Yearly Archives: 2009

Marber’s ‘The Ice Cream Man’

Many years ago (’91-’92?), I recorded a some comedy and music benefit gig off the telly. I think it was hosted by Jools “Be there or be ungroovy fuckers” Holland, at the Hackney Empire. It was a benefit for AIDS research or something, and it was very funny. I watched and rewatched it, and one of the acts which stuck in my head to an extreme degree was this parody of a “Jazz Man” in a plaid suit whom I now realise (or at least think) was Patrick Marber, in his early stand-up days before The Day Today and playwright success.

In fact it stuck in my head to such an extent that I still find myself running through some of the text in my head, complete with probably-now-inaccurate recollections of the words, actions, and look of the piece.

I’ve searched online for clips or even mentions, with no immediate luck. So just to get it out of my head, here is what I recall. Maybe it will pull some searches in, like that matters.

Curtain up.

Marber enters the stage, and approaches the microphone. He is wearing a garish plaid suit and a newsboy cap. He walks to the microphone and mutters distractedly into it as if to say, “Yeah I’m here”. He then launches into a rhyming comic beat poem/monologue about being a jazz musician and how to be cool. (The following parts may be out of order, wrong, and all that stuff. Soz.)]

He says something about going into the lavatory before the performance to have a …

“… think about what to say and play.
And as I completed my little wazz,
It occurred to me I’d play you some Jazz.”

“It was the dude Oscar Wilde who used to say
That, ‘a wag about town should face every day
With one pair of briefs,
And three handkerchiefs.’
“Saying, ‘One just for show, (indicates silk square in breast pocket)
One in which to blow, (indicates regular handkerchief in inside pocket)
And one final hankie, (shows unpleasantly congealed tissue)
To mop up the winky-wanky.’
The wit of Oscar Wilde.”

“If you wanna play jazz you gotta wear a suit,
Don’t buy your suit
From a car boot sale,
Or from Anthony Quayle,
Crystal Gayle,
Brian the Snail,
Or Burtons.”

“If you want to play jazz you’ve got to have a slick name,
Not a Tom, Harry or Dick name.
Be cool! That’s the word.
Be like Charlie Parker – they called him ‘Bird’.
Be like Dizzy Gillespie – they called him… ‘Dizzy’.
George Mellie – ‘Fat Pus-bucket’.”

He then talks about how cool he is, and when you see him play his horn…

“…y’all gonna see why I am
The Ice Cream Man.”

He pulls out a small brightly colored plastic toy trumpet. The audience laughs.

“Do not mock the horn of The Ice Cream Man! Or should I say, the cornet?”

He plays the toy trumpet, by pressing the button things along the top. The toy trumpet makes a little bell “ting” sound each time a button is pressed. His cheeks-puffed playing style makes him sweat. He reaches into his pocket, and mops his forehead with a handkerchief, before realizing with disgust that he is using the congealed toss-rag revealed earlier.

He goes back to playing the trumpet, and completes the little bell tune that it plays. He bows and exits.

Curtain down.

Now I’m pretty certain there was a lot more to it than that. But that’s all that I can remember, which you may think is already too much. Still, it’s out there now. Marber, if you’re listening, please tell me I didn’t make this up.

Now He’s Back On Track

I suddenly find myself able to access my website from work again, so I’d better let you know what’s been happening. The biggest news is of course that I’ve moved to San Francisco, together with Cassie. Actually, that’s pretty much everything from the last few weeks. I’ll also post some stuff and photos about my time at Comic Con, and maybe I’ll post some updates about my favorite albums and so on. Who knows.

It’s For Research, Honest

This article from Vanity Fair got me thinking about how we use books to accessories ourselves, and well it might, that is after all the subject of the article, so well done James Wolcott.

When the Harry Potter novels first broke through from primary school reading time to mainstream public consumption (before the transition from there to blockbuster movies to toe-breaking tomes to “is it over yet?”-style spoilery tedium in need of closure), the publishers did a clever thing and releasing a run  of the books with a very plain, “adult friendly” covers – one I remember was a black and white photo of a steam locomotive, nice and innocuous – so that Mum or Dad could read on the train without fear of silent invisible ridicule. After a while, people got more confident and just damn well read the original versions in full view, complete with cartoony action painting covers , and the hell with you if you didn’t like it. Literally, according to some people.

I remember a train journey once when I did some work in Leeds. I was at a table for four, with three strangers, all doing our own thing. As the journey wore on, one person brought out their Harry Potter book, and
started reading. With a smirk of camaraderie, another passenger brought out their copy of the same Rowling slab. They exchanged the smiles of the support network, and read. The third stranger then reached into her
bag, produced the same volume yet again, and this time the smiles were broader and someone may even have made a satisfied sound. Then they all looked at me.

I reached into my bag, and brought out my copy of American Psycho, and *to this day* I regret not having had post-it notes stuck in the good bits.

How 37-Year Olds Consume Media

By Matthew Petty (37 years and 2 months)

This has been a bit of a thing recently (read: “about 3 weeks ago”), although my delay in posting this means I’ve missed the boatwagon a bit, but never mind eh? Caveat – the fact I disagreed with the previous attempts at this tells me to state that despite my use of the word “we” throughout, I actually mean “me”. YMMV. We Are All Individualsâ„¢

We have nicked (quite) a few of the sentences from this chap – he hit the nail on the head and we see no need to change what we agree with. Yes, yes, laziness and plagiarism, piss off.

Radio
Since we grew out of the demographic that Radio 1 is aimed at approximately 13 years ago, and since we don’t want to submit ourselves to the reactionary mitherings of Wogan and so on (he’s the voice of our parents after all), Radio 4 is the way to go. We listen to the radio a lot, but generally only talk radio like Radio 4 and NPR (now that we live in the US). We have plenty of music to listen to otherwise, and there’s always Last.fm and Pandora for around the house. We let our car’s Sirius satellite radio subscription lapse when we realized we didn’t need (or want to pay for) 150 channels of highly-focused music, talk and sport that we never listened to. Even if Patriot Radio is hilarious, and even if she wanted me to keep it just so she could listen to the Grateful Dead channel on the freeway.

Television
We don’t watch that much television. Sometimes a series comes along which grabs us, but we can rarely be bothered to play catch up with everything. Others seem to like “keeping up” with DVD box sets and Tivos, but we feel that if we miss out, it’s not the end of the world. We watch several cooking and lifestyle shows if they happen to be on when we’re relaxing and in need of distraction and kid ourselves that it isn’t their aspirational qualities that attract us. We can’t use iPlayer because we live in the US, but it’s not so much of a problem.

Newspapers
We buy newspapers when we move house, to use as wrapping, but otherwise all our news is got from the radio, and from online sources. We no longer feel that print media has any inherent advantage over electronic, especially given their compromised position on advertising and the powerful political and business influences of their owners. We feel that the free sheets were a blight on the landscape, physically, intellectually and aesthetically.

Music
We’re tired of all the bullshit about labels and DRM and people being treated like criminals for wanting to listen to stuff in their own way. We advise people not to buy from iTunes, but to buy a physical object and rip it. We’ve bought music on vinyl, tape, CD and downloaded it too – and we’ve downloaded from P2P to get hold of the stuff we already own on tape and vinyl, to avoid having to pay for it again. We’ve bought a few odds and ends from DRM-ridden shops like iTunes, and we regret it. We still have the remains of our collections of vinyl, and tape compilations that friends made for us many years ago. We no longer own a dedicated CD player, but our amp and speakers are still god for piping noise from iPods and PCs. We own a last-generation smartphone and a current-generation iPod, as well as a little SanDisk gadget for clipping to the shirt.

Telecommunications
We are wary of the “walled garden with barbed wire fences, a gator moat, sentry towers and opaque immigration policy” that the iPhone represents, despite the attractive face it presents. We would like to go the open route – when the is current contract is up, we may get a G1 (but we hear stuff about that too). We remember when our town had the area code 0234, then when it changed to 01234. We remember when London’s code changed from 01, to 0171 and 0181, then to just 020 (and we can’t understand why some people still think it’s 0207 and 0208). We absorbed the changes without too much fuss, because we knew that technology and expansion and progress means change. We remember answering the phone with the number. We remember leaving messages for friends with their parents or roommates. We remember not having a phone at all in one college house, an incoming-calls-only phone in another, and a payphone in a third.

Internet
37 years olds are adept at using the internet. Many are victims or veterans of the dotcom bubble. Friends Reunited introduced us to social media and reconnected us with everyone we ever lost touch with from school. We deserted Friends Reunited when it became clear that it was just the same people we didn’t regret losing touch with in the first place. We tried each new network when it arrived. MySpace is a mess full of hipsters with the same old sleeve tats. However, it’s useful for keeping up with friend’s bands and other stuff like that. We don’t believe that there will be many more “MySpace Bands” who break through using the site for grassroots support, but won’t be surprised when the print media trumpets it when it does happen.

Facebook is for baby photos, wedding photos and party photos. People who put up baby photos seem to get most of their adult interaction via Facebook. Women who put up wedding photos look forward to the day when they can put up baby photos of their own. Married men have more married friends to hang out with. People who post party photos keep a close eye on the relationship status and are keenly aware that their profile picture makes them look better than in real life.

The above is lifted almost directly from Dan Wilson – thanks Dan – but I would add this. We are a bit exasperated that people seem to believe that Facebook is the internet. There were all the tools that Facebook provides before Facebook existed, they just weren’t all in one place for easy access. But now everyone is in there, and it’s great at first. This means that we have many friends in Facebook, which is like a big bright room with harsh lighting, salesmen watching everything you do, billboards everywhere, and people clamoring for your attention everywhere you look. We also have a smaller group of friends outside of Facebook, in various forums, blogs, and independent sites everywhere, and we wish we could take our Facebook friends by the hand and show them the “real” web.

Twitter is great. It is the most immediate form of semi-interactive communications we use at the moment.

Gaming
We have (board) game nights with friends, which started with Trivial Pursuit, but when that got a bit tedious and tense, we switched to Taboo, which is much more fun. As children we had Sinclair ZX81s and ZX Spectrums, Texas Instruments TI99/4As, Commodore VIC20s and C64s, BBC As, Bs, Electrons and Masters. The song “Hey Hey 16K” was written for us. We have MAME set up, and play many old games with hearty helpings of rose-tinted hindsight – Defender, Robotron, Smash TV, Strike Force, Galaxian, Galaga, Asteroids, Bombjack – many of them for about 30 seconds before realizing how unreliable a reviewer nostalgia can be.
Modern games are great, but we don’t have a powerful enough PC to do them much justice, and we can’t justify a full-on console. We may get a Wii, which we will invite our friends round to play.

Mathew Robson
We have no idea why a lad who should be w*nking, drinking Merrydown cider in a graveyard and listening to Radiohead is writing plausible memos for an evil merchant bank. At his age we hated Thatcher and thought that a Labour government would make everything better – and now we are in the unpleasant situation of being an expat watching the Labour government go under, while the unutterably smug filth of the Tories wait in the wings to take their place. We did our work experience at Halliburton Geophysical (truth) and a local screw and bolt merchant. We still listen to acid house when we need the energy to do the laundry.

In a later post, perhaps I’ll address all the gaps in this, and analyse what these statements actually say about me. No TV, hardly any radio? A bit true, but not that true. Add this to the increasingly voluminous “To Be Continued” file.

A Reason, Not The Other

Post are a bit sparse here right now because I’m moving from San Diego to San Francisco, and Cassie is coming with me! My company are moving us both, the movers are coming this Thursday, and this time next week (hopefully) we will have all our stuff set up in the new apartment in Noe Valley.

I’ll write more about the search for a place, and what else I’ve been up to recently, but right now I ought to go to bed. The other problem has been that some tweaking of the proxy servers at work mean that I can’t access my website from work – a real pain because it means I can’t add posts when the mood strikes, and then when I get home there’s always something else to do. I think there may be a text file in my Dropbox which I could just stick up. Yeah, I’ll do that.

Don’t Masquerade With The Guy In Shades

OK so I got new prescription sunglasses. I felt (and I was agreed with) that my current simple metal frames were not cool enough, considering I now live (for the moment) in a city with plenty of sunshine. I’d seen a few reviews of these cheap online sunglasses stores, so I decided to take a risk and go for it. I suspect a lot of these places depend on the “for this price, why not” crowd. For $40, even if they sucked, it won’t be too bad.

After reading about a few places, I plumped for Optical 4 Less. They seem to get good reviews, and they had the frames I wanted, so I dug out my lenses prescription and went through the site’s ordering process. They give you many choices about lens type, materials, coatings and so on, and obviously that adds to the price. The website laid it all out pretty clearly, breaking it down into clear steps. I had to measure the distance between my pupils, which I did following these instructions. My sunglasses were pretty much the most basic you could get, with simple not-very-powerful lenses, no coatings and just a simple tint – “brown3”, the darkest brown they had. They came to $40 including shipping from Hong Kong. If you want special lenses, or any other fancy features, you pay extra – I saw one type of lens that would add $180 to the price. For that much I would probably visit a local store.

I ordered them on June 15th, and on Saturday June 27th I had a card in my mailbox to collect a parcel from the Post Office. I must remember to get stuff delivered to work, to save these lunchtime trips to collect parcels. When I finally got my hands on the box, here’s what happened. Look, an unboxing slideshow!

I’m very happy with the glasses. They are good quality frames – not flimsy, the lenses are working fine, and the shipping was pretty quick. If I had one complaint, the tint is not quite as dark as I would have liked. I chose the darkest brown, and they could do with being just a tad darker. But they are great, and I would recommend them.

The ones I chose are the “Freeway” model, which is an obvious ripoff of the Oakley Thump sunglasses so beloved of tedious renegade douchebags everywhere. Only joking, they are actually a copy of the famous Wayfarers from Ray-Ban, as immortalized by the Blues Brothers, that one line out of that one Don Henley song, and beloved of tedious hipster douchebags everywhere. They don’t have the little white Ray-Ban logo in the corner, but I can add that with Tipp-Ex, so that’s not a problem.

The link above is to The Blues Brothers 2000, which I’m sure you will agree was superior to the original because it had John Goodman and a child in it, John of course reprising his roles from King Ralph and The Borrowers. Hint: Never see a movie where the poster has John Goodman (or anyone else) looking shocked on it. He was great in True Stories though, despite David Byrne effortlessly acting him off the screen.

I actually got these frames in my continuing effort to more closely resemble John Cusack in Grosse Point Blank. Perhaps I should dye my hair and become attractive and talented too? Hmm? I got my black suit altered. Or perhaps Joachim “He’s Mad” Phoenix in Walk The Line. Either way, I will use them to watch you weave then breathe your storylines.

Personal Data Flow Diagram

With my Palm Centro, I’ve been playing with methods of keeping all my contacts and calendars up to date. I’ll admit it’s more of a geeky labour of love rather than a legitimate need for a solution. As the complexity of the links involved became clear, and after I had some problems with timezone shifting of my calendar events due to duplicated synchronization (always a bummer), I had started to draw it out as a simple data flow diagram.

Then I saw this beautiful Disney Organisation Chart from 1943, and I decided to create the flow chart in this style. The only tool I had immediate access to was Microsoft Visio at work, so one lunchtime I had a first crack at it.

One of the nice stylish features of the Disney diagram was the text wrapped inside the circles, fitted to the curves. Microsoft Visio doesn’t allow you to fit text to a curve, unlike pretty much all other drawing and paint software (even the “business graphics” packages do). The solution to this requirement according to the helpful souls up in Redmond is to create a Word-Art object in Word and paste that in. This would be fine except that it a) looks shit, b) can’t be edited in Visio, and c) doesn’t actually work anyway.

A quick Google found The Visio Guy and the Circular Text Generator Version 2, which is brilliant. Thanks, Visio Guy!

> wait
Time passes...

Since then, I decided I didn’t want to be trapped in Visio, so I transferred it over to Inkscape, the open-source vector graphics editing package. Inkscape is a work in progress, but so far it’s very powerful, and getting friendlier by the update. It’s default file format is SVG, so at a stretch you could edit the file in a text editor (if you were feeling crazy).

Inkscape is not yet at 1.0, so some features are a bit clunky, and many would be far easier to do in a mature commercial package, but I like to support these efforts. Particularly useful were the “Flow text into shape” feature, which is a basic tool in most other drawing software, even MS Office. The key feature for me was the Connectors feature, which is again the most obvious tool in Visio, because it allows you to connect shapes together with lines which stay connected when you move the shapes, and which can avoid overlapping other shapes if you want. Ideal for data flow diagrams.

Anyway, here is the current version of the graphic, as of today’s date.

personal data flowchart 2009 06

There is a bit of a gap in the lower left, where JPilot should really sync to Thunderbird, which would be sensible, instead of having all my C.E.N.T (Contacts, Events, Notes, Tasks) info go around the houses via Google Calendar and web. There are other weird things going on, and stuff missing, but it’s a start.

There was a box called Schedule World, which was a free service for syncing info over the web, but now the developer is charging, so bye bye. I’d bought a SyncML client for the Centro as well, which is now redundant. Guess I should remove it from the diagram.

Also, this is a PNG file exported from Inkscape. I could add links to the SVG and post that up here, but SVG support is not ubiquitous yet, so I won’t. Don’t want to deny the IE crowd.

“It Was 37 Years Two Days Ago…”

… as The Beatles never sang.

So anyway, my birthday. After last weeks trip to Las Vegas, I’m driving up to LA this evening, for a nice weekend involving the usual dinners with friends, brunch, dogwalking and relaxing. Oh and maybe some database design for Cassie, you never know.

In terms of gifts, I got a few nice things. My brother sent me some photographs of Marmite and Typhoo teabags, Cassie bought me an awesome new computer monitor amongst other things, and Joan and David got me this cool monogram stamp with which I am in the process of personalizing everything I own. On the way back from Las Vegas, we stopped at an outlet mall (I know, I know – I left them in a jar on the mantelpiece), and I bought myself a rather smart new Coach briefcase. Look at me, all growed up.

But just in case you’re feeling happy, I ought to announce this, the unspeakable truth. Time magazine’s cover for 19 June 1972, just days after my birthday, got it right. The lead article describes the shocking rise in occult practices and beliefs -or at least the shocking rise in the sort of people that believe this nonsense. But the cover made the truest statement of all – Satan Returns. Just days after I was born? Is there a connection (beyond the fundamental interconnectedness of all things)? I think we should be told.

(Reason.com article link from Boing Boing)

Discovery Institute Abuses DMCA To Censor Critic

After posting a video taking apart the arguments of The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin (who appeared on Fox News without an opposing view – fair and balanced my arse), Youtube user Donexodus was hit with a cynical DMCA claim from the Institute to take it down, citing copyright infringement. The twisted nature of the DMCA means that it was immediately taken down despite the source video being the property of Fox News, and it clearly falling under the “fair criticism” rules.

Here’s a replacement video. The Discovery Institute are a creationist tribe who dwell in Seattle, and peddle their blinkered blind nonsense to anyone who will listen, which includes Fox News.

And here’s a call to action:

Time, The Old Enemy

Well that’s the absolute end. I turned 37 today. I’m only updated this because these bastards told me to.

Actually it’s been pretty good, all told, so far. My brother called for his regular misanthropic slagging session. Friend Robin called (from his landline!) to have a chat, make vague promises about visiting in the late summer, and boast about how much tail he’s getting at the moment. Colleagues and I will be going for drinkies and maybe food later. It’s LA this weekend for friends and celebrations as well. Things are good.

Cassie had some pastries delivered to my office, which was a lovely surprise, and gave me an excuse to email everyone in the office to tell them it was my birthday and to grab the croissants while they could. One person saw the words “pastries in the kitchen” and went straight there, only to have to ask what the occasion was because they didn’t read further.

We went to Las Vegas at the weekend, to visit with Cassie’s “folks” and meet up with an old London Film School friend of  hers. Joanie made some great food as usual over the weekend, breakfast souffle stuff, calzone and yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and David allowed me to drink a lot of his Glenlivet. We went to see The Hangover which is exactly what it looks like in the trailer, despite what some reviews have said – it was funny though, if a little cheap in places.

We had a lovely meal at the Pinot Brasserie in the Venetian Hotel, which in stark contrast to the rest of the place is quite relaxed and genteel, albeit with a strange muzak tape on. I had rack of delicious lamb, and a nice choc dessert which the restaurant had written “Happy Birthday” on. We stayed in the Venetian for a night. It’s nice in there, big bed, remote control drapes, marble bathroom, great view of the HVAC units on the neighbouring rooftops. It’s a mad place, and as soon as you get off the strip, it’s the same stripmalls and outlets, only with a pyramid and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

The journey to Las Vegas gets me every time. Big open spaces, mountains on the horizon, then as you sweep down out of the hills, you see places like Barstow and Baker, looking for all the world like Mos Eisley Spaceport on Tatooine. Cassie says I’m not the first Brit to have pointed that out. She’s so used to driving back and forth that she’s nonplussed by it now.

Today is also the birthday of one Sarah Brown, also known as “OMG Sarah Brown”, who I had the privilege to meet a couple of years ago, and we’ve kept in touch. Her blog is awesome, and Cringe is great fun.

It’s only halfway through my birthday this year, so maybe I’ll update later. In the meantime, cheers for your thoughts, and chin up, eh?