Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bearded Ladies

Just a quick post to give a well deserved plug (ah, the power of micro-publicity) to the forthcoming Bearded Ladies sketch show series on Radio 4 (a six-week run starting Tuesday 9th August at 6.30pm). Cello, Pashmina, Mr Pashmina and I had a great time watching the last show being recorded at the Drill Hall on Friday night.

It's always heartening to come across truly funny women, especially when two of the truly funny women in question were also partly responsible for writing one of the Greatest Sitcoms Of Our Time. And it was even better to meet Ori afterwards and discover that, as suspected, all GW writers are as lovely as they are talented. Marvellous stuff.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Late Adopter

I've always been the sort of person who Misses Fads. For example, I got my first Duran Duran poster in 1985, after the band had split up and when everyone else was raving about Morten from A-Ha. Not only this, but I'm pretty sure my poster was of Andy Taylor, rather than Simon le Bon or John Taylor. How much more wrong could I have got it?

Next, witness the fact that I remain only dimly aware of the so-called Su Doku phenomenon that appears to have gripped the rest of the nation. Putting numbers in little squares is the kind of thing I might be made to do in my version of Hell. But give me three years and I'll no doubt come round to it.

And then recently I dropped into the late-adopter section of the popular fiction uptake curve and bought a book by the Dan Brown of cosy teatime literature, Alexander McCall Smith.

Now I love trashy novels as much as anyone (anyone who loves trashy novels as much as I do, at any rate) but Good Lord, this one is fucking awful.

I resent this book on three counts:

1. There's nothing worse than a trash novel with pretensions. Mentioning Immanuel Kant on every other page doesn't make your writing any more profound.

2. There's nothing worse than a trash novel that takes a supercilious moral stance. I read this stuff for escapism, not to be assailed with self-righteous, ill thought-out and inconsistent moral pronouncements.

3. There's nothing worse than trash novelists who show off how clever they think they are by creating an "intellectual" character whom other characters think is clever. For example, at one point the protagonist refers to people as being quick or dead, while another character admires her use of the word "quick" in this context. Look mate, there's nothing remotely clever about that, just as there isn't anything remotely clever about mentioning Plato on every other page.

And this is, of course, why I've never attempted to write a novel myself.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Apparently I got a little bit angry and over-punctuated yesterday. Sorry about that, everyone. Expect future posts to cover such contentious topics as fluffy kittens and hot chocolate with whipped cream.

Mmm, hot chocolate with whipped cream. Is it Autumn yet?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Once Again With Slightly Less Feeling

Things That Have Really Annoyed Me Today:

1. A nu-meeja dollybird I spotted hanging around the back of the building wearing a pair of mini polka-dot wellies. What is this utter nonsense? The footwear equivalent of driving a 4x4 round the streets of W4, that's what. This is Chiswick, not rural Shropshire! Loser!

2. The "tasteful" literary quotes embossed on the wall of the pretentious bread shop. It's bad enough paying £233.20 for a cheese sandwich without having to put up with some whiny quote from Marcel Proust about how he'd really like to be a baker if there wasn't any paper left to write on. Rubbish. What, you'd really like to get up at 3am every day to mix flour and water and stick it in an oven? And what do you mean, "if there wasn't any paper left"? Like being a reclusive, prolix writer was your *destiny*, or something, which could only be avoided by a worldwide shortage of paper? And what would you wrap your baguettes in, anyway? Loser!

3. The over-zealous use of packaging in the pretentious bread shop. Like, your sandwich is wrapped in plastic, then they put it in a paper bag, then put the sandwich-wrapped-in-plastic-in-a-paper-bag into a carrier bag. Have you *no* concern for the environment at all? Losers!

4. Everything else about the pretentious bread shop.

5. Everything else.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Pepsi Max Big One Of Emotional Rollercoasters

Really quite unhappy now. Even the thought of my tasty new cherry-red leather sofa isn't cheering me up at all.

Have spent at least part of the afternoon debating which bus to throw myself under: the 440 is quite speedy and reckless and has the added advantage of passing through some nicely insalubrious locations (if I go, I'd like it to be outside the desolate sorting office up the back end of Bollo Lane). The E3, meanwhile, is slower and has a classier route (I don't really want to pass over to the Other Side outside the fancy lingerie emporium or the bespoke chocolatier, thanks very much), but has a definite bulk and weight advantage.

Wait a second...fancy lingerie emporium...bespoke chocolatier...both of them on my way home! That's me sorted for a top night of scoffing handmade chocolates on my tasty new cherry-red leather sofa while wearing frighteningly expensive underwear. Woo!

Now, if only I could get the telly to work...

...or if I had any cash at all to spend on frivolous non-essential items.


Looks like another lonely evening of fretting about the awfulness of the carpet is in store instead.

This is quite some ride.

We Can Tell Where You Live

Meant to say something earlier about the always lovely Danny O'Brien's "keynote" at the OpenTech event on Saturday.

Now I'm a big fan of NTK and its spin-off projects (although I haven't forgiven them for mercilessly pulling the plug on EHA, thus severing the only link I had with Chuffy! and Snark, to whom I'd been talking for about four years and who are now seemingly irretrievably lost down the back of the internet sofa), and I'm a big fan of Steven Johnson-style technosocial claptrap, so I was really looking forward to this talk.

Sadly I was a bit disappointed.

Firstly (and possibly most importantly), what on earth has happened to Danny's accent? Three years in California, and he's started talking like Alicia Silverstone. Which for a geek - or indeed for anyone who wasn't in Beverly Hills 90210 - is *not* a good thing.

Secondly, why did he waste so much time wittering on (in comedic fashion, admittedly) about high-school girls and pointing out the perl script on Madonna's website, and save all the interesting points for the last five minutes?

The last five minutes were great. The point was that we unwittingly leak information about ourselves and other people on the internet, meaning that The Man, stalkers, etc. can piece together our and other people's identity and whereabouts, whether we want him to or not.

One example was a project being done by Prof Roberto Cipolla (trans: Bob Onion) at Cambridge University, who's developed software that can recognise buildings from photographs. The idea is that if you get lost, you can take a picture of a nearby building with your mobile, send it to the database, it recognises the building from the arrangement of horizontal and vertical lines, and texts you back to tell you where you are.

(Don't get all excited now - at the moment this would only work if you're lost in Cambridge city centre).

Of course being the privacy loon/techno-conspiracy theorist that he is, Danny reckons that this software could be used (by The Man, the Four Horsemen of the Mediacalypse, stalkers etc.) to trawl through people's online photo archives, like at Flickr or something, and find out where they've been.

I get the feeling I should be terribly frightened about this, but somehow I'm not. I mean, I really don't mind the Sun finding out that I visited the hinterland of Catalunya (unused teenage bandname of...?) in 2002. And if you're a terrorist, you're not going to take photos of your house and your intended targets and post them on Flickr to share with your terrorist mates, are you? *Are* you?

But what if you're *not* a terrorist - say you're a Brazilian electrician or something - but you happen to have taken some photos of places that might seem like terrorist targets, and you've taken a photo of your house....

Oh, *now* I get it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Babe, You Can't Turn Me On

Hmm. My new life as a recovering co-dependent ("a period of time alone is crucial," according to Marie Claire. I hope their features editor realises that there are people out here who are following this advice to the letter and that she's fully prepared for the angry mob of wailing, masochistic doormats who will inevitably march on King's Reach Tower (we can do stuff in herd formation, see?) when it all goes horribly wrong) has hit a major and unexpected obstacle, before it's even really got underway.

I often claim that I never watch TV when I'm on my own (I know I said yesterday that I've never been on my own, but obviously I was lying) because I don't know how to switch it on. I've always assumed that this was a hilarious joke on my part, because what functioning, thirtysomething company director doesn't know how to turn on a television, for God's sake?

Ah. Hmm.

So this evening I thought I might settle down on the sofa in my pyjamas* and watch some old rubbish, a la Bridget Jones. But no. Can I turn on the telly? No, I can not. Yes, it's plugged in. Yes, the socket is switched on. Yes, I've managed to locate the "power" button, and yes, I've pressed it a number of times. No reaction whatsoever. Nada. What the bloody hell am I supposed to do now?

Christ, this solitary life is difficult.

On the bright side, I *did* learn today how to hack into an iPod, replace the Apple firmware with Linux and install a Spectrum emulator (the litmus test for all hacking experiments, it seems) on it, so it's not all techno-woe. If only I owned an iPod...

Nooooo! *Now* I find out that the quite frankly fantastically funny, talented and attractive Julian Barratt was at today's geekfest too. WHY did I not know this in advance? Still, I did make eye contact with The People's Internet And Snack Confectionery Hero, Dave Green. One day I might be brave enough to actually speak to him. At which point I will immediately blow my techno-cred by getting all giggly and confused and admitting I don't know how to turn the TV on.

Tomorrow I plan to hire a Transit van. No reason**. I just really like driving vans.

* It turns out I don't actually own any pyjamas. I'm really crap at this.
** Apart from moving house, of course.

Friday, July 22, 2005

This Is What You Get

Well, it looks like I shall have quite a bit of time to myself over the next few weeks, which for a hopeless co-dependent (many thanks to Marie Claire for that assessment) like me is a terrifying prospect.

In fact I can't remember when I last spent any time by myself. At all. Unless you count having a bath. And even hopeless co-dependents can generally fend for themselves for short periods in the bathroom without crying, running away or embarking on an ill-advised relationship with Mande Lular or Mande Susu*.

Anyway, all being well I move into a very nice flat in Shepherd's Bush tomorrow, where I'll decide how I'm going to spend all this horrible, scary me-time.

I thought I could maybe ease myself into it gently by watching a number of Films I Inexplicably Cried All The Way Through The First (And Only) Time I Saw Them. A short and somewhat indiscriminate list that includes, and is in fact limited to, Amélie, Edward Scissorhands and, erm, The Two Towers. I'm sure this admission is going to earn me a stern telling-off from cello and Pashmina, who'd rather see me watching something a bit classier (all in good time, my friends!).

Then at some point I might buy some furniture. Unless you happen to be Ray Mears, there's only so long you can survive with nothing but a chest of drawers and a manky Victorian button-back armchair that a wayward family pet pissed on in 1986.

So there we have it. Buying furniture and watching films. Mmm, this is going to be great.

Sorry, this wasn't very funny, was it? Normal service etc. etc.

* Whoever they might be.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


And she returns once more, with the thrilling news that top PR industry satire Absolute Power (fanbase: 2) returns for a second series on BBC2 at 10pm this coming Thursday 21st July. Well worth a look for anyone who:

a. works in PR (check)

b. values style over substance (check)

c. has nothing better to do on a Thursday night these days (check)

d. fancies James Lance (uncheck)

e. enjoys spotting cast members from other memorable British Comedies Of Our Time (Green Wing, Nathan Barley, The Book Group, etc. etc.)


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

You Call That "A While"?

Oh, what the hell. I'm back. Already.

Today's news, apart from the foregoing, is that I've signed up to attend the Geekfest To End All Geekfests, where the quite frankly lovely Danny O'Brien will pour forth on "the decoupling of fame and fortune" occasioned by, erm, hanging out on the internet a lot (hey, I hang out on the internet quite a bit and I haven't made it into Heat *or* the Sunday Times Rich List. Where am I going wrong?) and much zeitgeisty technocultural nonsense will be spouted on the phenomena that are blogging and "social software" (that's IM to you and me, a zeitgeisty technosocial phenomenon whose existence will one day be acknowledged by the Guardian and whose potential to destroy the fabric of society as we know it will be slavered over by the Daily Mail long after society and all of its Ideological State Apparatuses have in fact been imperceptibly blown to pieces).

It's a fiver on the door if you're interested, but you have to register first.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Well, you may not be hearing from me for a while (how long a while is uncertain, as are the levels of glee/despair you may experience on hearing this news) while I sort out some, erm, upheavals in my personal life.

But I'm not leaving you empty-handed, oh no. While I'm gone, please amuse yourselves with the quite frankly marvellous Google Earth (download/installation/functioning internet connection required). Just don't get lost in there, Tron-style. I expect to see you all back here at an as yet unspecified point in the future.