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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It's the hap - happiest season of all...

Just in case you hadn't noticed yet, 'tis apparently the season to spend money.

Given that retailers start pushing Christmas at us some point around the end of August, I suppose I'd done pretty well to let all the seasonal hoo-har pass me by thus far.... but it finally got its claws into me today when I suddenly had an inescapable feeling that I should be out buying people presents.

I resisted, of course, but it won't be long before I will be forced to surrender.

When I first started buying gifts for people with my own money I was a classic last minute shopper. I would wait until Christmas Eve before rushing out and getting everything in one go. As time went on I began to take a bit more care over what I bought people. I've never been a long-range planner, and I certainly don't go out into the January sales looking for bargains, but I do try to have a think about what my immediate family might like. Sometimes I wonder why I bother, especially the year where the best thing that I got given was a giant plastic Budweiser money bottle, but there is certainly pleasure to be had in the giving.

I don't think I've got a free weekend between now and Christmas, but at some point I am going have to sit down and have a think about what to get, and then actually brave the shops and try and buy stuff. I suppose I could risk the internet, but as we go into December, I'm less and less inclined to trust their delivery promises.

But for heaven's sake! It's not even December yet and advent hasn't started. Why on earth am I starting to feel pressure to go out shopping?

What are we celebrating again?

I'd go back to Oxfam and pick up something from their range of goats, donkeys, chickens, mango saplings, text books, safe water and the like from their Oxfam Unwrapped range.... and I still might.... it's just that whenever I see their tagline ("famously funusual gifts"), I want to kill someone. Is that so wrong of me? Funusual? is that supposed to be funny? clever? what?

I'm not quite ready to shout "humbug" just yet, but I won't be decking my halls any time soon.

And no, I won't be going to my work Christmas party next week either. Stuff them. They've treated me like an idiot all year, so I'm buggered if I'll be all smiles and have a drink with them - particularly as all they've troubled to organise is a couple of lanes at the local bowling alley and a basket of fries. No thanks.

It's true that no one's actually troubled to chase me to see if I'm coming or not yet.... but I'm sure my absence will be keenly felt by everyone. That'll teach them to mess with me, eh?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

But I look around me and I see it isn't so....

It's just possible that the rest of the world is already aware of this, but I've just uncovered a fantastic little album:

"Night Ripper" by Girl Talk

Apparently it describes itself as a "plunderphonics party record". Well, I don't know about that (I don't even know what that means, to be honest), but it is fantastic fun. Put simply, it's a mash up record. Except that instead of banging two or three songs together into a vaguely coherent whole, this record takes seven or eight songs at a time ... more... and throws them all into a splendidly joyous mix.

The samples and snippets of song just fly by and are sometimes just fantastically eclectic: alongside 2 Live Crew, 50 Cent and 2Pac, we've got Wings ("Silly Love Songs", no less!), Paula Abdul, Elastica, Oasis, Foo Fighters, Phil Collins Kelis, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Marky Mark, The Pixies, Britney... there's literally hundreds of them.

2 Many DJs is kind of hard to beat, but this is really good.

Amazingly, if one review I've read is to be believed, these samples have been used without clearance. Apparently the label are prepared for any potential litigation by arming themselves with a "Fair Use" argument, citing an artist's right to liberally sample in the creation of new works.

Good luck with that (especially as I heard a bit of "Bittersweet Symphony" on there... The Rolling Stones legal team have probably already been on the phone... 100% royalties sound reasonable for a 10 second snippet to you?)

Still. It sounds great - well worth a look.

Monday, November 27, 2006

how do you sleep at night?

It’s just about gone half-nine on a Monday evening and I’m giving some serious thought to giving the day up as a bad job and hitting the sack.

32 years old and it looks as though my Monday is going to consist of the following: get up, go to work, sit in meetings all day, go home, have tea, go to bed. That’s not much of a life really, is it?

The solution to my tiredness is simple of course. The only problem is that I don’t do early nights: I’m a night owl and I’m only rarely in bed much before midnight. Many is the night that I have found myself pointlessly up late in front of the laptop or the telly (or both) just pottering about and busy doing nothing much. Somehow I find that much more relaxing than sleeping. I get little enough time to myself, so this time spent doing what I want to do is precious. I need time to unwind; time for my brain to process the day.

As if I didn’t stay up late enough already, I have had even more opportunities for late nights recently as England have been playing Australia in the First Test in the 2006/7 Ashes Series in Brisbane. The first ball of each day’s play is delivered at around about midnight UK time, and the last ball is delivered at around 7am. After the excitement of the 2005 Ashes, apparently lots of people have been staying up late or setting their alarms early so that they can take in a bit of the action.

Not me.

I watched the first half hour or so of the first day’s play when I got in from the Bluetones the other night, and I watched an hour or so on Friday night, but that’s it. The rest of the time I’ve just gone to bed. Partly this is because England have been pretty dreadful from the moment Steve Harmison delivered the first ball of the match straight to second slip, but mainly this is because I’ve been too knackered to sit up and watch it.

I think maybe I need a holiday.

Or an early night.

Oh crap. Would you look at that – as I write this, it’s already gone half nine ten eleven (bloody blogger!) and my early night has long disappeared into the distance.

Oh well.


If you like music, do go and check out “Oh” - Russ L’s blog. Russ might have vehemently disagreed with my prosecution of R’n’B on the Art of Noise the other day, but that's okay. I can’t say that I agreed with all of the points he raised, and I was a touch taken aback by the ferocity of his reply, but I've recovered now. I admire his passion and I want to doff my cap to him. Passion is a good thing in my books.

Definitely worth a look - he is the "R'n'B Doctor" after all.....

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I've got the ill communications...

My parents are visiting this weekend. Amongst other things, my dad brought up a copy of the neurologist's report on me that he was copied in on (you might remember that I saw this guy back in early October). I hadn't actually seen this yet, so naturally I was curious.

Here it is in full:


"Thank you very much for referring this pleasant young gentleman who had an episode of transverse myelitis in 2005. This has left him with residual symptoms. He is a right-handed IT consultant. In June 2005, he woke up and noticed parathesia [pins & needles] in the right arm, which slowly spread out to involve the whole arm, trunk, thigh and knee and then went over to the left side, which involved the hand. Initially there was an improvement, but that was incomplete, and he has residual symptoms. These appeared to be more prominent recently and in part that might be explained by him continuing to perform strenuous exercise.

You saw him and noticed that he had an examination consistent with myelitis. You obtained an MRI scan, which indeed showed an inflammatory lesion in the cervical spinal cord as well as some subtle changes in the brain including some enlargement of the posterior body and occipital horns of the lateral ventricles with a slightly corpus phallic appearance. There was possibly some signal change in that area.

He continues to have primarily sensory problems in the arms and legs, but as I mentioned, he is very active. He was originally training for triathlon and he continues to play football, runs and swims. He can still do all of this, but not at the same intensity and he gets tired more readily. He denies any difficulty with eyesight. His past medical history is notable for campylobater food poisoning with severe diarrhoea lasting for about 2 or 3 weeks with major weight loss from which he never recovered. At the time of his infection, in the period following it, shortly he denied any neurological symptoms. Since 1995/6 he has low back pain and is seeing an osteopath and exercise appears to help.

Family history is notable for his mother having some heart problems. There is also a history of glaucoma in his mother. He has brothers who are all about 6 foot tall, but not necessarily as thin, as in fact, he lost weight after the campylobacter infection. They also all wear glasses. There is questionable Marfan's feature, which potentially could explain the low back pain.

He takes no medication. He has no known drug allergies and has had no pets. He does not smoke and drinks about 15 units a week. His walking distance is practically unlimited.

More recently he reports night sweats in the last few months. He also reports L'Hermitte's phenomenon.

On examination visual acuity was 6/5 in both eyes corrected. Cranial nerves and brain stem were normal. Power was potentially only very slightly reduced in the left ankle dorsi flexion and he had some slight difficulty, mostly subjective, hopping more than 10 times on the left foot. His gait was normal. The reflexes were ever so slightly brisker on the left. He had decreased vibration in both lower extremities, mostly on the right and slightly decreased pin prick on the right leg. He denies bladder or bowel problems, memory or mood disturbances currently. He does report some fatigue.

EDSS 2.0. [this is a scoring system to guage suitability for interferon treatment. >2.0 is needed to be considered suitable]

I think he has transverse myelitis and that the symptoms are only the residual symptoms from that event, with no current evidence of dissemination in space or time to fulfil the criteria for multiple sclerosis. He knows, however, the implications of his condition. It is difficult to assess the risk of this recurrence becoming multiple sclerosis, given the only very subtle changes in the brain MRI.

I advised him to continue leading a normal life, which he appears to be doing anyway. He is somewhat concerned as to why he has residual symptoms that tend to be even more prominent, but I think it is reassuring that he does not have any new neurological problems since the event in 2005.

I am obtaining a number of blood tests. This will include ganglioside antibodies, which can be triggered by campylobacter infection, but the significance for of that for spinal cord rather than peripheral demyelination is unclear."


What are you supposed to make of that then, do you think?

I've had the blood tests back, and they were "negative or normal", which is good and rules some of the more unusual things out. This leaves me in the same boat as I was before --- we wait to see if this turns out to be something more than a solitary episode.

My dad takes this as being good news, and I suppose it is. Well, it's not worse news, anyway.

Friday, November 24, 2006

la la-la la, warm it up...

Earworms of the Week

10. "Talk Tonight" - Oasis

Look. I'm not a big fan of Oasis, but for some reason I've heard this song twice this week, and on both occasions I found myself singing along. I'm not proud of it, but there you go.... the rules say it's in your head, it's on the list.

I don't make the rules.

Oh, wait. Yes I do....

9. "Marblehead Johnson" - The Bluetones

This is in my head for the rather obvious reason that I saw them live on Wednesday night. Just as it did the last time I saw them, this is the song that sticks in my head. I seem to remember that the video for this song featured the band as fat people, and always seemed slightly at odds with the downbeat lyrical content. Is that right, or did I dream it? Oh, yes... it is right!

8. "Tranquilizer" - Geneva

As recommended by Lord Bargain over on the "Songs to Learn and Sing" feature on Sweeping the Nation. I was only vaguely aware of this lot at the time, but this song seems to have stood up pretty well. I'm pretty sure the lyricist is an advocate of the old "cut and paste" routine where you write down random snippets of lyrics, put them all in a hat and then write a song out of the bits that you pull out.

"Until it all seemed pointless we lifted up the mattress
from underneath the window seat
'is this what checkmate means?' she said
lighting up again, 'yes I like the stalemate'"


7. "Fat Children" - Jarvis

A song about having your mobile phone stolen by fat kids. It could only be Jarvis Cocker. The world's definitely a better place with him in it.

6. "Rosé" - The Feeling

I've read that this song can be interpreted as a hymn to sexual confusion.

"The white to your left
The red to your right
Are all that I'd seen
Til I realised the love that I seek
Lies right in-between"

Hmmm. Could be, right?

On the other hand, this being a song by The Feeling, I think it is entirely possible that this song is simply about the wine.

"'Cos your as good as the rest
And you're much better dressed
I think pink is my colour
I wont drink from no other

Or is it?

Whatever. It's catchy.

5. "Junk Shop Clothes" - The Auteurs

I've said it before, but I absolutely adore "New Wave". I think it's one of the best albums in my collection, and every single time I put it on is a delight. "Showgirl" is probably my favourite song, but when I played the album on my iPod the other day, this is the one that lodged itself in my head. I love the way that the music conjures up for me an image of lazily slouching around thrift shops on a rainy afternoon. It's leisurely and it's gorgeous.

Worth inclusion just for this lyric.

"Lenny Bruce never walked
In a dead man’s shoes
Even for one night"

4. "Patience" - Take That

It's not exactly as high-octane as some of their classics, but it's so simple and so pleasant that I caught myself lustily singing along to it in the car the second time I heard it.... so I'd best have it on the list, eh?

It's not "Back For Good", but frankly what is?

3. "Crazy In Love" - Beyonce Knowles

Ah. What follows is something of an R'n'B triptych. All three songs came into my head at various points in the last week as a result of my ultimately unsuccessful prosecution of the genre over on The Art of Noise.

I knew the second that I sat down to write my case that I was on a hiding to nothing. Not only did I have a - now I came to think about it - rather limited knowledge of the genre I was supposed to be attacking, but the whole idea of judging music as a genre is a bit silly and smothering.

I tried to be careful and limit the damage by excluding as much as I reasonably could and by making it clear I knew I was on a fool's errand... but I still managed to get someone excited. Dear oh dear.

Del is right though - this is an absolutely killer record.

2. "Ebony & Ivory" - Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder

You might be wondering how this one popped into my head during a discussion on R'n'B. Well, no sooner had our old friend Damo quoted Ben Folds as saying "There is good in nearly everyone" than **BANG** there it was, in my head.

"We All Know That People Are The Same Where Ever We Go
There Is Good And Bad In Ev'ryone,
We Learn To Live, We Learn To Give
Each Other What We Need To Survive
Together Alive...."

Mmm. Wise words.

1. "Milkshake" - Kelis

....ah. I think this is a great song and a fantastic video. That's it.

Her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, you know. She could teach you, but she'd have to charge.

Do you know what? She's not talking about Frijj, is she?

Who said R'n'B was all bad? Let me at 'em! Let me at 'em!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

gives shitty mileage but come on let's get inside....

I mentioned the other day how I was thinking of buying a Mini. This naturally prompted a little bit of debate about how:

1) The Mini is a girl's car


2) Even if it was a man's car, is it really a tall man's car?

Well, I'm still thinking about it.

The Mini Mark II was released in the UK at the weekend, and I took one for a test drive. This time around, I made sure we took the camera, so you can see for yourself whether or not I look absolutely ridiculous.

Now, I know that the Mini is a small car - and anyone sitting behind me has definitely drawn the short straw - but in terms of the driving position itself, this car is at least as roomy as my Ford Focus.

It's a nice little car, and I'm sorely tempted.

What do you reckon? A Mini Cooper in British Racing Green with a white roof and two white bonnet stripes?

I think I just might.....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

but just for a short while....

The Bluetones @ Nottingham Rescue Rooms, 22nd November 2006

I think the Bluetones are ace. Where many other bands in the same position might have given up the ghost years ago, the Bluetones are still plugging away. The band had their biggest hit ("Slight Return") way back in 1996. It made it all the way to number two, only being held off the top spot only by Babylon Zoo's Levi Jeans powered hit, "Spaceman". Their debut album, "Expecting to Fly" debuted at number one, and although they've had seven top twenty hits in all, you might say that it's been all downhill since.

You might say that, but I'd say that you were wrong: The Bluetones may not trouble the chart much any more, but I think that they've been getting better and better. "Luxembourg" is a fantastic album, for starters, and the new album has been getting some excellent reviews.

Look at the songs: as well as "Slight Return", the Bluetones are able to offer up stuff as good as "Solomon Bites The Worm", "Bluetonic", "Marblehead Johnson", "Never Going Nowhere", "Autophilia" and "Cut Some Rug".

They're a good show too. They don't pretend to be something that they are not, and they just seem comfortable enough with themselves and with their fanbase to just get on with their set. Singer Mark Morriss has an easy banter with the crowd - responding to a fan's request by interrupting their setlist to play "Autophilia" but then also calmly ignoring the same fan as he tried to dictate what came next for the rest of the set.

What else can I say? They were good. I saw them last November, on the same day that Sarah found out that her request for a sabbatical had been accepted. Well, she's in Vietnam at the moment, and today was her birthday. Happy Birthday Sarah - Lord B and I both raised a glass to you, and, if we'd told them, I'm sure that the Bluetones would have done too.


And now, if you'll excuse me, my attention is being drawn to the small matter of the first ashes test of the 2006/7 series between Australia and England at the Gabba in Brisbane. It's nearly half-past twelve in the morning and I have to be at work tomorrow, but it's the Ashes innit? No Monty Panesar, we lost the toss and Steve Harmison opened up with a wide... but we can still do it, right?

Monday, November 20, 2006

how can we dance when our earth is turning?

Heavyweight political commentator though I undoubtedly am, I was still a little surprised today to find an unusual number of people flocking here from AntiWar.com.

A little further investigation revealed that I am being used as a reference for the article "Conflict in the Caucasus: First Battleground in the New Cold War?"

Why? Because I am one of the leading internet resources on Abkhazia, of course -- in this case it is my expertise on the origins of Abkhazia in ancient Colchis, the home of the Golden Fleece.

I don't mean to make light of one of the nastiest conflicts in Europe, it's just that I had no idea quite how far an argument in a the pub about which country came first in an alphabetical list was going to take me.

The antiwar.com article itself is actually quite interesting. It highlights the conflicts in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia - both autonomous regions of Georgia struggling for their independence. The ethnic Russians in South Ossetia have been calling for reunification with Russia. Apparently Senator John McCain was over there in August and dipped his oar into the debate:
"I think that the attitude there is best described by what you see by driving in [Tskhinvali]: a very large billboard with a picture of Vladimir Putin on it, which says 'Vladimir Putin Our President.' I do not believe that Vladimir Putin is now, or ever should be, the president of sovereign Georgian soil."
As the article points out, "Is it really the role of a U.S. senator to decide what is and is not 'sovereign Georgian soil'?"

The article goes on to suggest that the real reason for US interest here is an attempt to exclude Russia from the oil bonanza in Central Asia and to claim the region as a viable alternative source of energy to the Middle East. The conclusion is stark:
"What seems like a small, obscure dispute could balloon into a major crisis because of the stakes involved. The rising amount of U.S. aid to Georgia greatly aids Saakashvili's military buildup: his belligerence begs for a stern rebuke, perhaps an aid cutoff. It's time to rein in this would-be Napoleon-of-the-steppes and nip Georgian imperialism in the bud – before it destabilizes what is, after all, a volatile region. If John McCain, George Soros, Anne Applebaum, and the usual neoconservative suspects have their way, Georgia may be the first battleground of a revived Cold War. The problem is that the conflict may turn hot with frightening swiftness."
Whilst I take some of what I read here with a pinch of salt, I still find it staggering how little I knew about this - it's not exactly at the top of the news agenda at the moment, is it?

It's amazing what you can learn in the pub.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

it's cool for cats...

Crumble, 1990-2006.

She may have been a merciless terroriser of rabbits, but she was always perfectly nice to me. Well, except for those times when she pinged me with a claw just enough for it to really hurt. Or when she grabbed me with her front paws and scrabbled me furiously with her back legs. Or when she stopped licking me just long enough to suddenly bite me....

Well, she was a cat....

She may have been a capricious creature, but I'll miss her. I'll miss her strangely silent miaow and the little chirrupping noise she made when she jumped on the bed.

your love is the bullet, my love is the gun...

After the brilliant success of the A-Z of music, The Art of Noise has recently started a new series: "In the Dock". Every week something musical is put on trial, cases are put for the prosecution and for the defence, and then votes are cast in the comments.

So far, not only did our very own Lord Bargain do a great job of prosecuting The Beatles, but the Eurovision song contest and songs with associated dance moves were both acquitted and the Levellers were found guilty of all charges (and were hopefully executed in a slow and painful way).

This week, R'n'B is in the dock. I'm prosecuting and Del is defending.

Usher - it's all about the music, ladies, not the crochet hat

Go and have a look and please cast your vote. I'm not asking you to vote for me.... just go and read the arguments and make up your own mind.

.....all I ask is that as you do make up your mind, please do have Mariah Carey, R.Kelly and Usher records playing on a loop in your head.


Friday, November 17, 2006

the coldest blood runs through my veins....

Earworms of the Week

10. "Love Machine" - Girls Aloud

Stupidly catchy song. I found myself singing in the office about "lovestruck kittie cats" and knew that resistance was futile. I may live to regret this when it inevitably comes up on shuffle at a party or something, but this song now lives on my iPod.

Pop genius.

9. "England's Glory" - Max Wall

This is song that I discovered via Sweeping the Nation's second covermount - a playlist of songs that are all lists (which also includes things like "Reasons to be Cheerful, part III" by Ian Dury and the Blockheads, "The Booklovers" by the Divine Comedy, "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel and the absolutely ace "His Indie World" by Mary Lou Lord.)

It's a list, of course. It's very music hall, and the lyrics are a slightly bonkers name-check of all things English. "Winkles, Woodbines, Walnut Whips, Vera Lynn and Stafford Cripps."

Very funny.

8. "I Love It When You Call" - The Feeling

Do I have to go into details? He loves it when you call.

7. "Waiting for the Moving Van" - David Ackles

Another one discovered on Sweeping the Nation. This one was the first entry in the "Songs to Learn and Sing" series, where every day in November, a different writer recommends an essential song that you might have missed. I'd never heard of this guy, but the song is **brilliant**.

It's beautiful and it's heartbreaking. Go and check it out.

6. "Red War" - Probot feat. Max Cavelera

A very different kettle of fish to David Ackles. Probot is Dave Grohl's heavy metal side-project. An album of songs done in an old school 80s metal stylee, each track sung by a different guest vocalist. This one features Sepultura's Max Cavalera.

It's epic.

Altogether now:


5. "Enter Sandman" - Metallica


4. "In The Sun (Gulf Coast Relief)" - Michael Stipe feat. Coldplay

I was taping "Grey's Anatomy" for C. the other night and was pottering about with the telly on in the background. My attention was suddenly grabbed by the soundtrack when I heard a voice that sounded distinctly like Chris Martin's. I checked on the website, and there it was: a track recorded to raise funds for those affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast. Somehow I managed to miss Stipe's contribution to the song entirely, only picking it up when I watched the video with C. a bit later on.

Nice song. Good cause.

3. "Rehab" - Amy Winehouse

Bargs hates this, but I think it's brilliant. What an amazing voice *and* her band dress in the coolest outfits.

I wonder where she got the inspiration, eh?

2. "Make Your Own Kind of Music" - Mama Cass

It's not hard to see where this one came from: the third series of "Lost" begins on UK tv on Sunday night. Unlike "Lost", this song is short, simple and sweet.

Yes, obviously I'll be watching.

1. "You Know My Name" - Chris Cornell

The theme to Casino Royale. Others may disagree, but I think it's a great record.

Look. I've written about it on ace music blog, The Auditorium!


Right. I'm off to man a phone on the Children in Need Call Centre.... do ring and make a donation. I believe you have something like a 1 in 3000 chance of getting through to me directly.

0845 733 2233

Don't worry if you don't get me at first: I'm there until 2am, so just keep trying!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

all I wanted was some evidence that you're really like me (you really liked me)


The Feeling @ Nottingham Rock City, 16th November 2006

I first saw The Feeling at the Social back in March this year, just as their single "Sewn" was breaking into the charts. I remember thinking they were pretty good, but being mildly amused that they were quite so retro.
Snigger if you want, but there's definitely more than a little hint of 1970s MOR about their sound. Sometimes it's just blatant theft. I honestly didn't think it was impossible that they would play a cover of "Life is a Minestrone".
There were maybe 200 people there that night. Rock City holds about 2,000 people, and tonight it was absolutely pumping. Well, I say pumping, but actually it would be more accurate to say that it was gently swaying. We arrived just as the band were playing their first song. The venue was crammed to the rafters, but instead of being full of sweaty indie kids all pushing to get to the front, it was filled with lots of 30-something year old couples, politely sipping on their drinks and maintaining a discreet distance from the people around them. It was a bit weird, and made the place appear fuller than it actually was. It also made it something of a struggle to get to the bar (especially as they started playing "Fill My Little World" just as we started to move) .

The gigs I usually go to are a largely male affair. Sure, there are women there, but they are usually outnumbered five to one. This evening, it was at least 50:50 - maybe more (although oddly, there were also a surprising number of fat blokes with bad haircuts. Go figure). It made quite a pleasant change actually (although I have to confess that the indie snob in me was just a tiny bit embarrassed to be there... I knew I should have worn a Mogwai t-shirt or something)

The band? They were good. They reproduce their album very efficiently, but they also do a nice little show. Dan Gillespie-Sells really went for it: throwing himself around the stage, spinning in circles as he played each guitar solo, climbed on the monitors and drum riser at every possible opportunity and scissor-kicking down as the rest of the band sang tight little "ooooh ooooh, ahhh ahhh" harmonies around him. The crowd lapped it up. I've not seen a band so well received at Rock City for a long time. On occasion, the screaming was at such a high pitch that you could almost close your eyes and imagine you were watching a boyband.

The songs? Well, it's impossible not to smile when listening to The Feeling, but there's no denying that they are the cheesiest band I have ever had the pleasure of watching perform live. Lord B described them as the M.O.R. version of The Darkness, and that's an excellent comparison. Like The Darkness, the joke worked brilliantly for one album, but it will be fascinating to see if they can sustain the interest with the second album. The Darkness failed dismally and disappeared straight up their own noses. I wonder if The Feeling will be any different. If the one new song they played is anything to go by, they won't be changing the formula any time soon. Who can blame them? Their career is going very nicely, thank you very much. Songs like "Sewn", "Fill My Little World" and "I Love It When You Call" are just irresistible. And as if that wasn't enough, they also played a cover of "Video Killed the Radio Star". Game, set and match.

Fun, but they really are sickly, sickly sweet.

6.5 / 10.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

hang on to your ego...

I just got an email from one of the characters in my 2005 Nano Novel. Not one of the people who formed the basis for any of the characters, but one of the characters themselves, who had apparently been reading some of the extracts that I published elsewhere.

"Hello swiss (as i don't know your proper name),
I was reading your contribution on Reader Meet Author (which is incidently very good) and was just wondering where you got the name Ben Brundle from as it is the same name as mine?"

Ah, nothing quite like a spot of ego surfing, is there?

Here's my first hit on Google:

"[insert real name here - let's say it's ST for now, eh?] had spent most of his adult life working for Norfolk Southern, one of the largest railway companies in the United States. He did not finish high school and, after short stints in the Navy and the fire department, he worked as a trackman for Norfolk Southern for 27 years.

ST's career ended abruptly on a November 1, 1999 on an Indiana country road when the dump truck he was driving slipped off the narrow road after ST avoided a near collision with a second vehicle owned by Norfolk. ST's truck dropped down into a ditch and rolled over, injuring his neck and back. He underwent several operations, including one to fuse two discs in his neck.

Reached on the telephone, ST declined to discuss the details of the accident, but said the fact that his case made it all the way to the Supreme Court keeps reminding him of the accident that took place nearly seven years ago. “I still have to live with this painful experience,” he said....."

Wow. Talk about a parallel universe. I was awarded $1.5m apparently, although the railway are appealing and the case has yet to be finally settled. I know who I'm rooting for, anyway.

There's the basis of my 2007 Nano, right there.

No. On second thoughts, forget that I said that. I refuse to commit this early! It's too soon.

Oh, and Ben... if you happen across this too one day, welcome! It was nothing personal, I promise you. Any similarities to characters, real or imagined, are purely coincidental....

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Indigo burns on their arms

It’s exactly three years to the day since I got my tattoo.

I’d been thinking about it for some time. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted, but I knew I wanted to get something done. C. said that if I was going to get one done, I should go to a tattoo parlour that she came across when she lived in Amsterdam. Apparently they had done an outstanding job of her friend’s belly button piercing, and had an excellent reputation. Amsterdam is of course an old port, and tattoos have long been associated with sailors. Historically (and not very surprisingly) the best tattooists have tended to set up shop in ports. If I was going to get a tattoo done, then going to Amsterdam somehow seemed like a better idea to me than going into a tattoo parlour I knew nothing about in landlocked Nottingham.

So I waited. About nine months after that conversation, I happened to be in Amsterdam for a certain person’s 30th birthday and I decided to go for it. I had a look in the tattoo parlour, found a design that I really liked and took it from there. About 90 minutes later and I was marked for life. It didn’t hurt much – it feels a bit like having mild sunburn – and although I was nervous, I was enormously encouraged by something that happened when a guy and his girlfriend came into the shop when I had just sat in the chair. The guy who was tattooing me paused for a moment to have a chat with them. “Let me see it then” says the tattooist to the man, and the guy rolled up his sleeve to display a tattoo that he had had done the year before. We were all very impressed that the tattooist had remembered this guy. It turns out this guy had been so happy with his tattoo that he had brought his girlfriend all the way over from France to have her first tattoo done. When you hear that kind of thing, you know you’ve come to the right place.

It was an extremely positive experience for me. From the first moment I looked at the tattoo on my arm, I loved it. It made me feel slightly different then, and it still makes me feel slightly different now. Tattoos are everywhere of course, but mine is pretty discreet and is almost always safely tucked away underneath my clothes. But I know it’s there, and that’s what matters to me.

Mind you, I still haven’t told my parents.... It just hasn’t ever really come up in conversation, y’know?

Monday, November 13, 2006

don't dream it's over

My Nano novel is now finished. It’s been officially validated at 50, 152 words. That’s it. Phew.

Well. I say finished, but actually it really just stops. There has been absolutely no plot resolution of any kind and all of the various threads that I have laboriously constructed have been left swinging in the breeze. As of now, I have no intention of finishing off the story. Nor do I intend to go back and churn through some of the mountains dreadful writing and flimsy plotting that I know is in there.

The fact that the ‘finished novel’ contains the following piece of dialogue, I think it says it all:

“Yes Gwilym. Do try to keep up. These are the rats that I was telling you about, the ones that I met this afternoon”.
“The same rats you met this afternoon?”
“Doesn’t that strike you as a touch unbelievable? Of all the rats that must live in York, that we bump into the same two that you happen to have met this afternoon?”
John thought for a moment. “Yes, I suppose it does, but here they are. What can you do?”

I think the bones of a story are in there somewhere, and I think that with some work it could maybe be turned into something. Right now though, I just can’t be arsed to go back and do the editing and re-working that would be necessary to turn it into something usable. It’s time to take a break.

I’m keeping it though – perhaps in a folder marked “juvenalia”. One day, perhaps, I will return to it and find out what happens.


I do like that talking raven though. He's called Arthur.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

even if nobody else sings along....

44,154. And a run. And a game of golf. And some shopping. And some friends round for dinner.

Yay for me.

On one level, the end is very much in sight now. On every other level, the end seems miles away. Every time I write, I seem to get stuck in the trivial details of ordinary life. Interesting in its own right, I suppose, but it doesn't do much to drive the plot forwards.

In other words, my word count is rising fast, but my story is going nowhere.

Oh well. At least it will be over soon. Then perhaps I'll be able to find something else to talk about.


Actually, in spite of how I sound about this, I have been very glad to be taking part. I think that this kind of forced creativity has done me some good. I've been moaning about how I should write more since I finished my last Nano novel. It's a fair bet that if I wasn't taking part this year, I wouldn't have written a damn word. If there are 1,000 words out of the 50,000 that are worth keeping, then I think the whole thing has been worth it.

What I don't really understand is why Brian is so intent on getting this thing done as quickly as possible. I think I'll probably be finished sometime on Monday, and then I will watch with a touch of envy as everyone else churns through their word counts for the end of the month.

I'll definitely miss it when I've finished though.

Friday, November 10, 2006

but you never call at all

Evening all. 37,134 39,103 40,181 41,379 words and counting.

I've just got long enough between chapters to swing by here and introduce this week's Guest Editor. Suffice it to say that he's the only person on the whole of the internet who has interested me enough to download 100% of their podcast output. Yes, I have both of them. They're aces!

Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, DJ Nite himself.....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #48 - Del from Delrico Bandito

Oooh, another go! Well, I'm delighted to be asked back. Here's what's currently infecting my brain...

10. The Strokes - 'What Ever Happened'

I was brought back to this little firecracker by a trailer for Sofia Coppolla's Marie Antoinette. I've yet to see the movie, but this has remained lodged in my mind. The first track off The Strokes' underrated second album, the riff is absolutely wonderful. One of their best tracks. As a soundtrack to the angst of the privileged, it's hard to think of a more appropriate choice. (Ooh, you bitch!)

9. The Killers - 'When You Were Young (The Lindbergh Dub Mix)'

One of those remixes that dispenses with the vast majority of the song, keeps the chord sequence, and a few lines of the vocal, and just entrances you for 7 minutes. The original is great, but this is a perfect exercise in teasing out previously hidden depths of a song for the dance floor.

8. Carter USM - 'The Only Living Boy In New Cross'

USM stands for "Unstoppable Sex Machine'. Yeah, the rules were different in the early 90's. I rediscovered this on 12 inch in Camden's Music and Video exchange a few months back. For some reason it just won't leave my consciousness. It sounds remarkably dated, the indie-dance backing hasn't aged well, but it's so vibrant it's irresistible. The "all human life is here" lyrics sound almost quaint in 2006. I am the only living boy in Stroud Green.

7. My Chemical Romance - 'Teenagers'

Heehee. I love the album! I really do. Emo, punk, hardcore, whatever, I'll let the purists argue. All I know is that this is an anthem in the waiting. Come on now, sing along!

They said all teenagers scare
The living shit out of me
They could care less
As long as someone'll bleed
So darken your clothes
Or strike a violent pose
Maybe they'll leave you alone, but not me.

Damn right! The emokids are alright, you know. This is genius. Wonderful black humour coupled with a killer tune. Dismiss them at your peril, these guys really know what they're doing.

6. Dubstar - 'Stars'

Ah, a little bit of Britpop era nostalgia, why not? Except these guys were more about the Pet Shop Boys than the Beatles. No bad thing. Inspired by a youtube clip sent to me by a uni friend. Part of the Sheffield tradition of kitchen sink realism looking up to the sky, from the Human League, through Pulp to the Arctic Monkeys. I remember buying this on single and playing it to death. And here we are again...

5. The Pixies - 'La La Love You'

After watching their loudQUIETloud tour movie, I happily journeyed through this great band's back catalogue. I don't know why this sticks in my mind, but it does. The most unlikely seductive offering I can imagine! It's somehow sexy and romantic and silly without losing any of their trademark caustic edge. Just delicious.

4. Hot Chip - 'And I Was A Boy From School'

Hot Chip again? They've obviously discovered the 'Earworm' button on the mixing desk. I love this. Reminds me a bit of Underworld, which is a good place to start. But moving past the blissful bleeps, it's got a great hook, which refuses to let go, and vocals which prove that dance music needs more harmonies.

3. Crowded House - 'Distant Sun'

'Tell me all the things you would change, I don't pretend to know what you want...'

A real perennial favourite ever since I first heard it on a Now album tape millions of years ago. Takes me back to crackly Virgin AM under the covers. Underrated doesn't even begin to describe Neil Finn and his band.

2. McFly - 'Stargirl'

Yay! The obligatory pop embarrassment. Never been a big fan, to be honest, but equally never felt the urge to really stick the boot in on them. No harm in having our own Monkees, is there? This is cheeky and enthusiastic to the extreme. And the line about "falling in love with Uranus" deserves an Ivor Novello song writing award. And there's horns as well! Ace! More brass in pop! And one of them shagged Lindsay Lohan! Hahaha! Fair play, really. Great. "Oooh, oooh, oooh!"

1. The Feeling - 'I Love It When You Call'

So far in front, I was tempted to enter it 10 times and be done with it. I thought 'Fill My Little World' was a one off, and my dealings with The Feeling were well and truly done. But then this hits the Radio 1 playlist and BLAM, it...just... won't... get out... of... my... HEAD!

I'm singing it as I wake up, on the way to work, through my lunch hour, on the tube home, and in my sleep. There's bits nicked from every guilty pleasures band I can think of, but it's so hearteningly genuine and loveable, that by the time the twin guitar solo comes along, I'm dancing around playing air piano over the end.

He loves it when you call.

Oh woah!

Thanks for having me back. Luckily I checked back over my previous entry, otherwise Fleetwood Mac's 'Everywhere' could've appeared again, which would've been embarrassing for all concerned. Clearly an uber-earworm. Either that or I need to widen my playlist.


Thanks Del. A great list (and McFly). Incidentally, anyone who thinks YouTube wasn't worth whatever Google paid for it a month or so ago obviously hasn't been looking at how all pervasive it has become. 'Top Of The Pops' on demand, with none of the songs you hate? Brilliant!! Earworm posts have certainly become a lot more interactive round these parts recently, anyway.

Next week: someone else.

[Previous Guest Editors: Flash, The Urban Fox, Lord Bargain, Retro-Boy, Statue John, Ben, OLS, Ka, Jenni, Aravis, Yoko, Bee, Charlie, Tom, Di, Spin, The Ultimate Olympian, Damo, Mike, RedOne, The NumNum, Leah, Le Moine Perdu, clm, Michael, Hyde, Adem, Alecya, bytheseashore, adamant, Earworms of the Year 2005, Delrico Bandito, Graham, Lithaborn, Phil, Mark II, Stef, Kaptain Kobold, bedshaped, I have ordinary addictions, TheCatGirlSpeaks, Lord B rides again, Tina, Charlie II, Cody Bones, Poll Star, Jenni II, Martin]

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm like a bird...

34, 056.

The good news is that I've thought of a plot outline for the next 15,000 words. The bad news is that I have no idea how it ends. I think the odds on reaching 50,000 words and just finishing are quite good.

You want an extract? I warn you: it's very, very silly.

Really? Don't say I didn't warn you:


He looked up the street. It wasn’t much of a street at all really, it was more of a small square, backing onto a church. Just alongside the church was a tiny passageway that John thought led up towards the Shambles. It was one of York’s famous ‘Snickleways’, the warren of tiny little passages and cut-throughs that turned the old medieval streets in the centre of York into a labyrinth. This one was not lit and bordered onto the churchyard. Perhaps this was the snickleway that the little man had meant? As he watched, he saw a shape sitting on the wall. He peered into the gloom. It was too small to be a person? Was it a cat? A rat perhaps? He took a few steps forwards and took another look, peering dimly up the alleyway at the shape on the wall.
“What do you think you’re looking at, eh?”
John jumped back and looked around to see both who was speaking and who they were speaking to.
“Oi. I’m talking to you, you big ninny. Come here and let me have a good look at you.”
John hesitated for a second. “Me?” He raised a hand to his chest and gestured at himself.
“Yes you, you nugget. You see anyone else around here, do you? No. There’s no bugger here but you. And me. ‘Cept I’m not sure as I count, you see.”
John peered up the alleyway again. The shape sat on the wall shifted slightly, and then spoke.
“Oh for God’s sake. Stop bloody staring at me will you. And don’t make me shout either – it plays murder on my voice. Come here. One foot in front of the other. Hop to it. One, two. One, two.”
It was definitely coming from the shape on the wall. Surely someone was taking the piss? He looked around again. Of course, there must be someone just the other side of the wall. Well, it wasn’t bloody funny. He wasn’t having this.
“Yeah, very funny. You can come out now. I’m not playing this stupid game. Who are you and what do you want?”
There was silence for a moment, and then the shape on the wall peeled out of a shadow and began to hop sideways towards him along the wall. Within a couple of hops he could see more clearly what it was. It was a crow, or perhaps a raven. It hopped a bit further along the wall and peered at him with its head slightly on one side. What light there was glinted off the beady black eyes as the bird studied John.
“Well, if you don’t mind me saying so, you’re not much to look at. I was expecting more.”
“I…” began John. His mind was reeling as his rational brain began to go into shutdown. It was real. There was no one hiding behind the church wall. He was being addressed by a bird. A bird, what’s more, that was wanting to engage him in conversation.
“Cat got your tongue?”
“Oh please. Will you just get over it. I’m a bloody raven. You’re talking to a bloody raven. Deal with it will you, or this is going to be an exceedingly dull conversation. For me, anyway.”
“You can talk!”
The raven rolled its eyes and made a tutting noise.
“Jesus…” it said, slightly under it’s breath, then, louder, “Yes I can talk. Yes I’m a bird. Anything else you feel then need to say, Captain Obvious?”
John thought for a moment. “Um, no. Not really”
Lots of questions flashed through John’s head, but he could see the bird fixing him with its beady eye, and decided that they were all far too obvious to try to articulate. Okay. So. Here he was in York. It was the middle of the night. He was supposed to be at work in a little over eight hours and he was standing in the middle of a small alleyway chatting to a large bird.
“Um. I suppose so.” A thought occurred. “Are ravens nocturnal?”
“What? You mean like owls? Fuck off! I hate fucking owls. They always act so damn superior. No, I’m not a fucking night owl, and it’s way past my fucking bedtime.”
“Oh. Just asking”
“Right, well. Now you know eh? Fucking owls. Honestly. Right. To business. Do you even know why you’re here”
“Um, no. Well. Yes. Um. Perhaps. I met this guy earlier this evening.”
“Small man? Bearded? Dirty looking?”
“Yes, that’s him”
“Where was he? In the bins?”
“Er. No. He was in the pub. The Hole in the Wall”
The raven made that tutting noise again. “Fucking typical. He’s down the boozer and he meets some clown – no offence – and he thinks this is worth getting me out of bed for? Tell me you didn’t give him any money?”
“Um. Well, yes. I did”
“You did? Oh jesus? You bought him a drink? That’s the last thing I need. He’s not supposed to touch that stuff.”
“No! Nothing like that. I gave him a pound and he played on the quiz machine. We played.”
“Oh fuck. Which one was it? ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’? ‘The Weakest Link’?”
“Is that bad? Why is that bad?”
“Yeah it’s bloody bad. If he gets started on those things he’ll be bloody hopeless for anything else. And if he doesn’t win he’ll be in a mood for weeks.”
“Anything else you need to tell me? Anything else happen in there? If he got me out of my nest just because he owes you a quid, then there will be hell to pay…”
“Well, I suppose. Well, the machine asked a really weird question”
“What? Like a gardening question or something?”
eh? Gardening wasn’t John’s cup of tea, but it was hardly the theatre of the bizarre, was it?
“No. It asked ‘where is it’?”
“Where’s what?”
John shrugged. “I don’t know”
“What happened then? Did he answer?”
“No. He just left”
“Well thank fuck for that. At least he did something right today. Right you. Follow me”
With that, the raven flopped clumsily off the wall and with a flap of its wings began to fly heavily down the alleyway towards The Shambles. About twenty meters down, it landed on a piece of guttering and looked back down the alley towards John.


You see what I mean? Imagine what it's like writing this shit.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

and fade out again...

Oh God.

It's terrible. It's really terrible.

It's all I can bloody think about. I'm bored and it's making me boring.

I'm all written out.

.... another 5,000 words tomorrow? Sure. Why not?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I wanna dream, dream, dream for her....


Halfway there now.

Brian hates me at the moment. My head is mush and my fingers hurt.

Must sleep now.

** 10 minutes later **

Ah, the reviving powers of a cup of tea.

You know how we were talking about personality types the other day? It's just occurred to me that the way that different people approach a deadline like this one (50,000 words by the end of the month) is quite revealing of your personality type. You 'only' need to write 1,700 words a day to hit the target on schedule. Clearly I don't feel comfortable with that approach. The idea of leaving it to the last minute and then trying to crank out 10,000 words in a single evening just fills me with horror.

A quick look back in my archives seems to show that I was much the same last year. I think I only actually finished on 28th November, but by November 8th, I had already cranked out 20,190 words, and by 13th November it was over 30,000. I slowed down a lot over the next couple of weeks as I went to a pile of gigs (including The Bluetones, Starsailor, The Bravery and Dr. Karl!). By the time I went to see Franz Ferdinand, I had finished, but I think that's more than enough to reveal the way that Brian works, don't you?

You other Nano-ers. How are you doing? How are you feeling about the deadline? Relaxed? A bit sweaty and fearful? Speak to me!

you won't ever be the same again...

I've just lost 1,000 words.

I'd cry, only I'm currently thanking all things that are holy that I backed it up earlier and didn't lose more. Never trust a USB memory stick people. Learn from my amateurish mistakes.

It was all drivel, naturally... but still.


Monday, November 06, 2006

so, in conclusion, it's an optical illusion...

I've written a little over 4,000 words this evening and I currently feel as though I have no more words left to write.

asfasf fadrt htshdrzd vdz`fg fhxzdvzx∂ mmm.......szdgs3

The grand total now stands at 19,232 - and I'd like to get to 20k before I call it a night.

To get to the 50,000 words necessary to complete NaNoWriMo on schedule, one has to write at an average rate of 1,666 words a day. When I did this last year, I probably averaged a little over 2,000 words and finished a couple of days early. I seem to be approaching it completely differently this year, and I'm just hell-bent on getting the bloody thing finished. I am currently averaging something like 3,333 words a day. If I keep this up, then I would be on schedule to finish on the 15th November.

It's still not bloody quick enough, and if I could write any faster, I damn well would. I was determined that I wasn't going to take part this year, and I'm vaguely resentful of myself for waking up with a first line in my head on the first of the month. That was just cruel (and stupid) of me. I have absolutely no idea where my plot is going, although I'm actually finding that to be quite liberating.

I think my word-count is inevitably going to drop over the course of the month, but I'm going to do my utmost to get this thing finished as soon as I can. If I feel half as satisfied about finishing as I did last year, then I'm sure it will all have been more than worthwhile. Right now though, it just feels painful.

In plot news, there is a quite long and detailed description of civilised rat society in the City of York. There's also now some lengthy discussion about Tasmanian Leatherwood honey and how it is that the bees are encouraged to only collect the pollen from the leatherwood plant. The beekeeper puts them each into a tiny harness and takes them there on a lead apparently.

Quite where that came from, I don't know, but the words are flowing, so I'm rolling with it.

Analysis on a postcard....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

disappointed, once more....

Right. That's it. I gave it a couple of episodes and swallowed my general scepticism about a 'more adult' Doctor Who spin-off. The alien who fed off orgasmic energy was bad enough, but I just watched tonight's episode on BBC3 and it was utter rubbish.

Sentimental. Stupid. Badly acted. Poorly scripted. The lot. The Cybermen were stupid in the last series of Doctor Who, and they were very ill-advised to bring them back.

Thanks but no thanks.

I have officially decided that Torchwood is shit.

I didn't much care for the last series of Doctor Who either. It started off alright, but the longer it went on, the more I found it to be childish and not half as clever as it thought it was.

There, I've said it.


15, 042 words. There's now a talking raven. He hasn't met the talking rats yet though.

well there's only so much drama I can stand....

We Are Scientists @ Nottingham Rock City, Saturday 4th November 2006

Never let it be said that I don't learn from my mistakes: I usually roll up to gigs at Rock City at around half-nine and still have time to get a drink in before the main act takes to the stage. I discovered the flaw in this plan at the last Saturday gig I went to at Rock City. The Futureheads are (well, were - I'm not such a fan of their second album) one of my favourite bands, and I was very pleased to have a chance to see them somewhere a touch more intimate than Glastonbury. I was therefore a touch distressed to turn up at Rock City at about twenty-past nine to discover that they had already been onstage for 35 minutes and had played three-quarters of their set. I wasn't about to make the same mistake with WAS, so I popped in to Rock City when I was in town at lunchtime and asked them what time the main act would be onstage. Quarter to Nine? No problem.

We Are Scientists are ace (and they have an excellent website too - be sure to check out the 'advice' section). The first thing I saw on entering the venue was the merchandise stand. Where Keane were selling shower curtains and coasters, WAS sell brown Y-fronts and socks. Nice. They also have maybe the best start to a set that I have ever seen. The house lights dim and the unmistakeable strains of "Against All Odds" by Phil Collins came over the PA. Just as the chorus kicks in, the band take to the stage, pick up their instruments and play the rest of the song themselves. They play it straight, but clearly don't take themselves too seriously. They get an enormous cheer from the crowd, and then with a quick and very genuine sounding "Cheers Guys!", they roll into one of their own songs.

And here's the thing: We Are Scientists have got some fantastic songs. 'This Scene is Dead', 'Cash Cow', 'The Great Escape' and especially 'It's a Hit' and 'Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt' are all played furiously and received rapturously. Singer/guitarist Keith Murray and bassist Chris Cain also have an excellent line in onstage banter: tonight we talked about turkey mating calls, about the Robin Hood museum, about how one new song was so easy to clap along to that it was "the training wheels of clapping songs"... and when Murray felt that Cains was talking up the new album of b-sides (released on monday and including their cover of Hoppipolla), he felt the need to inform us that it was in fact, "a platter of turds". They looked like they were enjoying themselves enormously onstage and as a result, they were a whole lot of fun to watch.

It was one of those nights in Rock City where I felt a touch on the old side. For some reason, WAS seemed to attract a crowd with a much higher than normal proportion of 17 year old lads going to their first gig. We were standing in my usual slot: dead centre but a few people in front of the mixing desk (after the Raconteurs, I'm not making the mistake of actually standing against that again in a hurry). As usual, I initially found a way of positioning myself behind the only person in the whole damn club who was taller than both Lord B and me, but soon found myself with a totally unobstructed view. Just next to me was a group of about five or six lads, none of whom looked like they had much use for a razor yet. They were really into the band and were having a brilliant time, bellowing out the words and waving their mobile phones at the band and at themselves. The band must have been good, because this didn't annoy me at all. In fact, I thought it was quite endearing, although I was a bit baffled as to why they were standing so far back in the crowd when they clearly should have been further forward in the mosh pit. Ah, they'll know better next time, right? Everyone has to start somewhere.

This actually led to a marvellous conversation after the show where we swapped notes on our first ever gigs. Much to Lord B's disgust ("it had to be something cool, didn't it?"), my first ever concert was the Cult at Wembley Arena when I was about 14. They filmed the "Sweet Soul Sister" video there, actually, and if you look closely, apparently I'm in it. For the sake of completeness, I should probably also mention at this point that Lord B's first ever concert was T'Pau, Laura's first ever gig was EMF and (brilliantly) Rich's first ever concert was David Essex....

Even before the encore, I thought that this was a really good show - perhaps as much as a seven out of ten. The extra mark is entirely down to the encore: the band come back onto the stage in jackets and ties, and treat us to a full-on version of Boyz II Men's "End of the Road", with the singing being led by the drummer, Michael Tapper (who sings surprisingly well, to be fair), and with a proper talkie bit in the middle led by Chris Cains.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how all shows should end.


Friday, November 03, 2006

you cross your fingers and hold your heart...


Look, I need to crack on with my nano novel, so I'll be brief.

Firstly: if you want to see what record I picked out as being (and to hear it too), then you need to head over to Sweeping the Nation.

Secondly: the only substantial dialogue in my nano novel (10,000 words in) has been between two rats. I just thought I should tell you that now.

Right. Any other business? Oh yes. Earworms......

Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, please allow me to introduce the artist formerly known as ByTheSeaShore......

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #47 - Martin from That Difficult Second Blog

Hello again, and thanks to ST for a second earworm slot. As we haven't reached December there's no Mariah Carey this time, but I think I've managed a few songs of a similar standard.

Hot Chip - Over And Over

No, really, they've done this on purpose haven't they? Surely there's something in the Geneva Convention about weapons grade earworms? This came into my head over a fortnight ago and has absolutely refused to budge. Having said that, what's not to love about a monkey with a miniature cymbal?

Joe Brown - Henry The Eighth

So I thought a song with the lyrics "overandoverandoverandoverandover" was difficult to shift. That was before I saw Joe Brown live this week. I make no apology for doing something so deeply unfashionable, but can't justify this song topping the Billboard charts in 1965. If I'd have been brought up on that, I might have been invading foreign countries on spurious grounds by now. It's the Crazy Frog's 'Axel F' decades before its time.

Girls Aloud - Something Kinda Ooh

With which I throw away any kind of indie credibility I might have had. Ignoring the girls it's all about quality pop music for me, and their career to date just about justifies TV talent shows as far as I'm concerned. Oh, and in my head Cheryl Tweedy and I discuss Foucault and she doesn't punch toilet attendants or consent to a dance-round-your-handbags cover version of 'Jump.'

This is pure pop genius.

Madness - Grey Day

We've all been there, haven't we? Fortunately I'm not there at the moment, but a month or so ago I bought a tenor saxophone with the intention of learning to play an instrument that didn't have strings. Have you heard anything by The Zutons? How difficult can it be? This was so very nearly 'One Step Beyond,' the solo of which I am very slowly learning to play very badly, but that's led to me listening to a lot of Madness recently and this song, probably one of their best, has stuck. After a week's holiday I'm going back to work on Monday at which point 'Grey Day' will probably seem appropriate.

Bon Jovi - Keep The Faith

AKA: The Point At Which Jon Bon Jovi Got A Better Haircut. As I've been off work I've listened to a lot of daytime radio, so thanks to Radio Trent for this one. As much as many people won't admit to ever having bought a Bon Jovi album, I'm prepared to believe that more households own one than a copy of The Bible. Was Jesus a cowboy? On a steel horse did he ride? No, and therefore Jon Bon Jovi is better than Jesus. The internet being what it is, I've got a feeling that there's a blog out there featuring somebody's ten most memorable Bible verses of the week. Good luck to them.

Spacemen 3 - Losing Touch With My Mind

I dropped into Tesco to get some milk after seeing Mitchell and Webb at the Royal Concert Hall last week and bumped into a friend who had spent the evening sitting in the cold outside a local church where Jason Spaceman was playing a sold out gig. It might sound like a ludicrous thing to do, but apparently he played a couple of songs from Sound Of Confusion which to my mind is the best thing Spacemen 3 have done. Presumably they called it "Sound Of Confusion" because HMV doesn't stock albums called "Sounds Of Heroin." Whatever, it's not a great reflection on Mitchell and Webb that he had a better night than I did.

Adam And The Ants - Beat My Guest

I've decided to have a crack at NaNoWriMo for the first time this year. My novel opens some time in the late 80s (I think - I need to check) with a fight at a gig in a pub. The band are playing 'Beat My Guest' which turns out to be a mistake. I've loved this song for years, and am very much of the opinion that Adam was one of the few men of the time who didn't look an utter tit who'd raided his Mum's wardrobe. I may be wrong, but offer Spandau Ballet in my defence.

Gnarls Barkley - Smiley Faces

I thought they were overrated at first, Crazy sounding to me like a Moby castoff. Smiley Faces, however, ahem... rocks. 'Gone Daddy Gone' doesn't so much; if you haven't already heard it please, please listen to the Violent Femmes original instead.

The Smiths - I Started Something I Couldn't Finish

Until last week I hadn't listened to anything by The Smiths for ages, but that scrolling neon sign outside Nottingham Arena that I drive past on the way to work keeps telling me that Morrissey's playing there next month, and according to my iPod this is my most listened-to song ever.

Cole Porter - Another Opening, Another Show

Hmm. Second earworm, second showtune. Last time was shortly after I'd seen 'Chicago' on Broadway. This time? I have absolutely no idea. I had to Google it to find out it was from 'Kiss Me Kate.' I've never even seen 'Kiss Me Kate.' I have absolutely no idea where this has come from. Catchy chorus, though, you've got to admit.

Anyway, you'll have to excuse me because I've left the main characters of my NanoWriMo novel sitting on a pub floor in a puddle of snakebite, urine and broken glass and I'm still 250 words short for the day...


Thanks Martin. That's such a great list (Madness! The Smiths! Adam & the Ants! No Mariah Carey!) that I'm going to put my hand up to owning a copy of "New Jersey" and to having seen the band on the "Keep The Faith" tour and thinking they were brilliant. No shame in liking the Jovi, my friend, no shame at all. He's done a hell of a lot more for mankind than Jesus, undoubtedly. Started fewer wars, for one thing.

Good luck with your Nano novel. Speaking of which.... I just left one of my characters being mysteriously trailed by a strange and insubstantial thing as far as the city walls....


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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

can you squeeze me into an empty page of your diary?

Right, I've got three things for your attention today. Ready?


1) Some links for your attention

I have a couple of blogs that demand your immediate attention:

Sweeping The Nation ---> this is an excellent music blog in its own right, but they have just started a feature called "Songs to Learn And Sing". Every day in November, a different writer will recommend a song that they think everyone should hear. Each article will be accompanied by a link to the song in question, so you can listen and judge for yourself. They've started with their own write up of David Ackles - Waiting for the Moving Van. If you stick with it for a bit though (and it is surely worth a look every day, isn't it? It's a great idea) you may get to see pieces by some bloggers you are more familiar with. Yes, that does mean I will be featured at some point this month.

TheAuditorium --> bedshaped from Some Guy On A Journey has started a blog

"Like music? Yeah, so do we.

This place was created to speak about music. About it's ups and downs, about it's performance and trajectory, about it's peaks and it's ultimate downfalls. Anybody can contribute in the comments sections. And we'd welcome other people's reviews, opinions and just general disgust at what we've just written. It's all about communication people.

We want to hear about other people's interpretation of songs we know. We want to be introduced to new songs that we've never heard before.

We thought maybe other people might like that too."

The idea is to have a number of contributers and lots of readers, but you really need to get your arses over there because Cat has just written something about the Killers, and I've lost my temper with Oasis.

Go lookee.


2) An update from Brian

For reasons that I won't go into now (ask Lizzy), I have officially decided to call my brain by the name of Brian.


I had my last session with the hynotherapist this evening. I think that's six or seven in total, each one lasting about an hour. I have to confess that I'm not entirely convinced that he managed to put me in a trance. I put the little headphones on, listened to the soothing music and the hynpnotherapist's best 'soothing' voice, but I never really felt that I was under. There was always a part of my brain Brian that was trying not to laugh at the whole thing.

Still, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I think it might just have worked. In the last week or so I have noticed definite improvement. Whether or not this is down to the hypnotist, I don't know - and frankly I don't care.


3) And now if you'll excuse me.....

....I'm going to disappear. Somewhat to my surprise, and in spite of the fact that I wasn't going to be taking part this year, I appear to be a little over 3,000 words into my novel for NaNoWriMo 2006.

No, I'm not sure how this happened either. All I know is that I woke up this morning with a first line in my head and it's gone from there.

The first line in question?

"“I fucking hate this job” thought Gwilym mildly as he sat back in his moulded plastic seat and took another leisurely drag on his cigarette"

....and you thought I'd written my autobiography last year?

This one's going to have magic in it.

So there.


That's all. Novel novel novel. Pizza. Novel. Bed.

Night all.