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

Thursday, September 30, 2004

More Athens Pics

Scat has popped up a load of photos from our trip to Athens... get them here

Kelly's 800m Gold - that was a great night

as was this one in the Oranje House

Happy days.

Lovejoy rides again

I've been watching 'Deadwood' on Sky One on Tuesday nights... the undoubted star of the show is that old charmer Ian McShane. It's early days yet (the second episode was this week), but I have to say it's looking pretty good. At the moment the only thing that I am watching regularly each week is 'Six Feet Under', but 'Deadwood' looks like being added to the list. TV's not what it used to be, eh?
Judging from the growing number of comments starting to appear there, Mac's Ultimate Olympian blog seems to be taking off. He's currently working his way through the "leisure centre" events (badminton, table tennis etc.). Get yourself over there and offer the madman some support.
It came to me in a meeting this morning that I think I dreamt about a woman with a hairy chest last night. I don't remember any of the details, and thankfully have no mental pictures to dwell on - I do distinctly remember dreaming about it though. Weird.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Send me a postcard, drop me a line stating point of view

Ok. So here's what we know about me:
- I'm 30
- I'm balding
- I'm going grey
- My memory isn't what it was
- my joints are starting to creak

so why was I so alarmed at the gym when I spotted a hair growing out of my right ear?

I rather think I should be looking forward to my first Remington fuzz-away??

All this and apparently I won't be able to retire for nigh on another 50 years... 2054 isn't so far away, right?


This news hot off the presses from my insider at a major UK electrical retailer.... Electronic Arts are being forced to recall all Playstation 2 copies of "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005" because of a bug believed to affect all copies of the game.   This affects me directly, as I own the game already, but I'm also a bit alarmed from a professional point of view (I work in IT) that EA let a game slip out of their testing process with a fundamental flaw in it - a flaw that has been picked up by some gamers less than a week after the release of the game (i.e. shouldn't have taken all that much testing to find it).

The bug, apparently, is that when you beat Seve Ballesteros in the "legends" tour section, the whole game crashes.  Somehow I think it's a feature Seve himself would approve of....

At the risk of getting all political on you...

I heard Tony Blair being interviewed on the radio this morning (it's the Labour Party Conference this week, and he delivered his keynote speech yesterday - presumably only to be upstaged when guest speaker Bono takes to the stage this afternoon). I'm categorically not a supporter of the war in Iraq, and I have been appalled at the way that we were led into the conflict behind the figleaf of weapons of mass destruction and the alleged link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Tony Blair of course has an absolutely critical role in this, and has been a prime mover in making sure that Britain backed up George W. Bush in what would otherwise have been a unilateral action by the USA.

Anyway - there are millions of bloggers out there talking about just these things. What I wanted to mention was that in spite of all this, when I heard Blair on the radio this morning, I was reminded that he is essentially a decent man in a really difficult job. He spoke of how dreadful he feels about the whole Kenneth Bigley affair, and how sorry he feels for the family - and yet he can't (and shouldn't) give in to the demands of the terrorists. Of course he does! In all the press hysteria it is easy to lose sight of this guy's basic decency. For all the political capital they have made at his expense over the war, I do not believe that the Conservative party could have steered this line. For all that he is Bush's lapdog over Iraq, he seems to be trying as hard as he can to get the Arab-Israeli peace talks reopened because he recognises (apparently unlike Bush) that this is one of the major causes and recruiting grounds for extremists.

Don't get me wrong. I think we were led into war under false pretences, and that now we are stuck in Iraq without any clear exit strategy. I believe that the government has made a lot of mistakes in this area (some of which they now seem prepared to admit). In a healthy democracy, we are right to ask questions of our leaders and to hold them to account for their actions.

Taking all of that into account, I think I'm actually grudgingly admiring of Tony Blair - I like the fact that we are led by someone who is making some difficult, perhaps even impossible decisions, but at least he looks like he is agonising over them and striving to select the best option. George Bush just seems to swan around dealing with black and white issues - you are with us or against us. I like to think that Blair sees that there are some shades of grey.

Bit political and heavy, but there you go.
In other news, I see that scientists have discovered that extracts from pine cones hold the key to battling the so-called "superbugs" that have antibiotic resistance. I take it this means that squirrels are going to take over the world?

ST (via email - let's hope this works, eh?)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Fame, Fame, Fatal Fame....

I filled a fairly uneventful evening last night by listening to the Matthew Bannister programme on Five Live. They had on the bloke who created a load of the Pink Floyd album covers, including the famous 'Dark Side of the Moon' prism (Storm Thorgerson). To encourage listener participation they offered a book of this guy's work as the prize for the listener who texted in the most artistic description of an album cover in 25 words or less.

I entered, not so much to win, as because I was bored and I'd thought of one:

"A young man ponders the futility of war and a generation of gladioli wavers forsake meat".

No prizes for guessing which cover I was talking about...

Not only did I get a mention, but I made the shortlist of 5 and was (in my view) unlucky to lose out to some nonsense about a galactic magic carpet ride and an album by the Byrds (must have been this one, I should think)

In other news on the programme, apparently Nottingham has been voted 8th in the Idler's list of "Crap Towns 2004". The top 10 in full:
1 Luton
2 Windsor
3 Sunderland
4 Glasgow & Edinburgh
6 Clapham
7 Bath
8 Nottingham
9 Corby
10. Middlesborough

Seems a bit harsh (apparently it's to do with the gun crime, or something). Bath and Edinburgh? Weird. Last year's "winner" was Hull, and they must have been stung into action - they're not even in the top 10.

Monday, September 27, 2004

If music be the food of... er... supermarkets

As mentioned below, I popped to Sainsburys to do the weekly shop. I don't mind shopping most of the time, and this was going to be okay, as I was going to get the chance to get the new Interpol album and probably pick up the new Embrace album whilst I'm at it.


Fat chance. The shopping was ok, but they didn't have the Interpol album at all - no mention of it. Now, I've always found it a little odd the thing they do with the album charts where a new release CD is automatically in the top 10. I understand that this makes it easier for them to merchanidise, and pretty easy for people to find, but it just seems so presumptuous. If the Interpol album makes the top 40 next week, I bet they have it.

I was irritated by this, so I detoured via Asda on the way home. Now Asda is huge, and has moved their CDs, DVDs and stuff right to the front of the store. Did they have it? Nope (although on the plus side they had put Brian Wilson's "Smile", also out today, in the top 10, where Sainsburys had it at number 40-something... so at least they have some taste).

Both had Embrace, but I was by now determined to get them both on the internet, and indeed, I've just been over to those good people at Play 24/7 and placed my order.

It's all very well these supermarkets dabbling with music, but aren't they just putting independent record shops out of business and then ultimately killing my choice? It would have been alright if I'd been buying "pure bling" (and yeah, I know there's always the internet, but I wanted it NOW. Good job I didn't nip out at lunchtime, else I would have wasted an hour popping into town and would never have got any work done).

Say what you like about HMV (and trust me, I do, I used to work there) but they would have had Interpol in stock.

Tiger Woods embraces matchplay?

I popped out to buy Tiger Woods PGA Golf 2005 the other day. I was a big fan of the 2003 version of the game, and thought I was due an upgrade. Actually, after the glorious triumph of Europe in the Ryder Cup the other week, I dug the game out again to see if I could take on Tiger in some Matchplay (Sorry - as I haven't mentioned this here before, it's time for a quick brag... ready? right: 18.5 - 9.5 !! they didn't get to double figures).

Tiger famously has a pretty poor record in the team part of the Ryder Cup. His singles record is fine, but he seems all at see in the games where he has to play in cooperation with a partner. I was a little disappointed to discover that Tiger Woods 2003 only has a simple matchplay format and none of the more interesting variations.

I was delighted to discover when exploring the new version of the game, that this is one of the features of the game that they have decided to expand. Oh, the irony. At a time when the PGA tour has just suffered a record defeat in this form of the game, their flagship game franchise has added foursomes and fourballs golf (and a couple of other options) into the game. I look forward to pasting the yanks again at some point soon.

Apologies to all readers who may have found that less than interesting.


Right - I'm off for a swim and to do the weekly shop... which will be enlivened greatly by my need to purchase the new Interpol album, and possibly also the Embrace album, as it is apparently excellent.


I've been working from home all day today, and listening to 6 music - it's pretty good as it goes.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The Ultimate Olympian

OK, time to point your attention to the work of a friend of mine.

Inspired by the Olympics and the vast array of sports on offer, Mac has decided to set himself a challenge: by the beginning of the 2008 Beijing games, he will have tried all of the Olympic sports that his sex/weight qualify him for. I think that works out as something like 136 events at a rate of 1 every 10 days. Perhaps he could be a gold medallist at something he's never tried? (or so the argument went)

Yes, that does include things like weightlifting, the gymnastics, the marathon, the rowing, the sailing, the greco-Roman wrestling, the synchronised diving....

It's all in aid of charity - the sobell house hospice charity - and it would be great if anyone reading this could pop over to Mac's blog and offer him some support:

1) sponsorship - let's raise loads of cash out of this for a good cause
2) offers of help with some of the sports (are you a pole vault coach, perhaps? do you own a Finn class dinghy? Do you have the keys to a velodrome and an intimate understanding of the Madison?)

His blog is The Ultimate Olympian

It's a bloody silly idea... but such madness has my full support.

She studied sculpture at St. Martin's college.

Fantastic William Shatner news - he's got a new album coming out, and it contains a pulp cover! Now that will have to be heard to be believed.

You. Want. To live. Like. CommonPeople. You. Wanttodo. Whatever. CommonPeople. Do.

What happened to Nick Hornby's career by the way.... the author of "High Fidelity" is writing stuff for Shatner?

And (to paraphrase John Mac) there are people out there who think that novelty is more important than talent. Pah!

It took time then I found you

On top of yesterday's great news about the Kings of Leon tour, it turns out that not only are Interpol touring, they are playing Rock City the Sunday before. Excellent news.

I have decided that Interpol are pretty much the band that defines my taste in music: vaguely doomy guitar music played by skinny white guys. I think that probably accounts for at least 80% of my music collection, and I like to think I'm pretty diverse.

Hm. Actually, thinking about it, perhaps the other 20% is equally doomy, it's just not by guitar bands (I'm thinking people like Scott Walker, Dusty Springfield, Johnny Cash.... )

I'm now really racking my brains to think if I like any upbeat music at all.

I' m honestly not sure I do. Does that mean anything? Is any good music upbeat? Do happy people make good music? (look at Fran Healey - he fell in love and his happy songs about being with his girlfriend are all totally shite). It's the old argument - do you have to be in pain to produce truly great music?

I hereby challenge you to think of some examples that disprove this.


By the way, if you want to hear the R.E.M. album ("Around the Sun") in its entirety before it comes out next month, go here.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Digital Certificates

I just had to go through a quite lengthy procedure for getting a digital certificate thing for my work email. For those not in the know (and to be honest, I bet you know more about this than me), this is a widget that sits in my email and "signs" my mailings as coming from me i.e. to prevent people pretending that they are me sending you a virus (or worse), and also for encrypting messages (cos an email is basically like a postcard in the mail - can be read by anyone).

It's a bit depressing though, I think. Is this a sign of the times? Why can't we all just get along?

Tacheback - your chance to feel like a real man

Just been sent this and had to share.

More info is here, but the essential thrust of the campaign is to get more men to grow a 'tache. Obviously I aspire to the "extreme" Merv Hughes type effort....

My Ears hurt...

It turns out that The Hives really **do** rock, in case there was ever any doubt. For more details see the comments thread on yesterday's post. Turns out Damo went to go and see them in Bristol on Tuesday night. They were really loud, and this morning I am very aware that I was standing slightly closer to one speaker stack than the other, if you know what I mean.

I like Rock City as a venue; big enough to have a decent crowd but small enough to be intimate. I've seen a few cracking gigs here as well (ash, pulp, Queens of the Stoneage, The Streets...) and I do keep my eyes peeled at their schedule... they get more than there fair shair of Hi-on Maidens (do you see what they did there?), Magnums, Motorheads etc. etc, but in amongst all that are people like PJ Harvey, The Hives, Keane. I'm still devastated that I missed the Kings of Leon there, as they clashed with Eddie Izzard at the Nottingham Ice Arena (increasingly also becoming a handy concert venue). Rock City would have been a great venue to see the dirty southern rock of the KOL too - and Izzard later announced an extra Nottingham date, the git.

Anyways. Venue was full of students and I felt a little bit old. I felt a little bit better when I saw that one teenage guy had come with his 40-something dad. Then I noticed that his dead was wearing a "System of a Down" t-shirt, which I thought as a pretty good effort.

Only caught a couple of songs by the backing band, and they made no impression other than that the singer was trying hard to sound like Robert Smith c.1986 (lots of yelping). The Hives themselves were excellent I thought - lots of short, sharp rock with punchy riffs and a good deal of swaggering by Howling Pelle Almqvist. Considering they are Swedish, I thought it was a bit rich of them to criticise the English weather, but there you go. It's also nice to see a band with a fat bloke in.

They were fun.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Hives Are Law You Are Crime

I'm off to see the Hives at Rock City tonight....

I expect to see some immaculately uniformed, spikey scandinavian punk and come back with my hearing slightly worse than it was, and a big smile on my face. How can you not enjoy a band who look like this? (Is that Barry from Eastenders on the left?)

I kept meaning to listen to Interpol today, and never got around to it. I'll put it on in the car. New album out soon!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Ol' Big 'Ead R.I.P.

As a Nottingham resident, I only feel it right that I should pass on my respects to Brian Clough, who died yesterday. They don't make 'em like that anymore.

"If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he'd have put grass up there." On the importance of passing to feet.

Brian Clough. 1935 -2004

251 goals in 274 games for 'Boro / Sunderland (lest we forget how good a player he was)

Derby County: Div 2 champions 68/69, Div 1 champions 1971/2, European cup semis 1972/3

Nottingham Forest:
1976-77: Div 2 promotion;
1977-78: League Champions, League Cup winners;
1978-79: European Cup, League Cup, League runners-up;
1979-80: European Cup, European Super Cup, World Club finalists, League Cup finalists;
1980-81: European Super Cup finalists, World Club finalists;
1988-89: League Cup winners, Simod Cup winners;
1989-90: League Cup winners;
1990-91: FA Cup finalists;
1991-92 Zenith Data Cup winners, League Cup finalists.

2 European cups in successive years for a club like Forest. Surely never to be repeated?

"If anyone wants to see my O-Levels and A-Levels, I'll get my medals from upstairs and put them on the table. They're my O-Levels and A-Levels."

"Don't send me flowers when I'm dead. If you like me, send them while I'm alive." After the operation which saved his life

"I want no epitaphs of profound history and all that type of thing. I contributed - I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me," On how he would like to be remembered.


Paul Auster and Darth Vader

Not sure if I've mentioned this here before, but Paul Auster is rapidly establishing himself as my favourite author. I'm not actually reading anything by him at the moment (I'm reading an excellent book on the 1932/33 Bodyline Ashes series, as it happens) but I have just been sent a bunch of his books by some bookcrossers. YokoSpungeon has lent me her copy of 'The Book of Illusions', Andi1203 sent me 'Moon Palace' as a RABK and just yesterday, the lovely YowlYY sent me a copy of 'In the Country of the Last Things'. Thank you all. If there's one thing better than discovering a new author who is so good that he makes your skin tingle, it's knowing that he has written loads of other books that I haven't read.

And to think I only discovered him when I randomly selected a copy of 'New York Trilogy' from the bookshelf of MrBones in exchange for one of my books that he was interested in. If I get nothing else from Bookcrossing, then this is more than enough.


My Star Wars DVD set was dropped round by a neighbour today - cool. I'm actually quite looking forward to sitting down and watching these through again. I've watched them a 100000 times each, but they are part of the tapestry of my childhood. I remember so distinctly standing in a queue in the pouring rain outside the Electra cinema in Newport Pagnell with my brothers, my dad and Roy Walker (no, not that one) to watch 'The Empire Strikes Back'.

I'm pleased to see that George Lucas appears to have got a little bit off his high horse about these and has deigned to do some commentaries as well. Over the last few years Lucas has really started to get up my nose with his relentless mythologising of his lucky break - all that crap he talks about having the whole thing mapped out in his head from the beginning and that episodes I, II & III were all basically in place from the beginnning etc. etc. Am I alone in thinking he's guilty of treating his audience like children (hold on, there is Jar Jar...)?

Star Wars was called "Episode IV: A new hope" in that famous bit of creeping text because Lucas wanted to place the film squarely in the context of those saturday matinee things we all used to watch, where it was always part 42 or something (a trick Lucas repeated with Indiana Jones actually). It wasn't because he saw it as part of a 9 film cycle at all. You just cannot persuade me that Lucas knew that Luke & Leia were going to be related at any point during the writing or making of the first film. There is no way that a contemporary, mainstream and pretty conservative director like Lucas would have touched on all those faintly incestuous notes. I'm prepared to believe he had worked it out by the time they made Empire, as Luke has pretty much backed off by now, and it's all Leia and Han....

And I notice that the DVD versions only contain the "remastered" versions of the 3 films. Apparently this is the way that we were always intended to see the films, but the technology wasn't good enough at the time. Now we're lucky enough to have a caring director like Lucas to clean them up for us. Nope. Not buying it. Fair enough that you block out some of the matte lines and make the TIE fighters look like they are flying rather than being pulled on strings (although to be fair, in the main the effects hold up remarkably well). Why do we have to have a version of the film where Greedo draws his gun on Han first? What on earth does that add? In the version where Han just blasts Greedo under the table, we get a great introduction into the pretty shady character of a renegade smuggler - he's a bit of a scoundrel (albeit with a heart of gold). This apparently isn't good enough for George - Solo is an all round good guy and he certainly isn't the type to shoot someone in such an underhand manner. Hey! Hows about we modify the scene so Greedo pulls first, thus justifying Han shooting him? NO! that's the Stalin version of history! And notice how 'Star Wars' is now 'Star Wars Episode IV: a new hope'? Neatly paving the way for the prequels? And now you can't even get the original versions (mine are with an old girlfriend) so people are growing up with this revisionist history!

Hold on. Do I sound like a fan boy?

One last thing - nice trick George. I bought the orignal versions of the films on video when they were released in the late 80s (I think). I then went out and bought the remastered trilogy in the 90s. Now I have gone out and bought the DVDs. Can you think of any other film where you would do this? I've basically bought the same thing 3 times (not to mention the versions I used to have on Betamax - I can still remember where the ad breaks are!)


News on my developing mania - I'm still being driven mad by the growing number of scratches on my glasses lenses. Any tips on how to get over this mania? Millions of other people seem to manage ok with them. Why do I find it so hard?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Jesus Soft on Crime?

I have to admit that the whole thing about the US elections fascinates me.

You can buy George W. Bush golfballs!

Was Jesus soft on crime? Could he be trusted in the war on terror?

Should Voldemort stand for the Republicans?

Does George W. Bush really look like a chimp? (and the evidence here is compelling)

Our election is never this much fun (although we do have batman raiding Buckingham Palace and a bunch of upper class wankers defending their right to let their dogs disembowel an animal that poses no threat to anyone)

to radically change the subject, what happened to Britney?

Ahoy there Shipmates!

I've been doing a lot of moaning on here recently, haven't I?

Well that's going to have to stop. Starting now.

Did you know that Saturday is "International Talk Like a Pirate Day"?

Here's a lesson on how to talk like a pirate, although if you don't have time for that, the short version is something like:

"Be sure to be referrin' to friends as "shipmates", yer enemies as "scurvy landlubbers", and yer good lady as "wench". Unless yer good lady be stronger than yerself. "

So, Avast there you scurvy dogs! Arrrrr!


Big up to Estherase from Bookcrossing - long time no speak! Nice to hear from you again, and it's a pleasure to add your site to the blogroll below...

Also a big "Hello" to Deb and to Ali as well, who I caught up with this week as well. Good luck with the pirate treasure hunt Yoko!


Now then, I'm not condoning this kind of behaviour, but it couldn't have happened to a more ridiculous, puffed up, self-tanned, pompous little show-off could it?

A brief flashing insight into my working day...

"Use-Case Specification: FCO1675 Patient Group Direction & Statins - Customer purchases a Statin"

"FCO1676 Enhancements to the POM/Private Prescription Process - customer orders a prescription online"

If you are bored reading those titles, imagine how I felt writing them.

Listening to Teenage Fanclub was some consolation, mind.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Gym or Run?

That was the question I asked myself last night before I went to bed. I usually exercise on a tuesday, and I wanted to get my kit ready for the next day, rather than slow down my morning routine pulling it together as I was getting ready for work.

Run, I decided. I like exercising out of doors, and going to the gym is a sign that the summer is over, and it will be nights at the gym from now on, with the odd run on a saturday morning.

And now it's pissing it down.


Lunchtime at work...

Well, as a point of principle I like to spend a little bit of time doing something other than work during lunch. Often as I have my lunch sitting at my desk in front of my PC, this means having a quick browse of the Guardian's marvellous online sports pages and then going back to whatever I was doing. Today I've made a break. Well, I'm still at my desk, but I've caught up on a couple of blogs that I read regularly, and now I'm suitably inspired to post something dull onto mine.

ahem. here we go then.

Work has been pretty dull - banging out some requirements or other for some online pharmacy or other. At the moment I'm struggling a bit to keep my motivation up. Yesterday I came in to work to find that the only meeting I had all day had been cancelled. Given that I then spent all day plugged into my Ipod writing documentation, I could just as easily have been at home. Still, I did get to do an extended test of my new headphones and listened to some great music:

The Libertines - as shambling as ever, but their vocal bickering and heart-on-sleeve lyrics are really appealing

Help - Warchild - I haven't listened to this in an age, and somehow the appeal of the album has grown now that my Ipod can tell me who each of the tracks is by (the album doesn't have any sleeve notes)

Still a pretty dull day though.

As an aside - I'm convinced I am going mental in my old age. I suppose I must always have had something of an obsessive streak, but now it seems to be getting out of hand. For a few years I have been pretty bad at things like going and checking that I locked my car, or put my handbrake on. Recently though it seems to have got worse. I changed my glasses in May, moving from glass lenses to plastic lenses. There has barely been a week since when I haven't been totally obsessed with either the fit of them on my face (rubbing my nose, riding up my ears, not straight - whatever) or scratches on the lenses. I've had the lenses changed a few times (thanks to Vision Express and their Grand Advantage scheme) but plastic lenses will ALWAYS scratch, no matter how careful you are (and I am pretty careful - I always use a proper cleaning cloth to wipe them down). Now, I know they will inevitably scratch. I also know that I cannot see the scratches when I am wearing the glasses. I therefore know that it is totally irrational to waste brainpower worrying about these things. And yet I do.

Like I said.... I think I'm going mental.
And on that cheery note, back to work! (accompanied by the Mull Historical Society "Loss", I think)

Saturday, September 11, 2004


I am so sorry.

I have been scanning my blog, and realised that I have become positively verbose. I must write more short and snappy posts. Surely no one can be bothered to wade through all that crap can they? Anyone? Bueller?

Conan Doyle and the mysterious case of the laptop bag

I've noticed that I've started becoming a bit slack on putting regular postings up here at the moment - it's all to do with me procrastinating about finishing off my Olympic journal. Sigh. Well, I've decided not to let it get in the way.

It's noon on Saturday. To be honest a time when I'm usually just dragging my lazy arse out of bed. I've been quite productive so far today though.
1) nipped to the world's most inconveniently located City Link depot in Illkeston to pick up my Crumpler bag. This is about a 30 minute drive all the way across Nottingham, out the other side and into Derbyshire. They tried to deliver yesterday afternoon, but I was at work of course. Naturally they don't re-deliver on Saturdays. Grrr. Anyway. The bag looks good. A bit smaller than I was expecting, but big enough to comfortably fit my Thinkpad (and the next size bag up, which I saw in Selfridges last week is absolutely enourmous. Far, far too big for me)

2) I had noticed that my front driver's side tyre was getting a bit worn, and as I'm off to Ox next weekend, I thought I had better get it checked out. Popped into Kwik Fit, and it turns out that both my front tyres are practically bald on the inside edges and wearing through. One of those tyres was pretty new, which indicates that there is a problem with the tracking. Still, they sorted all of that out for me, which was nice. I think I timed it just perfectly as I had to wait about 2 minutes before they dealt with me. So I'm £200 poorer, but am the proud owner of a new set of Continental tyres and am that little bit less likely to die on the road - which must be a good thing, right?

Went to the Playhouse with C last night to watch a 4 man production of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" by the same director who did "Travels with my Aunt" last year. That was excellent, and so was this. The timing of the cast (who obviously all play multiple roles - frequently with 3 of them playing Watson at the same time) was really good. Interesting use of film projected onto the back of the stage to set the scene. As usual the seats in the playhouse weren't very comfortable, but at least you get royally entertained. Also a good excuse to have tea at Wagamama's.

One of the things that I find especially interesting about Holmes is the way that, in times of boredom, he resorts to injecting cocaine solution. This is clearly not something that sits comfortably with a modern audience (and as I recall, even Dr Watson is mildly judgmental about it in the books), but I was pleased to see that this production didn't duck the issue at all.

Bravo to Franz Ferdinand for winning the Mercury Music Prize this week. They don't always give this to the right people (M-People anyone?) but I think they made a good choice this year. Was watching it on telly last night, and was struck by how many of the albums shortlisted this year that I own:
Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Franz Ferdinand
Keane - Hopes and Fears
Snow Patrol - Final Straw
The Streets - A Grand Don't Come for Free
(there are 12 nominations in all)
Not sure what that says about me, other than that I like music by skinny white boys with guitars (excepting the Streets, obviously).

Before you know it, I'll be the old bloke tapping my foot at gigs.... Starting with the Hives at Rock City later this month..

Monday, September 06, 2004

Blackpool & Morrissey - strange bedfellows

I don't know whether this is amazing or not, but I've never been to Blackpool before. Well, I've been there now, and to be honest I'm not too sure that I will be hurrying back. It's a shithole and no mistake.

Perhaps I should explain - I did have a valid reason for being there and wasn't just visiting to have a weekend at the seaside. Regular readers may recall that I was railing at the ridiculously obscure tour dates that Morrissey had announced (Bridlington, Perth, Blackpool...). Well, I bought a couple of tickets for the Blackpool Empress Ballroom date and booked a room at the Savoy. Tootled up with C at some point on Saturday afternoon (it's only 2 1/2 hours - so handy!) and checked in. The Savoy sounds very grand, and is in quite an imposing building on the North Shore at Blackpool. Think faded glamour. There was a wedding in full swing when we arrived - I had a quick peak around the door (as you do) and noticed that the tables were named apparently at random after towns. We had a "paris" - fine. "Miami" - fine. Then we had "Key West" - hmm. Not exactly a major metropolis and also in Florida. Perhaps it's where the kids were conceived?

Anyway - dumped bags and went exploring. It's about a mile from the Savoy up towards the tower and the north pier, so we walked it. The tide was in, and the sea was muddily thrashing against the wall. Not much golden sand here. Pleasant enough potter in, but as you near the town proper... the full horror becomes apparent. You know how there's an element in every British town that go out on a Friday and Saturday night and get horrifically drunk, stagger around in packs, piss in the street, shout a lot, have homemade tattoos and are generally pretty unpleasant? Often wear Burberry caps? Well, apparently they all go on holiday and let their hair down in Blackpool. I was interested to see that they really do wear "Kiss me Quick" hats as well. Roving packs of stag and hen dos wander the streets wearing a uniform of some kind (t-shirts and the like - one group of girls had cowboy hats & holsters with a dildo in them, which I thought was especially nice). There are vending machines in the street selling such delights as an "all in one lace sex suit" for £1 (Vicky bought one of these on the way home after the gig, and I confirm that in fact this is not made from lace).

Picked my way carefully through this lot and went to scope out the venue. The Empress Ballroom is inside the Blackpool Winter Gardens and is splendid. It has a sprung floor and chandaliers. It's a total throwback to when Blackpool was something of a more traditional Engish seaside town and people went out dancing and things like that. Anyway - doors weren't until 7pm (it's about 5pm by now) but gathered outside were the hardcore fans. Smiths t-shirts, quiffs, national health specs and a general "I'm more lonely and alienated than thou" look about them, I have to say. Didn't hang around and grabbed some Harry Ramsden's before heading back to change and stuff (mmm. fish n chips!)

Got back to the venue about 8pm (and ironically, although the support band were on and doors had been open for a couple of hours, if I had so desired, I could have walked right up to the stage.... but I suppose for that bunch it's almost more important to be SEEN as a the most devoted fan than anything else. They seem to all know each other anyway, and they're all fiendishly jealous of someone called Julia, who Moz namechecked both here and at Glastonbury.)
Support was Clash-wannabes and we ignored them, met up with Vic, Doug and their mates Michael and Sharon, and queued at the bar for beer.
Moz came on about 9 and opened up with "How Soon is Now", which let's face it is a pretty splendid way to start. Great song.

Here's the set list (I think):
How soon is now?/FOTGTD/Daddys Voice/How could anybody Know how I feel/Jack the Ripper/Munich air disaster 1958/Shakespeares Sister/I like you/ Everyday is like Sunday/Such a little thing/Let me kiss you/Rubber Ring/Now my heart is full/November/I know I couldnt last/IBEH/TALTNGO

Not too dissimilar to what he played at Glastonbury (with the notable additions of November Spawned a Monster & Now my Heart is Full - the latter being especially gorgeous). It was just BETTER though. Smaller venue for sure, but he just seemed a lot more comfortable and chatty. I suppose not having a bunch of Muse fans down the front telling you to sod off is probably helpful. The acoustics of the venue were a bit boomy, but I thought it was great. I've been waiting to see Moz in a venue like this since the "Vauxhall and I" tour in about 1995. How was I to know he wouldn't tour again for 8 years? Somehow I knew at the time that I would regret it.

It was like a bloody oven mind. Moz went through 4 shirts (and yes, I can confirm that he is in pretty good physical shape). As I said, he was positively chatty. The album was called "You Ate the Curry", he sang "In the Darkened Underpants..." during TALTNGO and spoke of his joy that "How Could Anybody Know How I Feel?" was played in the Rovers -again- during "Constipation Street". He also amusingly trod in some chewing gum, leading to a very un-Morrissey-like "Oh Shit! Chewing Gum!".

All in all, I'm very, very pleased that we made the effort. The end was great - as they finished off "There is a Light..." at the end of the set, the band too it in turns to leave the stage - Morrissey first, then Boz, then the bassist etc. etc. with the sound slowly being pared down until we were left with just the keyboards, and then nothing. Great way to end the gig.
I'm sort of hoping he'll do a bigger tour in the new year, but I think this would be hard to top.
You can picture the scene as we all piled out of the venue though - 3000 morrissey fans in with their gladioli tumbling feyly out into the hideous carnage of downtown Blackpool on a saturday night at about 11pm. Talk about culture clash...

Still - the next morning I was able to get a bit more of a glimpse of the old seaside town. C and I went out for a stroll along the beach at about 09:30 am when it was pretty much just us and the seagulls. The tide was out, so there was quite a lot more sand about the place, and it was actually quite bracing and nice. Checked out and scarpered though. Can't say I've really got any plans to hurry back for a long weekend! Posted by Hello

somehow this is my favourite shot of everything that we took in Athens - but then I am a simple chap really Posted by Hello

Carry on up the Acropolis

Finally - I manage to squeeze in some culture about 3 hours before the flight leaves

Miracle of miracles, I managed to get Mik up relatively early in time to come up the Acropolis with me (repeat after me, the big rock is the 'Acropolis' and the famous temple I'm standing in front of here is the 'Pathenon' - now you know, don't make the same mistake that everyone else seems to make.)

Still, managed to make sure that I was climbing up at the hottest part of the day (noon) and it was roasting. It's nice. There's a lot of renovation going on at the moment, mostly to get rid of some earlier attempts at renovation in less enlightened times (so cleaning off all the nasty rubbish like cement that they used to fill stuff up, and using things like marble to replace it). I was slightly alarmed to see that the Greeks seem to have some plan to actually rebuild some of the ruins "as they would have been", which sounds like an appalling idea to me.

As usual with a monument like this, it was absolutely crawling with tourists. The little museum at the top was filled with those people who move from statue to statue, looking solely through the viewfinder of their camera/camcorder, and never really pausing to have a good look with their own eyes. As a tourist myself though, I should obviously be mindful that I was essentially there to have a gawk as well.

Fact of the day: The Parthenon was originally painted in many colours. Looks better now then, in my opinion.

Clambered down, gathered up my bits and pieces, had a final beer in our local before heading off with Mik and Rich for the airport. Not much to report about the flight back really, apart from the fact that we were on the same flight as most of the British Triathlon team, Linford Christie (flying economy on hellas? and before the 4x100m relay team's triumph the following night?) and also behind a chap who I finally recognised as the former chief exceutive of the Boots Company - Steve Russell. Small world.

I had the distinct pleasure of sitting between Jo and her charming and chatty 11 year old daughter Demi on the way home. I had given up my window seat to Demi, but as Jo is terrified of flying, I sat in the middle. Marvellous company they were too. Demi chuntered away to me for 4 hours, and played on her gameboy, and I had a nice chat with Jo. Lovely people, and they really brightened up what might have been something of a depressing journey.

Landed at 22.30 or something and pottered up home - dropping Mik off on the way and finally getting home at 2am or something. Yawn.

Brilliant holiday, and I have to say, it was rather strange watching the games on telly the following night (when Kelly won the 1500m and the men's 4x100m team won the gold). I suppose it was doubly-weird because John, Scat and Rob were there, and I had been the one who had found them the tickets. Fair play to them I say.

A great games. In spite of all the slurs thrown in their general direction, a games that the Greeks can be proud of. Posted by Hello

Maybe in 2008, eh? Posted by Hello

The rather cool Triathlon pictogram - NOT on a tshirt near you. Posted by Hello

Dean Macey - shortly before making a hash of the pole vault Posted by Hello

Bob and Luke meet the lovely Gail Emms Posted by Hello

We celebrate Kelly's win in the 800m Posted by Hello

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Dean Macey!!!

Listen - I know it's taking me a while to write this stuff up (and there's a fair bit to come yet, I'm afraid), but it'll get up here in its own sweet time.

I've got the added problem that I need to stick up some stuff about going to see Morrissey in Blackpool as well. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do when it all throws my timelines out of whack and stuff?

Posted by Hello

Athens 2004 - PM Sunday 22nd August

Had my first proper souvlaki on the way to the stadium. Quite tasty, although better are to come. During the course of this meal, we also managed to have an excellent conversation about Def Leppard, Toto, REO Speedwagon and the like - why? well we like to tease JVP about this. He claims not to be a fan of this kind of music, but my goodness he knows a lot about it. Know any Toto songs apart from Africa? JVP does. Very funny. As with all things crap-music related, this soon leads us into thinking about our mutual friend Des and his ropey taste in hair metal....

This is a pretty big night at the athletics. Why? Well because we are going to get to see 8 strutting, pompous peacocks run up the track in about 10 seconds. Yup - it's the 100m final.
It's also the women's marathon tonight. We consider going to watch the finish at the old stadium to cheer Paula in, but decide to head up to the main stadium. We wish Paula all the best, and try to keep up with it on the big screens when we get to our seats, but it's bloody hot today. Come on Paula!

Scat manages to leave his camera at the souvlaki house (one metro stop down from the stadium) and so after a panicky moment (when he wonders if I picked it up for him - as I did at the airport when he left it lying around) he heads off back there. Lucky for him the owner had hung onto it. Also lucky for him, he was prepared to give it back.

Luke also has a brilliant competitive dad moment in the stadium shop with some kid. They have the Athens 2004 playstation game set up in there for people to have a look at, and some kid had taken Luke on in the 100m - foolishly fancying his chances, not realising that Luke has this game at home and has taken great pride in honing his techinique. He crushed the kid, who apparently was still in the dark ages of button pushing in the sprint to Luke's finely honed analogue stick technique. Amateur!

We've also picked up a couple more medals in the rowing today - a silver and a bronze - and the GB total of 20 is starting to look pretty good against the 28 we won in Sydney in 2000.

When we purchased the tickets for the stadium (about 12 months ago via an application type thing on the athens 2004 website) we were only able to apply for seats in the stadium in pairs, so we have to break up into little gangs once we get in. Tonight I am with Mr. Poll, and we have fairly decent seats around about the end of the longjump run up (the triple jump is on tonight). Luke lucks out and is sat down by the pit. Still, these seats will do. These are category A tickets, and cost us 90 Euros each, but it's immediately obvious where the real best seats are: almost an entire half of the stadium, down the home straight, is taken up by press or dignitary seats. There are literally hundreds of them. I'm not really sure how necessary this is. I appreciate that the media coverage of the games is the thing that makes their profile so large, but do they really need to be sat down there in such numbers? You don't see this at other stadiums do you? The dignitary seats are somehow worse - they aren't full for most of the time that I'm in the stadium, which is a disgrace. There are hospitality boxes at the back behind us, and the people in them seem to spend all their time watching the telly. I think the Greeks are very interested in the Greek performances, but perhaps they are a little less interested than the aussies were in 2000 in the games themselves.

Bad news for Paula in the Marathon when she is forced to drop out after about 23 miles from what we later discover is basically exhaustion brought on by the heat. This is a choker for her, and for the 1000s of fans lining the route. This was supposed to be a banker gold medal for GB, and is gutting. We watch Paula sobbing in the gutter on the big screen in the stadium. A Japanese girl wins, but hats off to Tracey Morris, the optician who qualified for Athens in the London Marathon by knocking about an hour off her PB - she finishes 20-somethingth in a time of about 2:41. This is only slightly slower than her best time, but this is a really tough course (mainly uphill) and in some pretty extreme conditions for a long distance race.

Back in the stadium, both Darren Campbell and Mark Lewis-Francis have failed to qualify for the 100m final. At this point in the games, the GB sprinters are not really doing anything to refute the pre-games criticisms in the papers... At this point we also get to see a couple of paralympic finals - the wheelchair 800m for women and the wheelchair 1500m for men. The former containing British heroine Tanni Grey-Thompson. It's great to watch these guys performing in front of a packed stadium on such a big night of athletics, and I hope we get to see more merging of the two games in the future. Tanni comes last by some distance, but as she comes round the track again with the rest of the athletes, JVP and I stand up and give her a huge cheer whilst waving the flag, and she gives us a little wave and a rueful smile. It was a pleasure to see you perform Tanni, and I don't care where you finished.

It's not really a great night for the Brits all round. As I mentioned, we were at the end of the long jump run up, so we get an excellent view of our triple jumper Phillips Idowu having 4 no jumps (he managed to negotiate an extra jump, for some reason). Still - Christian Olsson makes it a brilliant night for the well represented Swedes in the stadium with a win in the same event (their high jumper, Stefan Holm, has already picked up a gold), so together with Kluft's win in the heptathlon yesterday, they have quite a lot to be shouting about. And that's exactly what they do.

In the women's 100m hurdles heats, we get the not totally disagreeable sight of Gail Devers coming to grief before the first hurdle. I don't like to see anyone hurt, but I have to admit that there is something that I really don't like about Devers, and it's not just the nails (horrid though they are). The home crowd gets a huge boost when their 400m hurdler, Fani Halkia, storms through her semi-final with an Olympic record time. She's pretty and blonde, and the greeks are desperate for a track gold medal to make up for the absence of their hero and ropey motorbike rider Kenderis. Fani later goes on to claim the gold....

None of our girls qualify out of the 400m semi-finals, but we do get to have a small cheer as Michael East makes the 1500m final as a fastest loser (oh the glamour!). Still, the big event of the night is clearly the 100m final... quite a lineup, and it's quite exciting really. In the end the result is:
Gatlin (USA) 9.85
Obikwelu (Por)
Greene (USA)

The first 4 all ran in under 9.90 for the first time ever.

It's okay, I suppose... but the 100m has been so tarnished since 1988 that I don't think it's quite the same event as it used to be. I'm pleased to have been there to see it though. The rendition of "Zorba the Greek" played into the stadium before the start of the race really got everyone rocking though - full on audience participation. Actually, perhaps that was more fun than the race itself. The Greeks seem to love that tune totally unironically. Good luck to them. Perhaps the crowd had heard that Greece had picked up a gold medal on the rings in the gymnastics. Whatever. The stadium was rocking.

When we get out, Scat is a complete shambles (he has been sitting with Bob, and this seems to happen quite a lot to people who sit with Bob. In fact, we call it being "bobbed"). Despite this, it's really very easy indeed to hop onto a #14 bus and get back to Syntagma square.

Quite a night, but it's the Decathlon tomorrow!
Posted by Hello