Friday, October 29, 2004

Firstly, Flores man [part is non-subscription].

Can I be the only expecting this to be a hoax? Part of me is expecting someone to confess that it was all done using some huge pressure chamber. And yet, it's in Nature, it's being carried by reputable sources. Am I really too cynical? It just doesn't feel right.

But maybe that's in part caused by only hearing of it via television news programmes, and them showing people joking about it, or anthropomorphising the heck out of it. The programmes seemed to regard hominid as human, and therefore people could talk about a woman doing something or other. To me, "woman" carries too much societal inflection. A female of this species might have done X, but a woman doing X? It's too certain, too easy.

But for the time being I'll ignore all the usual media dross about hobbits, leprechauns and dwarfs [most of the media have avoided using that latter word, wary of implying that people with hormonal variations are a different species. Some didn't manage this].

I don't know why I find this so hard to accept. Perhaps because I hadn't been paying attention, and so only heard it through the childish main media [who have the same linguistic interpretation skills as Downing Street applies to intelligence reports, "might" is "is", for example], and therefore scoffed at them sexing it up, and getting it wrong. Unfortunately I haven't a Nature subscription so I can't find what the original paper says, but I doubt it describes the hominids going out on morning to hunt pygmy elephants [although what else would "the little people" hunt?].

And so, to distract from this pointless scepticism, I mention something cribbed from the Guardian. One of the letters was someone writing in to ask if, now that 7 small skeletons have been found in a cave, Snow White is presumably helping police with their enquiries.

Other stuff and I'm not sure there is all that much to say.
Newsnight and Channel 4 have both recently carried worrying stories about the American election, which currently appears to need UN observers.

Bizarre random detail of the day:
On the back of the Pushing Tin DVD case is a box describing the level of unpleasantness in the film. So it describes the language as "Occasional, strong" [only occasional use of language? Must be a very short script] and the violence as "Infrequent, mild". The other two categories are "Sex/nudity" and "other". Quite why nudity is equated with sex I'm not sure, but that's Fox for you. And as for "other", the description is "Comedy, air traffic controllers". Given the first 3 boxes describe the amount and type of aspects which some audiences may find objectionable, does this mean there is a comedy amount of other? How much is comedy? Unless both descriptions are warnings, just in case there are people in Tunbridge Wells who will write indignantly to the Times should they find themselves unexpectedly watching a comedy.

But "air traffic controllers"? What's that in there for? In case there should happen to be some Amish guy watching the DVD and he'll get upset if he sees people making strong use of modern technology in their jobs?

And here's us with our giddying array of classifications, which usually leave one wondering what was so bad about that 18, or possibly if the PG threshold has shifted since we were young enough that it would matter.

Anyway that'll be it for now, as I'm still battling an erratic wireless connection, and have to sort out stuff for the weekend.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Bush radioA piss-take surely?

W Ketchup [Cue the usual bunkum about being proudly American]. Let me guess, it perfectly compliments IDF Pizza. Shame it's not yet available in Walmart.

Sometimes they worry me.

And that's two W's I forgot. Yesterday, fairly early on in a long drive, we passed a Range Rover with a number plate ending NUW [that's passed as in it had just overtaken us, and then round the next bend was slamming to a halt on the verge, having just had the tailgate fly open. Such things tend to attract attention]. For some reason we decided that it obviously stood for National Union of Whatever, and so spent the rest of the journey trying to think of suitable W's. There are a lot of W's out there. Some sounded convincing, and might well have once had unions, such as wherrymen, wharfingers, wainscotters, wainwrights and whippers-in. And some didn't. I'm particularly proud of the national union of Warhens. Like moorhens only more aggressive.

Obviously we decided that the NU of Warmongers was much more likely to be the International...

Perhaps NU of Welwyn-Garden-City-Dwellers might have been pushing it a bit. As was the NU of Wound-up-people. And we weren't sure if the Nation Union of Whom-Users would be a great success. As for NU Wafflers, well, we couldn't agree on which meaning it would be.

I think that would only happen with certain carfuls of people. Especially given how so of the more obviously W's never got mentioned. Could there be a National Union of people who say "Walker with an N"? [Huzzah! that site currently reads "Access Denied. You don't have permission to access "" on this server". Either it knows what I'm putting as the link, or it's figured out that I'm not in a swing state, and so can go to hell].

[Search Google for Bush, and get ads for home appliances. Huh? Oh that Bush].

Reverting to the "red sauce" [surely an innately Democrat product, unless the usual left wing-right wing colours are reversed in USofAland]. If people can throw rotten tomatoes at speakers they dislike, how about some inventive Democrats subvert this campaign, and lob a few bottles of Tommy K at Bush? W Ketchup, natch [preferably in collector's edition glass bottles].

[RT's FP is currently carrying I am David. Wow, a film of an obscure book I had to read years ago in English. About all I remember of it was having to look up Thessaloniki so I could draw a map of his route (it didn't help no atlas listed Salonica, as it is in the book). It was quite a good map. I think I got a house point for it].

By the way, why does the Open University control what is or isn't Kosher? Yes, I was exploring the W Ketchup site [see the FAQs]. Now what would you make of this press release, quoting J.F.Che [bad pun]?

Now I'm even more confused. So is the W Ketchup site a Democrat ruse to prove how unthinking Republicans are? Or does it really exist? Or is all some hoax, as dreamt up by a guy in bedroom somewhere, whilst wearing his pyjamas [and his kerning hat]? Or is it simply someone flogging overpriced ketchup to all takers?

Random exercise of the day. Compare and contrast: Billionares for Bush and Communists for Kerry. And why's this feel like the chicken and the egg? Or just B3tad politics?

Strangely I prefer the Communist aesthetic. Especially "The People's Cube" [scroll down in the store].

Random blog for the day. Hamburg Wesleyan Worship Arts, from Blogger's FP. Because yesterday I came up with the National Union of Wesleyan Baptists. How was I to know they're not?
[And that's not Hamburg Hamburg, as in the one in Germany. I think this one is in upstate New York].


PS. Diversion for the day. A plumber I met recently had the name Michael Generic [obviously not actually Generic]. He mentioned that there were 8 other M Generics in his family, as his father did it to annoy either the postman or the taxman. How many other forenames beginning with M can you think of [not counting variations on a name such as Mike and Micky]? I get stuck once I get to Marmeduke [or Marmaduke as Google corrects me].

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Tanzania geographic 023I have such an interesting life.

Which is why I spent late yesterday evening adding more photographs to Flickr. This time they are of my 1998 trip to Tanzania. They are distinctly unedited, hence of very variable quality. Bear in mind they were taken using a very cheap point-and-click camera [which meant it had less parts to seize up expensively in the dust].

This set are also half the size, or resolution of the previous groups, simply because I didn't want to take up too much filespace. Should you wish to see a better image of any of them, let me know, and I might get round to it. I can't guarantee that the tone and colours will be identical to the first scan, as quite a few got tweaked as I was scanning them. Which allowed me to finally find out what one of the them was supposed to be showing. It's a monkey, in the foreground. In the original print, a black lump didn't show up well against the apparently black vegetation.

And they are scans of the prints, as I haven't quite figured out how to take them from the negatives yet. I did try on one of them (the under-exposed monkey above), but it took me ages to get something that looked normal, and then I realised I'd used the wrong under-exposed negative.

A breif run through of what there is [number by the numbers in the filename, but the order got slightly jumbled when uploaded to Flickr]:
1-4. The hill above Marangu whilst we did all sorts of stuff in a school. There should still be a kitchen [badly] built by us somewhere. Our whole worthy thing of building schools in a poor African country, well, got slightly distorted by discovering that the school was a private boarding school for the daughters of the local businessmen of Moshi [just down the road], and that the people supplying the cement could have done everything we did, better, and quicker [and probably cheaper]. Anyway, some shots of the views from the school, and I've spared you the images of us looking cold, wet and tired.

Incidentally, the name for the local tribe is "Chagga". It means cannabis [the foothills of Kilimanjaro being ideal for its cultivation. Not that I noticed]. In previous centuries they reputedly were the main traders of East Africa. Trade at the time consisting of drugs and slaves [the neighbouring tribes]. Sensible people.

5-9. The waterfall a short [slippery] walk away. People swam. I didn't. It was pretty damn cold. But as it apparently flowed straight off the side of Mt Kilimanjaro, what can you expect?

10-25. Mount Kilimanjaro via the motorway route. Two main peaks, the jagged one is Mawenzi, the snowy [and taller] is Uhuru. I didn't quite get all the way to the top, having had enough of the freezing scree, and managed to walk into a large boulder. I was walking towards a large block of slightly paler darkness. It got bigger. I kept getting bigger. I kept walking. I couldn't figure out why there was a big plain patch in my vision. I kept walking. Eventually I recognised it as a rock. I kept walking. I hit it. I was surprised. It hadn't occurred to me that I might need to avoid it, and I can't walk through rocks. Whether it was the beginnings of altitude sickness, hypothermia, or simply fatigue I have no idea. I joined the next cluster of people going back down. It was bizarre. You can't really sleep, and you can't really be awake. Life has dreams and dreams have life, both superimposed on each other. The graffiti on the bed was curiously distracting. It wasn't terribly fun. But I seemed to have recovered the next morning, when I got to sit and watch the sun rise over Africa. Whereas those who had got to the peak, had spent the night walking round in freezing fog not knowing if they had found it, or whether that bit over there was slightly higher. On the whole it was pretty stunning, and fairly interesting - if only because I discovered that batteries can freeze, and they don't work when frozen.

26-46. Lake Manyara National Park. Lake Manyara was considerably bigger than it was supposed to be. Flooding isn't really something one associates with Africa. Oh, and look out for other animals in the background of some shots.

47-68 Tarangire National Park. Which somehow mutated into Lake Tangirie. Oh well. In a very Gaian way, they were having a drought.

69-83. Ngorongoro Crater. A rough guide to some of the odder pictures. Small pink hump = flamingo. Small grey hump = corrie bustard [or cory/kori bustard]. Larger grey hump = ostrich. Dark specks in a lake = hippopotamus. But I like the dark, brooding, tricolour nature of most of them.

It was pretty cold and damp whilst we were there. It seems a bit strange to be putting on enough clothes for English autumnal drizzle, whilst on the brink of the Rift Valley. The driver reasoned that the lions would be doing what most humans would want to do, and would spend the day curled up somewhere warm. I wasn't that disappointed about not seeing them [well obviously I'd like to, but], having just been in a "wow zebras cool!" mood. But other people seemed to get more pleasure out of mentioning the lion cubs just up the road, to the groups of American tourists passing the other way [cruel I know. Especially when someone made a passing comment about the tigers, to which the Americans eagerly responded. I think his reply was that they'd see them if they went north-east a bit].

84-91. Zanzibar, Zanzibar [otherwise known as Stone Town]. One building in particular is a stunning example of why the current colonial power should not improve upon the buildings of the previous colonial power. It started off as an Arabian building, which then got Portuguesed-up, and then had British Victorian dumped on top [I think there was another layer, but I've forgotten who it was]. It's certainly distinctive. Whereas most of the other buildings were once grand and ornate, but now haven't faired well in a tropical maritime climate. And for some reason I decided it would be rude to take pictures of the stereotypical studded doors of the town.

92-107. A series of sunrises, moonrises, and other landscape stuff from the east coast. And some huge sea urchins. And some fish. Well, I know there were fish when I took the picture, I just haven't been able to find them since. And when will I learn that taking pictures of stuff in water, when the camera isn't, never works?

108. A misplaced image. From the coach on the road between Dar es Salaam and Moshi [we got a coach because the railway line up from Dar had apparently been washed away in flooding. The power of El Nino]. Bizarre geology. And no I didn't notice that big greasy smudge at the time.

Probably the best way to browse them is by tags [quite why I bothered to distinguish Tanzania and Tanzania geographic, I'm not sure, as the pictures of the people I went with aren't likely to appear here any time soon].

In other news.
Weetabix. I got an email from the help man (the address suggests there's just the one) along the lines of: Firefox is new, therefore untested. You can't expect us to test every silly little browser in the world. Um. Not so little. Same base as Netscape. Netscape not really little [and there is the whole predating IE thing, and that odd anti-trust thing]. So that's probably one in 8 (from the stats on here) who will have the same problem. The site doesn't state the user needs the latest version of Flash and IE running on Windows ME or whatever [as they make no mention of prerequisites], so it's a bit harder to complain when people use stuff other than that. I know I'm being bloody minded, and don't worry I didn't say quite this in reply, but still ... Microsoft describe some the flaws in IE as critical, and their scale only goes up to critical. How much more of a hint do people need?

The man even uses Microsoft Exchange. QED [or possibly Muppet].

Is it me, or does Bettany Hughes think she is [or at least is trying to be] the Nigella Lawson of the ancient Mediterrean world? Figure hugging clothes as she sashays round the base of some pillar, her hand stroking across the stonework, toying in the crack; thick hair tossed in the zephyr as she angles her head coquettishly towards the camera, her eyes come-hithering. Constant references to lithe bodies, and sumptuous curves. Pottery and dyes are rich, luscious and seductive, marks of decadence and luxury. Graceful, voluptuous hillsides erupt into the passionate night.

Just listen to the way she says Knossos: her instep is sliding up King Minos's calf as she does it.

Just me then?

And then it was on to Francesco da Mosto's Venice. Cue him lighting a cigarette furtively [and only my brain would try to do "furtively" in an Italian accent]. The programme is pretty much: Venice is great city, greatest in the world, but is a-sinking. But great city. Is a bit corrupt, but is Italiano, so no matter. Hmm, I'd better stop the really patronising mock-accent now. Anyway, the series is a bit slow, but has some good bits buried somewhere in the mud. For instance discovering that "ghetto" comes from the local name for a fort.

Oh, and I've also finished Moby Dick, only after #cough# months [bloody American dates. I was trying to find when I first mentioned it, and Blogger tells me 5/2/04. So I look up February. Anyway, I know I was reading it at the end of March]. The fact that says months is probably an indicator of how I got on with it. Though in fairness, I did break off to read a Dick Francis or two [I was ill], a couple of really rubbishy books [including Flood by Richard Doyle. Anything that can go wrong, does. Thrice. It also felt like the author had gone out and done research, and written everything in his notes into the book, regardless of whether it fitted or not. There was also a strange modular quality to it, as if his editor had given him a different set of recommendations after reading the latest section. And of course the ending was a complete cop-out], and breaking off to just do anything that isn't reading that book.

I've been reading it so long, that by the time I got to the end, with all the Victorian melodramatic fulfilling of prophecies, I couldn't remember what all the prophecies were meant to be. So the ending came as a bit of a surprise, because I was expecting a more modern version, in which Moby Dick is slain, but Ahab dies too. I was of course forgetting that this is a slightly gothic Victorian melodrama.

Basically, whilst there were some good bits, there was simply to much that wasn't. If you want to know about whales, read a cetology textbook, not some rebuttal to Darwinism. If you want to struggle to remember which on the topgallant is, read Hornblower.

There was also an odd bit that stuck in my head. Towards the end of the book, Starbuck [is that where the mermaid brand comes from?] repeatedly says "Oh my captain, my captain". Which felt strangely familiar. Then I remembered that it is used in the film, The Dead Poets Society [of which I've vaguely seen most of it]. So are they quoting Herman Melville? But I thought in the film it was "Oh captain, my captain". They wouldn't have got it wrong, would they? A Google later, and it's apparently from a Walt Whitman poem, but I can find no dates for when it was published, only the dates he lived. So which came first, "Oh captain", or "Oh my captain"? And who is ripping off whom, or was it pure coincidence?

And sorry if this post seems a bit disjointed, but I've spent all day arguing with the wireless connection. Previously whenever the connection fell over, I would have go and reset the router, or use the other computer to reset the wireless settings (literally a case of hitting "save settings" without changing any of them). Today it's being extra kind to me, and when the signal disappears (it doesn't ebb away, but just stops), it reappears a short time later. Perhaps. Which given it's decided that 3 minutes really is enough time for anyone to do anything they could possibly want on the entire web, is getting a little wearing. Especially as it doesn't necessarily reappear.

My verdict. PC World needs bombing. And that bomb may well turn up in the guise of a blue and grey Linksys router box[1], because at the moment that's the function it's likely to have in the foreseeable future. And a message for anyone who works for Cisco[2]. Your products have officially achieved the benchmark status of "useless heap of crap".

[1] Of course I'd have to replace the aerial with an old fashioned fuse, because there's no way I could use remote detonation on it, and any timing device would get bored and give up after two and a half minutes.
[2] Well it might happen. I mean, if I can get people coming here on computers named "future-is" on the domain, you never know.

So yeah, a bit of an odd weekend. Not helped by wanting to check if the DVDs I bough recently work. How did I do this? Put them in the machine, click on all the optional extras, and hit play. Which meant I watched the first 10 minutes of Shallow Grave in French, with Dutch subtitles. Geen is no, I think.

Just as well I haven't tried that approach on Lost Highway yet.

Just checked, and it doesn't do alternative languages, nor does it even run to subtitles. In fact the only other film form that cluster to offer and alternative soundtrack is The Shining. Which would be too weird in French.

Voici Johnny!

[How should one spell Johnie?]

Whilst finding links I also found this. I'm easily amused.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Boring Cool People, by Grayson PerryHuh?

Spam that isn't, or is it? And due the power that is hotmail, seeing the pictures in their full Technicolor glory. Confused? So am I.

The text:
Subject: want to know more (from Michael and Lisa)
Hello there

You two sound fabulous. Lisa and I are thinking about going to a commercial party this Saturday. Any plans for you? We’re pretty much first timers (actually, second timers, as we’ve had one great experience so far).

Please try to download these photos. (The curse of my life: IT)

We’re much better than the pictures suggest—please, believe me (Lisa especially: she’s recently lost 5kg and is now a stunning head-turner!)

Hope this works, o/w email right back.


[slightly reformatted].

This is odd enough - for a start who is the other person in the "two"? BTW, and this'll be me being dim, but what does "o/w" mean?

And then there are 3 pictures. Two of a woman in a flouncy top and odd hip disguising bits of fabric, one of a bald man writing at a table. Again, huh? I'm now desperately trying to work out the symbolism of the clarinet [or possibly oboe] on the dining table.

When did spam get mundane?

More bizarrely, all the routeing and address details seem consistent. It's like it actually was sent from a address (even the pictures show typically Australian vegetation, heck it even appears to be the right timezone).

This is bizarre. An email, that to all intents and purposes [or all intensive purposes if you are me], appears to have been sent by the head of one the colleges at some Australian university. The guy in the picture even looks suspiciously like the guy shown next to the welcoming message from the head of the college on the university website.

At first I thought it was some novel version of spam, an email oddly bereft of words maligned by punctuation, and the ubiquitous "remove me" link. In fact there is no link in the entire message, and the only interactive part is the return address. So it's not normal spam. So what the hell is it?

The head of part of a university, sending out an email that suggests he might be a swinger? Stranger things have happened. But sending it out to a completely random, slightly nonsensical address, the owner of which happens to be on the other side of the world? It's not going to be legit is it? Hmm, when does the Australian term end? As the website mentions the new intake in February, about now could be the time they break up for the summer. In which case, what better way to finish one's university experience, than by arranging to have the head of the college deluged in angry and bemused responses to slightly perverted spam?

Dr Shortland, I think you may have been hacked.

Well, at least it's a bit more entertaining than strategically placed fish.

Onto other stuff.

What is going on? As yet, there have been a grand total of no responses to yesterday's phone call cost competition. Oh well, I won't tell you the answer[s] yet then.

Weetabix Virtual Games. Does not work in Firefox. So far I've had a [one-line] email back for their customer care peeps, saying "Thank you for your enquiry. This is receiving our attention and we will get back to you as soon as possible" (in full as paraphrasing it would take long]. That was two days ago. I tried using IE instead. It now works. Hopefully I've won a mountain bike (it could have been a digital camera, but it didn't give many details). Which means I've been trying to figure out what size frame I need [it doesn't help the Weetabix website says you can choose S/M/L, but doesn't say what physical size they are, and then doesn't give you a chance to choose]. Internet type research suggests I'm medium-large-ish, as I'd expect, but I don't know which. The give measurements, but then don't say exactly what it is that they are measuring. Hands up if you can define "inside leg" in cycling terms. For a start there's a floor vs ankle debate [shoes or no, where on the ankle?], and then there's the chaos of the other end. One site even seems to think that if one buys 32-32 jeans, then the latter number shows how big the bike should be [there's no accounting for taste, or the diktat of fashion].

How to resolve this? By doing as the Raleigh website says, and visiting my nearest stockist. Who didn't seem best pleased by this action. Possibly due the distinct lack of actual money-bearing custom. Basically I walk into an empty shop, on a rainy afternoon, and there's two guys chatting at the counter. I mill, then hover a bit, having found the right model bike. Eventually the conversation breaks off, and the guy behind the counter looks up. I explain. He takes one look at me and says "Large, depending". I explain further. He says "Large". As the other guy is still hovering, I'm guessing he's not a customer. So I venture to start asking if I might try one. Before I finish the sentence, I'm told "you're a large". Er, thanks. I give up and leave.

Ok, so I know the likelihood of me needing new tyres in the immediate future is low, but most people make some effort to be nice. It tends to help in getting people to come back [ok, so one look at his prices, and most customers might twig that this shop somewhat overprices. In trying to find out the dimensions of this bike, I know the average price is about £139. In this shop, it's only £35 more. So if people have any sense, they go in and try the bikes, and then order one cheaper from a website. Which might explain the guy's bugger off in the first place attitude].

All I need to do now is finish off my accompanying letter (which is me saying you haven't given me a choice so far, so before it gets made for me, large please) and post the claim form [which I just scanned, JIC, 1]. Weetabix strongly recommend registered post. Do I, don't I? I probably do just in case, but now I have to sort that out. And what's registered post do anyway? Allows the post office to say "well we know it went in to the system..."?

[1]. Just in case. Not the Joint Intelligence Committee, who can tell you everything you need to know about spliffs.

So does this bike thing mean that karma works? Well, as I got a mountain bike stolen a couple of years ago, I now get a new one free, is that how it works? Perhaps, except there is the fact I choose the bike over other prizes because I'd had one stolen, and therefore didn't have one. And then there is the problem of how the universe deals with the person who cleared out the university bike sheds [although he left the ornamental bikes, which have obviously sat there unmoved over several decades, with no-one daring to move them], I mean how many bikes can one person get stolen? Don't try pointing out that legal justice will be his karma, as most of the thefts never got reported, and somehow I get the impression that the police don't really consider it a high priority. But given Devon and Cornwall Police's response to every car in one car park having the windscreens removed and the radio nicked, or the way missing cars always turned up burnt-out in the same place on Dartmoor, or how things could walk out of locked rooms in locked buildings, it's hard to know quite what exactly is their priority.

Hmm, I sound happy there don't I? It's just I'm never that convinced about some police. But as my interactions with the come down to 3 instances so far, maybe I ought to do more sampling (not that I'd want to obviously). Once for having a brake light out, which I had actually checked worked before the journey (for once). The policeman seemed most pissed off that despite pulling over an aged C-reg car late on Friday night, in an area where the prevailing attitude towards officialdom's bits of paper is a little lax (the locals also treat those strange marks on the road as purely decorative), that I and the car had the right bits of paper, and that he could find nothing else wrong with the car [The car of course wouldn't start about twenty minutes after this, but that's completely irrelevant].

The second incident [actually first thinking about it] was also me driving the same car. I got pulled over just outside home (having decided that backing into the drive in front of a police car with blue flashing lights wasn't quite the done thing). I had apparently been driving too slowly for that hour of night. Ignoring the implication that speed limits do not apply after midnight, I managed to confuse the hell out of the two policemen. Asked where I lived I pointed to the house. Didn't go down well. I give the address. I give the registered owner of the vehicle. I give the address of the registered owner of the vehicle [the same]. I give them all sorts of other details. They don't seem to have noticed that the road we were standing in, and the road the car lived and I lived in are the same. As for me explaining that I approached the traffic lights slowly [and it was red after all], because otherwise they don't react, and you sit at red forever...well, I think they were beginning to wonder why they bothered getting out of their car by this stage. It was farcical really.

The third was me trying to report that my bike had been stolen. I ring one number, and am told to go the police station in person. It's a long hike from campus. I get there. Nothing they can do, I have to ring a number. I ring. They suggest either going back to the police station, or using the website. I opt for the website. It keeps failing. I email the support address. No response. I keep trying the website. It doesn't work. I get an email back from presumably the support section (as I hadn't given my email address to anything else) which stated "status success". Status of what, or merely that something has a status? I assume it means I've got the report through. Then I worry I haven't, so try a couple more times, still no luck. I try phoning, and get a series of "not us"s. I give up. I hear nothing more. So maybe it did work, maybe it didn't [the complete lack of a bit of paper needed for the insurance claim suggests this], or maybe there were 56 mountain bikes reported stolen from the same address.

A few months later, and headlines proclaim that reported crime is drastically down since X. Coincidentally X is when they launched the crime reporting website.

So no great reason to have immense faith in the police.

Other stuff.

Waiting rooms are fun. Especially when it allows one to giggle at the March 2004 issue of Wallpaper*. The idea that Wallpaper* past issues do not spontaneously combust after 30 days, is bizarre enough, but the sheer infomercial nature of it is ridiculous. Advert or magazine piece? The adverts are fractionally better edited.

So I was laughing at the folly of the "Boring Cool People" [scroll down], and then upon getting home I notice that the bin in the Dyson adverts is Brabantia. No comment.


Monday, October 18, 2004

It's about that time again.

Thanks to the power of the tracker, I can find out who's been doing what when they came here. I discovered that one of the search terms that selected here was "codes to win on weetabix olympic virtual game". What? A lo and behold later, I found that there was indeed a code for some competition inside the Weetabix box that was about to go into recycling. Seeing as it's a website, and not some £1.50 per minute phone line, I thought I might investigate. I did. My code apparently wins me a 4th place prize on this website. Oooh.

And then. Nothing. Because I notice, that whilst I can review the prize descriptions, and be assured I've won one of them, and that there are about 2,500 of any of them left, there's no apparent way of claiming my prize. There's no obscure way either, having investigated every graphic on the site.

To be told you've won a digital camera or mountain bike or somesuch, whilst wondering what the catch is, is about par for the course. To not even be able to get as far as finding out what the catch is, is really rather annoying. I have a hunch it's the result of Weetabix's Flash designers not knowing about Firefox - but there was no mention of supported platforms and browsers (and it's not unreasonable to be not using IE). Firefox itself has had none of the usual missing plug-ins or blocked pop-ups messages.

So I've now got a window I daren't close (there's no way of re-entering the same section of the site, having tried in different Firefox and Mozilla windows), and am waiting for their feedback option to respond. Except the feedback option seems to oddly similar to contact options that invariably lead directly into the "permanently pending" file [the file for purple praise, and the communications of deranged individuals, both of which are only ever looked at to provide comedy at the office Christmas party].

One curiosity raised by all this. I have a challenge for you lot. See how quickly you can find out how much a call to Weetabix's competition line - 0871 5500870 - costs. For ease, it had better be from a normal residential BT Line, and let's say it's for all of 2 and half minutes. Answers on the back of a postcard (or in the comments will do).

Onto other ludicrously misdirected searches.
- hinchley yachts download. I have no idea. Hinchley doesn't appear to be a brand, and searching for just the first two terms brings up stuff about yachts in Guildford. Yes, that's right, the one which is nowhere near the sea.
- "prince harry" dyslexic. Is he? So where on the "dyslexia is cool" poster does he go? Next to Eddie Izzard, or next to Anthea Turner [who found herself skilfully excised from the display when a week]?
- legoland mi6. Just like Disneyland is a CIA front [according to someone today].
- b3ta sausages tesco. I'm not sure I want to know.
- indian agricultural machinery and implements like "tiller" and its history. Tiller? Ah, that which tills, not that which connects to the rudder. As for the history of such tools, all I know is based around the inventions of improbably named Englishmen.
- "Jersey royals" cartoon. The Simpsons in small potatoes? Some advert I haven't seen? Or is the land of the golden apple[1] home to the heirs of the dauphin?

- need to download rootjoose. Sorry, no can do.
- wardour street church+monument. Look, I just about know where Wardour Street is, beyond that, Google'll be more help. I assume the searcher means the one in Soho [in London], although how many others exist in the world?
- "the sea cow" clapham. Over-price fish and chip shop. See here. Next.
- blograffiti. Start=150. Immensely bored, or the site owner? Or both?
- finnisterre clothing. Quel Finnisterre ou Finisterre? France, Spain or Papua New Guinea?
[1] You'll kick me when you get it.


Thursday, October 14, 2004

TricycleThe Guardian are running this cunning series on "How to vote in America". Or possibly, "how to piss off people in Ohio" (but heck, it's only Ohio).

Hands up if you know where Clark County is on a map. Hands up if you know where Ohio is on a map. (It's the one just there, by that lake. Clark is a couple of counties east of Columbus, the capital, on the I70 [I looked on a map]).

I like the way the Guardian urges its readers to cajole their American friends into voting (and voting the right way). In my case, and of the Americans I've been in most recent contact with, there's an aunt. Who has lived out of America so long, I'm not sure she'd get a vote. No idea how she'd vote though. But given that's she's Texan, pretty right wing, and from a family who are rich up to the level of having all sorts of intricate tax "arrangements", I'm guessing she'd vote Republican [unless my uncle's liberalism has worn off on her].

Then there's the staunchly non-British Baltimorean [if that's the right word], who, er, came over on an exchange for a year, married one of my friends a year later, and is now living in Gloucestershire (she famously proclaimed, when talking about her ancestors, that "I have never had one drop of English in me". Which wasn't entirely true, depending on one's viewpoint). Given she spent her childhood in the south, is ridiculously gun-totting, and has some dubious thoughts on capital punishment, she could very well be another Republican. And I can't hope that her husband might moderate her, as he can be pretty "What's wrong with reading the Daily Mail?" [although he found the Sun more interesting].

The third American. The Alabamarite. She of signed-up-for-Peace-Corps, arrested-whilst-protesting-with-Martin-Sheen, liberal-arts-college. I'm guessing she could be a Democrat. So maybe I'll contact her - and she is currently living in Ohio. I will, I'll urge her to vote.

Except, the latest postcard from her [in keeping with our tradition, the picture side is gloriously bad, although I might be able to trump it, having found a museum selling a stash of hideousness, some of which appear to have been printed sometime in the sixties, and which have failed to sell in the intervening decades], details various parts of her life. Including the fact that she is out trying to get people to vote. That, and describing her country as "morally bankrupt".

I'm guessing there's not much need for me to act.

On the postcard thing, I'm glad it's not just me who notices random details, such as the postcard from Nashville [booted couple tangoing, crossed guitar and banjo, funky jukebox, very seventies children's book rainbow], being printed in Milan.

Onto to other stuff.

How to appear mysterious and intriguing
Carry a big camera. Take a long time to take a photograph [because I'm not very good]. Get hit on. Twice. In two different churchyards. One male, one female. I'm not sure which is more unsettling. Even people who are just walking past make eye contact and smile [except for the tweeded bugroffs, but they take an aversion to anyone under 45].

God knows what would have happened had I nicked the television camera from the camera crew having problems with the hill outside Vision Express. Probably all the corpses would start popping up to stroke my arm.

But having a camera with me, does mean I see a lot more than I usually would do. Like the sundial over Superdrug, or the strangely signless Gap beneath the facade proclaiming "Montague Burton" to be "The Tailor of Taste". Or how badly bent, and partially restraightened, the hands on the town clock have been. Or the sun catching the damp tyre tracks over the cobbles. Or the centuriesworth of bodged drainpipes. Or the alternating tracery patterns in the windows down one side of a church.

But it was low sun after rain, which I invariably like, in part for its ability to make one see things that never normally show. Or maybe carrying a camera allows me to just stand, and peer down alleys and through gateways, and see where things go [usually a cluster of accountancy and law offices, or the back of some shop].

And because I was wandering round Notacity yesterday, I happened to find myself in HMV. Again. And I happened to start buying DVDs. Which I really didn't need to do. Especially as I was dubious about buying the loss-leader, and then came out with several more than just the loss-leader. And I'm not even sure if the loss-leader was a loss-leader. It was Brief Encounter for £2.99.

Once again, the powers of "I haven't seen it, but is supposed to be good, and it is only X" kicked in. So I bought it. And have now watched it (yesterday, after discovering the joys of supposedly post rush hour traffic on the road between Tweeton and Notacity. At least I know my clutch works. And I do need to be doing more exercise). And unsurprisingly, my conclusion is yes, it's a good film. Superbly scripted, pretty well acted. Obviously not quite the same as a more modern film, but quite capable of resisting poor comparisons. Of course, there is a tinge of a childish response to all the uses of "turbly" and "rarely", but that's just being childish. There is also a confusing bit where Boots acts a library (but it's Boots, complete with toothbrushes), but these are minor niggles of an unthinking modern mind. In conclusion: for £2.99, buy it.

The rest of the buys are all films I've seen, and think are good enough to buy on cheapish DVD.
Local Hero ["We have an injured rabbit also", with, quoting from the dodgy cover, "Denis Awson", who, with an l, is Ewan MacGregor's uncle. The cover, like many of those of this set of DVDs, quotes one of the extras as "Interactive menus"].
Lost Highway. David Lynch. I'm waiting till Mulholland Drive gets cheaper.
Pushing Tin. Nice sane Americans.
Shallow Grave. Well, if they'd tried Loot...
The Shining. Nice saner Americans. Otherwise known as the Tricycle of Doom.

And is it me, or is every one of the frontpage reviews on IMDB negative? And each comments section seems to carry parts that suggest whichever film was a rip-off of a later film [I know it's wrong to expect more from the internet, but still...]. As for the person who reviews Brief Encounter, where to begin? If you've seen the film read Peter Hayes's review for sheer gofig value. It's full of the most basic errors. For example, he seems think that the two lead characters describing their respective spouses means that only one of them is married. Some of his comments make me wonder whether he has seen the whole film (and whether he was sober at the time). But with 214 reviews accredited to him, life in York must be extraordinarily dull.

Having scanned a few of his reviews (which largely read as "I don't get it"), including the one for The Office, in which he petulantly declares that (Slough is in the Midlands and not near London as some reviewers believe.), I can only conclude that the man is taking the piss.

Especially coupled with the first line of the first Google result [] reading Located in the South East of England, Slough is close to West London. There's such a thing as fighting the Londoncentrics and then there's just worrying.

Anyway, I'd better stop now, as not bothering to fully Fisk someone isn't all that fun [and fully Fisking him would change me into someone I wouldn't wish to be].

BTW, does anywhere know where the phrase "at this price lunacy" comes from? I'm sure it's some comedy show, but Google is steadfastly refusing to yield anything.


Saturday, October 09, 2004

Image of a frankFillums, votes, words and names.

Donnie Darko.
Having bought the DVD (in HMV for £3.99, which is fractionally more expensive than renting the thing), today I saw the film for the first time (well there has to be a data point on the tail end of the curve, otherwise it wouldn't be there). My response:
Wow, no wonder people sent the stats for the site crazy [crazy being a relative term] once I mentioned the Gary Jules and Michael Andrews version of Mad World [subtle plug]. It's a stunning film. It's left me with strangely post-David Lynch feeling. I did have slightly weird moment whilst standing in the bathroom, where as I heard a plane passing unusually low over head, part of my reflection appeared to be distorted. But that's what you get for living under the junction of two flight paths and having mirrors with greasy marks.

And now I want to see it again, to figure out just quite how everything works.

It wasn't quite what I expected, but I'm not sure what that was. It's just a shame the DVD is so minimal. It has the options of play film and select scene. And that's it. Nothing else. Not even subtitles. The only extra seems to be a comical anti-piracy film, complete with exploding tapes and tyrannical blacksmith, with a big red X. Obviously the makers are advertising failed images in Internet Explorer. Unless there's a series, and the others include a glowing triangle, square and circle, in which case it's to promote Playstation, Early Learning Centre shape recognition toys, or possibly Playschool (please don't point out that it had an arched window, not a X-shaped window).

Earlier in the week I saw another £3.99 DVD. Taxi. It's a French film, set in a picturesque arrondissement of Paris called Marseille (well all French films are set in Paris, so it must be part of Paris right?). It's a silly French film. I hadn't seen it beforehand, but meant to when it came out. Silly, and sweet, with guns, and explosions, car chases, car crashes, freaky moped action [the French have motorbike cavalcades for no apparent reason, although when I saw it, it probably happened because there was nothing else to do in Le Harve], semi-gratuitous nudity [mais il est français, donc il est obligatoire], cultural and social stereotyping, and a token bit of romance. Something for everyone. Provide one doesn't mind have the English subtitles on permanently. They apparently count as part of the image, not as subtitles. No songs though, so not quite nicking stuff from every genre. Although it does have some lapses in reality that are only fit for a musical. But then if I sat there criticising every small fault, I'd never enjoy any film (though I'd probably being running quite a few successive blogs, newsgroups and fanzines).

But for the price, it doesn't matter. It's a fun film, which doesn't require heavy thought, or leave one struggling to be certain that up is in fact up.

The third film I bought in this cluster was Blue Juice, which I haven't watched on DVD yet, but have seen before. Again a silly film, but I really don't mind that. I also find something encouraging in the notion that there could be such a thing as Smuggler FM. That was until I heard BBC Radio Devon [although Southern Counties is just as bad, but it's much more professional dross]. But I remember watching the film years ago and loving it. But I hadn't seen it recently as my brother had the only copy, and the [ex-]girlfriend of one of his [ex-]flatmates recorded over the top of it [to "see if the video recorder was working"]. So I got an odd look from the girl serving me [well it might have been the same look lingering because I bought Linkin Park and Morcheeba at the same time] when I presented two copies for Blue Juice, one for my brother, as thank-you for letting me stay (and to replace the traditional bottle of wine I never get round to buying).

The DVD has a few more DVD type things, but I haven't played yet [not that I've ever seen a film with the commentary option switched on]. It also has Catherine Zeta Jones (the cover features her name much more prominently than the original publicity did. Of course only the American version is online) in her pre-plasticised Hollywood days. So robustly good looking in a thoroughly normal way.

In other news from today.

The Scottish Parliament building is officially open. Cue the BBC showing shots of bagpipe-laden military parades described as "formal pageantry", and then cutting to a shot of "street theatre", which is, um, a man playing bagpipes. They also had a clip of Sean Connery being asked what it was like to walk amongst the "normal people" [it might have been "ordinary people". Whatever it was, it was pretty damn damning]. As for the building itself, I've always wondered quite why it was necessary to invoke the titles of a James Bond film on a parliament building. What else could that montage of gun-shapes be about? And I glad it's not just me which sees them as that - although seeing paint splodges as witches and explosions instead of a butterfly, and another butterfly, respectively, might have something to do with it. I jest by the way, being so thoroughly lacking in imagination as to see random blobs of paint as anything much beyond paint. That and never quite having the nerve to worry the person testing me.
Tell me what you see in this picture?
I see death. It comes soon. Frank told me.
I see. Death? You're sure? Not a rabbit then?
I see a rabbit.
Oh that's good.
He's called Frank. He's got a metal face. He's standing over there

It's either that or telling the tester that you can see 3, but if you squint you can see 81. And then see how long it takes them to realise they haven't given you the colour-blindness tests.

By the way. What was the name of the rabbit in that know the one with the one from "It's a wonderful life"? IMDB to the rescue. The film is called Harvey. The plot of the film is based around a man seeing a big rabbit [which stands erect], and which [I think] suggests the man ought to do things.

The similarity hasn't gone unnoticed on the messageboards at IMDB. But as they seem to think Donnie Darko came first, and Harvey was produced by being left in a radioactive bunker, it's probably not that significant. Especially as one is a Pooka or púca, and one is a [see the film], I think I'm imagining more than there is.

And in what is the following true?
Afghanistan trumps Australia, both of which trump America.
The elections for countries beginning with A (but I haven't heard of anything in Austria or Azerbaijan), according to the BBC's running order. But to be fair, the American one is only in the pre-election debates stage.

But is Australia less important than Afghanistan?
I'm not sure how answer that question, or if I should be asking it at all. I'd say no, because of trade, and cultural and societal links. But then that goes against the grain of all lives being equal, and hence all countries should be. It's just that some are definitely more equal than others.

But then I'm related to someone who said "It's the Northwest Frontier. It's always been nasty. The Americans have never known which fight not to pick".

I dread to think that there is anywhere in the world where justice cannot prevail, where the notions of equality and democracy (or at least benign benevolency) cannot occur. But without the resources, which economically and culturally are not available, victory and stable occupation cannot occur. So unless it happens of its own free will [which is an oxymoron in this case], it won't happen. Which means justice cannot be reached. Yet, hopefully.

I watched Unreported World on channel 4 earlier, which was on the preparations for the Afghan elections. And it was much as you might expect. Depressing, with a touch of hope. But hope springs eternal, so that's no surprise.

Whereas I got live coverage of the Australian election results, via a well-placed staffer and the powers of SMS. Well, I would have done, had I turned my phone on. But I wasn't quite compus mentis enough to do so beforehand, having been very tired yesterday. Last night the last I remember was the first ad break in Green Wing. Next it was waking up when my alarm went off at 4:45 am. It was Saturday, I was fully clothed, lying awkwardly around the paper piled on half my bed, and with no clue as to how the television had been turned off. I think being incapable of staying up beyond 9:45 pm has be some kind of new record.

And speaking of psephology, do you even know what that is? I didn't, when I saw it mentioned in the Guardian the other day. A psephologist is someone who studies the statistics of elections. Think Jon Swingometer Snow [or the people who provide him with news of the 4% swings in Durham East]. Another word recently cribbed from the Guardian is milquetoasts. Which basically means wimpy [and there's a cartoon character involved somewhere]. Obviously there's some writer at the G who is fantastically keen on demonstrating the breadth of his thesaurus [and fulfilling his obscurity quota].

The other word of the week is Ariadne. Mrs O'Dwyer over at TTOBBT (or something like that) is considering calling her potential daughter that. She gives the other options as Elizabeth and Louise, although I'm not sure if it's a case of "pick one any one" or one of "all of the above". Or maybe I only see Elizabeth Louise Ariadne O'Dwyer as an option as I am someone in the latter camp (though one of those an incorrectly placed surname).

Anyway, Rachel seems to think she's the only one who likes Ariadne. She's not, and it's a damn sight more interesting than the first over-used two. And I know them to be over-used having spent the past couple of months playing round with data which contains a terrific amount of names. But at least all of them are better than Jade. Or Jaid. Or Jayde. Or Jeaide. But then I'm weird, and expect someone introduced to me as Chas to have Charles on his birth certificate. Parents: Give your children the option to defy your taste [at least in part]. Or be stuck calling a 30 year old Timmy. [Sorry incidental rant, which wasn't aimed RO'D].

So Ariadne gets my vote, even though I don't think voting was an option. But since when has that stopped me?

Anyway, I think I've run out of stuff to write about for now. Oh, and sorry for the absence, but I did mean to post, it's just that I only ever seemed to get two-thirds of the way through a post before the next blogworthy thing happened. So there should be completed drafts popping up in random places soon.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Chewbacca. Bad for healthWell that was fun.

Went up to my brother's in London for the weekend, to see Bill Bailey. As you would expect he is very funny. And of course I can only remember two thirds of any joke. He is also freakishly musical (a Hillbillied-up Bohemian Rhapsody anyone?) and creatively quick-witted (don't ask about the after eight mints or being "full on vegan").

In fact despite being the only sober one there (the theatre harangue you into buying drinks before taking your seat), about the only bit I remember is the description of George "Walker with an N" Bush as "The tie on a conger eel" (a Rumsfeld reference, but you had to be there).

That, and the noticeably less laughter when he hit the topic of fox hunting (more comedy, less controversy please).

Oh yes and the wonderfully angst-ridden rock lament based entirely on nu-metal chords entitled "How can I feel pain when you've been so supportive?".

And "quickly and quietly, quickly and quietly, SHOUTING, SHOUTING, quickly and quietly". Richard Burton's acting, obviously.

There was one joke which he'd done on Never mind the Buzzcocks a week or two before, which I still can't remember.

It's not fair. I can remember bits of jokes and trains of thought, but not enough to be able to retell them to induce the same result. For example, three blind mice walk into a pub ... something about them being aware of their surroundings, anthropomorphising, and being exploitative. See, it just doesn't quite work does it? Although actually I might be combining two different jokes.

So, Bill Bailey: part troll, part genius.
He's on again on the 11th apparently [scroll down].

So onto other London stuff.

Managed to leave much later than I meant to, and so had to get on train crowded with college students [that's as in Sixth Form College, so 16-18ish]. And of course it's October, so all the first year Sixth are all busy trying hard to impress. So there's an awful lot of ridiculous fashion, and unfeasibly complicated make-up. Including the girl sitting opposite me on the train, who was wearing the distinctive Eskimo Shakira look of clumpy fur lined boots [according to a fashionable friend, they are "ugg" boots] and a mini-skirt. The girl spent the whole time trying not to look frozen, and also trying to find position that wouldn't let the carriage know she was wearing M&S's best.

It didn't help that she and her friends were talking in a thoroughly estuarine accent, which they weren't very good at. Occasionally words with a few too many syllables and vowels from St Wherever's would slip out, and there would be an awkward pause.

Then I got hit by a blast of Radiohead, only to discover it was being sung by people in school uniforms. My god, they must have been about 8 when that came out.

So that was entertaining. But not nearly as entertaining as getting into Waterloo and buying a one day travelcard. For the day after. It's amazing how many times I can ignore the light saying "Seek assistance" because I don't believe I need to. Eventually a kind man in uniform lead me away, and went to get it sorted out.

London Underground have a special machine for voiding tickets and transferring the value onto others. Unfortunately the user has to put the ticket through twice. And the guy doing it for me didn't figure that out for a long time, and then kept making mistakes, ending up with a stack of freshly printed and freshly voided tickets.

A small bit of rush hour Northern Line later, and I was in Camden, saying "where are you?", followed by a conversation about not being able to get run over because of the police-cars down the end of the road, whether that was the air-ambulance, and how my brother can see me when I can't see him, and oh, there he is, bye. Hello.

At least he only texted me when I was on the train so I was saved that cliché. However I was doing the impatient and nervous checking my phone constantly for messages (due to arranging to meet in "London", and his work being on one side, his flat on the other, and him probably by that time being somewhere uncontactable in between).

And then it's into a bar in Camden, meeting people from his work. Which meant I spent most of the night trying to work out if one of the barmen was someone I went to school with (it looks exactly like him as he was when I saw him last year), whilst trying to figure out how to contribute to discussions of the Star Wars DVD. Apparently Hans Solo no longer fires first. There goes the moral ambiguity of the films.

I only just remember the films, and about the only thing I can contribute is the freakish incidence of Miss Walkers with the forename Skye (staring all day at lists of people born in 1990 does have its uses).

And then topic moved onto ipods, the battery draining power of Bluetooth, who's getting sacked next, more talk which illustrates the fact the work for an engineering company, oh, and then the wonderful attempt to upload porn as the background on the phone of any poor fool in bar who has happened to leave his Bluetooth enabled. My phone was off completely as I hadn't brought the charger. It turned out it to be the phone of one of their colleagues.

And how many bars offer to charge customers' phones behind the bar? Somehow my brother managed to get his done. I would have thought it was a bit dodgy, but the phone was turned off, so there wasn't much chance of a barman's girlfriend in Australia being called. And the phone did reappear. Maybe I'm just too cynical.

And then back to my brother's flat, via Mornington Crescent [I win], my brother reciting the contents of his phonebook (I missed why), and a very Cla'hum fish and chip shop. It's called the Sea Cow, not the usual pun on plaice, or a formulaic Bob's. It replaced the normal fish and chip shop that used to be there. It charges a silly amount for normal fish and chips. It has a large flat screen on the wall showing a montage of tropical fish (no comments about the Windows screensaver). It strongly resembles Heals (well maybe Habitat). The takeaway comes special souvenir presentation packs [white cardboard boxes], inside a well-engineered white paper bag. It even comes with a hefty chunk of lemon, in addition to the salt and vinegar [which was disappointingly run of the mill, with not the slightest suggestion of rose Perry vinegar or Caspian salt flakes]. All this for the bargain price of £6. But one is obviously paying for having the option to have swordfish instead of haddock. It was the organic bread and butter for £1 that got me. Nowhere did it mention if the potatoes were organic, where the fish came from (does organic trump slumping fish stocks in terms of the moral high ground?), or whether the cooking fat, salt, lemon and vinegar was organic [can salt be organic?], whether the cardboard and paper for the packaging was recycled or came from sustainably managed forests, whether chlorine bleach had been used in producing it, how many phosphates had been churned out in production, how many miles everything had travelled, and the methods of transportation, whether the gas, water and electricity for the building comes from renewable sources, which sources they count as renewable, whether the building is optimal in energy efficiency, whether it values and respects the surroundings, whether it was built on an ancient Indian burial ground (they'd be a bit lost), whether...

It was reasonable fish and chips, being both fair quality and quantity, but it could have been crisper. But by that stage I wouldn't have cared. Slightly alarmingly, when I finished, there was one of the round bits of cardboard punched out of the ventilation holes in the box. There were two holes with nothing in.

And then we did what any two young males in London are supposed to do on a Friday night. Watch the tag end of the news, and struggle to stay awake throughout Jonathon Ross. I can't really remember who was on. Ewan MacGregor and friend, someone who looked like the lovechild of Michael Jackson and Joan Rivers - Nancy Sinatra (who sang live [you could tell], bless her), except I didn't hear what she said as I was too distracted by discovering that her father was a mafiosi.

And so to bed.

The traditional lying awake in some else's house, waiting for them to wake up (and go and buy food for breakfast, because only he knows which are the real cornershops are which are just fronts). Have bacon sandwiches, whilst discussing stuff, and scanning the Guardian. We try to decide what to do, whilst I realise that trying to arrange to meet someone at some as yet unspecified time, which could be fairly soon, and needs to reasonably soon, doesn't work too well when said person does not do mornings. Eventually, just as my brother and I have decided to watch Bullitt, or possibly go to British Museum if we can find it, the text comes through, and I head off towards Fulham.

According to the AA, from tube station to tube station is 3.8 miles (and should take 13 minutes). Via tube it's somewhere near 45 minutes. Using rough estimates it should only take about quarter of an hour more to walk it. And yet you know that out of all the options, the one based on buses will be the slowest.

Anyway, if I hadn't gone by tube, I wouldn't have heard my first Christmas Carol of the year. The singers were huddled round the entrance to Clapham North. I think they were carol singing, but they weren't very good, so it was bit hard to tell.

And Fulham was as Fulhamy as ever, with the planes coming in directly along the street leading to my friend's flat. Getting there I discovered that due to the wondrous power of communication betwixt us, neither of us had known the other was in Camden last night.

Skipping the rest of Fulham [it being the conversation of two people who ought to talk more and don't], and it was back to Clapham.

Which reminds me. Cas-Av getting Cas-Avy about the art for the cover of some tube map leaflet. The art is basically a roundel using the colours of the tube lines. The idea works better in Sloane Square station [just passing through], where the hoardings over the refurbishment work are covered in a variety of connected images. For example showing screws, or wiring in the tube line colours. Um, this would work better if I had spur of the moment pictures I'd taken with my digital camera to illustrate my point, wouldn't it? I have no digital camera. Oh well.

Back at Clapham, and we get ready (well, he gets ready, and I wait). Then we're off to somewhere the other side of the railway bridge. Apparently the other side of the bridge is Brixton. De de der! Oh no, not Brixton! Except we went to one of his freind's flat, and according to them, Brixton is the other side of the railway.

I don't know what it is about his friends, but they are all annoyingly nice, kind and funny. It might just be the massed confidence. So after a short please-stop-making-me-laugh while, we head off to the nearest tube station. That is, all except the girl who hosted New Years, who does not do Brixton, but she wasn't coming to Bill Bailey anyway.

And what's all the fuss about Brixton? It seemed just normal. The usual urban clutter of buildings and railings, jealously guarded bits of tarmac, bit too much litter, another modern Sainsburys (obviously 15 years ago Sainsburys decided they needed to develop a distinctive South London style. So they opted for angular grey). Then I suppose most places would seem normal on a recently-monsooned-upon, late Saturday afternoon in early October.

And then down into the underground, and onto a wailing tube. And I thought my brother and I got enough odd looks when, whilst sitting opposite each other, there's three silent flicks of a hand followed by a muttered "drat" [scissors paper stone, he usually starts it]. But this cluster of people, well, they're obviously used to using the tube in each other's company. And of course the Victoria line is so loud there is no hope of conversation. So there's mimes, and playacting.

Not to forget the curious bouts of mock horse riding. It coincides with the lumpier sections of track. If I wasn't with them, I'd probably be thinking very misanthropic things. But somehow it's ok, when one is part of the smug and the silly. Having said that, I did my best to pretend I wasn't with them, when a commanding female voice bust upon an sudden quietness with the phrase "...unbecoming to ride astride in slacks". It is the first time I have ever seen an entire carriage turn to look, rather than resolutely ignore the goings-on. By way of explanation, it started with the silly riding actions, and someone suggested that the female in the group ought to be riding side-saddle. So she mimed, and started a diatribe in the voice of a "disgusted of Tunbridge Wells".

A while later and we surface at Caledonian Road. We met another friend, who, well, I never figured out. I think, judging by the interactions, he is only friends with part of the group. As that part did extend to my brother, he seemed to regard me as not even visible. I attempt pleasantries, and retreated in the face of disdain.

Next the group wanders en masse around the area hunting for anywhere to eat. We fail spectacularly. In the end someone rings the theatre to ask for suggestions, and of course is told to use the restaurant under the theatre. This is one of the disadvantages of going to a theatre that describes itself as a "found space". It's been found in the middle of nothingness [endless industrial buildings], and so there is none of the usual cluster of associated businesses.

It also backs onto the railway. Which means it shakes, rumbles and rattles quite often. Mr Bailey was thrown by this. He was even more thrown by someone putting their hand up, to say "Sorry". Childish humour.

Anyway, so we eat in the restaurant, which basically means, we wait for a long time, and then most of the not big enough meals appear. I finish mine in record time, and would have started on my brother's chips, except I didn't think he had enough for himself. The remaining two meals appear a few minutes before we ought to leave. It's really very considerate of the manager to ensure that meals are small enough to be finished quickly.

And then we go up, to get harangued into buying drinks by a man guarding the stairs. Once inside the theatre, it's a free for all for seats. Which means the advance party has managed to bag a chunk of bench. However it's not quite enough for all of us, so my brother ends up hunched, and I hang on by 2/3s of a buttock. Subtle suggestions gain us some room, but not much. And then the usher wangs on someone else at the other end of the bench. Yippee. It's just as well I have sillily long legs, which don't fit in most theatres, so I can stick them out onto the steps and be my own tripod.

As I said earlier, Bill Bailey funny, and I have a poor memory.

And so to home. Or not. They decide they want to go to a bar or club, which is on X street. Where is X street? Don't know. So we look on the map in the tube station. It's not on their. So we go down to Kings Cross. Not on the map there. Trying to be with them feels like a odd sort of Brownian motion, as they are all moving constantly, in different directions. They decide to get a taxi to this bar. I opt out, having had my brother being drunkenly unhelpful (he probably sees it as not wanting to pressure me, I see it as him wanting rid of me, but without saying so directly). They still get into two taxis, even though without me there's only 1 taxi worth of people. I try to tell them. They're drunk. I give up.

I head back to my brother's flat, via a fiendishly complicated route through the Kings Cross rebuilding work. It probably would have been quicker to walk down the street till I got to another entrance than follow that route to the underground.

I get back to his flat without being offered drugs once (the man on the wall wasn't there. How disappointing). And somehow manage to watch the late repeat of Green Wing instead of going to bed. Sitting in someone else's cold flat alone isn't much fun.

The next morning, and he sticks his head round the door as he's off sailing. Thanks bye. I get up, have breakfast of sorts - when my brother said he'd left "some bread" he was technically accurate - and decide to wander off shopping. Which means I get to Oxford Street an hour before everything opens [I've done that before but it was on a weekday last time], and so find myself traipsing up the length of it, and then getting the tube back down (tube line under a straight road, yet it bends. Odd).

Still too early, so I have a quick wander round where one of my friends used to live and work (the hugged-chimney flat), then back to the shops. Where I hunt round for a while, and then spend a giddying £5.98 on 2-shirts. When did that happen? When did money stop meaning as much. £5 used to be a lot. I know there's inflation, and various other reasons for change, but it's just odd to be struck that that much money is now nearly inconsequential, rather than being worth a great deal. But maybe it's partly because I'm older, and find myself having to spend much more.

Then I spend a hefty chunk of the day meandering round other shops, alternatively wanting to be grown-up enough to be able to buy something and have some use for it, and then thinking everything available is hideous. And what is it about the furniture department of John Lewis's [I was trying to find a loo] on a Sunday, that the entire place is full of gay couples selecting settees?

Anyway, some how ended up in HMV, browsing their "biggest ever sale!". Which isn't hugely sale-like. Having said that I bought the DVDs of Blue Juice [twice, one for my brother as a ta muchly], Taxi, and Donnie Darko, the last two being sight unseen, but recommended. CDs of Massive Attack: Mezzanine (have on mp3, but good enough to want a proper back-up), Morcheeba: Parts of the Process, Oasis: Definitely Maybe (not sure I ought to have done, but never mind), and Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory (listening to it, and it's familiar - I'd forgotten I had it on mp3).

Then rushing back to the flat, past someone from work. Going back to the falt via Sainsbury's (bit of a dog-leg really), which was trying to shut. But a random selection of reduced bakery things, and scurry towards the flat. Eat. Pack. Find more to pack. Try to repack. Worry. Get too hot. Remember more things. Feel guilty for leaving the washing-up. Ought to leave my brother a note. Door bangs. He's back from sailing. No, I haven't left yet, I ought to, want a doughnut, take some more for later, I can't eat them all, yes I know about the taxis, I did try to tell them last night, oh, here, present, got to go, sorry, thanks, bye, thanks, bye.

Do a good impression of a flustered person moving fast. Fly on tube, change at Kennington. And rest. Well, I don't, but the train does. Two more Via Banks come up and discharge before we move. I catch myself jigging backwards and forwards, as I do when the car won't start, or is struggling up a hill, or as some people do to make their horses move faster (it must be some innate use of momentum thing, but the fact it was across the carriage is irrelevant).

And then I re-emerge at Piccadilly Circus. Now to find the statue I invariably miss (don't ask me how I miss Eros and co, it's just that I find I've walked through the place without seeing it). I walk round the statue, not being able to see her. Oh she's right round the other side just beyond where I started walking round. But she's facing away from the underground entrance. Does she think I've walked from Clapham? I know I walked to her Harley Street flat from Waterloo last time, but that's Waterloo. She turns round to face towards the statue.

Yep, I'm just a strange man, who happens to be making priest-like "peace child" gestures into the air. For god's sake, it's the same coat as last time, a jumper that's surprisingly similar to the one I worn when I last saw her, and my appearance has been fairly distinctive and unchanging since I was 3. I know I'm late, but she doesn't have to look through me quite so monotonously. I walk up to her, and she's still not noticing. I walk round behind her, and prod equally under the ribs, in a perfectly executed pincer.

I get an "Oh". Followed by a pause, then an "Oh, it's you, oh hello", and then her responding "Oh you're not, not late, not much". Er, right, what's happened that I don't know about? Or was she always this switched off? Does she know the mugger would have been long gone by the time she hit the second "Oh"? Hope she never has to find out.

Having arranged to meet in Piccadilly, she wishes to have coffee in somewhere off Leicester Square. We start walking. I have problems meshing my "walking in crowds" mode [where every surface is fair game, and moving almost too fast to stop scares people out of your way quite well] with my "ambling with slow moving company" mode. I leave her behind repeatedly, usually by widening only a couple of strides. So I start moving very slowly. It doesn't seem work well as I scarcely move, and then get chivvied by her.

After a minor detour (hearing drums, which must be Chinatown, wondering what's on, shall we go and look? Finding the tail end of a dragon and bemused crowds. Let's not bother), we get there. Where to buy coffee? Quick wander, and we end up in somewhere chosen because we knew we were about to get to Starbucks.

Cue: pineapple juice and hot chocolate (you can guess which was me, as they cost about the same, and for that money I at least want more energy exerted on my drink), dull conversations about Wagamamas, dull conversations about people I scarcely know marrying people I might have met, the usual pitying looks, her suppressing the urge to convert me (obviously that only happens over solid pineapple, perhaps attached to pizza), occasional lapses into fun prior lives, but never for long.

It didn't help that we were wedged in on a small table, from under which protruded my two bags, a few legs, the chairs were drowned in coats, and we were flanked on one side by some long immaculate book-reading Italian, and the other the narrow passage to the bar, beyond which was a table of soggy, overheated tourists. I don't like places where one is hunched because of the space, and also because one is aware everyone can hear whatever anyone else says.

Then it finishes, as I hit the dregs of the very sweet, unstirred powder, we ask for the bill (but she didn't say "bill", I can't remember what it was, but it was something odd), which takes ages to appear - I've never understood why that happens, as people who've already asked for the bill are never going to start ordering more - and then it's on to being invited to church, which I decline, as I have to be getting back so I can sleep, she insists on paying. I need to find ways of graciously accepting which don't use the words "Oh alright then". It's one of those places that adds on 15% service regardless of the already over-inflated prices. Off to the tube station together, where we split up as she takes the wrong line to get where she wants to be. I don't question it and just say bye.

Then waterloo, then run along the concourse, then along the platform, skipping the first ordinary compartment, and I keep going down the train, and then find another carriage of first class compartments. And so I swing into the end one, which isn't. This is why I like old-fashioned rolling stock. Compartments, functioning doors, effective heating, and cooling, via an openable window. And I like the sound they make. Judging by the people streaming down the platform and train, it'll be packed elsewhere. But we have 3 people in 8 seats. It's nice to have legroom.

The man to my left obviously thinks Catch-22 is an odd book for me to be reading. The man opposite is feigning interest in a blank, except for the doodles, crossword. At Clapham a woman gets on, and sits directly opposite the man in the window seat on my left. A man comes in to sit between the corridor door and I, opposite crossword man, ignoring the two spaces adjoining opposite.

Into Woking there's a row in the next compartment, which is first class. At Notacity a man with an open bottle of something brown gets on. He sits down, hears the shouting, goes into the corridor. A girl from next door is turfed off the train, and dragged down the platform by staff towards the main office. The drunken man reappears, asks me to open the platform door, and jumps off the train shouting "Are you a Tory?". The girl laughs. Crossword man gives up all pretence, and cranes to see out of the window. Man next to me is busy pretending he's reading, but he doesn't have a book or newspaper, and so is making do with the label on his bag.

Back into Tweeton, I head off, desperate to not be within hailing distance of a woman I recognised at Waterloo - the fearsome mother of a friend [albeit from a while ago, and the mother's not all that fearsome, just a bit perpetually menopausal]. And then down the road in the dark, stubbornly ignoring the pavement on the wrong side of the road, as there never used to be a pavement, and everyone always walks down this bit, and any local driver will know that (and what other driver would be around picking people up from the station on a Sunday night? They'd be so thrown by the road functioning as a one way street despite that fact it has never been, and the widespread disregard for the other laws controlling the road, that they won't be attempting to drive fast enough to be surprised by a stream of pedestrians).

And so home and to bed.


PS. Remembered another joke.
3 women walk into a bar.
The first one says: Hurrah, we have broken into that bastion of chauvinism, the male-dominated joke format.
The second one says: Look at my breasts.
The third one says: Ah, but it is a hollow victory, as the joke is still being told by a man.

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