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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

September 29, 2004

Space Weasel

Great story in the Guardian on how Blair refused to say sorry in his speech yesterday.

This is the true way of the weasel. First of all, brief journalists that you're going to apologise. Then, in your speech, mention the word apology, but don't actually apologise. In fact, refuse to apologise.

And because journalists are inherently sloppy and lazy, for the first few newsbite hours at least, you'll be reported as having apologised (because that's how they were briefed), which will seem magnanimous, but your opponents won't be able to point to an actual form of words. And your thick supporters, bless them, won't be able to tell the difference, so they'll keep saying you apologised (if that's what they wanted to hear) even though you didn't.

Tony Blair freaks me out, appearance-wise. He's got those little teddy bear button eyes, they're like little black dots and don't look remotely human. And his skin and features look oddly inhuman as well. Pressures of office, probably. Mrs Thatch looked weirder as time went on. Blair looks like he stepped off one of whitely Strieber's flying saucers. Half human, half weasel.

September 27, 2004

Luton voted Britain's worst town

According to BBC NEWS, Luton has been voted Britain's worst town by the same self-appointed experts who did the last list. As the guy in the article says, hardly scientific, but I can speak from experience. I've lived in two of this year's top ten worst towns, and I can only agree with their placement.

Luton was a shite town even when Vauxhall was open, but now they don't even have the benefit of Vauxhall jobs. Dumpstable, right next door, deserves to be on the list, too, though it's obviously included by association.

September 24, 2004

iPod Bubble Bursts

So the backlash begins. In subtle ways at first, and then more stridently, the iPod trend is over. Have Apple realised? Do they have a contingency plan? See: Guardian Unlimited | Arts Friday Review | Boy in a bubble
The music lent some kind of dramatic import to what I was experiencing. Without it, I felt empty. Mostly, I now realise, it just made my days feel like some cheesy Dawson's Creek episode."

And, more in-depth and industry-focused:
The Register analyses the future of the music industry
Of course, the industry won't ever go for Orlowski's suggestions, which are surely made in jest more than anything. But that figure, of around, £10,000 to fill an iPod to capacity (if you do it legally) should give people pause. Have I spent that much on music in my lifetime? Probably. But will I spend it again? Certainly not.

September 23, 2004

Too Fascinating

My mandolin has just arrived. I haven't seen it yet, but it was cheap. In the meantime, feast your eyes (and ears) on the Providence RI mandolin orchestra. Check out the Press Photos for a view of a mando-bass and listen to the MP3 samples to experience the full horror.

Notice the strange man in dark glasses to the rear of the orchestra - he's obviously been photoshopped into the picture! It's like the Sgt Pepper cover.

Needless to say, my plans for the mando are on a somewhat lower scale. More plinky plink plink plink, if you know what I mean.

BBC Bites Back

From: Rob
Email address: [hidden]
Url: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/golf/3682114.stm
The URL referred to here is just one example of many. Headline: "Singh Eyes Earnings Record." Yesterday it was "Khan Eyes Professional Bid." A day or so before that, "McLaren Eye Shanghai Test." And on and on. What's all this about eyes? Is it a verb? No. Is it a cliché? Yup. Do you use it too much? Oh, yes. Search for the word "eyes" on your site and you'll find 143 pages of hits - an awful lot of them sporting headlines. Gemmil Eyes New Deal. Tinnion Eyes Henderson. Glamorgan Eye Victory. Is this some kind of running joke? Or could you perhaps use some other senses? Keene Nuts Passer-by. Clough Noses Heaven. Fate Fingers Ferdinand. Ericsson Ears Voices....*


Thanks for your email - your examples of alternative headlines certainly tickled us in the BBC Sport office!

The reason we sometimes use words like "eyes" in headlines is due to the need for brevity. As well as appearing on the website, these headlines are also used on other platforms, like mobile phones and Ceefax. Some of these other platforms have limited space for headlines and there is a strict limit on the number of characters they can contain - which is why we sometimes have to find short words to do the job of longer ones. So rather than being cliches, we prefer to think of words like this as clear, concise abbreviations.

But you make a very pertinent point and it is one we will take on board. We are always looking to improve the quality of our service.


*Big thanks to Roy for the use of alternative senses and the joke about earing voices. We love you Roy.

BBC Noses Ahead in Cliche Use

No comment required: BBC SPORT | Golf | Singh eyes earnings record. Christ.

September 22, 2004

BBC Web Editor Eyes New Cliche

Dear BBC:

Spot the difference between this: Motorsport | Formula One | McLaren eye Shanghai test; and this: Boxing | Khan eyes professional bid.

Yes, that's right, there is no difference, because they are both STUPID HEADLINES. What does "eye" mean? Hmmm? Is it a verb now? Because it's not one I've ever heard in, you know, actual human speech as it is spoken.

Here are some other suggestions for eye-related headlines:

  • Clough Eyes Heaven (or Hell)
  • Keane Eyes Assault Charge
  • Enraged Blogger Pokes Eyes Out
Here are some others you may have missed. Really.
Do I need to go on? Notice, these stories are all from September 2004. Search for the word "eyes" on the BBC web site, and you'll discover 143 pages of hits. Wanna bet how many of them are sporting headlines? No, nor me.

Eyes on the prize, people.

September 21, 2004

Heal th Matters

A lot of you have written to ask how the old blood pressure and cholesterol test went. I still have a big bruise, by the way, from the needle-digging ham-fisted nurse who took the blood.

I was at the doctors yesterday morning for the results, and everything is more or less fine. My blood pressure, amazingly, was completely normal (and effect of the weekend? Perhaps, though it wasn't exactly stress-free); and my cholesterol is just 0.3 over the "safe" level. The doctor basically said there was nothing that warranted any treatment and so I was dismissed.

I'm supposed to go back in 3 months, but, quite honestly, it's a total waste of time, isn't it? I've been through this whole thing twice this year with the same outcome.

I'm not entirely sure if the Benecol drinks are working or not, but I'll err on the side of "can't do any harm" and keep it up, though I've switched to the Flora equivalent for now. I'm looking for that perfect dietary balance between chips and cholesterol-reducing plant esters.

So it's just the brain tumour to worry about for now.

September 17, 2004

Leonard Cohen at 70

I'm not a fan of his, as you know, but this tribute in the Guardian is a diverting read. If I were him, though, I would find it depressing that the most popular downloads are, you know, Suzanne, and, y'know, Hallelujah. Just because of what it tells you about humanity. A bit like Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers in the top ten Country downloads on iTunes.

Rat Stories

Someone here has a gf with pet rats - he's told her, you can't move in until the rats die. I'd agree with that, but I'd add, "You can't move in until all rats die." Because, frankly, the world doesn't need people who think keeping rats as pets is somehow acceptable. I mean, they're rats. It's like having a pet cancer tumour.

I've been lucky not to see too many rats in my life, but when I do, I react as I imagine cavemen might have reacted to wolves. My blood runs cold. I feel an urge to light a fire and hit something with a mammoth femur.

Years ago, down in Kent, a friend and I set off for a country pub for a long session, arriving a little before opening time. Older readers might remember that pubs didn't used to be open all day, and in fact might not open till something like 6 or 7 pm, especially on a Sunday.

So we went for a walk down the lane, 10 minutes to kill, and we came to a field that had been used to grow potatoes. But something had gone wrong, the field was waterlogged or something, so the farmer had ploughed the spuds up and left them in pyramid-shaped piles around the field. So we walked into this field to take a look (I dunno, maybe wanted to see what was wrong with the taters), but as we approached the first pile, a fucking HUGE rat bounded away. And then another, and another. We were in the middle of the field now, and as we turned round through 360°, we had one of those Brian DePalma moments. There were freaking HUNDREDS of massive rats running away from all the piles of potatoes. And I know people always say they were the "size of a cat," but these were. Really. Maybe an effect of the twilight, but, they did indeed appear to be the size of cats.

Years after this, I was briefly in Illinois one summer, and it was a summer as wet as the one we've just had. During one downpour, I saw through the screen door what looked like a rat running across the road outside and my blood turned cold all over again. Turned out to be a squirrel with a wet tail. Which is why squirrels should be red - grey ones are a crime against nature.

September 16, 2004

Johnny Ramone

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Punk legend Johnny Ramone dies. Tommy is the only survivor of the original band.

Foxy Ladies

Tell you what, Tony, set the dogs on the toff bastards and their forelock-tugging followers. Bloody farmers. Spending our EU subsidies on oats for horses (= future dog food) and, dammit, dog food as well!

Set the dogs on 'em. Give them a taste etc etc. And send them back home with their bloody tractors and green wellies up their arses.

September 15, 2004

Don't ask me how

But I just came across Mugshots.com, which is a diverting half-hour.


Obviously I've got a vested interest in reading articles about too much salt in the diet and high blood pressure etc. I love the theory that babies get hooked on salt in the womb, depending on how sick their mother was:
"dehydration linked with vomiting might have something to do with a fondness for salt."
But, in a way, I have some sympathy with the view that salt is not the problem - that some people are just ill. For years and years I haven't eaten much salt. Don't put much in food when I'm cooking and never add it afterwards. It's hard to see how much more I could cut out of my diet. I guess there's the problem of prepared foods, and it's hard to keep track of what you're eating. Breakfast cereals can contain a lot of salt, for example, which in some cases you'd think would be good for you. But I tend to eat something like a bagel for breakfast (0.8g).

I had a gammon steak the other day that was like a giant salt tablet, and of course a fondness for BLTs is potentially fatal. I'm just not sure I'm eating too much overall.

Hmmmm.... BLT....

September 14, 2004

Pentax Optio MX4

I love the looks of the Pentax Optio MX4. I always wanted a cine camera. Used to have one actually, a clockwork one. I never bothered to put any film in it, as I didn't (and knew I wouldn't have) projection facilities. I used to just wind it up and pretend. I was around 20 years old at the time. I liked the noise it made.

Mad People

From the Guardian: What people complain about on the telly:
An episode of EastEnders prompted a complaint that it showed people drinking from bottles rather than glasses and was therefore responsible for teenagers 'acting like tramps'."

Quite rightly so, I say. And I love the fact that so many people complain when so-called "breaking news" interrupts a programme. Nothing's so important that it can't wait, and, anyway, they always get everything completely garbled in the first couple of hours. They should learn to take a breath, wait for the news slot, and get it right.

September 13, 2004

Er... No

I hate to shatter everyone's illusions, but I'll eat my racket if Andrew Murray amounts to anything in senior tennis. I mean, he's 17 and in the juniors, whereas the really good 17/18 year olds have been playing in the senior tour for a year or more.

He won because he's 17. How old was Boris Becker when he won (senior) Wilmbledon? Murray is like the Big Kid who had to do the same year at school twice.

September 10, 2004


Good review of Super Size Me in the Guardian:
If only McDonald's wasn't so tasty. This is the only thing preventing me from fully endorsing Spurlock's denunciation. It's easy to forget just how horrible burgers were in this country before the American invasion in the 1970s. I remember the first time I had a Burger King in the US in 1977, having previously only tasted the concrete turds that used to be on offer in the dire Wimpy Bar restaurant in Watford. It was an epiphany comparable to one experienced by my father, during the second world war when he realised that GIs had uniforms of superior material and cut than those of our officers: America was better than us!"

I can't agree with Peter Bradshaw wholeheartedly. Actually, Burger King always tastes better. McDonald's does have an addictive quality. But until you've tried a Quick'n'Toast from the French/Belgian chain, you haven't lived. Quick'n'Toast pays homage to the original spirit of the burger, using two sliced of Nimble-type toasted bread, with a delicious sauce and salad - and it comes with a cardboard tube around it, so it keeps its shape and looks like the one in the restaurant photos.

8-hour battery

It's always been my contention that laptop computers are a pain in the arse until battery life is improved. Given how compromised the performance is whilst running on battery, it's a necessity to have the thing plugged in (with an external hard drive also plugged in) if you want to do anything serious like audio or video.

So it's nice to see that new solutions are round the corner. I hate Li-ion batteries, they're so flaky (still) and unforgiving. For example, last night my phone was on charge from about 8pm until 7pm this morning, and it was still flashing that it wasn't fully charged. Yet at the weekend, it decided it was fully charged after a couple of hours. What gives? I don't want to have to think about the care and welfare of my batteries, thanks. I've got more important things on my mind.

Still, there's a long time to go. These new zinc-plastic batteries are good for 500 charge-cycles, apparently, which only works out at 16 months or so.

Fly Eating Robot

Originally blogged by Guardian online's blog the idea of a fly-eating robot is fascinating. If you could train it to eat biscuit crumbs and stuff as well, you could have it cleaning the house. And you'd never have to wash the dishes again.

September 09, 2004


Had a(nother) blood test yester, but for some reason the nurse couldn't find a vein willing to give up the necessary three vials. Probably all collapsed because of my life-long smack habit.

Anyway, she made one hole, which didn't work, though she had a good dig around with the needle before I yelped. I think she was trying to penetrate the left ventricle of my heart. From my right arm.

So then she made another hole, in the other arm, and got one single vial out before the vein collapsed or something. And left me with a grape-sized lump and incipient bruise on that arm. Finally, she made a 3rd hole in the first arm again, and managed to get two further vials.

Blood test is another cholesterol, blood-sugar etc., type test because we've moved house and so changed doctors. And apparently it's quicker for me to go through the 3-blood-pressure-and-a-blood-test rigamarole than it would be to just get my notes from my old doctor.

My blood pressure, now, is higher than it was back, when? (consults blog) It was February/March, so not that long ago. My blood test then confirmed slightly-higher-than-is-quite-safe cholesterol, and I've been trying those Benecol yoghurt drinks ever since. So it'll be interesting to see if it's actually worked.

So, hypertension? What gives? Stress, partly, I'm sure. And inheritance, no doubt. I try to learn to relax, but I'm not very good at it. I can give the appearance of stillness, but the mind is racing. There's a device you can buy that helps you train your breathing so that you reduce your BP, supposedly. 15 minutes a day, which seems only reasonable, but it costs 300 dorrar.

Park It

Australians have a lot of words for vomit (noun and verb), don't they? I mean, there are a fair few native (UK) words, but we've also adopted loads from down under.

I haven't known many Australians, try to avoid them where possible, but I was taught art history by one one time. She was a graduate student and I was around the same age, what used to be called a mature student, though the ones I knew weren't very. You know who I'm talking about.

Anyway, we went out for a movie and a meal, nothing fancy. We were sitting down in front of our whatever-it-was and curly fries and she said, conversation-opening gambit, "How many words do you have for vomit?"

Not many, as it turned out, as she reeled off a list of her own. My favourite was the verb, to park the tiger. I've often wondered how they came up with that one.

September 08, 2004


Extraordinarily literal underground film club found in Paris. Yes, really, the only remotely "underground" thing about it is that it's... under the ground. Perhaps we could start such a club in our back car park.
There exist, however, several secretive bands of so-called cataphiles, who gain access to the tunnels mainly after dark, through drains and ventilation shafts, and hold what in the popular imagination have become drunken orgies but are, by all accounts, innocent underground picnics."

Whatever happened to Alistair Crowley?

September 07, 2004


Did a thing the other night, due to circumstances beyond, that I had not done for years, which is ride my bike in the dark without lights. Plus I'd had a couple-three glasses of wine.

Which is nothing. But it struck me, in my heightened state of consciousness, that I always feel more or less the same on a bike. Obviously, I've been riding bikes all my life, and unlike many adults, I've used bikes to commute (around 12 miles per day for several years), and it's still my favourite/only form of exercise - in spite of the pain in my knees, hips, etc.

I feel about 17. Because I think that age is the height of self-consciousness, about the time when a lot of people will stop riding to protect what they think of as their dignity. Because at that age, you feel like nothing so much as a Church of England vicar doing the Parish rounds.

So I'm not saying that I feel good, or better, nothing like that. It's not an entirely comfortable feeling, no, but the years do fall away.
Well when it smells like rain and the clouds are grey
My raggy tee-shirt been thrown away
I wanna walk my bike to dig the rocking band
Wanna kick my kickstand in the sand

September 06, 2004

Too posh to nosh

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
Went to Waitrose on Saturday - a fantastic supermarket if you are the kind of person who uses £10 notes instead of toilet paper. The psychology of the Waitrose shopper is that, you want the same as they have in Tesco, only better quality. If not better quality, then sufficiently different to justify a higher price tag.

For example. Pre-packaged Caesar salad (which doesn't contain any actual Roman emperors). In Tesco, the parmesan cheese in the little plastic pouch is of the grated variety. In Waitrose, it is of the flaked. You know, for flakes.

I have to say, the bread and stuff in Waitrose is much nicer, and of course their ready meals are to die for.

By coincidence, my sister paid a visit to another Waitrose on the same day. And I was delighted to see her arrive home with Posh Person's Barbecue Briquettes. Because ordinary charcoal is just not good enough. I mean, it's lumpwood. No, Waitrose offer briquettes made from Olive and Walnut wood.



Absolutely outrageous Photo of the Day over at Steve's Digicams.

September 03, 2004

New Cubase

Today's underwhelming news - a new version of Cubase. Note that minimum system requirements for Mac is G4 867MHz, with Dual G5 1.8GHz recommended. Which kinda gives you pause for thought.

A few more features added that are already in Pro Tools etc. Like, ooh, being able to edit a midi track in the main window. But I bet you still can't record a virtual instrument directly to an audio track. I bet you still have to go into the "pool," wherever that is.

Poison Ality

I watched the BBC Personality Test programme last night, What Am I Like?, which was entertaining.

I turn out to be an Idealist - Spontaneous* - Ideas - Heart - Introvert.

Which I've not too much of an argument with. But some of the sets of questions were frustrating, as I'm sure they were for all people, because I didn't fit any of them. There was no accounting to having a mind like a steel trap, is what I think. What I mean is, I'm spontaneous, sure, but only because I can think things through in an instant. I'm spontaneous but always give the appearance of being a planner.

For example, the question about how you book a holiday. Plan things in advance vs. book at the last minute. How about "none of the above". I book a long time in advance, but have no plans whatsoever. We just book... and then go. Which is not the same as booking at the last minute.

And do I get annoyed when the supermarket changes the shelves around? Yes. Do I change the order in which I go round the shop? No. But I forget things. So where does that leave me?

And I'm an introvert, that's for sure, except when I'm not. Same thing about Heart, which they should have called "Guts". I usually go with my gut reaction, but I can always reason it out afterwards, if I'm asked to.

If you're using Safari, you won't be able to take the test on-line. So you'll have to switch to another browser or print it out.

September 02, 2004


We're having new air-con in the office, so naturally it's a lovely sunny September day, and warm all over. Just had a meeting in a room that had its own air-con, and came back into the main office: like stepping into the proverbial.

What a great time of year it would be to go on holiday. Circumstances forbid, but if I had the option, this is when I'd go. South of France ahoy. With no Belgians.

September 01, 2004

I thought I was wrong once

But I was mistaken:
However, the critical reaction to [NY-LON] has been mixed, with some reviewers complaining that it is an exercise in style over substance.

NY-LON attracted 1.6 million viewers and an 8% audience share between 10pm and 11pm last night, according to unofficial overnights.

This was 200,000 viewers fewer than watched the opening episode last week - and with five instalments still to go, things are not looking good for NY-LON."

On this subject, I do wonder who these people are who influence the viewing figures, the audience testers. I've never met one, and of course nobody has ever asked me. How do you get to become a tester, whatever they're called? Whoever they are, the viewing-figure viewers, they've got a lot to answer for. They're a bunch of twats, watching gobshite and tripe so that we end up with a steady diet of reality TV home makeovers and hospital/cop dramas. Jesus.

Everyone's a Critic revisited

watched the second episode of NY-LON last night - live, so there was no avoiding the freaking adverts, which made it even more annoying, somehow.

Here's what I think. With yet more non-dialogue and yet more "meaningful" shots of cityscapes and of her (Natalie Wood-alike) walking through streets looking soulful while some MTV music played, it became obvious that NY-LON is simply a marketing exercise aimed at soundtrack CD sales. And whaddaya know, no sooner had the end credits started, they were plugging the soundtrack record.

Who writes this crap? I was thinking of ER, I was thinking of NYPD Blue, of Homicide, of CSI. The dialogue that never stops, the brilliant pacing, and -- crucially -- meaningful looks between well-established characters that actually mean something.

There's some blonde bird, she's Sideburn Nutter's ex-girlfriend-ish, who is pregnant and supposedly in love with him (though her way of showing it was to lie to him about birth control and then emotionally blackmail him with a pregnancy). I can't, for the life of me, place her accent. What is she supposed to be? She sounded Irish, Welsh, French, German, Scandinavian, Spanish - all the nations of Europe, all at the same time. I kept expecting her to wave the EU flag and start talking about farming subsidies.

And NatalieWood-alike's ex boyfriend, the Ryan Adams in-a-band type, what about him? I suspicion that if you wanted to write something like this well, this guy would be a charming rogue, perhaps a little bit dark, but full of life and excitement and irresistibly attractive. But instead he's a complete tosspot, a wanker of the first order, so there's no dramatic tension whatsoever - unless you're asking yourself, why is Natalie such a magnet to nutters? Is the plot going to take a dark turn, and she will be murdered soon?

The verdict, for Channel 4's benefit, should there be any doubt: it's SHITE.