Saturday, November 30, 2002

Gay fan-fantasy fiction about those two sportsmen.
You know when you've done something really embarrassing, and every time you think about it afterwards, you cringe? Well, my face right now is the colour of the masthead on Luca's page. You see, it was Marcus's flatmate's birthday yesterday, and among the people joining us for drinks to celebrate, was Luca.

So what was so embarrassing? Was it the drunken conversations? The wild dancing to camp records? No. Someone gave me a joint. Now, I rarely, if ever, smoke dope, and this one must have been really, really strong. I lost control.

I found myself in the middle of an intense, deep conversation about - ooh, I haven't the faintest - with Luca and Marcus. Marcus and I were very stoned, so even a chat about shopping would end up like, really heavy, man. Luca, to his credit, kept up his side of the conversation, even though he was talking to two fools who couldn't string two words together.

Then Janne came in, asking where his friend was. I got the giggles. "He's in your bedroom, crying," joked Marcus. I burst into gales of laughter. Janne was concerned: "What? He's crying? What's wrong?" I was the one crying now, with laughter. This pissed Janne off: "Why the hell is he laughing? My friend is upset, and he thinks it's funny? What's going on? Are you two on drugs again?" The "again" should have bothered me, but it just made me laugh even more. Janne got completely angry and stormed off, muttering. Marcus went out to try to pacify him. Luca, seeing a fight about to start, beat a hasty retreat. I made the worrying discovery that I was unable to stand, so just sat there when Luca made his getaway.

Fortunately, a fight didn't break out, and we all joked about it this morning. Sorry, Luca, it's not always like that round "our" place, honest.

Friday, November 29, 2002

I haven't felt much like writing lately. This is because of this, leading to this, and - on an unrelated note - this, leading to this.
And the runners-up who scored more than 30 are...
Daniel 38
John 38
Joakim 38
Todd 38
Miss Pink 36
Amanda 36
Sam 36
Elisabeth 34
Job 33
Tom 33
Mike 30

Honourable mentions go to: Mike, for being the first person to enter, thus allowing himself no time to cheat research them on Amazon; and to Elisabeth, for leading the pack for quite a while. Daniel's comment that he knew number 18 was Kylie because he recognised her body was ironic, because it's not her body!

Thanks to everyone who entered. I may do another one soon-ish, perhaps a bit more difficult.
And the winner is...
Fraser, the only person to get every artist and every album title correct, thus scoring 40 points. Fraser wins something off his wishlist - now, if only I'd heard of anything on his list! Actually, I live just round the corner from him - perhaps I'll just shove a CD I don't want through his letterbox.
And the answers are...
1 The Strokes: Is This It
2 U2: The Best of 1990-2000
3 McAlmont & Butler: Bring It Back
4 Missy Elliott: Under Construction
5 D'Angelo: Voodoo
6 Badly Drawn Boy: Have You Fed The Fish
7 Coldplay: A Rush Of Blood To The Head
8 Nelly: Nellyville
9 Peaches: The Teaches Of Peaches
10 Pulp: Hits
11 St Etienne: Finisterre
12 The Streets: Original Pirate Material
13 Starsailor: Love Is Here
14 Felix da Housecat: Kittenz And Thee Glitz
15 Ja Rule: The Last Temptation
16 Puddle Of Mudd: Come Clean
17 India Arie: Acoustic Soul
18 Kylie Minogue: Greatest Hits
19 David Gray: A New Day At Midnight
20 Eminem: The Eminem Show
If you are intending to enter my album covers quiz, get your answers to me by noon today. I'll post the answers shortly after that, and pick a winner. You could win something from your wishlist.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

The world is going mad this morning, trying to track down the mysterious email mentioned in Popbitch this morning. Something about David Beckham and his relationship. Unfortunately, any search request for "David Beckham" Popbitch brings you to my site. And I don't know what the email is. Yet.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

There have been loads of entries for my album cover quiz. There's one clear winner so far, but still two days to go.
Oh, it's all happening here. I'm not allowed to talk about it, though.

And I am telling you, I'm not going.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Brilliant spoof of the famous Abbott and Costello "Who's On First?" routine. This one involves George Bush and Condoleeza Rice:
Hu's on First
By James Sherman
(We take you now to the Oval Office.)

George: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?

Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.

George: Great. Lay it on me.

Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.

George: That's what I want to know.

Condi: That's what I'm telling you.

George: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes.

George: I mean the fellow's name.

Condi: Hu.

George: The guy in China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The new leader of China.

Condi: Hu.

George: The Chinaman!

Condi: Hu is leading China.

George: Now whaddya' asking me for?

Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.

George: Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?

Condi: That's the man's name.

George: That's who's name?

Condi: Yes.

George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the Middle East.

Condi: That's correct.

George: Then who is in China?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir is in China?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Then who is?

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Yassir?

Condi: No, sir.

George: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of the U.N. on the phone.

Condi: Kofi?

George: No, thanks.

Condi: You want Kofi?

George: No.

Condi: You don't want Kofi.

George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi?

George: Milk! Will you please make the call?

Condi: And call who?

George: Who is the guy at the U.N?

Condi: Hu is the guy in China.

George: Will you stay out of China?!

Condi: Yes, sir.

George: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.

Condi: Kofi.

George: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone.

(Condi picks up the phone.)

Condi: Rice, here.

George: Rice? Good idea. And a couple of egg rolls, too. Maybe we should send some to the guy in China. And the Middle East. Can you get Chinese food in the Middle East?
[via kottke]
The sky right now is pale blue, with cream and pink clouds scudding over it. Someone in the office just came up with a perfect description. "Look everyone, it's a Simpsons' sky!"
I've told you before that I loved the Chapman Brothers exhibition which is currently on at White Cube in Hoxton. But I did say I wouldn't tell you too much about it, as it would spoil the surprise. But the one friend of mine who did go to see it on my recommendation came back saying he didn't get it - it was just a collection of African masks, ho-hum.

Perhaps you'll get the joke from these pictures, and if I tell you that the show is collection of primitive trophies and initiation masks from the former colonial regions of Camgib, Seirf and Ekoc. It makes a good companion piece to the Olmeca Tequila show currently at the Royal Academy...
Ann Widdecombe, Edwina Currie, Richard Fairbrass, Neil Tennant, Joe Orton, Russell T Davies, Russell Grant, Russell Harty, Aiden Shaw, Julian Clary, Jonathan King, Marc Almond, Quentin Crisp, David Beckham, E.M. Forster, Dirk Bogarde, Brian Dowling, Derek Jarman, Shirley Bassey, Tim Berners-Lee, Judy Garland, Tinky Winky...
Just a few of the people who have been nominated for Peter's 100 Greatest Gay Britons. You can leave your suggestions in his comments box.
An email I received this morning:
Hello,

I'm sorry I have to send this again, my last email account died.

If you are a Time Traveler I am going to need the following:

1. A modified mind warping Dimensional Warp Generator # 52 4350a series wrist watch with memory adapter.

2. Reliable carbon based, or silicon based time transducing capacitor.

I need a reliable source!! Please only reply if you are reliable. Send a (SEPARATE) email to me at: Josh0139@aol.com

Monday, November 25, 2002

Is it just me, or does the picture of Blair on the front page of the The Guardian website look spookily like Bush?
Marianne Faithfull is a goddess, true rock royalty. I've been a massive fan for years, but I'd never seen her in concert, till last night. Marcus's friend Caroline knows someone who works at the Astoria, and he put us on the guest list, giving us free VIP seats. We sat at one of the three empty tables in the VIP area. "But they've got 'reserved' signs on," I protested. "Yes, they're reserved for us, darling," said Caroline, trying to convince herself of this.

Just before the show started, a large group of fashion types came in and grabbed the two remaining tables. There weren't quite enough seats for them, and they glared at us - we'd obviously nicked their table. When I say "fashion types", I really mean it:

"Look," said Marcus, "that's Kate."
"Kate who?"
"Moss, of course. And there's Stella."
"Tennant?"
"No, McCartney. And Sophie."
"Sophie…?"
"Dahl."
"Oh yes, and I recognise those eyebrows: Meg Matthews?"

God, what a rude lot. They're supposed to be Marianne's friends, but they talked, loudly, throughout the concert, pausing only to shout out "Marianne! We love you!" at the end of every song. The young trendy types are queuing up to be associated with Ms Faithfull, hoping some of her credibility will rub off on them. Her new album features collaborations with Jarvis Cocker, Damon Albarn, Beck and Billy Corgan.

Marianne looked great in a dark tailored man's suit and flouncy white shirt. When singing, she was regal and commanding, shooting her cuffs and opening her arms in grand gestures. But between songs, she seemed nervous, and as for her dancing: just don't. During guitar solos, she attempted a rockist shuffle that put me in mind of a nice old lady weighed down with Peter Jones bags trying to get to her seat on the number 11 bus.

Marianne Faithfull is a survivor, with a voice that tells of years of abuse. She sounded fantastic, exactly like she does on her records. She played old favourites like "The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan" and "Times Square", plus six or so tracks off her new album. The crowd roared every time she spat out filthy lines: "Every time I see your dick, I see her cunt in my bed." or "If Marianne was born a man she'd show you all, a way to piss your life against the wall. Go ahead why don't you leave me to these thugs ? And creeps who want to fuck a nun on drugs."

She did "Working Class Hero" by Stella's dad's mate, and a new song by Will Oldham. She didn't perform "As Tears Go By", which was a real pity, especially as Anita Pallenberg had just come to sit next to us. Highlight of the evening was probably "Song For Nico".

A fantastic night out.
We went to the British Museum on Saturday afternoon to see Anthony Gormley's Field For The British Isles. I'd seen it before, but seeing those 40,000 little people looking up at me gave me the same feeling: "Gooood eeevening, Wembley!"

Friday, November 22, 2002

B3ta interview Emma Clarke, the woman who does the tube announcements on the Victoria, Bakerloo and Central Lines. With fantastic pictures.
Enter my album cover quiz. I have cunningly removed the wording from twenty album covers - name the artist and the album title. Don't worry if you can't get them all - the winner will be the person with the most correct answers. There will be a prize of an item of my choice from your wishlist or something similar.

Email your answers to me at blog@cack.co.uk. Go on, Have a go.
Overheard in the office:
"Producers of The Great Britons expect the battle to be between Churchill and Brunel."
"We will fight them on the bridges."
While I'm in an 80s pop mood and still reminiscing about my first weeks in London, let me tell you two quick Jimmy Somerville stories.

One afternoon in 1995, I popped into 79CXR. I bought a drink and put two quid in the jukebox. I spotted the Jimmy Somerville Singles Collection, and it had been ages since I'd heard him, so among my seven songs were three of his singles: "Comment Te Dire Adieu", "Smalltown Boy" and "Don't Leave Me This Way". Picking up my beer, I walked around the corner and straight into... Jimmy Somerville. He was holding court, chatting to friends, and I took up position just behind him, dreading what was coming next. At the opening notes of "Comment Te Dire Adieu" he looked up, thinking, "Ooh, I know this!" and then scowling when he realised what it was. He looked a bit embarrassed, muttering, "Oh god, not this." When the next song was one his as well, he looked around, thinking someone was taking the piss. I gulped down my beer and left before the third one.

A couple of years ago, I was standing at the urinal in Barcode. Jimmy Somerville came out of the cubicle and said to me, "I cannae reach the urinal - look." And he couldn't - well, he is only wee.
Erasure are coming back. Their last few albums have been largely ignored by the record-buying public, so they're returning in ABBA-esque mode with an album of covers, Other People's Songs. The first single is a version of my favourite Peter Gabriel song, "Solsbury Hill", which is crying out for a poppy remake. And how camp wil ltheir version of "When Will I See You Again" be? Not too sure about some of the other choices, though:

1. Solsbury Hill
2. Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime
3. Make Me Smile (Come Up & See Me)
4. Everyday
5. When Will I See You Again?
6. Walking in the Rain
7. True Love Ways
8. Ebb Tide
9. Can't Help Falling in Love
10. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
11. Goodnight
12. Video Killed the Radio Star
While I remember, the headline on the front page of Monday's Guardian had me puzzled. I read it and re-read it ten times before I could make any sense of it. Something about 'short breaks'. Ah yes, this was it:
Short breaks
ranks on top
up fees

Thursday, November 21, 2002

I have been playing around with turning photographs into line art. I love their photocopied quality. They make my blog look like a fanzine. Funny how good low-tech, grungey techniques look on the web.






Another story:

The Royal Oak on Columbia Road was like a small town pub. It had a crowd of regulars who knew everything about each other, thriving on little bits of gossip. Although the atmosphere was very friendly, it was also highly competitive. It was a great place to be 'fresh meat'.

I don't think I payed for a single drink that first night. I was the belle of the ball, flirting and being flirted with. I swear I am not making this up: a fight broke out over me. Over me! How fantastic.

Stuart had smiled at me a couple of times, then he sidled over and asked:

"What's the most outrageous and impulsive thing you've ever done?"
"Er, I don't know. Why?"
"Well, I'm going to Wales for the weekend tomorrow. Do you want to come?"
"Yes, OK."
"Alright. Give me your address. I'll pick you up in the morning. Bye."

And so I went to Wales with Stuart. And moved in with him two weeks later.
Andrew was wrong - he hadn't just been to a Marc Almond Christmas concert. We met in summer. The summer of 1995. May or June, I think. I was indeed living in Putney, and the story of how I got there is a great tale:

I arrived in London on the third of March 1995. The only person I knew here was my mate Richard from South Africa. Richard had kindly allowed me to kip in their lounge till I found somewhere to stay. "But only for two weeks, OK?"

One week and six days into my stay at his place, I hadn't found anywhere - I hadn't even looked. I went out that night to the local gay bar in Shepherd's Bush - the Queen's Head? The Queen's Shilling? - long since closed down. Got talking to a bloke called Tim. "Do you fancy coming outside for a joint?" I didn't even smoke joints, but, hey, I was in London. So we went outside and passed a joint back and forth. Then he said, "You don't happen to know anyone who's looking for somewhere to live, do you?"

I moved in the next day, into a very nice second-floor, two-bedroom flat in Chiswick. My alarm bells should have been ringing from the moment I opened the front door. The smell of burning filled the air, getting stronger as I climbed the stairs. On the top step I found a bunch of dried grass, slowly burning and sending up clouds of acrid smoke.

"Oh, don't mind that," he said, letting me in, "it's to clear the flat of any bad spirits. I've just moved in. Did we say fifty quid a week? Four weeks up front, right?" I handed over 200 pounds. "The situation is a bit odd here," he said, "landlord problems, you know."

After a few days, Tim disappeared. A couple of days after that, the heating stopped working. As a South African in England, in March, I'd never experienced such cold. Still no sign of Tim.

He reappeared about two weeks into my stay there. "We've got to move out! Tomorrow!" "But why? Where am I going to live?" "I'm sorry, but that's it. We have to move out tomorrow. I'll give you the remainder of your rent in a couple of weeks when I'm sorted, OK?"

Well, no, it wasn't OK. It occurred to me later that we'd probably been squatting. I'd been paying rent to a fellow squatter. What was I going to do? Apart from Richard, I only knew two other people in London - a scary Russian skinhead and a slightly creepy Frenchman.

"Jean-Marie? Hi, it's David. Listen, could you put me up for a couple of nights?"

We slept together the first night, but I made excuses the second night, saying I was going out to see friends. I went to FF at Turnmills. That was the night I met Marc Almond, the night of my first ecstasy experience. Fantastic. I was in the big city, homeless, not knowing where I was going to live the next day. I loved it.

I arrived back at Jean-Marie's just in time to meet him as he was going out to work. He gave me his keys and lent me his laptop so I could practice using PageMaker, which I'd claimed I had experience in, and which had got me a job interview later that day. I aced the interview and got the job.

To celebrate, I went to the Penny Farthing in Hammersmith. (Now, there's a sentence you don't see too often!) At the bar was the big Russian skinhead - let's call him Boris. I told him my predicament, and he said, "let me make a few calls".

Now, a few words about Boris. He was an escort, specialising in domination. His clients would pay him good money to be humiliated, beaten, tied up, punched, kicked. Of course, in reality he was a real softie, but he wouldn't want his clients knowing that. He called one of them.

"Peter, this is Boris. You have been a bad boy! I will tell you what you are going to do. You have a spare room, right? You will rent it to my friend David. You will charge him thirty pounds a week. Yes, thirty pounds. He will move in tomorrow. You will clean his room. And you had better look after him, or there will be trouble."

So the very next day, I moved to a room above a disused pub. The Ranger was a run-down establishment on a council estate in Putney. The council had shut it down because, I think, of drugs violations. The brewery had installed Peter as a caretaker, basically just to live in the three-bedroomed flat above the pub.

I was happy. It was a glorious summer. I had a job in nearby Wimbledon. I was earning pounds, and spending them going out and exploring the city's nightlife. In those first three months, I must have gone to fifty bars - including The Market Tavern, which is where I met Andrew.

Shortly after that, the brewery asked Peter if he wanted to manage a pub in Bethnal Green. He did. We moved. I met someone. But that's another story...
While we were upstairs at Sanctuary, a guy approached me: "Excuse me, but didn't you used to study in Coventry?"
"No," I answered, "I've never even been to Coventry. Must be someone else."
"Sorry," he said, and walked away. But then he turned back: "But you are from South Africa?"
"Er, yes. How do you know that?"
"Don't you remember? We met about four years ago at that place in King's Cross?"
"Central Station?"
"No, no, the other one. It's not there anymore."
"The Bell?"
"Yes, The Bell. We met there on a Sunday. I had just been to a Marc Almond Christmas concert. You came back to mine, in Maida Vale."
I was about to tell him that I'd never been to The Bell, that it had closed before I even arrived in London, but the mention of Marc Almond intrigued me.
"Which Marc Christmas concert was it? The Palladium? Union Chapel?"
"Oh, that doesn't matter," he said, "but you came back with me. I was staying in a posh flat in Maida Vale."
"No, sorry."
"My name's Andrew? I'm a teacher?"
"Andrew! Why didn't you say so? Of course! You teach - let's see - Information Technology? I remember. But this was more than four years ago - I'd only just arrived in London - it was more like eight. I wouldn't have known where Maida Vale was at the time. And it wasn't The Bell we met at, but the Market Tavern. Yes, yes, yes. How are you? You know, I sometimes ask your friend - you know, Ian, the one who only says hello to us every other time we see him - about you, but he says you don't speak to each other anymore. That was years ago. I was living in, let's see, Putney at the time. God, that takes me back…"
It had been a while since Ian and I had a night out, but we put that right last night with a proper pub crawl.

First stop: Comptons. "There's no-one attractive in here, is there?" remarked Ian. He was quite, quite right. The quick-pinters-after-work were still propping up the bar, leering at the not-drunk-enough-yets.

Second stop: G.A.Y. Bar. Shocking! It's pink! Shocking pink! Mantos on Compton Street has been taken over by Jeremy Joseph, whose idea of a refit is to leave it exactly as it was, but with the addition of backlit pink Perspex panels and large tellies playing Shitpop. Huge posters announce that Carling is just £1.50, so I despatch Ian to the bar to get us pints of that. He scurries back to tell me that the £1.50 is for bottles, not pints, so we decide to have a pint of Stella each. "Stella's off," says the barman, once he'd finally deigned to notice Ian at the bar, "you'll have to have Carling, it's the same thing." £3.00 a pint.

The crowd is divided into two, er, camps. There's the skinny young things and the skinny old things and never the twain shall meet. A lairy scary skinhead with tattoos all over his body and head gives psychotic stares. Two blokes are pressed up against a wall, snogging furiously, groping each other, one has his legs wrapped around the other, oh I can't bear to watch, oh now he's shoving his hand down the other's pants, they're writhing, faces, crotches, locked together. Security asks them to desist, and we have to find something else to watch.

Third stop: Sanctuary Soho. This bar on Greek Street is the new venue from the guy behind Shadow Lounge and, ahem, Sweet Suite. "Before we get there," I say to Ian, "how much are we willing to pay on the door?" We decide on "no more than three pounds", and stride towards the doorman. Turns out there is no door charge, anyway.

Ground floor: a dance bar. Tacky, 80s, someone's idea of stylish. Looks like the Changing Rooms crew have been in - the walls are covered in MDF cut into organic shapes. No-one is dancing, indeed there's only one other customer in the room. I order two pints of Carling. "£3.60, please," says the barman. "Ooh, that's cheap," I think, "but hang on, those aren't pints, they're halves." Yes, this place is so stylish they only sell halves, perhaps because if they actually charged £3.60 a pint, no-one would bother.

Basement: ooh, we quite like this. Little alcoves - private rooms with banquettes, holding perhaps fifteen people. Fashionable things with distressed haircuts lounge around, chatting, no doubt, about this season's looks.

We are about to leave when we spot "Upstairs: Piano Bar" and decide to give that a whirl. Good idea. The place is packed - turns out it's a private birthday party for the promoter of DTPM, a man, confusingly, named Edna. We buy two more halves from the stressed-out barmen, and join the throng. We like this place. Don't know what it would be like on a non-party night, but tonight it's fantastic. No piano, thankfully, but a DJ in the corner. We decide it's the kind of place you could take your female friends to.

Fourth stop: The Edge. Well, it's nearby, and by now I quite fancy the idea of a piano bar. Ooh, it's quite festive. There's a baby grand in the corner, played by a man [we think] with Art Garfunkel hair. "He looks a bit Tom," I think to myself. "He looks a bit like Tom," Ian says to me. [By this stage we were speaking in hyperlinks.] "He looks nothing like Tom," I reply, disapprovingly. He really does look nothing like Tom. An appreciative audience of happy drunks sings along to showtunes and Queen songs.

Fifth stop: Barcode. On the way there, a homeless person asks us for some change. "Oh no, I don't think so," replied Ian, magnanimously, "but I offer you my blessing." I await the knife in his back. Barcode is busy as usual, with the same people as usual. "Quick, those people are leaving, grab those seats." We chat for a bit about relationships and possibilities and allowing people into your life. [By this stage we were speaking in inebrations.] "Right, I'm going for a pee, then I'm going to come back. And I'm going to finish this pint, and then. I. Am. Going. Home," I announce. "Well, I'm going to Swan."

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

OK, this is a bit of a sensitive one. While I was updating my wishlist last week, I spotted something at the bottom of the page saying 'Reveal purchased items'. "Ooh, someone's bought me something," I thought, "I wonder what it is?" Unable to restrain myself, I took a peek and discovered that someone had bought me Outside World by Propaganda. I rushed home that afternoon to see if it was there, but it hadn't arrived yet. Each day since then, I've eagerly awaited the post, but nothing has arrived. Amazon say delivery of that CD should take just 24 hours. I can't tell who bought it, or when it was bought - it may have been months ago.

So... if you were the kind person who bought me the Propaganda CD, thank you very much. You may have been thinking me an ungrateful sod for not thanking you - now you know why.
I've spent the last few evenings on another planet, sucking people, blowing them, with a little guy on my back. It's been fun. I've been playing Ratchet and Clank on the PlayStation 2. It's fantastic. Yes, it's a platform game, but it's also a gory shoot-em-up - think Jak and Daxter meet Quake. There's the usual jumping from rock to rock, but there are 35 fantastic weapons and gadgets - I can't decide which is my favourite one:

There's the suck cannon, which initially acts like a vacuum cleaner. Point it at a horde of small enemies, say a crowd of evil frogs. Switch it on, and they will get sucked up into the gun. Once there are five in there, the gun is full and the frogs become the ammo: press 'fire' again and you can shoot splatting amphibians at the advancing frogs.

Then there's the glove of doom. Again, this works best in a room full of enemies. Chuck a bomb on the floor and it splits up into five tiny chuckling robots which run around chaotically, exploding gleefully upon contact with any baddie. Great fun.

The plot entails saving the universe, so you travel from planet to planet, each with very different landscapes and creatures. So the battlegrounds are varied: a disused space-station whose corridors are filled with mutant frogs and snakes; a city with vertiginous skyscrapers and flying cars; a sewer system where you have to race the rising water…

It's all beautifully drawn with very real perspectives - crawling out onto a ledge above the city actually gave me a sense of vertigo. I don't often get engrossed in computer games, but Ratchet and Clank has me totally hooked. I can't wait to see what happens next. [Though perhaps nothing will, because I can't get past the bloody boss monster on the space-station right now.]
An email I received this morning:
Sung to the tune of "If You're Happy And You Know It Clap Your Hands"

If we cannot find Osama, bomb Iraq.
If the markets hurt your Mama, bomb Iraq.
If the terrorists are Saudi
And the bank takes back your Audi
And the TV shows are bawdy, bomb Iraq.

If the corporate scandals growin', bomb Iraq.
And your ties to them are showin', bomb Iraq.
If the smoking gun ain't smokin'
We don't care, and we're not jokin'.
That Saddam will soon be croakin', bomb Iraq.

Even if we have no allies, bomb Iraq.
From the sand dunes to the valleys, bomb Iraq.
So to hell with the inspections;
Let's look tough for the elections,
Close your mind and take directions, bomb Iraq.

While the globe is slowly warming, bomb Iraq.
Yay! the clouds of war are storming, bomb Iraq.
If the ozone hole is growing,
Some things we prefer not knowing.
(Though our ignorance is showing), bomb Iraq.

So here's one for dear old daddy, bomb Iraq,
From his favorite little laddy, bomb Iraq.
Saying no would look like treason.
It's the Hussein hunting season.
Even if we have no reason,
Bomb Iraq.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

On Saturday morning, the bright sunlight filtered through Marcus's curtains, putting me in mind - for some reason - of a New York morning. This feeling was enhanced by the fact that Marcus was typing away on his Apple Powerbook, a la Carrie in Sex And The City. One ray pierced a gap in the curtains, creating a bright spotlight stabbing into the gloom. I couldn't resist.

On Saturday, I promised Marcus I would take him for lunch. We hopped on a number 3 bus and within fifteen minutes were in Dulwich Village - just three kilometres from Brixton, but a million miles from the hectic pace of London. We marvelled at the gorgeous paintings by Murillo, Rubens, Gainsborough in the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Here's a site showing some of the gallery's collection, and here's the official site. This Rubens made us laugh out loud.

Afterwards, we went for a stroll through the village, and fell in love with the small-town atmosphere with its leafy streets and quaint shops. The promised lunch never materialised, as the kitchen at the Crown and Greyhound had shut. But we consoled ourselves with a couple of huge glasses of red wine and the Saturday Guardian. If this is what old age has in store, that's fine by me.
First I forget my passport when I'm going on holiday, now I forget I'm supposed to be at work. Old age sets in...
Note to self: When taking two days off, it's probably advisory to ensure that one of those days is not the day you are meant to be producing a publication. Especially if it's the special bumper, urgent, Queen's Speech issue. Otherwise, by the time you do finally wake up, you may have seven missed calls and three irate voicemail messages. Oops! Back to work, back to reality.

Monday, November 18, 2002

I called my boss this morning to tell him I'd be in late as I had a doctor's appointment, but midway through the call I found myself telling him I was taking two days off. It's such a beautiful autumn morning. Cold and crisp, with bright sunshine casting long shadows. I really should go for a long walk in misty woods but, well, there are two new PlayStation 2 games calling me, calling me...

Friday, November 15, 2002

Aha! Clearly, I urgently need a cat.
Hurrah! Secret Santa is back. Last year, I received the Beta Band album, which I still enjoy. Reminds me... must update my wishlist.
On my way to work this morning, I realised I'd been humming a Take That song - "Neeee-vah! Forget where you're coming from. Neeeee-vah!" I haven't been able to get it out of my head all morning.

My colleague at work has just told me that his wife wouldn't let him play his CDs in the car this morning and so they had to listen to one of hers. "You'll never guess what it was," he confided, "Take That! And now I've had this bloody song in my head all morning."

"God, that's weird - I've had one of their songs in my head all morning. Which one are you singing?" I asked.

"Dunno what it's called. Goes something like ...someone else's dream.. tum-te-tum... we're not invincible... la-la-la.... Neeee-vah! Forget where you're coming from. Neeeee-vah!"
Tonight sees endless hours of the Children In Need telethon. I hate these things - grinning minor celebs embarrassing themselves for a Good Cause. But I caught a preview this morning of what will no doubt prove to be the highlight - Trinny and Susanna doing Madonna's Vogue. Like a classic French and Saunders skit, they've got the glossy black-and-white look of the Madonna video spot-on. They've changed the lyrics to take the piss of badly-dressed celebs: "Liza Minnelli, Ivana too, Christine Hamilton: look at you!" You're going to want to set your VCRs for this one. It's on some time between nine and ten.
Wow! Really???
Oops! Spoke too soon - or, rather, too late. The Errazuriz Pinot Noir has gone back up to £9.99 at Sainsbury's. Still, it's better than many a Burgundy at that price. I don't know why I said that - I've never bought a Burgundy at that price. But it's lovely, nevertheless.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

I've discovered two wines recently:

On a cold, grey night like this, treat yourself to a bottle of Errazuriz Wild Ferment Pinot Noir 2000. It's autumn in a glass, all fallen leaves and forest floor and wild mushrooms and over-ripe plums. It's a mellow wine, with a taste strangely remniscent of black cherry yoghurt. It goes down beautifully right now, but if you're able to resist the temptation, hide a couple of bottles somewhere - it will really come into its own in a few years. Malcolm Gluck awarded it 18 points out of twenty - but that was when it cost £9.99 a bottle. It must be worth an extra point or two at Sainsbury's current reduced price of £7.99.

The other wine is an oddity - a sparkling red wine. Banrock Station Sparkling Shiraz is bloody weird. It's a gorgeous deep crimson, with all the bubbles of a champagne. Don't open this over your nice new white carpet! Smells like a red wine, tastes like Ribena. You couldn't drink a lot of this, the flavours are too intense, but fortunately it comes in dinky little half-bottles.

Right, that's my Thursday night sorted, then.
Ha! Told you so on Tuesday. Swish Cottage, first with the news.

Which Marc are you?
I read in Popbitch this morning that New South Wales' Minister for Gaming and Racing is named Mr Dick Face. "That can't be true," I thought. It is. [Sorta - he calls himself Richard, of course.]

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

And so Chig's excellent 50 Number Ones Project is coming to an end. The song at number three has been announced, and he's given a major clue as to what's at number two. So what's at number one, then? Don't Stop Movin'? Baby One More Time? Vogue? Pump Up The Volume? Into The Groove? Relax? Brass In Pocket? Waterloo? Blockbuster? These Boots Are Made For Walking? Bombalurina? Oh, the tension!
Koff-koff. Tickly cough. Koff-koff. Post-nasal drip. Koff-koff. Can't sleep. Koff-koff. One a.m. Koff-KOFF. One-thirty. Koff-KOFF. TV on. Koff-KOFF! Drink water. KOFF-KOFF! Sore lungs. KOFF-KOFF Two a.m. KOFF-KOFF! Toss and turn. KOFF!-KOFF! Toss again. KOFF!-KOFF! Two-thirty. KOFF!-KOFF! Almost vomit. KOFF!-KOFF! Three a.m. KOFF!-KOFF!

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

It's been a while since I left you without a dope beat to step to. So here's:
The Swish Guide to South African Music - Part 10
"Taximan" by éVoid - 1984 [download the mp3]

Brothers Lucien and Erik Windrich were born in the Netherlands, and grew up in Zimbabwe, where, as a band called The Void, their cover of The Knack's "My Sharona" reached number 3 in 1979. In 1983, spotting the potential of the crossover market, they changed their name to the more African-sounding éVoid, donned warpaint and tribal clothing, and invented a whole new ethos: ethnotronics, an unlikely blend of prog rock, new romanticism and African rhythms. Think Spandau Ballet meets Bow Wow Wow meets Visage via A Flock Of Seagulls with a bit of Genesis. In Africa.

With their sculpted cheekbones, dramatic make-up and lurid costumes, they took South Africa by storm. Their first single as éVoid, "Shadows", reached number 3, while the subsequent album topped the charts. They were a phenomenon - fans, known as 'fadgets', would queue for hours outside their live venues, dressed in garish ethno-gypsy gear. The song I've made available here, second single Taximan, sounds dated and tinny, but sadly it's the only track of theirs I own on CD.

The band had reached the top in South Africa - there was nowhere else for them to go but overseas. So off they trooped to London. Rumours of drugs and alcohol and mental health problems filtered back. A low-key comeback tour in late '86 was accompanied by a messy second album. And then they disappeared off the radar, but I spotted them playing to lagered-up ex-pats in a spit-and-sawdust South African pub in London as recently as two years ago. How the mighty...

Read more about éVoid here.

Let me know what you think of this. Buy South African CDs online at oneworld.co.za.
On the tube the other day, I overheard a conversation between two blokes - an Englishman and an Australian. "So," said the Brit, "do you follow football? Have you adopted a team over here?"

"Nah," replied the Ozzie, "what's the point? I mean, English football is subservient to European football; and European football is subservient to international football."

Subservient how, I wondered:

"Oi! Beckham!"
"Yes sir, Mister Figo, sir?"
"Come and lick my boots."
"Ooh, yes sir! Would you like me to do your bum next?"
This blog is made for walking. Yes! Nancy Sinatra has a blog. I have to have a bottle of Chardonancy!
[via Fraser]
Here is the good news: a new budget airline is to be introduced, offering flights from Luton to the US for just £65.

Here is the bad news:
  • The price shown is for a one-way flight. I can't help wondering if Sky-Bus International will be another of those budget airlines where the price of the return flight, mysteriously, is double that of the outbound.
  • The new airline will only fly to Florida, and then on to Portsmouth, "near Boston".
  • In the tradition of budget airlines [step forward RyanAir] the airports are miles from anywhere you've ever heard of.

    The company doesn't appear to have a website yet. A Google search for 'Jonathan Aslett', the name of the new airline's American director turns up a worrying result. One Jonathan Aslett was arrested last year in the UK for the pornographic images of children found in his office and on his computer. It seems he was wanted by the FBI in the US for similar material. Surely not the same person? This one, according to the BBC report, runs a softwear [sic] business.
  • Monday, November 11, 2002

    baghdad = 593,000
    bagdhad = 2,450
    bhagdad = 1,460
    bahgdad = 1,150
    bagdahd = 147
    bhaghdad = 7

    There are also 247,000 results for "bagdad", but that's not really a misspelling - it's a town in Arizona, as in Bagdad Cafe.
    Go see the current exhibition at White Cube in Hoxton - Works from the Chapman Family Collection. I can't tell you why - it would spoil the surprise. Just go see it. It should win the Turner Prize. Or, perhaps, the Perrier.

    Oh, and while you're in the area, go see the St James Group photography prize show at the swish new Flowers East gallery on Kingsland Road. Inspiring stuff.

    Sunday, November 10, 2002

    The BBC Holiday Show asked viewers to name the fifty places one should see before one dies. Disappointingly, I have only been to four of them: Cape Town, New York, Barcelona and Paris. There are some glaring omissions from the list - where are the cultural gems: Prague, Florence, St Petersburg? Indeed, anywhere in Middle Europe? Instead, we have Florida and the rigid morals of Singapore and Dubai.

    Top of my list of places to add to my travels would be San Francisco, Rio and the Galapagos Islands. Here's the viewers' list - how many have you been to?
    1 The Grand Canyon
    2 Great Barrier Reef
    3 Florida
    4 South Island - New Zealand
    5 Cape Town
    6 Golden Temple
    7 Las Vegas
    8 Sydney
    9 New York
    10 Taj Mahal
    11 Canadian Rockies
    12 Uluru
    13 Chichen Itza - Mexico
    14 Machu Picchu - Peru
    15 Niagara Falls
    16 Petra - Jordan
    17 The Pyramids - Egypt
    18 Venice
    19 Maldives
    20 Great Wall of China
    21 Victoria Falls - Zimbabwe
    22 Hong Kong
    23 Yosemite National Park
    24 Hawaii
    25 Auckland - New Zealand
    26 Iguassu Falls
    27 Paris
    28 Alaska
    29 Angkor Wat - Cambodia
    30 Himalayas - Nepal
    31 Rio de Janeiro - Brazil
    32 Masai Mara - Kenya
    33 Galapagos Islands - Ecuador
    34 Luxor - Egypt
    35 Rome
    36 San Francisco
    37 Barcelona
    38 Dubai
    39 Singapore
    40 La Digue - Seychelles
    41 Sri Lanka
    42 Bangkok
    43 Barbados
    44 Iceland
    45 Terracotta Army - China
    46 Zermatt - Switzerland
    47 Angel Falls - Venezuela
    48 Abu Simbel - Egypt
    49 Bali
    50 French Polynesia

    Friday, November 08, 2002

    Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets: better than the first film. But also very, very similar. This one is darker, funnier and more exciting. The spiders and snakes will scare the kids to death. The plot doesn't stand up to examination, but of course, it is a kids' film. The "revelations" are clearly sign-posted. Anyone who doesn't work out which family Dobby works for the moment he's introduced must be - well - a child.

    Just like the first film, the characters here are one-dimensional stereotypes with no subtleties - the goodies are all good, the baddies all bad. Interestingly, the only ambiguous character is computer animated - the house elf, Dobby. It's unclear until the end whether he's really acting in Harry's best interests. Dobby is a brilliant creation, responsible for the film's funniest moments. This is the one everyone will be talking about - a beautifully-realised CGI character, with his hangdog expression and 'beat me' attitude. He's fantastic, funny and loveable. Jar Jar Binks, he ain't. Gooood Dobby!

    The human characters, of course, are played by a veritable who's who of British actorrrs: Dame Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Miriam Margolyes and the late Richard Harris, who received warm applause last night when his name appeared in the credits. Kenneth Branagh steals the film as the cowardly Gilderoy Lockhart. Watch out for his fleeting reappearance after the final credits.

    So it's more of the same. And, boy, do I mean more! Two hours and forty minutes. Fans of the book may feel that's not long enough. Personally, I could quite happily lose all the school stuff - the house points system, the quidditch game, the Enid Blyton territory - and cut to the chase. And what a chase! Once Harry and chums enter the enchanted forest, the film takes off and is genuinely thrilling. The production design is terrific - the chamber of secrets itself carries off the snake motif imaginatively. There are fabulous doors with live snakes for locks, giant sculptures of serpents, and a chase through long, sinuous pipes.

    It will be interesting to see what changes will be wrought in the third film in the series, The Prisoner of Azkaban. There's a change of director - it's out with Chris Columbus, and in with a potentially exciting choice - Alfonso Cuarón, the director of Y tu mamá también. Can we hope to see Harry and Ron as oversexed teenagers trying to shag Hermione?

    Thursday, November 07, 2002

    An image from Ian's birthday dinner on Tuesday night:



    "Villa Doluca?" thought Guy, "Yes, I think I vill."
    Wizard! We're going to see Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets tonight. Or we could go to the opening of Jamie Oliver's new restaurant. Oh, it's such a tough life, having a boyfriend who works in the media.
    Whiney Houston = 182
    Whitey Houston = 133
    The light dissolves the darkness
    For sleepy she
    The day unwraps the night ties
    And we can see
    The sunbeam blinds the moonbeam
    And morning disagrees
    And with panic before dreamtime
    Overcome.

    Your body lies before me
    Goose pimplean
    That shivers to my fingers
    As I touch
    The hairs below your stomach
    And slowly inbetween
    Oh how slowly can I stay here?
    And never yet too much.

    And if you get married
    You'll find out that it's true
    Love becomes a savage
    Who's going to savage you

    I want a farm of kisses
    On your lips
    Planted with best wishes
    A mouthful of sips
    I know every crevice
    And I know every kiss
    And what tastes have been before me
    And which ones you will miss.

    And if you get married
    You'll find out that it's true
    Love becomes a savage
    Who's going to savage you.
    The Lilac Time
    Until the last year or two of their marriage, my parents kept most of their arguments out of sight of the kids. Out of sight, but not out of sound. "They're at it again," my brother would whisper from the bed next to mine as the shouting raged downstairs. By the time I was about 14, hostilities were more overt on both sides. Mealtimes became wars, the dinner table was a battlefield, the television a weapon, the kids innocent bystanders taken hostage.

    The worst fight, the mother of all wars, occurred around the dinner table, its main weapons: a plate of spaghetti bolognaise and a major revelation about my older brother, Alan [not his real name].

    I guess my mum felt powerless. She saw her marriage crumbling and determined to use any weapon she could, however desperate. "Why don't you tell Alan why you never show him any affection?" she screamed at my dad. "I show him just as much affection as the others. And he doesn't need to know that." "It's time he knew. Alan, the reason your dad favours the others is that he's not your dad."

    They told us that in the early sixties, when my dad had been stationed at an airforce base in Hampshire, my mum had had an affair with another man, and had become pregnant. Alan wasn't my dad's son. He was only my half-brother.

    We didn't get to hear much more of this, because my dad said something about my mum and she retaliated by pushing her plate of spaghetti into his face. He sat there, continuing to eat, bits of spag bol dripping off his moustache.

    My brother quietly got up and left. I followed shortly after, and found him brooding in a bus shelter.

    We've rarely spoken about it since, and I'd pushed it to the back of my mind.

    But when I started working at this company, I was in a meeting with a guy who was the spitting image of Alan. He could have been his brother, or half-brother at least. He certainly looks a lot more like my brother than I do. But I rationalised that it was just a coincidence - lots of people look alike, it doesn't mean they're related. But at a meeting last week, he said he was from Hampshire. From the very town my dad had been stationed in, the town my brother was born in.

    It still is most likely a coincidence. And what could I possibly say to him? "Hey, did your dad ever have an affair?"

    I suppose I could tell my brother - my mum may have told him the surname of his father. That's if I knew how to get hold of my brother - he retreated from the family after he left home. I haven't heard from his in three years, the last email I sent him was bounced back.

    But why stir things up? Better to leave things as they are. It probably isn't the same guy, so no point getting his hopes up only to have them dashed. And if somehow he is the same guy, well, perhaps he wasn't married at the time, and has never told his wife and kids about his secret love-child.

    So I'll say nothing, and just be struck by the resemblance every time he walks past my desk. At least I get to see my brother occasionally.

    Tuesday, November 05, 2002

    Unable to sleep last night, I watched "When Good Pets Go Bad II", a truly dire American shockumentary with a doom-laden gravel-voiced commentary:

    "Being Santa is a full-time job for Jim Emory. There's one thing Jim loves more than being Santa, and that's his reindeer. Especially Casper. That was - until the day that Casper went… baaad." [cue footage of Jim in Santa suit being tossed around on the reindeer's antlers] "Jim fears he won't see another Christmas."

    I couldn't make my mind up if the voice-over was meant to be funny or not: "Lydia moves to the back of the drugstore. She has no idea she's being stalked by a cat designed to keep out rats and mice. She's soon gonna find out. As this footage shows, this drugstore cat was a prescription… for disaster."

    The show didn't quite do what it said on the label - these weren't pets but wild animals. "A laboratory monkey has escaped. It could be infected with a deadly strain of herpes. The animal is now sitting on a high voltage line. Not only could he be killed, but he could explode in a deadly shower of disease."

    "This kangaroo has escaped from the local zoo. The kangaroo is looking for a mate, and it has its eye on the family dawg."

    Another animal that was looking for a mate was a Spanish donkey. A tourist had wandered into its field for a crap and was caught with his pants down - literally. He was chased, tripping over his trousers, by the donkey. Bizarrely, the nether regions of both man and donkey had been blurred out to spare our blushes. Presumably, this was one donkey who had it real baaad. The man fell to the floor and the donkey tried to mount him. "Miraculously, the man survived." Even more miraculously, his mates continued filming the whole episode, while presumably pissing themselves laughing. When Good Friends Go Bad.
    In a tribute to Lonnie Donegan, who has died, I've just eaten a large roll containing a sausage. Give up? To reveal this dreadful pun, drag your mouse over here: A cumberland bap. [Sorry!]
    What went wrong?
    I - and probably a few other bloggers - received this e-mail this morning.
    Hi,
    I'm a big fan of your site. I do a small column for the Guardian Weekend magazine each week called We Love Each Other. You might have seen it. It's been running for quite some time, almost too long, which is why we're trying to change it a little by alternating with a column called What Went Wrong where people talk about their worst dates. I'm wondering if you could help me out. Do you know of anyone who has been on a particularly bad date, blind or otherwise, and would like to talk about it? Or a couple who have split up but are now friends enough to be able to go over What Went Wrong? Sounds cheesy, I know, but they end up being a lot of fun.
    Do you fancy turning a heart-breaking episode from your past into an amusing anecdote? Then e-mail Craig.
    Happy birthday to him,
    Happy birthday to him,
    Happy birthday, dear Eeeeeee-yan
    Happy birthday to him.

    Monday, November 04, 2002

    Do you think I can legally have a colleague shot for continually humming "Have A Nice Day" by the Stereophonics? "Bah-ba-bah-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah-bah. Bah-ba-bah-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah-bah. Bah-ba-bah-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah-bah. Bah-ba-bah-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah-bah. Bah-ba-bah-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah-bah. Bah-ba-bah-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah-bah. Bah-ba-bah-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah-bah. Blam! Urrgghh!" Have a nice day.
    I dreamed last night that a girl at work e-mailed me a picture of Rufus and Chaka Khan naked. I've just done a quick web search, and it turns out, to my surprise, that Rufus was not a man, but a band. Not in my dream, he wasn't. I know exactly what he looked like. Why on earth would I dream about them, anyway? And why that particular girl at work, with whom I have very little contact?
    Ain't nobody
    Loves me better
    Makes me happy
    Makes me feel this way
    Ain't nobody
    Loves me better (than you)

    I wait for nighttime to come to bring you to me.
    Can't believe I'm the one. I was so lonely.
    I feel like no-one can feel. I must be dreamin'.
    I want this dream to be real. I'm in this feeling.

    And now we're flying through the stars
    I hope this night will last for ever.

    Friday, November 01, 2002

    Whew! TWTWTW* Worked till after seven every evening this week. Till half-past-ten last night. And no, I don't get paid overtime. I do it for the job satisfaction, ha ha ha. Marcus, I hope you have some wodka in the freezer.

    * That Was The Week That Was. Ask your parents.
    Virtually everyone who has seen Donnie Darko has remarked on the haunting, acoustic version of Tears For Fears's Mad World with which the film ends. It is by Gary Jules and the Group Rules - listen to a bit of it. Nice, isn't it? It's on an album called Trading Snakeoil For Wolftickets, but don't let that put you off. It's also on the Donnie Darko soundtrack.