Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The beetles on itunes

This blog will look rubbish as i am writing it on my iPad.

You can see how important the beetles were to apple by the fact that despite the fact that although they will add a capital letter to Reading and White, when i spell beetles correctly it insists on correcting it to beetles. You cant see that i spelled it beetles that time, no autocorrect was needed.

What amazes me is that anyone was bothered about this amazing announcement. Who was waiting for their back catalogue to be released on iTunes, as that was the only way they might hear is band? Obviously someone, as i predict that they will shoot to the top of the iTunes chart.

I decided quite a long time ago that the beetles were ok, obviously important in the grand scheme of things, but not really my bag. I therefore bought the cd of the number ones when it was a fiver, and it has been occasionally on my iPod. And i probably listened to it too. It was a long time ago. Why, after so long being unable to, are people right now downloading this music, in poor quality, being the slaves to a corporation (what happens in 10 years time when your computer has died and apple have lost all records of your transaction?)

I have a pair of shelves stuffed with CDs, and recently threw out the cassette tapes that represented my childhood in dodgy music (fuzzbox anyone?) and I've downloaded thirteen tracks in my whole life. A charity itunes only belle and sebastian album, blur's popscene, and in a futile effort, frank sidebottom's posthumous release. I don't need music that urgently, and i don't want it in a metaphysical form, in poor quality. I'll wait until it arrives, often until it is available at a price i like, and i will enjoy it when i have it.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The story of the over-polite 20p piece

So there I was on a train to Edinburgh, found my seat and whipped out my book. I’ve explained to the Japanese couple that yes, their tickets are fine for this train, and it seems that the people who booked the other three seats in the set of four with a table that I’m currently enjoying haven’t shown up, so please do sit with me.

It all starts with the eating. They’ve bought food. (its a three o'clock train – I picked it so I would have time for lunch, and get to Scotland by the time I’m ready for dinner). He starts with noodles from Tupperware, which although very easy to eat messily, he’s an expert, and I need pay little attention. She’s playing with her phone and singing a little ditty.

This is when he pulls open a bag of rotisserie chicken. Just the same as the noodles, he’s an expert at eating chicken, but being a chicken eating expert is quite different from being a noodle eating expert. Eating chicken without the use of cutlery is a tricky business – ask anyone in my office when I’ve been to Waitrose for lunch (30p bread roll, £1.35 chicken quarter (gives me the opportunity to say “breast please” to the nice lady at the counter) and a squirt of the barbeque sauce I keep in my locker – that’s a good value lunch) and they don’t have any plastic knives. The expert chicken eater knows that the best way of extracting as much meat from a chicken is to really get your lips and teeth round it – right in, lots of sucking, and right out again. Having to sit opposite a man with a fiver’s worth of chicken (it was Iceland I think – that’s a lot of chicken) and a wife who wasn’t hungry (she had a few noodles) on a four and a half hour train ride isn’t fun.

I decided to join them (not by stealing some chicken) and have a little something to eat, so I whipped out my wallet and as the trolley man came over, I fumbled with the (ludicrous amount of) coins, and a 20p piece slipped out of my hand, and fell behind the lady sitting next to me. Neither of them seemed to notice at the time, and I was not reliant on this particular 20p to enable me to purchase the bottle of diet coke and packet of crisps I felt would be sufficient to satisfy my need for sustenance, so I didn’t think too much of it.

When the lady got up to go to the toilet (or just to stretch her legs – I didn’t follow her or anything) I reached down and found the 20p, but I noticed that the man saw me reach down and find it, so I didn’t feel able to just pocket it – what if he thought it had fallen out of her pocket? With their limited English, I could hardly explain to them what had happened in any detail, and anyone who’s been to a party with me that ends in any form of parlour game will know that my skills at charades leave a lot to be desired. All I could do is place it on the table, and shrug, as if I didn’t know whose it might be.

He obviously was in no position to confirm or deny ownership of the coin, by the time it was on the table she wasn’t either. There it stayed, mocking me for the final hour and a half of the journey. All of us were far too polite to do or say anything about it. After he packed away ready for our landing north of the border, she spun the coin on its end, oblivious to the awkwardness that it had caused (if only in my own head).

She took it with her I believe, and it was a small sacrifice to pay for ensuring that my, and maybe every Englishman’s reputation of politeness, a lack of greed, and a friendly smile, would remain intact.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Travelodge - Sleep Tight

Isn't there an L missing in the middle of that word? Seriously I’m worried about the ability to spell in our fine hotels.

Did I say fine hotels? I must have been thinking about another place. But then, what do you expect for £19 a night? Here’s what I didn't expect:

• To have to share a room with a Scotsman because half our booking had been lost.
• Identity theft (This was a while ago, but never trust a hotel that uses one of those carbon copy whoosh-whoosh machines in the 21st century)
• The lack of a bathmat or a second towel, there were 2 of us in a double room ffs.
• A rather funky smell (that’s funk as in Michael Jackson’s “funk of 40,000 years”, not as in Wild Cherry’s “play that funky music”).
• An additional £10 to park (at least I got a view of the multi-storey from my window; I could check the hubcaps were still attached hourly).
• The fact that my foot went through a massive tear in the sheet, but it was too late/I was too tired to whinge.
• Did I mention the smell?

I was going to write something really witty about the “sleep tight” slogan, as it is probably the cleverest thing I’ve ever heard. But I can’t do better than your own intellegance, so think about it for 3 seconds. It’s great.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Marathon day.

My regular reader will know that I’ve been training for the London Marathon this year, (although not wanting this to become a running blog I’ve not done many posts on it recently) but you’ll have spotted on the twitter feed to the right that I’ve spent the morning not running the London Marathon. A couple of runs ago I had some pain in my knee, and then it got worse, and I had some physio and it got a lot better, but still not right at all, so I decided to hand in my number and I’ll do it next year.

Although I’m sure I would have got round, had I dosed myself up with painkillers, and gritted my teeth, I feel I have nothing to prove by running marathon number 6. I had one goal this time, and that was to break through the 4 hour barrier (the right side of 4 hours that is) and I was pretty confident that this was not going to happen today. Another years training, and no injuries in 2011 and I’ll do it easily.

Harder though was deciding not to go and watch – the wife was running, and I got up early to give her a lift to kennington (after suffering the so called “rail replacement” bus which did nothing of the sort yesterday I didn’t want her to have to struggle just to get to the start), but we agreed that I could stay at home and get the washing up done, and have another go at the pitifully easy unless you are me third level of Tom Clancy’s HAWX. (I get great value out of computer games, by virtue of being absolutely awful at them).

Imagine wanting to do something, finding you can’t, and then going to see 30,000 other people doing it. Even if a dozen of them are friends and one you love more than anything else in the world – I just didn’t fancy it. So I stayed in, put my feet up, caught up on a load of telly and wrote this.

Anyway – I’m off to mow the lawn. I’ve had a text off the wife – she knocked a couple of minutes off her PB, which is awesome, and means she can do London for the next two years.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

I was lucky enough...

A few years ago, I happened to become a passing acquaintance of a local celebrity. She was the newsreader for BBC Wales and she went to my circuit class. I lovely friendly girl, it was some weeks before I realised who she was (she had her hair down on the TV, when she let me know what was happening for 10 minutes every morning, and up in the gym, which had as much of an effect as batman putting on his mask. It took someone else pointing it out to me for me to get it.

We were talking about music (slagging off the choice of music we trained to) and I mentioned some of my favourite bands at the time, and she used the phrase “I was lucky enough to interview Daft Punk a while ago” by way of an interesting and relevant anecdote about interviewing a pair of French guys who spent the majority of their careers dressed as robots and never got out of character.

What she meant by this, was “because of my doing a job which means I get to do things that other people might be jealous of, and I recognise this and deliberately suggest it was good fortune that enabled this event to happen, even though it is for more about talent and pushing yourself than pure luck” or something like that, but I appreciated the effort she made to put me more at ease.

I was tempted to use the same phrase when talking about my visit to the Ivy the other day, but it’s not really in the same league.

Although my wife and I are doing ok, and can afford to do certain things with a fair degree of expense and luxury associated with them. I’ve told you about other visits to some of London’s top restaurants, gigs, theatres and it is great to have this lifestyle, but it is only because we’ve worked hard, and been careful about how much we do (it’s not like we do this sort of thing every week) but if there is something we want to do, and we can get tickets or a reservation, we’re “lucky enough” to be able to do it.

The phrase may well be more apt in my ability to get a reservation which wasn’t in the middle of the night – I was lucky enough to be back at work soon enough after Christmas to get onto the website just as the booking opened for when we wanted to go. The second the restaurant opened – we were in, and we had to be out again within a couple of hours.

For the not unreasonable sum of £102, including service and cover charges, we ate a massive three course meal, (I couldn’t even finish my main course) and drank a bottle of fine English wine, (the advantage of ordering the English wine was that it looked like we were ordering it because it was the English wine, but it was also one of the cheaper offerings on the list.) we were treated like the celebrities who may have been at the next table (the whole cast of Eastenders and the top 40 might have been there and I wouldn’t have recognised them) and everything was the perfect example of its genre – the best soup, the best curry, the best crème brulee, and the best doorman showing us the way to the theatre as we left, while also opening doors on the chauffer driven Bentley for some proper VIPs.

I can’t see the Ivy getting a Michelin star any time soon – too varied a menu, and not the sort of elegant meals you might expect (thing good size but exceptional quality pub food) but they certainly deserve their special mention in the guide, although from our experience, the reference to its appearance in Ricky Gervais’ “Extras” is unnecessary.

Then we went to see The Misanthrope – Keira Knightly’s new play. But that’s another story.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Will 3d get me back into the cinema?

I’m not a very tolerant person. It doesn’t take much for me to get annoyed, although usually it is out of my control, and only for a short period of time. A few examples:

• French girl sitting behind us at the theatre, trying to translate The History Boys to her boyfriend whenever there wasn’t anyone actually talking at the time on stage.
• Polish girl sitting behind us at the theatre, whispering all the way through the first half of Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the theatre (they’d gone by the second half thank goodness)
• Two guys shouting at each other just in front of us at a concert at the Koko by The Go! Team. (This was a REALLY loud concert, but their piercing conversation cut through it like a car alarm in the next street).
• The girls in the cinema when we saw Let the Right One In, who had read the book and were comparing notes on what might be about to happen.
• A car alarm in the next street.
• The woman attempting to sing along to Belle and Sebastian really badly in Bath.
• The LG mobile phone belonging to a guy in the next team over in my office playing the first 3 notes of the theme to The Goodies exactly every 2 minutes to tell him he has a text message. Just one text message, but it needs to remind him about the fact every 2 minutes until he returns, the battery goes flat, or I remove the battery, as one time I had to open the message and it was something I really shouldn’t have seen (nothing filthy, just something work related I shouldn’t have known about). I had a quiet word, and he’s been a lot better about taking it with him when he goes to meetings now, as he is a nice person, and on discovering that I was sensitive to this particular noise, he agreed to consider my feelings and make my life more pleasant.
• Playing a game against someone who assumes you are as aware of the rules as they are, or even worse, against someone who’s played it so often they tell you to “put that question back and ask the next one – I know the answer to that one”.
• The blackberry belonging to a senior manager in my team, which make a submarine style sonar “ping” every time he receives an email. I’ve twice asked him politely to put it on vibrate, or change the setting so it doesn’t tell him in audible form what he should already know by seeing the email appear on his computer screen. Despite me telling him that this is the equivalent of someone scraping their fingers down a blackboard, he tells me that he doesn’t want to have to change the profile every time he comes into the office, so I am now threatening to raise a formal grievance against him, as he is deliberately causing me stress by his refusal to amend his behaviour. I’ll keep you updated on my progress... (I have nothing to lose here – he’s not my manager, and I’ve already exhausted his decent DVD collection – as the last one he lent me was so unpleasant I had to stop watching after about 10 minutes)
• The slightly translucent/light patch of the screen of one of the screens at the Clapham Picture house.
• And finally (in this list – I could go on all week) the 12 year old kid sitting in front of me in the crowded cinema in Brixton, watching Avatar.

In a sold out cinema, there is no escape, and the only thing worse than sitting behind a kid who was so enthralled by the wondrous visuals provided through his 3d specs that he had to talk to his mother, all the way through the film, would be sitting in front of them. Over two and a half hours this continued, and the worst thing was, that after some polite shushing from me, and some dirty looks from some of the others around us, I actually got mum’s attention and asked “can you not talk please, it’s really annoying” and mum’s attitude was that talking at the cinema was not only quite acceptable behaviour, but that I was a terrible person for not remembering what it was like to be 12 and going to the cinema and being excited about it. So I stabbed them both. (I didn’t – recent comments have made me realise that you aren’t allowed to make jokes of this nature on the internet. Poor Giles Coren.)

Terminator 4, Harry Potter 6, Transformers 2 – all would have looked good and sounded great in the cinema, but I quite happily waited till they came out on DVD, because my recent experience at the cinema has been so poor. In my house no-one kicks the seat, eats smelly/noisy food (whoever decided nachos were an appropriate cinema food should be forced to swim through them) or whispers in a way that they think is so quiet I won’t notice, but actually it means the person they are whispering to has to whisper “pardon” so they have to whisper the whole thing again, very slightly louder. It is probably worth noting that the picture quality, thanks to Blu Ray and the whizzy things modern televisions do to prevent motion strobing, which a cinema screen can’t do, is actually far more satisfactory in my lounge than in any cinema.

If the movie industry insists in keeping film watching a social experience (it isn’t – for the reasons I’ve already discussed) for the first 3 months of a film’s release, then I’ll wait, unless I’m really desperate. Seeing a film in 3d might make me more likely to want to see it at the cinema, although I won’t go out of my way for it on a normal film. Avatar looked good, but using 3d as a reason to get bums on seats makes me think it wouldn’t have managed to do so without the 3d. It’s a good film, don’t get me wrong, but with hindsight I’d have happily waited for the 2d DVD.

TV didn’t kill radio.
Talkies killed silent movies.
Colour mostly killed black and white
3d won’t kill 2d. Computer generated artificial depth and falling ash that you think you could reach out and touch, is no match for great storytelling and artistic cinematography.

The blue chick was pretty cute though.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Leaving FaceBook

I've left FaceBook. Yay! As the mighty Lily Allen said in her last tweet, "I am a neo-luddite, goodbye".

My profile will be active for 2 more weeks, and assuming I don't pop back in again, it will be deleted at the end of the month.

I realised FaceBook was not doing me any good for a number of reasons; here I intend to explain some of them.

1 - I was spending too much time there. I was certainly making too many comments on other people’s comments and updates. I did cut back when I looked at the screen of one friend who’s timeline was riddled with my ugly mug and my inane commentary of my life, but I was certainly a heavy user.

2 – I was getting friendly with people I had no business getting friendly with. Vague acquaintances with whom I was “FaceBook friends” ended up being disproportionately interesting to me. The photos of the children of people I used to occasionally see while nightclubbing became the highlight of my visits.

3 – I resented people who aren’t on FaceBook. A far closer friend who was on FaceBook, but didn’t update, I would get very annoyed with, as I wish I could have been as “involved” with them as I was with the people mentioned in “2”. This is no way to continue a friendship.

4 – I lost a large element of conversation with real life friends who were also on FaceBook. I’d not tell people what I’d been up to for fear of telling them things they already knew, or I’d reference things they’d mentioned that I had no business knowing otherwise and look like a total stalker.

5 – I lost track of who my friends actually were.

I also had concerns over privacy, got annoyed with some people for over contributing, and others for not contributing at all, and many for offering to throw sheep at me, so I thought I’d disappear and not worry about these things any more.

I’m considering my twitter future too, but I enjoy the wonderfully selfish way that works – far less about friends, more about followers. If you don’t like what I say, don’t follow me. I think there are about 6 people who enjoy my 140 character rubbish, and as long as they continue to do so, I’ll keep on going.

If you were my FaceBook friend, give me a call, or drop me an email. I’m not that hard to find, and if you were really interested, you might see me down the pub, or invite me and the wife to tea.