Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Catch the bad man, stop your plan Bin Laden"

I hope you're watching this Tony Blair. "Stap your bidness. Yee com' on. Check."

Spotted by Darren. Bidness.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Magnificently bonkers

Just nearing the end of Charlie Connelly's Attention All Shipping which Sarah got me for Christmas. It's a travel book about the author's voyages to all the areas mentioned in the shipping forecast. He is a funny man indeed. My favourite bit is about the Urquhart family, a bunch of 17th century eccentrics who hailed from Cromarty in Northern Scotland. It goes like this:

...the most famous residents of the castle had been the Urquharts, several of whom were magnificently bonkers. One early Urquhart, for example, lived for several years convinced he was actually dead. Every night his bed would be wheeled into the courtyard and winched up to battlement level by a series of pullies so that it might be easier for his maker to come and spirit him away in the night. Despite this apparent foolproof method of contraception – I can't imagine Mrs Urquhart was too enamoured of her husband's morbid alfresco nights – he and his wife reputedly produced thirty-six children, the poor woman. The best-known Urquhart, however, was Thomas, who lived in the mid seventeenth century. Thomas was the first man to translate Rabelais into English and indeed did it 'more Rabelais than Rabelais himself' according to Bernard Levin. He was also a total fruitcake. Among other things, Thomas claimed to have traced his family tree right back to Adam and Eve. Although his Rabelais translations remain in high regard, his other writings were so eccentric as to be practically impenetrable. Making up words on the spot didn't help. 'Amblygonosphericalls', 'extrinsecall', 'grediftal', bagrediffiu', 'pubkegdaxesh' and 'obliquangular', for example, all appeared in the space of one paragraph in his book Trissoetras, and none was ever heard of again. Flushed with etymological creativity he tried to start up his own language in his 1653 book Logopandecteision. It didn't catch on. Thomas, knighted by Charles I in 1641 – although no one seems to know why – was present at the Battle of Worcester and fled to Holland after the English Civil War, where he is reputed to have died laughing on hearing of the restoration of Charles II.

Charlie Connelly, Attention All Shipping: A Journey Round the Shipping Forecast
(Abacus, London: 2004), pp58-9

Lessons learned from... Babel

If your car reaches 88mph, you can go back in time.

Blair? To resign? This week?

Is a world of shit about to hit the fan? All eyes may be on John Reid, but king blogger Iain Dale suggests you may want to keep an eye on TB. In an 'it's probably not true, but just in case it is' sort of way.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Why a goose?

I'm often asked "why is your blog called Electric Goose?" I always respond by explaining that to reveal why my blog is called Electric Goose would be akin to Bruce Willis and that woman getting together in that TV programme that I never watched but was apparently quite good until Bruce Willis and that woman got together. When Bruce Willis and that woman did get together, no one bothered watching it any more. Bruce Willis and that woman had amazing chemistry and the whole programme was filled with sexual tension, but when they did get together, the tension wasn't there any more and there was no need to watch. So if I told you and anyone who asks why this blog is called Electric Goose, there'd be no need to read any more, not because the sexual tension would be lost, but because the whole reason for reading would disappear. Not that you are necessarily reading just to find out why this blog is called Electric Goose. Maybe you're reading it to see if Bruce Willis and that woman ever get together. If you are, you're probably in the wrong place.

Buy Thomas Bernhard novels
That Bruce Willis programme

Flock of Seagals

Are you in?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Messenger conversation #231

I am well excited about going to Moscow. Russians are crazy...

Volga Babylon says:
So imagine the entire M6 was shut down for the better part of a week because someone dumped a load of passionfruits on the carriageway

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says:

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says:

Volga Babylon says:
Well, the entire Moscow to St Petersburg motorway (combined population about 15 million) has been closed for three days because a lorry lost a load of bananas.

Volga Babylon says:

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says:
Can I say it?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says:
Oh please let me say it

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says:

Volga Babylon says:
say what?

Volga Babylon says:
oh go on

Sir Tim Berners-Lee says:
"That's bananas!!!!!!!!!!!"

Volga Babylon says:
you've outdone yourself there

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A curious thing

On Sunday night I dreamt I was at a Huey Lewis and the News concert. They played The Power of Love FIVE TIMES.

The facts of life

Some things I've discovered recently. I am sharing these things with you. YOU!

  • Tottenham Court Road skyscraping monstrosity Centre Point is built on the site of a gallows
  • The name 'Wendy' was invented by JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan*
  • Barbara Streisland and Tina Turner are both big 24 fans
  • In Russian if you're extremely drunk, you say "I am meat" ("Я в мясо") - meaning that you have no eyes, no ears and no senses
  • Mark Kermode is a Christian
  • Clare Short's cousin is US-Canadian actor Martin Short**
  • Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes never said "Elementary, my dear Watson" - it was invented by PG Wodehouse in his 1915 novel Psmith, Journalist
  • Naomi Campbell was engaged to U2 bassist Adam Clayton in the 80s
  • There have only been 20 episodes of The Vicar of Dibley

* Wikipedia slightly disputes this, but I think it still kind of counts.

** I actually had this factoid confirmed in an email from Short herself, which was exciting. I emailed back with the line "Great, thanks Clare. I loved him in Three Amigos." She didn't reply.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Inevitable Celebrity Big Brother post

Can't wait for the Celebrity Big Brother eviction on Friday.

Word is civilised, astute, talented Shilpa (who speaks seven languages and has a black belt in karate) will be up against Jade. This will be the biggest landslide in Big Brother history. The odious Jo and Danielle will also be tainted by their appalling behaviour and will be cast out of society. And perhaps this will reassure India that not everyone over here is a racist bigot, and prevent nuclear war.

The Times Celebrity Big Brother blog is where it's at. Favourite comment so far, which came in response to the news that mass demonstrations had erupted in India and that questions had been asked in the House of Commons:

Having previously scoffed at Jade being the 25th most influential person in Great Britain I now fear this ranking was severely understated.

Posted by: Simon Curran | January 17, 2007 at 02:11 PM

All these things that I've done

Haven't shat out any blog matter onto the global information network in a while. Let's get up to date. Since last post, I have:

  • Listened exclusively to music by eccentric female singers (Newsom, Winehouse, Spector)
  • Been lambasted online by angry BNP sympathisers
  • Spent ages trying to get tickets for Arcade Fire in Brixton, finally getting a spare from a friend
  • Booked a flight to Moscow
  • Realised that I would be in Moscow during the Arcade Fire gig
  • Cursed the day I was born
  • Cooked a slightly too stodgy potato korma
  • Thought very hard about some of the issues raised by Celebrity Big Brother
  • Realised that an acquaintance with newly-shorn hair now looks like Harpo Marx
  • Didn't smoke a single cigarette
  • Finished Day 5 of 24, and cemented my love for Aaron Pierce
  • Drank cocktails on the South Bank
  • Taught myself to speak (a bit more of) Tamil
  • Briefly confused Alec Stewart and Alec Guinness

Friday, January 12, 2007

My other blog is a Porsche

We've just launched a News Blog at work. Myself, Darren (who also blogs at Wrong Angle) and a couple of others will be posting a plethora of pleasurable polemics at least once a day on the topics of the moment.

In direct contrast to The Electric Goose - which aims to lull people into a trivia-induced stupor using a heady combination of anecdote and dross - the idea seems to be to provoke people into reacting with our unyielding firebrand views. By the time 2007 is out, I would ideally like to be known as "the new Richard Littlejohn", so please drop by, have a read, and, most importantly of all, leave comments on every single post. Because if you don't, I'll get fired.

Go there now!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Off yer bike

I can remember quite clearly the first time I saw someone fall off a bicycle.

I was walking down Bristol's main student thoroughfare, Woodland Road, and a guy did an accidentally emergency stop and went over his handlebars. What was remarkable about the incident was that the instant it happened, people started running towards him. As the unharmed cyclist sheepishly disentangled himself and got to his feet, he found himself surrounded by people asking if he was okay.

I've seen the same thing happen once or twice since and each time it's reaffirmed my belief that human kindness is instinctive. In fact it makes me feel so warm inside that I've begun wishing more cyclists would fall off their bikes.

Lessons learned from... Rescue Dawn

Fill what is empty; empty what is full.

NB As I saw this at a press screening and it's not due out for two months, the chances that this will mean anything to anyone reading this are incredibly slim. Write for your audience? Fuck off!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ain't Talkin

Nice email from my friend James K, who's a bit of a Dylan obsessive, just now:

Rumours of a new Dylan album in September 2007 - he apparently already has six songs ready. Just giving you a nine month heads-up.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ten grand

Scenes of massive partying and choked-up emotion pouring forth here at The Electric Goose, with the news that this blog had its 10,000th visitor over the weekend. That's what my stats counter Sitemeter says anyway, although it could just be spewing out random numbers and laughing at me behind my back for all I know.

The hallowed visitor in question hailed from the town of La Conner in Washington state and was referred from this page, which suggests he was looking for musical insights into the year's top tracks. According to Sitemeter, his stay here at Goose lasted for a disappointing "0 seconds", which seems to sum things up really.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Heart of dartness

Today there's been a lot of darts on the television and as a result I've been reminiscing about my arrow-throwing days back at Goldsmiths, where I liked to be referred to as "The Talent" (after the London Fields' character Keith Talent, natch).

It's a hypnotic sport, and one that brings together a strange mixture of competitive seriousness and a knowing silliness, with players having nicknames like "The Robot", "The Sausage-Maker" and "The Prince of Dartness"; it also has a beautiful terminology of its own, with words like "ochy", "double top" and "ton-eighty" thrown about like 25 gram Unicorns. But it's the gravitas - particularly from the commentators - which I enjoy the most.

The following clip, which features Phil "The Power" Taylor's nine-dart finish, is an extraordinary example of such seriousness. The moment when the commentator blurts out "Oh my goodness!" is quite possibly the second funniest thing I've ever heard (the first being the bit about 15 seconds later when he yells, "For history! History!").

NB The guy giving Taylor a massive hug after the immaculate 501 is his opponent. It really is a gentleman's sport.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A question of balance

By Will Parkhouse

[previously published in Total Spec magazine October 15 2006]

"What's all this in aid of?" asks a besuited and bemused drinker. We're in a traditional Shoreditch pub and the quiet guy with long peroxide blond hair who until now had been quietly sitting in the corner tinkering with a bright red laptop is suddenly striking poses over the billiards table and being snapped by our photographer. "He's a hip-hop guy," we explain. "Akira the Don."

Before he pops outside for a few more pictures, Akira, aka AK Donovan, Adam Alphabet or just plain old Adam Narkiewicz, hands me some things to ward off the boredom while he's gone. We get a copy of Hip-Hop Connection ("read about The Game," he says), Gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson's The Curse of Lono with illustrations by Ralph Steadman ("you might like this") and a copy of The Independent ("and a silly newspaper").

All very apt; it could almost be a pre-interview required reading list. First and foremost, 26-year-old Narkiewicz is a hip-hop artist, but he's also a music journalist and cartoonist, and nurtures the kind of crusading world-saving liberalism beloved of the Indy. Oh, and he's also writing a sitcom. A bit multi-talented, then. "There's time in this world to do everything," he says later, in a laid-back drawl that sometimes briefly lapses into a Hunter S-like slur. "You just have to stagger it."

So who is this jack of all trades? It feels cheap to point it out, but the Akira the Don look breaks all the hip-hop image regulations - and not just because he's white. Long peroxide blond hair? Cartoony tattoos? Beard with protruding pencilly moustache? Check, check and check. Various publicity shots have him looking much like Johnny Depp playing Thompson, and Narkiewicz is occasionally told he looks like the Hollywood star. "It's nice to hear that, when he's the most handsome man in the world and you're a short-arse hairy Welsh creature," he says.

Is he pleased with his debut, the nostalgically-titled When We Were Young? Narkiewicz seems genuinely surprised to be asked. "The album's amazing," he says, matter-of-factly. And strangely, there's nary a hint of arrogance in this, just a brisk confidence in his abilities. "I'm sure lots of people will adore it and lots will dislike it immensely. And I'll make another one that's even better. And it'll be great."

There's justification for his confidence. The long-player is a vibrant party soundtrack stuffed with animated anthems, bursting with quick-witted rhymes and featuring a thankful paucity of that great hip-hop foible, the skit. It's got the sunshine of Lily Allen, the Britishness of The Streets, the stoner charm of Sublime and pinches of the scattershot humour of Goldie Lookin' Chain. Narkiewicz, in modest mode, calls it "a dude chatting nonsense over a bunch of noises", but quickly adds: "It's also quite glorious pop music".

The 'glorious pop' part is perhaps what sets Akira the Don apart from many of his hip-hop contemporaries. He's clearly deeply enamoured not only with hip-hop, but rock and indie too, and his output is soaked through with the genres' influences: the album memorably samples artists as diverse as Alice Cooper and Nico; it's also interspersed with sound clips from The Prisoner, in a way that's reminiscent of the Manics' 1994 misery-manual The Holy Bible. His other creative mediums are also saturated with guitar-love: a recent blog post had him lamenting the break-up of Scottish indie miserablists Arab Strap; an interview once saw Akira claiming to be "the rap Morrissey" (a phrase that's now mentioned in every article written about him); and all the backing music on his recent mix-tape album, distributed through his website, comes from the Britpop era, from Elastica to Menswear to the Boo Radleys. When we see him DJ later in the evening, the setlist is a paean to accessible and unashamedly fun tunes, featuring tracks by Bon Jovi, Johnny Cash, The Proclaimers, Meatloaf and so on and on.

Narkiewicz's favourite part of the album, he says, is the sleeve, which pictures an homage to Salvador Dali's Christ of St John on the Cross, with the painting's crucified Jesus replaced by a crucified Akira. It's not the only thing here that owes something to the surrealist; Narkiewicz wears that most eccentric of hirsute accessories, the moustache. "Dali needn't have painted anything – he could've been the greatest artist ever, purely from what he did with his facial hair. Brilliant," he laughs. "Moustaches done correctly can be wonderful things. They can also be abhorrent food traps." Those 'doing it correctly' are Tom Selleck ("pretty gangsta"), Bruce Forsyth ("it's like a weird dead caterpillar"), and Depp ("so sparse, yet somehow quite luxurious").

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to even attempt the moustache in this day and age. But Narkiewicz says he has a clear sense of what he's capable of – not just in terms of facial hair, but musically too: "I know what I can do and I know what I can't do," he says, and it's not boastful, just open. "I was brought up in a little valley where I was told everything I was doing was entirely wrong. And I went ahead and did it anyway."

Born in Anglesey, a county at the northwestern extremity of north Wales, his musical indoctrination came remarkably early, dancing around to Adam Ant aged two. He lays out the stages of his childhood using a range of cultural landmarks: Spiderman on the bedroom wall when he was two, reading Roald Dahl's The BFG aged three, then on to the The Hobbit at four, drawing comics and "making noises" at five, making his first mix-tape aged eight.

School was "rubbish" and he retreated into a world of music magazines and comics. The kids weren't down with his Adam Ant records or haircut and he got into fights all the time. "Usually they would win because I was small, but still I would keep on. And that included the teachers, because they didn't like me either."

Fortunately, the not fitting in and general dislike of the place in which he'd found himself nurtured his love of music. "I had lots of time to walk around and wander, because there was fuck all to do. I used to walk around singing to myself." He left home aged 15 and spent a brief period living in the woods in a tent, hitching to school every day to do his GCSEs. "I missed one of them because I was asleep in my tent and I didn't have an alarm," he says. "I was relying on the sun to wake me up."

Then, after a short and unsuccessful stint in a bedsit in Bangor, he moved to Birmingham overspill town Redditch, aged 16. Although he had rocky moments – he was still getting into fights, including one incident where he was held down by four rudeboys and had cigarettes stubbed out on his head – it was a happy time, for a bit. "I quickly fell into the world of drugs and pretending to be a rockstar. It was great," he reminisces. There's a pause. "Then it all came crashing down. Everything got really mad. Everyone was taking too much speed, because no one could afford proper drugs. Speed does nutty things to people's brains."

His girlfriend got pregnant, mates tried to kill themselves and he was arrested for selling drugs. The world "went a bit dark for a while", but it provided a chance to get away from the madness. He has happy memories of sitting with a probation officer smoking weed and listening to The Smiths, when they were meant to be mowing the lawn in the graveyard.

Things really started to get going when he moved to London. He got into music journalism, and later hooked up with two like-minded souls to form hip-hop collective Crack Village. "We decided on the morning of the millennium that everyone was rubbish and that we'd teach ourselves to MC and form a rap boyband that would be represented visually by cartoons. Then Gorillaz did it. Bastards."

Things didn't work out with Crack Village – their progress was too slow for him. So he took a song he'd done but which the others had rejected and attached it to a website column he'd written. David Laurie, who co-runs London record label Something in Construction, heard it and asked if there was any more where that came from. Narkiewicz told him there was, then went home and wrote another seven songs over the weekend.

Around that time, a mate invited him over to America to play some shows and crash on people's floors. Narkiewicz sent some songs to his friend Phil and fate took over. "His girlfriend, who was a hairdresser, was playing the CD while she was cutting some guy's hair," he says. "It turned out he was some guy who claimed to be working for Warner Brothers. He was actually a gobshite, but he was one of those gobshites known by other gobshites who know important people." Within a day, Jimmy Iovine, the manager and co-founder of Interscope, had heard the CD and flown Narkiewicz over to New York, then LA. The label, home to the likes of Eminem and Marilyn Manson, offered him a six-album deal.


As well as being about his own childhood, When We Were Young, named after an AA Milne book of the same name, also concerns itself with a kind of collective, global growing up. "The '90s were the last time I was young, but it was also a time when everyone in this West of ours felt young and invincible," he explains. "Then we woke up in this new millennium having realised that things actually have a consequence, that there was a larger world and shit is actually pretty dark and fucked."

He's talking about wars, genocide, corruption, cloning, global warming, that sort of thing. But he's less concerned with terrorism than the governments who have used it to alter people's civil liberties and scare their subjects. "We're currently in a period which is very much like Germany in the '30s," he says. "We have tyrannical freaks trying to terrify us into nonsense Orwellian weirdness."

With his frequent plane journeys to America, does terrorism worry him? "Terrorism is nonsense. It's been blown incredibly out of proportion! There's no 'terror in the skies' unless you live in the Gaza fucking Strip or Iraq where there's a load of fucking planes that are going to fucking bomb you. Planes are fucking scary if you happen to be poor and brown and live in certain parts of the world that have lots of natural oil reserves. Planes are not fucking scary if you live in London: planes are ace!"

The two most politically savage tracks on the album and which form a neat central set-piece are Bankers and Thanks for All the Aids. The latter is a hilariously jaunty anthem whose message is encapsulated in the line "you can't rub pennies in a wound and expect it to be fine". Live 8 and the World Bank particularly come in for a pasting, if a poptastic one.

What's his problem there? "Live 8 was a nonsense and an embarrassment," he says witheringly. "Lots of people who went to the concert bought a t-shirt and thought they could go back home and forget about everything that was actually going on. A load of dickhead popstars got some exposure on TV. Nothing was changed. The World Bank didn't drop any fucking debt, they've actually imposed more since. Nothing has been fucking done. It's a farce and a horror."

The album's diatribes have caused problems with its release in America. Reaction from Interscope's marketing department was reportedly along the lines of "What the fuck are you saying?" With Narkiewicz refusing to change anything - and it's hard to see how he could have, without ripping the teeth out of the album - Interscope delayed putting the record out, which essentially could've meant it would never see the light of day. Some to-ing and fro-ing between the lawyers allowed the album a UK release, although Narkiewicz is still technically signed to Interscope in America.

It must have been incredibly frustrating, though he's more understanding than you might expect. "I can see from their point of view that it is going to be difficult to sell a pistachio blonde English guy rapping about Henry Kissinger giving people AIDS," he laughs.

Thank god for the mix-tapes then. Narkiewicz painstakingly puts together these hour-long mixes of himself and various collaborators rapping over a range of samples - and it'll be recorded, mixed and edited at home. Then - he puts these out every few months, and has done 14 so far - he'll offer it as a free MP3 download from his website. It's the mix-tapes that have helped him build a following, particularly in America. The record company tell him not to release them; aside from the fact that they're filled with uncleared samples, he's also been told it's career suicide – "save it for your second album!" and so on. But without the mix-tapes, he says, no one would have heard the name Akira the Don. "Thanks to them," he says simply, "I exist."

Narkiewicz has a number of intriguing recurring phrases, but the one that stands out and wraps up many of his answers is "…and it was great". As well as capturing his easygoing but enthusiastic manner, the tic gives a strong sense that each mini-anecdote he relates has a happy ending - that whatever past adversity he's faced, he's ended up exactly where he wants to be. We get that sense on the record too: the Nico-sampling Oh! What a Glorious Thing, for example, manages to turn what was once an introspective and melancholy guitar line into an upbeat and, yes, glorious thing. Of course, those World Bank rants show an anger, an alertness and a strong sense that the world is teetering on the edge of darkness, but the 11 songs maintain a fine balance. We come out of When We Were Young feeling not quite so powerless, which is really what music should do.

How does Akira the Don see this balance? "Stuff is really fucking dark in one corner, but it's also really ace in another," he replies. "But there's no point in caring about the bad stuff if one doesn't appreciate the good stuff. Yeah. So smell the flowers."

Thursday, January 04, 2007


After a short punning hiatus, I've re-entered the fray. I can't believe the Beeb haven't offered me a job yet, to be honest.

Chicken chat

Spoke to India Chris on the phone on Sunday. In a highly exciting turn of events, he told me he owns a Tamil phrasebook which I can borrow in order to further integrate myself into Stockwell's fried chicken shop culture.

Chris: "We'll meet up sometime, you can borrow it and learn some phrases. It's got the Tamil for 'That's enough chicken, thank you'."
Me: "Chris, I don't think I would ever need to use that phrase."
Chris: "Good point."

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lessons learned from... Flags of Our Fathers

War bad, Eastwood good.

A heartfelt apology

I'd like to apologise to my readers. I have neglected you both. Of late, this blog has become a graveyard of pathetic cultural titbits, with little to no original content. I think we all know photos and videos don't really count. I've been reading around the "blogosphere" (I hate that word so much) this morning, and it's made me realise what a total bastard I am:

  • I haven't wished you happy Christmas
  • In fact I barely even mentioned Christmas
  • I haven't wished you happy New Year
  • I haven't told you what I did on New Year's Eve
  • I haven't written about the execution of Saddam Hussein
  • I haven't even acknowledged the fact that it's 2007
And why? Because I'm lazy, readers, that's why. Because I'm lazy, and I have no respect for my audience. I would like to redeem myself. Here is my penance. It's a picture of me looking like a complete twat on New Year's Eve. In my defence, I have no idea where that stupid hat came from.

Please take me back.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Barry on regardless

Speaking of Ricky Gervais, there was an awesome interview with the hapless Shaun Williamson, aka 'Barry out of Eastenders', in Sunday's Observer (by Carole Cadwalladr): I discover, Williamson is not really one for talking himself up. He's at pains to point out his failures, and even when we've finished the interview and go off to do the photos, he can't stop dragging up even more stories of humiliation and disgrace.

'Where's your suit from?' I ask him.

'Endemol bought it for me when I was hosting this ITV reality quiz, 24 Hour Quiz.'

'Oh, I think I must have missed that.'

'You and everyone else.'

'When was it on?'

'ITV primetime. Don't worry, nobody saw it. Apart from the critics who ripped me to pieces. It was shortly after I left EastEnders and I didn't say no to anything. So by day I was the host of a quizshow that nobody was watching and by night I was dressed up as a lady-boy on Gender Swap. They turned me into a woman and Carol Smillie into a man. The prosthetics were not good. Not good at all. I looked like a fat tranny. They sent me out speed-dating and it was the longest night of my life. Awful. Awful.'

'It's very Barry,' I say.

'It's all very Barry,' he says. 'Dressed as a fat tranny going speed-dating. Can you imagine it? And a couple of fellas picked me and then they found out it was Barry. It was terrible. Truly terrible. One of them wanted to kill me.'

Read the whole thing

Lessons learned from... Night at the Museum

Cowboys and Romans hate each other.