Yearly Archives: 2006

Mistletoe & Lager

The X-mas social (Whirl? Flurry? Splurge? Merry-go-round?) season got under way in the last couple of weeks, although I’ve not really been feeling the love. Last year I was right in the mood, with happy walks around the busy shopping streets, and eager anticipation of a nice Christmas day in the flat with Mairi and our new dog Shuggie. This year…meh. Couldn’t get into it at all, although I think this week will be the clincher.

Friday before last was the classic works* Christmas do for the bit of London Underground I work for. The very nice Azzurros restaurant in Waterloo was hired out, and a certain amount of canapés (pron. can-APES) were eaten, washed down with a couple of white wine spritzers. Lots of fun, with various senior managers strumming away on their guitars, and various admin staff singing. Lots of fun. There was a feeling that they should have provided photocopiers and stationary cupboards dotted around the place for office party frolics. Perhaps some toilet cubicles as well. Classy.


As the evening drew to a close, a colleague insisted that I go to a club in Elephant & Castle called the Corsica Rooms, which had a couple of hard electro acts playing live, and a couple of dubstep DJs. I hadn’t been to a club like that in years, and was somewhat intimidated, but went along – got to keep on. We got a taxi to Elephant and Castle, then walked down this road next to the railway, to an unmarked door flanked by large men in long black coats. I was ready to pay up for entry, but my colleague knew the staff, the ticket people, and most of the people in the club. All of them were introduced to this guy in a suit and raincoat, with non-dance-friendly smart work shoes, and very friendly they were.

Interesting place, the Corsica Rooms. I’m told it was an illegal venue until recently, but now its kosher, with all mod cons. Bar with cold beer at reasonable prices (only £3 a small bottle, which while expensive, is not as expensive as I’ve seen since – see below), facilities, cloakroom etc. All painted a uniform white with grey accents. It had the feel of a municipal building, which for me is a good thing.

The music and atmos were fantastic. We started in the dubstep room, characteristically dark with camo nets on the wall and a nice brutalist architectural structure for a sound system, which went well with the slow power of dubstep. I wasn’t familiar with the sound, but it has a lot on common with dub (obviously) but with a much cleaner, crisp sound, and immense sub-bass. Nice. That said, I suspect it’s designed to play out of your 24″ subwoofer in your Citroen Saxo while waiting in a queue down my street on a Saturday and I’m trying to listen to Radio 4.

Then it was into the main room to witness the main event. Various keyboards & stuff on a small stage. Stickered Korg. Battered Roland. Speaker stacks. Small dancefloor, DJ at the back. And I was there until 3am. My colleague said it went on until 6, at which point he and his mates were going to a flat in Hackney to continue the party – sadly I had to decline. While leaving I made sure I shook the ticket persons hand, which made them smile, and the bouncer kindly pointed out a taxi kiosk. A night to remember.

Unlike last Saturday, when I went to ‘The Mish Mash Bar’ in Clapham for the leaving do for someone about to travel around South America for a few months before settling near Brighton. Nice to see her, and to see her off, but the place was crap – the venue was everything bad about these money-grubbing places. As it filled up, they removed all the furniture so as to cram more people in. It was rammed, expensive, the music was dreadful (not even the good Take That song) and played on a dreadful sound system with screeching treble and poor bass response, and everyone screeching over it to be heard, so they turn it up some more. I left early (walking past the queue – queue!), having spent too much on alcohol in the mistaken belief that being tiddly would enable me to make conversation or have fun. I couldn’t find the leaver to say cheerio, and I couldn’t be arsed saying bye to her friends.

Sunday I felt hung over, and I felt annoyed at feeling hung over for so little reward. But this tale has a happy ending! I got into the Xmas spirit at about 6pm, after marching around tidying up and snapping at Mairi, for which I am sorry. We got some Xmas decorations up, wrapped some tinsel round the dog, and finally settled down to be disappointed by Torchwood again. And I finally got my Christmas webpage up – ta-da!

* “Works”? Gas works? Chemical works? Some kind of factory where a whistle blows to mark the shift change, and we all go to Brighton for two weeks together on the trolley-bus to bet on horses and throw acid at each other?

Ancient Christmas Poem

This here is a poem I wrote in a Christmas card to someone many years ago. What mood was I in? Discuss.

Now it’s Christmas time again
It’s time to reconsider
Whether or not to shut up shop
And sell to the highest bidder

But let’s not all get too depressed
Nothing is as bad as it seems.
So put the kettle on again
And pass the custard creams.

Sorrento Travelogue 1

The following has finally been written from notes made in Italy, September 2006. I’ve been busy.

Saturday – Ibsen’s ‘Ghosts’ and now Petty’s ‘Blog’ – all were written in the Tramontano Hotel, Sorrento, Italy. All possibly on this balcony? Doubtful. We arrived yesterday evening, after an interesting journey. With an excruciating start at 4am, the flight from Luton to Naples was uneventful. The coach from Naples to Sorrento, however, was bags of fun, due to the torrential rain, and 2-hour tailback due to a minor landslide on the coastal roads running around the cliffs. The slow progress did give us a chance to look at the cliffside olive and lemon groves though. Once at the (very nice) hotel, the first priority was food, so we nipped straight out into the narrow cobbled streets to find a trattoria for a pizza. Thus sated, it was quick nap time. 4 hours later at 9.30 we had recovered and it was time for dinner.

Another stroll led us to Fauna, which dominates the main square. There we partook of the local custom of sitting and watching the world go by – on foot, on scooters and in small Fiats. We rounded off our meal of pasta with Crème de Bananes for Mairi and Liquirizias for me, both delicious and a perfect ‘digestif’. Mairi also tried the local lemon juice, which is served fresh with ice, a jug of water to dilute it and sugar to make it not make your eyeballs cave in. Make your own lemonade, I guess. That was delicious too.

As well as the aforementioned rain, when I woke up this morning, lightning was flashing down, the thunder rolling around the bay, but Vesuvius was clearly visible for the first time, looming over Naples across the bay. When I got Mairi up to take a look, the clouds had suddenly descended, obscuring the view so much we could barely see our balcony railing.

Since then, it has brightened up, with Vesuvius sometimes being free from cloud, and sometimes (like now) only being visible from the waist down. We’ll be taking a closer look at Vesuvius and Pompeii later in the week.

Illuminated Productions – Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfmann

Illuminated Productions are presenting Ariel Dorfmann’s stunning Death and the Maiden at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre from Tuesday 9th to Saturday 13th January 2007.

Carlton vets Kristen McGorry and John Gargrave and Ui-debut Dave Eastman star in this powerful moral and political drama, and Carl Whiteside (another Carlton vet) directs.

Performances are at 7:45 each evening with a Saturday matinée at 3pm. Student tickets are just£6.50 for the Tuesday to Thursday evenings and the Saturday matinée (£7.50 for Friday and Saturday night) with a free ticket for every 10 booked.

To book tickets please contact the theatre either at their website or call the Box Office on 0870 060 6646, Groups & Schools: 0870 060 6644 (Open Mon – Sat 9am – 9pm, Sun 10am – 6pm).

For more information on the play, visit the Illuminated website.

No I Haven’t Seen Borat Yet

…and I won’t if Tom Coates’ review is anything to go by. It’s been over-hyped, and from what I have seen of it, it doesn’t have the genius to back it up. I’m with Tom Coates as far as being a prude is concerned – I liked South Park, I liked Team America, I like the Troma movies, I love the music of The Frogs. But I didn’t like Ali G’s series, and I didn’t see the film, once again because of the hype and the sort of people who were raving about it. I particularly didn’t like the boring, “Let’s embarass an ignorant politician” bits, and I gather that is the main thrust of the Borat character as well. But Chris Morris did it a lot better, and with more deserving targets. Even Dennis Pennis was doing it better back in 1995.

Does this mean I don’t like Sacha Baron Cohen? Does this mean I’m anti-semitic? Does this mean I’m a snob? Yes, no, and yes. But sod you.

I’m getting a little tired of people quoting Avenue Q (warning – poxy Flash interface) as well. As far as I can tell, there’s only two songs in it, and both of these only have one line in.

There have been several thing that I’ve been told I “simply must see!”, but years have passed with no ill effects from not seeing Human Traffic, Waynes World, or Austin Powers, so I think I’ll take the risk again this time.

Sorrento Photos Up On Flickr

As promised, as if it was something to look forward to, I’ve put the photos from Sorrento and thereabout up on Flickr.

I can’t access Flickr from work (‘Personal Network Storage and Backup’ – thanks a bunch) so I’ll put the full link in later. However, if you go to my photo page and click on the ‘Sorrento 2006’ set, you’ll see them all. I’ve geocoded them as well, so you can view the photos on a map, corresponding to where they were taken.

Maestro – The New Cash?

I’m getting a bit irritated by the posters everywhere proclaiming Maestro debit cards as “The New Cash”, dismissing cash as being ‘so over’. They say that “The Penny has Dropped” and various other oh-so-witty phrases it took some creatives several days to come up with.

What I want to know is this: does this mean I can use my debit card everywhere I usually use cash? Like pubs, newspaper stalls, or corner shops for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread?

And the answer of course is NO. Cash is not dead, despite it’s many irritations, like frayed pockets, jam jars full of shrapnel, and E Coli.

Many pubs will accept cards these days, but it’s not the case everywhere, and the ones that do are often shiny shitholes like ‘Wetherspoons’ or ‘All Bar One’s. Newspaper stands won’t take cards, although they don’t take much in the way of cash these days either, due to the fact that you can get quality news journalism for free in the shape of London Lite (sic) or theannoyinglytitledalllowercaselondonpaper (although these are quite rare, and you do need to walk around London quite a bit before you can manage to track down a copy).

Cards need technology and electricity to work, much like electronic books, or ‘eBooks’ (isn’t this InterCapping getting annoying as well?). Cash works during power cuts, as do paper books. Neither of them will be ‘over’ for a long time.

BMW Theory

In lieu of a proper blog post, here is a theory or rule I have been developing.

As all right-thinking people know, all BMWs are driven by wankers.

The BMW M5 and M3 are BMW 5-series and 3-series which have been tweaked and made all sporty: they are a special kind of BMW. It therefore stands to reason that they are driven by a special kind of wanker.

By the same token, the BMW X5 is a 4-wheel-drive SUV kind of BMW. The ‘X’, I think, stands for ‘Xtreme’. Therefore, it’s a pretty good bet that if you see a BMW X5, it is being driven by an extreme wanker.

That is the sum total of my theory, and I am sorry to have wasted your time.

Disclosure: I know, or am related to, people that drive BMWs. Sorry, you know how it is. But I’m sure they would agree with the X5 theory.

Super Tech World Cyber Review Zone!

Review: Visual Land VL-335 MP3 player/projectile

Mairi’s Dad bought this in one of his eBay frenzies. He didn’t like it, and I didn’t have an iPod at the time, so I nicked it and tried it for a while.

It came in a nice satin-lined box with magnetic closure, little plastic window, and dodgy design on lid – not bad so far. When I opened the box, I found the player itself was a nice size and weight, with a rubbery coating which could be peeled off with effort. I didn’t much care for the colour, but I guess thieves can’t be picky.

I had a quick flip through the User Guide, just enough to see that you could just stick it in a USB port and it would appear as a drive. Drag’n’drop your MP3s or WMAs, and you’re good to go. Unfortunately it was written in such impenetrable sino-pidgin-koringrish, that I had to give up. Still, I knew what I needed to know. It had a slide-out USB connector, which was good, and the built-in replaceable rechargeable battery was charged through the USB. A good start.

Then came the first problem. The thing used USB 1.1, which was designed in conjunction with Andrex and PG tips. During the extremely slow transfer process, go to the loo or have a cup of tea. Or put the kettle on, then go to the loo, and then make a cup of tea. After you’ve washed your hands, of course. And flushed.

Once I had some tracks transferred (some old Aphex Twin and Hawkwind, if you must know) I experimented with the lush user experience (this is sarcasm).

First off, there was no shuffle feature. You will listen to the tracks in order! Then when I switched the player off, it went back to the beginning of the first track. No storage of your position in the memory, which means when I turned it back on, I had to navigate to the track I was playing before. And then I come across the next, and to my mind the worst, problem.

There was a 1-second lag between button presses, and no buffering.

Think of your CD player. When you want to listen to track 10 on a CD, you put the CD in, close the drawer, and press the ‘next’ button 10 times quickly, and then the Play button, knowing that the player will remember the presses and do what you want, like so:
next-next-next-next-next-next-next-next-next-next-PLAY. And away you go!

On this piece of crap (yeah, I said it) though, if you want to listen to the 10th track, you have to press the ‘next track’ button, wait a second for it to react,
then press it again, wait for it to react,
then press it again, wait for it to react,
then press it again, wait for it to react,
then press it again, wait for it to react,
then press it again, wait for it to react,
then press it again, wait for it to react,
then press it again, wait for it to react,
then press it again, wait for it to react,
then press it again, wait for it to react, and then you’re there.
Both at track 10 and your train destination (ho ho).

Just to add insult to injury, it had a 2.5mm headphone jack for that lovely ‘can’t use normal headphones without an adaptor‘ feeling.

And finally, did I mention it had an FM radio? No, because while one was included, it wasn’t built in. It was a separate button-cell-powered FM tuner on an awkward pendant neckband arrangement, mixed in with the supplied crappy earbuds for extra entanglement.

The VL-335 is no longer available, as far as I can tell, but Amazon are selling the VL-340A, which has a wonderful product description which includes the line, “Features of this MP3 player go above and beyond the regular requirements of inferior players”, which means, “This MP3 Player is better than MP3 Players which are not as good as this one”. And that’s the best you can say about it.

I gave it back.

Another Monkey Meet

Met up with the Monkeyfilter peeps posse crew people last Monday, because a certain middleclasstool was visiting Europe on a Grand Tour. Another great time, meeting new people, having some beers and laughs.

The Bedford-raised Plegmund was kind enough to take some extra flattering photos. As you can see, the double chin is coming on well. Nice shirt too, style-king, jeez.