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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

November 30, 2004

Film of the Year

So, I've seen it, my one film of the year: I Heart Huckabees, and most enjoyable it was too. Obviously, I'm not qualified to compare it with any other films released in 2004, but rest assured it is better than any of them.

Lard Crisis

This might be important to you in the run up to Xmas: the Lard Crisis Centre. Personally, I'm free of such concerns, because we're going to France as usual and I'm not keen on most traditional Xmas eats. Mince pies give me bad stomach acid, as do most forms of pie.

I'm (whisper) happier to eat the foie gras, which is the special thing they have at Xmas over there.

November 29, 2004

Nostalgia Bulletin

Mid-life crisis ahoy: I've been thinking about The Perishers lately, and how much I used to love them. The background to this is that Didi, my youngest, when asked what she wanted in her packed lunch sandwiches, requested "Ketchup" which of course reminded me of Marlon and his regular drenching of people.

It never occurred to me that they were at all related to Peanuts and those characters, though of course they were. Maisie is Lucy, and Wellington was as prone as Charlie Brown to lying on his back thinking about stuff. Marlon was - for a time - such a great fashion victim, too, weating his Sgt Pepper style jacket in the 60s before switching to his mechanic's overalls.

My favourite of all the cartoons was one in which Wellington spotted a falling leaf and waxed lyrical about the coming of autumn - then fell flat on his back when the leaf landed on his head, as if it had been made of lead. I wanted to be Wellington. He had no parents. At first he lived in a concrete pipe, later moving to a disused railway station that had been administered "Beeching's Powders."

I think my favourite covers of the collection shown (see first link above) are Numbers 10 and 18 - the bonfire night cover and the summer sunset cover. Both covers evoke a complex set of childhood emotions, memories of brief moments of happiness, otherwised smothered by more desperate stuff.

Channel 4 Ultimate Film thing

I watched about 67.3% of the Channel 4 list of ultimate films, based on bums on seats rather than inflated box office figures. This was something that should have been done a long time ago, to settle all the arguments, but I'm afraid they needed to make one more adjustment for fairness.

The top 3 films, for example, were all famously not available to watch on TV for many, many years after they were made. So, if you wanted to see Gone With the Wind, The Sound of Music, or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves you had to see them in a cinema. Same goes for most classic Disney films and many of the James Bond series (I saw Dr No and Thunderball in a Scottish cinema around 10 years after they were first released).

In other words, the list should have been adjusted for seat inflation as well as ticket price inflation. Perhaps fairer to count bums on seats in the first 12 months, though of course that does nothing to recognise longevity and enduring appeal, both of which can be massaged by not allowing other outlets like TV, video, and DVD, to have the film.

All a bit meaningless really, though it was fascinating (if a little predictable) to see all those 40s films starring Dame Anna Neagle in the top 50. Because they were just forgettable fluff really, but incredibly popular in wartime and post-war Britain, obviously just what we needed. And it explains to the under 60s just why she was made a Dame in the first place.

November 26, 2004

Computers are Rubbish, part 792

It's well known that computers are rubbish (Benefits system hit by IT chaos). But even more rubbish than computers, I tend to find, are the people who install and maintain them. Or specify them. IT consultants, engineers, however they style themselves. I reckon for every 100 IT engineers, possibly 1 of them is competent and actually knows what he/she is doing.

And s/he is probably the one most vocal about computers being rubbish, unreliable, and the importance of keeping things simple.

The agenda seems to be, "Listen sonny, you don't pretend to know as much as I pretend to, therefore I will impose this system over your head in order to score points and win an argument, even though if something goes wrong with it I won't have the first clue as to what to do about it."

They should set up a planet for IT consultants and send them there, see how long they survive.

November 25, 2004

Carla (sort of) rocks

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
This Carla Bruni album is excellent. I love the sounds, and the songs are good too, with a real sense of enjoyment.

It's exactly my kind of recording. The kind where you think there might be a drummer on the track, but you can't really tell. The one I own that most resembles it is Easy by Kelly Willis. The key difference with similar things in country music is that they use banjo and mandolin as well as all the guitars, and they provide different frequencies and levels of attack, so the textures can be richer. Quelqu'un m'a dit is still a great record though.

A lot of singers and wannabe singers make the dreadful mistake of dragging on the tempo of a song. Sometimes you're in the driving seat, sometimes you're a passenger, but the one thing not to be is locked out of the vehicle and dragging behind with your scarf trapped in the door.

With the uptempo ones, Carla is a passenger, but she's a good passenger, keeps up with the song and makes a virtue out of the breathlessness. Excellent technique. This will be a smash hit by all the french girls I live with on our drive over to the in-laws at xmas.

Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 23

Part 23 - Recovery has just been published over there. This week's deliberate mistake was to call it Part 22 at first, because it's so easy to lose count with these things.

November 23, 2004

Review of the Year, Part I

You know I don't go in for this kind of thing. Top tens, for example. Because there rarely is a top ten. My top ten CD releases of 2004 are Tambourine by Tift Merritt and Green Eyed Soul by Lari White. Play each one five times, there's your top ten.

Neither of them are strictly country records, you'll be surprised to learn. Country artists in general did not have a vintage year. There was too much Jesus and mawkish sentimentality on Martina by Ms McBride; and Tim McGraw, in spite of the odd cracking song on Live Like You Were Dying doesn't seem to operate any sort of quality control. There are a lot of tracks on the album, and quite a few of them are awful. Keith Urban's record is pretty good... but kind of anonymous after the first couple of tracks. Usual problem of good guitar and cliched lyrics.

Anyway, on to films. The top 10 films of the year are... well, I haven't seen any. I'm afraid I've become one of those middle-class fuckers who only goes to see one film a year. Only I haven't seen mine yet, and wouldn't presume to name it "film of the year" on that basis. It's still true to say that, even in the absence of some of the real classics, television is still better than the movies. So your top ten films of the year are any two episodes of the following, watched back to back: Alias, The OC, CSI, CSI Miami, Without a Trace, ER, Buffy, The Sopranos, NYPD Blue, Boomtown... Yes, some of these shows are old shows, cancelled shows, but only recently got a terrestrial airing.

Top 10 TV shows of the year: see films.

Top 10 books of the year: let's keep this one to ourselves, eh? I will point out that one of the most enjoyable books I read this year, Way Station, by Clifford D Simak was first published in 1963. So that was definitely one of the best book of the year in 1963, and I'm prepared to wait 40 years to judge this year's offerings.

Games: don't play games.

Gadgets. I've realised that although I love some technology and what I can do with it, I'm not much of one for gadgets. I've got my Mac and my pro tools rig and my guitars etc., but I do not own a hi-fi, or an iPod. My DVD player is pretty old, Region 2 only, and I still record things onto a VCR, for the time being. Even my digital camera is over 2 years old. I don't know who even brought up the subject of gadgets. I am officially a Late Adopter.

The Perfect Sound

I was listening to Tift Merritt on the way to work again this morning; this time it was Bramble Rose, her first album. Not as good as Tambourine now I've heard that, but still bloody good.

There's one track, "Bird of Freedom," comes close to having my perfect sound. The perfect sound started for me around the time I heard "I Want You" on Blonde on Blonde. It's a combination of instruments I like, and every record purchase is a search for this perfection. Ultimately, it's never quite going to be all in one place. It's "out there" like Fox Mulder's truth, impossible to define, always tantalisingly beyond reach. You can't achieve it by prescription, because the sound itself is as much about the pauses between notes and hits, the space given to the song by the musicians. And the song itself, natch, must be of the highest quality.

But we're not talking about lyrics here.

The quintessential sound lies somewhere between "Bird of Freedom," and perhaps "Baby Dreamer" on Allison Moorer's The Duel (which, incidentally, does not star Dennis Weaver).)

While "Baby Dreamer" features drums, bass, electric & acoustic guitar, piano, and a female vocal, which suits my 40-something year old ears; "Bird of Freedom" in its verses is a stripped down arrangement with the rhythm section and two acoustic guitars, plus gently played piano pads. The piano then lifts at the end of each verse, with fills that are kind of country/southern rock/exile on main street style. Then in the chorus, some clever slide guitar comes into the mix, which sometimes sounds a little like a B-bender, a telecaster made to sound like a pedal steel, but can still sound in places more like classic southern rock slide guitar. And again with the female vocal.

It sounds fab, anyway, like something off Exile without Jagger on vocals.

Lemon Puffs

Now that's what you call a classic biscuit. I used to love them, and you don't see them around much. I think I stopped eating them during the vegetarian years, because they had animal fat in, and most biscuits don't. I'd eat them now though. We have custard creams in the office a lot. They're very common and nowhere near as nice as Lemon Puffs, which have that whole puff pastry vibe going for them.

Should have got some in Tesco last night when I went in for fish food.

I refuse to touch the fish food, incidentally. And the fish water, if I can help it. The smell just lingers. And when I say lingers, I mean two or three months, I can still smell it on my skin. And it makes my facial hair smell too, so that if I don't shave for two or three days I can smell it right under my nose.

I don't like the fish food.

Why can't fish eat lemon puffs?

November 18, 2004

Daddy, What's a Lesbian?

Been enjoying the Seinfeld DVDs. So nice to be able to watch episodes at a reasonable hour. I've even watched a couple episodes twice, so I could hear the audio commentary, which is mostly people laughing at themselves. Still.

"The Subway" is a great episode, but I made the mistake of watching it while CJ was still up. She's seen a few others and, in the way of seven year olds, she likes it well enough. Probably the appeal of Kramer is universal. George is harder to understand: "Lupus?! Is it Lupus?!"

In "The Subway" they all go their separate ways and we see them all behaving true to character. Elaine is on her way to be "Best man at a lesbian wedding." The scene where she talks to a woman on her train is excellent. Then CJ pipes up, "Daddy, what's a lesbian?"

George meets a woman on his train. He's supposed to be on his way to a second interview, but this woman persuades him to come back to her hotel. She tells him to get comfortable and goes into the bathroom. George decides to take his shoes off and sit on the bed. She comes out of the bathroom in a negligee. Next thing, he's in his shorts and socks and she's handcuffing him to the bed. CJ pipes up, "Daddy, what's the lady doing?"

It's like they know.

Also been watching Alias season 2 on DVD, borrowed from a friend. I'd already seen most of it, but it's always worth watching again. So good, and so packed with guest stars. And so preposterous, in its way, with its DNA shapeshifting agents and concerns with Rambaldi manuscripts. Until you see documentaries about the real CIA and their experiments with psychics and agents walking through walls etc.

Always worth getting an Alias DVD set, just to see the blooper reel at the end. Now that's comedy.

November 17, 2004

Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 22

Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 22 - Questions without Answers - just published.

November 16, 2004

Bob Dylan

I've just about finished Bob Dylan's Chronicles Vol 1 now, and I really enjoyed it. One thing I'd say about it is that his style hasn't changed much. It's quite reminiscent of his early sleeve notes and even, dare I say it, Tarantula, which I read avidly (several times) as a teenager. Tarantula is seen as an embarrassment now, but I enjoyed it. I don't think I'd feel the same about it now, but that was then.

Dylan still writes in the same way. He's saltatorial, he hops around. He writes a sentence and then contradicts it. He sees everything from all sides. And he puts you on, constantly. I mean, he's still very, very funny. Which it's easy to forget I think, with the media image of him. The media has a tendency to focus on things like, Blood on the Tracks, with liberal application of the autobiographical fallacy. Or they hear the tone of the voice in "Like a Rolling Stone" and they portray him as an angry young man, spitting venom. Actually he's probably quite easygoing, and sees humour in everything.

A typical example of this comes where he talks about some of the social changes that happened in the 60s; he talks about nuclear proliferation and the women's movement. He says how some women didn't want to be called "ladies" or "girls" any more. And then he says that there were changes for men, too. Some white religious men didn't want to be called "The Reverend" anymore. They wanted to be called just, "Reverend."

Anyway, I think it's a great book. He tells you so much stuff that's of interest. He concentrates on not the "20 pounds of headlines" Bob Dylan, but the Dylan who is actually a person in the world, who has opinions and enthusiasms, same as anyone else. And for those who want him to talk about his bike crash and his failed marriages and all the empty hype, I say, pay attention. He's telling you all about his influences, his formative years, how it was that he came to formulate his way of writing songs. He talks about two instances of what were portrayed as "comeback" albums, and what was really going on for him at those times. He reveals the mystery behind his "never ending tour" and what exactly it was he was trying to do. And he talks about working with Daniel Lanois, and gives you a good deal of insight as to why he so often leaves the best song off the album.

These are some of the most enigmatic things about Bob Dylan, and here he is talking about them in great detail. It's both fascinating and fantastic.

November 15, 2004

Hat Acts

As ever, I watched the CMA awards with a mixture of pleasure and restlessness. Country music is a broad enough church that I find as much of it annoying as I do entertaining. Big & Rich, for example, with their self-referring rap-like crap, including actual "big black cowboy" rapping, were just offensive, a circus freak show. At the other end of the scale, Reba McEntire let rip with her usual boring, maudlin, brand of music.

There's two things always strike you. The obvious nerves on display, and the hats. Because to be a hat act, it seems, means never, ever, being seen without your hat. And some people are hat acts in the face of all evidence to the contrary. They don't look right in a hat, and they don't look comfortable, and the hat doesn't even looks like it fits properly. Kenny Chesney, for example, winner of Entertainer of the Year, looks like someone pulled his down over his eyes. You imagine there's some kind of code going on. Black hats, white hats, shiny hats, scruffy hats.

It all looks kinda gay, most of the time. Tim McGraw's hat looks like something out of Studio 54. In the gotta-be-gay duo category, there's always one who wears a hat, and one who doesn't. One is the dog, one is the bitch; one butch, one femm.

The overall effect of all the hat wearing is that the artist always looks the same. Same pose, same look, over and over again. Check out Kenny Chesney's on-line gallery and you'll see what I mean. It's like they photoshopped him into a series of postcard scenes. I don't know if I could ever bring myself to buy his record, though it sounded all right. Dwight Yoakam, of course, is famously bald as a coot underneath his hat, and I wonder how many of the others are. I only know about Yoakam because in a couple of his movies he was required to remove it.

The nerves come about, I guess, because they're performing live in front of an audience of their peers, and, probably the biggest TV audience they'll ever get. Nerves seemed to betray Tim McGraw, who opened the show sounding thin and weak; and Keith Urban, male vocalist of the year, performed badly compared to last year. By contrast, Sara Evans, towards the end, was pure class. And looked humptuously gorgeous. She's my secret girlfriend.

Looking less well was Randy Travis, who has the appearance of a dead man walking, and appeared on stage with CSI's Emily Proctor to present an award, only to bleat on about how no-one was buying his records. His crappy clappy, Christian preachy records. He even looked like he was wearing a dog collar, the twat.

Finally, there are always notable absences. Vince Gill, the usual presenter, was nowhere in evidence. I like Gill, mainly because he doesn't feel the need to wear a freaking hat. Brooks and Dunn presented instead. Trisha Yearwood is rarely there. She doesn't need them. She often makes a point of being somewhere abroad, a kind of kick in the teeth to acts like Toby Keith and Brooks and Dunn, who are almost unheard of outside the USA - she's saying, hey, not only am I better than you, but I have an international audience. Garth Brooks has never been there, even when he wasn't "retired". Dwight Yoakam usually only shows up to induct someone into the Hall of Fame. I've never seen Mary Chapin Carpenter. Maybe she's not a member.

Woy Or

Americans just love that word "Warrior", don't they? From silly Star Trek Klingons and this movie starring Jennifer Garner to pep talks to US troops in Iraq, they keep throwing it in the mix. As if we're going to be impressed.

Yet they can't pronounce it properly. At all. "Woy Or." What's that then? I Want to stop someone every time and ask.

November 12, 2004

The Pope of Palestine

So, I may have forgotten someone, but Arafat seems to be the 3rd in the current Celebrity Death season (John Peel, Emlyn Hughes, Yasser Arafat).

Interesting to see some nations falling over themselves to see just how minor an official they could get away with sending to the funeral. in my office, when there's an event that nobody wants to go to, it's generally the case that "last in, first out" applies. The newest guy gets sent, nobody cares, and honour is satisfied.

He was like a Pope, really, Arafat. Not really a leader of a nation, not royalty or a politician. More of a catch-all, all-encompassing figure for people to rally round. Like the Pope.

I mean, he was born in Cairo, which makes him an Egyptian in my book, not a Palestinian. And the Pope is Polish but lives in Vatican City. Whatever. Be like me joining some survivalist anti-government group or cult in the States, and fighting against the Feds, when in fact I was born in Bedfordshire.

November 10, 2004

Comedy Sweeties

We've just been having a laff over Toxic Waste sweets, which are all coated with some hideously horrible stuff that makes them taste, initially, like you've eaten a urinal cake or something has died in your mouth. Most people just take them out straight away, but if you persevere they're normal sweets... until you get to the sour centre.

On my shopping list for next Hallowe'en...


I've been thinking about file sharing and related issues. You should know about me that I'm not averse to downloading files but that, like many others, I find I am buying more CDs by a wider variety of artists than I did before the file sharing era. In the long term, record and film companies have made plenty of dough out of me.

But I've been thinking about it, and it seems to me that, if we think of the files being shared as art-ifacts, works that are on the whole worth preserving, then what file sharers do is spread the risk of catastrophic loss.

Because if you look at the record, excuse the pun, the big corporations don't do a very good job of preserving the crown jewels. They come to put things out on DVD and find that not only can they not find original negatives, but they have to issue appeals to get hold of missing reels. Where they have kept things, they're often in a deteriorated condition.

It took an independent 3rd party (Sundazed) to think to put out a premium quality issue of Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde with the original mono mix. EMI have singularly failed to reissue early Beatles recordings in their original state (i.e. mono), and it too often turns out that original master tapes and multitracks have been lost, destroyed, mislaid, stolen etc.

When the BBC was looking to collect together its own crown jewels of television history, who did they turn to? Fans! Collectors! Also known, in this day and age, as file sharers. People who love something enough to keep it, to back it up, to preserve it.

I just bought a copy of that seminal high school comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which is a film directed by Amy Heckerling, written by Cameron Crowe, and featuring, among others, Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Nicholas Cage, Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker. But I had to buy it second hand (a form of file sharing), and furthermore, I've never seen this film mentioned in TV listings of any station, terrestrial or satellite.

They own the crown jewels, and they do naff all with them except neglect them or destroy them. But as long as things are "out there" being passed around by the consumers, the fans, the people who ultimately foot all the bills anyway, then there's a chance they'll be preserved for the future.

Since Fast Times isn't available commercially, why shouldn't someone borrow my copy and, er, back it up? I can't think of an argument. Haven't seen the quality of the DVD transfer yet, mind you, and that's a whole other kettle of flaked fish.


Had she not been cremated, my mother would have turned in her grave last weekend, when I "made" what can only be termed an instant Sunday dinner. We bought a roasted chicken from Sainsbury's, together with a pre-prepared salad. And I bought a pack of 12 frozen yorkshire puddings (4 minutes in the oven) and threw it all together with instant mashed potato (bought in Costco) and instant gravy (just add boiling water). From carrier bag to table inside 5 minutes. Fantastic.

I'm eating too much at the moment, what with the stress and boredom created by the house move. The one guaranteed cure for snacking is to be busy with something on my Mac, but unfortunately the Mac is buried under a load of junk, because we simply haven't the space to store all the things from our old house in our current rented house.

Things are dragging along, as they always do. Two weeks ago I'd have settled for an end-of-November completion; and a week ago I was even optimistic about mid-month, say around the 19th. But though it's still quite early in the month, my hopes of moving before it ends are fading.

So I sit in the evening watching Seinfeld etc on DVD, and eating stuff.

November 09, 2004


I finally started reading Bob Dylan's Chronicles Volume I last night. I've had it a while, but I wanted to wait until the initial media interest died down.

I've only read the first part, about his arrival in New York and early experiences in the coffee houses. It's so well-written, like a cross between Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye. It seems completely natural, lucid, almost conversational, except without the hesitancy of actual conversation.

It tells me just as much as I want to know, too. It's allusive without being cryptic, and he's filling you in on the bit you didn't know about, the brief moment in time when he was on the cusp of fame. It's a section that for someone else might involve years of struggle, but with a talent like Dylan's, it was clearly only a short time before he got his Gaslight gig and came to the attention of John Hammond.

His narrative skills are deceptively brilliant. He starts, really, at the end of this initial "unknown in New York" stage, talking about meeting his song publisher. Then he drifts back to his amazement at being signed by the legendary Hammond, then back again to his arrival in New York, only then moving forward, mentioning the Cafe Wa? and the Folklore Centre.

There's always a sense that he wants to leave space around a subject. He'll approach it from angles, getting to the edge of a definition, and then he moves away and comes at it again. There's a natural ebb and flow to it. This is especially evident with his character sketches. He's allowing you to make you own mind up about somebody, without ever being so crass as to say something definitive. This is right, I think, because otherwise he'd be like one of those people who has to explain why the joke is funny.

Anyway, it seems like a pretty skimpy book, to quote Holden Caulfield, but at the same time is so agreeable, like a meal with lots of different flavours and textures, that to read one or two pages at a time is satisfying.

November 08, 2004


I will wait and get one of these in 2007 or so. Probably a more realistic concept, as I anticipate it will take two years to persuade my wife that this is at all necessary.

Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 21 - Back on the Island

After a long hiatus Patron Saint of Mid-Life: Part 21 - Back on the Island has been published over there...

Want one

I've got over the VW Touareg now, and decided I want one of these instead. It's basically a van with seats and windows, but so much room!. I fancy the 174 bhp Executive version, with swivel seats and electric side doors. It's a glorified hotel shuttle bus, but I need the space.


When it comes to cup-a-soup, I find, you can never have too many croutons.

November 04, 2004

Lies, Damn Lies, and Opinion Polls

But, a lot of confused liberals have written to ask, what about the opinion polls? Some polls showed Kerry ahead, and running neck and neck in others. Where was that support come election day?

As anyone who was around in the 80s will tell you, a lot of people lie when asked questions. It's just a habit. If you ask damn fool questions, as someone once said, you get damn fool answers. I know if I ever deigned to stop and answer an opinion poll I would lie my head off. You never know who is paying for it, and you should never miss an opportunity to spread uncertainty and misinformation.

There's a +/-3% margin of error in most polls. When the poll is about political candidates, with one right-wing and one ever-so-slightly left-of-centre, a good rule of thumb is to add the 3% to the right-winger and subtract it from the leftist.

Why? There is nothing quite so shameful as voting for a right-wing candidate, so people lie about it. The British Labour party discovered this in the 80s. You have to be showing a good 10% lead to stand a realistic chance, come the election. People either say "I'm not sure," or they will just give the opposite answer to the truth.

I hope this clears things up for you.

Instant Classic

originally uploaded by mcmrbt.
Tift Merritt's latest record, Tambourine, is an instant classic. With a voice that veers between Emmylou Harris and Maria McKee (though without being quite so extravagantly huge as McKee's) and a sound that is rock-pop-gospel-soul-country rolled into one (rock, in other words, or Exile On Main Street meets Damn the Torpedoes if you need a point of reference), she comes thundering out of your speakers and just knocks them out like it was easy to be this good or something.

"Stray Paper," "Good Hearted Man," "Still Pretending," "Write My Ticket," "Late Night Pilgrim," and "Shadow in the Way" are standout tracks in a standout collection. The last track, "Shadow," is one of those that rollocks along nicely enough, and then just blasts into the stratosphere about halfway through. The guitars, principally by Mike Campbell (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) are superb, and the production by George Drakoulias is excellent. But the real gift to the world is Tift Merritt, who is the real thing. Where did I hear her first? Bob Harris Country on Radio 2.

Maria McKee does harmony vocals, too.

Fucking fantastic.

November 03, 2004

Ah Nostalgia

When I was growing up, apart from "My Boomerang Won't Come Back," one of my favourite records was St. George and the Dragonet by Stan Freberg, which was a spoof on the original Dragnet TV series. The flip side was "Little Blue Riding Hood" done in the same style.

Still makes me laugh.
St. George: What do you do for a living?

Nave: I'm a nave. 

St. George: Didn't they pick you up on a 903 last year for stealing tarts? 

Class. Now this I'd pay for on the iTunes Music Store.

How touching

I'm touched by the naivite of the liberal left blogging community, and their apparent shock that the election has been so close. First of all they were all dismayed when their pet candidate, John Dean, did so badly in the preliminaries (clue: the active and caring blog audience/community turns out to be smaller than they thought), and now they're shocked that the shitkicking redneck SUV drivers of America have voted for Bush again.

The republicans, you'd think they knew, haven't fielded a real candidate since Nixon, and have instead chosen a series of symbolic figureheads, designed to appeal to religious types and gas-guzzling fuel-swilling carbon dioxide producing working stiff SUV drivers. They hide the privelege behind cowboy boots and aw-shucks incoherence and it plays well, as it did with Reagan, with what Nixon called "the silent majority". If ever the phrase was apposite, it is now, when the self-referring, self-perpetuating blog community, reinforcing their own delusional world view, are so shocked at the swathe of red across middle America.

Meet the new boss, etc.

"Energy security," to the SUV crowd, plays as well as Mrs Thatcher's "Right to Buy" did to Essex Man. Seems to me the democrats need to fight harder and dirtier, to lose a lot more ground before they start winning the argument. They need to show pictures of burned Iraqi children and point out that the child died so that Americans could keep driving 4WD Monster Trucks.

Oh well. Four more years and all that.

It's the Guardian Wot Won It

If Ohio goes for Bush, which it looks as if it will, then you can probably put that down to the Guardian's dumb intervention of a couple of weeks ago, encouraging people to write to undecided Ohio voters telling them how to vote.

Well done.

If any proof were needed that media workers have shit for brains, this was it.

November 02, 2004

Supermarket Pens

Now that UK supermarches are moving over to Chip n pin at last (and I do feel too overlooked at this moment as I key in ****), I will start to miss the pleasure of being handed a pen to sign a slip.

Did you know that Papermate make a pen with built in Microban(™) or something to cut down on disease transmission? Had you ever thought before now how unhygienic it is to handle a pen that has been handled by so many others? Hmmm? By men who piss on their hands and then don't wash? Or by people who have picked their noses all the way to the supermarket? Or scratched their threadworm-infected bums?

At least pens were prone to be lost or run out of ink. The chip and pin pad will last much longer, and more germs will lurk than ever before. Add surgical gloves to your next shopping list. Let's all go Howard Hughes! Next time I'm in I'm going to ask loudly how often the pin pad is cleaned.

Anyway, what I started out to say, at times I've been handed pens that write beautifully. Does this ever happen to you? Papermate Flexgrips are good - I use one at work - but I've been handed something similar in Sainsbury's, and it was just fantastic. Wanted to nick it.

Not lick it, obviously.

Seinfeld DVD

Got my Seinfeld DVD box set yesterday - seasons 1-3. I've been looking forward to this, because like a lot of people I missed huge chunks of it due to the BBC2 random scheduling and the British TV industry's complete inability to grasp the fundamentals of audience building.

I have vague recollections of a couple of the early ones, which makes me proud that I didn't start watching in season 4, like I have with quite a few other things.

Season 1 seems weak, relatively speaking. The characters aren't there yet; the stand-up is patchy and the audience laughter in the stand-up scenes is obviously forced.

The biggest complaint I've seen is about the slap bass incidental music, which everyone seems to hate. I wouldn't buy it on record you understand, but because it means "Seinfeld," I still like it. They use it way too much, but then so do they in "Friends" and all the other yank comedies. I mean, that piano in "Will and Grace" is non-stop. Talk to me again in 14 hours, after I've watched it all, and I'll let you know how much I hate the slap bass then.

November 01, 2004


"New Sweet!" Revels have raisins instead of peanuts. What a disappointment. And it's true. The caramel is now rock-hard.

I used to love eating Revels in the cinema, in the dark. The only ones you could tell for sure by shape were the chocolate disks. I'm so practiced now that I guess right (by appearance) 90% of the time.

I'm so...

Bored with the USA.

As if wall-to-wall coverage of an election in a country in which I don't even get to vote wasn't enough (aren't there rules about this? I don't even think there's this much coverage of a UK general election), we also had the trick or treaters round last night.

When I was young, we celebrated Samhain in more traditional ways, a kind of house party with bobbing apples, and fun and games. Going round houses begging for sweets wasn't part of it. Truth be told, that part of the tradition was celebrated in the form of "Penny for the Guy", or later on, as carol singing. The problem these days is that we get trick or treat AND penny for the guy AND carol singing. What bugs me about halloween is that it's just another Hallmark holiday, a commercial interlude, and nothing to do with our traditions of bonfires and commemorating the dark half of the year.

As for the US election, the amount of coverage might be bearable if it wasn't so fucking repetitive. We don't get depth or breadth, we get the same 5 sentences 60,000 times a day.