Friday, January 31, 2003

For a while back there, I stopped reading blogs. What a silly thing to do when there's quality like this on offer.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

For those of you who didn't watch Tarrant On TV tonight. [I don't blame you - the footage of a man hanging 30lb from his scrotum was excruciating.]

Anyway, watch this: This soup is too salty, a brilliant ad for Visa starring Crouching Tiger star Zhang Ziyi. streaming Windows Media player only, sadly.]

Update: .avi version that should work on a Mac, although it is a 21MB file.
A series of small, frustrating events of the day:

  • BT are meant to be delivering my Broadband modem and activating my service tomorrow. I thought I'd just give them a quick call, to make sure it's still on track. "Yes sir, tomorrow. Oh, hang on... what's this? Can I put you on hold?" After five minutes of light classical, she came back, "Sorry, I am still trying to sort this out. One moment please." Five more Mozartian minutes follow, before: "Ah, your line is showing as amber, which means there's a delay. We're not still sure if you can get Broadband in your area. If you can, it will go live on the 4th of February. But you will get the modem tomorrow." Isn't that useful?

  • I've been trying to download a 5Mb photo from my web email, but my computer keeps dropping its internet connection. Why oh why does IE5.1 not have a 'resume download' option? Or maybe it does, but I can't find it. Maybe I'll try Netscape. Can anyone recommend a good, free download manager for the Mac? Frustratingly, the last time it dropped its connection, it had downloaded 4.9Mb of 5Mb. But - fortunately - that's almost the whole pic, and it's not corrupted or anything, so that's OK then.

  • I received a letter from mobile providers O2: "We are concerned about the outstanding balance on your account." Er, what account? My mobile isn't on O2. Oh, hang on - about five years ago I had a BT Cellnet mobile, but it was nicked in The Joiners' Arms one night. I cancelled the phone immediately. Or did I? It seems that although I asked for the phone to be barred, I didn't cancel my contract. So they've been charging me 99p per month for itemised billing (meticulous itemisation of exactly zero calls). Actually, after I debated various points of logic with Adrian in customer services, O2 have decided not to charge me, so that's OK, too.

  • The scanner I want to buy isn't in stock in any of the stores I went in to.

  • Marcus had got us invitations to the opening of a new restaurant near Tower Bridge tonight. Free food and drink. But as I got to my local tube station, they shut it. All Jubilee Line services suspended in both directions due to poor weather conditions. I considered various complex alternative routes, but then gave up and bought a disgusting microwave TV dinner.
  • Fraser goes speed-dating:
    She's obviously not interested, and doesn't attempt to hide it, looking everywhere else in the room apart from at me. When she tiredly asks me what I do for a living, I finally crack.
    "I'm a biscuit designer."
    That gets her attention.
    "Really? What ones have you done?"
    "You know animal allsorts?"
    "Yes, of course."
    "Well, I did the giraffe."
    At this point our three minutes expire and I move on, leaving her looking her baffled and possibly a little scared. 1-0 to me.
    My housemate has just arrived home. I thought it best not to tell him how lovely it's been, watching the snow come down. He didn't look in the best of moods. He's a landscape gardener.
    Having run out of toilet paper, you nip down to the shops for the sole purpose of buying some bog roll. But you also purchase a magazine, two litres of Coke, and - oh, anything, really - just so it doesn't look like you were caught out mid-crap and have hobbled down to the shops with a sticky bum.

    Just me then?
    I am sitting at the computer (uh, duh!) in my room, in front of a large bay window. I am warm and cosy, a radiator in front of me, with further ones to the left and right of me. But, baby, it's cold outside.

    I can't see much at all out of my north-facing window pane - it is too wet.

    Through the window pane straight ahead of me all is wild and white. The wind is driving snow horizontally across my view from right to left - from north to south, this being the much-promised Arctic wind. Excited kids, having just come out of school, are scraping snow off the roofs of parked cars and chucking it at each other. More sensible adults are hunkered down, retracting their heads into scarved shoulders.

    Through the window on my left, all is a winter wonderland. Protected from the wind, the snow has piled up and the hedge is prettily frosted.

    And I luxuriate in my warm glass cocoon, my sweltering snowdome - quite, quite naked.

    Tuesday, January 28, 2003

    Several people have asked for this song, so here it is:

    Act - Snobbery And Decay [mp3]. Download now. May 1987.

    This song vies with the Pet Shop Boys' "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots Of Money)" as the ultimate tribute to 80s excess and style. Cynical about the shallowness of the era, yet seduced by its irrestible glamour. "Lifestyles of the rich and famous, look at them - who can blame us?"

    Act were made up of Thomas Leer and ex-Propaganda vocalist Claudia Br├╝cken. Like Propaganda, their material was produced by Lord of the Fairlight, Trevor Horn [see history of ZTT here]. He created a huge, lavish production - all glossy surfaces and angular spikes. St-st-studio line! This is easily the best track on the album "Laughter, Tears And Rage" [just how 80s is that title?]. Indeed, the album contains the worst, most inapropriate cover version ever - a cocktail jazz version of The Smiths' "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now".

    Speaking of unexpected Smiths' covers, I've just discovered Tatu's version of "How Soon Is Now". It's fairly faithful musically, with the teenage lesbos screeching "I'm human and I need to be loved". I've added it - and a few others - to my list of mp3s, so take a look at the list and let me know if there's anything you'd like me to put up here.

    Friday, January 24, 2003

    953 down, 47 to go. Yes, I've now ripped almost 1,000 songs from my collection to mp3. That's nearly three days' worth of listening. It's been quite instructive - I hadn't realised just how 80s my collection is, and how white. A trip to HMV is required, I think. Following on from Mike's example, here is the complete list of my mp3s. If anyone's interested, I could make a track or two available every week. If there's something you'd like to hear, please use the comments to make a request.

    Thursday, January 23, 2003

    I’d originally planned to go to Nag Nag Nag with Luca and Ian last night. Luca wasn't feeling well, and Ian confessed that while he’d love to meet me for a drink, he had no intention of going clubbing. I pretended this was OK, and met him at Comptons. After a couple of pints, I played on Ian's parsimonious nature: "You know the drinks would be cheaper at the club," I hinted. This was enough to get his whiskers bristling, and we headed off to The Ghetto, on Ian’s strict proviso that if there was a queue, we would wait no more than ten minutes.

    Nag Nag Nag was once an experiment, a silly idea that a couple of queer DJs had one night: "What if we ran a club and played all our favourite 80s electropop tunes – would anyone come, do you think?" Come they do, in their hordes. We arrived half an hour before the doors were due to open, and already the queue was several hundred strong.

    Ian’s threat of just ten minutes proved an empty threat, as we ended up chatting to a young Australian bloke. Antipodean, young, inexperienced, malleable – he had Ian written all over him, and we waited on line, while Ian bombarded him with his latest theories, for all of half an hour. But the doors still hadn’t opened, the queue still hadn’t moved, so the two of us gave up and went to Sanctuary for one drink, and then to the Edge for another.

    Ian eventually gave in to his baser instincts and decided he was going to The Swan. I asked him nicely if he’d mind swinging by Nag Nag Nag, just in case the queue had diminished. He agreed, but it hadn’t – the line was at least as long as it had been when we’d left. But…

    …Now, imagine an "Ideal World" scenario. The young Australian would not quite have got in yet and would indeed be at the very, very front of the queue. You would think for a moment about joining him, risking the wrath of all those who had been queuing for hours. But then you would notice that the security person on the door is someone you know quite well, and she would wave you in, for free, immediately.

    And that's exactly what happened. Anyway, once in, you buy a beer which, when you turn your back for literally fifteen seconds while you take your jacket off, is nicked. Bloody students. You buy another beer, and then another, and another, and then another and then you see club owner Wayne Shires with - wait for it - Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant.

    What do you say to Neil Tennant? Especially in an electropop club? While you dance, right next to the man himself, to Gary Numan, The Faint, Ms Kittin and Tobias Bernstrup, you mentally run through all the possibilities: "See - you guys were so far ahead of your time"; "Checking out the competition?"; "Don’t you wish your last album hadn’t been so bloody acoustic?"; "Where’s Chris?"; "I’m your greatest fan"...

    But all this is academic for the moment: "Oh my God," shrieks the young Australian, "is that who I think it is? Wayne Shires? Wow! Can you introduce me to him?"

    Neil Tennant swans off to the bar, where the 19-year-old barman – having no idea who he is – ignores him, leaving a red-faced Neil having to wait his turn like the rest of us.

    Eventually, after far, far, far too much deliberation, you decide how you’re going to broach a conversation with Neil. You finally decide upon a line that you’re happy with, that isn’t too stalker-ish, yet which shows that you’ve followed his career, that you’re a fun, witty person.

    "Hey Neil," you say, "

    Wednesday, January 22, 2003

    My computer, my jukebox. About the only package I've really used in depth on my new iMac is the mp3 software, iTunes. To fill the empty days when I've been waiting for work to come in, I've been going through my vast CD collection, ripping my favourite tunes onto my computer. So far, I have a library of 830 tunes, which would take me two days, ten hours, one minute and 49 seconds to listen to.

    During the day, I tend to allow iTunes to pick songs at random from my library, mixing them with a touch of crossfade, resulting in some marvellous juxtapositions: In the last half hour, I had The Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds" melting into "Time It's Time" by Talk Talk, whose woodwind and strings seemed made for the drama of "Tunnel Of Love" by Fun Boy 3. That song's trumpets worked well with the couple of Latin-flavoured tunes that followed - "England 2 Colombia 0" by Kirsty MacColl and "Long Train Running" by Bananarama. And then, as if it were ordained, to round it all off, "Alone Again Or" by Love.

    God is a DJ. Or my Mac is, anyway. Having time on my hands, I've also created various playlists to suit my mood. There's "Party!" - ten hours of tunes that would go down a storm at a drunken party in Marcus's kitchen. This one is like running between the main room and the trash room at Popstars. "Dancing Queen" into "Song 2" into "Sexy Boy" into "Wish I Didn't Miss You" into "Lovefool" into "Enjoy The Silence".

    For late nights and to help concentrate my mind when I'm working, I have a playlist consisting of chilled tunes - Cocteau Twins into The Orb into Orbital into 808 State into Lemon Jelly into Bent into Goldfrapp into Portishead. You get the idea.

    Oh, the last fifteen minutes have been Misery Corner - "Atmosphere" by Joy Division, "Don't Look Away" by the Magnetic Fields, and then "End Credits" by Laptop. Time for that Party! mix, I think. Ah yes, "Vogue" - what are you lookin' at?

    I've also been making compilation CDs for friends - Luca, make sure you have big pockets when I see you tonight. When we were in Amsterdam, Marcus and I went to a Tracey Emin retrospective. When he saw this picture of himself standing under a neon sign asking "Is Anal Sex Legal?" Marcus commented it looked like a Soft Cell cover. Couple that with the de rigeur pic of him sitting on one of Amsterdam's suggestive bollards, and you have the perfect cover for a CD of sex-related songs:

    Tuesday, January 21, 2003

    The immaculate conception

    12.00 Bargain Cunt. David Dick in son rubs a battered mahogany-stained Chippendale.

    3.45 CBBC: Fumbles. Matthew Kelly presents.

    7.30 ESTenders. Natalie and Ricky flee a brain-washing cult.

    8.00 Holy City. The hospital staff go on a pilgrimage to Mecca for a charity performance of Peter Pan. Abu Hamza guest stars.
    Brian won

    4.30 Ready Steady Coo Ainsley Harriott patronises an audience of elderly incontinents. They hold up placards of vegetables. What is he like, ladies and gentlemen?

    8.30 Wrong Car, Right Cat. A woman wants to swap her Suzuki Vitara for something that will get her noticed. How about a hairless Abyssinian?

    10.00 Ha'pennies. Paul Whitehouse and Johnny Vegas in cheap sitcom.
    The third place

    1.00 Toady with Des and Mel

    4.50 Yoko! Jakamoko! Toto! You think I'm making this one up, don't you?

    7.30 Wish You Were Here...? Matthew Kelly in a children's activity camp. You think I'm making this one up, too, huh? "Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be Badly Torn Boy" ©Ian.

    10.55 Girls Behaving Baldy. Pop Stars winners reveal how they were chosen by pop svengali Louis Walsh.
    Chanel 4
    Not even as good as five these days

    6.55 AR:SE

    3.15 Pert Rescue. Cute young Swedish veterinarian bends over a lot.

    8.00 Proper t'Ladder. Fred Dibnah shows off his granddad's toolshed.

    9.00 Wife Slap. Gary has to put up with a new woman, who doesn't know her place. She'll learn.

    10.00 V Grah Oh, if he can't be bothered, why the fuck should I?

    10.30 Just how do you follow Graham? Why, with an equally half-arsed pile of shit: Frasier (R). Easier (R). Friends (R). Fiends (R). Fends (R). Ends (R)

    Tuesday, January 07, 2003

    Just a very quick note to tell you I am still alive, having a good time, going off to Amsterdam on Friday, getting loads of freelance work to fill up those otherwise empty hours, making up my rates as I go along, reading a lot, watching DVDs, catching up on cinema, playing with my new computer. Oh, and debating whether Swish Cottage will come back at all.