Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jimmy And Graeme’s Aerosol Hair

You know you have those moments where you think “Hang on, was that real or did I dream it?”

I had such a thought recently about a product that used to be advertised on the back on red-top Sunday tabloids, typically at the foot of the sports page. I forget the brand name, but essentially, it was hair in a can. I remember also that it was endorsed by Jimmy White and Graeme Gooch, whose joy at once more sporting a full and luxuriant thatch was evident in the latter image of before-and-after proof.

I’ve just Googled it and can’t find any evidence of the product itself, though there are tantalising reports of hair transplants Jimmy’s undergone and a few baldy forums which namecheck him, which indicate that he’s exactly the sort of person to endorse such a invention.

I’m 99% sure it was real, though my main thought which accounts for the remaining 1% is that surely it could never have worked. Could it? Hair grows in rows. Not as a random foamy bouffant. The image I have in my head is more like that Silly String stuff that children squirt at each other at parties. Though having said that, a hairpiece of such construction wouldn’t look any less convincing than some of the rugs you see on daily display – their owners smug under a tufty toupee that looks as if the kindest thing to do would be to shovel it off their cranium and bury it in some sort of pet cemetery.

Maybe that's why Jimmy and Graeme gave it up and chose to destroy all the evidence.

Jog On

I’ve been jogging lately. Well, I’ve been twice in the past few days, but already this is more than the last ten years so I reckon I’m well up on my average.

I’m no stranger to gyms, but jogging has always been a form of exercise I’m particularly crap at, which is why I thought it high time to face my demons (and the fact that my waistline is expanding at a rate greater than is strictly comfortable), and start regularly pounding the streets – of the village I live in that is, not Mike Skinner.

Everything you read about jogging stresses the importance of getting into a rhythm. Being both male and Caucasian however, as well as really quite unfit (my breathing, as I thumped round my predetermined mile-and-a-half course, sounded more like a pack of huskies being mushed by an asthmatic Rolf Harris) I’m immediately at a disadvantage. Luckily though, no one was awake to hear me as I decided to venture out for the first time at 6am on Sunday morning when there wasn’t a soul around.

The danger with road running, unlike the gym where you can step off the treadmill and pretend it was just a warm-up, is that I could have found myself stranded half a mile from home, too exhausted to return, forced to erect a makeshift shelter and live off berries until such time that I could be rescued. By my lovely lady wife. In our Citroen Picasso. It’s a hazardous business…

Even though my legs feel like they’ve been driven over by a fleet of monster trucks I’m quite looking forward to going out again and might even start to venture further afield. Luckily I’ve been watching a lot of Ray Mears' Bushcraft lately and feel informed enough to subsist in the wilds of Wiltshire and await rescue. Well, Ray seems to do alright out of it as his bulging safari suits will testify. Now there’s a man who needs to go jogging.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Parky’s 2p Worth

I take back what I’ve said about Parky in the past. Fair play to him for not quite hitting the nail squarely on the head, but giving it a good glancing blow, providing one of the more lucid and reasoned comments surrounding the passing of Russell Brand’s “Primark Princess”.

There was more than a smidgen of hypocrisy around on the death of Jade Goody, with hundreds lining the streets and people weeping openly. There’s an unspoken law against speaking ill of the dead, and it’s the fear of breaking this law that too-often results in the Great British public (or maybe it’s human nature in general) having a tendency to over-compensate by waxing lyrical about the passing of someone whose conduct, in their life, was less than perfect. Maybe I’m just a cynic, but if it’s not this, it’s sad that it takes someone’s untimely demise for people to realise they quite liked someone. Either way, it’s a bit of a sad reflection.

At the end of the day (Brian), no one deserved to go through what she went through and I felt desperately sorry for her and her kids, but I’m not going to be a hypocrite and pretend she was someone who I liked; I often thought she was odious in the extreme. "Her death is as sad as the death of any young person but it's not the passing of a martyr or a saint or, God help us, Princess Di," wrote Parky in the Radio Times, "[she represented] all that's paltry and wretched about Britain... the perfect victim of our times".

While you can read this in a number of ways, he didn’t shirk from describing what she was, though he seemed to obliquely place the blame on both society and the times we’re living through. It’s the old nature and nurture thing: was she unpleasant because of who she was, or was she unpleasant because of what her environment turned her into? It’s probably a bit of both; the two aren’t mutually exclusive. A product of society and lifestyle she may have been, but it didn’t stop her being objectionable.

I disagree with Mr P on the role of the press though. I always thought the relationship between Jade and the media was pretty symbiotic. On a steady fulcrum of mutual exploitation, they fed off her pseudo-celebrity to sell their magazines and she was all-too-willing to give of herself in exchange for a few quid. They existed more or less in equilibrium to the benefit of both parties (which is a lot healthier than some celebrities’ dalliances with the paparazzi). The relationship was one of mutual use rather than abuse.

It’s a shame that she’s gone. No right-thinking human being should celebrate the passing of another human being in such circumstances, though the double standards from both individuals and the media is highly questionable. Now she’s gone, she’s undoubtedly left a Jade-sized void which will be difficult to fill, though my money’s on Kerry Katona.

The real benefactor from all this misery is Max Clifford who’s emerged earnest-faced, richer and smelling of proverbials.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nostalgic Workout

There are many forms of exercise around and a myriad ways for fatties to shift the pounds. The problem with exercising though, is that it’s always been arse-crunchingly boring, which is why people are always coming up with novel ways to detract from the fact that you’re actually exercising at all by marrying it with another physical activity.

The naming convention for these hybrid activities often involves nothing more than the unceremonious mashing together of the name of the desired activity, and the second and third syllables of the word “exercise”; hence: dancercise and boxercise (fittingly, there was an on the wall of the caff in Albert Square the other day for an activity called fightercise).

However, not all activities lend themselves to a hybridisation of two verbs, as exemplified by a local advert I saw the other day offering classes in “pole-da-cise” which just sounds weird. I assume it’s something to do with the current appeal of pole dancing. Applying the strict linguistic rules above, it should theoretically be called polercise, which sounds as if it might be something to do with Arctic exploration (when spoken, not spelled obviously).

The prerequisite for these new forms of getting fit is obviously some kind of physical activity: you couldn’t, for example, readercise or drivercise, but you could, in theory, spelunkercise or even scrumpercise.

To my knowledge, no one’s trademarked either of these yet, so watch for my Scrumpercise DVD – out in time for Christmas – in which I can be seen dressed in a tweed leotard, scaling the fences of orchards across Britain and pilfering apples before being chased by angry farmers with sticks in scenes reminiscent of a bygone age of innocent juvenile thievery.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Dogged Determination

Heartwarming story of canine survival on the Beeb (as well as numerous “and finally...” sections of broadcast news bulletins) the other day, where a dog swam five miles through shark-infested waters in Australia after falling off a boat, was marooned on a semi-inhabited island where it lived a feral existence for months, subsisting on a diet of baby goats, before being finally reunited with its owner. Aaaah…

The oddest thing about the story though is not the fact that the dog failed to be shark bait, but that its name is Sophie Tucker. Apparently it was named after a US entertainer from the 1920s.

Most normal people, if they were going to name a pet after their favourite burlesque/vaudeville artiste, would opt for a first name only; dogs aren’t usually given surnames. Or if they are, they’re usually the same as the owner's.

"She surprised us all," said owner Jan Griffith (probably not named after anyone). "We wish she could talk, we truly do."

Talking would be a start. I imagine the piano-playing and showtunes would come later.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Putting The L In ‘Band’

Now I don’t want to sound like grandad here, but how crap is Akon? It’s not just me is it? Whether you like the genre or not, this smiling little cheesemonger peddles a particularly clichéd brand of R&B that’s remained unchanged for ten years.

The ad on telly for his new album at the moment showcases a selection of his latest choons with accompanying videos in which he invariably appears dressed in white, complete with complementary heavies and obligatory scantily-clad filly (who’s also dressed in white). Striking a variety of homeboy poses he croons to this faceless female a childlike selection of spectacularly uninspired words. I struggle to think of a more wishy-washy and banal slice of insipid and unoriginal lyricism/melody than “You’re so beautiful, so damn beautifuuuuuul…”; it out-Lighthouse-Familys The Lighthouse Family.

Coming a close second though is the second song in the ad, entitled Right Now (Na Na Na). Songs are full of “doo-be-doo”s and “a wop-bop a loo-bops and “laaaah, la la lah-lah-lah-laaaah”s, though the “na na na na” in Akon’s effort just seems to be a bit of a placeholder about which he probably thought “Sod it, that’ll do; I’ll just ad lib that bit”.

I’m not suggesting for a second that it’s an R&B thing as there’s good and bad in every genre. God knows there are equivalent indie bands out there content to bash away at Telecasters and arpeggiate a G/Em/C/D chord sequence in a sub-Beatles style that, were it any less imaginative, would be the reserve of lobotomy patients and Oasis-tribute acts.

Not every band/artist can be a trailblazer admittedly, but musical drabness, where the same old kak is just re-hashed in a kind of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ way which tries to ride on the coattails of successful predecessors, bugs me.

Anyway, there. “Neeurgh… it’s all just noise these days… You can’t tell the girls from the boys etc.”

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Geronimo’s Hairy Carpet

Dan recently wrote a post in which he tried to convey the magnitude of a trillion dollars. It’s an almost unimaginable amount of money and is in danger of sounding like an almost trivial, throwaway number; like it’s just one step up from a billion. To understand just how much money it is, it needs converting into a visual – abstract or otherwise. If you were to stack it up on pallets in $100 bills, for example, it would look like this.

Alternatively, imagine that a Native American chief collected scalp after scalp with the intention of attaining a trillion human hairs to make himself a nice carpet for his tepee. Given that the average number of hairs on the human head is around 115,000* he’d have to lop the dermises off 8,695,652 paleface craniums.

Taking the human head as roughly spherical with an approximate 13cm radius and calculating the surface area (using the formula 4πR2) and dividing by three, we’re able to determine the approximate coverage of the flap of hairy skin our chief’s bloodthirsty braves might remove (though subsequent stretching might add a little extra). Each scalp would give us an area of around 708cm2, or 26.5 x 26.5cm.

The square root of 8,695,652 is 2948.83, and multiplying this by the dimensions above gives us our final figure: a patchwork of human axminster containing a trillion human hairs would measure approximately 0.8 kilometres square. More than enough for the big chief’s wigwam, and almost certainly enough to provide a smashing underfoot experience for his whole village, even without underlay.

Bringing things up-to-date, the traditional method of imagining surface area is to use a common denominator of football pitches. Given that the average football pitch is 100m x 50m, with Geronimo’s carpet, you’d have enough for around 121 pitches. That’s the whole of the Premier League, Championship, Leagues 1 & 2 and Conference (though sadly, not Conferences North and South who’d have to stick with grass).

Given that 8.5m (the amount of scalps needed) is approximately the population of Greater London, in theory, if everyone had hair, there would be just enough in the capital to cover the pitches of the English leagues. However, this doesn’t account for baldies who constitute around 25% of the population to varying degrees. Just across the channel however, the population of Paris is around 10.5m which more or less allows for the chrome-dome contingent. Not that I’m advocating the widespread maiming of the denizens of France’s capital to re-turf the football pitches of England in any way.

It would be quite groovy though.

* Fair hair is finer with around 140,000 peppering the heads of blondies, while redheads only have about 90,000. If you were to embark on such an undertaking and wanted something that was softer (and arguably more sightly) underfoot, you’d be well-advised to avoid the gingers.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Singular Characters

It seems there’s a much under-exploited gimmick by the celebrity fraternity in the adoption of single character names. The only ones I can think of are H from Steps, E from Eels and Mr T (who is often affectionately referred to as a casual “T”, as if “Mr T” wasn’t abbreviation enough). Then there’s always fictional characters like M and Q from James Bond. Zorro also had a single letter moniker which he’d casually slash onto doors as his calling card.

Punctuation marks have been used as signatures, notably, The Riddler from Batman, and famously, Prince had a symbol representing his name (but that doesn’t really count cos it was made up, plus he’s a pretentious little wanker).

Surprisingly though, the vast majority of single letter names are still available. This would make autograph signings much easier as many letters/names could be achieved with a single swipe of a pen. They’re also instantly memorable, can be copied by schoolchildren (to be gouged into desks or marker-penned across rucksacks) and guest appearances on Sesame Street would be inevitable.

If I was a celebrity, I’d choose U. No reason.