Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I was hoping to tell you about the walk I did yesterday, but I have to rush off to work [more about that later, too]. In the meantime, here's a map showing the route I took.
OK, who sent me The Creation Records Story? It arrived this morning, but the packing slip doesn't say who it's from. I'd love to know who to thank.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I seem to be heading out for a walk, pedometer clipped to my waistband. Abandoning my original vague idea of following the Victoria Line, I'm going to walk westward along the south bank of the Thames from Westminster to....? Vauxhall? Battersea? Wandsworth? Putney? Barnes? Hammersmith? Kew? Richmond? Twickenham? Kingston?

Guy received the following email this morning:
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Ryan
>Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2003 11:20 AM
>Subject: mr bump
>hey guys
>i had this book when I was a kid
>little did i know its effect on me in later years!!
>not sure what the relevance of the large K on his belly is all about though...
Attached were jpegs of the book Luca made for me on Sunday, and which I posted yesterday. This must be a new speed record. It's not the first time I've received one of my own posts as a mass email - Guy recently sent out an email telling us about a review of the RVT translated from German. Yes, I know, I was the one who translated it.
The other day, suffering the effects of a heavy weekend, I turned on the telly and figured I was tripping. Brightly-coloured blobby creatures danced around a sparkly rainbow, revolving round and round, creating hypnotic patterns, dancing and interweaving, squeaking and whooping gleefully.

The Boobahs are the latest hallucinogenic creation from Tellytubbies creator Anne Wood. This description on Metafilter just about sums them up: "Imagine some aliens kidnapped a Teletubby, pumped it full of ecstasy, acid and marijuana, forced it to play Rez for eight hours straight and then sent it to bed and somehow watched its dreams."

The Boobah website is Faaaabulous. Make Humbah, Zumbah, Zing Zing Zingbah, Jumbah and Jingbah dance, remix their Banghra-inspired theme tune, herd them, pop them.

Monday, April 28, 2003

A big thank you to Pete, who bought me one of the best books I have ever read - Concrete Island by JG Ballard. I first read it about ten years ago, and am hugely looking forward to re-reading it.
Luca is a genius. He got me a pedometer for my birthday, so that I can measure how far I've gone when I get round to doing my annual walk. I certainly ain't doing that this morning - after the RVT and Duke's last night, I've barely managed the walk to and from the kitchen and bathroom [183 steps, or 0.071 miles].

Luca also made me the most brilliant 'card', a specially customised version of one of the Mr Men books. Mr Bump lives in a Swish Cottage and is forever falling over. Not sure I understand the relevance of the large 'K' on his belly...!

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Well, I had been having quite a nice day till that happened. Had a leisurely lunch, followed by a stroll through town, observing the world. I attempted a bit of shopping, then met up with a friend at Comptons for birthday drinks [his birthday, not mine, confusingly].

I left Soho at seven, walked down to Piccadilly Circus and got the Bakerloo Line. When I got off at Baker Street, intending to change onto the Jubilee, I automatically checked my back pocket, as I do a hundred times a day. Empty.

My wallet was gone. I ran back to the train, but - as expected - it wasn't there. I looked accusingly at the people who had been standing around me, but as they were an elderly couple taking the grandkids out, they seemed unlikely suspects. Luckily, I still had my mobile, so I went above ground and cancelled my cards immediately. There hadn't been any cash in my wallet, so presumably I've lost nothing. It's just damned annoying, that's all.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Lots of people have been coming here searching for information on Regina Fong. Here is some information about the funeral, taken from the Black Cap site:
The funeral will take place on Monday 28th April at 1.30pm at Golders Green Crematorium NW11.

For those wishing to ride in convoy to the crematorium you are invited to congregate at the Black Cap, Camden High Street, NW1 from where the hearse will be leaving. Assemble at 1240 for a 1245 departure. After the service, everyone is invited back to the Black Cap, where we will continue to remember and celebrate Reg's life.

Anyone wishing to send flowers might like to contact Funeral Directors Levertons and Sons, attn; Andrew H Leverton, 212 Eversholt Street, London NW1 1BD tel 020 7387 6075.
Work in progress:
For the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles chose writers, artists, musicians and philosophers they admired, people who inspired them.

I came up with the idea of creating my own personal Sgt Pepper, featuring people who have inspired me. It's been fun placing them. Marc Almond at the front, of course. A great picture of the Pet Shop Boys, their brightly-coloured uniforms echoing the Beatles' Pepper suits. The guys from Blondie dressed like the Beatles' Tussauds waxworks on the original cover.

It's taking me a lot longer than I'd thought it would. I've been trying to work in high-resolution so that I can print it out when it's finished, but it's not easy to find high-res pics of everyone. I'm trying to track down good full-length pics of Neil Hannon, Marianne Faithfull and Jarvis Cocker for the front row. If you know of any good sources of big popstar pics, please let me know.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

A couple of years ago, I read a great book: Bleeding London by Geoff Nicholson. The novel links the stories of people who are obsessed with London in different ways. Stuart is determined to walk every street in the A to Z. Judy has a huge map of London on her bedroom wall, on which she marks all the spots in which she's had sex, and gets her shags to mark their sites too, building up a sexual map of the city.

This brings me neatly to two things:

1. It's my birthday on Monday and, as in 2001 and 2002, I'll celebrate by doing some sort of walk across London. Watch this space.

2. With new site, you can create a plaque indicating where you've had a shag. The site doesn't go far enough in my opinion. There needs to be an online version of Judy's map in Bleeding London. You could enter the postcodes or addresses of the places you've shagged, then you could cross-reference your map with your mates' maps, overlaying them, each showing I shagged here. Does anyone know enough about programming to have a go at this?

Of course, I could combine the two and make my birthday walk a tour of all the places I've had sex. Hmmm.... could take me until my next birthday to finish that one.
Are you a faggot fanatic? Then watch tonight's Trouble At The Top on BBC2.
It seems that faggots have been losing popularity lately, so a faggot marketing team is combing the country for a family of faggot lovers. The winning 'Faggot Family' win a week in a posh London hotel, a family holiday to Disneyland Florida, a TV and a video and will be expected to represent faggots for a year, taking part in media interviews and promotional events.

"We are looking for genuine faggot fanatics. People who will preach the gospel." Meanwhile, chairman Oliver Murphy is watching the bottom line.

They engage the services of a psychologist to help in their quest to find the right faggot fanciers. "You must start living the brand. I want people you speak to to feel that they have met a real faggot enthusiast." It isn't all hard work as the Faggot Family is chauffeured to its promotional duties in a limousine. Part two of Wilfred's marketing campaign is 'National Faggot' week.

TheDoodys [the winning family] begin to resent the amount of time they spend promoting faggots. Frederick and Janet Doody run a market stall selling CDs, DVDs and posters, and are losing business when they have to drop everything and take their kids Lewis and Grace to do some promotion work. "Some business has probably been lost," says Janet. "We don't want to close our little business on a Saturday to do faggots, because then faggots will begin to take over our life."
Surely the real problem facing the faggot marketing board is the name. 'Faggots' is such an offensive word. Surely we could find something more gentle? I suggest 'Omi Polones' - it even sounds like some sort of meat product. Here are a few more of my alternative suggestions:

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

LA3 at Electrowerks, Easter Sunday. Grown men being led by the hand like frightened children, taking hours to pick their way across the dancefloor, edging step by precarious step. Semi-naked men rooted to the spot, dancing to stay alive. Arms flailing, fingers clawing the air, desperate to stay upright. Faces frozen in a rictus of fear. The music a constant barrage of noise. Bangin'. It was hellish. It was fantastic.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Here's an historical artefact from my life. Between 1996 and 1999, I collected all the phone numbers I was given; and I was given rather a lot. Now - before you jump to conclusions - no, I did not sleep with all these people. The majority of these cards were handed to me by hopeful random strangers. But, sure, there are a few recognisable names. Look, there's Michael, and Roger, and is that really Alex? Some people were more persistent than others - George gave me his number twice, Dev three times. Click the image to make it bigger - I've blurred out the numbers.

The very bits of paper these numbers are scrawled on tell their tales. Business cards, beer mats, safe sex reminders, travelcards, post-it notes, condom packets, newspapers, magazines. There are ticket stubs from New York, Madrid, Barcelona, Antwerp, Prague. Swapping numbers is so much less revealing today - storing numbers in your mobile has none of the charm.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Before they were famous: Debbie Harry on the cover of a paperback edition of a book called 'The Franchise Affair' by Josephine Tey.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. It's hard to know, when you're setting a competition all alone in your bedroom, whether you've made the quiz too easy or too hard. Judging from the scores, the difficulty level seems to have been about right. Being the sadistic bastard I am, I've taken great pleasure in the emails saying, "Oh, I know that one, it's on the tip of my tongue. I know I've got it on CD, but I can't find it. Aaaarrrgghh!" There was drama mid-contest as clear signs of cheating were uncovered. [ok, not really]

The correct answers:
1. Electric 6 - Danger! High Voltage
2. Heaven 17 - Temptation
3. ABBA - Dancing Queen
4. St Etienne - He's On The Phone
5. Prince - Alphabet Street
6. The Cardigans - My Favourite Game
7. Kelly Marie - Feels Like I'm In Love
8. Kylie Minogue - Better The Devil You Know
9. Madonna - Like A Prayer
10. The Boomtown Rats - I Don't Like Mondays
11. Deee-Lite - Groove Is In The Heart
12. Blur - Girls & Boys
13. The Pretenders - Brass In Pocket
14. Laura Branigan - Gloria
15. Pulp - Disco 2000
16. Eminem - The Real Slim Shady
17. Destiny's Child - Jumpin' Jumpin'
18. The Osmonds - Crazy Horses
19. The Pet Shop Boys - It's A Sin
20. Nelly - Hot In Herre
Listen to the snippet again.

And the winner is… Darren
Darren scored an amazing 39 out of 40. The only song he had trouble with was number 5: "I know it's Prince. Is it Sign O' The Times?"
Refreshingly, Darren doesn't have a blog to link to, but he does have a club to promote, and a fab one, too. Shake Your Tail Feather is coming back at last, playing Motown, northern soul, funk and rare groove. SYTF will be held on the first Wednesday of every month, starting the 7th of May, at Flip on Lisle Street.

2nd: Jonathan on 38 points. Like Darren, he named the wrong Prince track, and he also mixed up his Destiny's Child songs.

3rd: Elisabeth, 36 out of 40. Elisabeth had a last-minute change of mind: apparently the sunshine gave her a sudden flash of inspiration, and she cried "Eureka! Kylie Minogue!"

=5th: Dave
=5th: Mike
Dave and Mike both scored 34 out of 40. This makes it very nearly a clean sweep for ex-Retro Bar pop quizzers. Dave now lives in Sydney, but is keepin' the faith, man.
Mike once joined us for a Retro Bar quiz, too. I came fifth in his music quiz last week, now he's come fifth in mine. Neither Dave nor Mike recognised Madonna. That's several points on your Homosexualists' Licence, boys.

6th: Marc deserves special mention. He confessed he'd become totally obsessed with the quiz, sending me five entries in four days. Each time, he'd hopefully enquire: "And now? Have I done better?" and each time I'd have to reply, "nope, still 33."

7th: Paul [28].
8th: Diamond Geezer [27].
9th: Luca [26].
10th: Mark [22].

Followed by: Christian , Peter, Job, John, and Sarah. "Ooh! I got 28," squealed Sarah when she submitted her entry. "Er, no, love, 16, actually!"

Thanks to everyone who entered. I have been thinking of running a much harder one soon, with fairly obscure tracks that only a dedicated fan would recognise, but making it collaborative, with answers in the comments.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Peter recently held a poll to find out whether his readers approved of men's hairy backs. The poll has now closed, so I'm too late to influence the voting with this picture I took this afternoon:

Click on his back to see him in all his furry glory.
Sad news. Regina Fong has passed away. I arrived in London too late to really be a Fongette, but I'll never forget the first time I saw Regina one Tuesday at the Black Cap. This outlandish creature, part Margaret Thatcher, part Ken Dodd, commanded the adoring crowds as though she really were, as she claimed, Her Imperial Highness, The Grand Duchess Regina Fong, Last Of The Romanoffs.

The joy of Regina's act was that it was always the same, yet it was always different. She had perhaps 20 routines, and could fit eight into a show. The audience would fervently shout for which sketch they wanted that night. "Skippy! Skippy!" "Typewriter!" "Hollywood!" "Skippy!" Eventually, a running order order would be decided, Regina would insult the audience, and we'd all play air-typewriter, or act out Skippy The Butch Kangaroo.

Her act was hysterical and berzerk. She'd mime to "A Mouse In A Windmill" at normal speed, and we'd have to react at various points, going clip-clippety-clop on the stairs. Then we'd do it at double speed; then triple; then faster still. On eight pints of lager.

There was the usual professional rivalry between drag queens, and I think to an extent the DE Experience took some of Regina's audience. But secretly I think they were quite close. Edna will be doing a tribute show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern this Sunday. This Easter Monday, Compton Street will see the first annual Easter Bonnet Parade organised by HIV fund-raising group UKCoalition. The winner of the best bonnet will be presented with the specially designed ‘Her Imperial Highness Regina Fong Award 2003’.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Time for a quick update on my 20 in 20 competition. It's neck-and-neck at the top - I think there are two people tied for first place. The score has edged up a bit over the last few days, but no-one's managed a clear round. Listen to this short mp3, note down the song titles and artists, and email them to me [don't leave answers in the comments]. The competition closes at midnight (BST) tomorrow.
When I started working from home, I was looking forward to all the time I would spend reading. Instead, I seem to spend all day in front of my computer, or in front of the telly. It's taken me two weeks to plough through In The Sixties, the autobiography of Barry Miles.

Miles was a well-connected figure in the London of the Swinging Sixties. He co-founded the Indica bookshop and gallery, which is where John Lennon met Yoko Ono. Miles's business partners were John Dunbar, who was married to Marianne Faithfull, and Peter Asher, whose sister Jane was Paul McCartney's girlfriend. He offers some intimate glimpses into the everyday lives of the Beatles and the Stones. Miles was closely involved in the UFO club, where the Pink Floyd regularly performed, bathed in a psychedelic light show.

Miles set up the underground newspaper International Times, running stories on drug-taking and way-out poetry by counter-culture heroes Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

I have always been fascinated by London - its geography, its history - especially its recent history. I have often told Ian that if I could be any age, I'd be his. Oh to be 17 in 1967. [Ian tells me it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and didn't seem to notice the Summer of Love.] The London of Miles's book is familiar, yet so different:
The King's Road led straight to Glastonbury in those days (much as Brighton used to be the sea end of Wardour Street); everyone seemed to be travelling to Glastonbury each weekend and staying - those that were eligible - at Mrs Biggins' Aquarian Boarding House (those born under other signs stayed in bed-and-breakfasts, barns and haystacks).

Jane Ormsby-Gore and Michael Rainey decided to follow the ley lines to Wales, and Sue and I took the lease on 15 Lord North Street, a small Queen Anne house just round the corner from the Houses of Parliament. There were five floors including a basement, with a pocket-handkerchief garden in the back. The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, lived across the street - he never did bother to move properly into Number 10. Our garden wall backed upon that of the editor of The Times, William Rees-Mogg. Lord Sainsbury lived next door to him. The rent was quite high at £15 a week, so Graham Keen took one of the floors.
Saddam Hussein starred in gay porn films.
In the newly uncovered 86-minute prison flick, Saddam, then just 34, plays a naive young peasant who is wrongly convicted and sent to jail. He is initiated into homosexuality by a series of older and more experienced cons.

"Saddam's acting in the picture is actually quite good," al-Sabah notes. "One scene, in which he buries his face in a pillow and cries, is so touching you almost can forget you're watching a low-budget sexploitation film."
Saddam and Gomorrah! I don't believe a word of it - a porn film with a 34-year-old being set upon by older men?
[via Fraser]

Monday, April 14, 2003

Oh, good Lord. I've unearthed another RVT regular who has a blog. I've known him in person for years, and he's been blogging since January, but I've just found it. So how many RVT bloggers does that make? Let's see:
  1. Me, obviously: usually found near the DJ booth or on the raised gallery.
  2. Ian: the token man with hair.
  3. Luca: can't decide if he's a Montague [near the DJ booth] or a Capulet [near the ladies'].
  4. Dave: he and Kelvin can always be found stage left.
  5. Steve: we only recently discovered him, but he's already one of us.
  6. Jonathan: hasn't attended for a while, tut-tut.
  7. Paul: I haven't seen him down there for a while either, but often bump into him in Duke's afterwards, along with...
  8. Sef.
  9. Marcus: Hasn't been for a while, for obvious reasons, and hasn't updated his blog, either. I miss him and look forward to the day when we can be friends.
  10. Dave: OK, he's moved to Australia, but there's a corner of the dancefloor that is forever Minkered.
  11. And now another.
And then there are those who turn up less regularly: Scally, Mike, Chig and Diamond Geezer. Nigel, perhaps? Foreign visitors Dave, Todd, Timothy and Dan have checked the place out, too. It will soon be one of the requirements of entry that you have a blog. Who have I left off?
Everybody is talking about the Honda Accord commercial, Cog. Watch the ad here. According to this Telegraph article, it is filmed in one shot with no edits, and took 606 takes to get it right.
The idea for the advert derived partly from the old children's game Mouse Trap, and from the wacky engineering of Caractacus Potts's breakfast-making machine in the Sixties film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Oh, so they didn't take inspiration from the brilliant film The Way Things Go by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, then? This is a 30-minute film made in 1987, in which a warehouse full of objects engage in a choreographed chain reaction, similar to the Honda advert. Read about the film here. And watch a brief extract from it here. (Remember, the actual film lasts for 30 minutes, resulting in ever-more ludicrous and inventive reactions, involving fireworks, fire extinguishers and various chemical reactions.)

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Entries for 20 in 20 have been coming in thick and fast. Well, not so much of the thick - so far, two people are tied on 28 out of 40. Can you do better? Take a listen to this short mp3, note down the song titles and artists, and email them to me [don't leave answers in the comments]. Don't worry if you haven't got them all yet; you've got till Wednesday to send me your answers.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

More crap telly. The producers of Reborn In The USA must be very glad the show's about to end. They'd banked a lot on the success of this show, and it just hasn't worked. The only time the show is even remotely entertaining is in the off-stage segments. We want more gossip, back-biting and drunkenness, and less karaoke. I taped tonight's show while watching "25 Years Of Smash Hits". I fast-forwarded past most of the performances, just watching the sequences filmed during the week. And, yes, OK, I watched the sequence of Haydon Eshun getting out of bed naked twice, just to see if there was a hint of... you know. There wasn't.

But... the same can't be said of fellow reality TV contestant, the newly-announced "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here" participant, footballer John Fashanu. [Wouldn't be the first Fashanu I've seen in the showers, but that's another story.] Somebody snapped pics of John Fashanu naked in a changing room, and turned it into a cock-swinging animated gif. Now, you have to wonder who takes a camera into a locker room and takes photos of a sportsman's penis. I mean, who would have the opportunity? Surely only a fellow team-mate? Anyway, here's the file. Not work safe, obviously.
Telly speling. Its rubish.
This week on Richard And Judy [look, I'm housebound during the day, I was desperate, OK?] they had a spelling bee, pitting Grans against Grads, oldies against youngsters, to see whose spelling was better. As it turned out, the contest was fairly even, but the worst speller was the person responsible for flashing the 'correct' spelling of the word on-screen for the viewers. "How do you spell 'accommodate'?" asked Judy. "A-c-c-o-m-m-o-d-a-t-e," replied the contestant, correctly. "Accomodate," said the on-screen title.

For another example, take "This Morning" with Fern Britten and Phillip Schofield. Please do. Please. Please don't make me waste my mornings waiting to find out the results of "Challenge The Stylist". Please. [Actually, I'll confess I don't know how Mr Schofield spells his name, but I'm not alone - Google returns 83 results for "philip schofield" "this morning" and 77 for "phillip schofield" "this morning".] Anyway, each morning, they ask a ridiculously easy question. This week they asked: "Name the famous fictitious British spy better known as 007. Is it (a) James Bond, (b) James Dean, or (c) James Brown?" Or, as the on-screen title had it, "What is the name of the ficticious British spy..." Someone on the production team obviously spotted the error and it was spelled correctly when repeated later.

In tonight's "25 Years Of Smash Hits" on Channel 4, former editor Mark Ellen remarked that once they'd noticed that the magazine's name could be written as S.Hits, they came up with variations on the name: PopPoo, PopDung and PopGuano. Or, as the on-screen title had it, PopGuarana.

Yeah, too much crap telly with cheap production values, I know. Highlight of my week was getting a nine-letter word on Countdown.
This is fantastic! Two record decks, twenty records. Put 'em on, mix 'em, crossfade 'em, make an unholy racket. This DJ-ing business is harder than it looks.
Vibe On! Turn your Nokia phone into a vibrator. Yes, really.
[via I Love Everything]
Paul and Luca have both quit smoking, and use the excellent Quitmeter to demonstrate how many cigarettes they've refused and how much money they've saved. This got me to wondering.

I've never smoked, but what if I had? Let's say I started smoking on my 18th birthday, and smoked 20 a day. How much would I have spent on the evil habit so far? Now, I haven't the faintest how much cigarettes are now, let alone the average price over the last 21 years, but I've chosen £3 a pack. How much would it have cost me?

QuitMeter Counter courtesy of
As Chig points out in a comment below, Saddam is a hot item on Ebay. A search on the auction site for 'Saddam' currently turns up 3,093 items. Dinar banknotes with Saddam's face on them may now be worthless in Iraq, but they're worth plenty on the internet.

People have put some unbelievable items up for sale to gullible fools. The head of a statue of Saddam, and a grey office chair supposedly looted from his palace, were on sale at a ridiculous twenty-one-million dollars each, but they've been removed. You could splash out $3,000 on a photograph autographed by the evil dictator himself. If you don't have thousands to spare, you might want to, er, fork out $365 on a fork from his palace. Or perhaps you'd like to become a Saddam double in this charming mask - yours for only $150. Of course, if you think this is all a pile of shit, you may like to wipe your arse on this Saddam Hussein toilet paper.

Me? I've got my heart set on this cuddly, handmade, musical Saddam Hussein doll which plays "God Bless America" when you ram a hand-crocheted Patriot missile up his arse.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Mike's fiendishly difficult Match The Intros competition has come to an end. Despite it being the most difficult competition in the history of competitions, Luca somehow managed to score full marks. I've got a little musical competition of my own lined up, called 20 in 20. Twenty songs in twenty seconds. [Actually, I decided it was too easy and edited the snippets even more, so it's now just over 18 seconds.] All twenty songs are very well-known; there are no obscure album tracks or B-sides - these were all huge hits. Take a listen to this short mp3, note down the song titles and artists, and email them to me [don't leave answers in the comments]. I think it's pretty easy, but then I would, cuz I know the answers! I don't know if anyone will get all twenty, so the winner will be whoever recognises the most songs. There will be a prize but, er, I haven't decided what it is yet. Closing date: Wednesday 16 April 2003.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

In the early hours of this morning, I was accosted on the street by an amiably drunk young man carrying a road sign:
"Mate! Mate! You've got to help me! You've got to tell me: should we liberate Iraq, or should we bomb them?"
"Er, I don't think it's quite that simple, I mean..."
"But I don't know what we should do! Should we liberate them or bomb them?"
"Well, er," I replied, then saw an opportunity to change the subject: "What does your sign say?"
"I don't know!" he cried, "I don't know!"
"Well, let's have a look then: 'London Marathon. Diversions. Avoid area.'"
"Oh no!" he said, "that's not any help!" So he dropped his sign and started following me down the street. "Should we liberate Iraq or should we bomb them?"
I thought about it. "Neither," I replied.
"Neither? Neither? Oh no! You mean I've got to go back and get my sign?"
"Yes, I think you'd better."
I left him heading back to his sign muttering, "Neither! Neither!"

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

I have been against the war from the beginning, largely because I didn't know whether to believe the Americans' claims that the people wanted to be "liberated". The first weeks of the war seemed to confirm that the Iraqis saw the coalition forces as invaders rather than liberators. Now, perhaps, the people are confident enough that the end of Saddam's rule is almost here, and can allow themselves to rejoice openly.

But now the real trouble begins. There is nothing in place to replace the ruling government. Chaos and anarchy will reign. Many more will surely die in the struggle for power among the various nationalist groups. Getting rid of the ruler is not the end of the story, as the Americans are finding in Afghanistan, where they accidentally killed eleven citizens today.
Saddam is down, revealed to be a hollow shell, all that's left, pitifully thin rusted pipes in his empty boots.
Hmmm... the statue's not down yet. The delays are remniscent of Nelson Mandela's release from Robben Island. Poor Rageh Omaar has had to keep up a commentary, trying to find things to say about what is plainly obvious.

Now the Americans have got involved. First they used a thin cable, and when that didn't work, they tied a thick chain round his neck. All very well, but the stars-and-stripes hood over his head was a misjudged lynch mob moment.

Ah, that's better - the old-style Iraqi flag has been tied around his neck like a jaunty little scarf. Oh, but now the Marines have removed that too.

OK, decisions about Saddam's neckwear over, here goes.......
Extraordinary scenes from Baghdad. I am watching two blokes trying to tie a threadbare rope around a giant statue of Saddam Hussein, intending to topple it. Will the rope break? How will they pull the other end of the rope? Will the American tanks help? Currently, Saddam's standing there with a giant noose round his neck. Now the people are eagerly taking turns with a sledgehammer, trying to smash the statue's pedestal.

It makes for exciting TV, and is an incredibly significant moment. Quite literally a tipping point. Not since the toppling of the Berlin Wall have we seen anything quite so historically symbolic live on TV. Will the statue, like the wall, be broken up into pieces and sold to tourists? Bring me the head of Saddam Hussein!

Monday, April 07, 2003

Mike has released a range of merchandising for his blog, including coffee mugs and mousemats. Perhaps a potty would be more suitable - does he know what the title bar of his site reads on a Mac?
Ooh! The Future Bible Heroes are coming to London. "The who?" you ask. Future Bible Heroes, the other band formed by Magnetic Fields mainman Stephin Merritt. They're playing on the 28th of May at Ocean - whose website you should visit if only for the calming sounds of the sea.
And then it was on to Madame JoJo's to see The Readers Wifes in concert. I'd been to JoJo's once before and had seen the Wifes once previously, and both were just as I remembered them: tacky, glamorous, seedy, camp, ludicrous, decadent and utterly, utterly fabulous. The legendary cabaret venue, surrounded by Soho strip joints, made a perfect setting for the Wifes' tales of drag, drugs and dregs.

And their songs really are very funny. New song Scumpop manages to come up with lots of very silly rhymes for the title, most notably 'Scunthorpe'. They were rapturously received by a partisan crowd made up of Retro Bar regulars, who could be heard muttering about the bar prices. "Three-pound-fifty for a can of Red Stripe? And not even the 13% extra cans, either!" Biggest cheer of the night went to the first single, Bitch At The Brits. The next single must surely be the insanely catchy First Out, the chorus of which is still lodged in my brain: "Hey big brother, lend me your motorbike..."

Frontman [woman?] Kim Phaggs [aka dark Mark] snarled out the lyrics, tossing his hair, while Chelsea [aka blonde Mark] stood behind a tiny keyboard, affecting a look of utter boredom, visibly put-out when called on to actually play a note or drawl a deadpan rap. A third Mark and the gorgeous Jeremy [aka ver Lads] played guitar and keyboards respectively. The Wifes' musical influences lie firmly in the eighties: Dead Or Alive, Divine and the Pet Shop Boys. A little too firmly, perhaps - while their lyrics are packed with modern references, like a musical version of Popbitch, the musical references seem to have stopped in 1986.

But that's a minor quibble and one that certainly didn't occur to me while I was throwing myself around the dancefloor with a huge grin on my face.

Excellent night out last night to celebrate David and Jason's birthday. Started off at Ben Crouch's Tavern, a horror-themed pub on Wells Street, just off Oxford Street. The place is wonderfully fake - all Gothycke arches and bubbling cauldrons and ectoplasmic lighting. David and Jason are boyfriends who share the same birthday. That's so weird it should be illegal. I was quite pleased with the card I made them which on the outside read...

...and on the inside had a picture of David Jason. "Ha ha, look, Jason," shouted David, "another David Jason joke. Every year we get one." I told Jason it was a pity his name wasn't James, as the card would have been much prettier with a pic of David James. "Actually," replied Jason, "David's last boyfriend was called James, and they had pictures of him in the toilet."

David and Jason told us this wonderful story about a goth club they had inadvertently found themselves in a few years ago in Amsterdam. They'd ingested some mushrooms which made everything even more surrreal. The place was dark and creepy with damp, leaking ceilings and rattling chains. The two of them plucked up the courage to lean against a wall near the dance floor. Suddenly, these bright UV lights came on and all the goths in the place wheeled round and stared at them, pointing at them, shouting things that only the undead could understand. Turned out David had leaned against a light switch!

Friday, April 04, 2003

Lying on the grass on Hampstead Heath in the sun, reading the paper: good.

Waking up trailing drool, with deep red creases in your face and today's front page printed in mirror-writing on your forehead: bad.

My apologies for not coming up with the stuff about Gaydar I'd promised. I'm just too darn tired. I guess I'm still getting over the illness I've had all week. Or maybe I'm tired because, to protect my delicate stomach, I haven't had any coffee all week. Then again, the tiredness and weepy eyes could just be the start of this season's hayfever. I'm not weepy, I'm not - honest; just cuz it's a Friday night and I'm on my own. Hayfever, mate, and lack of coffee - that's all.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Q: How do you spot the gay one in a boyband?
A: He answers the question, "What's your favourite colour", with "Into most colours except brown."

My thoughts on Gaydar tomorrow.
My secret squirrels have all simultaneously decided to get rid of all the stuff they'd been storing. More stools than a Scandinavian furniture store.

I think I may be getting better.
In my capacity as unofficial RVT publicist, I have received two emails this afternoon, asking me if I know what's happening at the RVT tommorow night. This is from DiscoDamaged:
We've just had word in about a charity night at the RVT this coming Friday and thought many of you would appreciate news of it.

This coming Friday The Royal Vauxhall Tavern will be holding a charity night hosted by the ever popular Sunday S.L.A.G.S. and Chill Out Crew. D.J's playing on the night will be Simon Le Vans, Andy Almighty and Sean Sirrs, so you will be guaranteed a fantastic selection of happy, uplifting music. In addition, the fabulous D.E. Experience will be live on stage during the evening to bring you another one of her stunning “West End shows“ to the R.V.T.!

Proceeds from the night will be donated to the Bodley Scott Cancer Ward, St Bartholomew's Hospital, in memory of Kelvin Woolacott. Kelvin's young life was tragically cut short due to cancer at the age of 34, on 27th March 2002.

With your generous help and attendance this Friday 4th April, the ward will be able to make the lives of cancer suffers that bit better and more comfortable.

Tickets will be sold on the door priced at a mere £5, with all proceeds generously donated by The R.V.T. to the ward. Doors open at 21.00 and you can party late until 02:00.

This promises to be a brilliant night for everyone. With your help, much needed and appreciated assistance can be given to the cancer ward at Bart's, who cared for Kelvin so fantastically well for 3 months and who continue to provide such great nursing.

This is a night not to be missed (and you have the weekend to recover!), so make sure you get down to The R.V.T., this Friday 4th April. Be there early to avoid disappointment!

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

So you want to know the current state of my bowels, huh? The good news is, the diarrhoea has stopped. The bad news is, my intestines are still gurgling and bubbling away. My belly's swollen and getting larger all the time. So I reckon my guts are labouring away industriously, like squirrels, storing the stuff in hidden nooks and crannies.

Anyway, I took my three samples in to the hospital today, wrapped neatly in a bright blue paper bag. I'd sellotaped the opening shut [ooh, now there's an idea I could use elsewhere] to prevent spillages. My usual doctor wasn't in, so I got to see a harried temp. He seemed really distracted, and didn't seem to know what to do with my samples. "Oh, I can't find the forms right now, just leave them there."

So I left this bright blue gaily wrapped parcel on his desk. I just know that at the end of the day, he will have spotted it and thought, "What's that? I must have popped out at lunch and bought my wife a present. Here, dear..."
"Get everything you need for a traditional easter at ASDA."

  • Crucifix - check
  • Nails - check
  • Crown of thorns - check
  • Cave with boulder in front of it - check [I doubt it - Thos.]
  • Tuesday, April 01, 2003

    I still receive a couple of emails a week about the Justin Timberlake cock pic. This one is sadly typical of the level of erudition displayed, but it does take an innovative approach at the end:
    i saw the picture i don;t know what ta think at all.after she both the pictures i think that one of them is fake.most like the one with the penis.y would he want ta do a thing like anyway.also i notice the pic don't look that much alike.if that pic real so what.every guy has got isn't that impressive anyway.really i don't care iwould like ta hear back from you people so im me might want ta give me a job or something.
    I've been experimenting with a few alternative looks.
    I popped out yesterday to get some passport pics taken. The local post office has a newfangled booth that takes digital photos. It takes four photos, and then you choose which one you'd like it to print four copies of. A good idea, but let down by the print quality - the resulting photo looks fuzzy and out-of-register. And - of course - there's that slack-jawed expression and lined-up-against-a-wall stare de rigeur for passport photos.
    See pic

    But this got me thinking - I've got a digital camera and a high-res printer and photo-quality paper. Why not take my own picture at home? I could take hundreds of shots till I achieved the perfect pose, with the minimum of wrinkles and blemishes.

    And then another thought occurred to me. Why have any wrinkles and blemishes at all? If the government allows digital pics, what's to stop you retouching your photo?

    See pic
    Now, I wouldn't actually use this photo for a passport - it's too posey, too come-hither. But it's not a bad photo of me. Click on the thumbnail to see a bigger version. See? Not bad. But pity about that red blotch next to my eye and the red splotch on my head and that skin texture and those huge pores on my nose and those frown lines and those sunken cheeks and....

    So I used Photoshop's cloning tool, erasing my blotches, reducing the redness of my nose, smoothing out fine wrinkles. But like anyone who starts having plastic surgery, I didn't know where to stop. I didn't just stop at airbrushing my skin. Soon I was doing a Michael Jackson, taking a fraction of my nose, making my face just slightly wider, some virtual botox, some virtual collagen...
    See pic

    See? Young again! OK, it's a bit fake, but - you know what - not fake enough. Real writers shift ton-loads of novels through the ridiculously alluring black-and-white or duotone photos on their book-jackets. What's to stop me having one on my blog? So, I present the Real me:
    See pic

    All that remains now is to offer my services on Gaydar. As photo-retoucher, image consultant and makeover artist, that is!
    OK, so I've been to the hospital. Now, how am I supposed to shit into these little tubes?

    Ah, that'll be what the disposable kidney-shaped bowls are for. [Of course they're disposable - what am I gonna do? Serve hummus in 'em at my next dinner party?] So it's a case of squirt into the bowl, then use the little spatula attached to the tube's lid to scrape the fecal matter [or spatter] into the tube. Laahvly.

    I'm taking Sarah's advice and theming my blog - expect even more shit in the days to come. In tomorrow's fashion supplement: tan is the new brown. In Thursday's interiors feature, we take a look at pebbledashed bathrooms. In Friday's Review: an alternative take on Frankie Says Relax.
    Bugger that, I'm going to the hospital.
    It's twenty-past-five in the morning, and I haven't slept a wink. No, I haven't been out partying. And no, I haven't had the shits all night. The stuff my GP gave me yesterday seems to be effective in keeping it all inside. But that doesn't mean my tummy is settled. Oh no, my insides are a seething, writhing mass of angry, hissing snakes; a boiler-room of shuddering pipes with faulty valves and juddering air bubbles.

    Lying in bed under the duvet, I am a child listening to a thunderstorm raging outside. Distant low rumbles are followed by faint echoes somewhere over the horizon. A long, lazy grumble snakes across the dark sky. A gaggle of excitable juvenile reports play tag around the hills. A sudden detonation is so loud, so near, I half-expect my dad's car alarm to go off.

    I almost wish it would pour again, to relieve the pressure.