52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

So let's put on our classics and we'll have a little dance, shall we?

It's a word we all use all of the time. It's not very big or very impressive and wouldn't get you much in Scrabble, even with a triple-word score. Five letters. The late, great Richard Whiteley would probably not have been expecting to see you in the next episode of Countdown if you had came up with this, and it wouldn't have taken Carol long to rack it up. 3 consonants and 2 vowels please Carol.

It has a lot of meanings, but I'm particularly interested in this one:

"Of outstanding significance or importance".

What makes something (or someone) great? Not war anyway, if a certain big-eared green know-all is to be believed.... but what does? Is greatness something that can be objectively assigned to something? Can we all categorically agree on greatness?

If you look at the results of some of those polls for "greatest film of all time" you'd probably think so. Some films appear time and time again. Take 'Citizen Kane'. Always in the upper echelons of these polls, but how many of the people who must vote for this have actually seen it or could say what it is that makes this a great film? Many of the things that mark it out as an original have become diluted because they are now commonplace. Does that make it less great? Books are the same (although here the word 'great' is often replaced with the word 'classic', but I take them to be essentially synonyms in this context). Have you read "War and Peace"? No? It's a classic though, isn't it?

It's a nonsense, of course it is. How could the classification of anything in this way be anything other than subjective? You either like something or you don't. It's possible to admire something that you don't like, I think, but would you want to call it great? I don't think I would, and yet there is still definitely a sort of consensus opinion about this kind of thing.... something inside all of us which makes us want to say that 'Raging Bull' is a great film, but that 'Ghostbusters' is merely an amusing comedy from the 1980s, even if we all know which one we would rather be watching.

This brings me to music.... what is it that makes a song great? Is it the singer? Is it the lyrics? Is it that fantastic synth solo in the middle?

Let's carry out a completely unscientific experiment here to explore this, shall we? I want you to put your thinking caps on. Cast your mind back over the last 10 years.

Think about what you reckon the 5 greatest songs are since 1995.

Now have a think about what you think will go down as the 5 greatest songs since 1995.

Are the two lists different?


(and yes, of course I want to know what songs you've come up with - on both lists)

it's so intense that I can't explain, all alone in my white-boy pain...

I suppose I'm feeling a bit blue today. In the aftermath of my visit to the consultant, I have been talking to various people who are all concernced about my health and wellbeing, and they are all of course relieved that I now pretty much know what is going on and that I should be okay. It is really nice to know that people care - thanks for your comments and for your concern. I really appreciate it.

So why am I down? I think part of it is that I feel like I am in limbo: although I have been to see the specialist and I know what's wrong with me, I won't know the full extent of it or how it can be treated until I have had the MRI scan, and in the meantime I still have the symptoms: the generalised numbness and loss of sensation. It's not so bad, and I went out for a long (gentle) run yesterday to work out some of the cobwebs from my muscles and from my mind, and I'm planning on a gentle swim tonight to ease out some of the tightness in my lumbar spine - something I've suffered from for about 10 years now, and was the reason for my last MRI scan back in 1996.

I suppose Sundays are always a little bit like this: the pleasure of a lazy day is always tempered by the knowledge that it's back to work in the morning. I'm just feeling it a little worse than usual today.

I formally withdrew from the triathlon last night - by letting them know that I won't be racing, I should have a place in next year's race guaranteed. It was surprisingly hard to send the email once I had written it. There's no way I would have been racing next weekend, but it was still hard to push that button and make that decision final. Later on today I have to go out to Decathlon to pick up my bike from the workshop where it was having its pre-race tune up. This won't be wasted, because I have discovered that having a proper road bike has made cycle training so much more enjoyable and I will keep that up. I also want to make sure the bike is in good condition in case John decides to use it in the race next week (it's newer and lighter than his bike). Still. It's hard.


I finished 'Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince' this morning. This is book 6 out of a planned 7, and I approached it with some trepidation because I found books 4 and 5 to be overlong, poorly edited and pretty unconvincing. I tell you what though - this one is pretty good. Very dark and also quite a lot more adult. Not quite up to the standards Philip Pullman set with 'His Dark Materials', but actually pretty impressive and I find myself in the surprising position of actually looking forward to the concluding installment. Hats off to JK Rowling.

It's either 'V for Vendetta' by Alan Moore or 'Yes Man' by Danny Wallace next, I think.

I'm going to pick up the album by the Editors when I go shopping today, and also pop into the cinema for a bit of brainless superhero fun with "The Fantastic Four". If either of those cheer me up as much as coming face to face with a bold little squirrel on our street as I walked back from picking up some lunch, we'll be doing well... he actually hopped over to me and eyeballed me from a distance of about two foot as I was crouched down beckoning to him. He soon hopped off, but he left me smiling.

Friday, July 29, 2005

this is a black out...I want to detonate

So. I went to see the consultant neurologist about the weirdy tingles this evening. I turned up at the Park Hospital in Nottingham at around 5pm to wait for my appointment. It's a small hospital a few miles outside of the town centre in some pleasantly leafy grounds next to a country park on the way out to Mansfield. It's all a bit 1970s really. I was greeted at reception by a middle-aged nurse with some kind of weird paper doily attached to the top of her head, and a receptionist who looked like the "no offence" woman from the Fast Show, only older and with more makeup. I had to fill out some form detailing that I had the necessary insurance cover, and then I sat and watched as an assortment of bow-tied consultants popped in and out of their offices.

My turn eventually came, and I was summoned into a relatively spartan room to meet my consultant. I suppose it lasted about 40 minutes, all in all. My consultant had something of a long nose, and a nasty habit of saying "you understand?"in a mildly patronising way at the end of every sentence (except the one where he explained in detail the two different types of nerve in the spinal cord, including their scientific names, at which point he said "of course, you won't understand that....") After establishing that I didn't have any "naughty habits" (presumably meaning injecting heroin directly into my spinal cord), he carried out a pretty throrough examination and came to a conclusion....

It turns out that I have something called myelitis - an inflammation of the spinal cord. The numbness that I have felt over the last few weeks is a direct consequence of this swelling growing and increasingly affecting my nervous system. Apparently this is good news - the swelling is likely just to go down and the symptoms will disappear, although this is unlikely just to be an isolated incident and may have been caused by some sort of trauma in the nervous tissue in my brain... which means that I have got to have an MRI scan of my neck, spinal cord and head to see what is going on in there. I think it's a very good sign though that my dad's concern (he's a doctor) has turned into curiosity...

Anyway. I've been told that I can't do the London Triathlon next week. I can't say that I'm surprised by this news, but it is a bit of a disappointment. Needless to say, I will still be travelling down next weekend to offer my support to the Ultimate Olympian, and I will be entering this event next year....



Only the curious have something to find

Morning all.

This week's guest editor first stumbled across this blog when she was acting a volunteer editor for Blogwise. In spite of having to cast her critical eye across me, she somehow is still coming back, and is the kindest, most supportive blogger I know by a country mile (although I have made her swear!).

Ladies & gentlemen. Without further ado.....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #10 - Aravis from AravisArwen

When our wonderful ST graciously asked me to contribute to his Earworms of the Week, I was both honored and nervous. Living in a valley, I can't tune in any good radio stations and my exposure to today's music is limited. Sad, I know. The upside of this, however, is that I can guarantee you here and now you won't find the Frog Song or b-a-n-a-n-a-s in my list. Despite all above disclaimers, I do love music and tend to remember lyrics. Songs therefore pop into my head all the time as I go about my day, often prompted by something I've just heard, seen or read. The challenge for me then was not to try to come up with 10 earworms, but to whittle it down to only 10. I like almost all genres, the exception being gangsta rap or some metal, depending on the group. So the list you are about to read is eclectic and comprised of the most prominent earworms of the week.

Let's get on with it then:

10. Sweet Dreams (are made of this) - Eurythmics

This is the simplest to explain. While out gardening the other day, my neighbor across the road was also working outdoors and listening to music. This song came on and stuck.

9. Love's Recovery - Indigo Girls

A couple of friends in college introduced me to the Indigo Girls, and I fell in love with their music. Lyrics and imagery are important to me, and this song continues to speak to me in different ways with the passing of time. The end of this song was going through my head repeatedly this morning:

Oh how I wish I were a trinity
So if I lost a part of me
I'd still have two of the same to live
But nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal
As specks of dust we're universal
So let this love survive and be the
Greatest gift that we can give

I find their words poetic, not unlike the next one on the list...

8. America - Simon and Garfunkel

"'Kathy I'm lost' I said, though I knew she was sleeping/I'm empty and aching and I don't know why"
For that line alone this song made my list over some others. I feel that way sometimes, and this song springs instantly to mind every time.

7. Crazy - Patsy Cline

This is another that gets lots of head space, like it or not. Every time something nutty happens, I find myself at least humming the opening. But I sing it often too. Patsy and I have the same vocal range, so I don't sound so much like a strangled turkey when I sing along with her.

6. Top of the World - Dixie Chicks

I was listening to this cd Sunday, and this last song always haunts me. Dying with regrets and words of love not said? I hope not!

5. Losing My Religion - R.E.M.

I've always loved this song, and saw a reference to it yesterday. It's joined the others to form my internal soundtrack this week.

4. Piece of My Heart - Janis Joplin (corrected because I have a touch of OCD too, Aravis!)

That voice! I heard this while out with my friends Saturday. "Didn't I make you feel like you were the only man..." Gotta love Janice...

3. Space Oddity - David Bowie

I was thinking of Bush when this song popped into my head. BTW, whenever I think of this song, Ashes to Ashes starts to go through my head next. They're linked in my mind.

2. Hotel California - Eagles

Also came to me while gardening. I'm not really sure why, but I didn't mind.

1. This Side - Nickel Creek

It was a toss-up between this song or the next track on this cd, Green and Gray. Both are excellent and due to proximity on the cd have become permanently joined, if only mentally. Chances are you haven't heard of this group. It's comprised of a brother and sister (twins) and their friend, all in their mid 20's. They grew up performing together with their families, mainly bluegrass. They've had some small success in country circles, but they're not really country. They're a mix of bluegrass, folk and something uniquely them. They defy definition, and improve with each cd. I was listening to their second cd this afternoon, and these two songs are still playing in my mind now..

So there you go. It's not an accurate picture of my musical tastes- for one thing it's missing punk/alternative music. But I mainly listen to that when I'm angry or depressed. This was a mellow week and I guess these dominant earworms reflect that.

Thanks again, ST, for inviting me to participate


Thanks Aravis. Fox is still away, so I'm feeling brave enough to boldly state that the girls are definitely better at this than the boys. Continuing the theme then, next week (and just before she goes on holiday) your guest editor will be YokoSpungeon from YokoSpungeon's Diary Dungeon and Bookcrossing (I'm currently the proud caretaker of some books from Yoko's personal collection you know, and one day I'll read them... I will.... a Dave Eggers and Paul Auster).

Until next week then.

[previous guest editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni]

Thursday, July 28, 2005

And you think you’re so clever and classless and free...

There's yet another auction today of some of John Lennon's stuff - an early recording of "give peace a chance", a handwritten lyric sheet for "all you need is love"... that kind of thing. The lyric sheet alone is expected to raise around £0.5m. When talking about this on the radio, someone mentioned how dying was good career move.

Hm. I have to say that I don't think even that would help get me promoted.


And off to work I go.


Perhaps they meant dyeing, and I should resign from my current job and go into the textile industy?? Whaddya reckon??

Maybe that's what happened to Elvis?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

And you don't taste like her and you never ever will

I don't have it very often, but sometimes....just sometimes..... nothing hits the spot quite like fish and chips. It's my last night before C. comes back from France, so I have decided to nip out to the chippie at the end of the road and have the works: Haddock. Chips. Curry sauce.

I'm quite particular about this.

I always have them wrapped up without having any salt or vinegar added whilst I am in the chippie (makes them soggy). Then when I get home, I have to completely remove all of the wrapping and decant my tea onto a plate. This process usually sends some chips flying about the kitchen, but I can't stand having all that greasy paper flapping about the place. I will then carefully lift the fish up and stick some sea salt and malt vinegar directly onto the chips. I then lower the fish and liberally sprinkle its top side. Not too much salt mind, but plenty of vinegar - usually enough for it to be washing around the bottom of my plate and for a gloriously acidic scent to waft off the steaming chips. Then, in a daring manoeuvre that leaves the purists gasping, I will pour my curry sauce all over the top. Proper lumpy chip shop curry sauce, mind, not the smooth chinese stuff.

Then I grab a fork and a nice big mug of builder's tea (just the way I like it - strong with just a dash of milk), and all that remains is to sit down and enjoy Britain's great contribution to world cuisine.


How do you eat yours?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

just victims of the in-house drive-by

So it turns out that the guy that the police shot dead at Stockwell station in London on Friday was not in fact connected with the suicide bombers. No. In fact he was a young Brazilian man working in as an electrician, and it seems his only crime was to live in the same block of flats as some of the suspected bombers. For this he received 5 shots to the head on the platform.

Ken Livingstone, London's Mayor said:

"The police acted to do what they believed necessary to protect the lives of the public. This tragedy has added another victim to the toll of deaths for which the terrorists bear responsibility."

No Ken, I think you are wrong. This death cannot be laid at the doors of the bombers. This death, terrible tragedy that it undoubtedly is, can only be blamed on the police. I understand that the officers are under an enormous amount of pressure and are desperately hunting the bombers before they can strike again, but they simply cannot afford to make this kind of mistake.

Terrorists may feel that they can kill indiscriminately, but that's what makes them terrorists. What can possibly justify a "shoot to kill" policy in a country where our justice system operates on the principle of "innocent until proven guilty"??

I want to ride it where I like...

Today saw the end of the 92nd Tour de France, and I just want to take a minute to salute Lance Armstrong, who has completed an unprecedented seventh victory. The Tour has got to be one of the toughest events in world sport: the race is 3,608km long and the route incorporates stages that take the riders over the Alps and the Pyrenees. Stage 10 of the race actually finished at the aerodrome in Courchevel. I went skiing in Courchevel this April, and the idea of cycling up that mountain just boggles my mind.

Armstrong's winning time was 86 hours 15 minutes & 2 seconds, and his average speed was 41.6km/h. To put that into perspective, I have a little speedometer attached to my road bike, and the fastest I have ever travelled is about 50km/h going down a pretty steep hill. My average speed is usually somewhere around 26km/h. I don't need to point out that I don't have any serious mountains on my usual cycle routes, do I?

In the history of the tour, only a few riders have been truly dominant:
Jacques Anquetil (1957, 60-4)
Eddy Merckx (1969-72, 74)
Bernard Hinault (1978, 79, 81, 82, 85)
Miguel Indurain (1991-5)

Armstrong stands alone in winning 7 tours.

As if this wasn't enough, let's not forget that Armstrong has achieved all of this after recovering from testicular cancer.

Truly one of the great sportsmen of any era.

...and he provided us with one of the great cinema cameos of all time, in Dodgeball...

Lance Armstrong: Hey, aren't you Peter La Fleur?
Peter La Fleur: Lance Armstrong!
Lance Armstrong: Ya, that's me. But I'm a big fan of yours.
Peter La Fleur: Really?
Lance Armstrong: Ya, I've been watching the dodgeball tournament on the Ocho. ESPN 8. I just can't get enough of it. Good luck in the tournament. I'm really pulling for you against those jerks from Globo Gym. I think you better hurry up or you're gonna be late.
Peter La Fleur: Uh, actually I decided to quit... Lance.
Lance Armstrong: Quit? You know, once I was thinking of quitting when I was diagnosed with brain, lung and testicular cancer all at the same time. But with the love and support of my friends and family, I got back on the bike and won the Tour de France five times in a row. But I'm sure you have a good reason to quit. So what are you dying of that's keeping you from the finals?
Peter La Fleur: Right now it feels a little bit like... shame.
Lance Armstrong: Well, I guess if a person never quit when the going got tough, they wouldn't anything to regret for the rest of their life. Well good luck to you Peter. I'm sure this decision won't haunt you forever.


Friday, July 22, 2005

She don't run from the sun no more...


After OLS a couple of weeks ago, and Ka last week, we continue our run of female guest editors (The ever enigmatic and relentlessly gender non-specific Fox is away, so I reckon I can get away with saying that this week, eh?).

I first encountered this week's guest editor when a friend of mine encouraged me to head on over to a certain blog in America to back him up in a vigorous debate that was breaking out. Typically, I ended up agreeing with the wrong side of the argument. Oh well. I've been going back ever since....

Ladies & gentlemen, without further ado... this blog is proud to present for your delectation... a Goddess:

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #9 - Jenni from Democratic Goddesses of America & Wonder(ing) Goddess

Although ST billed me as a goddess last week, when it comes to earworms, I apparently am a mere mortal. Although some of the songs that I listed were earworms this week because I genuinely enjoy them, others are just those annoying songs that get stuck.

I mentioned that I was doing this guest posting to a few people at work, and the concept of earworms is now flying from cubicle to cubicle. Yesterday, one of my bosses came to tell me earworm is the perfect phrase for what they are, and that her earworm was “Hooked on a Feeling.” Of course, as you all know, I can’t take credit for the phrase, but I can take credit for the following earworms of the week…

1. Where Have All the Good People Gone? - Jack Johnson

I don’t know if it’s the question or the tune that makes this song stick in my head, but I find myself humming it under my breath at work. I find Jack Johnson to be hit or miss though. I either really like him or I really don’t want to hear him.

2. Breathe - Anna Nalick

Not exactly the kind of song that usually gets stuck in my head, as it’s a bit mellower, but the chorus holds a lot of truth. “Life’s like an hour glass glued to the table…” This song was first introduced to me by my boyfriend, who must have gone WAY out of his way to find it. He’s very much into corporate music, while I tend towards lesser known groups.

3. Life Less Ordinary - Carbon Leaf

This song is much more the norm for my earworms. A bit more upbeat with a good message. Who wouldn’t want to live a life less ordinary and more evolutionary? Although there is something a bit strange about some guys from the East Coast of the US singing with an accent, they’re okay by me.

4. Let’s Get It On - Marvin Gaye

As if this selection really needs any explanation (Cue “bow-chicka-bow-bow” sound effect now, please, ST). Strangely enough, it got stuck in my head whilst at the office. Hmmm…perhaps someone should warn my cubicle neighbor?

5. Weight of the World - Chantal Kreviazuk

A while back, a very nice chap sent me some cds to expose me to more female vocalists. This song from that selection has been running through my head this week. I think it’s a good summer song. Freedom, happiness, sunshine, and no worries.

6. Paper Bag - Anna Nalick

Anna is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Part of this song’s chorus “if I can’t see you, then you can’t see me’ constantly runs through my head whenever I am forced to be hidden away in my cubicle.

7. Build Me Up Buttercup - The Foundations

Could someone PLEASE get this out of my head? A few weeks ago, I went to see Pat McCurdy at Summerfest. He does a schtick where he has the crowd help him sing parts of classic 80s and 90s songs. During this, he claimed Build Me Up Buttercup was the best song of all time. I don’t know about that, but I do know it has been stuck in my head ever since.

8. I Woke Up In a Car - Something Corporate

When we first met, my boyfriend used to play this song all the time when we would go out. Come to think of it, he also played Drunk Girl by Something Corporate a lot as well. Hopefully, he just likes their music, and isn’t sending me a message about his lifestyle!

9. We’re Not Gonna Take It - Twisted Sister (Author’s note: I had to look up the group)

Ah, Stephanie Miller of Air America, your show intro comes on just as I get out of my car and then this is stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Normally, this song would really annoy me. But I’m willing to suffer for Operation Take Back America. (For those of you who don’t know, Air America is liberal talk radio).

10. Holla Back Girl - Gwen Stefani

Sadly, if I’m honest, I have to have this on my list. I tried to avoid it, but seeing it on Ka’s last week at least let’s me know I am not alone. I do not like it in anyway, but it gets stuck in my head, even if I only hear one little line while flipping radio stations. Some people have the bananas chorus as their cell phone ringtone. I think those people are bananas.

Honorable Mention . Venus - Bananarama

What goddess earworm list would be complete without this? I blame ST, he got it stuck in my head by building this post up as a “goddess” guest contributor. Plus, Bananarama is fun to say, even if it isn’t so fun to type!

So there you have it. Big thanks to ST for making me his earworm girl this week.

Wishing you all better earworms this coming week than “B-A-N-A-N-A-S,”



Thanks Jenni.

Next week the y chromosome remains conspicuous by its absence as our guest editor is Aravis from AravisArwen - probably the nicest person in the world!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

And it'll take more than a doctor to prescribe a remedy...

Ah, the National Health Service.

The NHS was founded in those first few optimistic years after the end of the Second World War in 1948. The founding principle was to make healthcare services available to all free of charge at the point of use.

We Brits probably take this totally for granted, but just take a minute to think about that. Free healthcare. For everyone. How many other countries can say that?

I know that over the years this dream has been heavily compromised as successive governments have gradually reduced the investment, stripped out the assets and undervalued the staff.... but parts of that dream are still there. You can still go to see your local doctor without being charged. You can still go to a hospital and receive fantastic treatment at no cost to you. Hundreds of people every day owe their lives to ready access to high quality healthcare, access to hospitals where their first concern is for your wellbeing and not the validity of your insurance.

I know it's not perfect - far from it. For starters, the waiting lists to see specialists can be enormous: if you believe what you read in the papers, sometimes you can wait years before you will get an appointment.

I mention this because my weirdy tingles have led to a referral to a Neurologist. Apparently the NHS waiting list for this kind of appointment in Nottingham is several months long. However, I pay about £4 a month to have medical insurance with work. As a direct result of this, I'll be rolling up to see the specialist next Friday.

Obviously this is good news for me, but it has made me think about the NHS. Every time someone like me comes along and jumps to the front of the queue, waving my insurance form, there is someone somewhere in Nottinghamshire who will have to wait for 6 months to get an appointment with the same specialist because they do not have private medical insurance.

£4 measly pounds a month. £48 a year.

I bet more than that goes towards the NHS from my annual tax bill.

Perhaps I should look on the brightside and hope that the money that my insurance company pays for my treatment will go towards making sure that this kind of treatment remains available to everyone, and that my consultation will better enable the NHS to be continue providing free healthcare.

I'm a little sceptical about that, I have to say. Does one private hospital bed fund two public beds, or does the public bed disappear to make room for private beds?

I'm not sure that this is what Aneurin Bevan had in mind.

I don't like cricket, no no....

I realise that this is possibly of little interest to many of you, but today marks the start of the First Test in the 2005 Ashes Series between England and Australia at Lords. This is always an exciting day, but it is especially exciting this year because England have improved out of sight over the last few years and are now the number 2 side in the world.... to Australia. Should be good.

For those of you with no idea or little interest in what I'm talking about, I won't bother to try to explain the appeal. I once made the mistake of trying to explain cricket to a Dane, and she couldn't get past the fact that she thought it was unfair that the fielding side had all 11 players on the pitch to the batting side's 2. Needless to say, the explanation didn't get as far as trying to explain the intricacies of the lbw law.

There are 5 tests in the series in all. With the Premiership football season due to start on the afternoon of the 3rd day of the 3rd Test at Old Trafford, let's hope that England are doing well enough by then to have a fighting chance of staying on the back pages, eh?

I'll try not to bore you with this again (unless it gets very exciting).... but I am hereby giving you advance warning that we are going to the Saturday of the 4th Test at Trent Bridge in Fancy Dress, as is our tradition, and I may treat you all to some photos....


Oh, and the lie was number 10. I was in the choir, but the head chorister was a chap by the name of David Amdor. As I mentioned, Statue John was in the same choir.... I think he still has the robes and ruff tucked away somewhere for special occasions. I know I do.

Congrats to the disappointingly nicknamed Rufus-Fan. The usual prize awaits.... the honour of naming a post on this blog.... apply within for details.

I'll take questions on the rest, if you like.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

That's the story of my life (that's the story of my life)

I know this is something of a hoary old blog classic.... but for some reason I have recently been overtaken by an all-consuming self-confessional urge. I've sort of been avoiding this for a couple of days with a few little posts about nothing much, but the urge hasn't gone away, so I'm giving up the fight.

Bear with me as I get this out of my system.

99% true - 100 things about me. 99 are true, 1 is a lie.

Can you spot the porkie?

1. I was born in Northampton General Hospital at 17:30 one Thursday afternoon in early March. On the same day in history (apparently), Marcus Aurelius became Emperor (161), Henry VIII declares himself the Supreme head of the Church in England (1531), Dr. John Kellogg first serves Cornflakes to the patients in his mental institution (1897) & West Indian legend Viv Richards is born (1952)
2. I was first taken to the Opticians when I was about 5 years old, and I remember my elder brother laughing at me and telling me I might have to wear glasses
3, I have worn glasses ever since
4. I used to have blonde, curly hair
5. I am now balding with dark hair going pretty substantially grey
6. My dad and both my brothers have full heads of hair
7. I ran away from school, aged 5, because they wouldn't let me watch 'Play School'
8. I was sent away to boarding school in September 1981, when I was 7 years old, and I have never really lived at home since that day
9. I didn't get homesick
10. I was the head chorister at school, although I had to retire when I was 13 years old and my voice broke. They still let me attend the choir dinner, though, which was nice
11. When I was 13, I was made Head of School. I've never been as mature since
12. I was awarded a scholarship to Rugby School in 1987
13. I was absolutely terrible at Maths, but excelled in English
14. I got 10 GCSEs (9 A's and a B - the B was in Biology)
15. I got 3 A-Levels (2 A's and a B - the B was in English... my best subject)
16. I was a fast bowler with natural bounce and played for the school 2nd XI (once)
17. I was a big second-row forward and played for the school 3rd XV
18. I was never all that popular at school
19. I edited the school weekly newsheet
20. The first album I ever bought was "Human Racing" by Nik Kershaw
21. I also owned "Silk & Steel" by Five Star
22. I bought "The Number of the Beast" by Iron Maiden on cassette because I liked the album cover
23. I own all of Iron Maiden's albums up to (but not including) "Fear of the Dark"
24. I am in the video for "Sweet Soul Sister" by the Cult - it was filmed at the first concert I ever attended
25. I am also in the video for "Fix You" by Coldplay - it was filmed at their recent gig at the Bolton Reebok Stadium
26. You'd need extremely good eyesight to pick me out from the crowd
27. I once stole a book from the school bookshop. It was called "The 9 lives of Island McKenzie" and was about a shipwrecked cat. It was brilliant, but I did feel a little guilty.
28. I love the shape of a woman's foot
29. My middle name is 'Peter', although I've never really understood the point of it and no-one uses it (at least to my face)
30. I have cut myself deliberately - when I was about 10. Never very deeply, but deep enough to bleed. I didn't do this for attention. Mainly I did it idly as I watched a film about Custer's Last Stand, fascinated by how sharp my penknife was
31. When I was about 12, I used to give myself friction burns on my cheek using a pumice stone. I've avoided thinking about this much (I could have given myself terrible scars for one thing), but I probably did do this for attention
32. I used to bully people without mercy with words
33. I got a 2:1 in my undergraduate degree, but feel I underachieved
34. I got a Masters in Medieval Studies, but only because I was good enough to and because I had nothing better to do
35. My Masters dissertation was entitled "Historical Precedent and the Deposition of Henry VI". It's in the library at the King's Manor at the University of York if you fancy reading it...
36. I used to be a DJ on University Radio. I am especially proud of playing the double-header of "Female of the Species" by Space and "Deadlier than the Male" by the Walker Brothers. Do you see what I did there?
37. I desperately wanted to be a journalist. In some ways I still do. It just seemed too hard to get into and more about who you knew than what you were capable of writing
38. I don't really understand how I ended up working in IT. Neither do my family.
39. I am very fond of my mum & dad's cat. She's called Crumble, and I have known her for 15 years. I was very sad to hear at the weekend that she has kidney failure.
40. I know a lot about music and I own a lot of music, but sometimes I feel like a fraud and wonder if I lack a genuine passion for it
41. I love to read, but I don't feel as though I read enough books.
42. John Irving is probably my favourite author, with "A Prayer for Owen Meany" as my favorite book. I think Paul Auster is starting to run him close though
43. I am not at all religious, but I find the Old Testament mesmerising
44. I always read the nutritional information on the back of the packet before choosing a sandwich for my lunch & cannot bring myself to eat anything with a fat content of greater than about 25g.
45. I rarely buy biscuits because I lack the self-discipline to leave an open packet lying around
46. I lost my virginity when I was 21
47. I did not have a proper girlfriend until I was 21
48. I didn't lose it to her
49. I lost it to my next girlfriend (you wait 8 years for one, and 2 come along inside 6 months)
50. I have only downloaded one song illegally (as far as I know) - "What's the Frequency Kenneth?" by REM, and the reason I did so was because the copy on my CD was scratched, so didn't feel very guilty about it
51. I disapprove of piracy, but I do rip CDs from people who lend them to me. I don't usually feel very guilty about that either, as usually they are CDs I have little intention of buying. I'll also happily let people rip CDs that I own
52. I think the iPod is the single best thing that I have ever bought
53. I really like cheese, but I hate almost every blue cheese I have ever tasted. My favourite cheese is Comte
54. I like really peaty malt whisky, and I drink it neat without ice (but not very often)
55. I have size 12 feet
56. My body mass index is 21
57. My body fat percentage is 12%
58. I am not very sporty, but exercise about 4 times a week
59. I used to have a scar on my chest from the stud of someone I tackled in a game of rugby. I think it hurt them more than it hurt me
60. I don't enunciate very clearly when I speak. I'm something of a mumbler, and people often don't catch what I say and have to ask me to say it again
61. I'm intellectually vain
62. I am extremely pedantic and find it very hard to resist correcting people when they misuse a word or pronounce it incorrectly
63. I own more pairs of shoes than my girlfriend
64. I own a pair of "make poverty history" pants
65. The t-shirt I would most like to own is the Red Wings one that Cameron wears in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" with "9 Howe" on the back, but I haven't been able to find one anywhere
66. I have appeared on a stage wearing nothing but a loincloth
67. I once had an argument with my girlfriend over whether or not Martin Luther grew a beard when he was in hiding in the Wartburg (I maintained that he did)
68. I will carry on an argument even when I when I know I am wrong, as long as I am convinced that the other person isn't sure that they are right
69. The best concert I have ever been to was either Metallica at the Milton Keynes Bowl in about 1993 or James at Oxford Brookes the night before they played Glastonbury in 1998
70. The worst concert I have ever been to was Bob Dylan at the Docklands Arena in about 2002. I fell asleep. Don't ever be tempted to see him
71. I think I am a reliable friend
72. I am the chairman of a weekly 5-a-side football game. We have been playing socially on a Thursday night for about 7 years now. My duties are to send out an email seeing who can play, paying for the pitch & collecting the money. I am only the chairman because I am the most reliable, I think
73. I speak reasonable french and very scratchy Italian. I wish I spoke both better, although I do a nice line in fluent nonsense French, I'm told, with an excellent accent
74. My girlfriend was brought up in France and would like to move back there one day. Fluent nonsense French may not be enough
75. I am fascinated by blogs and by blogging.
76. Writing a blog has provided a creative outlet that my life has been missing for some time
77. I feel as though I need to get a new job, but I lack the energy to really look for one
78. I'd like to do more work for charity, and I'm currently in the process of volunteering for hospital radio and to work at Skylarks
79. I think I'm probably a geek
80. Shortly after England beat Germany in the European Championships in 2000, a policeman asked me very politely to stop dancing in the street as I was holding up traffic
81. I don't have a favourite colour, but a lot of my work shirts seem to be either pink or purple
82. I have very blue eyes but they turn grey when I am tired. Just like my maternal grandfather, apparently
83. I am quite self-contained. I don't like spending time on my own, but will happily sit with someone for hours without saying a word
84. My girlfriend sometimes finds this difficult
85. I read the Observer on a Sunday. Well. I say that, but really what I do is I buy it and then only read the sports section, the film and music reviews and have a flick through the magazine. The rest I recycle after a couple of weeks of it sititing on the floor
86. I often buy DVDs and then don't watch them. I never seem to find the time and somehow knowing that I have got them if I need them is enough
87. I have suffered from chronic back pain for 10 years. One of the reasons I exercise so much is that it seems to help to keep my back mobile
88. I drink more bottled water than tap water, and I prefer sparkling to still. I think this is the influence of a girlfriend brought up in France
89. I make a reasonable salad dressing. I think this is the influence of a girlfriend brought up in France
90. I wear a belt on my trousers even when I don't need to do so to hold them up. I'm not sure why
91. I think that purple jelly beans taste like B.O.
92. I love marmite
93. I like my tea strong and without too much milk
94. I lack guile: the expression on my face invariably says what I think of people and what they are saying. I am probably prouder of this than I have any right to be
95. I think Robert De Niro is extremely overrated as an actor, and I consider "Trading Places" to be a far superior film to "Raging Bull"
96. I have an obsessive personality. Amongst other things, I reckon this manifests itself in my blogging
97. I have a flair for inventing nicknames
98. I'm quite worried that this post will manage to be both boring and not tell you anything interesting about me - in which case it will have been a waste of everyone's time
99. I spend too much time on the computer and not enough time talking to my girlfriend
100. I got bored of this list and went to do something else at number 26 (as to why I completed this list - see point 96)

Hm. 99 things about me and one lie.

I'm not sure if this exercise has been useful. Do you feel you know me any better? Or do you already know me well enough to pick out the lie?

But we shared a moment that will last till the end...

We've had a tough couple of weeks, but I've decided that a country that can send "You're Beautiful" to the top of the UK Singles Charts can't be all bad can it?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Mouth is alive with juices like wine

It is sometimes said that you should never go to the supermarket when you are hungry. The rationale behind this is that when you shop on an empty stomach, you are much more likely to toss things into your trolley that you would otherwise not buy, and you therefore spend more money. A nice bottle of beer (or two). Some wine (well, it's on offer). Some chorizo. Some olives from the deli counter. A nice bit of cheese. The food of the world is at your mercy as you steer your wonky-wheeled chariot down the aisles.

If you ask me, it's these impulse purchases that make the whole shop worthwhile. Whilst it may be technically possible to survive on things like carrots, bread, mince and potatoes, this kind of food doesn't exactly feed the soul.

Oh no.

It's the Nutty Bun Loaves of this world that keep me sane during the week - a cheeky little number fresh from the instore bakery that appears to be some kind of giant iced bun with chopped nuts on the top.


Nah. If you ask me, when you are hungry is the only time you should go to the supermarket.

Especially when it's someone else's turn to pay.....

Saturday, July 16, 2005

thank you terror, thank you disillusionment...

So, there I was, busy trying to carry out the second part of my "six degrees of blogeration" exercise (name courtesy of Di)... if the first bit was going six clicks away from your own blog using only the links on sidebars, then the second bit was trying to find your way back home via a different route.

Tom's right. Turns out that there *are* more than 50 blogs in the world... and by the looks of it, I'll have to look at all of them before I find my way back.


In the course of my wanderings, I found ThankYouTony.com: a site to thank Prime Minister Tony Blair for his Support of the American Actions in Iraq.....

Here are a few of the messages left --- which are bound up in a book each week and sent to Downing Street:

"You have our heartfelt thanks, Mr. Blair.
P.S. On a lighter note: My wife has shifted her home decorating tastes from French Country to English Country in the aftermath of the war." California, USA

"We'll never travel to France again. Instead, London and Scotland are on this summer's itinerary." Florida, USA

"If you get too tired of the harassment of your countrymen, pack a bag, bring your family, and resettle in the United States as an honorary citizen. You’d be recognized as a true hero." New York, USA

"The U.S. and U.K. helped Europe during WW1 and WW2. Europe could pay us back by at least giving their support in the fight for freedom in Iraq, especially France. It just shows us who real friends in this world are." United Kingdom

"For a liberal, you are OK with me." Massachussets, USA

and so on, and so on...

Doesn't it make you proud?

Friday, July 15, 2005

baby, sing with me somehow.....


After the sheer breadth and diversity of last week's earworms from OLS, I am pleased to be able to present another guest editor from the fairer sex....

so, without further ado.... ladies & gentlemen, I am proud to be able to present for your delectation, all the way from Toronto (via Brazil, and with a little piece of her heart in Mexico).......

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #8 - Ka from The Grey City Manifesto

Spending a week paying attention to what's been going through your head is a most life-changing experience. I appear to suffer from earworm ADD.

(By the way, don't think I haven't noticed: if Iast week marked the first girl on Earworm Friday, and Fox posted some weeks back... ST, have you solved the mystery?)
[ST's note - I don't think so... Fox has already hauled me over the coals on this point, and told me that actually, this being the internet and all, I don't really know that OLS is female, never mind that all my previous editors were male. I'm afraid I conceded the point]

10. These Boots Are Made for Walking - Nancy Sinatra

I have to express my absolute delight and relief that it's the Nancy Sinatra version running through my head because the ear worm is most undoubtedly the result of Jessica Simpson's appalling new cover of the song. I mean, really! Have you seen this video?! She's a beautiful woman (although I personally feel she could really benefit from a large bag of double stuffed Oreos), I'll give you that, but the video leaves me feeling exhausted and dirty. And not in a fun double-r dirrty way either.

9. Girl from Ipanema - Astrid Gilberto

Call it residual Brazil. I spent the entire week in Rio trilling any combination of Gilberto, Barry Manilow and Duran Duran, and only Gilberto's vaguely annoying but highly contagious disco rendition of Girl From Ipanema has stuck now that I'm back in the Grey City.

8. Holla Back Girl - Gwen Stefani

That I've spent even a nanosecond humming this song makes me want to curl up in shame and die. "This shit is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!" Yeah Gwen, this shit is bananas. Whatever. Curse those wicked base beats.

7. No One Is Alone from the Broadway musical Into the Woods

One review of the Stratford Festival (Canada's largest theatre festival/company)'s production of Into the Woods criticized composer Stephen Sondheim of writing Send in the Clowns over and over again. At first I laughed it off - Sondheim is a Broadway deity! Watch your mouth! - then realized the critic might be on to something. This haunting ballad has been coursing through my head ever since. Or it might in fact actually be Send in the Clowns. It's hard to tell.

6. Judas - Depeche Mode

I'd blame Flash and his post on DM for my having this song in my head except it's a darn good song and I'm glad for it.

5. Casualties of Retail - Enter the Haggis

If you've heard of these guys before, I'll buy you dinner. If you ever have the chance to see them live, drop everything and run to get good seats. They're old school celtic meets pub rock, from Toronto but rarely in our fine city, and they're one of the greatest stage shows I have ever seen in my life.

4. South of the Border - Patsy Cline

Anyone who reads my blog will know EXACTLY why this is in my head. Tee hee hee.

3. Hey Momma - Black Eyed Peas

Thankfully, I haven't heard enough of the Peas' newest, Don't Phunk With My Heart (geddit? geddit?), to have it fully entrenched, and instead my brain is going back to this dance/iPod commercial classic. I still haven't decided whether the Peas are brilliant or catchy crap, but I do dig this song.

2. Lullaby for a New World Order - Matthew Good

Just your standard skinny white Canadian guy railing against the state of union with cynical lyrics and dramatic crescendos. Think Coldplay with just a tad more angst (is it possible?) and much bigger vocal chords.

1. Helpless - k.d. lang

If I am going to be truly honest with you, I should have listed every song on k.d.'s new album, Hymns of the 49th Parallel, instead of bothering with the other nine on this list, because I can't get any of them out of my head. Helpless is a cover of Neil Young's classic song, and k.d. sings it with enough pathos to rip your heart out and serve it back to you with a little chianti and some nice fava beans. No, seriously, it's absolutely incredible, this album. Buy it. Buy it now.

Thanks ST! Wheeeee!


Oh no Ka - the pleasure was all mine! That's a suitably Canadian note to end on, don't you think?

It's kind of funny, but in a week in which Bee has been passionately arguing that "Women are from Earth, Men are from Earth", I have decided that the earworms presented by my two female guest editors (sigh - ok Fox, my two ostensibly female guest editors) have been far more diverse than those so far presented by the guys.

With that in mind, I'm very pleased to be able to tell you that we don't just have anybody guesting in next week's slot... oh no... we have a goddess.

Oh yes. Next week's guest editor will be Jenni from Democratic Goddesses of America & Wonder(ing) Goddess. No pressure, Tiger !

Thursday, July 14, 2005

not again. not today. not today.

There's a 2 minute silence at noon today to remember the victims of last week's bombings in London. The news is full of how this will be observed across the world: in Paris, in Bali, at the Open Golf Championship in St Andrews....

Now, I don't mean to be disrespectful to anybody, but it's all so arbitrary, isn't it?

Who decides how long the silence should be? It always used to be a minute: 60 seconds of quiet reflection. Now it seems to be variable, and we went up as far as 3 minutes of silence for the victims of the Asian Tsunami. Does the length of the silence we accord it provide a scale for how awful we judge the tragedy? The Tsunami was a 3 minuter. London is a 2 minuter.

At Glastonbury and during Live8, the big screens drove home the message that every 3 seconds a child dies of poverty. They made the point that if people were dying in those kind of numbers in Britain, then the world would sit up and take notice, and something would be done about it. Somehow because the people affected were dying in Africa and in other corners of the Third World, the rest of the world is able to shrug its collective shoulders and carry on.

Let me stress before I say this, lest I am misunderstood, that I have been appalled by the bombings in London, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families.... I am not trying to deflect attention from this atrocity or to lessen its impact....but is it not true that there are suicide bombings in other parts of the world every day? Explosions take place in places like Iraq and Israel every single day of the year, and they are such common occurences that they have become little more than footnotes on the evening news. It happens to London and the whole world sits up and takes notice.

If we held 2 minutes of silence for the victims of each of these attacks, for every human disaster, then the world would be a hell of a lot quieter.

I will fall silent at noon, and I will contemplate the victims of the London bombings and their families, but I will also be thinking about the victims of all the world's other tragedies too.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

so where did you see me go? It's not the right way you know.....

So much internet, so little time.

I like reading blogs. According to my feed on bloglines, I regularly read over 30 of them. I read them pretty voraciously: you update it, and there's a good chance I'll read it on the same day. I also like to comment - not always, but pretty regularly I think (and feel free at this point to chastise me if I stop round at yours and never say anything, and by the same token, please also feel free to let me know if I'm *always* leaving comments and you'd like me to stop....)

I feel a bit guilty though. There must be literally millions of blogs out there, and I read just the tiniest fraction of them. It's not as though I want to read them all or anything (jesus, can you imagine? all those knitting blogs, all those right-wing crazies, all tHoSE maDDenInG teEnaGeRs aND tHeIR ecCenTrIc TyPIng....). I just feel like I'd like to discover a few more. There must be loads of other brilliant stuff out there. If I could discover one really good one a week, I think I'd be happy.

How the hell do you find the time though?

Okay. I'm going to try an experiment.

Most of the blogs linked off here have links to other blogs that they read. I reckon that's probably a good place to start, but I don't think it will take me far enough away from here and the "circle" of blogs I frequent. I want to get out to somewhere I won't see all the same commentators... nothing personal.... I just want to explore a bit. Mummy still loves Daddy....

Here's what I'm going to do:
  1. Choose a link from my sidebar
  2. choose a link from the sidebar of that blog
  3. choose a link from the sidebar of that blog
  4. and repeat until I am 6 clicks away from here
  5. have a look at where I've ended up....
Of course, if I see anything I like on the way through, I'll leave a comment or something....

Let's see what happens shall we?
  1. Where to begin? Where to begin? OK. At the top. Retro-Boy. We have a few links in common, but there are lots to choose from. Hmmmmm.
  2. Okay. Katya Coldheart. Chosen pretty much at random, except that I've never been there before. She's British but in America. She seems nice, but it's hard to get into when they're on part 6 of their holiday journal. Time to move on (although for reference, I put my right shoe on first, I have a tattoo and I twirl my spaghetti).
  3. Again, we have a couple of links in common, and I'm familiar with a couple of other ones, so I'll avoid them and head over to Steve's Nude Memphis Blog. He owns a pickup truck but isn't a redneck apparently, which is nice. Apparently 48 people have hit this blog with the search term "nude child", which must be a worry for a normal blogger... but with a blog name like that, your random hits from google are never really going to be finding what they're looking for, are they? (says me, who gets hits for people looking for pictures of people pissing in sinks) I hope the 5 who came in looking for "nude marines" left disappointed, but I don't think I'm sticking around to find out. What I will say though, is that "fabulous breasts" is a wonderfully optimistic search term, isn't it?
  4. The Incurable Savant has a great beard, but otherwise could be the Milk Tray man. I was about to make a remark about his spelling, but then he makes a joke about it, and I am charmed into silence. He seems nice, but there are a lot of photos here about fireworks and parades. Onwards....
  5. The Peanut Queen's Lair. I've stumbled into a little circle here. She has links to Katya Coldheart, Steve from Memphis AND the Incurable Savant. That's not a bad thing, but I haven't been inspired yet. Ah. Trouble at home, trouble at work.... blogging gold dust... but she doesn't really want to talk about it. Fair enough. Hope it all works out.
  6. Okay then. Still we have blogs in common (albeit not ones I have a link to). How about Rainy Pete's Unbalanced World? You're my 6th click man.... what have you got? Oh shit. Is that a picture of a teddy bear? He doesn't like Bono & Bob Geldof though, so I think you'd like him Fox....
So. That's it. What have I learnt?

Hm. That I should hit the "next blog" button more often? (after all, that's how I found Charlie, the first blog I ever read regularly and I still go there all the time...)

How do you find the good stuff?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude

This is the first summer in six years that I haven't been glued to Big Brother.

I've tried not watching it before, and I've missed the big opening night several times, but somehow I've always been sucked in and found myself sitting in front of E4 at two in the morning watching people sleeping. Nothing ever happens. The contestants fundamentally have nothing interesting to say to each other or about the world. In the main, it's 10 weeks watching people sleep, sunbathe and show off their astonishing ignorance. And still I watched, and I've hated myself for it. How can there not be something better to do than watch that shit?

This year I've kicked the habit. I've seen it's been on, and on a couple of occasions I have even sat there and watched 5 minutes or so. It just hasn't grabbed me, and my evenings have been left free to do all sorts of other things instead. Why, just last night, instead of watching the daily roundup of non-events in the Big Brother house, I watched an episode of Seinfeld ('The Robbery' - the one from the first series where Jerry and George toss a coin over who should take the appartment near the Park). Now that's living, huh?

Okay, Maybe not, but the point is that I have liberated myself from the D.I.Y. lobotomy of reality TV, and I am not spending my summer in thrall to some dribbling cretins locked up in a house and performing like monkeys in the hope of a tabloid payout and some kind of post BB half-life as a z-list 'celebrity'.

And then I found out that there had been some shagging.... and then some more shagging.

For all that I am busy rejoycing in my glorious moral and intellectual superiority, a little tiny part of me hates the fact that I missed it.

I'm in the church and I've come to claim you with my iron drum la la la la la la

Apparently they're bringing back Inspector Morse, in spite of the fact that it is three years since the death of John Thaw. What next? Queen touring without Freddie Mercury? The Doors without Jim Morrison? Taggart without Taggart?

Keep your eyes peeled for the forthcoming nostalgia tour being headlined on alternate nights by T-Rex and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. One not to be missed.

Monday, July 11, 2005

does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body? I dunno....

On Thursday I played 5-a-side football for 90 minutes. On Friday I cycled 35km. On Saturday I ran for 75 minutes. On Sunday I swam in a lake in a wetsuit for 35 minutes. Today I ran for 60 minutes. I don't say any of this to impress you; the triathlon is now only a few weeks away, and this is frankly the least that I have to do if I am going to be in any way ready. No. I tell you this as I am struggling to detach it in my mind from the fact that since Monday last week, the right-hand side of my body has been slowly going numb.

It started on Monday last week, when I woke up with pins & needles in my right hand, and over the course of the week it has spread up my arm, down the right-hand side of my chest, ribs and back, and now seems to be working its way down my thigh. Although I have a kind of constant dull tingling feeling, I otherwise have sensation and full motor control and it is clearly not inhibiting me very much. But my pain receptors seem to have been dulled, even switched off, and everything I touch feels somehow very far away. It's a disconcerting feeling.

I've been to the doctor twice in this period, and he's stumped and is sending me off for some bloods to carry out a neurological screen. It will take 10 days or so to get the results, and in the meantime I have to try and ignore it and hope that it goes away as quickly as it turned up.

Weird, non?


In other news, I have now downloaded my first whole album from iTunes. Previously I have only downloaded songs on a track by track basis and have preferred to buy CDs and rip them. I'm still a bit old-fashioned, I suppose, and I still have a use for the physical media in my car, and I quite like the whole process of having something to show for my money, a booklet to read and something to pop on the shelf.

So what was the trigger that pushed me into this momentous decision?

£11.99 for a double-album from amazon that had copy protection that would mean I would be unable to rip it onto my iPod and would have to listen to it through the player bundled on the CD, or £7.99 for the whole lot through iTunes. I chose the latter, and instantly burned the album onto a couple of CDs for the car.

Stupid record companies. Don't they realise that forcing me to make this kind of decision will bring about their own downfall? I'd be just as happy to go to a band's website and download the album directly without their intervention at all.....

The album? 'Minimum-Maximum' by Kraftwerk.

Need I add that this post has been brought to you with a soundtrack of some sparse teutonic electro-noodling?

Thought not....

Saturday, July 09, 2005

oh we can beat them, for ever and ever...

I reckon that the world could do with some heroes; someone to stand up and be counted; someone to look to when everything seems lost; someone to act as a symbol of defiance, a symbol of how we will not be beaten.... above all, someone who can stop terrorists setting off the bombs that indiscriminately kill and maim.

I'm aware that I tend to wear my geek-ish tendencies on my sleeve somewhat, so it will come as no surprise to anybody that I grew up as an avid reader of comics. I was a Marvel man. For all of their extraordinary powers, Stan Lee's characters tend to be ordinary people with ordinary problems: Spiderman may have been able to climb walls, but he had money worries and struggled in his relationships with women. I found these flawed heroes far easier to relate to than a seemingly invulnerable creation like DC's Superman.

When I was 13 I discovered Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Returns". Gotham City is a city spiralling into chaos and its citizens teeter on the brink of despair. They desperately need a hero, but it has been 10 years since the last sighting of the city's talisman - Batman. Miller tells the story of how a middle-aged Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement and provides the symbol of hope that the desperate citizens so need. It remains the greatest comic I have ever read. It is dark. It is brutal. It is a million miles removed from the "kapow!" world of Adam West and the Joel Schumacher Batman films, and is the template aspired to by Tim Burton in the first two Batman films and by Christopher Nolan in "Batman Begins".

I don't want to stretch the parallel too far, but in some ways we have a lot in common with the citizens of Gotham City. We are being held to ransom by criminals who have no regard for our lives or for our way of life. For all of our power and resources, for all our CCTV and Special Branches, we seem to be unable to stop them from striking at the heart of our society.

What price a superhero now?

It wouldn't be enough, would it? Life's never that simple, and issues are never black and white.

Just as he is in the "The Dark Knight Returns", Superman would be a pawn of the US Government. Under the control of his Commander-in-Chief, he would have been used as a weapon in Bush's war in Iraq, and for all his whiter-than-white moral posturing, he would be the personification of US imperialism and would be as much a symbol of hatred across the world as George W. Bush. Perhaps more.

Just as he is in the comics and in the films, Spiderman would be portrayed by the press as a menace to society. We would be suspicious of his powers and of his motivation. Why does he wear a mask? What does he have to hide? Who is he? What does he want?

And do you know what? In the end they would be as powerless as we are. How can they be any more effective at stopping these attacks than anyone else? No matter how great your powers, are you going to be able to be on every bus, on every underground train, checking every bag, every suspicious looking character in the rush-hour crowd?


In the end they would be in just the same boat as the rest of us..... but that's not to say that they would be powerless, or that we are powerless.

We don't have any superheroes, but every single person who got on the number 30 bus yesterday or who went to work on the Underground was standing up to be counted and was acting as a symbol of defiance.

We will not be beaten.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Don't let me fall....

Let's seek some comfort in sound.

This week's guest editor is definitely smarter than the average bear, and has the distinction of not only being the first female guest editor on these pages, but also the first to come from overseas - in this case all the way from Brisbane, which is about as overseas from Nottingham as you can get.

Ladies & gentlemen... without further ado......

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #7 - OLS from Observant Little....

I'm absolutely chuffed to be the first chick to be asked to contribute to the guest earworms on SwissToni's blog. As it turns out, I went CD shopping this week, so the few few songs are from my latest acquisitions which, of course, I've been listening to a lot since I bought them.

In no particular order...

10. Faithless - Insomnia (from Forever Faithless: The Greatest Hits)

I've been into this song for a long time. I've seen Faithless live twice now and had one of the best nights of my life both times, but I'd never actually gotten around to purchasing any of their CDs. So of course, the Greatest Hits CD was a must have for me. And Insomnia is also the first song on the CD, which is currently in my CD alarm, so it's the song that's been waking me up for the last couple of days.

9. Coldplay - Speed of Sound (from X&Y)

Because it just doesn't seem right to be a guest here without mentioning them (ST's note - no idea what you mean.)... Actually, this is another CD I've been planning to pick up for a while now, but hadn't actually got around to buying. I'm still in the initial stages of listening to it and Speed of Sound seems to be one of those songs that's everywhere at the moment, so it's a definite earworm for me at the moment.

8. Garbage - Sex is not the Enemy (from Bleed Like Me)

Garbage is what I listen to when I'm feeling mutinous. I've got the first three albums, but their first self-titled one is my favourite. I'm not so keen on Why Do You Love Me, but the rest of the album is pretty good, and this song in particular is a return to the petulant rock of the first album.

7. Brendan Benson - What I'm looking for (from The Alternative to Love)

The last of my new purchases, I was listening to this today at work. It's a recommendation from a mate of mine who is as obsessed by Matthew Sweet as I am, so it seemed like a good bet. It was. This particular song is very catchy. And I like the lyrics.

6. Mercury Rev - Secret for a Song (from The Secret Migration)

This CD has been on pretty high rotation since I bought it a couple of weeks ago. Secret for a Song is the first song on the CD and was waking me up each morning until I decided to change over to Faithless. I think it's probably my favourite song from the CD - it's certainly the only one that I'm nearly word perfect on at this stage.

5. Going On A Bear Hunt (kid's book)

I know this as the rhyming song for kids. One line is "What a beautiful day" and I've been thinking that to myself a lot on my walk to work in the mornings. Since I tend to walk to the beat of whatever song is in my head at the time, the people I pass every morning are probably really wondering at me! ;o)

4. The Bare Necessities (from Walt Disney's The Jungle Book)

I've been playing my keyboard and flute a bit lately and this is one of the few pieces of music which is easy enough that I can play it on both without making too many mistakes. And the song is damn catchy - once it's in your head it's bloody hard to get rid of it!

3. Peter, Paul and Mary - Gone the Rainbow

Another of the few songs I can play on both flute and keyboard. I absolutely love this song. I've been singing it since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and was given the sheet music when I was a kid and started playing recorder. I think I can play it on every musical instrument I've ever learnt. ;o)

2. Dave McCormack and the Polaroids - The Faith Healer (from Candy)

Another gig happening this weekend, Dave is playing in Brisbane Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for the Valley Fiesta and I'm planning to be there for all of them! The man writes catchy songs and has a great stage presence. His brother is better looking though. ;o)

1. speedstar - Unbreakable (from Forget The Sun, Just Hold On)

I'm going to this gig this weekend and whenever I've been chatting to the others about tickets, where to meet, and so on, this song just starts up in my head. Also, I'm kind of at that stage of dating right now where the lyric "Don't let me fall for anybody else 'til you make me unbreakable" seems really relevant. ;o)


Thanks OLS - I suppose you can go and huddle up under your doona in an apparently chilly Brisbane and comfort eat some tim-tams or something (sorry, but I have a sneaking suspicion that winter in Brisbane is nicer than summer here, so I'm not terribly sympathetic, I'm afraid !) I am apparently also going to have to start talking about someone other than Coldplay. I seem to be getting me a reputation....


This blog will continue to improve as the influence of the fairer sex continues next week, when the guest editor comes to you all the way from Toronto (although no doubt wishing she was coming from Brazil instead).... yup, it's Ka from the Grey City Manifesto.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

dirty old river must you keep rolling

I was chatting to a friend over email earlier today. We were talking about how there seemed to a growing optimism in Britain over the last 12 months. We were both at the Olympics in Athens last summer, and were part of the enourmous number of flag-waving Brits who roared the coxless four onto victory in the rowing and had screamed ourselves hoarse as Kelly Holmes came from the back of the pack to win an unforgettable 800m in the Olympic Stadium. We have some brilliant photos from that night; we had all gathered outside the stadium and spent a good half an hour having a spontaneous cheering session with anyone else holding a union jack. As I mentioned below, scenes like these seemed to make an impression on the IOC and had at least some small influence on the decision to award the 2012 Olympics to London. That decision itself, the moment when Jacques Rogge pulled a piece of paper marked "London" out of an envelope, sparked scenes of jubilation from the nation. In my office, I found out that we had been awarded the games when a cheer arose around the office. These scenes were of course reflected across the nation as people gathered together to celebrate the news that we would be hosting the biggest sporting event in the world... in 7 years time. Imagine how excited we were going to get as the big day got nearer.

What's happening to the British? Where is the stiff upper lip for which we are famed throughout the world?

It's not just about the Olympics either. At the turn of the year, the British public were quick to put their hands in their pockets for the victims of the Asian Tsunami and were astonishingly generous. This generosity seemed to inspire Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to give ever larger amounts of government money to the fund, with Great Britain's contributions putting the rather more meagre contributions of the US administration to shame. Blair and Brown continued this work into the new year, when they announced that they were determined to take the opportunity presented by the UK presidency of both the G8 and the European Union to try to make a real difference to those affected by poverty across the world. Hand in hand with this, there has been some real momentum gathering behind the "Make Poverty History" campaign, culminating in the Live 8 concert the other week and the apparently very real determination to try to make our voices heard at the G8 summit at Gleneagles. To quote Nelson Mandela:

"Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom".

I know there has been a lot of cynicism about this, but I really felt that some of the cynicism and apathy that seem to be the curse of society seemed to be being swept away, and there was a growing will to try and make a difference.

And then this happens:

and this
I have lots of thoughts whirling around my head around how we have at least in part brought this on ourselves for a myriad of reasons but primarily for our prominent role in the war against Iraq. I'm thinking how this will be used by the G8 as an excuse to deflect their attention away from talking about climate change and dropping Third World debt. I'm thinking about how this makes it inevitable that our civil liberties will now be further eroded to further the "War on Terror".

I have lots of cynical thoughts, but now is not the time for cynicism.

I am appalled and shocked by the indiscriminate nature of these attacks, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

and the night is yours alone....

R.E.M. played at the City Ground in Nottingham this evening - the first band to play the venue (and now that Nottingham Forest are in the third tier of English football, presumably the biggest crowd it will be seeing for a while).

I'm beginning to wonder why I bother going to outdoor concerts in the English summer.

Glastonbury: Rain
Coldplay: Rain
R.E.M: Rain

I'm not sure what the next concert in my diary is, but I can guarantee you that even if it's indoors it will bloody well be raining. Mind you, it was a bit easier to stand the weather this time, as I knew that I was only about 10 minutes away from my house, and that I could be tucked up in bed about 15 minutes after the end of the concert. Which was nice.

I've seen R.E.M. a couple of times before, and they are a fantastic live act, but I think it's fair to say that I wasn't exactly bowled over by them this time. It's not because they weren't good, or because they were grumpy (they had good reason to be - it seemed to be raining more on the stage than it was on the crowd, and Michael Stipe first had to change into a pair of trainers to try and avoid falling over, and ultimately went barefoot on a load of towels). In fact, Stipe was pretty cheery throughout, even though this is just another leg on a world tour they started over a year ago.

Nah. I think the simple fact is that their last album is just distinctly average, and they played a fair bit of it. It's not terrible, it's just not up to scratch with some of the rest of their material. At their best though, few bands can touch them, and when they can play songs like "Everybody Hurts", "The One I Love", "Losing my Religion", "Orange Crush", "Imitation of Life" and so on, then everything is not lost.

I am really easy to distract at concerts though. I can't help it - people just catch my eye. On Monday it was the really drunk guy standing behind me who seemed to spend most of the concert on the phone to a mate, and today it was the guy standing right in front of me who took about 150 pictures on his camera through the course of the gig (although he left early). I suppose that's ok, but most of the pictures he took were from the big screen, and I couldn't really work out what the point was. Is he really going to look at and enjoy any of those photos? At one point he also started taking snaps with his camera phone, and during the encore he started to record songs as well. I'm a firm believer in living in the moment at concerts.... I've never rung anyone up and held the phone in the air either for the same reason.... I just want to enjoy what I'm watching (except when I'm distracted, obviously). The people with their umbrellas up got short shrift as well - I believe one guy took a direct hit from a pie.... he soon got the hint and took the damn thing down. Pah. Idiots. Twats at Gigs, eh Damo?


Apparently the last time that R.E.M. played in Nottingham was in 1984 at Rock City. Peter Buck remembers it. I was quite impressed. How many gigs in how many cities has that man played since that night 21 years ago? Does that mean Rock City is memorable in a good way or a bad way? R.E.M. have been around for a long time, haven't they?

What's with that eye make-up, eh? Do you think he has a stencil and a canister of spray paint backstage?

To be honest though, what I really want to know is how Lord Bargain got on tonight......

I love Paris in the springtime....

London has been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games.

It has been noted that one of the key things in bid's favour was that British support was so visible during the course of the Athens games last summer.

Really, there's no need to thank me.

Bring it on!

Perhaps we can take this opportunity to bring some other worthy sports into the Olympic fold. Snooker, darts... that kind of thing.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

I need to get some sleep, I can't get no sleep....

Puzzle missing piece not pictured

I know you are all thoroughly bored of me going on about them, so I'll try to be brief (dodgy photos courtesy of my phone)

In spite of the pissing rain, Coldplay were magnificent last night. Just when I thought they were going to play EXACTLY the same set at they played at Glastonbury, they made my day by playing the two songs from "X&Y" that they missed out there - 'Talk' and 'What If'. I might also have to change my rule about bands playing the same song twice: because they were filming us for the video of their next single, 'Fix You' got played twice in a row. And it was great both times.
singing out aaah aaaaah yeah etc.

A great band at the peak of their powers (and Elbow were pretty handy too)

I tell you what though. Bolton is a bloody anti-social place to hold a gig on a Monday night. I got home at 3am..... although at least I wasn't driving (thanks Lord B).

Flash, Lord B & SwissToni enjoy sunny Bolton

I can hardly speak this morning. I may have been singing.
We listened to Lord B's iPod on shuffle on the way home, and the first track to come up was "Wind of Change" by the Scorpions, and this was followed pretty quickly by some Roxette and then "5, 6, 7, 8" by Steps. Hmmm. Great start out of 4000 tracks, and in some ways entirely representative of his taste in music.

This got me thinking.... what do the first 10 tracks to come up on shuffle on my iPod say about me?
  • Sorrow - David Bowie
  • White Shadows - Coldplay
  • Good Day Sunshine - The Beatles
  • Golden Thing - Throwing Muses
  • Raw Power - Iggy & The Stooges
  • Beautiful Ones - Suede
  • Land of 1000 Dances - Wilson Pickett
  • One Step Closer - U2
  • Spiderman - The Ramones
  • Fairfax Scene - The Boo Radleys
On balance, I'm happy with that.

Calling all you iPod owners out there.... take the SwissToni Shuffle Challenge.

What do you get?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

righty. A couple of things:

1) I went out to the Nottingham Triathlon Club's open water swimming session at Colwick Water this evening. You might remember that the last time I put on my wetsuit and went out into a lake, I got the fear, and nearly stopped. With the London Triathlon now about a month away, I'm running out of time to get myself ready to swim 1500m in open water. The session was pretty good; everyone was very friendly, but most importantly I went out and swam the distance across the lake and back twice (probably about 1600m). It wasn't perfect by any means, but I was able to breathe okay and felt relatively comfortable. Things are looking up. I'll be back next week for more practice. My partner at the triathlon, the Ultimate Olympian, has yet to get a wetsuit - nevermind get out into open water. My advice? Pull your finger out mate!

2) The Coldplay lyric competition. Well, frankly I think you have excelled yourselves. I have to tell you that I wasn't really expecting anybody to have a go at this.... (I tried and got a bit bored quite quickly). In the end though, no fewer than 8 of you had a go, and the standard was surprisingly good. There can only be one winner though, so step forward and claim your prize....... John. The judges did enjoy the crazy frog reference, but they liked the rhyming of flew with flue, knew with new, two with tu, board with bored, bored with keyboard, pane with pain... That's amazingly creative and yet staggeringly unimaginative all at the same time. Chris Martin would be proud.

I'm off to see the real thing in Bolton tomorrow in the company of Flash and Lord Bargain. I've been looking forward to it. I'll try not to go on about it too much when I get back. They hardly need the publicity at the moment, do they?

Um. That's your lot.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

and I get sick when I'm around, I can't stand to be around

So I've been watching the Live 8 gig.

Sort of.

Alright, I watched U2 and Macca then popped a video in and went out. But I had it on in the radio. Well. I did when I was in the car.

Anyway, I just got home (having luckily completely missed the Stereophonics) and popped the telly on just in time to see miss Dynamite (tee-hee).

I'm all for trade justice and dropping the debt and everything, but if one more uncritical clown on the TV or the radio comes on and tells me how BRILLIANT the whole thing is, or how AMAZING everything is, so help me God I'm going to go out and get some unfairly traded chocolate or something.

All this uncritical acceptance is immediately making me want to criticise everything about the whole bloody thing. I'd turn over and watch the tennis, only I can't stand all that grunting and screaming that Venus Williams makes either.


**update** this just in.... I never thought I would say these words, but I have just been moved by Will Smith. His introduction to the Philadelphia concert was fantastic.

I maintain my disgust at the ridiculous fawning by the media about how great this all is (and oh look, as if on cue, Travis are on), and I'm not at all sure if these concerts are the best way of going about things, but I'm not going to lose sight of the objective here.... every three seconds in Africa a child dies for want of basic medication that we can buy in our local chemists. The leaders of the G8 nations can help make this stop.

Tony Blair
Jacques Chirac
Vladimir Putin
Gerhard Schroder
George W. Bush
Silvio Berlusconi
Paul Martin
Junichiro Koizumi
Jose Manuel Barroso

When all the concerts are over, when all the crowds have gone home.... these are the guys who can make the difference.

They know what to do.

(and I'll stick to fair trade chocolate, eh?)