Sunday, 25 January 2009

On football

Yesterday I went to a football match. You can see a properly considered review of it here. However, I would like to add that it was a terrible match. I know that ticket prices for Conference National games are centrally set, but I really do think that to charge £12 for the dirge I witnessed is pretty shameful. As more and more credit crunches up, causing the currency to inflate in your pocket like a dead dog in the noonday sun and more and more people find themselves unemployed, it's pretty easy to imagine that going to a football match will be one of the first luxuries to be cast asunder. It's likely that a lot of the clubs would suffer - some terribly - as a result of this. To this I say, good. You all bloody deserve it. Every single last one of you. I personally hope professional football in this country completely collapses and has to be rebuilt by the people who actually care about the game as opposed to the profits. The great thing about football is that it will never die off. All you need is a ball - or even something which can be used as a ball - and somewhere to play. All a big recession would do is kill off the greed. This would be a double bonus, as it would also make me laugh.

From now on, I am going to set myself a ceiling price - of say, a tenner - for the amount of money I'm willing to pay for admission to a football match. I think that's a reasonable sum. Naturally, this will leave the clubs feeling a ache of supreme indifference. However, I'll feel a lot better about everything. I would love to be able to see Brighton and Hove Albion play every week, but I'm not going to stump up £30 a time to do it. What am I getting in there? It's certainly not entertainment.

This pretty much leaves me with the Conference South and below to play with. And that's plenty. I've had much more worthwhile experiences watching a match at Sussex County League Division 2 level - which is as low as you can go in the football pyramid without having mixed-species teams playing - than I ever have anywhere else. Whisper it, but, the standard of football is really not that much different to anything you'd get except for at the very top of the best leagues in the world, a fact I don't anticipate Sky television will be revealing any time soon. Plus, you get to hear every foul swear uttered by the players, and witness the glee on the face of someone who accidentally does something skillful.

I'd like this to turn into a bigger campaign. But at the same time. I'd rather it didn't. You see, the more people who cry off the rampantly overpriced matches in the professional leagues to follow their local amateur or semi-professional clubs, the more attractive they'll become to the money men. And then I'd have to start following rugby or something. God save me from that.

Friday, 23 January 2009

On boxing

This week I have watched again the BBC's excellent four-part documentary The Fight, a series of films about the history and development of professional boxing. I love a bit of that, you know. I love the simplicity, the combativeness, the total lack of any mitigating factors - it is sport in its absolute rawest form. I love the history behind it, too - the murkiness, the characters, the contests. To top it all off, boxing has provided some of the most staggering visual images of sport since the invention of photography and the moving picture. One particular piece of film - featured in the third episode of The Fight - sees Sugar Ray Robinson leaning casually against the rope during the count to one of his many felled opponents, occasionally silhouetted by the exploding flashbulb in the opposite corner. It's extraordinary - better than anything Martin Scorcese, even, got into Raging Bull.

As such, it may be unusual to note that I never watch boxing on the telly. I have seen the odd round in the Olympics here or there, maybe. But the dawn of satellite and pay-per-view TV has really put a crimp in my style. Put simply, I'm not interested in two men called Neil with arms like knotted pipecleaners, fighting to decide who is the third-best light-welterweight in Northern Ireland. I want to see the heavyweight world championship bouts. Preferably, whilst they are happening, rather than on Sportsnight 12 days later.

This was all brought into sharp focus by the fourth part of The Fight, a brilliant 50 minutes viewing for any sports fan, concerning the 1975 Thrilla in Manilla fight bewteen the Champion, Muhammad Ali and the challenger, Joe Frazier. This is as legendary, thrilling and brutal a sporting contest as the world has ever seen, and without wishing to come over all Des Lynam, Ali won after 14 rounds. The Beeb's man at ringside was Harry Carpenter, who claimed that the world stopped to see the outcome of this bout. Now, personally I doubt this somehow. But it is indicative of the kind of unifying effect sport is able to have, if only people would let it. At a time when the Government are looking at refurbishing the list of essential sporting events to be available free-to-air, it's perhaps an indication that flexibility, rather than thoroughness, should be the key. Who knows where or from what sport the next Ali will come? But I'd hate to think I'd have to miss it because I'm a skinflint.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

On cooks

This week, I have been watching Heston Blumenthal's three-hour long advert for Little Chef and enjoying it a lot. I like Heston. Channel 4 obviously like him too, as they have recently snaffled him up on a multi-year contract to make programmes for them, just as they did for Jamie Oliver. Their cookutainment line-up is now so formidable, it's hard to see anybody else even bother to try and seriously compete with it.

One could wonder exactly why Channel 4, who are currently feeling the financial pinch to such a degree that they are cutting down on in-house production of drama series to a skeleton of their most successful products and are also contemplating mergers, would be so keen to painstakingly build up this roster of A-grade TV chefs. Well, one could wonder that up to the point that they watch UKTV Food. Because it turns out, making cookery programmes on the telly is quite an artform in itself. As an aficionado of rubbish TV, I thought I'd introduce you to some of my favourites in the exciting, buttock-clenchingly awful TV cookery programmes genre.

Tamasin's Weekends (UKTV Food)

The epically terrifying Tamasin Day-Lewis takes us on a whistle stop tour of some of the dishes she would prepare for her braying, shooting the poor in the face, everyone on horseback, jodhpury upper-middle class leisure time. Often, Day-Lewis - who is the sister of Daniel, the actor - will rope in some of her friends to help. These friends, who are usually called Arabica, Fenella or Ribenica, are then put to some serious kitchen graft by the stern Tamasin, who has the look of Tracey Emin dressed as a scarecrow and you're unlikely to want to cross. She is also a keen proponent of locally-sourced and organic produce, so her programmes will often start with her chastisement of a greengrocer at a farmer's market. The man, normally 6'5", 28 stone and with facial tattoos, is left in the foetal position as Tamasin haggles over the price of rhubarb.

Paradise Kitchen (UKTV Food)

Far from Tamasin's well-appointed country kitchen, where a fox steams merrily away in the Aga, we go to Andalucia to meet up with Gioconda Scott. The doe-eyed Gioconda is probably too sweet and innocent to realise how annoying people speaking in English but then affecting Spanish pronunciation of local words can sometimes be. However, I imagine the majority of viewers - me included - are willing to forgive this on account of the fact that Scott is without serious parallel in the ranks of People Who Look Absolutely Terrified To Be On TV. With sunny Mediterranean skies glowing off the terracotta-lined terrace, with chorizo sausages playfully swinging in the breeze, with tapas dishes heaving with a bounty of just-cooked artichokes and pimenton, Scott smashes up another mortar-load of picada whilst looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Compelling television.

Sophie Grigson's Weekends (also Sophie Grigson's Sunshine Food; Grigson) (UKTV Food)

Much less laid-back than Tamasin's weekend plans, Grigson normally spends Saturdays and Sundays running around like a blue-arsed fly. This does not mean she doesn't have time to slap out some hearty tucker, though. Oh no. She's pretty good at what she does, too - coming from a family of cookery writers gives her a solid background of knowledge, and two decades of regular TV work has honed her camera skills. No, she makes this list because she is the most resolute, militant left-hander I have ever witnessed. Gordon Ramsay and Keith Floyd are both also left handers, but niether of them use the southpaw method of wielding a huge sharp knife. It's white-knuckle chopping of the highest order. I have to also point out at this juncture that I find the fact she looks like she was drawn by Matt Groening highly off-putting.

Rick Stein's Taste of the Sea (BBC)

The programme title which allowed a generation of wags to remark, "I've heard that rumour", the Stein genre is perhaps a surprising choice for here. However, whilst I think his culinary skills are beyond reproach and his Food Heroes project is admirable, he's still just not a natural on the telly. I find him to still be a bit twitchy and nervous, as perhaps evidenced by his legendary mandolin slip-up, easily the most stomach-churning real-life injury ever suffered on TV. I also found his habitual recourse to reading poetry made me hope he choked on a bone. Luckily, Rick's early career was helped along by his insane pet Jack Russell terrier, Chalky. Chalky helped take the pressure off of Rick, all sweaty palms and blue plasters, by biting a cameraman's arsehole or jumping in the sea. However, with Chalky now passed away, I await to see how it affect's Rick's confidence on camera. I would suggest he perhaps get a parrot* and wear it on his shoulder. But that's just me.

* Or a seagull, obviously. A dirty great herring gull.

Monday, 19 January 2009

More things

I was planning to do a post about how much I like Girls Aloud today, but that will have to wait. Because several other things which aggravate me have come to mind, and I just can't hold off.

5. People playing music on trains or buses

This is just outrageously annoying. Transcendentally so, in many cases. It's on the rise, too, thanks to generation-after-generation of more sophisticated mobile phones. Plus generation-after-generation of more inadequately socialised children, of course.

6. Drivers who don't know how to indicate properly

As a lifelong pedestrian, I'm by now pretty much used to giving motor vehicles right of way. It seems only reasonable. Would it, therefore, be too much to ask for the courtesy of road users actually learning how to drive properly? I've never driven a car, but I seemingly know more about the use of the indicator than half of the motorists whose path I cross. Literally, in many cases, as they blithely turn without so much as a hint. I hope they all get diarrhoea.

7. Sports fans who cry when their team are relegated

I have sympathy for people who care about sport and invest their time and money in it. I could even understand someone getting upset if their favourite club fell foul of the economic climate or other factors. However, please believe me when I say, if your team get relegated from their division to the one below, they'll still be there at the start of next season. In fact, you may even have a better chance of seeing them win. Of course, the kind of moron who cried on the final reckoning of the previous season will most probably have buggered off to support someone else by this point. If behaviour like this was exhibited in any other realm of public life, you'd be registered as mentally ill.

8. Christian rock music

Hey, guys, let's let people know about Our Lord, but in a way the kids will dig, yeah? You fucking arseholes. If you end up writing a song which happens to be about your faith or beliefs, fine. If you don't, but have them inspiring your creative endeavours all the way, fine. Christian rock is the musical equivalent of people who sit on the toilet straining to have a shit. And, like people who try and force bowel movements, Christian rock has been known to cause massive brain aneurysms, usually in the listener.

9. Apologies no-one means

"Essential road maintenance in progress. Sorry for any inconvenience" Well, no, no you're not. And that's fine. Things have to be done. The road network is pretty important for society, for example, so the occasional roadwork is the lesser of two evils. So why, why, why the need for the completely perfunctory and disingenuous apology? The world, I tell you, it's gone rotten.

10. Accidentally taking your mother's HRT tablets instead of paracetamol and lactating for the next six months as a consequence

Okay, I'm making these up now, I'll stop there.

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Stalkers amongst you will have noticed a new link in my sidebar, for Some People Are On The Telly. This is a blog about television. I will occasionally be contributing to it, as you may notice from the first page. And if that's not enough of a guarantee of satisfaction for you, there will also be regular articles from articulate people!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Leroy

My favourite actor is Robert de Niro. However, he only just edges my second favourite, Samuel L. Jackson, because Jackson is unquestionably the coolest single entity on the planet. It speaks volumes for Samuel L. Jackson's abilities (and epic coolness) that I have watched a lot of his films, even though they generally tend to be not as good as films other people are in. Here are my five favourite Samuel L. Jackson films (in alphabetical order).

Deep Blue Sea

Samuel L. Jackson is, as I may have mentioned, cool. As such, he lends much to daft animal attack films. Sadly, I've not seen Snakes on a Plane yet, but I know I will love it simply because it has him in it, and I have seen Deep Blue Sea. Jaws may be the shark film's book of Genesis, but Deep Blue Sea is its New Testament. Genetically modified, super-intelligent, massive sharks take over an underwater science laboratory and go mad. This film is also an excellent example of how Samuel L. Jackson is not afraid to be that film stereotype from the bad old days: the black protagonist who doesn't quite make it to the end. But what a way to go!

Die Hard with a Vengeance

Here, SLJ plays a racist store owner in Harlem, NYC, who gets dragged into Detective John McLain's running battle with Eastern-European terrorist cells. The film itself withers a bit towards the end, but Samuel L. Jackson keeps it cool throughout.

Jackie Brown

I'd heard mixed reviews about this film when it came out, so didn't expect much from it when I finally saw it on television. It taught me that film critics are to be ignored, because it is an outstanding film, undoubtably my favourite Tarantino venture so far. Here, Samuel L. Jackson goes the other way to play a nasty piece of work, an arms dealer trying to get his money out of Mexico and killing people who stand in his way. The coolest movie antagonist you could ever imagine.

Pulp Fiction

This will probably always be the definitive SLJ role, and with good reason. Jules Winfield, the moralising, cerebral mercenary, is perhaps one of celluloid's most sympathetic ever Bad Men. Regardless of that, he is almost certainly the single coolest film character you could ever hope to see.

The Long Kiss Goodnight

SLJ plays a washed-up private investigator, trying to help Geena Davis - an ex-government assassin suffering from amnesia - regain her memory. He's slowly caught up in her whirlwind and faces mortal danger, but never stops keeping it way cool.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Four things

I'm not going to sit here and claim to be one of those easy-going people. I'm not. I'm a total grouch. However, I like to arrange the things which annoy me into lists, which gives the impression of a zen-like calm. Whereas actually I'm furious.

Four Things Which REALLY Annoy Me

1. Dog poo on the beach

Maybe this would be all right on the Côte d'Azur. A freshly-spun brown trout probably shows up quite well against miles and miles of golden, sandy beach. However, in Sussex, as any fool know, the beaches are made up of pebbles. Pebbles which tend to be a range of greys, whites, blues and, yes, browns. There was some consternation when moves were made by Brighton and Hove council to ban dogs from Brighton beach. However, I think it's a good idea. OK, it's unfair on the proportion of dog owners who clean up after their pet (≤ 0.9%?), but it saves the rest of us a faecal beach.

2. Spitting

Oh my word, how I hate spitting. Oh, man. If you have ever just gobbed on the street for no other reason than that you fancied a good spit, I almost certainly hate you. Some commentators blame professional footballers for this. While it's true to say that they are all gob fountains, I believe it's possible to watch something and then not go on and do it yourself. The badly brought-up, ill-mannered, filthy, cunts.

3a. Cyclists who ride along the road until they get to a traffic light

We've all seen these arseholes. As soon as the red light goes up, they decide that the rules of the road suddenly don't apply to them. Some of them even go onto the pavement, to emphasise the fact that, at the moment that being a road vehicle doesn't suit them any more, they can switch back to being a pedestrian. I'd like to see it written into the Highway Code that all motorists are permitted in law to drive into these cyclists when they catch them up again on the other side of the lights.

3b. Cycle lanes on pavements

What in the gods is going on? Maybe we should have lanes for everyone on promenades. One for pedestrians, one for dogs, a thin one for snakes, one for HGVs. Actually, there's already a special lane for HGVs and other motorised vehicles. It's pretty extensive, too - it goes all over the country. A cyclist is not a pedestrian, people. We footbound souls already have to suffer their venal behaviour enough as it is (see 3a). Worse still, these bastards have the nerve to get antsy if people walk in their precious cycle lane. Joke's on them - last night I fingered their mum.

3c. Cyclists

Basically, yes.

4. Ludicrous security precautions

It's human to want to protect yourself and your loved ones. However, you can go too far. Big Alsatian? Fair enough. Big gun? Maybe not. A country with a standing army is a sound precaution. A country with a multinational strategic missile defence system has probably taken things into the realm of psychosis.

If you are out today, I guarantee you'll see at least one example of someone having gone equally insane, but on a more local level. Someone with a steering wheel lock on their 1993 Vauxhall Nova. However, my current beef is rather more personal, and pertains to a neighbour's security light. You know the ones, they operate on a circuit which detects movement. In principle, it's a reasonable idea. I actually think it would be a good idea for streetlighting in smaller towns or rural areas, to help save energy. However, this neighbour's security light is like nothing I've ever seen before. Well, actually, I tell a lie there, it's like one thing I've seen before. I see it every day, in fact. The sun. This thing could floodlight a football pitch. I am seriously considering the possibility of a garden party, knowing full well all I'd have to ensure is a few cats wandering around on the other side of the fence to make it almost like daylight. This light's awesome power is such that I can see it throwing shadows on houses 100 yards away. As soon as it's triggered, birds start singing. For a security light, you might think that brighter is better, but again, this has taken it too far. Because if you try and get a look at anyone this bulb illuminates, you'll burn out your retinas. At which stage, it becomes particularly easy for someone to rob you.

Yes, the cat, or leaf, or gust of fucking wind, to rob you.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Noughts

It was a brave new world indeed when we entered the 21st Century, which as every pedant will tell you was January 1st 2001. However, pedants be damned, because the real knees-up for the second millennium's passing was on December 31st 1999. I remember it well. I had a stinking cold. I watched everyone else celebrating on the telly. I (probably) said something really grouchy. I went to bed at 10.30 p.m.

At the time, just the very number 2000 was mind-boggling. Normally, it was only associated with crackpot doomsday cults and Nostradamus. But then, there we were. February 19th 2000. Went to shops. Had sausages for tea.

My point is, however big a psychological barrier it may have been - and let's face it, it wasn't, it was simple mathematics - I've gotten rather used to living in THE FUTURE now, I have to say. As we plod on towards the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, I increasingly find years such as "1996" appearing to me as quaint and fusty old relics. God, I'm getting old. When did I get so old?

Of course, the final ignominy is yet to come. For people of my generation, at least. We've all grown up surrounded by a world where the elderly were born in the same Century as us, numerically speaking. I always wondered what it must have been like for my parents, dealing with grandparents who were born in exotic sounding years like 1874 or suchlike. Well, chaps, when it's our turn to start looking our age as well as feeling it, rest assured youngsters will point out that we were not only born in a different Century to them, but in a different bloody Millennium. Such a time bomb exists for me within my own family, as my niece was born in 2006. Luckily, by the time she starts school in September 2011, the education system will be so dumbed-down I'll have died of old age before she has learnt to count to a hundred. Phew.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Shit, everywhere

In the dim distant past, back in the days when I was closer to birth than I was to death and the sun always shone, the world was covered in dog turds. Every pavement you trod, or park you frequented were heaving under the weight of the brown gold. It was not pleasant. Luckily, local councils agreed with this sentiment, and took action. Fines were issued for dog owners who didn't wipe their filthy pet's bot bot. Receptacles for neatly packaged up bags of dog poo sprung up everywhere, just in time for your senile old gran to post her letters in them. Society was working.

In recent years, however, things have broken down. I think everyone got tired. The councils got tired of enforcing the rules, the dog owners got tired of picking up warm trouts off of the dirty ground. Indeed, the only party here who has not emerged from the whole revolution in any way fatigued is the dog, who continue to shit and woof with flying colours.

Whatever the reason, the world is rapidly becoming festooned with shite again, and I'm not fucking happy about it. Dog owners will happily sit there telling you about how sociable their pets are, how sociable activity dog ownership is, dogs dogs dogs, society society society. Why is it, then, that so many of these bastards are so wretchedly anti-social? Maybe they're not, maybe they think we like hopscotching our way around a Crapton Factor obstacle course every time we set foot outside the front door? Perhaps they consider it the very cherry on the top of my day to see the shizzle of their particular dizzle.

Because, you see, in my view, the sort of person who isn't willing to pick up dog shit is the exact type of person who is not a suitable dog owner. Actually, someone who isn't willing to clean up after an animal should never have a pet, it's as simple as that. However, as unpleasant as a brimming cat litter tray or manky rabbit hutch is, it's very much your problem. Dog owners like to make it everyone else's. Joy.

I'm as much to blame for this as these filthy, disgusting, ammoral cunts, though. Well, actually I'm not. They are the scum of the earth. However, every time I see a dog log out and the owner just leave it there without saying anything, or calling a constable, or pushing their FUCKING FACE IN IT, I am complicit with the dog owners' insidious plan to turn Great Britain into a huge pile of turds visible from space. I know I have to try harder to take a stand. However, it's a scary thing to do. At best, it's socially awkward and moderately confrontational, at worst it could prove dangerous. Basically, it's not going to work and I'm doomed to tread in heaving great piles for ever and ever.

But at least I protested about it. Here, where no-one will read it. Take that, society.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Pancreato-plagarism

Because people with diabetes have all the very best ideas, I've decided to copy them. Because what I make up for in stability of blood sugar, I have clearly missed out on in clarity of thought.

Anyway, here are my favourite episodes of eight of my favourite TV programmes. If I'm feeling particularly loquacious, I may even expand upon my choices. However, it would be wrong to misconstrue this as an invitation to debate. Just to clarify, if you disagree, you're wrong.

House
'All In' (Season 2 (2006), episode 17). This is a marvellously textured episode of House. It opens a door onto some of our hero's motivations and feelings, plus combines it with some delightful House-Wilson interplay, which are always my favourite scenes.

Quincy, M.E.
'Deadly Arena' (Season 5 (1980), episode 21). This is a Quincy story packed with all good things. Perhaps it lacks some of Quincy's brilliant outraged moralising, but it more than makes up for it in manky barbecue sauce backing up into a 90,000 seater football stadium's water supply, giving anyone who touches it botulism just days before a major international match. The woman who plays the public health inspector in this episode later became a recurring character and one of Quincy's conquests. Their relationship culminates in the 1981 two-parter, 'Slowboat to Madness', where passengers on an ocean liner succumb to ergut poisoning from manky tortillas.

Seinfeld
'The Pothole' (Season 8 (1997), episode 16). There are many brilliant episodes of Seinfeld, for many different reasons. Some deal with realistic themes with an inspirational tautness and consicity. Some deal with taboo subjects with a wonderful delicacy of touch. However, my favourite is The Pothole, where everything just cuts loose in an orgy of slapstick, silliness and exploding fish vans. Monumental.

Flight of the Conchords
'What Goes On Tour' (Season 1 (2007), episode 9). The series' 4th episode, 'Yoko' contains probably the best song. The 6th, 'Bowie' contains someof the biggest belly laughs. However, What Goes On Tour is everything I like about Conchords in one neat 22-minute package. I particularly enjoy Murray's growing exasperation - tempered with the merest frisson of secret delight - at Bret and Jemaine's (accidental) rock 'n' roll behaviour.

Thunderbirds
'Path of Destruction' (Series 2 (1966), episode 2). In what is becoming a common theme here, manky chilli con carne puts paid to the crew of a new, nuclear-powered logging machine. The Tracy brothers have to stop it before the runaway crablogger destroys a nearby dam. A perfect mixture of suspense, futuristic nonsense and comedy Mexicans.

The Simpsons
'Marge Be Not Proud' (Season 7 (1995), episode 11). The most perfect episode of the most perfect show. Marge Be Not Proud contains some brutal, brilliant jokes about commercialism, the festive season and the video games industry. Mixing this with some fundamental truths about childhood and some touching family moments, it can't go wrong. Just edges 'Lisa's Wedding' into second place.

Spaced
'Help' (Series 2 (2001), episode 4). Features the intertwining of two storylines close to my heart - Daisy's malingering and Tim's ambitions to be a comic artist - plus Mike in his military element, Brian's mum and the incomparable Tyres. This episode also wins points for being soundtracked by Mint Royale's brilliant 'Space Farm'.

Top Gear
(Series 10 (2007), episode 7). With particularly strong narrative drive, Jeremy, James and Richard buy British Leyland cars for £1200 of their own money, in a doomed attempt to prove that BL made good cars. Crippling, tear-making hilarity ensues.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Beer

Today, at some point, I will go into a nice pub* and drink delicious beer. Proper beer, made by men with beards and hops in their underwear. My favourite thing about the modern world is that appreciating good beer is no longer a slightly fusty and risible pursuit liable to make you a social pariah. Of course, market forces have responded to this, making good ale more and more readily available.

Eleven years ago, when I was 18, I went into a pub and got a pint of Marston's Pedigree. The two men stood at the bar, who were probably about the age I am now, snickered away to themselves at the throwback spotty teen, drinking real ale. I like to think that now they realise that I was, as ever, right - a prophet without honour in my own country - as they enjoy pint after delicious pint of foamy real ale. If they aren't, I like to think they have AIDS. Plain and simple, crippling, AIDS. It helps me sleep at night.

I'm not one to make sweeping comments about society based on such observations, but I think it's safe to assume that society is now healing itself and everything is going to be alright, all thanks to real ale.

* Anyone reading this who knows me is welcome to come along and hold my hand, of course.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Boots

My general approach to new music is, leave it for 15 years and then come back to it. As such, I was surprised at the end of last year to discover Little Boots lurking unassumingly in a corner of YouTube. For me, Little Boots is the first in what promises to be a long line of exciting products of the mp3 generation. As the lamented Tony Wilson explained, the music scene is a helix curve - as one side is going down, another side is coming up. However, as Wilson had probably forseen, the advent of the computer will completely revolutionise this. No longer are people left listening to their dad's old records, or what the radio is playing for their inspiration. With a computer and an internet connection, anyone can have virtually any piece of music or song that they want within seconds. If they have a credit card, they can have it legally, too.

The products of this new eclecticism are likely to be a lot of very young, sickeningly talented people playing music that will leave you thinking - well, where the hell has that come from, after a decade of sub-Sham '69, pro-Alexa Chung, tight-trousered, floppy-haired, Indie terrace chant bollocks? Little Boots - who like many of her contemporaries used the internet to her best advantage - sounds like Kylie Minogue and Giorgio Moroder had a baby.

The problem with this baby is, it took after its mother in terms of looks. And I'd like to complain about this state of affairs. Little Boots is a very pretty woman, which will serve to completely undermine any man's reasoned attempts to be a fan of her music on its own merits. I'm not suggesting it would be better if she were an ugger, but it might help - in the early stages - if she were to wear a paper bag on her head.

Because she is very good. Very good indeed. Like a folk singer from SPACE, she appeared on Later...with Jools Holland last December, accompanying herself on concert grand, Tenori-on and Stylophone. A one-man band from the 25th Century. Boots today won the BBC Sound of 2009 award, thus making her mainstream and me, temporarily, with it. I hope Boots will continue to live up to her huge promise, and prove me a capable cultural commentator, too. I think she will. I like the feeling of being with it.

I think this means I have to get me a flick knife and some gang colours.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Darts

This week, my attentions are mostly directed towards the Lakeside World Professional Darts Championship at Frimley Green. A lot of people consider the PDC equivalent to be the real World Championship decider, which is arguable when the final was contested by Phil Taylor, the greatest darts player of all time, and Raymond van Barneveld, probably his closest rival for the past decade. But for me, the BDO is where it's at. It's the BDO who support darts from the grass roots of the youth and county game and in organising darts around the world, right up to the top of the professional game. It's the BDO who find the players for the PDC. Put simply, without the PDC, the BDO would carry on as usual but without the BDO, the PDC would wither and die.

So, with the weight of moral superiority and history behind it, the Lakeside is a major entry on the year's sporting calendar. I love every element of it. I love the players, their nicknames, their costumes. I love the game, the drama and the tension. I love the crowd, all Croydon facelifts, signet rings and butcher's apostrophes. But most of all, I love the commentary.

Sid Waddell, the Cambridge-educated English graduate and professional Geordie, is rightly considered a legend of sports commentary. However, in his absence this past 15 years, the BBC have been able to fall back on Tony Green. Tony Green is a sports commentator without parallel. No-one combines intimate knowledge and ignorance in the same heady mixture. His understanding of the game cannot be questioned, nor his experience or standing. But give the man a microphone and you get the feeling he's just saying absolutely anything which comes into his head. In last night's game between Northern Ireland's Darryl Gurney and England's Martin Adams, twice he said "when Irish eyes are smiling...", most probably because Gurney was Irish and he was smiling and besides, it was something with the word Irish in it. Thankfully the match was only 7 sets in length. Had it been a best-of-eleven semi-final, I'm sure "Irish Republican Army", "Irish Coffee", "Irish Stew", "Irish Stew in the name of the law" and "Irish potato famine" would have been given an airing.

For years, Green's co-commentator was John Part, the Canadian 1994 World Champion. However, in recent years, Part's darts career has undergone a major renaissance culminating in his winning the 2003 and 2008 PDC World Crowns under the preposterously brilliant nickname 'Darth Maple'. With the PDC championship taking place the week before the BDO, in the last few years Part has opted to abandon his BBC commentary duties. His place has been filled by David Croft, also Radio 5 Live's Formula One commentator.

The dynamic between these two is a fascinating one. Indeed, it's pretty well unique in sport. The majority of commentary duos feature a play-by-play man - a dedicated journalist and broadcaster; a John Motson, a Murray Walker, a Barry Davies - and an analyst (called Color Commentators in the USA) - an ex or current practitioner of the activity to explain tactical decisions and criticise mistakes; a Mark Lawrenson, a Martin Brundle, a John McEnroe. Green and Croft, meanwhile, are neither and both at the same time. Croft is perhaps the most obvious contender for the journalist role, but Green's seniority leads to an egalitarian distribution of duties. The overall effect - a stream of consciousness, peppered with crass observations, fundamental inaccuracies, bad puns and giddy excitement - is of two men with one microphone, each struggling to retain sufficient sanity to say something into it between pints of bitter.

The BBC commentary team - which sometimes also incorporates Bobby George's monumentally wonderful Sid James laugh and gravelly voice when one or the other of the normal team passes out - projects a simple, crazy, proletarian, excitable and gormless soundtrack over the action. And given the fact that the action in question is professional darts, nothing could be more appropriate. Every January I spend evenings curling my toes with laughter and tension, wondering if Tony Green might accidentally say something inappropriate, enjoying every single dart in the company of two men who genuinely love, care and understand about what we're seeing. The whole thing is a 9-day long Rabelasian masterpiece. Long may it continue on free-to-air television.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Reflections

I have one wisdom tooth. Every few months or so it pains me by shredding the inside of my cheek and my gums. However, regardless of whether or not my mouth is rapidly filling with blood, I thought it important to reflect on the differences between Joy Division and Roxy Music.

In the song Re-Make/Re-Model, the opening track on their eponymous 1972 debut album, Roxy Music chose the chorus "CPL 593H", which was the numberplate of a car. Quite what car, or whose, is the subject to so much conjecture and apocrypha that it's just not possible to say with any confidence any more.

In the song Warsaw, the opening track on Joy Division's Substance 1977-1980 collection, the group chose the chorus "31G". This was the prisoner number of Rudolf Hess during his time as a PoW in Britain during WWII.

This is a fairly clear difference. Both groups choose collections of numbers and letters to make their point, but with radically different agendas and intentions. Roxy Music probably emerged from this duel as the act with the widest popularity, although Joy Division are perhaps the most critically celebrated as of 2009. Whether or not this is because none of the band member's offspring are pro-hunting, I don't know. I suspect it's more to do with their phat beats. And the benevolent guiding hand of Hess. Good old Hess.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Channel 4

The reason why I like Channel 4 is not entirely down to the story I'm about to relate, but it is indicative of it. I watched a documentary about Linda Lovelace which they had made a few years ago. For the uninitiated or clean-living amongst you, Linda Lovelace was a star of pornographic films in the 1970s, known particularly for Deep Throat. The documentary dealt with how she came to prominence and then explored the exploitation she claimed was involved in the industry, and her later activism for the anti-pornography movement in America.

During one fraught TV debate show in the 1980s, Lovelace tearfully went through a list of the humiliations thrust upon her in the name of entertainment. These included, we were told, a dog film. Which is what it sounds like. Upon learning this, I thought, 'really, how informative' (which is what I think when I am watching documentaries).

Channel 4, however, then did the highly unlikely and illustrated her points with a video clip of the movie in question. This is why I love Channel 4. They are not afraid to go there. Incidentally, the dog was not afraid to go there either. In fact, he looked delighted.

Monday, 5 January 2009

My idea

Last night I was watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall do unspeakable things to a bull, and it reminded me of my fantastic idea. A restaurant called Vegetarian Meats. At my restaurant, all the meat dishes will be made from bits of animals I removed without causing their death. A pen of grotesque, limping, cobbled-together animals out the back of the kitchen will help prove to any nervous diners that their lifestyle choice will not be compromised by their delicious repast.

I forsee a pretty exciting and varied menu too, as there are lots of reasons to believe I could shave all manner of bits off before the critters stop moving. Extremities would, of course, be abundant, so I'd have to consult with Hugh about his most delicious recipes for ears, noses, testicles and tails. However, let's face it, it's also well-established that thanks to modern medical science, creatures can survive with missing internal organs or in the face of quite substantial tissue loss. All of my animals would be down to just the one kidney as a matter of course. But there are also all manner of other delicious cogs and wheels inside their juicy bodies that they could do without, I reckon.

Steaks and bacon, too, would be easy. In fact, my way is even better than the orthodoxy, because if you kill a cow to get a steak, the beef is finite. If, though, you just whack a slab off and then dab it with some Savlon, the steak will grow back in time giving you a huge beefy yield. This being the 21st Century, amputees will be afforded every right and dignity presented to the able-bodied. This means I can get two legs from a lamb before I have to get them one of those trolleys with back wheels so they can still get around (probably mostly running away from me, but who knows what they want to do? They will be free range, which is important).

By now, I'm sure you'll be very keen to invest in my idea. I admit that it is very much the future of ethical eating. Those who are serious about getting my plan to fruition are welcome to offer huge sums of money. I'll need a livestock fund, of course. But also important will be grazing land, restaurant premises and a way of insulating the sounds of the animals' screams away from the diners.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

January is a cold month

I just thought I'd write that down as a title, just so as to remind anyone who has recently remarked to me that it is very cold at the moment with a quivering air of surprise in their voice that it is not a freak occurence. Of course, some people have remarked to me that it is cold without this air of shock, which is of course perfectly acceptable. So, that's that cleared up.

This all said, it is really very cold today. The bird bath, which has been freezing over every night this week anyway, is now a solid lump of novelty ice (surprise your friends with new, bird poo, old feather and seed husk-tainted stagnant water ice!). In other wildlife news, the cat has been showing his utter disdain for the conditions by not going out. Indeed, this morning he emphasised the fact by doing his dirty, filthy cat business on the upstairs landing. Fortunately, it is so cold that the turd rapidly froze and I am now using it as a stinky crayon. Still, it was a little uncalled for. Last Saturday's Guardian informed me that a third of British wildlife is now thought to be endangered, and I can assure everyone that my cat is included in these figures.

The importance of always having a bottle of carbonated mineral water in your house was yet again proved to me during the clean-up. Because I grabbed some mint and made a Poojito cocktail. No, wait, I actually used the fizzy goodness to get the last vestiges of dump out of the carpet fibres. It's incredibly effective, which is probably why people who make carpet cleaning products hush this fact up. The same method assisted with a Port Accident on Christmas Eve (the little glasses are so easy to knock over, once you've had 8 Ports), leaving the carpet as good as new without the tell-tale "one cleaner spot than the rest" thing. Carbonated water. It is what seperates us from the savages. Or, at the very least, the people with dirty carpets.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Two Treatises of Government

Yesterday I spent some time watching children's television. The first programme I watched now most likely has the status of a creaking old classic, but children still love it all the same - Teletubbies. When it first appeared on our screens in 1997, I was quite a fan. This was most likely a combination of the fact I was in full student-mode and that I am fairly backward anyway. However, I now realise that my interest in it was on a subconscious level. At the time I was heavily embroiled in sociology and political philosophy, and I now realise the dastardly Orwellian overtones of the tubbies' plight in Teletubby Land. Under the gaze of the baby-faced sun, the teletubbies' daily lives are dictated by the voice which eminates from periscopic speakers, hidden in the flowerbeds. Even the rabbits are in on this subjugation, I reckon.

As the voice instructs the four drones to assemble atop the hill and the four aerials, one on each tubbies' head, receives the daily propaganda film to be shown on one of the stomach-mounted monitors, I came to reflect that even a benign dictatorship is a dictatorship. The teletubbies - rife with what Marxists refer to as False Consciousness - seem happy enough with their lot, and Teletubby Land is a utopian green pasture. However, I wonder what would befall any one of them should they ever try to leave. I suspect the aerials would soon switch from instruments of passive control to instruments of torture at the flick of a switch.

So, what hope is there for the teletubbies, still trapped after 12 years in this sunny Gulag? Well, I think Tinky Winky has completely left the building. His level of compliance by this point has reached Manchurian Candidate levels. Dipsy, I suspect, could go either way. As could La La, but this is as much to do with the fact that I suspect she's bisexual as anything more cerebral. Po, however, has potential. She has Fifth Columnist written all over her. If the paradigms of this particular Historical Bloc can be broken, maybe the tubbies could still be integrated into something approximating to normal society.

On the other side of the Iron Curtain, on Five to be precise, lives Peppa Pig. Peppa Pig and her family represent all that is good about liberal society. However, whilst I commend the programme for having the balls to display the minutiae of everyday life without feeling the need to tack on an outlandish narrative drive, it does show the fundamental weakness of the Western way of life. Without a Stalinist overseer, the onus on the individual to give their own life meaning becomes the struggle. Peppa Pig's parents are no help, especially Daddy Pig, who has been lucky to have such helpful, compliant and pleasant offspring as Peppa and George Pig because I sincerely doubt that he has it in him to be authoritative enough to control any uprisings. So, the daily cycle of an enormously uneventful and perfunctory visit to the dentists, or losing something and then quickly finding it again, or cooking dinner continue. At the moment the Pig family bear up with good grace and happiness. But how long before one of them cracks?

The question of how long I last before I crack should never need have arisen, but Peppa Pig's outrageous, pulsating, Oompah-Oompah soundtrack is sufficient to brainwash even the strongest souls. Naturally, then, I fell prey within a matter of minutes.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Wool

As the world positively reels from its 23rd-ever Leap Second, the administrators for the defunct sweet and bucket vendor Woolworths have seemingly seized the mood. The closure of the once-ubiquitous Easter Egg vendor has been shunted back from January 6th to January 7th, in what economists will surely now be forced to recognise is a Leap Shop Closure. All marvelled.

I marvelled particularly with some small-town schadenfreude, noticing how the Woolworths here in unfashionable and a bit smelly Lancing will close LATER than the branches in nearby fish-wrangling rapist Shoreham-by-Sea or even Achingly Trendy Brighton. This means we totally win at Woolworths. However, my victory is tempered by the fact that my dad has now found out about the news. He is most upset about it, too. There was a certain pain in his voice as he asked me whether I had heard about this news. I merely fainted.

Tomorrow I will aprise him of additional details concerning the global financial situation. Although I suspect I will have to start with the 1992 recession. Quite how he'll react when he finds out what happened to the World Trade Center is anybody's guess.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

2009

Let's produce some statistics.

Year of birth for people:

...now eligible to vote, drink and buy knives and glue in the United Kingdom: 1991; ...eligible for a UK driver's license: 1992; ...people reaching the age of consent: 1993.

Ten people who will be 30 in 2009:

Jesse Spencer
(Australian actor); Jennifer Love Hewitt (American actress); Valentino Rossi (Italian motorcycle racer); Pete Doherty (British singer/songwriter); Kate Hudson (American actress); Andrea Pirlo (Italian football player); Amelié Mauresmo (French tennis player); Kimi Räikkönen (Finnish racing driver); Daniel Bedingfield (British singer/songwriter); Michael Owen (English football player)

Ten people who will be 40 in 2009:

Michael Schumacher
(German racing driver); Jennifer Aniston (American actress); Brian Lara (Trinidadian cricketer); Ice Cube (American rapper, music producer and actor); Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson (British Paralympian); Christian Slater (American actor); Catherine Zeta-Jones (British actress); Ernie Els (South African golfer); Jay-Z (American rapper); Richard Hammond (British television presenter)

Ten people who will be 50 in 2009:

John McEnroe
(American tennis player and broadcaster); Kyle MacLauchlan (American actor); Steve McFadden (British actor); Robert Smith (British musician); Ben Elton (British writer); Morrissey (British singer/songwriter); Martin Brundle (British racing driver and broadcaster); Hugh Laurie (British actor); Simon Cowell (British record executive and TV personality); Judd Nelson (American actor)

Ten notable anniversaries in 2009:

British Museum
opened (250 years, 15th January); British government nationalises Northern Rock (1 year, 18th February); Barbie Doll released into the shops (50 years, March 9th) Giro d'Italia cycling road race (100 years, May 13th); Dartmoor Prison opened (200 years, May 24th); Big Ben first chiming the hour in London (150 years, July 11th); Abolition of slavery in the British Empire (175 years, 1st August); First rugby match at Twickenham (100 years, 8th October); First publication of the song Three Blind Mice (400 years, 12th October); Persia becomes Iran (75 years, 27th December)

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