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. 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...


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...


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...


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 is a large city on the 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...


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...


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

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


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...


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...


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...


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


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...


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...


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.