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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

March 31, 2005

Chat Me Up, Why Doncha?

A lot of you have written to ask for some more chat-up lines and other secrets of seducing women.

Feel free to use these, if you have the opportunity. Readers and other members of the team might wish to contribute their own.

"I know the internal dimensions of every Peli case..."

"The last of my genital warts fell off last night..."

"I have to change my guitar strings regularly, because I've got very acidic sweat."


BBC NEWS: Eccleston quits Doctor Who role. I knew this would happen if they cast an ac-tor in the role. Just as you start to warm to him, because he was all right really, just as you let your guard down, he smacks you in the face like a comedy lobster bib.

He was too young anyway. Let's have someone with a bit more dignity next time. I nominate Timmy Mallett.

March 30, 2005

disenchanted, leigh on sea

when our boys tonked the gairmans 5-1 in munich a couple of years' ago, i pretty much decided that i wanted sven eriksson to be my dad. now, like a lot of other people, i've got patricide on my mind. i have come to despise him and his amoral creepiness, and the bunch of feckless don't care bertie big bollocks millionaires he chooses to represent our fair country. i don't care if england win 20-0 tonight, it won't change the way i feel. what's the point of qualifying if you fail so miserably in the main tournament? commentators like to tell us how sven has never lost an england qualifying match. so maybe the fa should just use him for those games, and get a winner for the finals. it's horses for courses, innit?

In the offing...

Ms Maria McKee has a new album coming out on April 19th. According to her handwritten newsletter (I love the way she does that), it's more traditional than her previous two records (which lacked good tunes, in my opinion); and according to the email newsletter it's a return to something like You Gotta Sin to Get Saved which was her last rock/country/soul outing.

I liked just the one track on High Dive, but I believe in supporting Maria, so I'll shell out for the new one.

Interesting to read on page 2 of her newsletter that she's written a play, "about an adolescent girl who is both the protegé of and caretaker for her Brilliant and Troubled older brother (sound familiar?)." Indeed.

Another independent minded female singer/writer with a record in the works is Shelby Lynne whose last album, Identity Crisis is very good, but for some reason always makes me think of vacuuming the stairs up to the loft conversion in our old house. Suit Yourself, then is also on my list of things to buy soon, along with the forthcoming 5pr1nG5t33n album, which we've promised not to talk about.

Both Faith Hill and Trisha Yearwood have upcoming releases, so there must be something in the 2005 air.

Never thought I'd say this...

But well done to Mr Oliver over his school meals campaign, which makes me feel ridiculously emotional, for sentimental reasons.

But what I don't understand is why the government are falling over themselves to deny being influenced by his campaign. What's that about? Not only is it obvious that they are, but it seems small-minded and pathetic to pretend that you aren't. It reminds me of that classic Smashie and Nicey sketch, as they dash to the press conference to announce their resignations before their sacking is announced.

We all know governments are influenced by lobbies, sometimes too much so. But a grass roots campaign to improve the quality of school meals is hardly Big Tobacco and Bernie Ecclestone is it? Or is it?

It all ties together anyway. There was much in the news yesterday about how teachers were facing constant verbal and physical abuse from older kids. I'm sure that diet is a huge influence on kids' behaviour. While the centre cannot hold and things do fall apart, I also believe that the major difference between my generation at school age and the current is the growth in the food industry.

And let's face it, the influence that this government needs to be denying is that of the food lobby, the sugar and dairy industries, and the Deep Fat Conglomerate.

Talking of Rishathra...

I finally got around to reading Ringworld's Children by Larry Niven. Not everyone's cup of tea, I know, but a series I've been enjoying since I first read Mr Niven at the tender age of around 12 or 13; in other words, just a couple of years after the original Ringworld was published.

[I have to say, although most young people would baulk at the idea of being 42 years of age at any point in their lives, I'm really starting to enjoy very much the fact that I enjoyed many many things the first time around. Things that have either come back into fashion, or entered the mainstream for the first time, or suffered a revival. And even where I was behind the curve of events as they occured - because I'm not that old - I wasn't that far behind.]

I've mentioned before (sorry, blog now too big to bother finding link) that the Ringworld was a great idea in search of a plot, and over the decades Niven has returned to it several times, building a story around the flaws in his original concept and creating an extended response to his critics. Along the way, his own obsessions have also influenced things, so much of what happens concerns the various ways the book's 200-year-old hero, Louis Wu, is made young and strong again; and the ways in which a 50-year-old female character is seen as youthful and sexy.

Ringworld's Children seems less like a 3rd sequel and more like a bolt-on to the 2nd sequel, The Ringworld Throne. This explains its skimpy length (less than 300 pages); in fact, very little time has passed since the previous book ended.

As far as plotting is concerned, the problem of the Ringworld is its size; as Niven mentions in the Preface, if the Earth was a marble, Ringworld would be a ribbon half a mile wide and 5 miles long. In other words, it's exceedingly difficult to even build a scale model. I've mentioned before that the artwork for the books always gets the scale wrong: if you're far enough away to see that it's a ring, then you're too far away to see any surface detail. So land a few human-sized people on its surface, and it's really very difficult to find anything for them to do.

So why read it? Because it's fascinating to read an author struggling with such a big idea; and it's interesting for the reader to try to grasp the scale of the thing, and other astronomical concepts. There's a rumour that the Sci Fi Channel are planning a mini-series, but what it really needs to be is a long-running serial, not necessarily too closely based on the original books: let's say 8 or 9 seasons of 45 minute episodes, or around 150 hours. Then you might be able to do it justice.

Still, I enjoyed it, and judging from the ending, it really is over now. I've started reading On Stranger Tides which I managed to source from Abebooks. It's something I read many years ago, and which has been out of print. Like most of Powers' stuff, it's sheer brilliance.

March 29, 2005

Accident Book Revisited

I love this kind of thing (from the Guardian). I can just picture certain people I have known entering "volcanic eruption" in the office accident book. One visit to the downstairs toilet in our office is enough to prompt that.

I'm quite disturbed by the 15 injuries caused by "contact with a marine mammal." Because we all know what that's about, don't we? Rishathra, of the non-consenting, pervy, variety.

Accident Book Revisited

I love this kind of thing (from the Guardian). I can just picture certain people I have known entering "volcanic eruption" in the office accident book. One visit to the downstairs toilet in our office is enough to prompt that.

I'm quite disturbed by the 15 injuries caused by "contact with a marine mammal." Because we all know what that's about, don't we? Rishathra, of the non-consenting, pervy, variety.


So. Doctor Who. Rescued from the dire consequences of fandom, back in the mainstream: 10 million viewers, so it goes, though nobody asked me, as ever. The worst sin it seems to have committed is to have been, "all right" according to most people who watched it.

It was okay, I thought. No cliffhanger, which is a shame. How are the 10 million people going to be persuaded to tune in again? Television has all but forgotten the cliffhanger. They'd rather show a thing over two nights, Sunday and Monday, get it over with, quick fix ratings. Only Alias consistently uses the cliffhanger, and that's relegated to the middle of the night.

I thought Doctor Who started well, with a Buffyesque Billie Piper wandering the bowels of a department store and attacked by zombie shop dummies. The Doctor's intervention was suitably low-tech, because Buffy (in its first season especially) proved that with mood lighting and prosthetics, you could compensate for the stingiest per-episode budget.

And, if anything, I think the new Who team missed a trick or two there. Much has been written about the sheer quantity of CGI used per episode, and a little less of this, and a little more X-Files style darkness and suggestion would have improved it. The wheelie bin bit, obviously played for laughs, was camp and naff. If they'd showed its merest movement, and then shown the (racial stereotype?) boyfriend going to investigate, it would have been more effective.

But of course Buffy/Billie subverted The X Files when she switched the light on in the basement at the beginning. So the cries of, "Why don't they ever switch the light on?" were still-born (the answer, by the way, is that the lights could be booby-trapped, so the truly paranoid learn not to switch them on).

They missed a trick at the end though. To return to the cliffhanging theme. Because the Tardis went away and came back again, and Dr Who called out something about travelling in time as well as space, which was the clincher for Buffy/Billie. What they should have done was have him go away and come back again nursing a stab wound or something, falling from the Tardis with blood all over his jacket and jeans, sweat running off his face, calling out for help. Cue music. Cue the balls.

March 24, 2005

Subjunctives and counterfactuals

Were I in the least bit competitive or ambitious I'd run a "cob van" that went round factories and offices in the afternoon.

For those of you who don't live in Nottingham, by "cob" I mean "bread roll", or "bap", or "baguette", or "stottie". Not "male swan". (Because driving round selling male swans would be silly. And probably treasonous, because all swans are owned by the queen. Besides which, swans are fucking vicious when being manhandled in the back of a transit.)

You get "cob vans" visiting places of work in the mornings. About three of them. Highly competitive. Driving dangerously and short-changing people viciously in order to maintain a competitive edge.

You see, if you did it in the afternoon there would be the following advantages:
a) no competition or gang wars
b) people are starving by then because they ate the "cobs" they bought at 9.30 in the morning about 5 minutes later.
c) you cater for all the people who had meetings (which always over-run through lunchtime)
d) people are half asleep and therefore dazed so they will spend more money than is sensible.
e) people are really bored and feel compelled to seek comfort food.
f) you could make your "cobs" in the morning rather than the night before so they were fresh, so, e.g. your "tuna surprise" didn't smell of fish.

Good idea eh? And you could sleep in every morning, and still have the evenings free.

March 23, 2005

Lame Excusage

I'm an unsympathetic bastard. You should know that about me. One of my team is off work today, dog-minding. I ask you. Not because said dog is ill, but because the dog is just not left on its own. I could have had the last 7 years off work to look after my kids, on that basis, instead of paying what should have been my pension plan in childcare fees.

The local shopkeeper mentioned that he knew someone who phoned in sick because he had an "ant infestation." They were all over the bin and everything, apparently.

When I was at school, my ex-best friend went through a deeply rebellious period, which involved him styling his hair like John Travolta in Grease and wearing a non-standard tie. Blue with red stripes, as opposed to the standard VIth Form gold bling.

One day, he was halfway down some stairs when the deputy headmistress saw him. She immediately asked why he wasn't wearing his school tie. He fluttered his fingers through the tie in an ineffectual manner and said, "It's in the wash," with a simper.

[The whole point of the deputy head, of course, is to question your compliance with the uniform code. I once went on a creative writing course and turned up at school on the day I was to leave wearing jeans and a shock-horror collarless shirt.

I was nabbed by this same headmistress and subjected to a 45 minute interrogation. When I explained that I was about to go on a weekend residential course, she asked what it was for. I said, creative writing. She said, and these were her actual words, "But you don't write dressed like that! Why are you dressed like that?!"]

At the opposite extreme to the lame excuse is the over-the-top excuse. I was late to registration once in VIth form, and the woman who took the register complained at me. I said, "I could be suffering from cancer, and all you care about is that I'm five minutes late."

I was particularly peeved because this was probably the only day in 12 years of schooling I was ever late, even by a little. Later that day, a senior teacher took me aside and asked if it was true that I had cancer. Apparently, concerns had been raised about my welfare.

And since this is turning into a freeform jazz session, I'll add this. I remember reading a quote about Bob Dylan, concerning, I think, his song "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream," which features the verse:
I went into a restaurant
Lookin' for the cook
I told them I was the editor
Of a famous etiquette book
The waitress he was handsome
He wore a powder blue cape
I ordered some suzette, I said
"Could you please make that crepe"
Just then the whole kitchen exploded
From boilin' fat
Food was flying everywhere
And I left without my hat

The quote went something like this: "Bob Dylan. That guy's ridiculous. He gets thrown out of a restaurant and writes a goddam song about it."

March 22, 2005

Who's Next

Okay, it's official. I'm extremo excited about you know what that starts (again) in it's more-or-less-rightful-place on Saturday night. Clips I've seen, production values look high, it looks glossy and new, and from what I've read, they've certainly got the right idea about storylines (though the potential lack of cliffhangers, with only 13 45 minue episodes, worries me).

And whereas some might suspend disbelief, I'm prepared to suspend my hatred for the lead ac-tors, on the basis that they might be quite good and then I'd look like an idiot.

Only fly in the oinitment, it's my wife's birthday. How am I going to tell her that her birthday treat is to stay in and watch ?

On this subject, a lot of you have written to ask, who is my favourite Doctor? As for so many, Tom Baker stands out not just because of his mad air and eccentricity, but for sheer longevity. He was the right man in the role for a long time. But there were bad elements, like the pointless Romana, and the silly robot dog K9, who solved all problems, too often, and too easily. So for me, it's worth looking back to Jon Pertwee. The episodes were hamstrung by being earthbound, but he had the right level of not-suffering-fools (like Hartnell) and serious cleverness. And I liked his assistants best, Sarah-Jane and Jo before her.

So probably him, but not forgetting Patrick Troughton, who was the Doctor in the episodes that scared me the most, the original Cybermen and the Yetis in the London Underground. And, er, Peter Davidson had some fairly foccy assistants, too, with nice cleavage on display.

March 21, 2005

Excellent article about spring by Rob.

There are many traditions that are beautifully dark, and I reckon you can tell whether a tradition is real or not by whether it has a spurious-sounding christian explanation.

Think xmas (celebrating the end of the rise of darkness and thus rebirth) and baptism (human sacrifices to the pagan water gods who dwelt in dark pools)

If it does, it means the tradition was around a long time ago, at a time when the church was still powerful enough to require that a tradition be made acceptible by not being pagan.

So among all the woods springing new and bucks farting, they had fiery orgies, and games, the object of which was terrifying old women (witches) with clacking horse-skulls.

And, more understandably, beating ugly and small people to death with oak sticks to keep the bad spirits away.

Here in the new improved world we've just got luvies sending each other pastel easter cards designed by lame-cocked coke-snorting "do you know who I am"s on a computer.

And stratomarkets stocked with miles of shelves full of those huge shiney boxes that contain smokey-bacon-flavoured creme eggs made in Indonesia from recovered meat® produce.

Nostalgia Bulletin


Spring is here:
"Now comes the Vernal Equinox, and the season of Spring reaches it's apex, halfway through its journey from Candlemas to Beltane. Once again, night and day stand in perfect balance, with the powers of light on the ascendancy. The god of light now wins a victory over his twin, the god of darkness."

Eostre, as any fule kno, was the Germanic goddess of fertility. This year, more than ever before, I feel a sense of relief and inner happiness that the long winter is over. Went for a bike ride on Saturday. Unlike last winter, I couldn't keep it up over the dark half of the year. The weather's just been too bad, and what with moving house and everything, it just hasn't happened.

So I was feeling very unfit, and my knees and hips are murder today, but it was still great to get out there, to see the blossom on the trees, the sheep in the fields, the bird watchers at the reservoir.

But that's not what I want to write about. At lunchtime, I suddenly remembered something from my childhood: orange rolling on Dunstable Downs, Good Friday, which is just one of many traditional Easter customs, like the Skipping of Alciston in Sussex (which I think is the one where people run as fast as they can down a steep hill and fall over); or the Britania Coconut dancers of Bacup in Lancs, which sound hilarious.

Some fools believe that rolling an orange down a hill is somehow symbolic of "the stone being rolled away from the door of Christ's tomb." Duh. Whereas of course it really represents the gift of citrus. It was always a bit of a bundle, I remember, a bit scary and violent, so the grown ups would go in, coming back with an orange or two to roll gently down the slope to us kids. I have a photo of myself taken on Orange Rolling Day (a better name than Good Friday). It's at the top of this post. It doesn't look very crowded, but we always parked ourselves away from the numbers, and the camera was pointing down at the London Gliding Club below, I think.

It seemed like the whole town was up there; these days, there'd be the whole town and all their relatives, plus hordes of freeloading tourists from all over the country, from places where they don't go in for Maid's Money, Pace-egging, Butterworth Dole, or Coconut Dancing. , like all bank holidays, is an excuse to dive into the car and sit in traffic, while you torture yourself trying to get "somewhere nice". What people are really after is a time machine experience, jump in the car on good friday and go back in time to 1967, when car ownership was a new and recent luxury, and the roads and countryside were really quite nice places to be.

I remember going Rolling a few times as a kid, and then we stopped going, I guess because we were all too old, and because the experience was a bit nasty, really, once you were in there getting punched in the throat over a bit of soft fruit. And also, I think, because like the idiots we are, we started to equate the distance you travelled with the quality of the experience. So it just wasn't good enough to go up the Downs for an afternoon. No, we have to get up early and drive for 2 or 3 hours, and then sit around on someone else's downs. It's the prizing of the distant and exotic over the local and convenient. Still, what do I know, I married a French girl.

Well that didn't last long

Yahoo buys Flickr - and before it's even out of Beta. It's still the way to make a fortune, innit? Show off your programming skills, get acquired. It's already been interesting to note how Flickr changes as it gets bigger and bigger (and I'm making no claims about getting on the ground floor) - the feeling of a wide "flickr" community has vanished, for me, and you get a sense of lots of little "flickrette" communities, doing their things without that sense of mass participation.

And quite right too. The last thing you want is a bunch of veterans who moan about the newbies and their dumb FAQs - always the worst feature of any so-called "community" web location. Anyone new feels like an interloper and soon gives up. Flickr should just grow and grow until the veterans are buried and forgotten.


In other news, John from macvspc.info wrote to suggest Batchmod to fix my little OS X permissions problem, which it duly did, thank you very much.

March 18, 2005

5/10.... Grrrr!

So I bought myself a new , yesterday, a top-of-the-line 20-incher with a 1.8GHz processor and a gig of RAM. This is part of my ongoing home studio build. Instead of buying a new bit of audio hardware, I figured I might as well up the processing power.

In the couple of years I've had my old G4 iMac, have introduced what looks like a fantastic feature, which is the option to transfer all your accounts, files, applications, and settings from an old Mac by connecting the two together with a FireWire cable and booting the old one into Target Disk Mode.

About halfway through my time-shifted viewing of Desperate Housewives last night, I'd have awarded this process 10/10. It really works brilliantly, totally transparently. And though it told me it would take 3 hours to transfer 40GB or so of data, it really only took about half that time.

But there was a fly in the ointment. Right at the beginning of the process, I was asked about the existence of two accounts called "Rob." Did I want to change the name of the old one? Or did I want to replace the new one with the old one? On the horns of this dilemma, I made the wrong choice, to change the name of the old one to "oldRob" and keep the new one pristine. It was a new 'puter and I just wanted the old files, really, wasn't bothered too much about anything else. Mot of my innernet bookmarks are kept elsewhere, so there was nothing too crucial.

But this was the wrong thing to do, for two reasons. First, the account oldRob was locked out of most of the rest of the Mac - all the folders had No Entry signs, and were locked. Second, new Rob was locked out of everything belonging to oldRob.

It's an thing. For example, try to open an oldRob iMovie project, and you were denied. Go into Get Info (Command-I) and change the permissions, you could open the project, but you couldn't edit or apply any effects to existing clips, because they still belonged to oldRob, so you got an error. In other words, you had to unlock everything. Using Disk First Aid to repair the permissions was no help, you had to do it manually.

So then I thought, fuckit, I'll just archive the oldRob account, which is useless to me as it stands. But then you end up with a disk image file, which you have to mount and then keep entering your password in order to copy files out of it. Long story short, the one-and-a-half-hour brilliance of copying everything over was torpedoed because I chose incorrectly when asked about the accounts - a dumb-ass end-user error, which I'll now be paying for for months. Unless I wipe it and start from scratch, which is just too depressing a thought.

Otherwise, I guess I'm happy with it. The 20-incher is a bit of a beast: heavy and imposing, but elegantly slim. And the industrial design of the inner workings is simply stunning, of course - the main reason for buying Apple. But I don't think it looks as nice, or as elegant, as the old G4 iMac, the controversial "sunflower" design, which was derided by some wankers as "anglepoise". To me, having something as superb as the sunflower iMac in an ordinary home was just an extraordinary, wonderful thing. I don't feel the same about the "tombstone" flat panel design, which to me is clever under the surface but a bit of a monstrosity.

March 17, 2005

Puffin and Blowin

Just got my copy of Digital Photographer magazine (why o why do all the magazines always arrive in the same week?), and there's a nice picture of a puffin on page 55. It struck me that you rarely* see a picture of a puffin without some fish in its mouth. Do you think they tell the photographer to wait, then scurry off to grab some fish? "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr DeMille..."

*This is not actually true

Cod is in the Details

I sometimes wonder, given the crisis afflicting the fishing industry, and the perilously low fish stocks, particularly cod, why isn't Cod Liver Oil really, really expensive? For example, St John's Wort, beloved of the mildly depressed, can cost nearly £15 for a mere 30 days' supply (unless you shop in Costco). Whereas Cod Liver Oil is a fraction of that.

It's something I worry about, constantly.


Those of you who know me will remember that due to an adminstrative error in 1996 I have nightmares with taxation.

Every year I have to complete a 75 page form in full to try and sort things out and it always ends up with me having to pay about £200 (say $300).

This year I thought, "fuck it" because I was certain they owed me money. I filled in the forms and sent them off and thought, "I'm not paying jack shit".

Sure enough, yesterday I received a letter from them. They explained that they owed me £197.63, and it would be paid directly into my bank account.

However, this morning I received another letter stating that my employer had underpaid tax on my behalf last year to the sum of £2 exactly. This should have been paid by the 31st January this year. However, since I had failed to make this payment in time I have been fined £100.

I'm not surprised really. For those of you abroad - that's what England is like: sort of quite averagely not very good and cocked-up.


Those younger readers who take an interest in history and have watched relevant programs such as Timewatch and Coronation Street, to find out how people used to live, will find the following comments helpful.

Firstly there were no mobile phones.

Secondly, society was obsessed with something called the class system. There were three classes of people - upper, middle and lower/working. Members of the middle class could be identified by their claims to be members of the upper class. Likewise members of the working class always claimed to be middle class. Members of the upper class just shot you for trespassing. There was an underbelly class of pariahs of course - tramps, actresses, vagrants, and the like.

To get a grip on what it was like, you might compare the old classes with types of people these days:
a) Upper Class - people who work in Television.
b) Middle Class - salesmen and dealers.
c) Lower Class - people who work in credit control and the mobile phone industry.
d) Criminal Class of pariahs - healthcare workers.

Anyway, last night I was watching a program about Bob Geldoff. Personally I never rated him. I thought he was shite. In the golden light of retrospect, I might even say a bit of a one hit wonder. I don't like Mondays either.

Well, they spent a lot of time talking about Paula Yates. At the time I thought she was rubbish as well. In fact she annoyed me with her silly girlyness. I found myself thinking that she actually looked alright last night though. I suppose that is all part of getting old.

I once walked down the Kings Road in Chelsea for at least four hundred yards next to Bob Geldoff. I think he was pissed. He was alone but getting lots of attention. He was loving it. I wanted to blank him but he didn't give me the chance.

They're playing our song...

I didn't watch the footie last night, because it's rubbish but I caught the beginning, because CJ had wanted to see 3rd Rock From the Sun, which wasn't on. But I do think it's great the way that Newcastle Utd run out to the theme from Local Hero.

I wonder what Middlesborough will run out to, tonight? The Birdy Song? Sorry, couldn't find the tab for it.

March 16, 2005


Brioche vendéenne


First Purchase

My own tastes in music came about largely as a result of two things: firstly, having Beatles For Sale hard-wired into my DNA; and secondly, having an older sister with at least one or two cool records.

We were never much of a hi-fi family. Growing up, we had a portable mono record player which was succeeded by a second-hand all-valve radiogram. After that came a really cheap stereo turntable with what looked like a home-made amp. The records around the house consisted of a collection of old 78s, a dozen or so 45s, my mum's Sinatra collection, and the aforementioned Beatles For Sale.

The 78s included the wrong version of "Purple People Eater" (in those days, rival record companies would often put out the same record, gaining sales from ignorant fools like my dad, who would ask for the record by title rather than the artist) and St George and the Dragonet by Stan Freberg, which we've spoken of before. Every now and then, we'd get out the 78s and run through the stack, playing them all, but lingering especially over Stan Freberg. I loved the look of the 78 at full spin. It seemed like total madness.

Apart from "My Boomerang Won't Come Back," the stack of 45s included the "All My Loving" EP by the Beatles, plus "Can't Buy Me Love," "Help," and "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." We also had "Two Little Boys" by Rolf Harris and "The Young New Mexican Puppeteer" by Tom Jones.

In the absence of anything else to appeal to me at the time, Beatles For Sale got played to death. Although we had "Songs for Swinging Lovers," I had no real idea for a long time that Sinatra did anything other than "My Way" and mumble Rod McCuen poetry. During the Reprise years, the classics of the Capitol era were a long way in the past. Reprise kept putting out "Greatest Hits" collections, but of course they were always the greatest hits ...since around 1963. They didn't even have the taste to include the Sinatra/Basie "Fly Me to the Moon." I remember it being a bit of a thing, growing up, how my dad would keep buying records hoping they would have the correct version of "Fly Me to the Moon" on, and -- given his history of buying the incorrect record -- kept getting it wrong. It was either that, or they couldn't remember the name of the song, so searched in vain.

Anyway, in case you're wondering, this is the one you want, and a marvellous record it is, too.

My sister, after her David Cassidy phase, switched to the likes of Lou Reed (a massive leap!), so she had a copy of Transformer and a Velvet Underground compo (which for some reason I remember as having a velvet wallpaper type cover, or did I dream that?). So when I hit my teen years and commandeered the Beatles records in the house, I also scooched her collection and borrowed Transformer, and Ian Hunter's first solo record, though it was really a collab with Mick Ronson.

And, at this frozen moment in time, with the mono record player stashed in my teenage bedroom, with the cream of the household records stolen away, I made my first actual record purchase. The back story to this was the ever-present Beatles For Sale and the received wisdom in my family, that the Beatles were all right up until "Help," but then they went "all funny." I cherish that memory, because it helps to remember stuff like that when you try to understand the 60s. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking of the 60s as an era of sexual liberation, with "revolution in the air," and the whole country swinging along with London and Carnaby Street and Apple records.

The truth is, the high watermark for record sales as far as the Beatles were concerned was, "She Loves You," with "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" standing as their longest stay at #1. From 1966 on, they were no longer universally loved, and were instead controversial, with critics out to slag them off, and the British public divided in their opinions. If you're lucky enough to see the film Let it Be you should note that there really are men in bowler hats on the street below their rooftop concert, looking every bit as outraged as you'd expect a cartoon character version to be. In 1969, the Blue Meanies were a very real thing.

As Simon mentions below, the idiom of the Beatles up to Help! is already hard for people "well under 30" to understand. In a few more years, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" will be, for young people, like listening to Sinatra mumble Rod McCuen was to me.

So our house was like many others in the parental opinion that Something Went Wrong with the Beatles. And it seems inevitable and obvious that my first record purchase was also my first act of teenage rebellion: Beatles 1967-70 also known as the Blue Album. To me at the time (1976/77), it was a totally unknown quantity: I didn't know any of the songs, had non preconception of how it would sound. You didn't hear records that old on national radio at the time, and it's hard to imagine how long ago 1970 was, in 1977.

March 15, 2005

Note to Catholic Church

It's F-I-C-T-I-O-N, you dolts. In other news, NASA has appointed a Top Scientist to point out that Daleks couldn't use staircases, and the BBC is employing The Next Director General to explain to little old ladies that the characters in EastEnders are played by Ac-tors.

Dilute to taste

Some thoughts on Rob's post, developing tastes - the comment about the muddle over Hepburn actresses.

I became conscious of taste in film, music and literature, probably in the early 1970s.

It's an interesting thing that even at that point in time I thought there was a substantial body of work in film and pop, and that things had already reached the point where there were works considered to be "classics".

"30 years ago" to a lot of blog-savvy people is an eternity.

In literature there already are some books that are considered classics that would have, in their day, enjoyed great popularity, but nowadays we consider them "difficult".

Due to cultural changes these works fall by the wayside over time and tend to end up the subject mainly of academic research . They remain classics, even though ordinary people cannot recognise them as such.

And it strikes me that the same will happen with popular music. It eventually ceases to communicate the same things it once did. The common vibrancy and meaning is lost, and what remains is an idiom covered in dust and cobwebs. Lovely cultural fossils.

Music and film is being generated by more and more people, more and more frequently - it's like population growth; a hyperbolic curve on a graph.

And when you think about how much music and film there will be, we are still in our cultural infancy. What will people think about the current blockbuster film in 500 years time?

In terms of music and film are we still only equivalent to scribblers of elegiac goat songs?

And, I suppose, it won't be very long before people listen to, say, The Beatles and think, "well, it's a classic, I know, but I don't actually understand it, let alone like it." Like reading Beowulf or The Wanderer in original English today.

People want something accessible and quick today. And as more of it gets piped through our senses the hit has to be ever more direct. Hence "sugar, salt, lard, porn" maybe.

If you try to pick your three all time favourite songs for Desert Island Disks, it's already difficult. And we don't yet have that much choice, compared to the choice our grand children will have.

Imagine the day when being able to name the members of The Beatles makes you a bit of a boffin.

It's like the old "top 100" lists, that are a combination of lip-service to the greats, and an overabundance of embarrassing inclusions whose only merit is being current.

But which of the two is better? I have a preference, but I might be wrong. Who knows?

Ramblin' on My Mind

I just spent a few minutes browsing the profiles of bloggers with similar credentials (interests, taste in music, films, books etc) to me and the trend is overwhelmingly clear.

I am a virtual 25-year-old Japanese female goth.

Not very good really but typical

Truly any attempt to do something good is punished with an equal and opposite (or greater) measure of bad.

Because my son Ollie is really into James Bond and has complained that he's never had a letter/parcel addressed directly to him, I thought I would do something nice and order him a Corgi James Bond car by mail order, and thus kill two birds with one stone in the form of a nice surprise for him.

Negatory. Access denied. Fortune says "no". The great goddess of brooding darkness has intervened once again, you see.

There are two issues.

First, Corgi have decided to send the parcel by secure courier who require either a passport or driving license in the name of the adressee (my 4 year old) before parting with the parcel.

I guess we'll have to wait another 13 years until he passes his driving test.... if there are still cars by then.

Second, because our house is only 5 years old it is below the radar on street atlases, and even online roadmaps. As a result two attempted deliveries have resulted in failure to find our house at all.

The evidence that the world is rubbish truly is bountiful.

Guess I'll get back to my books about credit control.

Developing Tastes

We've discussed before the fact that everything is available these days; that young people no longer really have the opportunity that my generation had to explore strange new worlds of mystery by doing a bit of research and special-ordering music, or obtaining it by other means. Everything, from dusty old archive recordings to brand new remixed and re-issued fodder, is readily available all the time. And there are, of course, radio stations dedicated to playing nothing but the kind of thing you might like already, so why would you bother to look elsewhere?

Books can still be hard to come by, and because of the sheer effort involved in typing one out, or scanning it in and error-correcting it, you don't find too many of those posted up on the innernet. So books still have a rarity value, to an extent, in that if you find the one you are looking for, you can be charged a fortune for it. On the other hand, if you know where to look and how to look, it takes a matter of seconds to dig something out. Whereas, in my youth, my only option would have been to trawl second hand bookshops in every place I visited, in the faint hope.

Back in days of yore, in the mid-1990s, it wasn't so easy. I looked for this book for several years, before buying it second hand, at great expense, too late for it to be any help with my thesis (I had to struggle with a photocopy). And getting hold of this one was something of a coup (it was written pseudonymously by Don DeLillo, the subject of my PhD research). But now I can find 1, 2, 3 copies in a blink of an eye. Which is good because I loaned it to some guy who got the sack and I'll never get it back.

So my point is still valid. It's all too easy these days, so I imagine it's quite hard to develop quirky and individual tastes. When the Velvet Underground blares at you from TV ads and throughout episodes of Crossing Jordan, it's hard to imagine a way of being different. 'Course, there are bins full of obscure music in Selectadisc, but that is precisely what I'm talking about. It costs you a bus ticket and a couple of hours browsing, and you've got 20 years of someone else's painstaking research.

Then again, films present an opposite problem. Because to delve into the past and watch some classics, in order to develop a taste in motion pictures that goes beyond the Empire generation's knee-jerk lauding of Tarantino and Scorsese, a satellite TV subscription is an absolute requirement. Because all those classic Cary Grant and Gregory Peck, those Katherine and Audrey Hepburn movies, they're all on TCM or similar. Some things are available on DVD, if you know what to buy. But a lot of stuff is hard to find, available on Region 1 only, or VHS only, or second-hand only. And, frankly, why would you want to buy everything? Sometimes it's enough just to watch it once. Then you know, and it's helped you develop some taste. Whereas if you buy everything, you'll end up flogging it at a car boot sale when you run out of space or change formats, as you inevitably will.

And even if you have all that, the purchasing power, the satellite subscription, you still don't have what I had, which is the value of rarity. Because it's all out there, all of the time. No wonder people want to switch off and go and clean shit out of a barn in France, Italy, or Spain. Because with it all there all of the time, where on earth do you start?

March 11, 2005

pope outlives dave allen

the cemetary seems to be as popular as ever, people are just dying to get there etc. etc. i begin to feel just a little bit older as another icon from childhood xmases in the 1970s passes away.

Current Marketing Opportunity in Hallmark World

This morning I awoke to the sound of my children squawking again. Mostly my daughter. She was complaining because she didn't have a suitably fashionable outfit in red to wear.

Why red?

Because today is celebrity red nose day.

I thought it was all about charidee. Apparently it is not: it is the latest event in the Hallmark Calendar of Celebrity Lifestyle Events. And, lets face it, on TV they've been brewing up into a froth about it for at least three weeks. So, like all the other days in Hallmark world, it isn't red-nose-day: it's red-merchandise-month.

In my day, we just had Blue Peter Appeals. They were naive compared to today's voracious media marketing extravaganzas. In those days you would just get some Sinister-looking Adult Presenter to ask for money and they would have a strange display that looked a bit like a giant thermometer in the background.

After several weeks of asking, the appeal would close and the Sinister-looking Adult Presenter would announce, "wow, we've managed to raise an amazing grand total of seventeen pounds which has smashed our target of ten pounds!" Admittedly in those days seventeen pounds was enough to secure purchase of a third-world-country or a Caribbean island, whereas today it will only cover rental of a ringtone for three weeks.

Last time I watched Blue Peter the presenters were speaking in some sort of pidgin pattoir that I couldn't understand, so I switched it off... "Join mi nah in givin' a massiv' big i' up to c'lebrity boffin Terald Nutkin..." or something.

And this morning, in wheezingly high-pitched bad-ass Nottingham-towny-girl-suffering-an-enormous-indignity accent, my daughter said, "but it's red-nose day-O!" (pronounce "-O" as per the "o" in god, rather than the morris-dancerish "foldy-roldy-o").

Being a child of my time (1880s) I always had a thing for those brightly-coloured hair dyes - especially blue and red - the sort that you spray on, and wipe off on your bed-clothes when you go to bed in the evening. Must be some sort of fetish thing, but I always went for the girls with bright red or bright blue hair.

Anyway, this morning the kids all went to school wearing bright red hair-gel. Compromise. Strangely, my 4-year-old son was the spitting image of Josh Homme out of Queens of the Stone Age.

Who Are We?

A lot of you have written to ask, now that Holyhoses is a collaborative effort, who are these people, and do they really exist? I think the easiest way to answer this is to compare the members of this blog to the Monkees. So.

  • Dog - He's Mickey Dolenz, because he has the soul of a drummer and is aridly sarcastic.

  • Andrew - He's Peter Tork, just because he bears a strong physical resemblance. Picture him as Peter Dork, sorry, Tork, with a can of Harmony hairspray.

  • Simon - He's the secretly talented one, Mike Nesmith

  • Rob - I'm the pretty one with the cute English accent

March 10, 2005

suck or sucked?

i'm looking to generate some extra income, and yesterday found myself absentmindedly wondering about selling my body for sex. i've never sold myself in this way before, and maybe i've missed the boat what with the middle years of my life fast advancing, but it does seem an easy way of making money. especially as someone told me what you actually have to do. i'm talking men's toilets here. apparently the payee sucks you. i'd always assumed you had to suck them. or did i dream it? can anyone clear this up for me?

Fantastic triumph

I saw the local news on TV this morning - it's handy for making sure I leave home to take the kids to school at the right time; it displays the time in the corner of the screen.

There was a news item about the Coop, who've been struggling with teenagers doing the "anti-social" bit in the doorways of their stores.

I've certainly seen it myself - fighting, knocking things over, running around, throwing things at people, and openly smoking grass.

Apparently the Coop have tried everything to deter them: alarms, police, security guards, anti-graffiti measures.

Finally they've found something that works: they play jazz over a loudspeaker in the doorway. Apparently because it ain't R&B all the youngsters find that hanging around there and being associated with those sounds ruins their "image". Brilliant.

It will no doubt lead to a new problem though: wonder how they'll cope with all the goatee-bearded old men in polo-necks, whispering "nice!" at passers-by?

Colour Me Impressed

Picked up the story on Macworld today about Colorware, a company offering to customise computers in various colours.

Having been less than bowled over by the current trend for all-white consumer goods from Apple, I love the idea of a return to the days of high-impact colours. I think the iBook, iMac, Mac Mini, and iPod all lend themselves well to the colouring. A red or black iMac G5 would be ace.

March 09, 2005

Nostalgia Bulletin

Driving to work this morning, I was listening to Out of the Blue by the ELO, just because it's been on my mind since the weekend. I've been thinking of recording a version of "Sweet Talkin' Woman" as a kind of warm-up exercise when my home studio is finished.

Strip away the lush production, the novelty string section, vocoder, and all the rest of it, Jeff Lynne was a pretty good songwriter, for straight-ahead, nothing-fancy, rock-pop songs. I always liked "Sweet Talkin' Woman" and "Sweet is the Night", "Telephone Line" (from an earlier record), and so on.

Back in 1977, when Out of the Blue was released, I was, ooh, 14 years old, and ELO (then as now) were the most resolutely un-hip band in the world. You might as well have liked Elton John or the Brotherhood of Man, far as my contemps were concerned. It was wall-to-wall punk rock and I was for a time a lone spokesman for music of the distant past (which back when was a mere 10 years or so, but seemed further). But there was something about ELO that appealed to me, their output was always packed full of musical references cued to my tastes, and they were good fun. And from Birmingham, which doesn't happen every day. They were even my first proper gig. You'd rather it was Jonathan Richman or Spring Bobsteen, but you can't have everything.

The musical references, appropriately, all these years later, seem to point to music that was in the ELO's future. It's hard not to imagine that Fleetwood Mac's Tusk experiment wasn't informed by "Jungle", or that the whole of Karl Wallinger's World Party wasn't somehow influenced by Lynne.

I don't rate Jeff Lynne as a producer, not really. His work with the Wilburys and Tom Petty was frequently the worst thing about listening to those records, and, Jeff, did you have to use the Vocoder quite so much? Listening closely to tracks on Out of the Blue, there's a patched-together spliced feel to a lot of the songs, as if they were trying to out-do 10cc in terms of studio wizardry, without quite pulling it off. And the acoustic guitars, sheesh, all have that terrible Ovation piezo sound. They were in a studio, for god's sake, and could have stuck a mic in front of a proper guitar.

The really interesting thing about Out of the Blue is that most of the instruments and effects they used then (Mini-Moog, ARP 2600, Odyssey, Wurlitzer E.P. 200, Mellotron, Hohner Clavinet, Vocoder [unfortunately], Eventide Harmonizer, flanger, space echo etc) are all available as software plug-ins for various recording packages. The ELO equipment list reads like a gear-freak's wet dream, and yet for a relatively* modest outlay, you could have all of it, in software, and remake Out of the Blue, if you were a crazy person.

*A couple of thousand pounds, as opposed to, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it" for the original hardware.

Flogging a dead 'un

Will they never learn? Because they hate admitting that a new "standard" they invented one lunchtime has failed to set the world on fire, Sony yesterday launched a MiniDisc player with built-in camera.

What a crock of crap. Next week: a Betamax deck with built-in Super Audio CD player.

March 08, 2005


One of my favourite hobbies is waiting for 8 minutes for the software on my computer to recognise that the audio CD I have placed in my drive is not recognised by its on-line database.

Fair do's you might think if the CD was a dodgy ripped affair that I've created for, ahem, backup purposes so that I may listen to it in the car.

Fair do's (sorry for that apostrophe but it makes it clearer what I'm saying - not "fair duzz" but "fair doos" - I might argue that the apostrophe represents the saxon "e" of the old plural ending and that the apostrophe is therefore not, technically, incorrect, but you would might reasonably call me a twat if I did)... eh? Lost in digression...

Yes, my software might well be using my Internet Explorer Autocomplete details to notify the performing rights society et al that I have £5000 worth of backup tracks in my car's stereogramaphone, and that would be fair enough if I did. It might even be scripting a writ against me. Fine.

But none of those is true. This happens when the CD is simply not one that is available in Woolies, WH Smiths, and all good petrol stations. These are legitimate paid-for CDs where nobody is getting ripped off. They just happen to be labels who don't send track listings to these web databases.

Is there a setting to turn these helpful searches off I wonder? I mean, they are only any use when you are making "backup copies" of CDs.

this post contains strong language from the beginning

shit fuck cunt. it strikes me that when sitting down in front of the telly these days, anything that i want to watch invariably starts with the announcer warning me about bad language in it. i find that a bit irritating. ok, so the announcement is not really for me, the channel says it to cover their arses. but even so. surely I should be able to filter out such comments, the way things are now? and people you don’t like. that idiot trevor mcdonald, for example. and adverts. that irritating john smiths advert with the smug git and the whale taste buds. john smiths is a disgusting drink, a chinese whispers travesty of what a bitter should be. etc etc.

March 07, 2005

Ig no ramus

This is funny - The Register received a mail from a confused reader who thought the innernet was garbling some text on the site's masthead on St David's day.

Just goes to show, in this information age, that we have not yet plumbed the depths of ignorance that the innernet is pulling us down toward. If it's not in 'mericain, it must be wrong.


tommy vance

anne nightingale and bob harris must be getting worried.

March 04, 2005

See... this is what I was talking about

When I was having a little vent about people who annoy you on flickr the other day, this is the kind of thing I was talking about.

Photoshop is an indispensible tool for serious photographers - you can make an okay photo look much better, and you can make a good photo look superb. What you can't do, ever, is an arty collage or photomontage that looks anything other than a load of old wank.

Not only is the whole idea of "beautifying and artifying" with Photoshop a load of wank (I've seen books full of this crap, and, believe me, it's not good), but the kind of person who would set something like this up and instruct people what to do is a control freak, probably a psychopath.

March 03, 2005

jef raskin still dead

it got to me right where i live, the stuff my friend rob was saying about the hallmark universe, so you can imagine how thrilled and delighted i was to be invited to contribute to this blog.

i'd like to start by saying how much i hate that great big shithead fake greil marcus. i'm not even going to bother saying why, because he's not worth the time and effort. and anyway, it's obvious, isn't it?

March 02, 2005

BBC Green Paper

Today the government will announce their recommendations on the future of the BBC (registration required on MediaGuardian, sorry). As usual, there has been much debate about the Licence Fee, and whether people should have to pay it in the satellite/digital/multichannel era.

Here's what I think. Your BBC1s and BBC2s, BBC3s and 4s, I can take or leave. I rarely watch any of their output, even more rarely watch anything home grown. As far as I'm concerned, they've followed the lead of commercial television too much, and there have been too many makeover shows, reality shows, soaps ('Enders, Casualty, Holby) and lukewarm cop shows (anything with Amanda Burton). They don't even do the lukewarm cop show as well as ITV (Foyle's War is the quintessential example of this).

And as for the argument that it's ad-free tv, puhlease. Trailers are as bad as ads, so give over. Interminable trailers, especially when they're already running late for some reason, make most of us feel homicidal.

As far as their factual programming goes, it has been dumbed down to the point of parody. Horizon, as a so-called science strand, must surely win the award for destroying the Earth in more ways than was previously thought possible. Watch a couple of episodes and you just wouldn't get out of bed in the morning. Drama-documentaries are just another hyphenated word: gob-shite; and the crap CGI dino-docu is just laughably bad.

The very worst thing they do in this dumbed-down Hallmark Universe, is to fill every 30-minute programme with 10 minutes of "still-to-come" mini-trailers. Trailers are bad enough, but the trailer within a programme has me out in the kitchen, opening the oven door, and getting in. When a subject is interesting enough to make a programme about, why fill it with padding? This tendency, which annoys everybody and yet continues to worsen, tells you everything you need to know about the lack of talent and intelligence in TV production today.

So, after all that, do I think the licence fee is worth it? For CBeebies alone, I say yes. CBeebies is stuffed full of trailers, but by not following the lead of commercial TV, by not including noisy and violent (and crappy) cartoons from America and Japan, and by not having ads for plastic crap that will not work properly and break after 5 minutes, it does a great service.

So, CBeebies, yay. And Radios 4, 5, and 7, yay. 5Live has too many trailers and jingles, but it's still preferable to any alternatives, and Blighty wouldn't be Blighty without Radio 4. Any one of these things alone is worth £2 a week of anyone's money. The television side needs a slap upside the head, but that train is surely not far from the station.