Friday, August 28, 2009

Hello! Goodbye!

On the trail of some wellington boots (not for me) I found myself entering a Hawkshead - a shop that sells some of the worst clothing on the high-street. As I walked in they were playing Hello Goodbye by The Beatles (not one of their best numbers it has to be said; Lennon begged McCartney not to release it as he thought it was so bad). But, in a jovial spirit, I found myself unconsciously nodding along, tapping my feet, perhaps clapping a little, singing at the top of my voice and bouncing around in amongst the short-sleeved checked shirts and white slacks (50% off).

The women behind the counter spotted my engagement with the music and said, in a flat tone of voice, 'Like The Beatles do we?' 'Yes indeed' I replied, with a hint of sarcasm, as if asking someone if they like The Beatles was akin to asking someone if they thought breathing was fun. A few seconds passed, there was a strange lull, as if she was expecting something more, so I added (with another veneer of sarcasm), 'They seem rather popular don't they?'

The women nodded: 'We had a chap about your age working here recently who made this CD for the shop. He liked The Beatles too. I can't stand them though,' she said, bringing the conversation to an abrupt end. Hello Goodbye indeed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Homeward Bound

Today I return to the fair shire of Cornwall for a few days of walking and boating and celebrating of parent’s birthdays. Should be nice. It does mean a four-and-a-half hour train journey after work but that’s usually a nice chance to do some reading and listen to some new albums. Also there’s a lovely bit of coastline the train hugs from Exeter down to Plymouth which time wise I should be passing towards sunset, so hopefully some stunning views on offer.

Enjoy the rest of the working week.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Book worm

I read Ghostwritten by David Mitchell last week. It's the fourth book of his I've read, after (in order) Cloud Atlas, Number 9 Dream and Black Swan Green. I enjoyed it a lot, probably my second favourite after Black Swan Green - which I would highly recommend.

I'm now reading American Pastoral by Phillip Roth. Did you know he was Jewish? I had no idea. Twice I've been reading so intently that the tube has jolted off with me not clinging to the bars for grim death so I've been sent careering down the carriage, my hands flailing wildly for something to grab on to, before righting myself and then acting as nonchalantly as possible as if nothing has happened. But I know they are sniggering; but they are reading the Metro so I don't care.

I'll have a review of Leviathan I did for a London fanzine called Tally Ho! out on the streets of East London soon, and they've promised me a PDF so I can put it up here too. Hooray.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Number crunching

I went to Guildford on Saturday, for the second time in my life, to cover the Guildford Hard as Snails 10km for Runner's World. It started at 9am so I was up at 6am. I did it in 49.40 finishing 79th from 350 odd runners.

Guildford seems like a nice place; a canal, rowing club, rolling countryside. After the race I was able to buy a lovely pasty from a West Cornwall Pasty Company store for £3.30, and then travel back into London with a bunch of Portsmouth fans heading to Arsenal, where they lost 4-1, who were all on the lager by 10:50am.

Friday, August 21, 2009


‘You alright Geoff?’
‘Ah Brian, God I’m glad you’re here.’
‘What are you doing, what’s all this paper?’
‘It’s the internet.’
‘The internet?’
‘Yes. It’s printing off.’
‘You’re printing the internet?’
‘Yes, I don’t know how it happened.’
‘What do you mean you don’t know how it happened?’
‘I don’t know alright. I just clicked some button or something and it started printing it off. Just help will you; I need to get it in piles to keep some semblance of order.’
‘Alright, alright calm down. How long have you been here?’
‘About 45 minutes.’
‘Christ, how much paper has it used up?’
‘This is the 47th ream.’
‘Holy crap. And what site are you on now?’
‘Er…*a rustling of paper*’
‘Oh dear.’
‘I know.’

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blog looked for a place to sit

Hello again. Yesterday I promised you some thoughts on magazine captions. Here they are:

In many magazines aimed at men, either self-professed lads' mags, or magazines for men that have a veneer, or even facade, of being upmarket, there is golden rule they all follow blindly. Hilarious captions. Every picture must have a side-splittingly funny caption. This is because, you see, men like humour. Of course we do. We like drinking lager, staring at women, and laughing. Ideally at the expense of our mates when they do Something Stupid.

As such, magazine chiefs believe that by giving every picture a witty, offbeat, irreverent caption, they are appealing to LADS! enjoyment. But they're wrong. It's just bloody annoying. I don't need every picture to have a caption, and I certainly don't need them all to be jokes. In fact, the effect is cheapened by having every caption trying to be your friend because if there is one or two genuinely wry observations on an amusing quirk in an image they are buried beneath the avalanche of mediocre ones on every page.

Worst, and Shortlist does this a lot, the writers often give an inanimate object a personality, or an essence of being 'alive', by capitalising the word. So, for example, a ladder becomes "Ladder" and the caption could read. "Ladder wished he'd gone to Spain on holiday" or something equally banal. There was even a job advertised for Shortlist in which you had to submit your own "Shortlist style caption" for a picture of Tim Lovejoy.

Here's mine: Tim wondered why there was a game of PacMan on his t-shirt.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

400 posts

What have I learned from writing 400 blog posts? Not much. Well, a little...

You can't make any money from this, unless you bombard it with Google ads, and you probably need to specalise your subject matter too, while regular readers of this blog will know I write about pretty much anything. This blog was started as part of a course requirement at Cardiff University. Everyone else seemed to think it was a chore, but I really enjoyed it. There are only a few of us going now; myself, Mr Severs, and Mr Dando (sometimes). There may be more but I don't know of them. Apologies to my old course mates if so.

When I tried to focus it around media and entertainment issues I would often leave it untouched for days. Now though, I just write about whatever the hell I want and it's far more enjoyable. And it seems to generate more followers and higher hit rates than previously. I'd like to think the unknown (the unknown unknowns and known unknowns etc) of what's coming next keeps people coming back. I should credit Mr Five Centres for this somewhat as his blog is so hard to predict what's coming next - yesterday it was cereals - that it keeps you coming back and is very engaging And so I started to imitate this, but in my own way too.

Check back tomorrow when I'll tell you why I am sick of every magazine that thinks it's funny putting 'hilarious' captions on every single picture.

Was this profound or was it banal - or somewhere in between?

Image: Britain in the year 400.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Have a good time™

Look at this image. Look specifically to the middle right and you can just make out the phrase 'Have a Good Time'. And if you squint even harder, you may just notice the faint outline of the ™ symbol at the end. You may have seen it on the televisual coverage too. It's on the media packs as well.

Are the organisers of the Berlin World Athletics Championship really trying to claim a trademark on a phrase as banal as 'have a good time'? Was that the best motto a - no doubt - highly-paid group of creative and media types could come up with?

What next? Have Fun™? Hello!™

Monday, August 17, 2009


Did you see Usain Bolt last night? Man. That. Was. Fast.

The collective awe from the stadium and on the internet was palpable, reaching the top of the Twitter trending topics almost as quickly as he'd run; and knowing millions around the world had watched it too, all dumbstruck by the sight of another human being running faster than anyone has ever run before, was somehow exhilarating too.

Meantime, I've written a piece for runners on sirjogalot (a website run by a nice chap I met through Twitter and then subsequently in real life, who also ran the London Marathon back in May) on tips to help break Personal Bests or PBs that includes an obligatory reference to Usain Bolt. Read it here.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Sad news that Les Paul died yesterday, at a fair old innings of 94. The man invented the best guitar ever seen. Look at it. It's the coolest, most rock and roll guitar ever. I have an epiphone and bloody love it. It's a bit heavy, and finger picking on it is basically pointless, but who cares. If you want to do that you can get an acoustic. You can see me in action on mine here (sound not amazing as on my brother's puny amp and recorded on a digital camera - but otherwise pretty good I think).


I'm quite excited. Why, I hear you think? Because my favourite no-one-else-has-heard-of-them-band are about to release their second album. Yes, that's right, The Soft Hearted Scientists are back!

This Welsh three-piece first popped up on my musical radar some two years ago when a copy of 'Take Time to Wonder in a Whirling World' fell through my letter box for reviewing. It was the first album I ever, or have ever, awarded five stars (partly because other sites I've written for don't do the star system). Sadly the site I wrote this for went through a drastic overhaul and now doesn't list music reviews. Needless to say though that review was so good, you would have bought the album there and then if you read it. Maybe.

Basically the sound is folky-pop but with a hint of psychedelia, in the sense that they use shimmering piano chords, effect heavy guitar solos (to good effect, not over the top) and have some of the most interesting, diverse, and clever lyrics I've heard - referencing everything from the evolution of Earth, Roman ruins, stars, planets, reality TV, the A470 and asking, 'who wants to be the last of anything?'

They themselves have said the band was formed on the idea that, "it would be cool to try and make music that conveyed even five percent of the feeling you get when you see shooting stars whooshing across a night sky in a distant place far away from home."

There aren't many bands who say things like that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A tall tale

When you're 17 and you haven't seen an elderly relative for sometime they will often say 'My, how you've grown!'. That's fair enough. Between 13 and 21 the human body goes, well, basically mental. However, from 21 onwards it all pretty much calms down. This includes growing.

Yet, as a tall person at 6ft 2" - hardly NBA standard, but enough to mean I can reach top shelf items (oo er missus) - I sometimes think short people, or people below six feet, have a short-term memory problem. Every time I meet up with someone I haven't seen for about a month they say "have you grown again?!" or "God, you're so tall aren't you?!' almost in disbelief, as if the last time they saw me at this same height was a trick of the light or the cause of a slanted pavement. It's not annoying, it's just odd.

You don't see a short friend you haven't seen for a while and say 'You're so short aren't you, shorty?" or a friend who's bald and say, incredulously, "Have you lost more hair?!" But tall people seem to have to suffer the endless shock and surprise of those beneath them who just can't believe that someone is taller than them and yet is exactly the same height as they were the last time they saw you.

Well, I've got news for you. I'm not growing any taller, you're shrinking.


The great thing about capitalism is that it makes you realise there are things you want that you never would have considered before. Hence this tube shower curtain, something that would never have crossed my mind, is now something I want.

Not in a grab-with-both-hands-I-need-possessions to-complete-my-life-way, but just in a 'wouldn't it be fun to have this?' way. You could work your route out on a night out while showering beforehand.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The White Whale!

Just finished reading Moby-Dick. Hell of a read. The whole thing spirals off in myriad direction, mostly concerning whales and whaling, but also taking in religion, fate and so on. At times the plot is as elusive as the white whale himself.

There are some wonderful descriptions throughout the book though; one chapter in particular concerns what it's like to be atop the mainmast and says, essentially, that it's so soporific and beguiling, to be standing above such a vast expanse of blue with the entire planet wheeling away beneath you, that you risk losing your footing and falling if you allow yourself to be too drawn in. I read this section while on the tube, about as disparate a place as you could be from such a lofty perch - where instead of a fine salty air it is the sweat of a fellow traveller that wafts into your nostrils - and yet I could conjure up the image, almost placing myself there, with ease. At 600+ pages and written in a distinctly old style of writing it's not an 'easy read' though.

This will sound horribly modern and Hollywood, but they could make an excellent film adaptation of this, as long as they cast it correctly and didn't over do it with explosions and what not. However, knowing Hollywood, they almost certainly would.

Thar she blows!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Upon us all a little rain must fall

On Thursday in London it rained. I mean, it really rained. No, forget what you thought you knew about...okay I'll stop there. Everyone knows what serious rain is like. The kind of rain that actually hurts as it hits you with such speed and regularity.

Yet at the same time there's something exhilarating about such incessant, crashing rain. Something terrifying and primeval, as if reducing us again to mere dumb animals being ruled over by the arbitrary force of nature; something that in many other aspects we seem to have such control over. Or believe we do.

Of course in Britain we're lucky that our weather rarely risks our lives, unlike those in other parts of the world, so we are able to dash about madly in the rain, laughing, seeking shelter, secretly enjoying being absolutely soaked through: once you're resigned to it, you might as well embrace it.

Saying that I had an umbrella so didn't get wet at all.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Cover judging

Another Guardian blog, this time about album covers and some jokes included too.

Read here and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What'd I miss?

Hello. I've been oh so busy lately. I can't even remember what I've done recently that I could blog about. I'm trying so hard to update this thing daily - why I've no idea, I don't get paid and barely anyone reads it - but I can't tear myself away.

I'm reading Moby Dick. It's good, although written in ye olde English so harder going than most books. Still, good to have said you've read one of the classics right? And what I don't know about whales and whaling now...well, it's not worth knowing.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Too cool for school

Went to a 'trendy' bar on Saturday night in Covent Garden. For trendy read: overpriced, small, dismissive staff, no dance floor, weird music... So left and went to an indie club playing the likes of Beat It by Jacko and Come On Eileen, and even Three Lions, and where the pints come in plastic glasses and people have no pretensions about being drunk. Much better. Although was expensive to get in. So, who wins? I don't know.

In fact, why the hell do we pay money to get drunk. I felt terrible yesterday and still am knackered today.

Also, last night I watched Man On Wire. Man it was good. Strangely moving too, and wonderfully soundtracked. Finally - do you remember your teeth fall out when you're young. Weird that isn't it? What a strange evolutionary habit to develop. Ah well.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Ah the world, oh the whale

I finished Leviathan or, The Whale this weekend. One of the best books I have read in a long time. Award winning too.

Part history of whales and whaling (an industry seemingly forgotten, but at one point one of the world's most important), part history of Moby Dick and its author, and part meditation on the being and essence of whales, and their interaction with man through time, it is an utterly beguiling read; evocative and strange; mysterious and elegant; poetic, sad, brutal, uplifting and tragic in the same paragraphs on numerous occasions.

Whaling; think: men in rowing boats approaching animals weighing 60 tonnes, of 60ft, 70ft, 80ft in length, armed with harpoons to be propelled by their own strength, and nothing more. All to catch and brutally kill a creature whose oil was as valuable as gold. Being rammed, drowned, swallowed alive all a serious risk; at sea for three to five years. A way of life for hundreds of years. The first oil that made America a powerhouse.

Facts too: the world's official clock is lubricated with whale oil . The internal workings of the Hubble telescope have whale oil inside them. Up there, a whale orbits the earth; Douglas Adams was closer to the truth than he knew.

Unique, interesting, strange and compelling, this book is the best £6.29 you could spend.