Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don't say boo to The Goose

Sorry about the paucity of blogging recently. If this blog was an urban development it would be Calcutta, which is a very paucity, apparently. If it was an airport, it'd be LAX. If it was a pair of trousers, it would be slacks. If it was a dress code it would be casual.

In the meantime, I will rack my brain, put on my thinking cap and do other exciting things which involve my head. In the meantime meantime, here's some writing which the daily grind wrung out of me today like an angry Russian washerwoman.

Britney denies pregnancy
What with her busy life of driving around a lot and covering her head with blankets, surely the last thing Britney Spears needs is another baby.

No Spice Girls ticket for Becks
Victoria Beckham has forbidden her husband David from attending the Spice Girls’ first reunion gig on Sunday, because she’s too nervous about the shows.

Christina Aguilera gets her bump out
Wow, Christina Aguilera’s looking a bit fat these days. She must’ve been knocking back pints of London Pride like no one’s business. What’s that? Pregnant?

Chantelle has changed
Yes, that is the same person.

Celebrity golden gobs
"We're in every night. Having sex." Pamela Anderson explains how her marriage to Rick Salomon works.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ethics kin

My friend Sophie has turned to blogging. Ladies and gentleman, introducing... Ethics Girl!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Football in mouth

I was OOO yesterday having all sorts of crazy fun in Leeds, so I didn't have a chance to write something cliched and boring about how rubbish England are at football, following their defeat to Croatia in the Euro 2008 qualifiers.

It was all very depressing, but commentator John Motson considerably cheered me up after the final whistle when he hilariously combined doomy summary with a ridiculous last spurt of optimism: "England are out of the European Championships... Unless Andora score in the next four minutes!"

Seconds later it was back to the pundits, with gloommeister Alan Hansen suggesting that the match was "definitely a low point in English history". He's right: the first day of the Somme, the arrival of the Black Death in England and the Amritsar Massacre really did pale into insignificance.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Double whammy

So, the previous post ended with the sentence, "Hey, speaking of doubles..." and this one probably should have begun with those very words. Got into work this morning and found this...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tango orange and salmon pink

I want to write about EVERYTHING today. Once I met this guy in a pub in central London who asked me what my novel was about. Doppelgangers, I told him. (This was the truth, incidentally.) He was a distinctive-looking character - Joe, I think his name was - tall and gangly, dark-skinned and bespectacled. He recounted how one day he had been swimming in his local pool when from the other end of the pool a group of swimmers started shouting his name excitedly. He wasn't wearing his glasses, so had to swim over to them to see who they were. He didn't know them and they, it turned out, didn't know him either – he'd been mistaken for a friend of theirs, also named Joe. It took some persuading before they would believe that the stranger they'd just called over was also called Joe.

After his swim, Joe went home. Over tea, his mother mentioned that, earlier that day, she'd seen him on the bus and gone over to say hello. Except, as she discovered when she got closer, it wasn't Joe. It might be fanciful to make the leap, but this was surely The Other Joe. I was delighted by the story and told Joe that it would be a valuable addition to my thoughts about the book.

Unfortunately, I've come to realise that there are several remarkable modern novels about doppelgangers: Anthony Burgess's M/F, Philip Roth's Operation Shylock and Jose Saramago's The Double, to name three. Yep, I'm up against it. I only discovered and began to read the latter recently and on the tube ride home today, I was distracted by the words on p191 - "...there's nothing stopping him getting in the car on Monday morning and going to show his mother all the cards that make up this puzzle, all of them, because it would be one thing to have told her some time ago, There's a man who looks so like me that even you couldn't tell us apart, and quite a different thing to say, I've met him and now I don't know who I am…" (italics mine) – partly because of their similarity of the above anecdote and partly because it appears 101 pages before the novel's final page. The number 101 always reminds me of the Bristol flat I lived in as a student, which was known to my fellow former flatmates simply as "101". (And if we're doing lists, we'll have Orwell's Room 101, Disney's 101 Dalmations, the album track by Strokes man Albert Hammond Jr, 'Back to the 101'.)

One-oh-one was extraordinary for both its dampness (which I wrote about here, many years ago) and its eye-catching exterior colour. Frequent arguments were had amongst its inhabitants about whether the colour qualified as "salmon pink" or "Tango orange", although these discussions have since been rendered academic, as the building has now been painted white. Maybe this is no coincidence, but at lunch earlier today I very nearly bought a salmon sandwich from Marks & Spencer, and in the morning I had been close to picking up an orange from the Orange fruit trays, but decided against it in both cases, opting instead for a turkey and stuffing sandwich and an apple and a banana.

Before I ate the foodstuffs, I went into Paddington station's only record shop, Impulse, which is surprisingly often the home to bargains. Sometimes I have this kind of shopping impotence; I'll go into a record shop and see records I reallly should desire, but find myself unable to go through with the purchase. Today this was not the case and I purchased Strange House by The Horrors, which I am expecting to be unlistenable tripe and Elliott Smith's XO, which will probably hide itself in my iPod, never to be listened to. And later, some hours after the turkey sandwich, the orange, the banana and page 191, I got home and found three packages on my doormat (I mean this in the figurative sense – in fact the items had been picked up by my co-habitee and placed next to the toaster): Manic Street Preachers' Send Away the Tigers, R.E.M.'s Around the Sun and Michael Jackson's Dangerous.

I'm listening to the latter now (it's nauseating and samey, though it has its moments, and will probably be a ton better than R.E.M.'s terribly-reviewed 13th album) as I type this, though a few minutes ago, for no discernable reason, I did a spellcheck and found that my word count was 666 words. This was a little shocking, but immediately recalled an image of a taxi I'd seen on just two days previous in Birmingham, which had the phone number 666666 plastered on the side, as if 'twere Satan's own cab. My friends and I had just been watching several hours of stand-up and the combination of drinks and humorous observation had surely simultaneously sharpened and dulled the senses enough for that kind of detail to stick out and perhaps stick in the mind.

Aside from the weekend's live show, I've been watching a lot of comedy lately - on the box, mostly - but particularly enjoyed this segment from the new so-so BBC4 stand-up showcase Comedy Shuffle, from up-and-coming comedy minstrel Tom Basden. He does a great song about Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, which isn't included. That doesn't matter though, his other material's great and he's going to be massive.


Love the Richard and Judy song. They may be leaving our screens, but they're still the UK's greatest double act. Hey, speaking of doubles...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cracking

Asterisk, over on A Blog About Nowt, has posted about Doris Salcedo's Tate Modern artwork, Shibboleth. Or "the crack" as it's inevitably become known.

It seems to be a requirement that the Turbine Hall installations can be summed up with a single noun - the slides (Carston Holler's Test Site), the boxes (Rachael Whiteread's Embankment), the sun (Olarur Eliasson's The Weather Project).

Anyway, from ground level I wasn't overawed, though it did make me smile. But going up a level or two and looking down was more interesting - you could see people trying to make sense of the crack by walking its length, peering in and straddling it. At this stage, the work seemed to gain profundity: the puzzled spectators become part of the work, and its message - if there can be such a thing - is the world's reaction to it. So in the end, I was well up for the crack.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Film review: Rescue Dawn

[previously published in total:spec magazine February 2007]

There’s a moment in Rescue Dawn when it’s hard not to feel like you’re watching I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, with Christian Bale gleefully stuffing live worms into his mouth, grinning manically as one of the creatures wriggles around in his overgrown beard. But otherwise, despite its jungle setting, the latest from acclaimed German director Werner Herzog is about as far as it gets from such ITV reality television fare.


A sort of Touching the Void (it's based on a true story) meets The Great Escape, the film begins on an aircraft carrier where the recruits wisecrack like Top Gun never happened. And actually, it hasn't - it's 1965 and fresh-faced US airforce pilot Dieter Dengler (Bale) is due to head off on his first mission, to bomb secret targets in Laos.

Within the opening ten minutes, tragedy has struck, as Dieter is shot down, crashing his plane in the jungle. Ditching his radio because of the clandestine nature of the mission, he heads into the undergrowth, but it's not long before he's captured by a motley crew of enemy soldiers. He's tortured and sent to a lowly prisoner of war camp in the depths of the jungle, consisting of a few huts surrounded by bamboo fences and a ragtag bunch of guards.

Dieter is incarcerated with five others, including the Crusoe-like Duane (Steve Zahn) and lost-it prisoner Gene (a suitably disturbing Jeremy Davies), whose tattered uniform reads 'quo vadis' (where are you going?). The answer appears to be nowhere - we soon find out that some of the prisoners have been in the camp for around two years. However, Dieter's arrival looks set to shake things up; like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest's MacMurphy, he immediately takes his place as the charismatic leader of the oddballs, raising the group's morale and giving them hope. As they wait for the monsoon to hit, the captives plan their escape into the inhospitable jungle.

And inhospitable it is – Herzog gets the jungle's claustrophobic hostility just right. There are no such thing as paths here - you have to hack through greenery with a blunt machete just to move. As Dieter talks about escaping from the camp, their situation is summed up by Duane: "The jungle is the prison, don't you get it?" But Herzog also has a keen eye for the environment's raging beauty. In a memorably unsettling scene, an enormous brightly-coloured butterfly flits on the arm of one of the warlords; as Dieter, tied to the floor, looks across at him, a child dangles a live beetle on a string in front of his face.

It's unusual for Herzog to opt for a big name for the lead, but here it pays off – Bale is excellent and has the kind of star quality needed to keep an audience's attention, giving Dengler an edgy intensity. There's a subtlety here too – instead naïve optimism, which would've been the obvious way to play it, it's Dengler's inability to accept the reality of his situation that drives him. Never quite accepting that the balance of power has shifted against him, he's the kind of dreamer Herzog loves.

The tone of the finale jars a little. The hero's welcome Dieter receives from people who can't grasp what he's been through seems meaningless, but Herzog tries to show it as a glorious return. As the audience, we feel that we understand Dengler better than anyone around him, and that's a testament to how convincing and compulsive Rescue Dawn is. Not something you would say about I'm A Celebrity...

Rescue Dawn is out next Friday

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bail out

Sad news: the family dog has died. Bailey, aged 10ish, was put down on Friday morning after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My parents are very upset – he'd been with them for seven years.

When Bailey arrived from the sanctuary (he was a rescue dog), there was heated discussion about what he should be called. His given name was Beethoven, which all agreed was a bit naff. However, as it was the name he answered to, it was decided that a name approximating Beethoven should be found.

My Dad was all for "Beattie" after the then Southampton striker, James Beattie. But the women of the house were having none of it, and Bailey was chosen. I'm not sure there was a particular reason for this, but it was rather appropriate - his hair was a similar colour to the cream-based liqueur. I always liked to think it had something to do with the blond-haired British tennis player Chris Bailey too; I'm not sure why.

Perhaps "Vincent" might have been a better name – like the artist, he came with just the one ear. La tristesse durera toujours.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Spot the difference

Armstrong and Miller's valspeaking World War 2 pilots are wonderful -

- but if they seem a bit familiar, it's probably because of these two...


But hey, who cares? It's all good, blud.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Back up

Quite a prolific day for me. Heather Mills; Rhys Ifans and Sienna Miller; stupid captions; The Secret Millionaire; Trinny and Susannah. Latter is a big old-fashioned rant. I would've said they "got on my tits" if it wasn't a family website.

My back still hurts - though I did have fun at the osteopath. We talked about technology while he gently twirled my limbs around. He told me a joke, then crunched the bejesus out of my back. Then he did it again, even harder.

I came to with a sort of shocked grin of amazement on my face. "Where the hell did you learn that?" I wanted to say. And then I thought of Harold Shipman. If Shipman had been an osteopath, just, wow.

Twins, 8, save world with new invention

This way please.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"I let my Dad explode"

I imagine I'm not alone in completely mishearing lyrics in songs now and again. I imagine I'm not alone in making a list of such mishearings and putting them on a blog that's running out of ideas fast. Sigh.

Anyway, here are the five that spring to mind. They're a bit weird. And actually, probably totally unique. [Perks up a little bit.]

Country Girl - Primal Scream
Mishearing: "We'll kill a pope or two."
Actual lyric: "What can a poor boy do?"


Shower Your Love - Kula Shaker

Mishearing: "Well I'm just a stupid dickhead."
Actual lyric: "Well I'm just to stupid to care."


Ha Ha – Ty

Mishearing: "In my corner of the world / Faces disappear like memories / Only to appear on the yellow notice boards saying 'did you seen this or that, Melanie?'"
Actual lyric: "In my corner of the world / Faces disappear like memories / Only to appear on the yellow notice boards saying 'did you seen this or that felony?'"


Jenny from the Block - Jennifer Lopez

Mishearing: "Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got / I'm still, I'm still Jennifer Lopoc"
Actual lyric: "Don't be fooled by the rocks that I got / I'm still, I'm still Jenny from the block"


Regulate – Warren G and Nate Dogg
Mishearing: "I laid all them busters down, I let my Dad explode."
Actual lyric: "I laid all them busters down, I let my Gat explode."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Sentence of the day

It's Charlie Brooker, of course, on the subject of "activity holidays".
"What if a really annoying jabbering, bearded bloke latches on to me on the first day and decides I'm his best mate and won't leave me alone, and I'm stuck with him in some Arizonian wilderness and the sun's beating down and he's talking and talking and farting for comic effect and eating sandwiches and walking around with egg mayonnaise round his mouth until I want to grab the nearest rock and stove his skull in, and carry on smashing and smashing and roaring at the sky until the others dash over to pull me off him, but by then I've gone totally feral and start coming at them with the rock, which by now is all matted with gore and brain and beard hair, and I manage to clock one of them hard in the temple and they're flat on the ground, limbs jerking like an electrocuted dog, but as I swing for the next one some self-appointed hero rugby-tackles me, but I'm still putting up a fight so in desperation they all stamp on my neck until they're certain I'm dead, then throw my body in the river and make a lifelong pact to tell no one the truth of what happened that day?"

Full article

Merchant finery

Well I never.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Back down

My back hurts. Ow. It's been like this for a few days now. Ow. I had to miss a gig I was supposed to be going to on Friday because it'd be painful to stand still for any length of time. Ow. But it also hurts when I'm just sitting, too. Ow. Only lying down and walking about is bearable. Ow. I have a ticket to see a play about genocide on Monday and sitting there for an hour and a half is going to be really painful. Ow. Although I suppose it would be quite crass to complain about a bit of back pain while I'm watching the reenaction of the systematic murders of thousands of people. But still: ow.

Don't bank on it

Barclays query
No, this isn't addressed in the FAQs on their website. Rather inconveniently, I thought.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pun of the week

With the rumour that Sir Trevor McDonald wants to appear on The X Factor to do a Neil Diamond impression, The Sun goes for…

Diamonds are for Trevor

Thursday, November 01, 2007

"Camden bastard"

I'm all about the predictive dictionary when I'm writing text messages. But I'm equally prone to massive hissy fits when the word I'm trying to include isn't in the dictionary, for example if the phone thinks "Coupnfouti" is a more common word than "Bournemouth".

Luckily, having owned a good sensible mobile for a few months now, I can easily add these non-dictionary words as I go along. However, a few days back, I found an option called "My words", which produces a list of all the new words I've added since buying the phone. With its combination of familiar names and places, cultural allusions and angry swear words, it's quite bizarre reading, not least because of the nearly-alphabetical-but-not-quite ordering.

Probably best not to read the following if you're prone to outrage or confusion.

  • BBC
  • Camden
  • bastard
  • Cavendish
  • bday
  • Chandos
  • Cheeky
  • Chelmsford
  • Chiropody
  • Birdy
  • Cleaver
  • blog
  • bollocks
  • Cornwall
  • Bourne
  • Bournemouth
  • Brentford
  • Brixton
  • Croydon
  • arsed
  • cunt
  • autistic
  • Facebook
  • Darren
  • Farringdon
  • Dick
  • dick
  • Eleanor
  • DLR
  • Dorset
  • Franz
  • fuck
  • Fuck
  • fucked
  • Fucking
  • fucking
  • DVD
  • DVDs
  • Euston
  • I've
  • gaff
  • Gallagher
  • Glastonbury
  • incestuous
  • Hotmail
  • Hungover
  • hungover
  • K.
  • k?
  • Lambeth
  • Larive
  • Kearns
  • Kennington
  • Jolene
  • Kubrick
  • lunching
  • Macca
  • natch
  • Olly
  • Murukami
  • Paddington
  • Parkhouse
  • rewind
  • Phew
  • shit
  • Shit
  • shitting
  • Pilkington
  • pissing
  • Sisyphus
  • Ritzy
  • Southampton
  • Soz
  • soz
  • psychic
  • Stacey
  • sthg
  • Stimpson
  • Tesco
  • unbeatable
  • tmrw
  • USB
  • traipse
  • Wenn
  • Wilco
  • Wilkes
  • Wimborne
  • Winslet
  • Woah
  • Wogan
  • Yum
  • Xxx
  • xxx