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

Friday, May 30, 2008

to be the man I know I am...

Right. Short weeks are the ones that feel the longest, right? Well, we've made it to Friday evening now, and all that stands between me and a well earned beer is this week's earworms. Tonight's guest editor has appeared in this slot in a number of guises, but I don't care what he chooses to call himself, because I know he's an all round excellent fellow. He'll probably be delighted to hear that his current nom de plume conjures up images in my mind of a spy, a raconteur and an all round ladies man. Just like the real thing then.....

Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming pleasure.....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #89 - Jerry Cornelius from the Final Programme

10. "Toxic" by Britney Spears.

When the mood strikes me I like to fire up the Virgin Media V+ box, pick a video from their 'Music On Demand' service and sing along at the top of my voice. Sometimes my good lady is so overcome by my performance, tears fill her eyes and she actually has to leave the room. "Toxic" by lovely, beautiful, fragile, mad Britney was one of my choices this weekend

Seriously, and I honestly couldn't give a fig if this is not cool, I really like Britney Spears. In the middle of the media storm that has enveloped her due to her behaviour in recent years, it is easy to forget that Britney has made some really great, unpretentious pop records. "Toxic" is one of her very best. I love it.

I hope she gets well soon. Really I do.

9. "They" by Jem.

Another Virgin Media V+ choice.

It is a great track and I loved her going all "Barbarella" in the video. I really liked 2004's "Finally Woken" album and it was a shame that I missed out on seeing her live that year. (The night she was playing Wolverhampton Civic Hall I was double booked to see some forgotten, unwashed Indie guitar band, singing about their drug problems.) Sadly, Jem seemed to disappear after 2004, but the good news is that the lady has gotten her finger out and her second album is due to be released shortly.

8. "Inner Smile" by Texas.

I heard this on the radio. I hadn't heard it in years.

Texas left me completely cold until the "Say What You Want" single came out and Sharleen Spiteri made a solo apperance on one of Jonathan Ross' shows, when she sang an old Motown number with the house band. Frankly, she knocked my socks off. I never realised what a good singer she was. My good lady and I saw Texas at the NEC in, I think, 1998. Brilliant. This song was one of the encores.

7. "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash.

I watched the movie "Cool Runnings" on Monday evening and the Jimmy Cliff version of this song was on the soundtrack. It was good, but Johnny Nash's version is the best.

Did you know that prior to his international success with the Wailers, Bob Marley worked with Johnny Nash quite a lot during the late 60's and early 70's? Nash recorded several Marley songs and Marley was part of Nash's band during Nash's tour of the UK in the 1972. I don't think that Marley played on this track, but I might be wrong.

6. "Waiting For A Star To Fall" by Boy Meets Girl.

Recently on VH1 or MTV they had one of those top 100 countdowns. You know the kind of thing? Top 100 80's videos, or something like that. Anyway, this track has been stuck in my head ever since.

I will just get out a postage stamp. Plenty of room on a postage stamp to write down everything I know about Boy Meets Girl or this track. Nice song. 80's shimmering synth, sunshine pop at it's very best.

5. "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison.

Another film song. I was watching "Sleeping With The Enemy" on Monday night. Enjoyable film, nearly undone by daft plot developments, and a peformance of such eye rolling madness by Patrick Bergin that I expected him to pop up at any minute with a parrot on his shoulder. There was a nice romantic interlude in the film where this song is on the soundtrack.

Of course, Van Morrison is a legend, but I know very little about him other than the singles he made with Them, this song and the song "Moondance".

4. "That's Not My Name" by The Ting Tings.

I suppose I must have heard this on the radio. I don't know.

Call and response girly pop. Reminds me of the kind of thing Blondie would have done before they discovered disco. At the moment I think that it is great, but it would probably become very annoying if heard too much.

3. "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" by Rachel and Niamh.

This was the sing off song on week 8 of the BBC's "I'd Do Anything" competition. Rachel won, but she was knocked out in week 9. Shame. Her version of "Cabaret" at the start of the show was fantastic.

I think this is the best song Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice ever wrote. 'Nuff said.

2. "If Tomorrow Never Comes" by Ronan Keating.

This was on Wogan's breakfast show yesterday. Have a weep with me. Definitiely a weepy.

Ronan Keating's solo career never really took off ,which is probably why he is now touring with the reformed Boyzone and is delighting ladies in their late 20's at a venue near you. I think Boyzone (and Ronan) made some fine records in their time.

1. "Laura" by the Scissor Sisters.

I was at work, sitting in front of my PC, waiting for a lamentable piece of software to respond. I turned to the ginger guy sitting next to me and said, "It's at times like this I like to say, Sha'mon!". He looked at me like I was insane, but an earworm was born.

I didn't much care for the Scissor Sisters second album, but I adored their debut album. "Laura" was the opening track. Camptastic! I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and nabbed a ticket for the Scissor Sisters show at the Carling Academy in Birmingham in 2004. I enjoyed the show very much. A heaving, mad crowd and a drag artiste singing Britney Spears songs as the opening act. That night the Scissor Sisters did a killer version of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" as the encore. Excellent. Maybe I will have to give the second album another listen.

That's all folks. I'm off. Thanks Swiss. A pleasure, as always.


The pleasure was all mine, Jerry and you're welcome around these parts any time. Actually, whilst I've got everyone's attention, I should just take this opportunity to point everyone to Jerry's most recent post. "I died in 2008...". It's an absolute blinder, and if you only read one other thing this week, make it that. Outstanding post.

Right. Weekend anyone?


[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, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II, Earworms of the Year 2006, Sarah, Flash II, Erika, Hen, Pynchon, Troubled Diva, Graham II, Cat II, Statue John II, Sweeping the Nation, Aravis II, Olympian II, C, Planet-Me, Mike, Michael II, Eye in the Sky II, Charlie III, The Great Grape Ape, asta, Ben III, Earworms of the Year 2007, Cat III, JamieS & Wombat, Pynchon II, Briskate, Craig Cliff, Fiery Little Sod, Cody II, J, Yoko II, Rol, Lisa, Pollstar II, Joe the Troll, Eye in the Sky III]

.....If you want to have a go in this slot, then all you have to do is ask. Either comment below or drop a line to the email address in my profile. All welcome. If no one volunteers, then I have to do it, and no one wants that really. I've been listening to Neil Diamond and REO Speedwagon this week, so consider yourself warned......


Thursday, May 29, 2008

straight to hell boys....

It was announced by the Government this week that computer generated images and drawings of child sex abuse will be made illegal, and the owners of these drawings are going to face up to three years in prison. Justice Minister Maria Eagle said that the move would "help close a loophole that we believe paedophiles are using". She added that the proposal was "not about criminalising art or pornographic cartoons more generally, but about targeting obscene, and often very realistic, images of child sexual abuse which have no place in our society".

Matthew Parris makes an interesting point in today's Times. He says that the entire philosophy behind original laws against child abuse was to prevent children from being exploited and harmed. This proposal is different and is aiming at something far less tangible. How do you legislate against someone idly doodling in the privacy of their own home? Who determines what is and isn't acceptable to society?

Parris writes:

"Maria Eagle, the Justice Minister, said that the move was not intended to curb creativity or freedom of expression but to tackle images that had “no place in society”. Crikey - the intellectual sloppiness! The move does curb creativity and freedom of expression: it curbs both in pursuit of what its proponents consider the greater public good. No censorship in history has ever been advanced on any other ground. And it establishes a principle: that images with “no place in society” should not be allowed to exist. So what about racist, or sexist, or sadomasochistic, or gratuitously violent, or homophobic, or anti-Islamic, or anti-Christian images produced not for publication but for private gratification? The logical extension of Ms Eagle's principle is almost boundless. "

He's right too. What is this but another of this government's knee-jerk reactions to all of the perceived problems in "society"? Worried about drugs? Better make cannabis a Class B drug against all the expert advice. Worried about terrorism? Better make sure that everyone carries an ID card in spite of the fact that there's no evidence it will do any good and will surely be ruinously expensive. Job done! That should keep the Daily Mail readers onside, eh Gordon? It's absurd. How on earth is a judge going to possibly know the sketch in front of him was drawn with malice of heart? Ridiculous. But what will this "society" care about that? If you've got nothing to hide, then you've got nothing to fear, right? Why are you worrying about a law about obscene sketches of children? Do you have some? Eh? Eh?

"Society" is pretty hard to pin down to a single viewpoint isn't it? It's also a vague enough concept that most people won't even try to pin it down and will just go along with the flow. Mob rule by another name. Remember that, not very long ago, some elements of our wonderful "society" thought it was okay to ransack and burn a paediatrician's office after seeing the hateful campaign waged by the News of the World against "paedos" (...as every single person on the sex offenders' register must clearly be. There are no shades of grey as far as "society" is concerned). Paedophile / paediatrician? Same difference right? You can't be too careful, so burn those paedos in their swanky offices and ask questions later! ....I think this illustrates that "society", in the main, knows fuck all, and the Government are fools to believe otherwise even as they court this "society's" votes.

In the same article, Parris also reminds us that a new law came into effect on Monday requiring fortune-tellers, clairvoyants, astrologers and mediums to stipulate explicitly that their services are for “entertainment only”. He rather mischievously points out that:

"Well, trades descriptions legislation is anciently established; but in the realms of the spirit, prophecy, invisible worlds, ghosts and human souls, it has generally been felt that the whole thing is too cloudy for law....Is Parliament aware of any harder evidence for the efficacy of faith-healing than for the reliability of clairvoyance? I'd like to hear it. Otherwise, let the collecting boxes in church display a sign “for entertainment purposes only” and let Catholics buy candles to light “for entertainment purposes only”; and let trips to Lourdes be sold “for entertainment purposes only”. And let the raiment of the priest administering the Sacrament be embroidered likewise. Imagine the churchyard billboard: the Power of Prayer (for entertainment purposes only)."

Tee hee.

You'd like to think that someone sane will come along and repeal all of these stupid laws at some point in the near future... but you'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath waiting for David Cameron's Conservative party to be the ones to ride to the rescue.

How many people are going to get locked up as a result of these stupid bloody laws before "society" deems them to be outdated and gets rid of them? Jesus. It makes me want to despair. I tell you, this whole damn country is riding straight down to hell....assuming that it exists and is not just for entertainment purposes only, and as long as we can afford the fuel to get us there, obviously.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

(like the deserts miss the rain)

If you'll forgive me, I'm going to indulge in a little moan now.

As I lay wide awake my bed at a quarter to five this morning, I could feel myself getting angrier and angrier. I had initially been awoken by C's alarm, but was increasingly disturbed from my slumbers by the tiny little noises she made as she got ready to leave to catch the early flight to Paris from East Midlands Airport: the shower, the last minute packing, the phone call to the taxi company to make sure the car was on its way. The final straw was when she put the hall light on and came in to ask me where my wallet was so that she could borrow £20 for the taxi.

"It's where it always is"
"Where's that?"
"In the kitchen drawer"
thump-thump-thump down the stairs. pause. thump-thump-thump back up the stairs
"It's not there"
...and then silence when she saw it sat in the doorway to the study, where I had tossed it when emptying out my football bag from last night.
thump-thump-thump down the stairs, bang of the front door, clank of the lock and the realisation that she's left the hall light on.

We go through more or less the same routine every week, and usually it barely bothers me and I'm able to drift off back to sleep fairly easily. Today though, I got angry, and once I was angry, I found it took me ages to get back to sleep, and barely managed it before my alarm dragged me out of bed a little after seven.

I have no wish to make C. feel guilty about this, but I found myself wondering about my life. My wife is away from home for between two and four nights every single week, as well as the odd weekend. I know it's not easy working away for that amount of time, and I understand that hotel rooms and business dinners rapidly become very tedious, but this has an impact on me too. I spend most weeknights rattling around the house on my own, with my Sky+ box filling up with programmes that I can't watch until my wife gets back. I cook meals for one and I stay in and I talk to the cat. I've got friends in Nottingham, so undoubtedly much of this I do by choice, but even if I was out every night, that's still no substitute for spending that precious downtime with the person you love. And anyway, half the time that there's something on in town that we could do together, we either can't plan the time that far in advance, or she's already committed to being away so we can't go. I actually quite like spending time on my own, and I think a little bit of time apart is good for us, as I often need time to decompress from work without needing to talk to anyone about it. I'm not great at smalltalk and I like being able to potter about and do my own thing. Well, it turns out that I require that space for approximately one, maybe two days per week. Much more than that is too much alone time, and for the other nights I'd quite like to have my wife around, thank you very much.

I think all of that time apart affects our relationship a little when she's back in the country too. Not surprisingly, when she gets back, C. will be keen to spend some time with me and some time at home with her husband. I've been at home all week already though, and I find that I've adjusted to being on my own and that it consequently takes me a little while to adjust to having someone else back in the house. This means that, as she gets closer to me, I seem to unconsciously want to keep my distance a bit as I need time to readjust. I also find myself feeling irrationally resentful of this person appearing back into my life according to their own timetable and seemingly, in my head anyway, expecting me to drop everything and to spend all of my time with them. It doesn't work like that. Not for me, anyway. My life goes on during the week and sometimes at the weekend I like to catch up with the things that I might not have been been able to do during the week. I might want to go and see my friends or to go to a gig, and yes, that might mean that I leave my wife at home and go out on my own. My life is not governed entirely according to my wife's schedule.

Except that it is.

The day before she goes away, she spends the evening in a mood as she contemplates being away. She goes to bed early and has often been asleep for a couple of hours by the time I get to bed. She then gets up early and inevitably disrupts my sleep, leaving me tired and grumpy the next day. She often returns late too, missing dinner and sometimes not coming back until after I've gone to bed. This means that even if she's only away for three nights in a week, two of the remaining evenings in the week are essentially gone too. That leaves two nights a week that we spend together properly.

Is that enough?

I hope so, and the last thing I would want her to do is to compromise on a job that she has worked very hard to get and is doing very well in. I love her and we just get on with it, but it's hard sometimes and just occasionally, on days like today, I feel a bit grouchy about it.

End of moan.

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calling doctor jones....

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

[I've tried not to put any plot spoilers in this... but if you haven't seen the film yet, read on at your own risk.]

They say that they made it for love, but given that they've taken more than £150m in their first weekend, I should think that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas could care less what I think about the new Indiana Jones film. Then again, the Star Wars prequels took a grand total of $4.3b at the box office but probably caused untold damage to the reputation of George Lucas as a filmmaker and certainly to the legacy of the original films. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" isn't that bad, thank God, but it's still comfortably the least entertaining of the four films.

Just like the original Star Wars trilogy, I grew up with the Indiana Jones films. Just as I remember queuing in the rain outside the old Electra cinema in Newport Pagnell to watch "The Empire Strikes Back", I can remember being taken to see "The Temple of Doom" whilst on a visit to Plymouth to see my grandparents. These films are part of the fabric of my childhood, and perhaps this makes me ill-placed to judge the merits of the new film from anything approaching an objective standpoint. Then again, how many people in the world are coming at this without a hint of subjectivity? The whole premise of the film trades upon our recognition of the lead character and his trademark whip and fedora. If the film makers are prepared to trade upon that recognition, then I think they have to be prepared for the film to be judged in the context of the original films. How could it not be?

For me, the magic of the Indiana Jones films comes from the fact that whilst our hero was brave and undoubtedly responded heroically to the situations he found himself in, he was always barely in control of events. He was flying by the seat of his pants, lurching from one disaster to the next, and we loved him for it. There is a duality at the heart of the character: he is both Henry Jones Jr, a teacher and he is Indiana Jones, adventurer and grave robber. You cannot view either aspects of his personality without seeing the other, neither the professor with his class nor the adventurer with his whip. Harrison Ford played this perfectly, taking away some of the cocksure arrogance of his portrayal of Han Solo, and replacing it with a more believable vulnerability. This was a hero who would be dragged under trucks in the pursuit of his goals, but who would have the bruises and the scars to show for it, and who would go back to his classroom to instruct another class of students to read chapter four of Michaelson.

Although I tried not to build it up too much in my head, I was still really looking forward to the new film. I'd read that Harrison Ford had insisted that the character had aged as much as he had in the 19 years since "The Last Crusade", and that seemed eminently sensible to me. Sean Connery looked foolish in that toupee in "Never Say Never Again", but this was less down to the wig itself as it was the fact that he was patently trying to play a character 20 years younger than he was. I quite liked the idea of revisiting a hero several years on and putting him in situations where he perhaps wasn't quite as physically capable as before. It added a new angle to the story. As long as they picked the right script, then this could be good. Well, they waited nineteen years for that script, and so I assumed that this must be a corker, otherwise why would you bother?

Or are we back to that £150m opening weekend again and the money that will continue to pour in when the DVD is released....

I don't think that "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is a bad film by any means, I just think that, somewhere along the line, Lucas and Spielberg forgot the ingredients that made Indiana Jones so charming in the first place. Some of the supporting characters are no more than ciphers (step forward Ray Winstone, Karen Allen and John Hurt), but t'was ever thus. What's more seriously wrong is what they've done to the lead character. LB quickly put his finger on it after we watched the film on Thursday evening: this time around, Indy seems to know all of the answers immediately - there's very little thinking or puzzling over clues, and certainly not as much bumbling into secret switches and triggering hidden traps as we used to get. Now we get the answer almost as soon as we see the problem and then we're quickly onto the next scene. There's some mention to his advancing age at the beginning of the film, but we soon move on from that and we're back to what the film makers hope is business as usual... the action. This time around we get a lot more reliance upon overly convincing CGI, and a lot less use of old tricks to avoid the use of the special effect (do you remember Karen Allen in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" bashing the guy over the head with a saucepan? We don't see her doing it - we only see him following her into a doorway, hear a loud "clang", and then see his body falling out...). That's what Spielberg proudly used to say made the Indiana Jones films more like the old action serials of the 1950s and less like a modern action movie. All of that seems to have gone by the wayside. Instead of the real snakes, real insects and real rats of the original three films, we get meticulously but obviously CGI-d ants. It's all very impressive, but the effect just isn't the same, and for me the director has taken the easy route instead of working his way out of a problem by using a bit of flair and imagination. One of George Lucas's biggest failings with the Star Wars prequels was that he was seduced by the computers at the expense of spending time working with, and providing direction for, his real actors. Whilst it's not quite as bad here, and Spielberg usually provides a much surer directorial touch, some of Harrison Ford's acting in this film is shockingly wooden - he actually looks and sounds in places like he's reading his lines off a big board. I know he's not the world's best actor, but I can't recall seeing him being quite this bad before. The film is also a touch overly sentimental too, with lots of backwards references to characters and events in the last films, as if too much time has passed since the last film and the continuity of the lead character isn't enough to tie this film in with the landscape of the other films.

And then we have the plot. I'll spare you the exact details in case you haven't seen the film, but again, it feels like subtlety has been lost here too. The original films all relied upon a mystical premise at the heart of the script, be that the Ark of the Covenant, the Shankara stones or the Holy Grail. In all of those cases though, the mystical element was kept to a minimum until the payoff right at the end of the film as we focused on the quest. In the new film, the supernatural element is prominent right from the very first scene and is built up until a very CGI reliant finale. There's no subtlety here, and little room for mystery or suspense in the storyline, and it's fairly obvious right from the scenes in Nevada where this plot is going to take us. That's not necessarily a problem, and there are still some memorable and entertaining scenes along the way, even if the film is too long. The real issue for me is that the last twenty minutes of the film, the big-pay off, the big set-piece, is a huge let down. The effects are okay, I suppose, but frankly, it's all rather silly. To exaggerate only slightly, if Jar Jar Binks himself had turned up, I wouldn't have been all that surprised. George Lucas's fingerprints are all over this storyline, from the hot-rod and the diner scenes that could almost have been taken from the "American Graffiti" cutting room floor all the way through to the ridiculous and mostly nonsensical ending.

As I reflected last night after my second viewing with C, this is not a bad film per se, it's just - that for me at least - it was tremendously disappointing in the light of what had come before. Everyone will make a huge amount of money out of this, no doubt, and there's already been talk of another sequel, but I for one hope that they decide to leave well alone (although Ford has announced he is game, and apparently George Lucas has had an idea... heaven help us all). Could they even hand the franchise over to Shia La Boeuf's character? Well, I thought he was actually pretty good in the film as Mutt (sporting a version of the same haircut George Lucas has been wearing for the last 50 years or so, but thankfully without that fussy little beard), but another set of films? No thanks.

Still, if you're remotely interested in the character of Indiana Jones.... then the chances are you're going to go and see it anyway, aren't you?

Quite right too, go and make up your own mind, even if the money you spend on your ticket will surely only help to persuade them into the folly of another sequel when they should probably have just left well alone in the first place...

Hell, I've paid to see it twice already.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I've got a feeder for you to perch on...

I like birds, although I'm not so sure that they're very fond of me at the moment. We were driving home from a visit to my parents on Saturday when I contrived to run over a blackbird. It happened when I was just tootling along, minding my own business and obeying the speed limit on the way to the motorway junction. I saw a pair of blackbirds out of the corner of my eye on the side of the road, heard that distinctive alarm call and had just enough time to see the male bird launch itself into the air and in front of the car.

This has happened before, but usually you look in your rearview mirror to see the bird wheeling away into the air without a care in the world. This time I glanced back and saw a cloud of feathers and a lump in the middle of the road.


I know it's ridiculous, but as I drove on, I couldn't help but anthropomorphise the situation and imagined the female of the pair standing on the side of the road looking folornly at the body of her soulmate, wondering how she was going to feed all of those hungry mouths in the nest now.

We've got some blackbirds living near us, and they're frequent and welcome visitors in our garden and in the surrounding trees-- although perhaps a bit less frequent since we got the cat, mind. One often sits in the tree outside our bedroom window, and maybe it's my imagination, but he seems to be looking at me somewhat accusingly at the moment; my guilt confirmed when I fail to return his gaze and won't look him in the eye.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

no talking, just looking....

Evening all. I went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last night. The original trilogy is pretty much untoucheable, I thought, so I tried not to get too excited and told myself over and over again that it wasn't art and it only needed to be fun to make it all worthwhile.... and what did I think? Well, I'm not going to say too much about it except for the fact that I think George Lucas needs to be prevented from being involved with any film ever again, especially if that film is a sequel to a much loved classic. Honestly.

I'll give you a chance to watch it and maybe post in more detail after the weekend.

Anyway. To the matter in hand. This week's Guest Editor is an old friend of this blog and a source of great wisdom. I've often thought of him as being slightly Entish in that regard, actually. Do Ents like prog rock, do you think?

Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming pleasure.....

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #88 - The Eye in the Sky

11. Geoff Proudley. An Ill Wind.

At university I did a number of significant things as well as studying; one of which was meeting this fellow. He has remained one of my closest friends and is a seriously talented chap. I was recently forwarded this clip from a piece he composed and performed some years ago. The music was an important part of a BBC documentary and captures a lot of the spirit of the time. Bleak, very bleak.

10. The Puppini Sisters. Wuthering Heights

I just love this cover of Kate Bush’s seminal first single. I would have put WH on the heap of songs that just could not be covered by anyone. And here’s a complete tour de force version, which just turns the whole thing on its head. The original is there but something more has been added. Fun perhaps ? Frivolity ? I dunno I just love it. The Audacity, the cheek. Bravo Puppini’s.

9. The Puppini Sisters. Old Cape Cod

Now I got into the Puppini Sisters by a very indirect route and quite after the event. Several years ago when my wife was lecturing in Cambridge, I picked up an obscure Jazz/Big Band collection CD. On it was some original 40’s recordings which included “Blue’s in the Night” by the incomparable Dinah Shore. She’s fantastic, right up there with Billie and Ella. This lead me to investigate the music of the 1940’s. It great … go and browse. So indirectly I came up on the Andrews Sisters, which obliquely lead me to the Puppinis. I think they really can cut it. Forget all these talent show pub-singers from Saturday night TV, these ladies really can cut it musically. They have a really great website (ST – your new headgear will be right at home here …) and I have to confess I have a soft spot for Kate.

Please check out :

Dinah’s duet with Ella here.

And this really kitsch advertising spot from Dinah’s show.

This song is so mellow, and gentle. If a snuggle in a warm blanket could be set to music, this is it.

8. All About Eve. Are you Lonely

I got introduced to AAE by my mate Geoff (see above) and I love this song. I’ve been there and lived it. I see this song in my minds eye. I’m surprised its in my head at the moment because I’m really happy, and actually rather busy. Lovely guitar touches by D Gilmour Esq. To me, this has a languid, HiDef, pre-Raphaelite quality to the song and production. I hope people like this and don’t find it like an unfashionable wallpaper.

7. The Beatles. In my life

This popped into my head the other week after the funeral of a dear friend, who is very sadly missed. It’s been running ever since like a frisky hamster in a wheel. It’s still there.

Could have been worse.

The Shake and Vac jingle for example. (Caution: This is a weapons grade earworm)

6. Yes. Starship Trooper (and here too)

Hello Hippies. I’m not too sure what Jon Anderson is singing about (no change there) but I love the bass lines, and all the frills of good musicians strutting their stuff. Piles of rubbish have been written about what might constitute “Prog Rock”, but, to my mind, I feel “prog” was about trying to extend the rock repertoire (whatever that is) by using new tools and techniques, and by stretching musical dexterity of performer.

5. Moonchild. King Crimson

I love the calm feel of the opening song section, and the slightly distant presentation of the vocal. The improvisational sections take goodwill and effort to “get”, and often you can get a response ranging from “ So? ” to “No.”. Often dismissed as filler, and sometimes justified as capturing the improvisational aspects of King Crimson on stage in ’69, it endures as an earworm.

4. Mike Oldfield. Platinum.

Lovely stuff. How do I even try try to describe Platinum. Well, it’s a sort of er. It’s. How about suggesting a hybrid New Wave / Punk influenced Disco Folk track, with a Charleston embedded and a minimalist barbershop finish. You’ll probably think there’s nothing that could sound that strange, but when you consider it’s Mike Oldfield, post therapy, stretching out in New York then much is possible.

3. David Gilmour. Take a breath

One of the more readily accessible tracks from DG’s On an Island album, this has been noodling around the head for a day or two.

2. Rick Wakeman. White Rock (and here too)

Some bright spark made a film of the Innsbruck winter Olympics, in the days before home video cameras and phone cameras. It was properly edited and narrated, and a special score was composed by Rick Wakeman, and narrated by, I think, James Caan, the actor. It produced a moderately successful (among Wakeman fans) soundtrack album, and remains a defining image of music and snow action. (although the pre-title sequence from “The Spy Who Loved Me” is also pretty cool)

1. Human League. Love Action

Oh goodness. Not only has this been appearing in my head all by itself, but the mp3 player has also started to like it and it appears with a strange regularity in random /shuffle selections. It’s very danceable. And the video is a reasonable bit of 80’s nonsense. Certainly captures a moment. When thinking of the Human League, you think strange hair, the girls, but does one really consider Martin Rushent the producer ? He pulled together a cracking album from an imploded band and an explosion of ideas. Fair play Martin. Gold star for achievement.


Big thanks to the Eye in the Sky for this list - another fairly unique list, although I see that prog is again your defining influence... and nothing wrong with that. Well, nothing much. I'm very much looking forward to chewing this and other matters over when we go out for dinner in a couple of weeks time. Mmm. Music chat and prawn toast over a couple of ales. It doesn't get much better than that, eh?

Well, it's a long weekend over here, and right on cue it's started to rain. Nice one. It's C's birthday on Sunday and I'm under strict instructions to make sure I know how to make a raspberry collins as well as my usual mojitos at the cocktail party we're hosting. But who bakes the cakemakers birthday cake? Why, she does, of course... she wouldn't let anyone else do it, that's for sure.

Have a good weekend y'all.

Want to have a go as Guest Editor? Drop me an email or leave a comment below and I'll get back to you......

[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, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II, Earworms of the Year 2006, Sarah, Flash II, Erika, Hen, Pynchon, Troubled Diva, Graham II, Cat II, Statue John II, Sweeping the Nation, Aravis II, Olympian II, C, Planet-Me, Mike, Michael II, Eye in the Sky II, Charlie III, The Great Grape Ape, asta, Ben III, Earworms of the Year 2007, Cat III, JamieS & Wombat, Pynchon II, Briskate, Craig Cliff, Fiery Little Sod, Cody II, J, Yoko II, Rol, Lisa, Pollstar II, Joe the Troll]


Thursday, May 22, 2008

the team that every defender dreads....

When Manchester United last played in the final of the European Cup in 1999, my life was very different. I had split up with my girlfriend of some 4 years in March that year and after a difficult few weeks living under the same roof, when the final came around, I had literally just moved into a shared house. My books were all still in boxes in my ground-floor bedroom, and I was adjusting to my new circumstances.

I can actually remember exactly what I had for dinner that night too: a New Covent Garden corn chowder soup and a humous and herb salad sandwich. I sat in the living room with two of my new housemates, Sarah and Sally, as the game kicked off and United quickly went behind. Bayern Munich scored pretty early and never really looked like conceding as the game slowly petered out to a disappointing conclusion...

Or so I thought, anyway, as I went up the stairs to have a quick comfort break before the start of extra time.

I came back to find that, in the 30 seconds I was away, and before the final whistle had gone, Manchester Utd had scored to take the game into extra time.... except before I'd even sat down, Ole Gunnar Solskaer then scored an extremely unlikely winner and broke German hearts.

Things have changed for me in the last nine years, but other things have remained alarmingly static: I watched last night's game in the house I share with my lovely wife. That house is literally just over the road from that first shared house, so I was probably no more than 15m for the place where I sat and watched that game in 1999. C. was away in Paris, so I watched the game alone with a bowl of New Covent Garden Haddock chowder soup. Instead of a homous and herb salad sandwich, I had a couple of slices of toast (extra thick white, naturally). Instead of Sarah and Sally for company, I had the cat, who was probably if anything a little more interested in the game than they had been.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Of course, being 9 years older and rapidly approaching middle-age, it was probably par for the course that I dozed through at least 35 minutes of the first half. It was a good game, but even then, I'm a bit surprised that I made it all the way through to the penalties.

If I was tired watching it, God knows how the people actually playing in the game felt....

If United make the final again in 9 years time, I'll expect I'll be tucked up in bed long before kick-off.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

nouns, and books, and show and tell....

I had my first stint as a volunteer reader this morning. Instead of dragging myself into work late and spending the first hour or so of the day idly perusing my email over the first coffee of the day, I made my way over to a local primary school and spent that time far more productively.

It was really good. I spent the first few minutes in the classroom chatting to the teacher and waiting for the children to arrive, admiring the pictures that adorned every wall. As they began to arrive and filed neatly into the classroom, the first thing that struck me was quite how small they all were - perhaps not so surprising really considering I've been assigned to year one, who are all between five and six years old - they're hardly likely to be giants, are they? You'd imagine that these kids would perhaps be a little wary of this hulking great big stranger in their midst, but although one or two looked a little shy, most gave me a friendly smile or gave me a cheery hello as they trooped in a stowed their bags in their trays. There were about thirty of them in all, and I stood and watched as they all took their places around the classroom and then acted along to a warm-up video that their teacher played on the big screen at the front of the class. They did a little bit of dancing and clapping and I was reminded faintly of all those ridiculous ice-breaker exercises that we always seem to do when we're on courses at work. Actually, I think I might suggest at the next one I attend that we do "Clap Around the Clock":

[both arms pointing straight up]
"O'clock" CLAP
[arms pointing right]
"Quarter past" CLAP
[arms pointing down]
"Half past" CLAP
[arms pointing left]
"Quarter to" CLAP

...and so on. Brilliant.

After that, we had the register, at which each member of the class was greeted in turn by their teacher, and replied everso politely. As well as me, there were three other adult helpers, and we were all introduced to the children. One of the helpers was there solely to support the teacher with an autistic child in the class, which I think shows how far our understanding of these things has come on since I was 5 years old, a mind-boggling 29 years ago. Needless to say, I wasn't going to be reading with this child.

Each member of the class is buddied up with someone of a similar reading standard, and with all the preliminaries over, the first pair were assigned to me for reading practice. We retired to a little nest of cushions just outside the classroom, where each child brought along their reading bag. The bag contained the two books they were reading and a reading diary that I was supposed to fill in to chart their progress. The standard of reading varied enormously, as did levels of concentration, although all of them were very enthusiastic about getting to read. The school uses the Oxford Reading Tree books, which are brilliant. They have bright, interesting illustrations with lots of detail, and they have easy to follow engaging stories featuring a regular cast of carefully multi-denominational and non-gender specifically named children and a dog called Floppy. The books come in several stages of increasing difficulty, and each child in the class seemed to be at a different level. I only had about an hour, and with all the to-ing and fro-ing, I only read with about 8 kids in all, but even in that little group, some were brilliant and read without any hesitation at all, whilst others struggled and sounded out the words, or even made wild guesses based upon the pictures. It was my first time there, and I don't have any kids of my own, so I imagine it will take me a few visits to really get a feel for how to get the best out of the time I spend with the kids, and I imagine it will take them a while to get used to me too.

I was asked when I got back to work if spending time with these children made me feel at all broody. Er.... no. It was good to help them with their reading for an hour, but it was also good to leave them with someone else for the rest of the week. They were mostly very well-behaved, to be fair, but I did witness one class member throwing an impressive tantrum that involved kicking, screaming and running around the school throwing things off tables and the like. Luckily, I wasn't expected to read with him either. The teacher in the class I was in was brilliant, and I can only take my hat off to the way she managed those kids: knowing when to be gently stern with them, but also knowing when to administer a good old-fashioned hug as she did to a child who has a relative in hospital and was looking a bit down. They all made a card for him to take with him on his next visit. I tell you, these primary school teachers are made of tough stuff and have the patience of saints. Now that's a difficult job. By comparison, this one's a doddle.

It's half term next week, but I'm looking forward to having another go in a couple of weeks time.

God, I'm so worthy.

A good day.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

strange fruit....

I've developed a real taste for passion fruit. A veritable passion for them, you might say, although the "passion" in their name refers not to love, but to the passion of Christ... but I digress.

I suppose I'd always known that they existed, but I never really paid them much attention until we went out to Ecuador last year. Until then they had always been that small, wrinkly purple fruit that I vaguely recognised but never actively sought out. In South America though, they're quite a big deal. For starters, there are loads and loads of different types - they grow there, you know.... Walk through any market place and you'll see bucket loads of them, all freshly picked. Forget about the small purple ones and check out the huge granadillas or the curuba, whose fruit looks a bit like a banana. These are so fresh that they are warm to the touch from sitting in the sunshine, and you can peel them open with your bare hands and greedily suck out all the flesh and those deliciously sour seeds. Let me tell you: the humble passiflora family has got it all going on.

It's not quite the same as sitting out on a hotel veranda in Banos, sipping on a freshly squeezed maracujá juice and looking out over a gently smoking volcano whilst waiting for my breakfast, but eating a small, wizened passion fruit in front of my computer at work does take me away from the mundanity of work for a few wonderful seconds of positive association.

I suppose I should be grateful that you can buy passion fruit here at all. I discovered the tomate de árbol in Ecuador too - it makes a mean juice - but you can't seem to get it around here for love nor money.

You might think that our supermarkets give us enormous choice, and in some ways I suppose they do. When compared to the natural bounty on display in every single marketplace around the equator though, they ain't got nothing. In Ecuador they have so many bananas that you can buy a bucket of them for $1 and feed them to your cows. They're so common, you can pick them from the side of the road.

We might be rich in many ways, but there's no banana you can buy here that's tastier than one that you picked for yourself from the side of the road.

I think I need a holiday.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

signing the letters and cutting the costs...

It turns out that we're not legally married in France. Well, that's not strictly true: we were married in Vienna, and Austria, Britain and France are all members of the European Union, so our marriage is fully recognised across Europe and presumably therefore across the rest of the world. Except in France. In France, although my marriage to C. is also recognised, her marriage to me is not considered binding enough for them to issue her a new French passport in her married name.

The reason? Bureaucracy. France is the country that places great store by paperwork and there are large swathes of civil servants whose jobs seem to consist entirely of pushing red tape backwards and forwards to each other, for a fee. Now, I can understand the need for a certain amount of paperwork: before we could get married in Vienna, we had to produce a number of pieces of documentation proving that we were who we said we were and that there was no impediment to our marriage. That only seems sensible, and we got those with very little trouble from our local registry office, and that was more than good enough for the Austrians. We thought that was going to be good enough for everyone, but apparently we were wrong.

The French have certain special requirements around marriage, and one of the reasons that we didn't get married in France in the first place was the sheer logistical complexity of needing to have at least one partner resident on French soil for 40 days. Amongst the other many hoops that you have to jump through to be allowed to marry in France, you must produce a pre-nuptial medical certificate proving that you have been checked by a doctor.

Austria just seemed easier, and it was an excellent choice and a lovely day.

In the process of changing her name, in due course, C. applied for a new French passport and identity card. It was at this point that the problem arose: to be considered legally married in France, C. was supposed to have published the banns at the French embassy in Vienna (which naturally attracts a fee). If we wanted to have our marriage fully recognised in France, then we were going to have to present all the paperwork from the wedding itself to the embassy whilst also going through the whole application process retrospectively, possibly including presenting ourselves in person in Vienna, and maybe needing a medical.


As a result of all of this, I received a phone call at 08:05 one morning last week whilst C. was away in Paris.


[long, garbled string of French]


[long, now slightly irritated sounding garbled string of French. The penny drops that this call may be for C.]

"Ah, I'm afraid that she's not here at the moment...."

[I'm cut off by some very terse language from a now slightly annoyed sounding frenchman, from which I deduce that this is the French embassy in Vienna and that therefore this must be about the legality of our marriage. I'm mildy irritated that this man has a) rung a number in the UK this early and b) that he seems surprised that I'm speaking English to him. The cheek! I begin to dredge through my brain for the appropriate words.]

"Ma femme est a Paris"

[The man on the other end of the phone is encouraged by my use of French to speak a little faster and ends on an upward note, indicating that he has just asked me a question and now expects some kind of a reply.]

"Elle retour a [I mentally call off the days of the week...lundi, mardi, mecredi, jeudi...] vendredi...?"

[The frenchman is placated by this, and speaks a bit more but is obviously winding down. I say "OK" a few times in what feel like the appropriate places. He finally hangs up. I realise as soon as I put the phone down that C. isn't in fact going to be back until Friday night, so make a mental note to let the phone ring out to the answering machine until she's back, just in case...]

Of course, all of this makes the possibility of me applying for French nationality (to which I am entitled through marriage) all the more enticing. I imagine it'll be a cinch with barely any paperwork or petty bureaucracy at all....

And, of course, I imagine that the French simply can't wait to have me.....


Friday, May 16, 2008

sunshine in her eyes, but moonshine made her blind...

We have a bonus Guest Editor this week. I was all set to inflict my earworms on you this week (which mainly seem to involve the Ting Tings, since you ask) when Cody Bones, a long time reader around here, managed to persuade his other favourite blogger to put a list together. Now, I'd never claim to be a music blogger in a million years. I like music, I like listening to music and I like talking about music, but I don't really think that's what this blog is all about. It's just a part of the rich tapestry that is my life.... [cough]. Well, this week's Guest Editor is a proper music blogger. He's one of those blokes who goes out and finds rarities and makes them available for other people to enjoy. He's passionate about his music and he's keen to share that passion with other people. I looked over the list of earworms that had been sent to me. I hadn't asked for them, but there's no denying that a great deal of thought had been put into it, and I decided that I was more than happy to put them up here for everyone to enjoy.

Plus it basically saves me having to write a post myself.


Ladies and Gentleworms, without further ado, it is my great pleasure to present for your earworming pleasure......

Earworms of the Week - Guest Editor #87 - Joe the Troll from Under the Bridge

My initial intention was to make this post as unlike my usual music posts as possible. The posts I do at Under the Bridge under the titles Trolling the Underground and Trolling the Studio are based exclusively on my ever-growing collection of unofficial recordings. This means pretty much anything that is not and never was available through any legitimate commercial outlet. I've come to the realization that creating such a sharp distinction is impossible, however, simply because this music accounts for 99% of what I listen to and has these past few years, and because it is the preparation of a Trolling the Underground post that help creates the earworms in the first place. The fact that I will post a few commercially available songs in this post will be a first in itself, so here are the strongest earworms of the past few weeks.

Because of this hobby, I tend to hear many different treatments of the same song. As a result, the one running through my head may not be any one particular performance of it, but an amalgam of several that I've heard over and over again. In a situation like that, I'll post what I consider to be the best one I have handy, or at least a good substitute in the vent that I've already posted the same song elsewhere.

I'd like to thank Swiss Toni for letting me do this, and Cody Bones for facilitating matters.

The most recent TtU post I wrote went up just a few days ago, and it involved six different songs that were based on a real murder that occurred 113 years ago in St. Louis. I listened to several versions of many of these songs in preparation for the post, and of course I've been humming a few arrangements for most of a week as a result. The most common earworm relating to that post is the Dr. John version called Stack-A-Lee. I chose a solo version for the other post, so here I'll share a different version with accompaniment. It's the same arrangement with the same lyrics, though, so as an earworm they are, too me, interchangeable.

Pink Floyd has been my favorite band since I was first introduced to their music in 1978, and the underground has re-awakened my amazement with them by making a stunning array of performances available. My favorite era for these recordings is from 1969 to 1972. They were a far more improvisational band at that time, being able to change and recreate their songs, as they had not yet become saddled with the interweaving conceptual matter that began to dictate their work from 1972 on. I have several earworms from this era of Floyd that haunt me on a regular basis, and recently it's been this song's turn. This is not just because it's a catchy tune, but also because I've been noting the huge differences between various versions of it. This version in particular has been an earworm lately because it's absolutely unique. In texture it is more like the studio version than any other live version I've heard, but the drumming sets it apart from the album version, as does the fact that this is the only version at all that features harmonies instead of a solo vocal, as well as the musical interlude in the last half where it would normally segue into another song.

Beck is simply my favorite guitarist. God's voice comes through Jeff's guitar. He can rock like few else, yet has a subtlety and control of his instrument that no one else can claim. The various sounds you will hear in this track are not the result of electronics, but purely in the way he handles and manipulates the strings. It seems to be his goal to make the listener forget what instrument he's playing. Beyond that, however, is his gift with arrangement. I truly admire someone who can take a classic, well known song like this and make it truly his own, and that is why this version is the one that's been running through my head for years now.

Several years ago, I heard this song on a commercial for some car. I didn't know the song, but I immediately decided that it HAD to be Marc Bolan because no one else could come up with that riff and make it sound like that. A little research proved me right, and this has been a weekly earworm ever since.

This has been running through my head since last week when I saw that Keb' would be playing in downtown Albuquerque next week. I've admired his style for years but manage to miss him every time he comes around. Once again, I love this song because of the creative way he takes an Elmore James classic that's already been covered dozens of times and makes it a Keb' Mo' song.

This has always been my favorite Beatles tune, and would run through my mind on occasion. Recently, I discovered an alternate version of the entire album, produced by rock veteran Glyn Johns. This version was rejected and Lennon called Phil Spector in to work with the tapes and produce the album we've known all these years. I wonder what John would think of "Mr. Separation Anxiety" now. It's the same recording we already know, but with a little studio stuff tossed in at the beginning.

This is also the result of a recent TtU post, although it was a song that would run through my head anyway. Making the post and listening to all the songs I was considering just made it happen more regularly. This is probably the earliest recording of this song ever made.

In the same vein, this is a bit of country blues from the lead guitarist of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. This was a regular earworm from a few years ago when I got the Blue Country Heart CD, but started up again the other day when I downloaded a Doc Watson show with this song in it. Since it's the version I know best, it's the one that becomes the earworm.

I'm not a fan of the 3-man Genesis but the earlier stuff is some of my favorite music. In the days of Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett's involvement in the group, they were the epitome of the progressive rock movement that created a lot of my favorite music. Trust me when I tell you that having a 10 minute progressive rock opus like this one running through your head can be very distracting. This song tells a story from Ovid's Metamorphosis about Hermaphroditus, which is summarized here, and really adds a lot to the enjoyment of the song.

Jazz at its finest. For two old guys my generation considered to be squares, they sure could rock out a party tune. This is from their album The Great Summit.

This has been running through my head for a couple of months now, not only because of a recent post, but also because I've been downloading a slew of Led Zeppelin soundboard recordings lately. Unlike most people I know, I prefer the latter-day LZ, when they were becoming less of a blues band and more of a hard rock band. This is strange because on a whole, I like blues more than hard rock. This band, however, was a fairly run-of-the-mill blues band but were exemplary rockers. This song, with its driving beat, is perfect earworm fodder.

Well, those are the songs that have been haunting my mind recently. I hope one or two will catch on in yours as well.


Thanks Joe. One of the most comprehensive earworm posts ever, I reckon. Certainly more so than any of the ill-thought through cobblers that I would normally post, anyway. Thanks for playing.

Right. I'm on the lookout for other volunteers. Interested? Email me at the address in my profile.

This week dragged. Time for the weekend.

[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, Del II, The Eye in the Sky, RussL, Lizzy's Hoax, Ben II, Earworms of the Year 2006, Sarah, Flash II, Erika, Hen, Pynchon, Troubled Diva, Graham II, Cat II, Statue John II, Sweeping the Nation, Aravis II, Olympian II, C, Planet-Me, Mike, Michael II, Eye in the Sky II, Charlie III, The Great Grape Ape, asta, Ben III, Earworms of the Year 2007, Cat III, JamieS & Wombat, Pynchon II, Briskate, Craig Cliff, Fiery Little Sod, Cody II, J, Yoko II, Rol, Lisa, Pollstar II]


Thursday, May 15, 2008

no jacket required....

Whilst I was researching the best type of fedora to get and the best place to get one, I stumbled across a group of people who really couldn't have existed in the world before the internet. We're all familiar, of course, with the stereotypical image of the nerdy geeks who populate the world wide web.

Do you like Star Wars or Star Trek or the X-files? Are you into gaming or virtual worlds? Do you wash irregularly and wear t-shirts with pictures of dragons on them? Do you have a blog? Do you consider yourself friends with someone you have never met? If you answered 'yes' to any of them, then the chances are that lots of people would say that you're a either a geek or a nerd (or both). People like this have existed for centuries, of course, it's just that in the old days they used to do things like write down the numbers of the trains that came through their local station or they collected stamps. Mostly they will have done these things on their own, or at most they would be members of a small, locally based club. What the internet has done is that it has provided the most fantastic mechanism for bringing people together and helping them to share their hobbies. If you're a fan of something - Star Wars, say - you are now only a few clicks away from the most incredibly detailed resource that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know, and much, much more. You will also have access to like-minded people. I always liked the Star Wars films, but it wasn't really until I was at University and I met other people who loved the films that my interest deepened and they stopped being merely films and started being something else.... we egged each other on and we made each other worse, and at some point down the track, you realise that you are no longer quite like other people who see them as just harmless fluff to be enjoyed on the telly, and you see that you now have strong opinions on Ewoks and Gamorrean guards. But by the time you see this, it's too late to go back: you have become a geek.

The most comprehensive resource that I found on the internet about fedoras by a country mile was an Indiana Jones fansite. Fair enough, I thought. After all, Indiana Jones is probably one of the most famous hat wearers in the world. It only took me a couple of minutes of browsing, though, to realise that I had actually stumbled upon a thriving community of people who spend their spare time trying to dress themselves like Indiana Jones... and I don't mean they wanted to dress approximately like Indiana Jones either; they wanted to dress themselves EXACTLY like Indiana Jones. I quickly found a set of useful consumer reviews of different types of fedora and where to get them. Thanks to the opinions in the forums, I was able to steer away from a wool felt hat and towards a fur felt hat, together with a good idea of the best places to get hold of one. That was all I had originally come to the site for, but now I was mesmerised.

How much can there be to discuss about a hat? Did you know that the fedoras used in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" came from Herbert Johnson in London, were made of italian fur felt and that you can no longer get the exact same style? (quite tall crowned, narrow-brimmed and very much in the 1930s style). Perhaps you did. Did you know that the hats used in the three films are very distinct in terms of style? That the "bash" of the hat used in "Raiders..." has an unusually tight and everso slightly lopsided "pinch" at the front, that the one in "Temple of Doom" is the slackest and that the one in "Last Crusade" is a hybrid of the two? No? Can you spot the differences in the hats used between scenes? Can you tell whether a fedora someone has bought has slightly the wrong ribbon bow and tapers too much at the back? No? Well these guys (and they are almost all guys) can. They debate at great length where to get their hats and how to bash them. They put up photographs and compare notes. I was both horrified and fascinated, and completely unable to look away.

As well as absurd level of discussion on the hat, there were other sections dedicated to the leather jacket, the whip, the pistol, the canvas satchel, the shirt, the trousers, the shoes, the grail diary and to every other possible prop used in any of the films. God help me, but I started looking at the forum on the jacket - it's a pretty cool jacket, after all. I quickly discovered that it was possible to get a very reasonable custom measured jacket from the small outlet in Kent that supplied the original jackets for "Raiders..." for a little over £150. That's quite a small price to pay for a fitted jacket, I thought, and read on.

Oh. My. God.

As well as sensible discussions around what kind of leather you can get (lamb, goat, horsehide, nuovapelle, cow hide...), there were endless discussions on how the pockets should look (the scalloping on the flap has to be just so), what kind of sliders should be on the straps (rectangular and not d-ring), whether or not there should be a storm flap (yes, but it should be a narrow one) and if it should be secured at the top and bottom (no for a raiders look, yes for crusade look, apparently). No detail too trivial in the pursuit of screen accuracy, and every post was accompanied by a photo of a member wearing their jacket and asking for advice on how best to get the distressed look or how to treat it. My head quickly started to spin. God knows what the poor guy in Kent who tries to make jackets to these ridiculous specifications to send out to people from all corners of the globe feels about the whole thing...even if it probably is the cornerstone of his business as many of the members clearly have several jackets apiece.

It's a harmless enough hobby, I suppose. I couldn't help but smile when I saw that two of the members of these forums had set up their own hat company a few years ago. It was presumably the natural end to their quest for perfection. Good for them, and good for their fellow members who can now order the perfect hat made to their own perfect specifications in the perfect Raiders bash.... as long as they're prepared for the 12 month wait as their hat is made up for them. Brilliantly, these guys were discovered by Steven Spielberg and were asked to provide the hats for the new film. Every hat that you see Harrison Ford wearing in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was made by these obsessive fans. Their quest for the perfect Indiana Jones hat has led to them to be making the actual hats themselves. Even if you're not a geek yourself, surely you can imagine how thrilling a feeling that must be.

The internet is a strange, brilliant and appalling place.

God help me but I've sort of been looking for a zip-up leather jacket. Maybe I've been staring at the screen for too long, but I'm starting to think that I do actually want one of those jackets. I doubt anyone will believe me, but I have little or no desire to look like a fictional archaeologist (I did a history degree, after all. We historians frown upon archaeologists as they are prone to make sweeping assumptions about thousands of years of history based upon a single find...). I know it looks bad, but I really am just getting a fedora because I want a(nother) proper hat and I really do just like the jacket. I will not be looking to get a whip any time soon. Well, not that kind of a whip, anyway. Not one that I'll use to accessorise a costume. Well, not that kind of costume.... Perhaps I'll just stop talking.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got forum posts to catch up on and pictures to look at....my own custom jacket* won't spec itself you know.....


[* custom only in the sense that I may ask for it to be a touch longer in the sleeve so that it actually fits me, unlike every other jacket I have ever owned, not custom in the sense of an obsession with screen accuracy. I couldn't give a monkey's if the zip is slightly too large or if it's got a storm flap with fasteners, to be honest. Fair play to those that do, but I just don't]

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