Friday, June 26, 2009

“It’s easy as ECG…”

Woke up this morning to the news that Jacko’s brown bread (or should that be white bread?) having died of a coronary sometime when I was in the Land of Nod. It’s a sad day for music lovers, simians and sellers of fairground equipment everywhere as the King of Pop has popped his clogs, aged a youthful 50 (though other parts of him were far younger). When the news broke at around 7am, mobile phone networks went into meltdown as the news was communicated to anyone with a bar of battery life left. And at 7:15 they no doubt started to be replaced by the first of the inevitable jokes.

But seriously, rather than reel off a string of gags about someone whose life was a rich treasure trove of weirdness and eccentric behaviour, it’s a shame that he’s (or should that be “hee-hee’s”? Aaargh! Stop it Steve…) no longer around. If only for the occasional strange news story or to keep Channel 5 documentary makers in employment. maybe it's better he went now though as thinking about it, given the imminency of this world tour which was scheduled to start next month, he was in serious danger of doing a ‘doing a Tommy Cooper’. Just like that.

Tellingly, eight of the top ten most-read news stories on the BBC at lunchtime were Michael Jackson related stories. The remaining two were about people being burned as witches in Kenya and a story about Abercrombie & Fitch’s employment policy. The most shared news story of the day though, for the second day running, was ‘Stoned wallabies make crop circles' - an amusing tale of opium-poppy-munching marsupials and the circular patterns they make when under the influence.

It’s a crazy world, but I wouldn’t want to Hoover it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

There Goes The Summer Again…

Once again, we’re hooked in our house. It’s a few weeks in now, and the melting pot of Big Brother 2009 is simmering nicely. It’s another mixed bag of housemate fruit & nuts this year, though the producers seem to have consciously shied away from the usual incendiary band of mutants, with many of this year’s crop being uncharacteristically, err… normal.

Not too normal though. There hopefully won’t be a repeat of last year’s travesty of a result where the eventual winner, Rachel, had about as much personality as carrion and managed to escape eviction by virtue of the fact she was so spectacularly nondescript.

Among the people peopling the house this year are Sree, whose wandering ‘Dr Octopus’ hands among the ladies is creeping a few of them out and causing some consternation among the competition, notably Marcus, whose sideburns of Dickensian proportions and generous “Billy-Bob” mullet give him the appearance of a line-dancing Victorian urchin.

Their affections currently have the thoroughly likeable, though unfortunate, Noireen in an ugly pincer movement from which she’s struggling to escape, though where Sree adopts what he thinks is a respectful heartfelt approach (despite being unable to keep his tentacles in his trousers), Marcus plumps for the brash “show us yer tits” method. The fact they employ these dubious tactics to ensnare the same woman makes for highly entertaining viewing.

Noireen is actually proving to be bit of a magnet for freaks and oddballs, having also drawn the icy attention of the less-than-angelic Angel – an emaciated fitness obsessive who has abs like the corrugated roof of a Belarusian Portakabin and angular features which cause her to look like a Cold War Bond villain or Transylvanian serf. But at least she’s not permanently stuck to her side like a barnacle on the hull of Hagar’s longboat like Sree.

Currently nominated for the third week in succession, though hanging on by his upper-class manicured fingertips is Freddie, whose plans for a post-BB political career have been squarely shat upon before they’ve even started by the fact he’s forbidden from using his real name, instead being known only as Half-Wit. That, and the fact that he’s a clueless fop with a penchant for re-enacting Meg Ryan’s restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally whenever he samples food and bursting into tuneless song at the drop of his Cossack-style hat.

BB wouldn’t be the same without homosexuals, and this year boasts two: Charlie and Lisa. One has a cheeky line in innuendo and hasn’t covered his torso since day one, while the other has a voice indicative of the systematic smoking of 80-a-day and a red mohican. Both have clich├ęs oozing out of them, but they’re pleasant enough.

The token ‘beautiful people’ also make an appearance. Professional Geoff Lynne lookalike Chris, whose unruly hair and unkempt beard are no doubt a hit among the younger female audience, and his current beau – the hefty-chested Sophie with whom he spends much of his time canoodling. The romance, fake or otherwise can only help their longevity.

Struggling to make the grade is Carly who’s of such a concentrated Scottishness that she’s rendered almost unintelligible, talking with a Glaswegian accent so thick you could spread it on a slice of bread and sporting a permanent expression which can be easily misread as “break eye contact with me and I’ll rip them out and replace them with your balls”. With eyes permanently ringed with eyeliner which looks like it’s been applied with a bingo pen and the complete inability to smile, I don’t anticipate she’ll last long. Which is probably just as well as an early exit will give her time to get herself a nice footballer to marry, divorce and bitch to the press about before Davina announces the eventual winner in two months time.

Then there’s the culturally-bewildered and spectacularly effeminate Rodrigo, who despite coming across as a chirpy songbird on his opening night VT, lost his smile swifter than an undernourished con who’s just been introduced to a gang of heavily-mustachioed randy cellmates the instant he entered the house.

My vote’s currently for the effortlessly uber-cool Siavash – reasons being his enviable hair and ability to remain aloof from petty arguments about cans of cider. Brilliant.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wire In The Blood

There’s a bubbling corner of my spleen that I’ve long held back from venting due to the subject’s popularity among people who hold him up as some kind of lyrical genius, but I’ve decided it’s time…

Nicky Wire, the Manics’ bassist, is a nobhead of quite overwhelming proportions. He represents everything that’s wrong with working class intellectuals who think just because they’ve read a few books, they can re-hash the bits that have sank into their spongy brains, pepper their speech with cultural references and bamboozle individuals more impressionable than they are, promoting themselves as some kind of bohemian academic.

The tipping point came when reading the interview in the latest edition of Q, where he name-dropped more people per column inch than Piers Morgan after an Elton John party. In a three page interview, he managed (deep breath): Bill Drummond, Bruce Springsteen, Julie Burchill, Lipstick traces, Greil Marcus, Allen Ginsberg, The Clash, Oscar Wilde, Morrissey, Alex Turner, Crystal Castles, Alan Bennet, Alex Kapranos, Brian Eno, Coldplay, Enya, George Bernard Shaw, Andy Warhol, Stanley Kubrick, Will Young, The Horrors, Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson, Will Self, Andrew Marr, Simon Jenkins, Kirsty Wark, Jeremy Paxman, Alexei Sayle, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Jennings, Carol Anne Duffy, Emily Dickinson and Stevie Smith.

As if this pompous splurge wasn’t enough, he later wrote a series of statements he wasn’t spontaneous enough to voice at the time to the interviewer in the hope they’d be included. Among these were such wanky gems as, “The internet destroys the mystery and serendipity of knowledge.” and “A blank piece of paper and a pen is the greatest invention. It is so exciting to be confronted by possibility.” Hmm, all sounds a little bit ‘GCSE’ to me.

In the sparse text that nestled in between this systematic reeling off of names, he actually revealed himself to be not unpleasant, but the sort of chap who probably shuffled around in his awkward teenage years gazing shoeward and mumbling “But I know I’m special…” under his breath, though he doesn’t seem to have ever grown out of it. The impression he gives now is that of a friendless twentysomething at a kids’ kickabout in the park, impressing young-uns who are in no position to compete with his silky skills but remaining a creature of ridicule among his own peers.

Frankly, we’ve all been there. I know I have, and I’ll unhappily be the first to admit that I spent a few years being a bit of a nob in not dissimilar fashion. I’m not saying he’s thick – far from it. I’m not even saying he’s not interesting, but give it a rest matey-pops; you’re spectacularly normal, nothing more. Stephen Fry once said something along the lines of ‘Real intelligence means never actually using it’. However, at the polar end of the intellectual scale is Nicky, who spouts tin-pot philosophy like an ejaculating adolescent.

I went to a see Everything Must Go once – a play written by his brother, Patrick Jones. The script, which was pretty awful, deliberately incorporated many of The Manics’ lyrics (a dodgy gimmick at the best of times), but far from being seamless, the torturous insertion of these little nuggets were like the textual equivalent of pushing a frantic and reluctant cat into a cardboard box prior to a trip to the vet’s:

“I can’t believe you’ve let me down.”
“Yeah, well you stole the sun from my heart.”

Ouch. It must run in the family.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hippy Hum

It was the longest day of the year yesterday. English Heritage threw open the gates of Stonehenge once more to allow 36,000 people to hug the ancient stones, beat bongos, talk bollocks and drink Tesco Value cider at six o’clock in the morning, err… just like what the druids did in the olden days.

Looking at the BBC’s pictorial coverage of the event showing the great unwashed corralled in tightly-packed groups, my first thought (perhaps cruelly, though probably not inaccurately) was “Jesus, I bet that stank.” An entrepreneurial deodorant salesperson could have made a killing. Or perhaps the authorities could have taken the opportunity to set up some kind of makeshift sheep dip for the crusty masses on exit? Glastonbury would have certainly been a lot more fragrant.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Feel The Burn

It’s that time of year again, when the sun finally peeps expectantly out from behind towers of cumulonimbus like an elderly relative checking on kids in the garden, and as it does so releases a stream of ultra-violet unpleasantness capable of turning the average British male from milky white to fuscia pink in the blink of an eye.

You’d think this would make native honkeys hurtle for the nearest shade where they’d spend the ensuing two months (such is the length of the average British summer) in darkness, awaiting the relative safety of autumn when they can emerge blinking into the much weaker sunlight. But no. It seems the first sight of the summer sun causes the entire male population to disrobe en masse despite the unsightliness of what’s been concealed ‘neath winter garments for the previous ten months. Masses of English skin offers itself up to the sun-shee-ine and wide expanses of pasty-white, slightly blobby Caucasian bodies turn as crispy as a hog roast by the time the sun disappears behind the horizon.
Despite being unsightly, this gives an opportunity to look at the range of tattoos on offer. Following Beckham’s lead, the inclination in recent years has been to emblazon your kids’ names across the base of your spine in three-inch gothic script. The chap I saw the other day had just such a set of tattoos, with “Paige” and “Ashton” inscribed across his shoulder blades and the base of his back respectively. At least I assume they were his kids’ names. He could have been a really big fan of Elaine Paige and Ashton Kutcher for all I know. I wasn’t about to ask him though due to the fact he was around twice my size, although if any disagreement did ensue I could have just slapped his sunburn, which can render a man temporarily immobile with more effectiveness than a police tazer.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Les, Matt and Mrs C

Seven years on and my lovely wife never fails to surprise me. Among claims to fame that include: appearing on The Pepsi Chart Show, sharing a bouncy castle with impressively-bespectacled brown-bread TV host Leslie Crowther and being asked to read the news for L!ve TV, the following conversation took place as we drove past a sign for The Bath and West Show the other day.

“That’s where I met Matthew Kelly,” she mused.
“Eh, you’ve met Matthew Kelly? I never knew that. How come?”
“My brother won a regional karaoke competition when we were kids and he had to attend to compete in the nationals.”
“Really? What did he sing?”
Wild Thing.”
“Hang on, are you making this up?”