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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

November 30, 2005

Dingoes At My Boyfriend - quick update

Due to my hitherto unknown time travelling abilities, I am able to bring you tomorrow's news of the trial. You think I'm about to go all Pootergeek on you, but seriously: this story from theage.com.au is dated December 1 2005, which is tomorrow in old money.

Anyway, Murdoch has finished giving evidence, hotly denying the accusation that he used Ms Lees' denim to wrap the head of Peter Falconio, so that he didn't get blood in his van. Latest estimate on remaining time is 2 weeks. I guess the defence will rest on the following "reasonable doubts":

1. No body has been found
2. Only 1 witness, who may or may not be quite attractive, with nice ankles and big b00bs, and had been seeing Someone Else (i.e. not an actual nun).

Incidentally, lest you think I am alone in noticing the prurient interest in Ms Lees (it's been 3 or 4 years since she was generally tried and found guilty), check out this comment piece from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Women have long since stormed the typewriters and two large Australian newspapers have appointed female editors. The Herald has not but, frequently, those with their hands on the tiller are well endowed with the X chromosome. Yet it continues to observe the world through the wrinkled eye of the old (male) perve.

When the media's eye is caught, hang on for the ride; it can be wild and thrilling for watcher and watched. Just ask Michelle Leslie. Or, if she wants too much money for her answer, ask Schapelle Corby. Or Joanne Lees.

Honorary page three chicks, the lot. Caught in the camera's eye, and embraced, stripped bare, prodded, poked and then discarded. As women, they are not just part of the news - their beauty, their eyes, their breasts, their clothes - pass for news itself, chopped and packaged as consumable items. Tasty morsels, one might say.

It's a fact that if you want the latest news on the trial, your search is more successful if you put "Joanne Lees trial" into the Google seearch than if you put "Bradley Murdoch Trial."

I rest, as they say, my case.

1950s hair apartheid

lately, people have been laughing and pointing at me openly in the street. i'm not imagining it.

it's my hair. i've got very fat hair, and a lot of it. and it's mostly grey, even though i am young. i ignored my hair for a short time, it grows quite fast and now it's big hair.

i live in a town called southend on sea. all the men there have very short hair. all of them. i stick out. if i got my hair cut, i could worry about more important things like the environment or poverty. but then i would be joining the herd, knuckles scraping the pavement as i walk.

people point at me and laugh, it's the nineteenfiftiesisation of our culture.

Clarkson Drives 250 mph car

This is an entertaining read. Well known environmentalist and humanitarian Jeremy Clarkson writes of his experience driving the Bugatti Veyron in the Times Online:
You learn to raise an eyebrow at what’s only a foible, and then, as the road straightens out, steady yourself for Prince Albert’s boiler to gird its loins and play havoc with the space-time continuum. No, really, you come round a bend, see what appears to be miles and miles of dead straight road, bury your foot in the carpet and with a big asthmatic wheeze, bang, you’re instantly at the next bend, with your eyebrow raised again.

From behind the wheel of a Veyron, France is the size of a small coconut. I cannot tell you how fast I crossed it the other day. Because you simply wouldn’t believe me.

It's basically my car: a VW Passat estate, with a fancy bodykit and smaller wing mirrors.*



Hmmm. Since I got hold of Protools I've been having a review block.

There are two problems: wires, and time on a computer.

I probably get around 30 minutes a day of time at home that doesn't belong to other people. Sometimes it's less, sometimes more. So if it takes 15 minutes to cable up, and 15 minutes to cable down the window of opportunity is lost.

And when there are computers in the house there is already a battle between the three children as to who is getting the next turn. It's just not worth the aggro.

Just to recap. I've had a tinker with a couple of flanger peddles which I need to write up, I've also been mucking about at using amp modellers as preamps, and hooking up boosts, tube overdrives, and compressors in front of them.

This latter approach has the great effect of giving you a range of distortions without the sound changing: effectively a 4 channel amp...

clean, boost, overdrive, & overdrive+boost. Combine that with the guitars controls and your into a very fluid sort of place.

One of my friends has a birthday this weekend and the plan is that we do a cover of a couple of songs before everyone gets lashed up (I've got to leave early so no fear of kit getting stolen/broken). So far we're talking these few:
a) Badge - Cream
b) Go with the flow - Queens of the Stone Age
c) Breed - Nirvana

Managed all of these just using the VOX AC30 model on the Toneworks with the above pedal combination. We're not exactly talking nu-metal or anything but it's surprising what you can get away with without a billion pedals.

On a further note I've recently been listening to The Kinks. I was shocked to discover that the song Everybody's gonna be happy is by them (I thought it was QUOTSA), and even more so, Victoria, which it never crossed my mind otherwise than to assume was by The Fall.

I feel daft as a child who thinks the current spray of puppet bands actually write the songs they perform on TOTPs upskirt action vids today.


** Confused readers will be pleased to note that I posted this on the wrong blog.


It seems that "black ice" is (are) the buzzword(s) today. The pavements around our way were ferociously slippery this morning. Fun. No accidents though. Shame.

A number of people driving like lunatics this morning...

1) White van in Clifton, 300 yards down a bus lane to push in. No harm came to him. Proof that there is neither god nor justice in this world.

2) Bigger white minibus on the ringroad decided the car in front of him was going too slow and pulled out right in front of me forcing me to slow down abruptly. He then sped off at over 80mph in a cloud of diesel smoke.

3) Bus driver at the school pulled out right in front of me without signalling, forcing me to do an emergency stop. "Thans" for that.

4) Silver mini bus pulled out in front of me and then got himself stuck in a jam, blocking my carriageway completely, and as a consequence, forcing me to sit there waiting through a whole cycle of traffic lights, tapping my fingers on the dashboard, with a queue behind me.

Oh, when will the next mass extinction event occurr?

Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Keith?

Yesterday, I finally received my Keith Urban Live DVD, which was released on October 10, though I only went looking for one in the aftermath of the CMA Awards, when he received the phallic symbol for Best Male Vocalist and Best Entertainer, and performed an excellent version of "Better Life" from his recent album Be Here.*

I've got that album, and the one before that (Golden Road), and I'd always suspected that he'd be great live, because he's such a good guitar player. After seeing the CMA Awards performance, I remarked to Simon that he played really well, and made it look effortless, which is a good trick if you can pull it off. To play good lead guitar whilst holding down a lead vocal is something else - especially if you also avoid the face-pulling.

Livin' Right Now is excellent. Filmed in HD video, the pictures are superb and sharp, the colours rich, and the sound is top quality. Before an audience of predominantly female fans in a theatre-style venue (steeply ranked seats after the front few rows, and balconies going up the back wall), he gives a brilliant demonstration of what he's about.

You'll see him not only sing and play great lead guitar, but sign autographs whilst singing, lie flat on his back playing riffs, grab a camera off a fan and take a photo of himself with her, and all the other things you might expect from an entertainer of the year.

But wait a minute. Because you're thinking Country, right? How about this Amazon.co.uk blurb?
The concert DVD of country crooner Keith Urban features a riotous set from Los Angeles that features the songs "These Are The Days", "Days Go By", "The Hard Way" and "Who Wouldn't Wanna Be Me" to name a few, plus extra behind the scenes footage.

Not just Country, but a country crooner? I don't particularly care when it comes to categorisations. I don't listen to country because I like cowboy hats and jeans with creases, but because I like the songs and - especially - the gee-tar playing. So, usually, I'd say what-ever.

But there's something up here, because Urban is no crooner. One suspects that the Amazon employee who wrote the blurb doesn't know what a crooner is. Anyway, Urban's voice is the least Country part of him - nothing like an Alan Jackson, or a Dwight Yoakam or a Brad Paisley. He's got a rock voice, pure and simple. It's quite pleasant, but has a limited range, and breaks up quite easily.

As for his guitar playing, there's a lot of springy twang, and doing-doing riffing, but, to me, that's how guitars should sound. As far as I'm concerned, Urban produces the ultimate guitar tone, and plays with the technique I'd kill to have.

In fact, as a package, I think Urban is the kind of rock star I'd like to have been, when I wanted to be a rock star. He's not changing the world with his lyrics, so he's not going to attract that kind of crazy, but he's got floppy-blonde-hair good looks with a crooked nose and shiny teeth, he looks comfortable in his skin, can carry a tune, and plays guitar like a demon.

I suspect a live audience for him in the UK would consist of middle-aged men in lumberjack shirts and cowboy hats from the Woolworths toy department (fooled by that Country tag), but in Los Angeles, the audience ranged from kids of about 8 to people "of a certain age", but they were predominantly young, female, and having the time of their lives. And they weren't just dragged in off the LA streets, either: you can see them singing along with all his songs, which is more than I could do.

Why Country? Dunno. Imagaine a parallel universe in which the Eagles and the Rolling Stones, the Band, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were all filed under Country in your local record emporium, and you'll understand where Urban sits in the scheme of things. Sure, members of his band play mandolin, dobro, and even a banjo (but it's a 6-string guitar banjo) at times, but those are just fantastic textures to have with electric guitars and B3 Hammond organ. Listen: Urban does a cover of David Dundas' "Jeans On" (remember? From the old Brutus ads in the 70s), and he does a version of Tom Petty's solo hit "Free Fallin'", and neither of them seem out of joint with the rest of his set.

Personally, I could do with less of the audience singalongs, and grabbing girls out of the audience for a quick snog (she holds up a sign saying, "Kiss Me, I'm Getting Married"), but it's all part of being an entertainer, I guess.

Best of all, this does what a live set should do - he does your favourites ("You Look Good In My Shirt" is a real party piece here), but he also does the ones you don't think much of on record, and somehow lifts them up with the emotional drive of the live performance. I'll write more on his guitar rig over at GuitarGAS, but if you like proper guitar playing, this DVD is definitely worth having.


*As a final word of warning, do not buy the weirdly compiled UK releases. Get the proper US version with a black and white photo of him sitting in a car on the cover, for example. Otherwise, you'll end up with some shitty remix, tailored for what some record company dunderhead thinks is the European taste.

November 29, 2005

George Monbiot on the coming energy crisis

A dense column, as he says, with lots of figures, but George Monbiot in the Guardian calculates that, even with maximum use of wind turbines and other renewables, our future generating capacity is between 23 and 34 GW short of current demand.

He suggests cutting demand as one solution, but that seems unlikely, because attempts to manage demand based on current figures, don't take account of actual growth.

"Dear Santa, please give me a nelectric toothbrush an a nelectric carving knife and a nelectric breadmaker and a nelectric smoothie maker and a nelectric guitar for xmas, thanks."

Dingoes Ate My Boyfriend Part 364

A flurry of hits on holyhoses by pervy pervs searching for "Joanne Lees b00bs" and "Joanne Lees White Blouse" and "Joanne Lees s3xy" reminds me that the Murdoch Trial continues, with the defence. Last week's confusing revelations about Peter Falconio being seen alive by witnesses 8 days after he was supposed to have been killed turn out to have been part of the prosecution case. Clearly higher minds than mine are at work.

Yesterday, Joanne Lees was back in the box (she already testified over 4 days) to explain why the police sketch of the alleged abductor's van had shelves on it. She denied saying there were shelves. Another witness, who'd said that Lees phoned her at 2pm on the day of the murder and said she'd been to see the Camel Cup (whatever that is), admitted that the call must have been at noon, and that Ms Lees must have said she was going to the Camel Cup.

How this relates to the alleged murder/abduction, only higher minds can now. If I was a juror in the case, I think I'd have slashed my wrists by now.

But things are looking up, because today, Murdoch himself was in the dock, talking about his lousy childhood and all the lousy things that led him to becoming a lousy drug dealer (bit of a holden caulfield reference there). Nobody knows yet how many witnesses for the defence there will be. So we could be in for another month of it.

Disasterous snow

I don't know about you, but if I was on the motorway and it started to get dark, and then it started to snow until it was all of half-an-inch deep, the last thing I'd be wanting to do is abandon my car and walk home.

Which, apparently, is what thousands of motorists in the UK did last night.

And it must be true because the film crews were there, actually where it was happening, when it was happening. And it was amazing.

The Day John Lennon Died

I have a vivid memory of the day I learned that John Lennon had been shot. I'd had one of those bad nights of delirious fever dreams, because I was off school with glandular fever (mono), and that night had been my worst and only bad one.

Then my sister came into my room just after 6:30 in the morning, and shook me awake with the words, "Bob, Bob! John Lennon's been shot!"

It all seemed like it was part of the nightmare from which I'd just woken. I'd turned 18 five days before, but I'd been off school for a while with the mono. I spent the day listening to the radio on the old (valve) radiogram in our front room. I'd been seriously into music only for about 4 years. From the ages 14 to 16 I'd assiduously collected all the Beatles records, singles and albums, and, as was the case for many people, John was my favourite.

If nothing else he was the saviour of guys like me, who had to wear National Health spectacles. Rich kids had expensive frames, but with the National Health the choice offered was sort of Buddy Holly or worse, or you could get the round ones that were a bit like the ones Lennon wore around 1970. They were as cheap as the others, but wearing them made you feel cool, like going to school dressed as a rock star.

This was the 70s, the years of punk and new wave, and I was considered eccentric by most of my school contemporaries. We've probably said before on this blog how strange it is that, in the late 70s, the era of the Beatles seemed impossibly distant. 1980, the last year of the 70s, really was a different age, politically, socially, and musically. I'd always been wise to the fact that Lennon's post-Beatle output wasn't up to much. I owned Shaved Fish, the compilation that came out in '75; and Rock and Roll, his compilation of cover versions that came out in the same year. 1975 was probably a year before I started to buy my own records, and 1980 was the first time Lennon had done anything in all the years he'd been my favourite Beatle.

Even so, I was too savvy to go and buy Double Fantasy. As soon as you knew it was fifty percent Yoko, you knew it would be a swizz.

A few days later, I went out to the doctors to get the all clear on the glandular fever, which - like most things - never affected me as much as it did other people. I had that one bad night and a very sore throat, whereas someone else I was at school with ended up on a kidney machine, and another friend couldn't even swallow his own spit. At the surgery, I met Joanne Nye, who was the daughter of a friend of my mother's. She was very attractive, blonde, a year older than me. I'd danced with her once, but never allowed myself to get into her because it would have been too weird - her mum talking to mine, and so on.

But we met in the surgery, and then I bumped into her in town later. She had laryngitis, something like that, and was off work. I'd just bought a copy of Playboy, because it had a Lennon interview in it. We went back to her house and she got out her record player and her parents' collection of original Beatles 45s. We had a cup of tea and some biscuits, and then, because her mum would be coming home at lunch time, I scarpered.

Never saw her again, but I think of her whenever I think about Lennon's death, and the aftermath. She was a lovely girl, and I was a callow fool.

November 28, 2005


Originally uploaded by mcmrbt.

No matter how pissed off I get at work, or on the road, just looking at this cheeky face makes me feel better.

We went out for a walk yesterday before lunch, drove over to the Foscote reservoir, which is quite near to where we live. We drove through Foscote itself, which is on a gated road, and consists of a manor house and a few smaller houses.

As we were driving through the gates and along the country lane, CJ said from the back of the car, "It's like visiting a safari park. With no animals. In the rain."

On Friday, Didi ran in to the living room to read her school books to me. My hair's getting long, so I'd gelled it that day to keep it under control. She said, "You look like Elvis and you are fat."

November 25, 2005

The meek inheriting the Earth?

A couple of things recently have annoyed me about iTunes.

1) we've been required to install the current Quicktime plugin for Mozilla in a locked down environment using Terminal Servers. So what's Apple's line on getting the plugin? Well, you have to install the whole bloated mass of iTunes. Good work! The last thing that you want to be installing on a corporate server is fecking iTunes, especially just for a weeny plug-in.

This is like when Microsoft insisted that Windows is inseperable from Internet Explorer.

And like the way most printer manufacturers force you to install 600MB of intrusive utility software just to get a tiny printer driver file.

"What do you mean, you don't want more? I don't understand."

2) Listening to the constant hum of tracks around the office indicates to me that someone down the line has had access to the MP3s I have. I hear stuff playing that nobody here is old enough to remember, let alone obtain. And I'm forced to draw the conclusion that iTunes has opened my legs metaphorically to other people and the small gathering of MP3s I have has been lifted lock, stock and barrel onto other people's computers.

I might add that I didn't install iTunes, because my experience of it on a Windows computer is that it is a fat pig of an app, and starts running all sorts of unsolicited background shit (services and resident utils). My son installed it for his iPOD under his own login and user ID.

But the implication is that through someone installing iTunes on my computer, my personal music files have been made available to other people for them to copy.

Not impressed.

The Friday Flashback Show

Review of Tift Merritt's Tambourine

Review of Bob Dylan's Chronicles

Review of Carla Bruni's Quelqu'un m'a dit

Nostalgia for The Perishers

Sometimes Accurate Review of 2004

This Flickr thread made me laugh. A lot.

Post-Solstice Comfort Food

Another recipe made up from stuff that was left in the fridge

Didi embarrasses me in John Lewis

Tales from the office front line, featuring The Accident Book

On the subject of disenchantment

On discovering the Roy Orbison/Clingfilm site

On flirting

I have a lucky week

BBC NEWS | UK | Football legend George Best dies

BBC NEWS | UK | Football legend George Best dies

The editorial staff of the two national newspapers who published special colour supplements this morning are now punching the air triumphantly. The early publication of these things was of course anticipated in my tasteless post of yesterday.

Squeeze and stuff

After the recent lists of albums the advent of payday has had me straight out into the Internet Shops.

First into my grubby mits is Squeeze Greatest Hits. So far I'm most loving Pulling Muscles (from the shell). Very dynamic and very spaciously produced.

It probably says a lot about the sort of person that I am, but I tend to sit better with songs in minor keys. I'm only happy when it rains, as Shirley Manson said. Although sometimes I'm not that way at all.

This week in the car I've been listening to the following selection:

a) Benny Goodman (CD 1 of 3) - I've always found older jazz to be uplifting. Whenever I had relationship breakdowns I always found drinking myself stupid at a bar with live jazz to be remedial.

b) Bob Dylan - Curse me, because I can't remember the name of the album. I bought it secondhand. It's a bit modern for my tastes, but I love the track "Everything is broken". Oh yes! Oh Mercy! Can't help but feel that he's freewheeling a bit on this. And it is tainted with an 80s production I think.

c) A free CD from Mojo magazine - I love NY Punk. A couple of duffers but otherwise good enough. Mmmm... 70s and big muff pi fuzz boxes.

d) Foo Fighters - In Your Honour - blasphemy again but CD1 (the loud one) is hard work on the ears for me. Not the songs, but the production. It's all modern and with everything louder than everything else.

CD2 (the acoustic one) is better though. Very glossy and singer-songwriter-ish with a glass of orange juice.

Conceptual Joke

Heard this very funny news item on Five Live last night, about publicity material produced on behalf of Invest Milton Keynes, which showed photographs taken in Colorado, Scandinavia, and other parts of the world.

The PR agency concerned are now saying it was a "conceptual campaign."

Conceptual as we've discussed before is a word you use whenever you make a glaring mistake.

I love Milton Keynes, you know it. I love all the things you hate about it, but it's always amusing to see PR agencies exposed for the charlatans they are. Rafael has even sent them an open letter.

How did these banes to our existence come to proliferate? It all goes back to the early years of the Thatch government, when they decided that people were unhappy, not because government policies were unfair, discriminatory, and basically evil, but because people "weren't getting the message."

Ever since, we've had to put up with these people telling us the same thing in as many different ways as possible, until our spirits break and we cave in. They have rancid meat, so they spread mustard on it. Then they spread horseradish on it. Then they rub chilli sauce into it. Then they smash you round the head with it. Then they cover it in ice cream and custard. Then they tie you down and force a tube down your throat and liquidise the rancid meat and force it down your throat. When you throw up, they force it down your throat again.

Then Tony Blair goes on telly and says, "We need to get our message across and that's what we're going to do."

November 24, 2005

Dingoes Ate My Boyfriend Part IV

The latest from the trial of Bradley Murdoch, alleged murderer of Joanne Lees' boyfriend Peter Falconio. Over 70 witnesses have now given evidence and the wharf is still standing. I think the defence may have started, though this article doesn't say:
Two witnesses in the Peter Falconio murder trial have given evidence that they saw the backpacker alive, eight days after he was allegedly murdered.

Robert Brown and Melissa Kendall have both given evidence to the Northern Territory Supreme Court trial.

They said they were working at a service station at Burke in outback New South Wales the weekend after Mr Falconio disappeared.

They said a man they recognised as the missing tourist from newspaper photographs entered the shop on the Sunday."

Whoopsy! This is why having an actual dead body is such an important principle. Without the body, it's just too easy to introduce a reasonable doubt into Jurors' minds.

Here is my George Best Obituary

It's important to get yours in first in the Hallmark Universe.
: George Best had a short but eventful career with Dunstable Town FC. During that period the club enjoyed its record attendance of 10,000 spectators and George played for Dunstable in a memorable 3 - 2 victory over a Manchester United XI."

Apart from that career highlight, Bests' shining moment was an hilarious send-up of Oliver Reed on the BBC Wogan chat show.

Doctors reported that Best made a final deathbed request for a double whiskey, which was administered via IV drip.

Top Ten Vanilla Products

1. Vanilla Cheesecake - made with vanilla caster sugar, with a teaspoon of vanilla essence and vanilla eggs and vanilla cheese (some of that may have been exaggerated)

2. Vanilla Pods - just open the tube for a sniff, or keep in your caster sugar for vanilla sugar on demand

3. Vanilla Sugar - that stuff with the blue label in the "posh products" section at Sainsbury's

4. Fresh Vanilla Custard - find it in the chiller cabinet in the supermarket - black speckles of vanilla seeds should be visible

5. Vanilla Ice Cream - make your own, or get some in a shop - with the little black speckles in it that show it cares. Serve with a slice of hot apple pie or strudel

6. Vanilla Essence - for a quick hit of vanilla, drink straight from the bottle (joke) - or try a teaspoon in a shot of vodka (I've never tried this, of course, but I'm sure it is wonderful)

7. Crèmes desserts Danette vanille à la crème fraîche de Danone - for when you really feel you can't eat any more, but... oh, go on then

8. Alsatian, artisan-made butter vanilla shortbread

9. A good Chardonnay - "vanilla" is often used in the tasting notes for the very best wines

10. Vanilla fudge - no, not the band - the kind you make with clotted cream or buy on holiday for a friend or relative and then eat

Three sheets to the wind again

They were making a hoo har this morning on the news about pubs ringing last orders last night for the last time.

Call me a cynic but I don't believe that we've heard the last of it. I think that it was just a few local bars using the change in the law as a Marketing Opportunity: "Look at me! I'm ringing last orders for the last time!"

Older people who have a drink problem will have realised long ago that there is already a place where you can consume alcohol 24x7. It's called "home". Plus you can pass out there without fear of having your clothes helpfully removed by a passing stranger.

You see, modern franchised bars are for young people who are out of control. There is only one thing that will stop them drinking. That's their lapsing into a state of catalepsy in the gutter**.

I can understand the thinking that bars not closing will lessen the need to panic-buy drinks, but I think that the Will To Consume is a stronger factor in binge drinking than Brute Panic.

And 70% of the work that hospitals and the police perform in this country is drink related. The Other 30% is down to drugs and old people. So when you go to casualty now, instead of an 8 hour wait before you get assessed by a nurse, there'll be a 24 hour wait.

So Nottingham city centre will become a 24x7 no-go area because of peshed-up young folk, braying and falling over with their cocks out.

** I tried an image search on "drunk" on Google and was rewarded with a number of web sites that appear to be showing "real" pictures of half dressed and unconscious young women being exploited sexually, and that, as much as anything, says it all.

late again with homework

1) songs from a room, 2) songs of love and hate, 3) new skin for the old ceremony, 4) death of a ladies’ man, 5) i’m your man (leonard cohen), 6) with the beatles, 7) revolver, 8) the beatles (the beatles), 9) between the buttons, 10) exile on main street, 11) the london years, (the rolling stones), 12) highway 61 revisiited, 13) blonde on blonde, 14) self portrait, 15) blood on the tracks, 16) desire (bob dylan), 17) the basement tapes (bob dylan & the band), 18) the velvet underground (the velvet underground), 19) crocodiles, 20) heaven up here (echo & the bunnymen), 21) kilimanjaro, 22) wilder (the teardrop explodes), 23) compass kumpass (dalek i love you), 24) fiction (the comsat angels), 25) pornography (the cure), 26) world shut your mouth, 27) fried (julian cope), 28) love, 29) da capo, 30) foreverchanges (love), 31) the doors (the doors), 32) marquee moon, 33) adventure, 34) television (television), 35) the psychedelic sounds of the thirteenth floor elevators, 36) easter everywhere (the thirteenth floor elevators), 37) grotesque: after the gramme, 38) hex enduction hour (the fall), 39) sister (the sonic youth), 40) isn’t anything, 41) loveless (my bloody valentine), 42) surfer rosa (pixies), 43) george best, 44) seamonsters (the wedding present), 45) the house of love (the house of love), 46) open season (british sea power), 47) rattlesnakes (lloyd cole & the commotions), 48) closer (joy division), 49) power, corruption & lies (new order), 50) born sandy devotional (the triffids), 51) you can’t hide your love forever (orange juice), 52) songs from northen britain (teenage fanclub), 53) peng!, 54) emperor tomato ketchup (stereolab), 55) the days of wine and roses (the dream syndicate), 56) violent femmes (violent femmes), 57) music for a new society (john cale), 58) songs for drella (lou reed and john cale), 59) coney island baby (lou reed), 60) fifth dimension, 61) younger than yesterday (the byrds), 62) jonathan sings! (jonathan richman & the modern lovers), 63) the girl who runs the beat hotel (biff bang pow!), 64) bird-dog (the verlaines), 65) before hollywood , 66) spring hill fair (the go-betweens), 67) poem of the river (felt), 68) astronauts (the lilac time), 69) odelay (beck), 70) dear catastrophe waitress (belle & sebastian), 71) now is then (the windmills), 72) updownaround (melodiegroup), 73) stories from the city, stories from the sea (pj harvey), 74) everything’s alright forever (the boo radleys), 75) go back to bed, 76) everything’s going to be ok (harper lee), 77) zuma (neil young & crazy horse), 78) after the goldrush (neil young), 79) the milk-eyed mender (joanna newsom), 80) on returning (wire), 81) green (rem), 82) hatful of hollow, 83) meat is murder, 84) the queen is dead (the smiths), 85) slanted & enchanted (pavement), 86) low, 87) scary monsters and super creeps (david bowie), 88) singles going steady (buzzcocks), 89) story of the clash (the clash)

Porno fonts now?

Okay, someone will have to explain this to me. One of our designers wants to have the font Rotis, which is a quite innocuous modern sans serif and serif. Anyway, I went to dafont.com and did a search. You can see the commercial versions of Rotis at the top of the page if you do the same search.

But scroll down, and hello? What's all this then? Porno fonts? Eh?

For when you absolutely need that glyph of a cartoon naked woman fighting a bull, I suppose. I tell our reader as a public service.

But why does a search for "Rotis" bring up the porno fonts? Is it some kind of sexually depraved word?

Vexed by Pensions

The subject of the pensions divide is a vexing one, isn't it? For 9 years I was a civil servant, with a final-salary pension in the works, but since then my retirement prospects have gone steadily downhill.

For example, whereas 18-21 year-old students get National Insurance credits for their time at University, so-called "mature" students do not. So much for life-long learning. Lesson learned: I have a seven year gap in my NI contributions record, because I did too many degrees too late in life.

I was offered the opportunity to join one of these modern personal pensions a couple of years ago. I worked out that if I paid in £200 per month from now until retirement age, I'd get an estimated £300 per month pension. Something like that. Now, £200 per month is a lot of money to find, and the thing about it is, if you could scrape it together, there are any number of other ways to work it.

Paying an additional £200 on your mortgage, for example, could see you pay it back very early, and save yourself an enormous sum in interest. We all know, in the end, that owning a house outright is a safer bet (and all savings are an elaborate form of gambling) than trusting your life savings to a bunch of coke-addled, selfish, stupid, greedy, braying 20-somethings who panic buy and sell stocks and shares for a living.

Three days of cold weather, for example, and gas prices go ballistic. The price doubling, and more, not because of real shortages, or any real prospect of shortages in the short term, but because one bunch of people got greedy and another bunch of people flew into a crack-fueled panic.

in fact, there's a very real chance that you could start saving into a personal pension - doing without a whole host of instant gratification for many, many years, while all around you were enjoying themselves - only to see your entire life savings wiped out by that kind of panic on the eve of your retirement. One day you've got a nest egg, and the next day you've got egg on your face.

I will not trust my future to the kind of people who buy Porsches with their bonuses and can - legally! - sell stock they haven't got on the basis that the price will go down and they can make a profit. You try that on eBay and you'll get arrested, I expect.

Anyway, let's face it. If they're telling you now you'll have to work till you are 67... Think about it: a decade or so ago people - teachers, for example - were regularly choosing to retire in their 50s. Early Retirement were the pension buzz-words of the Thatcher years. Now we're told that early retirement isn't an option, and that we'll have to work till we're 67. In ten years time, it'll be 70. By the time I'm 60, it will be 80, and so on.

I've still got those 9 years of Civil Service pension contributions, mind. Don't think I won't be coming for that, which will allow me to buy a copy of the Beano every week.

November 23, 2005

Tis the season...

Nice story over at The Reg about copier-related seasonal injuries:
...a hot-off-the-press Canon press release reveals - chronicling the Yuletide travails of the company's 600 highly-trained engineeers as they struggle to cope with a surge in 'non-work-related' festive copier breakdowns.

What Canon means by 'non-work-related' mostly revolves around the aforementioned 'rear-end copying'. Engineers report a 25 per cent increase in emergency call-outs over Xmas, and 32 per cent of the long-suffering copier Flying Squad has at some time repaired shattered glass."

Top Ten Ginger Products

1. Tesco (tssss!) Finest Stem Ginger Cookies - ginger heaven in a biscuit
2. Organic ginger beer - there are different brands, but they're all good, and some are even alcoholic
3. Stones Ginger Wine - for the world's greatest cocktail and winter warmer - the Whisky Mac
4. Joy Lynn White - red headed alt.country singer
5. Ginger Parkin - as seen on Blue Peter by countless generations
6. Green and Black's Organic Ginger Chocolate - owned by Cadbury now, but still ginger
7. Apple, Apricot, and Ginger chutney - haven't tried it, but you know it's delicious
8. Gingerbread Men - if you can catch one, introduce your kids to the great taste of ginger
9. Fiona W. - beautiful red head who kissed me when we were on the VIth Form biology field trip in 1980
10. Crystalised Ginger Pieces - for when you want a big bag of ginger.

47 minutes - new world record - official!

My son managed to have a full screaming tantrum for 47 minutes this morning before school.

I insisted that he wear his school uniform rather than his spiderman outfit, you see. That's what started it.

This consitutes a new world record for unbroken screaming in our house.

Boffins report that no sugar or addatives were involved.

BBC Cock up?

Sorry for ranting, but I'm sure I can't be alone in being annoyed at the BBC's scheduling this evening. They've put David Attenborough's (boffin) Life in the undergrowth on at the same time as Rome.

Yeah, I know that Rome is repeated on Sunday on BBC1, but that, in turn, clashes with Dan Cruikshank's adventures in Egypt on BBC2.

Yeah, I know that Rome is just a prurient parade of arse for middle-aged male couch-potatoes, but at least it pays lip service to having a historical context. I prefer it to the mobius strip of programmes about teenagers snogging, and having a Really Bad Time with relationships, or just being selfish.

And Sport. What's Sport about now that most people go to power-gymnasia? It's obsolete, isn't it. Never really understood Sport anyway, except as a means for the middle-classes to slum it by pretending to be into soccer. Fecking social tourists.

As far as I'm concerned they can put all the slebs on an island and ignite it. Televise that.

Genius Truck Drivers of the UK

So. Yet another service for my car. Last one was in Septembiembre, and the one before that was in Junio. I definitely had a major service in Decempre last year, and I think there was probably another mini-service between then and the Junio one.

It dawns on me that 40,000 miles a year means 4 services a year - 2 of them just for oil change.

My car, which cost me around £18k two and a half years ago, is now worth precisely nuffink.

It's now a fact that I service my car more often than I wash it.

And my mind-set has adjusted to the point where I think I might buy a Ford next time, just because the servicing thereof will be considerabubly cheaper than the Volkswagen option. The VW garage basically get the Inland Revenue to attach your earnings for with a special V-code, which means you get negative personal allowances.

This is All My Own Fault, and I have Nobody To Blame But Myself, because it was My Decision to live on Mars and work on Pluto.

Anyway, I wonder, which manufacturer makes the car that is most resistant to being crushed by an overturning lorry?

It's the time of year. The dark dark commutes, the white cack flying off the roads, the frozen washer jets, the resulting white-out effect on the windscreen; the stupid fucking fog lights and the morons who think their cars look cool with them on; the stupid rear fog lights left on even when there is no longer any fog, and the drivers who are too dumb to take the hint to switch them off... and the random stupidity, aggression, and ignorance of truckers. Shouldn't a GCSE in Physics be compulsory for truck drivers?

Monday night there was a broken down coach in the M1 roadworks at Leicester, which caused a 93 million mile tailback. Yesterday morning, a car transporter overturned in the truck drivers' favourite overturning spot: between J29 and 30 of the M1. There have been a few silly accidents in those Leicester roadworks as well. The speed limit is 40 mph, which most people obey, because there are average speedcheck cameras. There are still 3 lanes, but two of them are narrow and HGVs are restricted to the inside/hard shoulder lane as a result. This is clearly indicated with signage.

But there's always at least one HGV driver who thinks he should be allowed to stay in the middle lane - not only that, but that slowing down to 40mph is optional. He then encounters the narrowing of the lane and the obstacle of a car doing 40 mph and attempts the quick switch to the inside lane, still maintaining his momentum.

Last night, I noted an HGV tyre-sized skid mark in the middle lane in the roadworks, which was several tens of metres long.

Yet another genius trucker taken by surprise by the roadworks, which had only been signalled for 3 miles by, you know, road signs, and slower traffic.

Bush-Blair war row - the facts

The document referred to in the Guardian story Legal gag on Bush-Blair war row has come into my hands. It contains a transcript of an argument between George Bear and Tony Blush (names changed to protect their identities) on the subject of the war in a country I shall call Irakistan to protect its identity.

Blush: What's this I hear about your plans to bomb the BBC World Service?
Bear: I've said it before and I'll say it again: those commie bastards in I-rak-istan deserve-
Blush: That's Ee-rak-istan, you mean.
Bear: Don't start with me, Bony. You ain't got no mono-poly on the American language.
Blush: What-everrrr.
Bear: As I was saying, those commie bastards deserve a nukular strike.
Blush: That's Nuclear, you mean.
Bear: What the fuck you talkin' about boy? Who the fuck invented nukular weapons? You think we don't know how to fuckin' pronounce our own fuckin' products?
Blush: Well... if you look at how it's spelled.
Bear: I don't care how the fuck it's spelt, Bonio, that ain't my problem. My problem - and your problem - are those fuckin' I-rak-istanis and those fuckin' Elkeeds.
Blush: Al Qaeda, you mean.
Bear: I'm tellin' you, Bonny, you correct me one more time and I'll order a few "friendly fire" incidents in Basra. Don't think I won't do it.
Blush: But the World Service, George? Why pick on them?
Bear: I'll tell you why, Bonnet. Because I hear things, that's why. You got those fuckin' A-rabs and fuckin' French speakin' people on there, and I know they're makin' fun of me. I know they've got their beady little A-rab eyes peeled for every little mishtake I make, and I'm telling you now. You get those B-B-Qaeda guys to can it, or I'm not going to be responsible.

At this point, the transcript was snatched from my hands by an enraged official.

November 22, 2005

Vegetarians, look away now

So what are you having for your cmas dinner this year then? Or Festival of Baal Eating Children, however you term your Solstice celebration?

Last year we had a capon, which was so full of flavour that I went out and bought one to bring home from France with us. But what with the avian flu, I 'spect UK Customs will frown on people bringing back dead chickens from abroad. Be useful to have a dead bird to threaten people with at Luton Airport, though, so I might consider it.

I was looking forward to it again this year, but I just learned that, instead, we're having one of my in-laws' home-raised chickens - a cockerel that lived for the optimum period of time (around 100 days, I think), and is now in the freezer. I'm quite hardened to eating home-produced stuff, because I have had rabbit and pigeon in the past, but this is the first time my father-in-law has slaughtered something I might really enjoy. Mmmm!

Parking, no parking

In spite of arriving at work on time this morning, all the local car parks were already full. The usual one had a number of smashed up cars parked in it - that must have taken up the slack.

The actual office car park is out of bounds as there are only a small number of spaces, and they're reserved for visitors and managers.

As a result I've had to park in the street.

It caused problems straight away as I blocked access to the warehouse/garage across the road and prevented them from getting an artic to their loading bay, so they were unable to load their usual consignment of 16 thousand broken Wyse Monochrome dumb VDU terminals for export to the third world.

You should also know that leaving your car in the street around here is akin to lighting snouts in no man's land during WWW1, parking on the hard shoulder on the M6 and camouflaging your car under grey canvas drapes, or becoming a bare-back field dentist to white sharks.

I'm hoping that most of my car is still there at home time.

Burning issue

I was going to blog this BBC NEWS puff piece about spontaneous human combustion yesterday, but we were having a hot day for the postings, so held off till today.

The BBC piece is just an elaborate promo for Bleak House*, but it strikes me as being one of the internet "hot button" topics, the sort of thing where you'll find the same information circulating endlessly.

There's nothing in the BBC article that I didn't learn years ago, looking up the subject in what used to be called a Public Library, which is what we had before the internet. Our public library has been turned into a joke shop slash stationers slash second hand bookshop slash internet cafe slash place for old people to wait for the post office to open. There may be a small corner still dedicated to actual books.

I was researching SHC (or spontaneous human combustion, for short) because I was working on a script idea called "Strange Fish."

The story involved a couple of paranormal researchers (this was before paranormal researchers on the telly were ten a penny) who went to an isolated fishing village (this was before isolated fishing villages on the telly were etc.) because they'd heard about a cluster of SHC incidents.

The village was fairly cut off - a place that used to have two roads going in, but one of them blocked by a landslip and never repaired - and still had one fishing boat that went out and caught fish that were sold and consumed locally. One of the village's claims to fame, mentioned early on, is that it was a place you could still go to a chip shop and get locally caught fish and chips.

So these researchers show up and start investigating the SHC cases, looking for the usual possible causes - smoking, sparks from open fires - and growing increasingly puzzled when two of the victims don't fit the standard pattern: not old, not ill, not smokers, no open fire...


*On the subject of elaborate promos, I was sent a Travel Pictionary set by a vendor this week. A year or two ago, I got a remote control car. These things do not dispose me well towards the vendor concerned. I learned by email this morning that Shania Twain has put her name on a perfume, too, and that said perfume will be integrated into an episode of the US version The Apprentice. Which just goes to show that reality TV shows are just elaborate advertisements.

Although the BBC are the guilty party in the case of SHC (dressing up a promo for a BBC drama as a news item), they're also frequent victims. I've lost count of the number of times Peter Allen on Drive has been interviewing somebody and realised halfway through the interview that he was taking part in a PR exercise. The Silly Season, so-called, is all about these exercises ("A report from the Internet Foundation has found that 85% of all web users are known to drink Pokey Pola while they browse..."), but it's Silly Season all year round now, innit?

Car noise

This week I've had the following selection in my car's CD loader

1) Nirvana - Nevermind (Great singalongs. Bet I look real cool screaming out the words to Smells like Teen Spirit at the traffic lights near the tram depot. Actually it's an interesting reminder that Kurt might have looked like me now had he not gone to the great gig in the sky - viz. exceptionally fat, wrinkled, and old.)

2) Rickie Lee Jones - Live at Redrock (Patrische lent it to me. Can't remember why.) Who is she?

3 & 4) Gordon Giltrapp - The Collection (2 CDs) - He's actually quite a skilled guitar player, but the music is definitely of the sort that they used to play on television whenever they ran out of pictures to show (this concept is of course anathema to young people).

5) Frank Zappa - You can't do that on stage anymore (vol 6 CD2) - This is the last of 12 CDs. A bit of a homecoming to me as at least two of my friends in the 80s used to speak solely in Zappa lyrics. I never quite managed to dig it, so this has been interesting.

6) Placebo - Black Market Music - I have to say that I rather like this. The track Taste in Men is a dark corker. It contains the pretty line of lyric,
it's been this way since christmas day, dazzled, doused in gin.
Reminds me of the sense of euphoria you get reading Under the Volcano, which has always been something of a guide to living for me.

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

I had an awful night's sleep. My son was playing spiderman at 4 am for a start. Fully suited up, jumping on the bed. But I felt hot, uncomfortable, and achey.

So I've started my first cold of the season.

I had to groan though when I switched the telly on and the latest panic is that we're out of flu antivirus in the UK.

That's a calamity right? Except it's not the antivirus that kills bird flu. It's just the usual inoculation that nobody bothers with every year. Except maybe a few older people, and they always run out fairly quickly, which is why they advise people to book early if they want a flu jab.

Except now, this year, it's like a fecking panic again. They're queuing outside the petrol stations for miles in order to stock up on enough flu jabs for the whole winter. Because thousands of people will die after getting flu this winter (just as they do every year, and always have).

Why is there so much frenzied stupidity in this country? Some people should be slapped.

bob dylan

went to see bob dylan at the brixton academy last night. a big improvement on wembley arena a few years' ago, and that wasn't bad.
he didn't play for very long - about an hour and forty-five minutes. It was something like two pound fifty per song, not including booking fee. the encore started off with the first verse of london calling, before becoming like a rolling stone. i took an irrational big dislike to one of the guitarists. i didn't like the way he played. i decided that he had won a competition to play a gig with bob dylan's band. bob's all keyboard these days. you'd poo your pants if he picked up an acoustic guitar and shuffled to the front of the stage, and the band fucked off. but that's never going to happen.
i dunno. it was good, but only in the context of extremely low expectations.

The Inspirational Buddy Holly

At lunch yesterday, Simon and I had a chat about Buddy Holly. We're both without a CD collection of the Holly. For me, it's because I've generally resisted buying a CD version of something I previously owned on vinyl. Not just because I don't want to pay twice for something, but because CD transfers - particularly in the first 10 years of the medium - were shoddy, half-baked, money-grabbing efforts which did not serve the material well.

And record companies wonder why people hate them.

But I digress. I was thinking about the Holly overnight, his shockingly short career and his enduring influence. I think there are a number of things about him that serve to inspire. First, he was a geek, wasn't he? No rock god, just a skinny guy who wore glasses. That's almost enough on its own, but of course his songs and arrangements were fantastic, too.

The key thing about his songs, I think, is their stripped-down simplicity. Easy to sing, easy to play, and, for the aspiring songwriter, like a bolt of lightning. I think it was when I realised how straightforward his songs were, and how many variations on the same theme he did, that I started writing my own.

His story is also another reason to hate the record business, and the way it harnesses the energy and talent of individuals, and then thrashes them into submission, sucking as much income out of them before they burn out, or crash and burn. There's never any long-term plan, just a need to hit as many venues as possible while they're hot, and if something terrible happens, well it sells more records.

Warmed over Buddy Holly compilations are as ubiquitous as warmed over Elvis or gently sautéed Lennon, though I guess you gotta have one. But Holly will be out of copyright soon, won't he?

Blind Search Engine Experiment

Thanks to the Guardian Technology Blog for the link to this blind search engine experiment.

My own search bucked the trend for results, and I ended up picking the one that's in last place overall. All 3 sets of results were pretty good, but I picked the one with the most current information, as opposed to the other two which yielded slightly out of date hits after the top one.

You can run the test as many times as you like, but only your first vote counts.

The Thatcher years in statistics

BBC NEWS has this flash-based thing that allows you to overlay different statistical graphs on top of each other, so you can compare - for example - coal production with disposable income, or indeed anything with anything.

The disposable income graph shows that the rich really did get richer under Mrs Thatch - but then we knew that. I wish they'd do the same thing with the Blair years.

November 21, 2005

Diamonds everywhere

As you'll know, planets are made from the crap orbiting around a star.

Stars pop and throw off this crap into space. Common types of crap include iron, hydrogen, helium, silicon, oxygen and so on.

But another kind of crap they throw out is carbon. And in some planet-forming environments the commonest crap will be carbon, so that entire planets will form from it. And what do you get if you heat and compress carbon, as would happen under gravity in a planet sized furnace?

Yep. Diamonds. So they think that up to a quarter of all solar systems might have planets made of diamonds. Apparently planets orbiting pulsars are prime candidates.

I'd never heard of this before, but apparently Arthur C Clarke mentioned it in the 70s in the sequal to space 2001.

26 Missing albums

I don't have the stamena to list 89 albums that I have that everyone else should have. Instead I've inverted the concept and listed the missing 26.

In no particular order...

1) A Buddy Holly greatest hits album (how comes I don't have this already?)
2) Elvis at Sun (pretty stuff)
3) American Pie - Don Maclean (my vinyl copy got trodden on at a party in 81)
4) Meat is Murder - The Smiths (fab)
5) Jason Becker - Perpetual Burn (I play guitar and this is a "must listen" but impossible to find)
6) Win - Uh! Tears Baby (my mates back in 86)
7) Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde (fab)
8) Mars Volta - De loused in the comatorium (ask Patrick)
9) Van Halen - Van Halen (ask Patrick again)
10) Bill Nelson - practically wired (great guitar player, hard to obtain recording)
11) Chet atkins - (another obligatory listen for a guitarist)
12) Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (they all say this is the best album ever, don't they?)
13) Black Sabbath - Paranoid (although I'd never listen to it)
14) Beastie Boys - Licensed to Ill (vinyl copy got trashed, but it's still great noisy-and-pissed music)
15) Booker T and the MGs - a best of compilation (same as per 11)
16, 17, & 18) Beatles - (I've only got two compilations, and I reckon I should have at least three proper albums)
19) Shawn Lane - powers of ten (same as 5)
20) Wham - The Final (excellent soapy fizz. Had it on vinyl)
21) Roxy Music - Roxy Music (never evolved beyond audio casette in my collection)
22) Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure (why don't I have this classic?)
23) The Who - Live at Leeds (Again, why don't I have this?)
24) Sting - Dream of the Blue Turtles (used to love this, but then Sting turned into a proper transatlantic luvie.)
25) The Police - Best of (used to have an audio cassette of them, and Andy Summers is a good guitar player).
26) Squeeze - Best of (they were fantastic songwriters weren't they? Used to have a casette of this back in the early 90s)

I am...

I tried it and I was not Spartacus either. My character was Pig Pen, which sounds right, if not in name, then (like a pig pen) in nature...

Pig Pen
You are Pig Pen!

Which Peanuts Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Small Earthquake in Timor Sea - slowly grinding wheels of justice unaffected

The amazing thing about a trial, I find, is how fecking slow it is. The Bradley Murdoch trial has been grinding along for, what? Over a month now? Since 17 October. The BBC web site hasn't reported anything for 10 days, but that doesn't mean they've been on holiday down there. And they're still on the prosecution:
"The Northern Territory Supreme Court heard from several witnesses who testified Bradley John Murdoch's white four-wheel drive vehicle was fitted with a new canopy and turbo exhaust in August 2001.The vehicle was also fitted with a new bullbar, and its tray extended, around mid-2001, the court heard.

Testimony was briefly interrupted by a mild tremor which shook chairs and television screens in the building, after a earthquake 500km away in the Timor Sea.

'I've checked out the window and the wharf is still standing,' Chief Justice Brian Martin said."

Are they trying to bore the jury into submission? What strikes me, about this and other trials, is that in the hustle bustle of the court's day, there's usually only enough time for item of testimony per day, even if the witnesses are saying, "Yeah, he put a bullbar on his car? And put a canopy on it?" (note that I've added the AQI, for veracity). Do they really need several people to tell them the same thing? Can't the defence stipulate that they're all going to say the same thing?

Shouldn't the judge have said, 'I've asked several people to look out the window? and report back to me their findings? as to whether the wharf is still standing? Until they report next Monday, this court is in recess?' ??

No wonder justice is so freaking expensive. Nobody has a vested interest in speeding things up, do they? But we know they can do it quicker. In The Practice the trials are usually over in under an hour. People just need to speak more rapidly and object to irrelevant testimony in an outraged manner.

Waiting to die...


Each morning I expect to wake up and learn that he is dead. He's been in a critical condition for some time now, and all remedial measures seem to be prolonging the agony.

No, not George Best: Didi's fish. CJ's is big and fat and since forever seems to eat all the food when they are fed. The other is scrawny and mangy, fading away, living off scraps and waste, and doesn't seem to be eating at all at the moment. We've tried everything. Letting the fat one grab food and then feeding the other while the fat one's mouth is full. Different type of food. Feeding just once a day.

At the weekend, I thought I'd triumphed by getting the small one to take a pellet of food, but within seconds he'd spat it out again. What can you do? I've changed the filter for a First Aid cartridge, but the deterioration continues.

Speaking of George Best and his family, and living in a goldfish bowl I note that I'm a Celeb has made a strong start in the ratings. You sometimes wonder why footballers and entertainers are paid so very much, when it is obvious that many of them would do it for free.

I am...

Charlie Brown
... Charlie Brown!


Best (US) Magazine Covers of the past 40 years...

Read about this in Digit magazine - the American Society of Magazine Editors have voted for the top 40 magazine covers of the past 40 years and you can see them all if you follow the link.

Some striking images there, to be sure, but a lot of the covers just look fairly ordinary and regular to me - nothing you don't see on a news stand any day of the week. That said, it's in the nature of designers to pick up on originality and copy it.

Getting ripped off in shops

I've mentioned before how much I dislike shop assistants who intentionally shortchange you because they think that they are clever and crafty but that you are stupid and dumb-ass, and that they can increase their income by pulling a fast one over you.

It happened to me again last week. In the village chip shop.

The kids like chips so it was a bit of a treat for them.

It came to £4.38. I had a fiver and the 38p in loose change. I handed £5.38 over to the chip-shop girl and even said, "I've got the 38p" to make it clear to her that I was helping her out with the change. Now it's obvious that I was due £1 change. You don't need to be a genious to know that, do you?

But she said, "thanks love" and turned round quickly and walked into the back of the chip shop.

I stood there for, oh, about 15 seconds before I left, short-changed.

I'll never go to that shop again. Nor the post-office in the village, where they shortchanged me blatantly by a fiver.

May the devil's fires consume their miserable souls in eternity.

Computers are bad, mkay?

According to the current edition of BBC Focus magazine (#158 December, page 35) computer keyboards
harbour 500 bacteria per square cm, causing 100,000 deaths annually in America alone.
Still, it's an ill wind that blows no good, eh?


For the last two days now vision from my left eye has been blurred. It's annoying because if I close my right eye, the left one goes into focus again. Is this a lazy eye or something?

I'm limbering up to producing a list of 89 albums, but find the challenge somewhat daunting as I don't think I have either the memory or attention span to cope with such large numbers.

Lisa's List

You can read it more clearly, and with some explanation here, but here is Lisa Rullsenberg's 89:

Eclectic - needs explanation, but there it is...

1) ABC - Lexicon of Love / 2) Arcade Fire - Funeral / 3) The Avalanches - Since I Left You/ 4) Bach/Yo-Yo Ma - Cello Concertos / 5) John Barry - Themeology / 6) Beach Boys - Pet Sounds / 7) Beatles - Revolver / 8) Beatles - 1962-1966 (The Red Apple collection) / 9) Billy Bragg - Back to Basics / 10) Blondie - Best of / 11) David Bowie - Best / 12) Jeff Buckley - Live at Sine / 13) Buena Vista Social Club / 14) Johnny Cash - American IV: When the Man Comes Around / 15) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - The Boatman's Call / 16) Ray Charles - Best / 17) Chemikal Underground compilation - Out of Our Heads on Skelp / 18) Clash - London Calling / 19) Constellation Collection/GodSpeedYouBlackEmperor - Song of the Silent Land/Yanqui UXO / 20) Sam Cooke - Best / 21) The Costello Show - King of America / 22) CSNY - Deja Vu / 23) Miles Davis - Kind of Blue / 24) De la Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising / 25) Nick Drake - Way to Blue: An Introduction to Nick Drake / 26) Ian Dury and the Blockheads - New Boots and Panties / 27) Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited / 28) Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde / 29) Elgar/Du Pre - Cello Concerto / 30) The Fall - (you choose an album) / 31) Ella Fitzgerald - The Cole Porter Songbook / 32) Gang of Four - Entertainment!/Post-Punk Collection / 33) Marvin Gaye - What's Goin' On? / 34) Emmylou Harris - Best / 35) Billy Holiday - Lady in Satin / 36) Michael Jackson - Best of / 37) Jam - Snap! / 38) Joy Division/New Order - Best of / 39) Led Zepplin - Physical Graffitti / 40) Tom Lehrer - An Evening Wasted with... / 41) Kirsty Macoll - Best / 42) Madness - The Definitive Singles/Two-Tone collection / 43) Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs / 44) Bob Marley - Legend / 45) Massive Attack - Blue Lines / 46) Mingus - Mingus Ah Um / 47) Enio Morricone - Best of / 48) Randy Newman - Best / 49) Augusto Pablo and King Tubby / 50) Pere Ubu - The Modern Dance / 51) Lee Scratch Perry - Arkology / 52) Pixies - Dolittle / 53) Pogues - Best / 54) Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen / 55) Elvis Presley - No. 1s / 56) Prince - Sign O'The Times / 57) Pulp - Different Class / 58) Radiohead - The Bends / 59) Ramones - Anthology / 60) Lou Reed - Transformer / 61) REM - IRS "Best of"/Warners "Best of" / 62) Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers - 19 greatest hits / 63) Rolling Stones - Hot Rocks / 64) The Roots - Things Fall Apart / 65) Simon and Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage. Rosemary and Thyme / 66) Nina Simone - Gold / 67) Frank Sinatra - Songs for Swinging Lovers / 68) Sleater Kinney - All Hands On the Bad One / 69) The Smiths - The Queen is Dead / 70) Phil Spector / 71) Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run / 72) Bruce Springsteen - The River / 73) Squeeze - The Big Squeeze / 74) Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense / 75) They Might Be Giants - A User's Guide / 76) David Thomas and the Two Pale Boys - Surf's Up! / 77) Various - I'm Your Fan: Songs of Leonard Cohen / 78) Various - Festival in the Desert / 79) Various - Sounds of the New West / 80) Velvet Underground and Nico / 81) Rufus Wainwright - Want (One and Two - now available as a double pack) / 82) Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones / 83) Wedding Present - Bizzaro / 84) Barry White - Best Of / 85) Hank Williams - 40 Greatest
86) Wire - The A List / 87) Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life / 88) Neil Young - After the Gold Rush / 89) Your home made compilation


SUBMIT YOURS - send yours to 89albums[at]googlemail[dot]com and we'll post 'em up as a proper entry rather than a comment. Please allow time for incompetence.

Urban Cowboy

So, I fast-forwarded through the CMA Awards show on Saturday night, so as to avoid the cringeworthy Brooks and Dunn (what the freakin' hell was wrong with Vince Gill as Presenter for Life?) and all the embarrassing speeches and inductions into the hall of fame ("You're a black man, and although you were part of the Grand Ol' Opry from the very beginning and died as long ago as 1982, it's only now that we've decided to patronise you and your family by inducting you..."), and quite enjoyed some of what I saw.

Faith Hill looked weird though. Like the whole shape of her face has changed. Plastic surgery? For why? But how else to explain her totally bizarre appearance? Bad hair, too. She and Tim McGraw performed the worst track from her recent album. When I reviewed the record, I said it sounded like Tim sneaked into the studio late at night, drunk, and overdubbed his vocal without her consent. On the CMA show, he shuffled down the steps on the stage - like, y'know, a drunk - and they murdered the song all over again. The song which, by the way, has a melody that totally rips off Bob Dylan's "I Believe In You". I wonder if anybody realises that?

Anyway, Sara Evans sang off-key, as did a couple of others. I've said before that nerves often get the better of artists on these occasions. An audience of your peers, and the biggest TV audience you'll ever get must prey on the mind. It seems the less-well-known people don't seem to suffer as much, because there's more pressure at the top.

One act I enjoyed was Sugarland, who were up for the horizon award. I especially liked the way the singer, Jennifer Nettles, was just wearing boots and jeans, as opposed to the absolute fashion disasters worn by many other women. I mean, did Allison Krauss know that everyone could see her legs through her dress? Because she sure weren't standing like she knew it.

Garth Brooks made a surprise appearance, singing a tribute to Chris Le Doux in Times Square. He's supposed to be retired, but you could tell he was buzzed to be back on a stage. Watch that space.

Apart from Sugarland, act of the night for me was Keith Urban. Last year, he was clearly nervous, which marred his performance, but although nerves were still evident, he rode them out, and performed a blistering version of "Better Life" from his recent release Be Here. So I was straight on Amazon this morning buying his live DVD: Livin Right Now.

He was playing a Strat with posh pickups, and made it look effortless. Deserved winner of Entertainer of the Year; not so sure about his male vocal award, because his voice isn't his strongest suit.

November 20, 2005

It's a list... or a snake...

I'm a little bit ashamed of my 89 albums, because the truth is that I have owned and played to death a great many essential albums - and they sold like hot cakes at the various car boot sales I flogged them at.

This is a short-attention span list. Some are actually on the "missing in action" list, but who said we had to stick to the rules?

Here it is then. Different albums by the same artist are separated by a ; and different artists are separated by a /. I hope...

10cc: the original soundtrack; how dare you / alan jackson: the very best of / allison moorer: alabama song; the hardest part / the allman brothers band: universal masters collection / bob dylan: the basement tapes; nashville skyline; the freewheelin' bob dylan; blonde on blonde (mono); slow train coming / bobbie cryner: bobbie cryner / brad paisley: time well wasted; mud on the tyres / bruce springsteen: darkness on the edge of town; live in the promised land (boot); tunnel of love; lucky town / buddy holly: the singles plus / carla bruni quelqu'un m'a dit / carolyn dawn johnson: room with a view / chely wright: single white female / cyndi thomson: my world / deana carter: i'm just a girl / dixie chicks: home (bonus dvd edition) / dwight yoakam: guitars cadillacs etc etc; gone / elo: all over the world - the very best of / faith hill: faith / frank sinatra: the capitol years / frank sinatra and count basie: it might as well be swing /
gretchen peters: gretchen peters; halcyon / jessi alexander: honeysuckle sweet / joan baez: the best of the vanguard years / jonathan richman: modern lovers '88; jonathan sings! / joy lynn white: between midnight and hindsight; the lucky few; wild love; one more time / julie roberts: julie roberts / kelly willis: easy; what i deserve / kim richey: bitter sweet /
lari white: green eyed soul / lone justice: the millennium collection: the best of / maria mckee: maria mckee; you gotta sin to get saved / martina mcbride: wild angels; emotion / mary chapin carpenter: shooting straight in the dark; come on come on / matraca berg: sunday morning to saturday night / nanci griffith: lone star state of mind / patty loveless: the trouble with the truth / reba mcentyre: what if it's you / rolling stones: let it bleed; exile on main st / sara evans: no place that far; born to fly / shelby lynne: i am shelby lynne; suit yourself / steve earle: guitar town; exit 0 / the band: the band; northern lights, southern cross; the last waltz; the beatles: the beatles (white); beatles for sale (mono); rubber soul; help!; abbey road; past masters (volume 2); at the hollywood bowl / the everly brothers: the definitive / tift merritt: tambourine / tim mcgraw: and the dancehall doctors / tom petty and the heartbreakers: damn the torpedoes / traveling wilburys: volume 1 / trisha yearwood: everybody knows; inside out; thinkin' about you; jasper country / vince gill: the next big thing / wallflowers: bringing down the horse / woody allen: standup comic / wynonna: her story (scenes from her lifetime) / the windmills: now is then


SUBMIT YOURS - send yours to 89albums[at]googlemail[dot]com and we'll post 'em up as a proper entry rather than a comment. Please allow time for incompetence.

1963 Weather Nostalgia Grips Nation

Clarkson of the Sunday Times on the end of the Oil Age (and the new VW Golf R32):

Nobody knows when [the end of the Oil Age] will be because nobody knows how much there is down there, and equally nobody knows how much demand there will be for it in the future. In the past 40 years the population of the world has doubled.

So will it double again in the next 40? Or will we all be killed by parrots? Only the world’s environmentalists, with their crystal balls and their tarot cards, seem belligerently certain about what’s going to happen next.

I disagree with the Clarkson on a lot of stuff, but I do find him quite sane on the environment and climate change, because - like me - he knows that the global warming lobby has very little data to go on, and an awful lot of interest in securing money and grants. That Golf R32 looks great, too. Spare us £26k, guv? At 30 mpg, that's only going to cost me about £90 a week in petrol.

In other news, the press are going apeshit about the coming Big Freeze: coldest winter for 70 million years, March of the Glaciers, fuel shortages, rising gas prices... And the BBC Monthly Outlook carries this disclaimer:
Monthly forecasting
Forecasting the weather beyond about a week ahead stretches even the most experienced weather forecaster. Complex numerical weather forecast models from the Met Office and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF)are run many times for the month (and season) ahead to build up a picture of the likelihood of different weather types affecting the UK.

November 18, 2005

Computers are rubbish #47658

Regular readers of this blog will know that we are no strangers to the idea that computers and the sun don't really work very well together. Indeed it might be argued that computers don't really work very well on their own.

It seems that NASA have finally cottoned on to this fact. See here. Perhaps one day we will have computers that actually work reasonably well, rather than taking an hour to install and then two weeks to get working properly.


sand eating 01
Originally uploaded by mcmrbt.

Now it can be told...

My parents were so irresponsible, they abandoned me on the beach at Hayling Island in 1963 and left me to fend for myself.

I was forced to eat sand, with sand worms for protein, and eventually crawled back home to Dumpstable.

I never forgave them. You can see how malnourished I was - near starvation, obviously.

Now he can say what he really thinks...

Roy Keane will be signing on at the Job Centre tomorrow morning.

He'll be going for retraining at the Taylor/Pleat School of Media Commentary, where he will learn to call a spade a fork.

weekend homework: 89 albums

now pay attention, class. you at the back! mcminn! stop making sarcastic comments and listen!

this link comes from lisa at Rullsenberg Rules.

it's a while since we've had any weekend homework, so just follow tim de lisle's brief and hit us with your must-haves. you don't have to be as everyperson as him if you don't want; it doesn't matter if no-one's heard of your selections.

(if you write your selections in a snake rather than a list, that will save space.)

mo'75 to his astral weeks comment, too.


SUBMIT YOURS - send yours to 89albums[at]googlemail[dot]com and we'll post 'em up as a proper entry rather than a comment. Please allow time for incompetence.

Expect failure of electronic devices

Space Weather News for Nov. 16, 2005

BIG SUNSPOT: An impressive sunspot, "NOAA 822," has appeared on the Earth-facing side of the sun. Measured from end to end, it is wider than Jupiter, and it is crackling with M-class (medium-sized) solar flares. So far none of the explosions has hurled a coronal mass ejection toward Earth. Geomagnetic storms and auroras are possible, however, if this 'spot unleashes a major flare in the days ahead.

Sick sky

The sky over Nottingham this morning was more sickly-looking than I've ever seen it before. Thick with that yellow/grey smoke again. So thick I couldn't see the horizon through it.

Worse still you could see a thick stream of grey smoke hovering about 30 feet above the A453.

This morning I discovered that my car was blocked in by my wife's car. I therefore had to de-ice her car, which took 15 minutes, move it, and then de-ice my own car. I won't make that mistake again.

Seven out of ten for seventypercent.com

Mixed feelings about my first order from chocolate mavens Seventypercent.com

On the one hand, the chocolate I ordered is incredible - the Amadei has a clean snap and an amazingly fruity taste, as if it has black cherries embedded in it, except it doesn't.

So top marks for that. But it's one of those ecommerce sites that won't let you order if things aren't in stock (okay, if you have doubts about supply), so obviously what I ordered was shown in stock. Except it wasn't, so the order took a while to fulfill. Fair enough, there was a lot of publicity about the Amadei. I heard Jane Garvey tasting it and not being impressed, and I bet they got thousands of orders as a result of that. Oooh, if Jane Garvey doesn't like it, it must be good!

But the other disappointment was this: "Free Malagasy sample. Free samples of this exciting new chocolate from Madagascar with every shop order, while stocks last."

This message is still on their web site, but I didn't get no free sample. So if they're out of stock, they should take the offer down.

I've tried the purist 70% Amadei... now for the Bonnat 65% milk chocolate: "...milk chocolate that is as strong as a dark, yet tastes sweet and creamy like a milk!"

Ooo er.

we mean it, maaaam

oh fuck, comic bloody relief day today. for our non-uk readers, i should explain that comic relief is a telethon-type-charity-thing. you tend to get accosted by drooling idiots dressed as chickens, thrusting buckets of small change in your face, wherever you go. and if you don't empty the contents of your pockets into the buckets, hand over your car keys and deeds to your house, you're a wanker. some of the money will go to help children in need in the uk and around the world. though many a bellyful of beer and vegetable biryani has been funded by my excursions into the becostumed-collecting-faux-charity scene.*

i caught a passing tv left unattended last night, and observed that in the build-up to the great day, many celebrities are offering prizes which everyone can bid for, prizes which sometimes include the celebritites themselves. terry wogan, for example, is offering a round of golf with him as partner. in dubai or something.

i thought to myself, you don't hear much from elizabeth von windsor on these occasions. wouldn't it be great if she offered a day with her at the palace? you could try on her sparkly hat, ride around on the back of a corgi and beat a maid senseless with a riding crop. but oh no.

she doesn't even give anything. i don't suppose it's her money though. it's ours. what a ridiculous woman and family. let's tickle them all to death.**

* not really.
** is this treason?

F*cking H*larious

Speaking of comedy, which we were, I've caught about one and a half episodes of BBC2's Joanna Lumley vehicle Sensitive Skin, which they keep telling us is some kind of comedy. Here's a flavour:
A chance meeting with an old school friend prompts Davina Jackson to begin looking back on her childhood. And when her mother suffers another stroke, she literally returns to her old haunts. Meanwhile, Al also confronts his past in the guise of an old flame and media grandee Sarah Thorne. This programme contains strong language."

It's whimsical at times, ironic, yes, but not therapeutically funny.

At one point, Lumley sits whimsically on a seat in some woodland and has a conversation about her lost childhood with her imaginary childhood friend, who appears to have been waiting for her. How we laughed. Later she visits her immobile stroke victim mother in the nursing home.

Meanwhile, her husband, played by Denis Lawson, has a crisis in confidence when he meets a loud, braying former sweetheart, who runs some kind of Melvin Bragg-style round table discussion on radio. Earlier, Lumley had met a former schoolfriend, who had admired her beauty and confidence with boys and felt a failure in comparison. The whimsical ironical moment comes when she tells Lumley she's now - essentially - a brain surgeon, while all Lumley has left is her slowly fading beauty. I think I got a stitch in my side laughing at that bit.

Obviously, there's nothing wrong with whim and iron. There's certainly room in this vast multi-channel universe. But you can't help thinking that in some parallel alternate universe BBC2 had something on that was actually funny, and didn't send my alternate self to bed feeling suicidal.

November 17, 2005

Your Questions, er, Question Answered

Unfortunately, our log of your questions is clogged by billions of searches for Annel1se H3sme, whose name I'm having to disguise in order not to worsen the problem. Many people, somewhat distastefully, are arriving from a forum in which an individual I am sure is not a true gentleman expresses a wish to make use of Ms H3sme's face for something that is probably not terribly hygienic and might indeed lead to an eye infection. How such tawdriness could even enter your mind upon viewing her angelic face is beyond my ability to comprehend.

And you S@ra Be@ny people are persistent, too.

Apart from that, what do you wish to know?

What does Kenny Chesney look like without his hat? He looks like.... this. For real! Or, er, allegedly. Thanks to our reader Anonymous for that link.

How did the universe begin? I'm sure you don't mean the Hallmark Universe. The origins of the universe in which we live are entirely unknown. Which is nice. It doesn't pay to know everything, because then you have what is called plausible deniability

Some scientists believe (or have faith that) it began as an explosion they call the Big Bang, though of what they can't say. What was there before the Big Bang, what form did it take, and how did that begin? Others think that an older universe simply shrank back in on itself to a point of singularity, turned inside out, and began again. Some religionists believe that a supreme being created the universe. But, again with the platform problem: how did the supreme being come into, er, being? I tend to think that it's all a dream, and will be cancelled next season when viewing figures drop.

Is our universe the only one? Lacking evidence to the contrary, it's possible to believe in something called the multiverse, based on the theory that - every second of every day - people make choices that cause time-lines to diverge. In one such universe, you are reading this and finding in quite interesting and amusing. In another, you are filled with a nameless rage. In still another, you decide to watch EastEnders instead. I'm assuming EastEnders is better in your universe than it is in ours.

Shelagh Fogarty's name seems to have been coming up a lot. Her BBC Bio is here. She's a woman of strong convictions who follows her own moral compass, I think it's fair to say. You may have read of her having an on-air disagreement with Geoffrey Boycott, that well known professional Yorkshireman and feminist. The two of them have history - the first time they met, he said to Fogarty, "Hello Leggy," and she's hated him ever since. With good reason, I think. I bet if you cornered her at a party and she was pissed, she'd tell you that she fucking hates that Boycott.

I'm afraid that's your lot this time.

Not so funny

What makes you laugh at the moment? For health purposes we should be laughing for 18 minutes a day, but I'm barely managing a tenth of that I reckon.

Being an increasingly grumpy old codger, I'm finding all the "young people's" tv comedies dull and derivative, and nothing that has come on recently makes me want to tune in.

Remember tuning in? before push-button TVs, before remote controls? That's the era of comedy I'm into, listening to things like Round the Horne and Beyond Our Ken on BBC Radio 7. That's what I'm reduced to: chuckling at 36 year old radio comedy.

"It looks good, it tastes good, and by golly it is good... if you put enough gin in it."

Commercial Fantasies

Following on from yesterday's slight rant about continental drinking culture, I thought I'd share with you my pet theories on how cafés should run.

While I have been trying to train myself not to be impatient in French cafés (with some degree of success), I've noticed that some places don't seem to be run by commercially minded management. Especially when there are no grown-ups in evidence, you do sometimes sit at an empty table for longer than is comfortable for even the most tolerant Brit.

So I try to avoid those places that are being manned/run by students who obviously have no interest in the profitability of each table.

I've also noticed that, if we are the first customers of the day (and I always want to stop for a coffee before anyone else does, since I'd rather drink coffee than hang around in Armand Thiery stores), that we are soon joined by other customers, and a place that was deserted becomes busy and bustling.

Many people are reluctant to sit at an empty table in or outside an empty café. The owners must be sitting around, becoming increasingly desperate for that first punter of the day. Which is why, if I was running a place, I'd have a table outside displaying a sign that reads, "La première boisson est libre pour notre premier client du jour." or words to that effect. Adding "...qui n'est pas un bruit" (I think bruit is French for tramp).

Alternatively, you could operate this policy quietly, ad hoc, so that regular customers might be aware of it, so might start dropping by early for their free espresso. Once you've got the punter at a table, the other punters come rolling in.

As an enterprise, your café is losing money for every minute you are open if you have empty tables. So it pays to get people in early, and it would pay double not to keep them hanging around for service.

nice one, bob

we already knew what a terrible travesty of communication is the email, but it's nice to hear bob say it.

his comments on blogging were not reported, but it's highly likely that he said "feck" at least once.

BBC - collective -selected review

My review of Joy Lynn White's One More Time is one of the "selected member reviews" over at BBC Collective. Catch it while it's hot.

The interview at Puremusic.com that I linked to the other day is a long one. Until she starts banging on about animal rights JLW makes a lot of sense (she probably makes a lot of sense on animal rights, too, but let's not get started on that). One of the reasons for her long career hiatus was the loss of a family member in a flood-related accident.

She also, typically, had record company issues (with Pete Anderson's label, which she describes as incompetently run), which was another factor. But then she got involved in theatre as well, so was appearing as Maybell Carter in some play about the Carter family. I guess the time adds up, and before you know it, it's seven years later.

I must say, I was thinking this morning how the FIFA World Cup tournaments seemed to have impossibly long gaps between them when I was a boy, but now we've barely finished complaining about the last one before we have to start complaining about the next.

As I get older, time moves faster and I remember less.