened.

I've won some other smaller bets of six or seven quid but nothing of note. Winning 30+ is enough to cover tube travel or a weekly shop. You should understand I am not bitter, I am open enough to accept the money was never really mine and I have lost nothing (bar a pound or two) and I know gambling is for mugs, as the above proves, but there are some times when I do wonder if the fates have it in for me.

Or...perhaps they are saving me up for one massive pay day in the future...

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

Okay so the last line doesn't apply, but Kipling didn't live in the world of blogging and internet gambling.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A thousand monkeys...

Once, there was a monkey tribe who feared another monkey tribe. For you see, the second tribe had big stones they could throw quite far - far enough to hit the first tribe. The first tribe also had these weapons, had had them first in fact, but was a sensible tribe, with no rogue elements so that was okay.

To counter this risk the first tribe decided to ask another, independent tribe, if they could store some of their special stones in their land to be able to knock the rogue tribe's stones out of the air if they were ever thrown.

But, another tribe, who the first tribe had once been at war with, but had now become friends again - eaten some bananas together, picked nits etc - said, 'you can't do that, you might be tricking us and wanting to throw them at us!'. That idea didn't work.

So on it went, with stones stored in each country, tribe I mean, and each tribe was able to aim at each other tribe and each tribe claimed they had the best interests of their people in their actions, monkeys I mean, and so they looked at each other, all hoarding stones behind their backs, saying ' you shouldn't have those stones, you could have someone's eye out'.

But no one would give up their stones, so they continued to hoard them and now all the monkeys have stones and none will give up their stones, even though if they were to ever throw a stone the entire rain forest would be destroyed, forever.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Surgically...

Dan Brown is back (and this time he's personal). I read the Da Vinci Code (The answer was Paris, or Jesus, or birth. I forget) many years ago when it first came out because after a scathing, withering put-down of the book by my Dad (which included the family-famous line of 'Up yours ratso!') I felt compelled to read it. Funny how recommendations work isn't it?

Books. They've become massive again, to the point where that isn't even an issue. Harry Potter and Dan Brown - two insufferable people who have changed the face of publishing, in some ways. I can't stand HP and I'll happily never read another DB book. I've always wanted to watch the Da Vinci movie though after I heard that, apparently, during the press screening all the critics laughed at the line "Quick, to a library!" Who couldn't?

I am off to the Tate Britain in a moment where perhaps I will encounter a dying curator with a strange, cryptic message on the floor beside him and a beautiful yet highly talented female cryptologist will enter the room and together we'll decipher a series of yadda yadda yadda...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Unexpected item in bagging area

Many years ago, well about five, I worked in ASDA on the tills. Oh, the times I had. But, like all good things, it came to an end. And, as I walked off into the sunset, waving once more to my green clothed colleagues and kicked my heels I thought, "Well, there's the obligatory supermarket job done, no more for me the scanning and packing of items..."

But, the supermarkets, not content with near world wide domination of our eating habits, have decided they can get us to do our own scanning and packing too. The self-service machines are the new choice of payment for today's fast-paced, latte drinking, 24/7, news junkies, as they are quicker and faster, and importantly involve no human interaction whatsoever.

What has happened to us? Why are we so keen to embrace this? We are slaves to the supermarkets already but now we're doing what is paid work for free. Up with this, we should not put.

I would suggest one of the two following options.

1) For using self-service you should get 1% off your bill. This won't be much each time you go, but over a year could add up to several pounds - about the same as an hour of work at the supermarket - which leads on to idea two...

2) They could time you from the moment you place an item down to the moment payment is made. They then work out what they would have paid you for this pro rata and this should come off the next bill.

On another, but relevant, point: Why do they say 'Unexpected item in bagging area". It's always something you've picked up in store so why is it so unexpected?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The end of (summer) days

I think the summer has ended. The last two weekends have had a mad end of summer holidays feel to them. London has been buzzing, more than usual, and there's been an air of congeniality usually not associated with the city - I've had more random conversations in two weeks than in 12 months.

Sitting on Southwark Bridge on Saturday afternoon, closed to traffic and home to a big street party event with alcohol and food, animals and wine pressing, there was a languid, soporific feel to it all, as if we knew this was the last warm sun of the year. Then on Sunday it was a brisk, fresh day with coats out in force and the sun's rays nowhere to be seen.

Now it's time for rain lashing windows, wind swirling fallen leaves across pavements, tube stations offering warmth and shelter (rather than stifling heat and imprisonment) and the ever-growing darkness as the sun's arc heads to its winter solstice.

Londoners do look smarter in the winter though. All scarves and coats, not flip-flops and shorts.

Photo round-up



Went to the Thames Festival on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. It was absolutely brilliant, with great food, music, fire and fireworks, and a great example of the never-ending cycle of London events that fill every weekend in the capital. A bunch of pictures to illustrate this.

Rowers / mad escapologist / carnival man / flaming orb / southwark bridge transformed x 3



















Friday, September 11, 2009

True stories

It was only after the movie Forest Gump, and the famous saying “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” that chocolate manufacturers starting putting menu sheets in the boxes, having been alerted to this oversight.

The term Stand-up Comedy has only existed since 1971 when experimental comic JB Wollington (know to his fans as The Wolly) first performed standing up at a gig in Bristol. He was booed off stage within three minutes but the idea caught on. Before then all comedy gigs took place with the audience standing and the comedian sitting down which made Sit-Down Comedy hugely intimidating.

Where was I?

Talking about planes. That's what I was doing. Sounds made up but it's true. Just about how great it would be to own a private jet so you could fly to London from Cornwall, rather than taking the train. Why we were actually talking about this though is beyond me now.

Then a call from across the common room and on to an entire afternoon of confusion, bewilderment. And this was for people in Cornwall so far removed from the epicentre. Yet the same reaction for people in Times Square, Beijing, Kiev, no doubt.

There were so many ridiculous things that happened that afternoon. We had to go to geography and on arriving I informed the teacher of what was taking place. He was disinterested and refused to put the television on. I urged him this was massive news, we should watch, so he relented and put it on silent. Half-way through learning about central business districts we noticed that the Pentagon had been hit too. Still nothing registered on the geography teacher.

The next day, as confusion still reigned, our English teacher scrapped his lesson plan to look at the Iraq war, and poetry inspired by it, to give us some context of maybe why the day before had happened. His understand was stark contrast to that of Mr Geography.

Strange days.

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