Thursday, 30 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 10

Petra Kvitova bt. Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 3-6, 6-2
Maria Sharapova bt. Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-3

For a number of reasons (shut up, jokers) I've watched more of the Ladies Singles at this year's Wimbledon than in recent times, a fact that has been reflected in these blog posts. I think it's been because that side of the draw has provided more surprise results and good stories than the men's section, which had to wait 9 days until the first major surprise.

Saturday's final, then, will be between Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova. Kvitova is the first left-handed woman to reach the final in 17 years and should she win she'll be the first southpaw champion since 1990, coincidentally the year of her birth. It's this left-handed serve which is causing so many problems to her rivals. In fact, there's little doubting that her game has all the necessary qualities to win her a first Grand Slam title, especially against Maria Sharapova's post-shoulder surgery super-special shonky serve.

What makes Sharapova overwhelming favourite, however, is her mental strength as much as her extra experience. Kvitova ruthlessly outplayed and overpowered Victoria Azarenka today but still needed 3 sets to see her off, a similar story to her quarter-final against Tsvetana Pironkova. Sharapova, meanwhile, is yet to drop a set - in spite of going 3-0 down in the first set of today's game. Her sternest test so far came from Laura Robson in Round 2, Robson taking the Russian to a first set tie-break. Today's performance was hardly Federeresque, but it was enough to get the job done. I expect her to do the same on Saturday afternoon.

However, stranger things have happened - Sharapova herself beating Serena Williams in the 2004 final aged 17 being one example. If Kvitova does manage to prevail, there's every chance it will give her the self-confidence boost to push her up to the top table in women's tennis.

On giraffe costumes

I thought humanity was getting pretty technologically refined, until I Googled "giraffe costume". When you consider the myriad astonishing achievements of the human race, is this pathetic and dismal smorgasbord really the best we can do? (Click for bigger, or search it for yourself if you really want to be depressed)


Don't despair too soon, though, because cometh the hour, cometh the man. I have designed the Best Giraffe Costume, complete with stuffed arse end attachment. This could of course be adapted for pantomime giraffe use. No-one steal my idea. (cfb)

On goose

I'm one of those people who would never say boo to a goose. Should you ever say boo to a goose? I'm not so sure.

In a way I'd probably be happier if I ever said boo to a few geese here and there, but at the same time I'm not sure if I could live with the growing reputation as a goose booer that this might give me.

I suppose that the secret is to pick your goose, pick your moment and get the timbre of your boo just right. That's how to say boo to a goose. As long as I don't trust myself to be able to judge all of those factors just right, it's probably best I keep up my never say boo to a goose philosophy.

Geese can rest easy. But only metaphorical geese. I was bitten by a goose as a child and I carry resentment of geese to this day. Those birds have a bad attitude.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 9

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bt. Roger Federer 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
Roger Federer is such a remarkable player that his exit from a Grand Slam tennis tournament tends to make the news headlines, rather than just the sports news headlines. But even by those standards today was fairly remarkable. It was the first time Federer had ever lost from two sets in front in Grand Slam play, and only the third time it's ever happened in his senior career.

The odd thing is I'm not really sure how it happened. He was serving with an efficiency which could have made Pete Sampras in his pomp get an inferiority complex, and yet was broken once in every one of the final three sets. Aside from taking a 3-0 lead in the first 4 minutes of the first set, Tsonga was toe-to-toe with Federer all the way and when it came to the crunch he just seemed more animated and to have more desire. Roger Federer didn't break Tsonga's service once in the match.

Federer will be back at Wimbledon, I'm sure. He's not 30 until August, plus next year sees the Olympic tennis title he so covets being decided at his beloved All England Club - a potent combination. Whether he'll ever be the force he once was in SW19 is another matter, but one thing you can never take away from him is that he made everyone who watched him catch their breath.

Tsonga will now face Novak Djokovic, a man in form so good that if he were a bluesman you'd think he'd been to the crossroads. The winner of that will play Andy Murray - the only semi-finalist of the four to not drop a set today - or Rafael Nadal. Nadal leads Murray 11-4 in head to head play (including a win over the Scot in the semis here last year) and hasn't lost a match at Wimbledon since the 2007 Final, but is troubled with a foot injury. Any one of these four men would be a very deserving Wimbledon champion, so Friday's and Sunday's matches will hopefully prove very exciting.

On friends

I think the word "friends" is rapidly becoming the most abused in the entire English language, thanks to its casual use on social networking sites. I generally use Tweetdeck for my Twitter account, for example, and the fact that the aggregated column of all the latest tweets from the people you follow is entitled "All friends" with no way of changing it always sticks in my craw.

It's not that it isn't a nice thing to say, or not a useful shorthand. It's that it's inaccurate. Some of the people whose tweets will spring up there are indubitably my friends. But I follow 140 accounts on Twitter (neat, huh?). I would think that at about half of those are not people who I would immediately think of as friends. I would be highly surprised if any of those people would think of me as their friend, either. Many of them are people I'm friendly with and all of them I like, or am at the very least sufficiently interested in to invite directly into my face on a daily basis.

I can't imagine it's just me who feels this way, although I'm entirely readily believe that people who feel so indignant as to go on about it are in a minority. But it's a big deal to me, the word 'friend'. I can't think of any other title I would relish or treasure more. I don't like to use it lightly, and personally speaking my little heart always skips a beat with joy, excitement and honour when someone whom I consider to be a friend also describes me as such. In the past few years I've come to really understand more about the nature of true friendship, and it seems to be an odd thing to use as a throwaway term of convenience.

Incidentally, the titular character in the TV sitcom Friends were definitely friends. So let's not be hating.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 8

Today, an almost-certainly-premature-but-what-the-hell-are-you-doing-getting-your-news-from-me-anyway LACK OF SURPRISES ladies quarter-final special.

Sabine Lisicki bt. Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1
It was faintly surreal experience, watching a match at Wimbledon as a great big thunderstorm raged around West London, but this is the brave new world of the Centre Court roof. At times the rain was drumming on the roof so hard it was louder than the play and at least one thunderclap made Sabine Lisicki jump out of her skin, but British engineering held firm and we even got a decent match out of it.

Lisicki has a thunderbolt of her own up her arm, and now she seems to be grafting a growing confidence to her monumental serve. Bartoli, who had clearly run herself ragged beating Serena Williams yesterday afternoon, was lucky to take it all the way as her opponent had 3 match points in the 2nd set. However, Lisicki's mental strength has been rather suspect - she had to be carried off after succumbing to cramps with the stress of her encounter with Vera Zvonereva at last month's French Open - so she had to wait until a fairly comfortable decider.

Next up, she will play Maria "The Grunt" Sharapova, who made very light work indeed of Dominika Cibulkova 6-1, 6-1 under the roof. Sharapova is now a nailed on favourite for the title - no-one else left in the women's draw has ever even reached a Grand Slam final before - but Sabine Lisicki, a wildcard entry in the Championships, has a whiff of Goran Ivanisevic's similar run to the title in 2001. Although she doesn't have a beard.

If she wins Wimbledon, she would be able to afford one.

++BREAKING++
Petra Kvitova bt. Zsvetana Pironkova 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2

Monday, 27 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 7 - TENNIS SPECIAL

A lot of balls under the bridge today. Oh mamma.

Marion Bartoli bt. Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6(6)
After my rather outraged response to Serena "I'm just grateful to be here" Williams' disdain for having to play on Court 2 last week, one might expect that I found this result pretty funny. And I did.

Marion Bartoli reached the final here in 2007 and she certainly seems to be solid enough to repeat that feat in 2011. I was particularly impressed with the way she has achieved such self-mastery, especially with regard to her previously problematic serve. Bartoli now has a strict routine to adhere to, and she's getting great results. The only downside is that her pre-service build up is getting increasingly akin to the episode of Malcolm in the Middle where they go bowling and Hal is on for a perfect game. Should Bartoli be serving for the title on Saturday afternoon, I'd not be surprised if a few extra ticks - a burp, maybe, or getting her left tit out - had crept into the mix.


Andrew Murray bt. Richard Gasquet 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2
In their previous three meetings - including a famous Murray win at Wimbledon in 2008 - Gasquet had managed to win at least two sets against the British number 1. Today, however, the biggest question mark was whether or not the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - sat in the Royal Box - would actually talk to one another. The match was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it affair after a close first set. Indeed, I switched over to see the final game and the tie-breaker in the Bartoli-Williams match with Murray about to serve at 5-3 in the second. As soon as that was over, I switched back to find Murray serving for the match at 5-2 in the third. A pulsating display against a very gifted opponent. He even found time to look positively jovial in the post-match interview. Andrew Murray is starting to look like a player who is genuinely not feeling the pressure, rather than just saying he isn't.

Other news
Women's seeds and tournament favourites continued to go flying, as if everyone on the WTA tour had unconsciously decided to clear out of the way and let Maria Sharapova - through in straight sets against Shuai Peng on Court 2 - win her second Singles title. World Number 1 (a title conferred to the woman who plays the most matches in a season, rather than on any basis of excellence) Caroline Wozniacki started well but then faded horribly to lose to 24th seed Dominika Cibulkova 1-6, 7-6(5), 7-5. Meanwhile, Venus Williams fell to the same opponent and to the same score as she did 12 months previously at Wimbledon, listlessly succumbing 6-2, 6-3 to Zsvetana Pironkova. Still motoring on in the ladies singles are Petra Kvitova, who will play her fellow 2010 beaten semi-finalist Pironkova in the last eight. For an outside bet, Sabine Lisicki continues her return from serious injury and will now face Bartoli. Meanwhile, the unseeded Austrian Tamira Paszek - who knocked out Francesca Schiavone in round 3 - stands between Belarussian 4th seed Victoria Azarenka and her first ever Grand Slam semi-final berth.

On the gents side, Novak Djokovic made light work of Michael Llodra and will now face Australian number 1 Bernard Tomic, an 18-year old qualifier who is the 4th youngest player - after Becker, Börg and John McEnroe - to make the last eight at Wimbledon. With chaos reigning in the ladies' section, it would still be a brave person who bet against the world's top four ranked male players - Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray - making up the semi-finals as they did a month ago in Paris.

On animals having pubes

My friend and I are deeply embroiled in science. Particularly the science of pube eugenics, or Peugenics. This is the area of genetic engineering which seeks to grant animals the gift that evolution has so far seen fit to deny them - pubic hair. The way I look at it, we're actually giving nature a bit of a helping hand, as I'm sure it would get there in the end. Pubes have so many uses, after all.

Here is a handy 1200 x 1024 pixel guide to our work so far. (click for full-size)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

On yesterday's walk

I spent Friday night shooting the shit with my friend at his house in Brighton. Literally, in fact, we got a shotgun and shot a poo. Actually that is a lie. Although we did discuss bowel movements. Stop trying to weedle your way into my social life, you voyeur.

This meant a walk to the station on Saturday. And what an eventful walk it was! Especially if, like me, you are able to conjure scandal and intrigue out of the smallest nugget of happenstance. If you are dangerously paranoid, in other words.

The first thing that happened was that a man with a folder and clearly in more of a hurry than I was passed me in York Place. We then ended up side by side once again at the crossing, but he of course ended up ahead once more when the walking resumed. I had some business to attend to in the North Laine, which if you do not know Brighton is a little warren of narrow streets just south of the station, packed with independent shops and the sort of cool people who patronise independent shops. So, being pretty au fait with the old topography, I cut through the back streets to get there. As the streets get narrower, it's less and less likely that there'll be a great deal of foot traffic.

But here I was, in a not-especially packed Gloucester Road and I was still just behind Folder Man. This was beginning to get suspicious. As the streets get smaller, the more unlikely it would be that two people would both be following the exact same route. What could it mean?

Naturally, I ended up stood on the roof of a nearby parked car, shirtless, screaming "I AM NOT FOLLOWING YOU, I AM NOT AN ASSASSIN" with tear-flecked cheeks.

Later, I saw a dog trying to fellate another dog in the gardens at the corner of Church Street and Queen's Road.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 6

Novak Djokovic bt. Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
One of the most fascinating aspects of tennis for me is that its scoring system does not necessarily favour the person who scores the most points or wins the most games: it's sets and the timing of the necessary points and games which counts. This gives it an innate tactical aspect to go along with the physical challenges. With every good player who looks like they may become great, it is this tactical understanding that is often the last piece to fall into place.

I think that, with Novak Djokovic's annus mirabilis seemingly back into full swing, there are clear signs that he may do what he's been threatening to do for a number of years and become the total package. The first set of this match was an object lesson. Expending just enough of himself against a tough opponent to stay in contention before pouncing in the final game to earn the break of service. It was high-quality stuff the whole way and tough on Baghdatis - the Cypriot is a talented, spirited and formidable opponent for anyone, but he had the frustrated look of a man who realised he was fighting against a force greater than his capabilities.

Could this be Djokovic's Wimbledon? I wouldn't be surprised.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 5

Today, a plucky Brit overwhelmed by grunting special.

Shuai Peng bt. Elena Baltacha 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
The British number 1 succumbed in three sets to the world number 20 on Court 18. That's the numerical breakdown of events. The standout thing for me, though, was Peng's astonishing grunting. Unlike so many of her fellows, my issue here is not one of volume. Peng's grunt is actually fairly restrained and demure. But the sound of it and the sustain is something quite apart. It may be the only doppler effect grunt in women's tennis. The overall effect is that of a Kookaburra pleasuring itself sat by the door of a departing Routemaster bus.

I've long held the belief that grunting, particularly loud grunting, could and perhaps should be looked upon as a form of gamesmanship. I will now add 'completely preposterous grunting' to that list.

Maria Sharapova bt. Laura Robson 7-6(4), 6-3
Meanwhile on Court 1, Queen Grunt was in action. Sharapova has always sounded like a fire in a barnyard, particularly when she's under the cosh. So it is very much to young Laura Robson's credit that, towards the end of the first set particularly, Maria was making noises like a backfiring yak. Robson's performance was excellent today, and not just in the plucky pluckins sense. She raced into a 4-1 lead, then as soon as Sharapova had pegged her back equal, Robson managed to break the Russian's service again. Eventually, Sharapova's quality and experience told, but I think most people will have seen enough of Laura Robson today to believe that she could well have the game to transfer her dominant form at junior level into a substantial professional career.

On mackerel trading and British life

I've given some consideration to getting a Tumblr account in recent weeks, to serve as a general purpose repository for one-line stuff I don't want to put on Twitter, sketchy pictures, links I like... you know, all that Tumblry sort of jazz. However, my friend assures me that the whole experience is a maddening and confusing one, plus I don't like the way you can't comment.

This is a rather long-winded - you know, that Bloggery sort of jazz - way of saying that I'm just going to do it here, in the increasingly white-hot crucible that is my blog.

Today, I have two very important links to share. The first one comes via the excellent @qikipedia on Twitter and relates to prison inmates in the United States coming up with a currency based on vacuum-packed mackerel fillets. As wonderful as it sounds.


My second link is a more personal one. It is a burgeoning blog written by my friend's dad, featuring little vignettes of the documentaries he's made during his career as a multiple-award winning sound recordist and engineer. There are currently two to listen to, hopefully with many more in the future. The clips here are profoundly evocative nuggets of little pieces of British society which make life so endlessly varied, fulfilling and fascinating. I find them really rather moving, if I'm honest. Please give them a listen.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Mirror man: a study in genetic unfairness

I'm better looking in a mirror than I am in real life. Consider for a minute if you will the full implications of that. It is dramatically unfair. I'm trying to think of ways that I can somehow reverse my face, but until then I'm going to have to ask that you all try and reverse the polarity of your eyes by sellotaping magnets to your head at night.

Brace yourselves for the evidence. The top one is as nature (for whatever cruel reason) intended, the bottom is the mirror image. The brown things are a gibbon's legs. (Click for bigger. Plus I promise to shave tomorrow, honest).

On ears

You know that thing where you hear a song you've heard hundreds of time before, but you really properly hear it for the first time? That doesn't happen to me very often, but it happened today. And it happened with what is perhaps a strange song, but I'm perhaps a strange man. Anyway, it was The Vagabond by Air with Beck Hansen. This song is ten years old but during that decade it's seemingly been consolidating its power, waiting to creep up on me and say THIS IS ABOUT YOU, YOU KNOW.

I'm terrified as to what other songs I know are planning a similar move. I do listen to a lot of Velvet Underground, for one thing. But I'm also happy in a way, because The Vagabond is an ultimately optimistic song, which I think pretty well reflects my ultimately optimistic mood at present.
Golden waves
In all directions
I could lose my soul right here

Colour lights
On the runway
Makes a stranger feel unchained

I'm running after time and I miss the sunshine
Summer days will come happiness will be mine
I'm lost in my words I don't know where I'm going
I do my best I can not to worry about things

I feel loose
I feel haggard
Don't know what I'm looking for

Something true
Something lovely
That will make me feel alive

I'm running after time and I miss the sunshine
Summer days are not so far everything's gonna be fine

Wimblemund 2011, day 4

Angry time coming up. Do indulge me.

Serena Williams bt. Simone Halep 3-6, 6-2, 6-1
The Williams sisters' bold attempt to win Wimbledon but at a slower pace than usual continued out on (shock!) Court 2. Today's fresh meat was Romanian teenager Simone Halep, the only remaining player in the draw whose name sounded like a distressed Penelope Pitstop.

Halep did well to win the first set - every player who has encountered Serena since her comeback has managed to take at least a set - but then hit a wall familiar to newcomers and seasoned top-10 players alike when they encounter a Williams. Put simply, it looks like no-one believes that they can win, and even getting 50% of the way there on the scoreboard does nothing to change their perception. Serena prowled about like a caged lion at the back of the court, waiting to dismissively wallop every ball back to an increasingly cowed Halep, who even from a set ahead never looked like she had a chance. The length of the match, however, did allow me to develop a theory that I will be able to test once Laura Robson's match with Maria Sharapova begins on Court 1 - women who play tennis against each other for a sufficient amount of time have their grunts synchronise.

The impressive manner of her victory - Serena looks to be battling against herself and her physical limitations more than she is any opponent - was somewhat tarnished, however, by her stroppy outburst about how unfair it is that she and her sister's so often get pushed out into the sticks. Court 2? That's the one with the broken bottles and dog turds on it, right? The one that's downhill? The one with the lines marked out wonky? Landmines?

Come a long way since Compton, haven't we Serena? Growing up surrounded with poverty, violent gang culture, racial tension and drug dealers one day, complaining about playing on Court 2 at The All England Club the next. She's certainly achieved much in her career, and her and her sister's continued presence in the ladies' game really does so much to legitimise it. It's probably fair to say she is, by a distance, the greatest player of her generation.

A bit of humility doesn't always follow from such things, of course, but it would be nice. Considering that she herself has already said that she has been on her death bed in the past few months with a pulmonary embolism, one could also hope for a bit more wisdom or perspective. But I have personal experience of surviving a life-threatening situation and I found the old clichés to be largely incorrect. No external thing can really change the person you are. Such a thing has to come from within. This is a real shame in instances where you happen to be an ingrate.

Robin Soderling bt. Lleyton Hewitt 6-7(5), 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4
The fifth seed found his top form in the nick of time against perennial challenger Lleyton Hewitt under the roof on Centre. It was so nearly an early defeat. Hewitt is now a massive THIRTY years old and as such clearly completely past it, but he will still punish you if you ease up for more than a second at a time. Soderling showed his class, but most of all he showed a fighting spirit which could serve him well later in the tournament. In many ways, he out-Hewitted Hewitt.

This made me happy, as Lleyton Hewitt has always annoyed me. There's no great reason for this, he just sets me on edge. Every year I feel I should make a scrapbook of the people who knock him out of Grand Slams, with hearts and flowers drawn all around them. So, well done Robin.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 3

Venus Williams bt. Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-7(6), 6-4, 8-6
For the first time ever play began with the Centre Court roof closed and it served up a terrific match. Venus Williams, a five times Wimbledon champion, is returning from a persistent hip injury whilst her Japanese opponent will be 41 in the autumn - a remarkable athletic achievement. Williams' power was complimented by Date-Krumm's precision and consistency and it went all the way to the wire. Venus will be glad to progress, as losing would have been akin to being knocked out of Wimbledon by Methuselah. However, she may want to reconsider her current - presumably self-designed - playing attire. It looks like two pillow cases sewn together by an inmate of an institution for the criminally insane. The last time I have seen anything like it, someone was climbing down one in a daring jail break.

Mathilde Johansson bt. Heather Watson 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
On the revamped Court 3, one of the major prospects of British tennis made her senior tournament debut. Watson, 19 last month and the 2009 US Open Junior champion, made nothing but a good impression but was unfortunate to sustain an elbow injury during the second set. With her arm heavily strapped from that moment onwards, she lacked the weapons to beat an opponent whom, had she stayed fit, I suspect she would have beaten easily. Unlike so many other British women players of the past, Watson looks like she could be the real deal. Watching her match was certainly marked by the absence of the familiar white-knuckle terror of the patriot during each and every backswing, especially as she bossed the opening set from the baseline.

She has said that she doesn't particularly feel the pressure, or let it get to her. Let's hope this continues. The BBC commentators were full of admiration for her attitude, blithely unaware, it seems, that it's precisely this type of two-hour long eulogistic commentary performance that leads to the pressure being ramped up in the first place. Complimenting her attitude, her game, her family and coaching teams, her fingernails and even her politeness when asking for the trainer... it got to be a little wearing. Hopefully it will continue to roll by her as if she's a pebble in a stream, because Watson and her fellow Brit Laura Robson (two years her junior and through to the second round this evening) look to be the most genuinely promising British female tennis players in over 30 years.

So, no pressure there, ladies.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 2

Novak Djokovic bt. Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-1, 6-1
The world's most in-form player's easy win on Centre Court captured my imagination today, simply for the commentary by Barry Davies. Barry Davies is perhaps the most under-appreciated treasure that British sports broadcasting possesses. His speciality is the kind of sparing but incisive commentary that will be declared clinically deceased when Davies hangs up his microphone. Coverage of Djokovic's match was characterised by oceans of silence, with only the sound of the crowd and the match to add to the atmosphere. Imagine that! After the parade of gasbags who had inhabited the comms box for the previous two days (and umpteen years), you wondered if perhaps there was a technical hitch, or if there was something wrong with the telly.

I really can't praise commentators like Barry Davies enough. They (he, actually) alone understands that the medium of television will quite happily speak for itself for much of the time. The irony is that this new breed of commentators' stream-of-consciousness meanderings would be more at home on the radio, where almost none of them are old enough to ever have had to have plied their trade. Barry Davies, of course, has. Someone give the man a knighthood, or give all the rest of them a pacifier.

I will add, however, that Davies was very much aided by a similarly reserved and concise Tim Henman alongside him. Henman seems to be the only ex-pro brought in to provide expert analysis who has anything approaching Barry Davies' sensibility and understanding of the medium. Nice work, Tiger Tim.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Wimblemund 2011, day 1

More sport! And not just any old sport, Wimbledon! My favourite sporting event of them all, with all its tramlines and furry balls and that. Seeing as I've been blogging more regularly - mainly about my own introspective crises, but blogging is blogging - and that I tried to do this the other year, I suppose that my dusting off the old Wimblemund category had a grinding inevitability to it.

This year I'm aiming a little lower than any in-depth analysis. Rather, this will be a repository for my thoughts on some of the games I've seen. Hopefully by doing them here, rather than in 140-character increments on Twitter, I can avoid 470 people telling me to shut up. But if they want to, there's always the comments.

Francesca Schiavone bt. Jelena Dokic 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
The second match on Centre Court was packed with interest. The French Open finalist Schiavone, who could easily beat any number of goalkeepers in a Who Looks The Most Like An Italian Goalkeeper? contest is seeded 6th and was firm favourite over Jelena Dokic, a woman whose tumultuous private life rivals anything you've ever seen on EastEnders. But Dokic is a former top-4 player as well as a former Wimbledon semi-finalist. She's got the chops, in other words.

She also had the nips. Either her dress was very tight or it was unexpectedly cold. All in all, she cut a slightly unusual figure out on court. She is starting to resemble her own drawing should she ever be in The Simpsons. However, her touch on the biggest stage hadn't deserted her, and both players headed for the first of what looks likely to prove to be many rain breaks finely poised at 1-1 in the third set.

Returning to play out their match under the roof, the remainder proved a scintillating demonstration of what makes a top-10 player a top-10 player. Dokic had played well and was still giving as good as she got in every one out of 3 or 4 strokes. Dokic is a rather flighty-looking individual with a rather chequered history, and such unreliability makes her compelling to watch. When she approaches to volley a winner into an empty court, the safest place to stand probablistically is usually within the lines of the playing area itself. But for the TV viewer, knowing that the ball can't possibly hit them, it's rivetting. You can even have bets on it. Will she cane it high like it's a baseball or scuzz it low as if she's wielding a putter? Will she conk it off the frame of the racket into a pigeon? Will she even hit it at all? When she hits a winner, though, it's a timely reminder of what she could achieve if she could concentrate for minutes at a time. Schiavone battled through, then, but Dokic will definitely be missed.

Andy Murray bt. Daniel Gimeno-Traver 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0
The British tennis fan of this generation will never embrace Andrew Murray the same way as they did Tim Henman. Murray is suffused with this air of competence which is so un-British in a tennis pro. Even after he tipped his hat to the old master by losing the opening set under the Centre Court roof, it was still fairly clear that Murray would prevail. With Tim Henman, every single point was a triumph of collective will over individual frailty. Murray, meanwhile, looks like a player nailed on for every Grand Slam semi-final for the forseeable future. It's the odd set spread over the fortnight which is likely to be his undoing.

Still, it was an impressive start. Gimeno-Traver came out well and was good for his early lead. However, it was immediately clear after Murray broke his serve in the eighth game of the second set that he'd burnt himself out in the process. Murray barely gave the Spanish player a point for the remaining 14 games. It was as complete a rout as you're likely to see in this year's tournament.

If Andrew Murray manages to win Wimbledon this year - or any year - I will be delighted. But in the back of my mind will always be the thought of how much richer the experience could have been, to have seen Tim Henman's disbelieving, dog riding in a car, happy face had he ever been in the same situation.

On thrashings

Sport! Last night the spirited young UK golfist (and 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year - you heard it here first) Rory McIlroy won the US Open golf by 8 strokes from whoever else it was who was playing. Because sometimes someone is so completely dominant it doesn't matter.

I love a tense and close sporting tussle as much as anyone else, but sometimes it's just as restorative to watch a complete demolition. Here are my four favourite sporting masterclasses.

1. Rafael Nadal wins the 2008 French Open tennis
Rafael Nadal winning at Roland Garros is rapidly becoming a non-news story, but his win in the 2008 event was completely extraordinary. He reached the final without dropping a set before facing his biggest rival, world number 1 and potentially the greatest player of all time Roger Federer. Nadal won 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. It was the first time Federer had lost a set to love since he was a junior. A month later Nadal defeated Federer on the Swiss' own stomping ground at Wimbledon in the greatest tennis match the world has ever seen.

2. Steffi Graf wins the 1988 French Open tennis
There may well be something in the water in Paris (just ask Arnold Bennett), but Roland Garros produces more than its share of shocks and surprises. Steffi Graf winning a Grand Slam isn't a surprise, but the manner of her victory in the 1988 event was definitely a shock. Graf - the reigning champion - was a week shy of 19 years old while her opponent, the Soviet Union's Natalia Zvereva, was 17. Graf won 6-0, 6-0 in 32 minutes. Zvereva went on to be one of the game's greatest doubles players but never made another Grand Slam singles final. Graf went on to win all four Grand Slams plus the Olympic gold medal in 1988. Roland Garros 1988 was the third of an eventual haul of 22 Grand Slam titles.

3. Michael Schumacher wins the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix
A double-World Champion, Schumacher made a switch to Ferrari for the 1996 Formula 1 season. Ferrari proceeded to reward him with the 310, a car with all the racing pedigree of an ocean liner. In a streaming wet race in Barcelona, though, he drove it as though he was a nymph riding a gazelle. He almost stalled on the grid, leaving him 11th at the end of the first lap. By the end of the thirteenth he was in the lead, lapping 3 seconds faster than everyone else. It was Schumacher's first of an eventual 71 wins for Ferrari and perhaps the first true indication to the Formula 1 world that he was a class apart.

4. Usain Bolt wins the 2008 Olympic 100 metres final
Usain Bolt isn't quite like the other sprinters. He's a good 6 inches taller, for starters. But then there's also this air of complete invulnerability. We all knew he would win the sprints at the 2008 Olympic games - earlier in the year he'd lowered the 100 metres World Record to 9.72 seconds. In Beijing, though, the manner of his victory was still enough to be stunning. He made a poor start from the blocks, but by 50 metres was streaking ahead. By 90 he was winding down and celebrating his triumph, a clear 5, 10 metres ahead of the rest. He crossed the line to record a time of 9.69 seconds. Bolt went on to decimate the field in the 200 metres, breaking Michael Johnson's 12-year old world record of 19.32 by two-hundredths of a second in the process. He then lowered the marks again at the 2009 World Championships to 9.58 and 19.19 as the world looked on in a rather stunned silence.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

On idiocy

After a long Friday of the soul (see that day's thrillingly oblique post for details), this weekend was much better. A fairly conventionally awesome evening of good food, better company and awful television. On the way home I arrived at Brighton Station too late to get the train and, with no other one for half an hour, a packed concourse and a nice day, I decided to go one stop down the line on foot.

Walking through Hove is something I always enjoy but it is fraught. It has layers upon layers of memories of all kinds for me. At the end of April this year, a perfect storm of sunny day, deep thoughts about the future and the blossom falling from the trees round the corner where I had started school twenty years previously - all soundtracked by Hot Buttered Soul by Isaac Hayes - nearly saw me bursting into tears in the middle of the street.

Today was less full of machismo than that high watermark, but it still made me stop and think. As I approached my old school once again, I decided to go to the station along the same route I'd taken on the way home from school so many times 15 years or so ago. Fortunately, this time the soundtrack was Sister Ray by The Velvet Underground, a song which lacks the emotional punch or lyrical resonances to my past, current or (maybe) future situation.

It's about a 10 minute walk between the school and Hove Station. After a few minutes you have to cross one of Hove's busiest roads, The Drive. 15 years previously we'd take reckless jaywalking across it as a badge of honour. What on earth - on EARTH - were we all thinking? That road, even on a lazy Sunday afternoon, is terrifying. To attempt to cross it without using the crossing - even just for old time's sake - would be to take your life in your hands.

Yet that's what I did and what my friends did, twice a day, five days a week, 200 days a year, for five years. 15 years later I'm a little older and wiser, plus I have some pretty stark personal experience of winding up incapacitated as a result of your own stupidity. When I watch people jaywalking now I often wonder if they've ever considered the unbelievable stress, misery and pain - physical and emotional - that getting seriously injured brings. Do they weigh it against the advantages of arriving wherever they're going literally seconds earlier?

One day on the way to school, one of us got hit by a car. It was inevitable, really, and the lad who copped it was always the boldest of us. Luckily for him it was fairly low speed, causing no damage to him or anyone else. It just knocked him over. We all found this uproariously amusing.

Children are idiots. We were idiots. I was an idiot. I think I'm probably still an idiot, but in different ways. And hopefully, I'm getting better.

Friday, 17 June 2011

New life

My life changed a lot last year. At first I thought it was going to be a straightforward, line in the sand change. I'd not anticipated it being a pebble in the pond change. But sat here now, 18 months on, I have to say I was a bit dim.

I suppose I got focussed on one thing and took my eyes off the fact that nothing exists independently of everything else. Of course things were going to change - lots of things, in lots of small but appreciable ways, all over the place. The jury's very much still out on whether or not the overall effect is a positive one.

Undeniably, there have been positives. Wonderful, life-affirming and enriching positives. But for every new set of circumstances that arise there are a new set of ripples. A series of little knock-on effects with unpredictable consequences. I'd happily go back to the way things were in the carefree year of 2009, but that would now itself entail a loss of some very special things. This is not the same, though, as being happy that I'm losing some of the stuff which made those earlier years so special to me.

Life is dazzlingly complex, isn't it? I think that just how complex can be summed up by the fact that I feel that I'm undergoing a fundamental shift in so many things having personally done nothing to precipitate it. It's baffling, bewildering and upsetting. Today is an "upsetting" day.

If this was a Livejournal blog, my current mood emoticon would be "maudlin".

Thursday, 16 June 2011

On logic

You know, working your way through the midden of your own psyche is a little bit like popping a champagne cork. There's no telling just quite how much is going to come out once you get the first line of defence out of the way. I've just had something of a revelatory moment, so this is going to be another one of those posts, filling your no doubt already heaving RSS readers. However, this is my blog so my question to anyone who's not interested or comfortable with it is, what are you doing here?

I studied logical philosophy at university, you know. But even that seems unable to save me from this little humdinger which I now realise dominates the majority of my social interactions, be they with friends or strangers. It goes:

I like it when that (e.g. email, message, card, free sausage, etc.) happens to me. So, extrapolating all of this available data, I can conclude that if I were to send/give/do that (e.g. email, message, card, free sausage) to someone else, they would hate it and resent my intrusion.

This frankly bewildering piece of thinking informs so many of my decisions that it's probably not even funny any more. The ironic thing is that as a child I would spend hours or days pondering, in a very Cartesian way I'll have you know, what it's like to be someone else. There's a good chance that this time may have been wasted. At the very least it could be said the conclusions I drew from it are perhaps faulty in some regards.

I imagine that, on more than one occasion, this piece of deductive reasoning has led people to think that I'm a little cold or stand-offish, whereas really I've been as giddy as a baby goat, wound up like a coiled spring in the corner waiting to boing into action if and when I'm beckoned to do so.

Of course, some people are more proactive than others and some people have more natural leadership skills. But it's that thing again: balance. My general tendency to ping between extremes and ignore the middle ground rarely serves me well. But it also makes me who I am and, when I look around even a damn fool deducer like me is able to see that who I am is a thoroughly worthwhile person.

I think that recently I've been getting a lot better at this. And I'm proud of that. I should be proud of that. Judging by the general response I've had I also reckon that I'm actually managing to find a reasonable level of keeping in touch without ever becoming too much of a chore. It may even be because of this series of blog posts that I'm finding this more possible - this place acts like an overflow of the bilge, fish heads and crazy that could otherwise make me a bit of a handful.

That's right, I'm making you all suffer so that I can maybe suffer a little less day by day. And I don't care. Hah!

Snack foods by Royal Appointment

Yesterday I got to thinking about whether or not the Royal Family would ever have eaten Monster Munch. I reached a worrying conclusion. I can't imagine any members of the Royal Family ever having eaten any maize-based snack treats.

I think that this is something of a problem for an institution that faces a continual struggle to remain relevant to modern Britain. If the Royal Family are flesh and blood like all of their subjects, there's no way on earth that they could resist Frazzles, Chipsticks or Wotsits. Their continual failure to do so seems to me to be a tacit admission on their part that they are different from, superior to, their subjects.

From the point of view of transparency, I should point out at this stage that I have no data to prove my thesis, only what I have observed and deduced. Here's a list of the key Royals with the snack foods I can honestly imagine them having ever eaten.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II
Mini-poppadums. Ready salted Kettle Chips.

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
Petit Mignons, onion flavour. But he didn't enjoy them.

HRH The Prince of Wales
Bombay mix.

HRH The Duchess of Cornwall
Snack-a-Jacks.

HRH The Duke of Cambridge
None.

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge
Twiglets.

HRH Prince Harry of Wales
The hero of the clan. All flavours of Walkers and Golden Wonder crisps, including any special charity edition flavours. Mini-poppadums. Chilli rice crackers. Monster Munch (all flavours). Space Invaders. Scampi Fries. Frazzles. Chipsticks. Wheat Crunchies (all flavours). Pringles. Square crisps. Discos. Tubes. Mini-Cheddars.

HRH The Duke of York
Cheese footballs.

HRH The Earl of Wessex
Ritz crackers.

I'm not a republican. But I feel that if the Royals continue to scorn us with their stand-offish refusal to eat crisps I probably will become one.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

On being great

This is a blog post I promised myself I'd write as an editorial counterblast to all the ones recently outlining my failings. This is about the things I admire about myself. And as I'm doing it as a list it's more me than any of the others.
  1. I am nice. Properly nice, too. None of that pretend nice in order to get things. At the very least I'll be polite and discrete, and with people I know and trust I can be a delightful person. Nice is an underrated quality, I think.
  2. I am funny. In all ways and in all meanings of the word. I will make people laugh somehow and that's a pretty good thing to be able to say.
  3. Children and animals like me. They are very straightforward judges of character, too. They don't go in for politics, politeness or hidden agendas.
  4. I am talented but more importantly I am generous with it. I love to give away the things I produce to my friends. They hardly ever complain at all.
  5. I'm different. I'm not your typical male stereotype. And men bewilder me, so this fact makes me happy.
  6. I like to be kind. Some people find this a little disarming. Many people accuse me of fishing for compliments in kind or such like which I find very upsetting because it's really never been my intention at all.
  7. I don't play politics. There's no greatness of spirit at work here particularly, I just don't understand the way they work so have given up trying.
  8. People and things genuinely interest, fascinate and excite me. I retain a childlike enthusiasm for many things.
  9. Reading this list makes me a little uncomfortable and unsure if I want to post it. I think that may be the best quality I have of all. Now it's a question of finding the right balance.
  10. I had to put a tenth thing in because I love lists.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Amish Man

I'm not someone who is particularly up on the whole superhero comic genre, but I nevertheless saw a gap in the market and pounced. I'm more pleased with this than conventional logic suggests I should be. Introducing Amish Man:

(Click the picture for full-size)

I can't tell you how exhausting I find doing something like this to be. I suppose it's a combination of nervous energy, creative energy and walking the ever-present tightrope of not screwing it up.

It may also be that I am hideously unfit.

Monday, 13 June 2011

On being needy

I think I use Twitter wrong.

Not necessarily in the sense that I don't know how to put words in it. However, I think I've lost sight of its purpose. Back in the day (4th February 2007, to be precise) when I was - for once in my online life - a reasonably early adopter of Twitter, it was a very different place. The chief reason is that there were no @replies.

This was frankly dashed inconvenient and is probably the reason why they were introduced. But it's made me start to use it as if it were a giant instant messenger conversation. And that's a problem, for me at least.

I have used IM a lot in my time. It is undeniably a very useful thing and there are a number of things happening in my life currently that make it clear that I will probably use it again. However, I think along very set lines, and IM presents challenges to this. I would sign in of an evening with a view to talking to maybe one or two specific people and end up talking to five or six. None of this is a problem insofar as they were all people I enjoyed speaking to. Why else would I have them as IM contacts? However, I always felt I needed to be as instant as the Instant in the title and this would ultimately stress me out. So in the last year or so I've pretty much phased it out altogether.

This brings me to Twitter. I love Twitter. I'm good at Twitter - I've done nearly 17,000 tweets in the last 4 and a bit years and my 450-odd followers will surely all vouch for the fact that 16,500 of them have been wet-your-pants hilarious. By no means is this one of those tiresome "I'm going to have to give up on Twitter for my own good" posts, because I'm not. What it is, rather, is my trying to figure out a more sane and sensible way to use it where I'm not in what I'm essentially thinking of as a billion-person IM conversation, where I will inevitably end up feeling rejected.

Because I do. I know. It's completely insane. And I know it's completely insane. But it doesn't stop me feeling it, even if it's only initially. But my brain is frustratingly like a 1980s quiz show host at times and will stubbornly refuse to take anything but my first answer.

For a number of reasons which are really too personal to go into, in the last 18 months I've become a little preoccupied with loss. My fear of loss now outstrips virtually everything else in my canon of manias. What I can feel happening whenever I get near Twitter these days is the slow drip-drip-drip of an approaching episode. With every tweet where I feel I'm putting myself out there comes the risk of feeling like I've been abandoned, that people have gotten wise to me, that I'll be left on my own.

Again, I can see that this is fundamentally unwell thinking, not least as it's built on a foundation of self-loathing which is really so old hat now that frankly I'm wondering if perhaps it's outstayed its welcome. But again, it's still there. Honestly, it feels like my brain is mocking me. Because it is all in my head in this case: nothing that anyone has done could possibly have precipitated this dazzling white-knuckle ride.

I'm putting this here rather than anything else because I'm worried that I'm probably starting to pester people - and not just any old people, but my closest friends - almost in the way a toddler prods and tugs at their parent's leg in order to get some kind, any kind, of reaction. So to anyone reading who has borne the brunt of this infuriating neediness, I'm sorry and I'm trying to stop. Well, no, not stop, but strike a better balance. Also, it may lead to recommendations for the best Twitter client for me to use, where I'd feel like I am doing some serious microblogging, rather than just fishing for conversation.

I'm a good person. I'm kind and honest, thoughtful and trustworthy. I'm pretty cool to know, I think. I guess it's just a question of convincing what may well be my last actual remaining doubter - my own brain - of that.

Friday, 10 June 2011

My favourite albums: Mudrock

Today's list of favourite albums is courtesy of all-round internet celebrity and allotment wrangler Iam Mudrock. Mudrock is 44 and has lived most of his adult life in Brighton with occasional spells in London, Chicago and Seattle. As with any self-respecting 40-something man, he's a vinyl fanatic although a good C90 mixtape will tide him over. "I refused to buy CDs until about 2000 when a lot of stuff stopped being released on vinyl." he says.

Here are his picks, all of which he plays regularly for his daughters - ages 10 and 13. Such an endeavour should be made mandatory for all parents!

Ween – God Ween Satan: The Oneness. (1990)
I first heard this in Chicago in 1993. The opening track ‘You fucked up’ gets your attention and sets up the rest of the album. I have been ever since a massive Ween fan. See them live if you can

Beastie Boys – Check Your Head. (1992)
Beasties best album. Rock, punk, hip-hop, jazz all rolled into a delight for the ears.

Flaming Lips – Transmissions From the Satellite Heart (1993)
Saw these live in Chicago in 93 and was hooked, less polished than the later stuff we know them for now, but brilliant catchy riffs and quirky lyrics.

Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (1985)
Sunday morning hangover music.

The Goats – No Goats, No Glory (1994)
One of the best Christmases of my life was 1995 in a loft apartment listening to this amongst others with a ping pong table and enough supplies to keep us going for 3 days.

Countryman – Original Soundtrack (1983)
Great soundtrack to a great movie. This didn’t leave the turntable for months on end.

John Spencer Blues Explosion – Extra Width (1993)
Saw JSBX live in 1993 and had to have the album, I’d never heard anything like it live, so much noise from a 3 piece, and a Theremin to boot. Awesome, and I spoke to Russell Simins on the phone when he heard I had a copy of the Crunt album that he drummed on.

Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff (1988)
Early Sub-Pop release that set the scene for the likes of Nirvana. Pure guitar energy, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

Pixies – Surfer Rosa (1988)
Genius song writing, probably the best album ever made.

The Doors – L. A. Woman (1971)
I was 17 speeding my tits off in a basement in Landsdown Place, L. A. Woman came on the stereo and my head did a flip. The Doors changed the way I listened to music forever.

The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)
All time classic from the days of staying up all night at post rave house parties.

as a P.S., Mudrock adds he would also happily include the compilation album Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 from 1972. So there you go.

Thanks go to Mudrock. Add yours by shouting at me.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Cultural analysis: Donnie Warehouse

Today I'm looking at early 1990s rave culture. Specifically, this video from Doncaster's BYO which my friend Ed pointed me in the direction of. The BYO was like any number of clubs which sprung up in the same period: unlicensed venues where patrons had to bring their own drink. Or whatever else they were planning on taking. If you know what I mean.

What I mean is drugs.

This video was taken by club security at the time. We can only thank the great googly moogly that it has now made its way onto the internet. It's an extraordinary historical document, like finding CCTV footage of the Battle of Hastings or something. It's 15 minutes long, so there's quite a bit to get through. But don't be intimidated, below the clip I have included some annotations. Think of them as a Lett's Revision Guide.


Video clip

0:10 It probably helps to think of this as a narrative drama. There are certainly starring players. At this early stage you can see the outright star of the piece, Unbelievably Together Woman, just to the right of centre. Unbelievably Together Woman is at the eye of this particular hurricane. She is in a zone where she seems completely optimised to get the very most out of her club experience without any grinding come down later. I'd not be surprised if she weighed herself on a medical balance before administering the precise amount of stimulant required, taking longevity and activity level into account. On the left of the picture is one of the supporting players, The Grand Old Duke of York. The Grand Old Duke of York has been spectacularly well served and now seems unable to do anything but grin with a childlike innocence and march up and down on the spot. I'd not be surprised if he was still there now, aged nearly 50, marching up and down in a three-foot deep crater.

0:47 White Glove Dungarees Man appears for the first time. He makes a number of exceptional cameos. Unlike everyone else in the entire warehouse, he has imbibed no substances of any kind at all, he's just there to show off all his best moves. Pierrot-influenced dancing was popular in this time period, a fact which future historians will be completely powerless to explain.

1:24 One of my favourite characters shows his hand. Shoulder Rub Man is well into the whole scene and makes the most of the loved-up vibe to dispense a series of unsolicited neck massages. The best of these is without doubt at 2:03, where he sends out some go-go-Gadget arms to reach down to the front of the scene.

2:10 Our other starring protagonist appears for the first time. Billy Bragg's Cumface Man is having the time of his life, gurning and Ian Curtis dancing his night away. Meanwhile, as the crowd are exhorted to 'put their arms in the air', the man behind Billy Bragg's Cumface Man does so in a style which seems to have been heavily influenced by The World At War.

2:39 Like Romeo and Juliet, or Terry and June, here we see our two stars dancing together. Unbelievably Together Woman seems more composed, if I'm honest. At 3:00 Billy Bragg's Cumface Man is trying some basic social interactions with those around him - i.e. eye contact - but it's proving difficult. There's only one thing to do - by 3:50 the pistols are out. Double pistols!

4:55 Unbelievably Together Woman is living up to her name, demonstrating some really quite high end cognitive functions: speech! laughter! interaction! Billy Bragg's Cumface Man is busily chewing on his own tonsils. By 5:10 he's throwing shapes the like of which have never been seen.

5:40 Further interaction between Unbelievably Together Woman and Unbelievably Together Woman's Dreadlocked Friend serves only as a stark juxtaposition with Billy Bragg's Cumface Man's continuing grapple with his own sense of self.

6:35 Unbelievably Together Woman has been largely ignoring Billy Bragg's Cumface Man up to this point but now there are the first glimses of some connection between them. Billy Bragg's Cumface Man is the person who tries the first move. Method: pistols. And gurning.

7:00 Excitingly, by this point White Glove Dungarees Man has worked his way back into frame. His French Street Theatre influences are clear for all to see.

7:18 A frisson of romantic excitement, as Unbelievably Together Woman finally clocks Billy Bragg's Cumface Man for a fraction of a second. Sneaking into the left of the shot here, and clearly visible from 7:55 is Incredibly Early-1990s Hair Woman.

8:40 The burgeoning love affair could be threatened as Gangling Dance Man moves in between Unbelievably Together Woman and Billy Bragg's Cumface Man. Billy Bragg's Cumface Man's face is shot through with as many questions as his brain is capable of posing at this stage.

9:25 As a brief interlude, we look at Blonde-Haired White Gloves Woman. More pierrot moves.

10:44 We see the MC. He's kept us on the edge of our seat so far, so it's nice he gets a look-in.

11:45 One of the late stars of the piece, Fiercely Spirited Dancing Thin Woman makes her entrance.

12:05 Unbelievably Together Woman continues to astound. She is now singing along with the music, barely a drop of sweat having left her body. Meanwhile, to all sides are a series of discarded kidneys.

12:52 A look along the rafter monkeys reveals Very Suspicious Man. Arms folded and as alert as a meerkat, you could maybe think he was a drug dealer if you work on the assumption drug dealers like to advertise by looking like the shiftiest shithouse rat on earth. In fact, Very Suspicious Man is just a distant relative of The Grand Old Duke of York.

13:35 Fiercely Spirited Dancing Thin Woman is really going some now. It's no wonder, as they've just dropped Poing by The Rotterdam Termination Force.

14:25 As a final flourish, Middle Aged Man in a Hooped Shirt throws some exotic shapes.

I should probably add that, in my version of events, Unbelievably Together Woman and Billy Bragg's Cumface Man got together at the end of the night and are now happily married and live in Bingley with two teenage children.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Astrology

Life is full of pieces of synchronicity. The welcome return of BBC Radio Five Live's Danny Baker Show on Saturday mornings has been accompanied by an astrological theme in the past three weekends. Then, last week, my good friend Mungo told me that they'd been using horoscopes to help guide them in their life and love.

Well, this is clearly a sign that I should give astrology - undeniably still the greatest and most infallible science known to humanity - some serious consideration. As such, after poring over any number (0) of astrological charts and a childhood watching Button Moon, I can now present my horoscopes for this week. Anyone who finds that they are particularly helpful or prove especially prescient are invited to add their experiences in the comments to this post, so as I may better calibrate my sextants for future attempts.

Aries (21 March - 20 April)
Cows will be much on your mind this week. You'll be thinking about eating them, about wearing them and about adopting them as pets. But most of all you'll be thinking about suckling on their sweet sweet udders. A chance meeting with a dairy farmer may have dire consequences.

Taurus (21 April - 20 May)
The stranger you met last Tuesday will reveal themselves to be your ticket to Wimbledon. Do not push your luck any further though, and assume you'll have to buy your own strawberries. A wet and windy day in the middle of the week is a good time to confront your mother.

Gemini (21 May - 20 June)
Getting a flap of skin really quite seriously caught in something will prove to be a blessing in disguise. Don't count on the kindness of strangers, though. This week will prove that your hero is the person you always thought it would be, even though you never thought you'd show them your flaps.

Cancer (21 June - 22 July)
Uranus is descending, so you could find salads a struggle this week. Take the opportunity to rekindle your old love of meat. Investing literally all your money and assets in a novelty candle store would be a good idea.

Leo (23 July - 22 August)
Your favourite Color Me Badd album, which you thought was always set in stone, will change this week after a trying but ultimately fruitful armed siege on a bus. Keeping a snooker ball in a sock was, is and will continue to be a good idea.

Virgo (23 August - 22 September)
This week will definitely be your best ever chance of meeting the Queen. If you achieve it, don't hold back. Particularly not your farts. Your shared love of Bombay Bad Boy Pot Noodles will see you move up in the world in ways you'd never imagined.

Libra (23 September - 22 October)
Cowardice will serve you well this week. Total abrogation of your authority will end incredibly badly for the people you consider your loved ones, but see your life take a magnificent new path. Stab everyone in the back.

Scorpio (23 October - 22 November)
Any relationships you may have had with Frenchmen are best forgotten about this week. Look to the future and try to eliminate garlic from your diet unless you are having particular trouble with vampires and/or biting insects. A chance encounter with a goat will serve you well.

Sagittarius (23 November - 22 December)
Exhuming Jean Paul Sartre is advisable for Sagittarians this week. But remember, there's only one so collaboration - or getting there first and fighting like a cornered tiger - will be the key. Jean Paul Sartre's eBayed glasses will prove a major windfall.

Capricorn (23 December - 19 January)
You're going to shit your pants on public transport this Wednesday. Nothing you can do will prevent this, so instead choose to embrace it. The man sitting next to you when it happens will prove significant to you for the rest of your life.

Aquarius (20 January - 18 February)
Thursday night's occluding of Uranus is likely to have several knock-on effects. Now could be a good time to start that soul band. All the things you thought would stand in your way will soon evaporate after a series of violent tantrums in a shopping centre.

Pisces (19 February - 20 March)
Unusual and exotic pets should be the order of the day for you this week. Consider any of the following: owl, mole, hedgehog, toucan, cougar or donkey. Only once you have a menagerie in place will you see an end to your crippling mood swings, you loser.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Outreach program

Innumerable self esteem problems far too boring to write about and too rubbish to even indulge have always made me rather cautious about getting in touch with people. I always figure that seeing my name pop up in your email or text message inbox is exactly the kind of thing which would make you turn to Cthulhu or throw your gadgets in the sea before settling on a more bucolic life on a Hebridean island.

Recently I've been trying to go against all manner of things my brain tells me as a scientific experiment. And by god, it's making me feel so much more of a better person. I'm not sat worrying about my friends and family, hoping they'd drop me a line but understanding if they didn't. I'm putting myself out there more and reaping little rewards every time. One of them being that no-one has yet run to the hills to live in a Yurt and eat biltong and weeds.

Being more positive has its downsides, of course. It made me realise that I couldn't keep up my self-imposed exile from Facebook as well as continuing down this new path. But the evil that is The 'Book was almost immediately - within minutes, in fact - negated by catching up with some people I'd not spoken with for far too long. It's all good.

Could it be that every single one of my preconceived notions about myself were wrong? The scientific answer, sadly, appears to be yes. 2011 continues to be an annus mirabilis for me, if not for you dear reader, sat here trawling through all this nonsense. But I am finally learning some of the things that I perhaps should have picked up by the first year of primary school and I'm as excited as someone who's just learned to read.

My apologies to your heaving, overworked RSS readers.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Psychological warfare

In the last few weeks and months I have improved my life by, and there's no other way of saying this, by being nice. I suspect I've always known that I'm quite a nice and kind person, although you have to take what your mum tells you about yourself with a pinch of salt at times. I think I've helped make the world in my own particular fart-enriched slipstream a better place though, and in turn that's helping me feel better about myself.

Brain is not going down without a fight, however. He is in full rebellion. The irony is that in this situation he's rebelling against himself, which has the potential to get a little messy. At the moment, no matter how hard he's screaming at that I'm a wrong 'un, that I'm hated or up to no good, the part which controls what I actually do has him licked.

I'm excited to find out who is going to prevail in this battle, even though it may leave body as something of a passenger. I certainly know who I hope prevails.

Incidentally, the part of my brain that wrote this is the nice part, trying to shame the nasty part into line. Clever move, brain.

Attention

You have reached the bottom of the internet