Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“I’ll have a pee please, Bob.”

The differences between the sexes is well documented (predominantly in emails which periodically pepper inboxes with titles like Why men are crap and 100 shitty chat-up lines and 100 witty ripostes to 100 shitty chat up lines etc. These usually arrive with such proliferation it’s almost as if email itself was invented as a vehicle to convey anti-male sentiments by dreary imbeciles reliant on similarly comedically-challenged individuals to tell them what’s funny. But I digress…) For all the physiological and emotional differences, there’s one which I find particularly baffling: namely, the ability to pee on demand.

Now, I’m an average bloke. I might urinate, three, or perhaps four times a day, depending on the volume I imbibe and my body’s ability to strip it of its nutritional value and expel the yellowy stuff it doesn’t need. I think this is typical of chaps: when we need to go, we go. When we don’t, we can’t. Femalekind, however, is a very different kettle of proverbials.

The reason it’s recently caught my attention is that we’re in the process of potty training our two-year-old. She’s actually doing very well indeed and appears to have got the hang of it pretty swiftly. This could be something to do with the fact that she knows she’ll be rewarded by encouraging cheers of delight and general whooping sounds every time she produces something. On receiving these, she’s beside herself with glee.

To keep the parental delight coming therefore, she’s able to generate something what seems like every few minutes: more wee equals more praise which, in turn, equals more endorphins coursing through her tiny frame making her feel happy. The fact she’s able to do this at will though, isn’t unusual. Any female can do this. Take, for example, a doctor’s request for a urine sample. Personally, unless it falls into my four-hourly cycle as described above, Doc could be in for a very long wait, though any woman is able to produce something seemingly out of thin air. Long car journeys are another example. Women can generally ‘strain the greens’ before getting into the car whether they need to go or not, though blokes will cheerfully sit in a car for hours without feeling the urge.

There may be an evolutionary reason for this mysterious ability. Perhaps, on making the long journey out of Africa, it prevented our nomadic ancient ancestors from having to stop every five minutes to find a convenient shrub, thereby keeping them from the clutches of long-grass-dwelling predators. It probably didn’t impact other elements of the journey though which remain hereditary to this day: “Brake! You’re walking too fast!”, “I told you we should have turned right back there.” “I’m sure I’ve forgotten something…”, “Did I leave the grill on?” etc. Ho, ho!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

“I Scream, You Scream…”

The quality of music these days is amazing: ga-zillion track studios record each instrument with crystal clarity before mashing it all together into a format compatible with a device of your choice. Every genre and taste is catered for – digitally reproduced and delivered earwards to be experienced exactly as the artist intended.

There’s one remaining outpost of music though which has remained unchanged for decades.

When I was a kid, I remember the excitement generated by Mr Whippy’s ice cream van as it chugged apologetically into our street, the arrival of which was announced by a tinkly-tonkly Bontempi cacophony of Beethoven’s Für Elise (which no doubt would have caused Ludwig to turn in his grave with such rapidity, it ironically could have been used as an ice cream churn). The clanging ting-a-linging was often set to a frequency so piercing, our ears would bleed, drizzling down T-shirts like the strawberry sauce atop the ice creams we’d cheerfully ram into our faces.

Thirty years later, ice cream vans sound exactly the same. What’s that all about? True, the vans themselves haven’t really changed much either, though I can’t believe that they’re all the same ones I got so excited about when I was in short trousers. There must be a factory tucked away somewhere where an army of workers, probably dressed in seventies clothes, manufacture not only the vehicles, but the recordings to be bolted onto the top of them. How do they choose the music? Why hasn’t it changed?

Personally, I like the sound of ice cream vans – purely based on nostalgia and the imminent possibility of a ‘99’. It’s true that they’re about as tuneful as a tanked-up Quasimodo in a bell shop, but I’m not sure I like the thought of Mr Whippy merely plugging in his i-Pod, and delivering a symphony of lighthearted classical tunes with sharp digital precision to alert kids as to his whereabouts. It wouldn’t be right.

As an aside, there used to be three vans working our ‘hood, the most popular of which was the aforementioned Mr Whippy. In my naïve, pre-brand-awareness days, I remember thinking how appropriate it was that his name was Mr Whippy and he sold ice cream (how could he sell anything but?) I probably thought he spent his evenings with Mr Kipling and Dr Pepper chewing the fat and munching confectionery. Happy days.

Thank God For Lightearted News Stories

Now, I'm having a particularly shitty day today, which seems to heighten my sense of schadenfreude. Perhaps cruelly this made me laugh.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Shrouded In Mystery

Typical sensationalist documentary on telly the other day, narrated by Sean Pertwee whose gruffly-sombre overtones could make CBeebies sound like The Evil Dead.

The Da Vinci Shroud (Channel 5 - who else?) purported that the Turin Shroud, famously denounced as a fraudulent holy relic when it was carbon dated a few years ago, was produced using a camera obscura by none other than heretical genius, and all-round medieval man-of-mystery, Leonardo Da Vinci himself.


There was actually some tenuous evidence for this which had been inflated in a recent book by a couple of hairy sub-prime academics. You’ve got to wonder though whether it was just another example of inserting Leonardo’s name to a subject to give it a bit of topical clout. For anyone looking for add some conspiratorial gravitas to their latest book/film/TV programme/dance routine/puppet show, all that’s required is to add the words “Da Vinci” to the title, and hey presto! Instant intrigue!

The programme did end with a bit of a cliffhanger though: despite managing to uncover who made it and how they did it, the identity of the man it depicts remains a mystery.

Not a problem as far as I’m concerned. I think I’ve cracked it. Click below.

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 clichés 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.