Monday, December 20, 2010

Thank god they're in charge!

"Ireland stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking."
George Osborne, 2006      (via)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The secret of eternal life

You see how at the moment before death, your whole life flashes before your eyes? How long do you think that takes? You've got to imagine that every tiny memory, every single one, even or especially those that have for years meandered deep below the conscious surface, is suddenly replayed in glorious technicolour for one last hurrah. No doubt it's very helpful in getting closure, and is probably worth years in therapy - ah! that's what my mum and dad did to me when I was four that made me a neurotic wreck - and also maybe you find out where you left your bag with your passport in Amsterdam that time, and which of your so-called friends nicked your favourite jacket. But if every memory stashed in years of unfulfilled living suddenly gets its day in the sun, that must take some amount of time. I can see that the word "flash" might be relevant here, but so must "whole life", and therefore, speaking scientificially, it must take at least some amount of time to get through the memories of every last cup of tea, episode of Strictly Come Dancing and walk to the newsagent. So what happens when, as you reweave your way through your life's rich tapestry, like so many episodes of The Wire, you finally reach the denouement, the moment just before death when your whole life starts to flash before your eyes?  Do you have to relive that as well, in an endless recursive loop? Because if so maybe I've stumbled on the secret of eternal life. The impossibility of death in the mind of one having their life flash before their eyes on a continual loop. Or perhaps each time it goes round it gets shorter and more grainy, until finally the last embers of life turn to ash and you find out what the hell it was all about.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Protest education

Good account of the student protests yesterday, which mainly tallies with what I saw when I visited the march as it was still filing into Parliament Square at about 2pm, even down to the sarky cop-philosophy "debate", one of which I had to enjoy as well. The police contained a large and growing crowd in one road at the north of the square and refused to let me into the actual square because I was wearing "a student uniform", which is apparently now a coat and scarf, and therefore was a protester. The kettle was forced to open and people filled most of the square but it was obvious that it was going to be put back on and having else to do I left quickly rather than get shut in all day, which is what happened. People were basically told that if they wanted to protest at all, they'd be imprisoned into the night-time. At one point there were so many police behind barriers they looked like a demonstration themselves, perhaps one in pursuit of more overtime, Using the kettle without due  cause, straight off the bat, is a disgraceful way to police protest, and gives lie to their claims of "faciliting" protest.

The Guardian also has, amongst other stuff, a video of the rather lame molesting of the Royal car. Of course the obvious thought is that it was engineered by some shadowy media manipulator, looking for a distracting news angle, but I suspect it was just blind luck


The Telegraph, meanwhile, has a pleasingly looking-glass view of things.


Late add: 17-year-old Barnsley girl's account.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

quid hoc sis vult?

I've got a dictionary of foreign terms sitting in my toilet. It's a book with a list list of foreign terms which we (actually a very small subset of we, but never mind) use in English. Phrases like Dieu et mon Droit, which sometimes appears on the side of £1 coins; or quid pro quo, which doesn't and maybe should, but is Latin for something in return - by which I mean "something in return" not "[something] in return", nor even retsomethingurn (or gnihtemos), if you want to get cruciverbalist about it. I chose those examples because I had actually heard of them previous to owning this book, but it's full of phrases I haven't heard of and my plan was that subtly precipitating them mid-colloquy would make me look a great deal better educated than I am. And who doesn't want to look better than they are?

Of course just reading the entries was no good, because one Latin phrase looks much like another after a minute or two, and my memory is so shot it could practically be used to cull pheasants. So I found myself wishing for an index where I could go with an english word or phrase of my own imaginings and have it transformed into a highly rarefied bon mot, ready for insertion into my blogpost. In italics, of course, which is basically just a way of saying ooh look how clever I am, I used such a weird word it has to go on a slant. Or possibly it's just a way of telling your reader it's ok you don't have to understand that word, you're allowed to look it up. Anyway I found myself wishing for such an index and I turned to the back and à merveille! there was such an index. Well, of course fortuna favit fortibus and all that, so I wasn't entirely surprised, and a die my writing has a poco a poco become festooned with exotic phrases, like a prize cow shrouded in rosettes.

The downsides of this policy are, das ist Pech! a) it's an irritatingly unhelpful index and rarely supplies anything like the phrase you need; b) it's amazing how quickly you can slip into sounding like Boris Johnson; and c) surely the very definition of pretentious must be trawling the index of a book of foreign phrases trying to find something to make you sound classically educated. I mean Davus sum, non Oedipus, obviously, but I know that honor habet onus, so I felt obliged to write about it - to put my cards on the table, so to speak - so that we all understood each other.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's not the economy, stupid

Any of you wondering how to feel about the unanaesthetised surgery being performed on the British welfare state and public sector have only to read this, Nothing To Do With The Economy, Ross McKibbin in the LRB.
Much of the government’s budget strategy is dependent on consequences which might be favourable, on premises which are almost certainly wrong, on sheer fantasy, and on that will-o’-the-wisp, ‘confidence’. It is pretty clear that those on benefits of whatever kind will suffer, however the cuts are interpreted. Anyone disabled, or partly disabled and on employment support, or dependent on housing benefit, or in need of social housing, or reliant on local authority care – indeed anyone on a low income – will lose.

...

The country is not on the verge of bankruptcy. There is no evidence that the bond market was reacting against British debt, despite the best efforts of the Conservative Party to encourage it to do so. Our fiscal position was never like that of Greece, which had cooked the books and was struggling to cope with short-term government debt, though Osborne et al insisted it was. Why was it necessary to take such drastic action at all? Our debt ratio was much higher after the Second World War and neither Attlee nor Churchill felt any obligation to do what Cameron, Clegg and Osborne have done. Even Darling’s proposed schedule of deficit reduction seems excessively prudent. A less political chancellor might simply have allowed economic recovery (i.e. increased tax returns to the Treasury), modest reductions in new spending and inflation to deal with the debt
.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

at the idyll of Lidl

It's down to the cheap seats for me right now. Instead of sauntering around Waitrose, my wallet flush with easy Fleet Street cash, I'm reduced to shuffling around Lidl with a few individually counted pennies jangling in cavernous pockets. But that's ok! (for now) because shopping in Lidl is that rare pleasure, the pleasure of the cheap. It doesn't matter that the aisles are so short of breadth they can barely accommodate one hunger-struck dole-queue refugee at a time, because that's the price you pay for aisles stacked this high with cheapness. And while constantly banging into undernourished Accran cleaners and parched-looking old biddies can wear thin, their very presence only proves how cheap it must all be.

It might seem odd for me, who has disavowed supermarkets over the years on some political theory or other, to suddenly be in favour of one merely because it is so down-at-heel, but whereas Tesco's is also cheap as chips, (not as cheap as Lidl chips, obviously, but still, chips) Lidl wins out with its end of the world clearance house ambience. And also some decent vegetables. And whereas Tescos seems like is nothing more than the spawn of Satan's corporate arm, Lidl, with its unpandering approach to its ne'er-do-well clientele, doesn't seem so.

There are two different pleasures in cheapness (you can probably see that I've not got a lot on at the moment, but bear with me) - one is being able to afford lots of things with your meagre bill roll, the other is in seeing: wow, thats 36p less than in Morrisons; cor you can get six here for the price of four in Tesco's. But for that pleasure, you need to keep shopping in all the shops, especially Waitrose and M&S, otherwise you'll soon be found walking around Lidl's going: fucking hell that's pricey, wow, how did things get so expensive? And then where will you go? Netto's, obviously, but after that? The drug of relative cheapness will have worn off, and now you have to shop at Lidl's just to keep from being skint. The pleasure's gone, there's just a dull pain where your shopping habits used to be. You've smoked on the hot pipe of cheap supermarkets, and you're enslaved, a hopeless sunken-eyed zombie, with bad skin and a surfeit of German tinned products. Lidl by lidl, they're gonna get ya.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Easing quantitative easing

As if to prove that I am wasted in this job unemployment, as I asked the question about quantitatitatitative easing, my old chums at Prospect were preparing a long winded answer: Faisal Islam on The Great Money Mystery. It turns out that even though my basic question was, well, quite basic, other questions, vaguely similar to mine, were relatively sensible.
“It was one of the many measures to get confidence back in the system,” says former chancellor Alistair Darling, the man who had to sign off on the Bank of England experiment. “Nobody really knows what impact it’s having,” he says with shocking candour. “Look at the Bank of England [monetary policy committee] minutes, even they are split.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quantitative difficulting

Some of you may have heard of quantitative easing, which is apparently a euphemism for printing money, where the government gets down the value of money (and hence its debts) and inflates the economy by printing more cash and then dishing it out, so there's more to go around. Which is fine and all, economics primer stuff by all accounts, but how do they get the extra money into the economy? Stuffing a few extra tenners in wage packets? Programming ATMs to dish out bonus notes to economonically-approved spenders? Does the secret service go around un-pickpocketing tourists in central London? Or do they just give it to their mates in the City to piss up the wall again? If only there was some way I could find out...

reads wikipedia for 30 seconds

Ah, seems that what they do is print some money and then use that money to give to their mates in the City to piss up the wall again buy financial assets from banks, who then have loads of lovely lolly to pay themselves in bonuses lend out to the masses and hence kickstart the moribund economy pay themselves in bonuses

Beautiful. Got that sorted. Happy cuts day to y'all

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Swearing by theatre gurus

According to wikipedia, the famous theatre teacher Jacques Lecoq teamed up with Jean Marie Conty.

Later on they went to Italy to work with Dario "Mo" Fo.

Also worth a mention is where, under a list of his former students, it includes "Steven Berkoff, theatre director, genius".

Monday, October 04, 2010

Purveyor of LSD to the Royal Family

"I took acid with the Queen in 1963"
Transcript of conversation with Dr John Mehmart

In the early sixties I had a job as a research psychologist in Cambridge testing out LSD on students, trying to find out if we could use it to treat depression or alcoholism. It was an exciting time, because everyone involved could see straightaway that here was a treatment with absolutely stupendous potential, and although the research results were mixed, there was no doubt that LSD induced a very powerful experience and the question had become about how to go about harnessing that. So one day a call came through from Buck House asking if someone would meet a royal officer to discuss this new drug, and this very odd chap who was clearly utterly against the whole idea came to my office for a meeting where I explained that physically it was safe and that in the right circumstances and with the correct precautions it was totally safe, not realising they were asking me to take responsibility for the Queen. I hate to think what would have happened if she'd gone completely stark raving mad, I'd have probably been guillotined; but in those days no-one had heard of bad trips, they were just called bad reactions and were normally over after a few hours. Admittedly, the CIA had killed a few but, you know, Americans.

So a few weeks later and after feeling a bit suspicious that my phone was being tapped and letters being opened suddenly I got a call to come up to London and, as it turned out, meet the Queen, although I didn't know that before I got there. She was very nice, disarmingly so, a bit like I thought Diana was portrayed later on, very pleasent but somewhat otherworldly, not really like anyone else you've ever met. After some preliminaries she asked me a lot of questions about LSD, and it turned out she was a great fan of Aldous Huxley - who of course had first got me interested in the psychedelic experience as a PhD student - and then she told me she was interested to try some and could I get some and sit with her during the experience. So, I obviously said yes of course and we made an arrangement for a Saturday in May, after she'd returned from some colony or other and I went up to Buck House and it was a lovely day so we sat in the huge garden with all these 200 and 300 year old trees just the two of us with a servant close by and everyone else even Phillip banished and she took a 100µg dose which I think was quite high for a starter but not excessive and we sat and discussed African independence and the trees and so on and she enjoyed it, let down her hair a bit and we sat on the lawn and played games and the servant brought some food and she ate it giggling and he gave me dirty looks and later on I had some paint and paper brought over and she drew these quite pretty pictures of her and Jomo Kenyatta in some kind of embrace and quite soon after she asked when it would finish and I told her to take it easy for the evening, but she told me she had to host a banquet for 150 and there was a moment of anxiety then, until we agreed that she could just keep quiet throughout the evening if necessary. Then she asked could I come back with some more the next week. As a matter of fact it wasn't until the next month that I returned and we both took 250µg this time and again we sat in the garden and she drew mountains and talked about her father and we ate houmous and pita which she'd brought back from Greece and which I'd never seen or heard of before then, and which was like eating lava. She did complain after several hours that it wasn't stopping but I reassured her and we went and watched the fish in the water fountain which she found enjoyable. The most significant thing I can remember was her saying was "Oh how awful it must all be for Charles" and at one point she declared "you know, everything is one" and for a moment I didn't know if she was talking about herself or the universe, and she found that hilarious and kept repeating "yes, one is at one", which I found quite funny. She did get anxious at one point when we were talking about what it was like being the Queen, and she kept saying things like "Who's Queen? Who is the Queen? What is Queen? Who is the Queen?" and started to get upset, but she soon calmed down. Mostly, she was quite good company and of course very well educated and informed on every topic you could think of.

So I returned to work and some time later received a request from the Queen for a few doses of LSD that she could share round at a party she was having at Windsor with a list of luminaries who were all keen on trying it. I was invited along to observe but I think I was busy, at a wedding or something, anyway I couldn't go but I supplied her with 10 doses of 200µg Sandoz acid and bid her good luck. So what should happen but I get a frantic phone call on the night from a servant saying a car is coming to drive you to Windsor because the Queen, thinking the trip wasn't working, took another one and now has climbed a tree and is cackling at the (full) moon. So we drove to Windsor at top speed but when I got there Malcolm Muggeridge had talked her down and she was making a house out of leaves and clay with him and Lord Mountbatten. Anyway she wasn't much interested in me and it was quite dull watching them stare at the sky and laugh so I left them to it and that was the last time I met Queen Elizabeth, although shortly after I got a nice note from her saying wasn't it a shame the Americans were going to criminalise it and what did I think and so on, and it was made illegal over there and soon after over here and I was out of a job. Now, a few years later Prince Phillip came to open a new ward at the hospital I was working at and he took me aside and said now look here Lizbet wants to know if you can get any more of that stuff, and I said I obviously couldn't but I put him in touch with a guy I knew in London called Acid Dave and Dave supplied the royals with loads and never suspected who it was for.

Some years after that I met the servant from Buck House in a pub on Victoria and he said that throughout the 1970s the queen constantly took doses of acid to perk up dull state visits and the like and that they used to refer to it as her remedy and were under instruction to give it to her if she said "one is feeling a bit heavy". He also said that they'd once accidentally given a dose to Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and there'd been fears of a diplomatic incident but he'd turned out to be an old hand at LSD and the pair of them had a gay old time. Apparently she was awesome at Balmoral shoots after taking 120µg, but her favourite place to go in London when high was the Natural History Museum, which she referred to as the huge arcade machine. I asked him if he thought she'd changed much through her LSD experiences, and he said that as well as a brief interest in Indian philosophy, she had become more open-minded and considerate, but it didn't last long after she gave up the drug. Acid Dave had got busted in 1978 and the Queen felt it was the universe telling her to pack it in. Poor old Dave did 15 years at her Majesty's pleasure, little knowing it was the second lot of her Majesty's pleasure he'd supplied. I became fascinated with ketamine in my later years and ended up dying in a chainsaw and petrol incident. The Queen is still going, and how awful it must all be for Charles.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Same Time

I met a guy from Sydney who was born one day after me. What time were you born? I asked him. 5.45 in the morning, he said. I was stunned. I didn't even need to go and check the time difference on google. I realised what that meant. You weren't born on the day after me, I told him. We were born on the same day! At the same time! Ah, no we weren't mate, it says on my birth certificate, he said before it dawned on his face much like the sun on that blessed day. What time were you born? he asked. I told him: 6.45 in the evening! He paused to think. Was that GMT or BST? he asked. BST! I replied. Fuck me! he said, we're like star twins! Fuck! Amazing! What's your favourite colour? How do you like your tea? Do you have a friend called Nigel? He paused. No hang on a second, he said, it needs to have been GMT. Mate, sorry, we just weren't born at the same time. Close though. I thought about it for a minute. Well, at least the same hour, I said. It'll be hour little secret, he told me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chequered, mate

It was when I was in Scotland that I first noticed the chequered shirt. I think it was Jim Jeffries wearing one on his poster that started me off, but once I started noticing them I saw them everywhere, like conspiracy theories. For some reason I couldn't get my head around it - what were people trying to say about themselves when they put on a chequered shirt? I even took to drunkenly asking people in late night boozers: "what do you think your chequered shirt represents?" Mostly they didn't know. It's just a chequered shirt, after all. You don't think too much about it. In fact the chequered shirt is like anti-clothing. It's clothing that says: I'm not thinking about my clothing. It's the everyman's shirt. The lumberjack, the plumber, the delivery driver. It's the equivalent of being called John. It's the clothing choice for the I'm a completely normal, tax-paying, non-boat rocking type. It's zebra stripes for humans, allowing them to blend in with their environment. It's the "mate" of tailoring, the satorial equivalent of Fosters. It's Borehamwood with buttons. The chequered shirt has false consciousness embroidered into its fabric. The chequered shirt spends its weekends watching Sky Sports. The chequered shirt is Adrian Chiles. Any day now the union flag will be redesigned with a red, white and blue cheque and we'll salute it singing the theme tune to Top Gear. Any day now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mod cons

I phoned up the AA today and the automated system did that thing where they pretend to answer the phone and the call starts costing money, and then it starts ringing again. Then another, presumably more senior, computer answered, put me on hold and told me I was in a "high-priority queue". Brilliant! What more could I want, than to be on high priority hold? What do they tell the people in the low-priority queue? "Your call is not very important to us, you might as well hang up." My guess is that you go in the high-priority queue if they think they might get some money out of you, and the low-priority queue if they think you're trying to get money out of them. What do you mean there's no low-priority queue? You're not telling me that those words are superfluous nonsense, the equivalent of no-value calories, bulking up the meagre dinner of modern life? I refuse to believe it.

I imagine this has started a bit of an arms race in the phone-queueing system world, because now if I phone someone up and they say just "your call is being held in a queue" I'm going to be like "what, not a high-priority queue? Well I'm off then, to somewhere I can wait in more gilded comfort." Soon you'll be held in a "highest-priority queue" and then a "luxury-priority queue" and then your call will be held in a waiting room with a jacuzzi and masseurs, with Aveda bodywash products and free tea and coffee, while you continue to fester in a dreary council two-bed, wondering when you can book some driving lessons.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

so eh how about it

While I was in Scotland someone told me about this ad they used to have up there where a lad practices his chat-up routine before he goes out on a Saturday night. He fancies this one girl, Sarah, and he tries out what he's going to say, tests out various lines, until finally, washed and brushed up, he hits upon his tack, a smooth, sophisticated, gentle, friendly tactic: "Sarah, you know I really like you." Cut to the party, a typically Scottish alcoholistic affair, and our lad, well pissed, spots young Sarah in the kitchen. She looks hopefully at him, touches her hair, and he seizes his moment. He lurches toward her, and over the blaring music delivers his now degraded epistle: "Sarah, I really fancy you so ... eh ... how about it?" Cue repugnanted revulsion by Sarah and Cupid's bow is once again at rest.

The message is, of course, that you don't need to drink 15 bottles of Buckie before you mingle with the opposite sex, in fact you might be better off drinking only 10. Or 11, but no more than you need to keep out the cold. But the Scots didn't much go for that message and instead claimed this advert for themselves, and so "I really fancy you so ... eh ... how about it" became the number one chat-up line round the country, especially used by schoolboys on their teachers. The slogan even has its very own facebook page. I seem to remember that the Heroin Screws You Up campaign of the mid-eighties was said to have given birth to junkie chic. Perhaps government adverts are just always going to go wrong.

anyway, even though I barely remembered the relevant line, the internet still served me up the ad, and here it is



Bonus Scottish health education catchphrases

"It tastes boggin!"
"He jus doesny know when to stop"

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Edinburgh roundup & awards ceremony

Cos 7,500 words on the matter wasn't enough, here is my Edinburgh roundup, filled with awards and prizes and also hot tips for people who might go to Edinburgh some day.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Edinburgh Diary part three


Edinburgh sunrise

On my last Sunday I was invited to an open mic in the garden at the Pear Tree, where I got up to try out my stand-up routine, such as it is. Having been rehearsing it during my many drunken walks home late at night, it was mostly fresh in the memory, and I mostly pulled it off. The crew I was drinking with loved it, as did one Cammy Sinclair in the crowd, who straightaway got me two gigs for that night, both at decent venues. One of the gigs was at a small comedy showcase and the other was with him and the well-known Phil Kay, on their Cammy and Phil’s Late Night Nonsense show. We sat boozing in the afternoon sun and he told me that “your problem will be when you get successful, you’ll have trouble keeping up the devil-may-care attitude.” I told him that was a problem I was prepared to put up with.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

He's a superstar

Friday, September 03, 2010

Edinburgh Diary part two

Read part one here

The next night I was inveigled to come along to see Camille O’Sullivan, and I stumped up £18 for a ticket on the grounds that with so many good reviews she must have something. Famous for her interpretations of songs by Nick Cave, Jacques Brel and Tom Waits, her posters featured a six-star review from Time Out, plus a heap of five star reviews from other worthy publications; inevitably I found the show disappointing, partly because my expectations, such as they were, were way off the mark, but mainly because I just did not get it. I’d hoped for someone to update cabaret, but she spent too much time giggling at herself to maintain any sort of spell over me at least, although the rest of the crowd, for what it’s worth, loved her.

what makes a good headline

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Edinburgh Diary part one

I went to the Edinburgh festival because I was offered a job playing accordion for a singer in her cabaret show. The band consisted of me, Sandy the bassist, who got me the job, and her boyfriend Luke, who played the drums. The singer, Gus, turned out to be the daughter of cabaret-comic Kit Hesketh-Harvey, of Kit and the Widow fame, and we spent a few days at their rather pleasant abode in Norfolk rehearsing. The set consisted of a couple of rock covers (Black Keys and Dead Weather), some French chanson (Francoise Hardy and Piaf), some covers of songs Amy Winehouse had covered, and some of Kit’s songs from a show he’d written about Rasputin, which were not really comic enough for him to do in his own show, and were decidedly odd even in our show. The rehearsals, and even into the run, were frequently livened up by father-daughter bickering over how she should present his material.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Singing for their supper

I was recently in Norfolk and I spent some time ambling along the public footpaths, across fields, over rivers, and across more fields mainly, it being Norfolk, and also singing a lot to myself, and it occurred to me that it might be possible to take a backpack and amble across the country, singing to myself and I might enjoy it, if only I had enough money to get things to eat and places to sleep. It has long seemed to me that walking is the only way to travel, all other forms of travel being more about arriving than travelling. But whereas I managed to keep the idea going for all of a couple of hours, these guys go on ambles for months at a time, busking and working for cash, and often bedding down in woods under a tarpaulin, when they've not been taken in by the gentle good folk of old England. Ed and Will, and sometimes Ed's brother Ginger, are on a walk around Britain singing, learning and recording songs (some of which you can hear there), foraging, sleeping out, and meeting people and getting on with them, which is possibly their greatest achievement. They're frightfully well-spoken and earnest but basically on to a good thing, although perhaps I'll give their book a swerve, being a cold-hearted Londoner with writing standards.

Their appearances throughout the country are seemingly inspiring to England's cosetted comfortables and probably many more, although not particularly to sub-editors. They're definitely an advert for just getting on with something and not thinking about it until you don't do it. I can't help wishing I'd gone on a walk myself, but now wonder that if I turned up at some village they might not say: "Oh we had them lot in last week. They were much friendlier than you. And their songs were better." But even though they stole my idea - and actually went through with it - and even though all that fresh air seems to have made them a bit too perky for company, I wish them good luck.

Friday, August 06, 2010

'The effect being that the entire Olympic Park is contaminated with thorium at water-table level'

Slightly old, but still worth reading: Iain Sinclair's epic on the Olympic-sized scam crashing through east London. A stewpot of history, politics, reportage, comment and weary anger, if there is such a thing.
The Millennium Dome fiasco was a low-rent rehearsal. The holy grail for blue-sky thinkers was the sport-transcends-politics Olympiad, the five-hooped golden handcuffs, the smoke rings behind which deals could be done for casinos and malls: with corporate sponsorship, flag-waving and infinitely elastic budgets (any challenge an act of naysaying treason).
My naysaying credentials are impeccable: before we won the bid I knocked up some stickers pastiching the then ubiquitous leaflets that said "Back the Bid" showing swimmers diving off the Thames Barrier and a gymnast vaulting over the Gherkin or some such. My version had "Fuck the Bid" and showed the swimmers diving off a row of white elephants (biting satire, you see). Alas I was so convinced that we'd never win the bid - and also because I'm inveterately lazy - I never got round to printing them and quickly lost the Photoshop files. I did consider a post-bid victory version that said "(Give) Back the Bid", but by then the original leaflets had vanished down the memory hole. Anyway, let's hope that the Olympics don't suffer the same cuts as we all are going to, because that would be unsportsmanlike.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

something like that

Some charity or other organised a football match on Wormwood Scrubs between QPR FC and a Feltham Prison XI, most of whom turned up looking as if they'd been living on cigarette papers their whole lives. It wasn't a great spectacle, but the pros outweighed the cons.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The price we pay for our house prices

Fucking house prices.

House prices are supposed to be falling soon, by 20% some have said, although some disagree, and some said this some time ago. So nobody knows, but the likelihood is that nothing is going to be done about the insane price of houses, especially in London. Most newspaper articles herald a fall in house prices with much the same foreboding they might mention the sighting of four horsemen on the horizon. Here's a good article about why the value of your house is mostly a chimera, since no matter how expensive your house has become you can't sell it without needing to buy somewhere else and that is also likely to be comparatively expensive, unless you fall into some slender categories: 1) moving to a smaller property or 2) moving to a poorer area or, at a push, 3) both of these.

Otherwise, your house could worth all the cheese on the moon and it won't be any good to you. The nonsense about "releasing equity", ie. remortgaging, is equally irrelevant, as he points out in the moneyweek article, since you can only release equity when you sell the house, and the money you've borrowed off it will have to be paid back either by selling or by simply paying it back, like any other bleeding loan.

But the problems with ridiculous house prices go beyond first-time buyers priced out of their own neighbourhoods by whoever the hell it is fuelling this insanity and into the murky world of inheritance tax. My friend's mum is very ill with cancer and is likely to die soon enough, whereupon the house that he, his mum and his sister live in will be part of her estate. Now inheritance tax must be paid on 40% of everything over £300,000 (or thereabouts) in her estate. Their house, which they have lived in since day dot, is probably worth £700,000. Not because they paid £700,000, or because they have £700,000, or because it's worth £700,000, but because this fucking insane house price balloon bubble decrees that it would sell for £700,000. Which is nice and all, except that as we saw earlier, the value is illusionary - it has no meaning - unless you want to sell. Or, as in this case, when the government gets involved to make sure it gets it hands on its death booty. So my pal and his sister will get 18 months after their mum's death to sell the house they have lived much of the lives, and where they currently care for her, sell the house in order to pay off the tax incurred simply because of house prices, and nothing to do with whether they wish to sell the house, which they don't.

This is an increasingly common situation for people whose parents bought a house when prices were reasonably in line with wages, who haven't been able to get on the housing ladder themselves, who stand to make no money from the price bubble, and in fact stand to have to sell their house and be out of pocket for no other reason than the house's value on the market, which is a total irrelevance most of the time. If they lived in Huddersfield, where an equivalent house is "worth" much less, they'd never have this problem, since the value of the house would be less than the tax-free threshold. There could be rules to excuse the value of the primary property in an estate, or rules that raise the threshold in line with average house prices in the area, or rules that allow the tax to be held-over until the house is sold, at a time of the inheritor's choosing, but there aren't. So this 20-year housing bubble continues fucking people, even those who already have a bought-and-paid-for-over-25-years house.

Lately Cameron's mob have said they will cap housing benefit, to try and rein in some of those tabloid outrages where a immigrant family live in some decked-out mansion and housing benefit meet the exceptional rent demands. Now, when I used to claim housing benefit, I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn't possibly get more than about a thruppenny bit contribution from the HB squad, so I have no idea how this sort of thing happens, but maybe a key reason the London housing benefit bill is so large is that London rents are so astronomical. And is not the astronomicism of rents something to do with the house price bubble? Or is that just more house price babble?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Stag's Dead: A victory for common bastards

Stags Head, 55 Orsman RoadThe Stag's Head lies in the backstreets at the border of Hoxton and De Beauvoir Town, in about as unprepossessing a location as you can imagine. It nestles between the sprawling council estates and derelict-looking industrial units, and looks from the outside like the sort of pub you go into to get shot if you happen to have annoyed the local villains. It's on the corner of two of the quietest streets in London, so the footfall is on a par with that at the north pole. Of course it was not long for this world, like all local boozers, it was due for a swift knocking-down and selling on for yuppie flats, except that Matty, Ellie and Zack got hold of it and through a combination of 1) putting on live music, including folk sessions, 2) getting the trendies in while 3) keeping the locals on board, 4) leaving the decor as was, instead of the usual tarting up by people with the interior design sense of a drunk racoon, 5) dishing out free food, instead of charging fistfuls of cash for supposedly organically massaged beef, 6) not raising the prices, 7) some mighty lock-ins, through this combo - in short, by treating their punters like people not cash machines - they managed to increase the pub takings from basically fuck all to a whopping health; the pub is packed several nights a week and throughout the day at weekends; there's a local community interaction thing going on, people belong there, feel comfortable there, get to put their nights on with little fuss there, it is one of the very few pub take-overs by a "trendy" crowd that has managed this fine balancing act and is probably the template all you wannabe landlords and landladies should aspire to, especially in London where the decent pubs, ie. the pubs that aren't just about cashing in or trendying up, are going, going, gone.



Corporate Scum
But what the fuck, you think you can just have this info and that's it? You think that the pub isn't getting closed by their pubco Enterprise Inns? Because that sort of success deserves nothing less than harassment, non-delivery of beer and exorbitant rent rises? Because the pubco realise that they can get more cash from selling on the tenancy to another landlord, who waltzing in fresh from running some All Bar One alike in Clapham and seeing the takings for the last year, will pay far more for the lease than they should. And when that landlord fails to make ends meet, well sweet pubco magically transforms to flat-building co and bob's a good'un; all money grist to the pubco mill, dividends for the shareholders, it's called maximising income, all good business practice, meanwhile a community pub, one of the few that has bucked the trend, a place to go, hang out, meet people, play music, see bands, eat food, get pissed, and still have some money in your pocket at the end of the night, a place I like to go, and I don't like fuck all, a decent boozer, in other words, that is just another bunch of numbers Stags Head, 55 Orsman Roadat the bottom of an accountant's spreadsheet, money talks, and we're all deafened.

Matty seems decidedly sanguine about the whole thing. It's not new, it's not even unusual, and nothing lasts forever, but it stings like a bastard. And I don't care, I'm gonna say it: Enterprise Inns are a bunch of cunts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Paper Cinema

What happens at the accidental meeting of inkblots, photocopies, cardboard, angle-poise lamps, video technology, a laptop and a banana box?

So I was at this party in a garden the other night when suddenly a woman asked everyone to shush and we all shushed and she turned on the projector and it projected onto a sheet on the garden wall, and then there were these two people and they waved hand-drawn cardboard cut-outs in front of a camera and what they waved in front of the camera appeared on the big screen, and they had a man with them playing music and making sounds and these three conjured up a film right there before our eyes, right in front of us, that we could watch on the big screen, a sort of puppet-animation show, made up of intricately-drawn pictures of characters and scenes and all the elements they needed to tell their stories all waved about in front of the camera in some sort of order and it was like ah! someone's found an beautiful marriage of up-to-date technology and ancient, enchanting technique. An amazing idea and brilliantly executed by Nic Rawling, who drew all the pictures, and his assistants. I happened to be standing behind the puppeteers throughout the films so my eyes constantly flitted from the big screen to watching them perform, which meant I got a behind-the-scenes view, but failed to follow the stories very closely. But the way they conjured up animation from static pictures on sticks was a blessing.

Footage of King Pest, as seen if you just watch the big screen.

A wider shot, including the puppeteers at work, not great but it gives you some idea of what's going on.

The Paper Cinema blog - facebook - interview - bio

Animation bonus: video of Jim Le Fevre (website), talking with others including Nic Rawling, featuring some nifty live animation using a Technics 1210.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hallo Vera! Get em in luv!

If any of you doubted the veracity of my Rosewater Ketamine account, or if any of you have ever read that far back, well doubt no longer, only nowadays it appears they import ketamine in bottles of Aloe Vera juice.

Ooops! Fuckin' Royal Mail!

Love the TV report. First the shopkeeper, saying "oh well it arrived here one day by accident so I just put it up for sale. What was I supposed to do? Send it back?" And then onto a description of ketamine: "Its effects are like a combination of cocaine, cannabis, opium, nitrous oxide and alcohol." Brilliant! Where do I get some? camera cuts to a vet Vet: Yeah, we've got loads. Yeah we snort it all day.

or you can just buy some Aloe Vera juice, I suppose.

Or maybe don't.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I write like

Put a portion of your writing into this writing analyser and it'll tell you which famous writer you write like.

Me? Based on the last few blog posts: Stephen King, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Arthur Conan Doyle (really?), Dan Brown.

I think I'll stop there. It was going so well.

Via (obv), where they deconstruct it until it begs for mercy.

PS. I put my most favourite recent blog post in and got James Joyce. Yeah, the famous comic writer. So maybe this semantic statistical analystical tool don't work as well as I'd hoped, or maybe I should start writing Homer in Holloway.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dr Football

Jonathan Wilson PhD (Football Studies) will see you now.

Jonathan Wilson can explain football tactics. I don't mean talk about football tactics - lobbing 4-4-2s, 4-3-3s and 4-3-XR3is about the place like so many Rory Delap throws, provoking mayhem in the area (of your footballing brain) - Jonathan Wilson doesn't talk about tactics the way that most people do, ie. knowing precisely fuck all, Jonathan Wilson actually explains tactics, explains what was going on when one player came on, another went off, explains why 4-4-2 doesn't work anymore, explains what Capello was thinking bringing on Wright-Phillips for Lennon (well I assume he can, I haven't actually seen it, and there are limits for anybody). Jonathan Wilson may be the Prometheus of football commentary, bringing the fire of genuine knowledge to a realm of hitherto frozen wastes. So bone up now, while the football season is in rare abeyance; and you'll soon be able to unpick England's failings with more rigour than just "Heskey's fucking shit! Lampard's a cunt!"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"If your comic was an ice cream, what flavor would it be?" "Self Hatred Ripple"

I should also add that it’s very difficult to satirize the Jewish world, because just when you think you’ve made something preposterous, you pick up the newspaper and see that events have actually out-satirized what you’ve just done. So it’s always a race with reality. I’m more of a stenographer than a satirist in that regard.
Eli Valley draws comic strips. Comic strips with a Jewish flavour. An un-Zionist, shit-tired of being called self-hating or anti-semitic for offering constructive criticism of Israel's crazed pursuit of armageddon flavour. A flavour with strong hints of MAD magazine. A what if we imagined Darth Vader was half-Jewish and Luke Skywalker was actually leading the charge against any further intermarriage flavour? A yes some crazy rabbi did suggest some (possibly poetic) link between one of these strips and the Haiti earthquake flavour. A probably I need to rewrite this blogpost tomorrow but I ain't gonna so get used to it flavour. Open your taste buds! It's Ethnocentric Parochialism for the Whole Family!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Amazingonians

I only realised the other day that the Amazonians were not from the Amazon at all, but Anatolia (that's Turkey to you). Plutarch tells us - well, he tells the guy who wrote the wikipedia article - that Athens and Chalcis (no me neither) both had an Amazoneum, a sort of shrine to the semi-mythical female warriors. Greek battles with the Amazons were known as Amazonomachy, which is a great name for something, either a club night or a cocktail. It turns out that Francisco de Orellana named the Amazon river after a tribe of female warriors who he claimed to have fought nearby, although some apparently believe that these were male warriors who happened to have long hair, and a penchant for Issey Miyake. Medieval scholars credited the Amazons with inventing the battle-axe, thus I suppose explaining the root of that particular little pet name. An all-female military unit of the West African Fon people were known as the Dahomey Amazons (by westerners at least, the Fon called them Mino, meaning "our mothers"). They fought the French in two wars, but they lost both.

All info culled from wikipedia, hence I cannot vouch for it

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I vote for participatory democracy

Friday, July 09, 2010

gettin hot in here

It's hot. Damn it's hot. Apparently, when it's hot, you're supposed to do things like drink hot tea and eat jalapenos, because they activate the body's cooling mechanism. Which makes you wonder why the body's cooling mechanism can't just get activated by, I don't know, it being hot. Which it is. Damn hot. Pan-frying hot. Hot like two radiators in sandpaper suits making love in a sauna. In the Amazon. While smelting steel. It's sweltering. It's hot enough to irradiate bacon. It's more heated than an internet argument about the new Grand Theft Auto: Gaza Strip. And it's only going to get Tarka (the 'otter). Now will the Star run articles saying that it is global warming after all? No, no, I won't sweat it.

Friday, July 02, 2010

the clever speedheads, they called their ramblings Whizzdom

Thursday, July 01, 2010

An excerpt from the Glastonbury programme

Drugs
Drugs are as illegal at Glastonbury as anywhere else. If you buy, sell or use drugs you are likely to be arrested and ejected from the festival. Glastonbury is not a good place to take drugs and certainly not a place to start. Do not buy drugs at Glastonbury, they may have been mixed with other, more dangerous substances. Taking drugs could have harmful or even fatal results. Reassure anyone having a bad reaction.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

A novel excuse

The Telegraph has an amusing story about the novelist E.M Forester, which says that he gave up writing novels after his first homosexual experience, at the age of 38.

After suppressing his sexuality as a young man, Forster, who was known to his friends as Morgan, lost his virginity to a wounded soldier in 1917 while working for the Red Cross in Egypt.

That sexual awakening in his late 30s led to a series of romances with working class men including a tram conductor and two policemen.

After publishing A Passage to India, arguably his greatest work, in 1924, Forster spurned the novel and most creative endeavours for the rest of his life, publishing only occasional short stories, essays and plays.

Wendy Moffat, associate professor of English at Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, who uncovered Forster's secret "sex diary" while researching a new biography of the novelist, said that the energy of his early years was drained by physical fulfilment.

I love the details: he lost his virginity to a wounded soldier, while working for the Red Cross? Was the soldier was just lying on the battlefield with shrapnel wounds all over him and, well, one thing led to another? Or maybe the soldier been hit by a mortar bomb, and was just blown to buggery? And then after that 'Morgan' moved on to tram conductors and (two! at the same time?) policemen. And I love the euphemism of the "energy of his early years was drained by physical fulfilment". You bet it was.

He only started at 38, so there's hope for me then. But I knew there was a good reason to keep away from the prowling gayers - too much cock saps your creative juices. Basically they're saying that E.M stopped plugging away at his novels, cos he was too busy just plugging away. It gives the homophobes a new angle: it's for your own good, we don't want you to dry up and stop being creative! Now for the first time they can say: Don't be gay, you want to be an artist, darling! So E.M wrote some classic novels, but once he discovered buggery he stopped writing, making it one of those few times that the sword is mightier than the pen. I can just imagine his Victorian father saying to him: "Now E.M, I don't think a novelist is a suitable career for you, I think you should go into banking with Ronald." And then at 38 E.M comes home and says: "Dad, I've got some good news, and some bad news." It is true to say that a lot of creativity comes out of pain, and maybe E.M was just having such a whale of a time, so to speak, that he couldn't keep churning out the middle-class rom coms, which makes you think that perhaps it's time Richard Curtis got himself down Old Compton Street.

Of course the story is probably not true, being in the Torygraph. Their website is actually quite good, if you swerve around the comment pages, ignore the gratuitious slant on the politics stories, and take a hefty pinch of salt with the Obama-is-doomed stuff, but apart from that, it is a busy site with lots of news that doesn't appear on the Guardian or Times sites. But still a story that says gaying ended famous novelist's career does seem a bit too much like moral wishful thinking on their part. And of course it doesn't occur to them that perhaps he felt that he couldn't write about the true romance of his later years because it was illegal, and that blocked his creativity much more than a bit of rough trade round the back of the Vauxhall Tavern. Or maybe he just got to 40 and got rubbish, like the aforementioned Richard Curtis. Which is a depressing thought, but marginally less depressing than the thought that sexual fulfilment will ruin your creativity.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

"Photography, which was a trade, has now become art."


Brian Duffy, one of the 'Terrible Trio' photographers of the 1960s, has died aged 76. Duffy, along with fellow working-class London boys David Bailey and Terence Donovan, revolutionised fashion photography with a brash, sexual, personal style and helped to define the Swinging Sixties.

Duffy went on to photograph the great and the good and the not-so-good, but his best-known shot was probably the Aladdin Sane cover. In the 1970s he turned to advertising and created shots for the landmark Benson & Hedges campaign. Feeling that photography was 'dead', in 1979 he famously attempted to burn all his negatives. Despite not having the enduring success of his two counterparts, he enjoyed a revival and was the subject of a BBC Four documentary in the last few years.

as posted here

regrets, I've had a few

Meet the man who sold his 10% share in Apple for $800. (via)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Perils of the countryside

The terrible scenes in Cumbria, which I'm not going to make some tasteless jokes about, I don't know what sort of fuck you think I am but I am much more responsible than that, also I can't think of any, anyway, there were terrible scenes in Cumbria, where a deranged 52-year-old man went on a grudge-fuelled shooting spree, killing 12, including his twin brother, before killing himself. The nation was shocked: the Queen made a rare comment to say she was shocked; Mr Cameron said he was shocked; Such was the national shock that Corrie had to be cancelled; while Lady Gaga was so shocked she pretended to be murdered in her stage show, the little imp.

I was shocked, of course, but I was able to wonder why it is that these shooting sprees - which invariably involve some ne'er-do-well, generally with acne and halitosis, getting upset after years of mild slights and sexual failures and finally taking a military approach to recompense - why do they always happen in tiny little quiet peaceful hamlets, far far away from the tortured morass of the big cities, where, if you were to believe films like Taxi Driver or Falling Down, you'd be far more likely to encounter deranged souls just one throwaway remark from armed armageddon. And that's what I'd expect as well, despite clear messages from the likes of Agatha Christie about the true nature of the rural character. And now the evidence is in and can't be denied (and look at all the research I've done): Hungerford, Dunblane, Whitehaven, Egremont and Seascale, Columbine, of course, Blacksburg, in Virginia, Erfut and Winnenden, both in Germany, Kauhajoki in Finland, the brilliantly named Zug, in Switzerland, and so on. The list of modern day mass murder backwaters grows by the day. Admit it, you don't know a thing about any of those places, apart from that they had spree shootings. The most notable place to have had a spree shooting that I can find was Nepal's Narayanhity Royal Palace. But apart from the odd mentally masticated royal, spree shootings are a hick thing - you might get mugged, burgled, raped, ripped off, violated and generally shat on in the big city, but you can be sure as eggs is eggs you ain't gonna get spree shot in a spree shooting.

So why is this? I can venture a few ideas: because the countryside is so piss boring that mass murder is the only thing lively enough to shatter the tedium, after sheep shagging, magic mushrooms and burning out the newcomers have run their course; because in the big city if you started letting off a shotgun at all and sundry you'd probably get shot yourself by the local teenagers, mistaking you for one of their postcardcode rivals; because in actual fact the big city plays near enough constant host to shooting sprees, but they go unremarked in and amongst all the other brutality, venality, criminality, inhospitality and psychosexuality of the urban swamp; because countryside folk have a lot more guns generally, for shooting uh things; because countryside folk are just fucking weird, otherwise they'd move to the aforementioned city; because what would a rural idyll be without a shock to shatter it?

But whatever the reason, the lesson is clear - run from the hills!

Friday, May 28, 2010

on the train to Hackney

The man on the train to Hackney wears a cheap duffel coat, red chequered shirt and blue jeans. He slouches in his seat, slumping across the gangway to the seats opposite. His slouch occupies a lot of space. One hand fiddles with a tatty canvas bag on the seat beside him while the other flicks through his phone. He calls someone. His African-accented voice sounds slow, tired. He moves his other hand to rest on his lap.

“Hello?”

“Do you not have my number on your phone anymore?”

“Hello? I said, do you not have my number on your phone anymore?”

“I met you in Richmond, don’t you remember?”

“In the morning. Yeah.”

“Yeah that's right,”

“Are you sure?”

“Are you sure you don’t remember”

“You used to have my number on your phone.”

“Are you sleeping?”

“You sound tired.”

“Where do you live?”

“I’ve forgotten”

“Croydon? Oh, East Croydon.”

“Do you remember my name?”

“Sanya. Sanya. S-A-N-Y-A.”

“I’ll give you a call back.”

“Should I be expecting your call?”

“I might call you later.”

“Bye”

Across from him, on a seat opposite, I try to scribble down his conversation. As I do so, as nonchalantly as possible, I steal glances at him. I wonder if he is wondering, "what is that man writing?" Next to him sits a very buttoned up middle-aged woman. She sits up straight. Her heavily made-up face doesn’t even twitch. I swap my glance to look at her. She seems as though air is holding her upright. A tiny, tinny cross hangs around her neck.

Next to me a woman is flicking rapidly through a make-up and surgery magazine. I look back at the puffed-up lady in front of me.

“Everybody’s judging,” I scribble.

The man is still flicking through his phone. He alights on a number and puts the phone to his ear. I sit poised, listening.

“Hello Ilts. How are you, it's Sanya, everything’s fine. Just calling to say hi. Anyway hope you’re well. Bye.”

I realise he’s been talking to an answerphone. As he clicks shut his phone, our eyes meet for a moment. I turn the page of the notebook rapidly. He is in grabbing range of it. I picture him snatching it and reading it out to the crowded train. I have deliberately made my scribbles hard to read, but not illegible. I put the notebook in my pocket and pat the flap of the pocket down.

I feel like I am stealing from this man. I am a thief, operating in full view of everyone. I get my notebook out again to write that down.

As I get off the train, I think to myself: “Of all the things in the world, is this what you want to write about?”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Here's how you shred a film

Lindy West on Sex and the City 2 (via)

so, on that basis

Is the road to heaven paved with bad intentions?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

opportunity knockback

Gwarizm has the script of an unfilmed scene from Kids, the Harmony Korine kiddyshokafilthting from wayback in the 1990s when luminous clothing was for oh fuck knows, I can't even remember that far back. Anyway the scene is worth a read, and probably would have improved the film, which I do remember enjoying, at least for the perving over Chloë Sevigny. I actually met Harmony Korine once, very briefly, while I was walking around Camden with Samantha Morton, as you do, or at least as I did do a long time ago. I'd just bumped into a friend and was chatting to him and I looked over and Sam was talking to someone as well, who I took to be a scabby Camden lowlife punting for a bit of change. This meant that I didn't pay much attention to him, beyond wondering when he was going to go away. As soon as he had, she told me who he was and that he was hiding out in London trying to get off smack, and it was all I could do not to go: 'Fuck's sake go and get him back!' Not that I was a huge fan of Mr Korine, but cos you know he's famous and all that, and also he might have liked my script about um kids what run wild or something and fuck each other and get AIDS. Or maybe he'd have cast me in his next hit, whatever the hell that was. At the very least he could have introduced me to Chloë Sevïġnÿ.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The caped crusader of web2.0

Metafilter - it's a geeky web2.0 sort of thing, news, politics, computers, bitching, that sort of thing oh and saving trafficked women from meeting a grisly not-quite-doom-but-quite-doom-enough fate in a Brooklyn Russian mafia strip-joint. The call goes out over the Meta airwaves, but can the geeks and dweebs muster up the muscle to defeat their Russian foes? Can they persuade the girls that they are actually trafficked and in danger and not just on a jolly? Can they bicker amongst themselves? Can they make the webpages of Newsweek? Can they come together to save the day? Follow the action in web-real-time and find out on this week's installment of Metafilter Saves Endangered Women Of The World!!

And the moral is: Sitting in on the internet all day can be a force for good!!!

But, I hear you ask, where's the snark??

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ideas factory #53: The Backstreets Biking Contest

It's a bicycle time trial between two points in London (or any city, I suppose);

There is a time penalty each time a cyclist passes a set of traffic lights.

The idea is to encourage cyclists to take a route using as few main roads as possible. The game should reward ingenuity, on-the-spot route planning, knowledge of the city's streets, and should promote safer cycling away from main roads.

Cyclists can go on pavements, through pedestrian-only areas, parks etc; however, they cannot use pavements etc to avoid traffic lights unless it constitutes a separate route from the road the traffic lights are on.

Entrants are told their destination five minutes before they must begin. They can consult a map in that time but cannot take a map or iphone etc with them or consult a map en route. They are not allowed to contact anyone else in those five minutes or during the race. This can talk to cabbies, but only to shout obscenities.

The cyclist must self-report the number of traffic lights they passed. All cyclists will have a video camera attached to the front of their bike/helmet; prospective winners will have their videos checked against their report. If this is too awkward/expensive then all cyclists will have to show their route on a map. Race organisers will have to have a map with all traffic lights marked on it. However this would be vulnerable to dishonesty. This is a weakspot.

Another weakspot is that as it is a time trial and not a race, it would be possible for an early entrant to tell a later entrant the destination and for the later entrant to therefore gain an advantage in planning the route, but until there is a major incentive on offer for winning, this probably can be ignored.

The time penalty can be flexible, so for one race could be 1 minute, for another 5 minutes, etc so that a cyclist can use main roads etc when there is no alternative, but is clearly encouraged to seek out new and interesting routes. Obviously cycle fitness would play a part, but perhaps the very fit people would compete in a separate category to people doing it for fun, sort of like the marathon. Bicycles could be put into weight categories, so that pro-level cyclists with their campag & carbon fibre did not dismay amateur entries.

Because the routes would be right across London and not just in the city/West End, cycle couriers wouldn't have a completely unfair advantage. Because entrants could use pedestrian ways, cabbies (if they ever cycle) would not have as much advantage as you might think.

Any ideas to make the rules watertight, or any idea whether it is feasible or interesting are welcome.

Now I know what you're thinking: you're thinking it's a sort of cumbersome, rulebound, pussified version of this shit below, only our one doesn't automatically reward cycling like a inconsiderate twat. Also we'd have much better music.





(More urban bike race videos here)

Monday, May 17, 2010

even more on time

The question of what was before or after time has always bugged me, as well as how time could come into existence with the creation of the universe, since shouldn't there always have been time? But if time always existed, at what time was the creation of the universe? 10.30 on a Tuesday morning? This has always been baffling. Well I read a little bit the other day about Aristotle, and how he says that time is the measure of change. I have since tried to read the relevent part (Physics iv, 10-14) but Aristotle is a cagey bugger and rarely makes anything particularly clear, at least to my sullied brain. So apologies if you know about Aristotle and my simpleton's take on it offends you.

Aristotle says that time is a measure of change. (That's as much Aristotle as I understand. The rest is my interpretation.) Time doesn't exist inandof itself, it only exists as a by-product of change, as a means to measure change. Therefore in the pre-created universe (a rather nice impossibility), the changeless void, there was no time. Only when the universe began to change - changing from a changeless to a changing universe, which was the very first change - did time become apparent. So the act of creation was to institute change in a changeless universe.

This doesn't really take account of where the matter of the universe came from (it came from nowhere, obviously), nor how something changes from being changeless to changing, but it does neatly wed the beginning of time to the beginning of the universe (or at least the beginning of the changing universe).

So creation was the change from changeless to changing. And the end of the universe will be the change back, as change slows down until there is no change, although you suspect that the changes just get further and further apart, until there is a long period of changelessness, which eventually changes again back into changing - the universe slowing right down until it appears to be dead, and then starting up again. But you can't really have a period of changelessness, since if there is no change there is no time, since there is nothing to measure. To an observer, the 'periods' of changelessness would be instantaneous. So perhaps the universe wouldn't slow down at all, but would just one day change back to changelessness. That might mean that everyone was just left doing whatever they were doing at that time for a timeless eternity, but they wouldn't mind much and in any case I think you can safely discount this paragraph.

Time being thought of as a measure helps to explain why it was sometimes (not any more, apparently) called the 4th dimension, since you measure an event's height, length, depth and time, which is something else I hadn't got my head around. If you can think of other things you measure: price, stupidity, number of votes, etc, you can bring a whole new dimension to any argument you might be having.

I guess change being the cornerstone of the creation of the universe is why down-and-outs are always asking for more change. And even the Conservatives were telling people to vote for change recently.

Obviously I welcome anybody who can explain to me how wrong I am. Although you might have your work cut out.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Frequential Questionation

Lately I've been innundated with questions from my ocean of readers, so I thought I'd make it easier for you all and create an FAQ in which hopefully all your questions will be answered. If you have any others, that aren't covered, by all means ask away, and I'll add them to the bottom, assuming they come up to my high standard of intellect, which probably counts most of you out doesn't it.

Incidentally if anyone here has any idea how to make blogger let me make blogger let me make blogger let me make well anyway I'd like external links from this blog to open in a new tab/window (this is now happening just about), but I'd also contradicterilly like internal links to not open in a new tab/window, but to open in the same one they're already in. I've perused the great world wide web to no great effect so I'm reduced to asking here, like a poor man asking the wind for his dinner.

merci beaucoup mes amis xcb

Saturday, May 15, 2010

when it goes off

You want to be a writer? You need to get on your arse

Wow! ON your arse! I see what you did there!

Hey, get off my back!

Suck on my cock!

God, get that chip off your shoulder!

You're off your head!

Friday, May 14, 2010

it's finally happened #14 : "Buy the memoir based on the Twitter page"

Shit my dad says - a mildly amusing twitter feed of what one cranky old guy says to his live-at-home adult son while they sit and watch Golden Girls re-runs together - has been made into a book. The agent has obviously done a mortifyingly good job in steering what is, let's be honest, about as thin a book proposal as you can possibly imagine into a - and I quote - "brilliantly funny, touching coming-of-age memoir around the best of his quotes." Isn't this is the sort of shit they warned us would happen just before the end of days? I guess the lesson is, get 1,000,000 followers on Twitter and you can write whatever the fuck you like.

Private Eye Covered!

This is ace: get a fair-sized pic of any Private Eye cover you fancy. Some good un's, laboriously collated via an extremely irritating interface by your faithful blogger : 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Well I got carried away : 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

They make up a very particular trawl through political history, with a bit of culture thrown in, and a lot of Royal piss-takes. A lot of my picks for some reason are from the Major years, which look more and more like the Seventies used to.

is tumblr drier?

Because this blogging everyday thing has been going quite well, for me at least, not for anybody else so far as I can tell, I thought I'd fuck it up by starting a tumblr blog as well what will take this feed and do something with it I don't know what [edit: apparently fuck all], also other fancy shit, I don't know if it's any good, I had to get criticalbill.tumblr.com before those rap-rockers done me again. At least it's another place I can not have any readers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dreams of our leaders

I had a dream about Barack Obama the other night, I can't remember much of it anymore but one distinct thing I remember was that we were having a chat and he said I should come to Yale or something like that and then he went off and I went opened a door and he was having a sneaky line of coke, the little toerag. I wonder if he's having dreams about me - 'and then this scrawny English dude popped up and pissed everyone off' - but I'm sure he's got much more interesting things to dream about. Leaders of the world must have very interesting dreams. Who gets to analyse them? That's a job I could envisage for myself. Apart from anything else it's traditional.

But what state secrets does the dream analyst know? Obama comes in: I had this dream where Joe Biden was fucking Hilary in my stock cupboard and I couldn't get any stationary out to write my handwritten note of the week. And the therapist goes: well what do you think it means? Can't imagine Cameron and Clegg - Clamereggon I think I shall settle on - It's Clamereggon time! I'ma Clamereggon outa here! - anyway, what dreams are they having? Actually I don't want to know, Cameron's probably dreaming about eating the welfare state for dinner, possibly with the Clegg as an hors d'oeuvre, who knows, Clegg is dreaming about at last getting his hands on the bottom of the greasy pole - say! no! mowah! - Putin dreams about judo and chess obviously, jesus what the hell am I talking about, I know fuck all about world leaders, who else is there that we can play guess their dreams hmmmm Kay Burley, she dreams about being vaguely competent in some far away land, Miliband (D) dreams of bananas coming in the night to fuck his shit up, Miliband (E) dreams of bananas coming in the night to fuck his brother's shit up, Simon Cowell has this recurring dream where he has a friend or a shred of respect from a normal person, this one may run and run, as soon as I get my dreaminator on the go, famous people of the world beware, your sleep is my goldmine

Who the fuck is critical bill?

One of the benefits of taking an internet pseudonym from a popular Hollywood film is that you get to share it with all sorts. There aren't actually that many criticalbills out there, but there is this lot of Detroit rock-rappers. They've been teasing me for ages with a t-shirt that says "Who the fuck is criticalbill?" but whenever I've tried to actually see it, I've come back empty-browsered. Maybe I should make it and sell it to them. Anyway in the spirit of name-sharing promotion, here's a rather jaunty ditty by them, accompanied by a tasteful, bauhaus-influenced video, called My Sewer Side. At least that's what I think he's saying. I wonder whether MTV would film me and them doing a life swap.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It was The Sun wot Scummed it

If you missed today's Sun well, lucky you. The newspaper which knows no shame continued its hagiographic approach to news reporting, going with the headline "Dave New World"; as stupid a headline as you are ever likely to see - quite apart from the profound inanity, what the hell does this "Dave New World" consist of? A bloke called Dave, stroking his pregnant wife's belly for the cameras (An absolutely true, unmadeup fact). That's it. That's what Dave New World consists of. What particular policies are a sign of our Dave New World? That we have someone called Dave in No10? Anything else come to mind?

The paper already made itself the laughing stock of all vaguely sentient people with its Cameron as Obama mockup on election day, nicely deconstructed by Nick Cohen:
The Sun was engaging in propaganda as insultingly stupid as anything produced by a dictatorship when it depicted David Cameron as Barack Obama – as if a decision by British voters to elect their 19th old Etonian prime minister would have been as radical and inspiring as the decision by US voters to elect their first African-American president.
But today it went even further, monumentally embarrassing itself with sycophantic soft focus drivel about the Dave New World and his missus what is preggers don't you know, cor get in son, he's got seeds you know, not just any old jaffa gawd luv our new ruler, got his very own semen he has too, a true man of the people. Fucking idiots. Has anyone at The Sun read Brave New World? It's not the literary reference I'd have gone for. The nefarious scumsheet's current derision for the general public is unsurpassed, even in its long and illustrious career of despicabletude. What makes it yet more debilitating is the shameless dressing up of cynical political calculations in robes of idealism and positivity. What accomodation do you think the Cleggeron came to over Murdoch and the BBC? But in a way the fawning is so epically over the top that it can't be simple political calculations. There's no teenager on this planet that wouldn't be mortified to be that head-over-heels with someone, let alone for everyone in the country to find out. Not a good look at all. Which makes you think: shit, surely they can't believe this drivel?

No of course they don't.

But what am I thinking of? Surely this is a Brave New Dave World after all. Having read Mentalie Phillips's latest column, I'm completely with the Cleggeroonians. Anyway who can annoy the mad monk that much has got to have something going for them.
The LibDems are broadly further to the left of Labour. That means what they stand for is not nice at all. It means they have an ideological, illiberal view of the world which undermines the moral basis of this society at every turn, replacing truth, justice and morality by ideology and the demonisation of dissent.
Off her tiny chops is the phrase that springs to mind.

reasons to be cheerful

Hmmm, this should be tricky. As Tory scumbags molest the front door of No10 and frighten all the staff for the first time since the last Ice Age, I feel that it's incumbent on us to look on the positives, to keep our heads up high, and also to look at some negatives because, well that should be a bit easier.

So thinking of good things to come of the marriage of Posh Tory and Soggy Tory we have:
  • No ID cards. Let's not forget that the Liberals (and some Tories like David Davis) were on the right side of the civil liberties debate, while Labour were so far on the wrong side they were practically in the next debate along.
  • Referendum of the voting system. Apparently there's a lot of doubt that the country will vote for changing the system, but if people won't vote for their own votes to be counted more fairly I give up altogether. Admittedly this wouldn't be the first time I've given up altogether, but it might be the last.
  • Let's face it, we had Labour for 13 years but you'd have been hard pressed to call it left-wing, what with inequality rising, bankers feted, Iraq, and so on. Sometimes left-wing governments do very right-wing things, and get away with it because they have their left flank covered. Similarly right-wing governments sometimes do left-wing things: in this case I can't see Camerunt avoiding a rise in income tax rates for the better off, although this may be wishful thinking. In any case I don't reckon that this term of Tory government will be substantially worse than if Labour had won. However, if they win the next election, then shit starts to fuck up.
  • This was definitely the election to lose for Labour. Even when the Lib-Lab coalition looked likely, I can't say I mustered much enthusiasm. They'll have the luxury of opposition, plus a huge swathe of disaffected Liberal voters - not Liberals, who'd sell their own mothers for a glimpse of power, and just have done, but people who voted Liberal to keep out the Tories. Ha fucking ha is all I can say. I refer you to what I said here.
  • The politicking between the Tories and the Libs (or the Tories and the marginally lighter blue Tories perhaps) should get interesting as the next election approachs. Isn't it quite difficult to campaign against the party you've been in government with for the last five years?
OK that's enough positives. I'm all exhausted now. Some not so positives
  • The Tories may strengthen in power. One of the noticable things has been people not wanting a Tory government because of the so-called 'folk' memories of Thatcher et al. So all Camerunt has to do is not be as bad as Thatcher and some of that fear may evaporate at the next election. He should manage that, despite his Tory Boy instincts, due to both not winning the election outright and having to have the Liberals onboard, and also there not being as much Thatcherite shite left to do anymore.
  • That over-sized prep school twat in charge of the treasury.
  • fuck this, you can do the negatives yourselves.
One of the most heartening things, sort of, has been the huge interest in politics again, so much so that I felt morally obliged to write about it today, which must be the first time ever. Never before has my facebook been nothing but people talking about politics. It's an extraordinary thing, as if a million people were all secretly interested in politics but it was out of fashion, so they all pretended they weren't. Now, suddenly it is acceptable to talk about politics in polite circles. Maybe now people will take an interest and get involved in some level, instead of, as I have for the last 20 years, sitting around going: they're all cunts, blah blah blah, fuckem, as if some other alternative is just going to land on our heads. Of course current politics disenfranchises and alienates ordinary people, but it's down to ordinary people to do something about it, not just moan and whinge. I've made up (right this second as I write this) a new and irritating slogan: Democracy is a verb not a noun. Ha! that doesn't even make sense. But democracy - government of the people - can only function properly when people contribute, take an interest and stop moping about, complaining about the media and politicians. You can't have will of the people when the people don't have any will. And yeah, I'm really taking this on board myself today. I've been away for a few years and look what you lot have let happen!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On Time

bastards bastards bastards its going to be a long five years. Thank god though cos a short five years would be a sign that you were really fucking old, like as if you were 80 and then your 85 and it's like, wow that was quick, how the hell did that ever happen, what's on the telly, whaddyamean Kojak's not on anymore! One of the worst things about getting old - and I mean my sort of getting old not getting actually old as in decrepit, I mean the sort of old where you can still do things you used to when you were young just they hurt a lot but they haven't actually been fully taken away from you yet - anyway one of the worst things about getting old - older, I should have said, older - is that you realise that things that you thought had amazing significance when you were young were just flashing past most older people in the blink of an eye. I realised recently that the reason time goes slower when you're younger is that young people have quicker brains. Their brain does more in the time, so it appears to them that time is slower, the same as with flies and other little insects. Luckily they're also stupider, so they appear to take the same amount of time to think things - which is why it is possible for us to converse with them, just about - but actually they think at a very much faster rate. I've also realised that no matter how long you've been alive, or how long you live, it always seems like the same amount of time - a lifetime - so a long life or a short life seems the same. Well, life is short innit, goes so quick, they say. Well, of course it goes quick, everything went quick once it's finished, how quick do they think it was going to go? "Oh I thought life was going to take bloody ages but it only took 75 years, blink of an eye." People do talk an awful lot of total shite when you start thinking about it. Life isn't short or long. It's like saying space is big. Well, space is big, but you can also fit it into a matchbox. The reason we call life short is just that we fill ourselves up with so much past and future that the actual life we lead seems irrelevant. In fact it's as long if not longer than the life we used to lead on the savannah, and that seemed to take ages, unless you were eaten by a lion I suppose and then you'd just be glad to get the fuck out of there, you wouldn't be moaning about how quick it had gone. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that time is slow when you're young, fast when you're old, but remember this: it's always now.