Wednesday, December 28, 2005

ITV's Cash Cab, A Moral Lesson on Greed. Here Beginneth the Lecture...

Being sat at home for Xmas, slumped on a sofa a good amount of the time, it provides the perfect opportunity to sample such television as ITV's 'Cash Cab'. The concept, for those of you who've eaten fewer boxes of biscuits this week than me (and therefore are able to escape the sofa more readily), is that an unsuspecting punter or punters flags down a black London taxi, and on getting in are confronted bythe cabbie/compere, who says he'll take them where they want to go or...

Or they can opt to embark on a low-budget mobile Millionaire, where they answer a series of progressively harder questions for increasing payouts. It even has lifelines and everything. I like to take it at face value and believe that it's all above board, legit and on the level, and in no way staged, fixed or otherwise interfered with, purely because I love the concept.

I would love to see someone turn down the offer of the competition and see ITV devoted 15 minutes of airtime to showing a woman with some heavy shopping's ride from Covent Garden to Muswell Hill, with occasional breaks in the silence while the cabbie swears at the otherdrivers he's in the process of cutting up.

In fact, the whole thing just by its very nature necessitates an horiffic car accident caused by a driver distracted by flashing lights as the happy passengers answer a £1000 question by using their third lifeline. Grim, but it's going to happen if this tragic, yet diverting, programme continues. Still, it'll make them a few bob in selling it to It'll Be Alright on the Night XXXIV.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Deadpan Conversations With Shop Assistants. Vol n

Scene: A hardware shop. The air is alive with Christmas spirit.

Shopkeeper: Hi.
Me: Hi. Have you got any mousetraps?
SK: (Points in the direction of the mousetraps and comes over to talk me through the purchase)
Me: Ah, 'The Little Nipper'. I'll take three of these, please. Hang on, what are these?
SK: Plastic ones; they don't kill 'em, see?
Me: No, I want them to die.
SK: (Shouting to teenage daughter who is chatting away on her mobile) Come and do the till!
Me: (To the shopkeeper's teenage daughter) That'll be 2.97.
SKTD: Aw, you've done the maths for me!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

On Getting Hit By A Motorbike; and Why That Isn't an Advisable Thing to Do

In a round-up of the most exciting things to happen to me over the last week, getting hit by a motorbike probably comes top. It views closely with receiving in the post an entirely unsolicited copy of the New Scientist's 'Does Anything Eat Wasps?' book, with no note in the handwritten envelope. It was postmarked 'Croydon' (I don't know anyone in Croydon). Getting hit by the motorbike is, however, probably more noteworthy and interesting than receiving a mysterious book. Both these things, were you a more suspensful and less cyncial and sarcastic writer than I, would make good starts to spooky-ooky ghost stories.

Anyway, I got hit by a motorbike last week. Fortunately, for me at least, not seriously. I've been left with a couple of cut up knees and a dodgy limp. It was on Seven Sisters Rd, the lights were red, I was crossing a few cars down from the crossing itself, failed to see the motorbike filtering down the middle of the road, and got hit. There was quite an interesting moment where time stretched out and everything went veeeerrrryyyyy sloooooowwwww, and I think i said 'fuck', which wouldn't quite have been the best last words. I must be more prepared. Anyway, once time had caught up with itself, I was on the floor, quite shaken, checking what was wrong with me. I'd got up, and then a tramp came and gave me a hug. This wasn't entirely appreciated, and added considerably to the unreality of the situation. Some kind Samaritan came and removed the tramp, and checked that I was ok. My main emotion at this time was embarassment, and as everything appeared to be in place, I limped slowly back home to check my bits. Fortunately, photos don't exist of the wound on my knee, but suffice to say: 'ugh'. On the phone to NHS direct, the nurse, trying to see how deep it was, asked if I could see white bits that looked like worms. Maybe? Ugh, my insides are disgusting.

I was eventually badgered by my long-suffering other half to go to the Walk-In Clinic at the Homerton, missing none of the irony that my walking wasn't my strong point. However, the surly receptionist said it was shut, which meant I had to go to A&E. I hate A&E. It's all people with pint glasses embedded in their heads and kids with their eyes superglued shut and waiting for ever and oh-god-the-boredom-amid-the-agony. My beligerent side was disappointed not to have to wait very long, and then I was whisked off, told to get into a gown (the sort of backless/bottomless number that I leant a certain effortless sexiness to, even under the less than ideal circumstances of bleeding everywhere), while a succession of good-natured doctors and nurses took turns to go 'ugh' at my knee, embark on a lengthy discussion about whether the inside of my knee should be quite that colour, jab me with a tetanus shot when I wasn't looking, and then when finished cleaning and poking me, let me hobble off to get a taxi.

The taxi driver, however, was rubbish. Good-naturedly rubbish, but rubbish all the same. He kept asking us for directions, which given that Homerton Hospital is hidden away in the most confusing part of Hackney possible, didn't inspire confidence in getting home ok. Fortunately we did, and the driver tried to haggle himself out of a fare, while we haggled him up.

Anyhow, the moral of this story is: don't get hit by motorbikes.

Hope you all have nice Christmasses or whatever, and hope you have a humbuggery-free time.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Shoes and the Drummer from Pink Floyd

I've just had a nasty shock. I've just been given back these trainers back. They're mine. I'd forgotten about them. The were a TK Maxx purchase, where glittering discounts distracted me from the trainers themselves. They're now only used when one of us goes to a fancy dress party as Jerry Seinfeld, which happens more regularly than you might think. I'm all sad now. I think I'll have to put these shoes away. I was in the Wood Green branch of TK Maxx last week though, and I avoided buying any ill-fitting and/or ill-looking clothes simply on the basis that they'd been on sale at a higher price somewhere else, so I think I'm learning.

I've managed to misplace the book I was reading, so I've started on the not-so-promising-sounding Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason. The Drummer. Anyway, it's actually quite good, and he seems to have quite a good memory, especially for technical details. A typical sentance runs 'the studios boasted the then state-of-the-art Tannoy Red speakers, the definitive speaker of the era'. A caption for a photo reads 'I had a brief flirtation with a perspex drum-kit made by the American company Fibes. I was captivated by the idea of an 'invisible' kit, but in fact they were very difficult to record successfully'. Phew. Bet there was a bidding war about the tabloid serialisation.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Xmas CD

December, eh? Well, without further ado, it's time to get on with the tracklisting for what the chosen amongst you will be receiving over the next couple of days. It's my way of saying Merry Xmas and enforcing my musical tastes on you like a Führer Christmas.

Track One: Gwen Stefani - Hollaback Girl

Yay - pop! In which Ms Gwendoline denies that she is a girl who hollas back, and who, dear listener, are you to disbelieve her? Features some of the most breathtaking spelling of the word 'banana' in a pop record. Well, mis-spelling. It's best not to dwell on the line 'my shit is bananas', really. In fact, I think this may contain the most swearing of any record I've ever heard. Amazing.

Track Two: Beck - Go It Alone

Beck back with actually quite a good album - his best since his Prince-Shoulda-Sued-Like-A-Mad-Midget-With-Badass-Lawyers album, Midnite Vultures. Good dooting (as the noise is technically known).

Track Three: The White Stripes - Blue Orchid

Looking back, I'd forgotten that this was the taster for their new album. An important moral to the song too: don't go painting flowers colours that they aren't, or else you'll have pasty hat-wearer Jack White to answer to. This issue has previously only been dealt with in adverts for Simple soap, and never before in stomp-rock.

Track Four: Queens of the Stone Age - Little Sister

My one forray into Kerrang territory is testament to my high regard for the awkwardly shortened QOTSA. I don't often say this, but: nice solo.

Track Five: The Brakes - Ring A Ding Ding

A Brighton supergroup (featuring a man who once went to a British Sea Power gig, Electralaine's postman, and a man who's role in the band is to loudly declaim on the topic of why there's too many people down from London this weekend), which is utterly derivative. Utterly. There's no excuse. It's Roxy Music's debut single, Virginia Plain. They throw in the start from the Sex Pistol's Anarchy in the UK to try and put you and your copyright lawyer off the scent, but all the same. And it only lasts ninety seconds too. Refreshing.

Track Six: Goldfrapp - Lovely 2 C U

Characteristically good track from the woman/band described by me and my mate Tim when they were supporting some indie band somewhere in the late-Nineties as looking like the band formed by the science teachers of a secondary school in order to impress the sexy trainee art teacher who was with the school. While this remains one of the best pieces of description in music criticism, it needs to be noted that since then, the science teachers haven't got anywhere with the Miss Goldfrapp, who now has Qualified Teacher Status, although the Head has some concerns about the clothes she wears to school. And her spelling. It takes some gumption to out-Prince Prince with that title.

Track Seven: Gorillaz - Dare

It is hard to add anything to the simple joy of being able to go, 'It's coming up, it's coming up, it's coming up - it's DARE!'. The video gave me nightmares, and I'm surprised one or more government ministries weren't mobilised to the threat of giant pock-marked Shaun Ryder heads lurking in houses, taking up entire rooms, connected to all manner of gadgetry and barking away. Ugh.

Track Eight: Le Tigre - Nanny Nanny Boo Boo

Features mannered rapping, synth stabs and general greatness.

Track Nine: LCD Soundsystem - Tribulations

Continuing the 'get up and dance' section of the evening, we have this track, that fair motors along, while telling you to cheer up and stop moaning. It's over three times as long as The Brakes' track, for those who want quantitative comparisons instead of flimsy floaty whimsy.

Track Ten: Clor - Love+Pain

I have to confess that I don't know what a clor is, but this should be a track that sets indie disco floors alight, if such things exist any more. 2005 was the year of jerky angular music, wasn't it? I think 2006 will be feature more orchestras, and will have less skinny boys in shirts.

Track Eleven: The Kills - No Wow

What I was going to do here was have a track by The Black Keys as well, and make some clever point about bluesy two-person bands. It would have been brilliant. However, CDs are only 80 mins, so you can't have that. You'll just have to wait for the director's cut in 2015. On that topic, are there no directors who, on reflection, think their film should have been shorter? Christ knows I've sat through some three-hour piece of shit often enough, the only thing keeping me conscious being the hope that someday, a Director's Cut DVD would be released transforming the bloated gut monster of a movie I was sitting through into a lean punchy thrill-a-minute wonder. Yes, Lord of the Rings, I'm talking about you. Don't slouch at the back there - get on with some bloody work.

Track Twelve: Antony & The Johnsons - Fistful Of Love

Ah, I couldn't have undermined my point much better if I'd tried. This is the most overblown-with-knobs-on kind of tripe that normally falls heavily on its velvet-trousered arse, but seeing as it's here on this CD, you know it's actually as if the Memphis Horns were reformed by a group of talented mediums with ouiji-trumpets. I've saved you from having to go into a record shop and ask for a Fistful of Love, which is likely to put an end to your pleasant retail experience. I've also prevented you from needing to type 'fistful love' into a search engine, which I guess won't help your job security any, unless you're currently working for a gay porn mag. If so, what's the holiday entitlement like?

Track Thirteen: Ryan Adams - Easy Plateau

Right, Adams, I've got a bone to pick with you. Stop releasing albums. Yes. Just stop. I've bloody got enough on my plate, without having to listen to another one of your bloody records. Just go on holiday. Go and work in an office. Give me a break. The bugger has released three albums this year that I know of. There's no feeling of anticipation with a Ryan Adams album, because you've already got a backlog, which grows larger all the time. I think he receives massive EU subsidies through the Common Agricultural Policy to overproduce his country-inflected songs, while in the Third World there are families who don't have enough pedal steel guitars to feed their children. His record company even tried to help the situation, with a creditable attempt to supress the release of the Love is Hell album, but the best they could manage was to slow the tide while the album trickled out as two mini-albums. Many good record company men were lost in this battle, and it is in their memory that this compilation is dedicated.

Track Fourteen: Richard Hawley - The Ocean

Ah, now here's the lush smoky-voiced late night lushness I've been hankering after. He comes close to sounding like a British Johnny Cash or Scott Walker on the album, which is much less laughable than it sounds.

Track Fifteen: Madeleine Peyroux - You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go

My mum says, and always has, that Bob Dylan was a great songwriter, and a rubbish singer. With this borne in mind, lots of people have covered Crouch End Bob's work, often passing over the option to include the sneering and screeching that Zimmerman favours. This, from the excellent Blood on the Tracks, is one of my favourites, and benefits from the slightly maudlin tone that only a breathy jazz cover can give it.

Track Sixteen: Lord Kitchener - London is The Place For Me

Erm, this was recorded in 2005, ok? You'll just have to take my word for it. It's great though.

Track Seventeen: The Decemberists - The Sporting Life

These, from Portland, Oregon, America, are a wordy bunch of buggers, and currently holders of my Album of the Year (although by the time I've closed these parentheses, this may well have changed several times and settled on being something else entirely). I've selected this track above others mainly because it effortlessly plagiarises Iggy Pop's Lust For Life, but with a little tale about sporting ineptitude. 'They condescend to fix on me a frown' is a great turn of phrase.

Track Eighteen: The Dresden Dolls - The Jeep Song

I've previously raved about this track. it's still great. And it's still 2005. So listen up, punks, and get an earful of when overly theatrical goths make brilliant music. Their live version of Black Sabbath's War Pigs is very good too.

Track Nineteen: Johnny Boy - You Are The Generation Who Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve

OK, I'll freely admit that this was released in 2004. However, for sounding like a fight between the Supremes, the Manics many years before they went shit, Fireworks Night and Christmas, with a title that even the Manics would have rejected as too much like tubthumping, I let them slip into my 2005 cd, and we'll have nothing more said on the matter, eh? At least we will if you know what's good for you.

Track Twenty: Low - Just like christmas

As though the last few songs with their increasing use of sleighbells hadn't signposted where we're going, here's a proper Xmas song. Except it might well be about being disappointed by a lack of Xmas feeling. But what do lyrics mean, anyway? Stupid songwriting. More sleighbells, I say.

Well, that's that all wrapped up. Have good xmases!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mmm, Pasties

I am finally the picture of ruddy faced health that I've always longed to be. Now, I'm not sure what the RDA (as defined by the EC Nutrition Labelling Directive 90/496/EEC) for pasties is, but I can be fairly sure that in the last 24 hours I've exceeded the level of pasties necessary for general health purposes, having eaten the best part of 3 (three) pasties. Yes, I'm sure I've derived all of the important P vitamins a healthy body needs for a long, successful and tasty life. Mmm. I'm not averse to commercial sponsorship deals, Greggs and The Cornwall Pasty Co., you hear?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Hangover, Posters from the Past and Hand-driers of the Future

Hangover Cure of the Year: Greggs Vegetable Pasty (85p). All the greasy stodge you need, and none of that pesky cutlery to faff about with. A winner.

While idly buggering about on the web while waiting for someone on the end of the phone line to look something up, I came across this site, which displays frankly alarming propaganda posters. Well worth a quick flick. However, Queen Mary's Army Auxillary Corps (slogan: 'The GIRL behind the man behind the gun') features a rather loutish young thing on the recruitment poster, who appears to be giving the 'wan-kah!' salute. Not quite sure what their role in the war was, exactly. I'm not going to dwell on it.

There is a trend for increasingly powerful handdriers in toilets. Really powerful. So powerful that they flatten and contort your skin while you hold them under the drier. I'm not sure they're entirely safe, but they are a minor thrill in my small, small world. Should you wish your life to reach the soaring peaks of mine, the ones I've used are at the fun factory otherwise known as Stansted Airport, and at Gordon's Wine Bar by Embankment. Run quickly!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Money-Saving Tips, Or; It Could Be You

As people who have noticed the shortening days and increasing levels of sparkly spangle in advertising, you can't but be aware that Christmas looms like the final roast potato that you are compelled to force down your gullet, despite being full already, you fat pig. Christmas, along with all that, is associate with the Traditional Seasonal Overdraft, and being short of money, because you're out being sociable.

Well, I can offer you a partial solution to this. It will save you upwards of the £1 a week you spend on the national lottery. It simulates precisely the feeling of the lottery, but with none of the cost. There are several steps:

  1. Go to The National Lottery's website.

  2. Choose your numbers and enter them (choose carefully - numbers that are imbued with personal meaning are sci-en-tif-ic-ally proven to be luckier than those chosen by an infinite number of monkeys).

  3. Extend the time to 180 days to maximise your fun!

  4. Click 'check results'.

  5. a) weep because you didn't win OR
    b) weep because you won, but failed to have the foresight to put those numbers on on Saturday, 20th August 2005, like an idiot

There you go. A quid saved, but with all the misery and let-down of the real lottery. You could even imagine Philip Scofield if you like. Laughing at you. All grey-haired and supercilious. Ugh.