Quote Of The Day

"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Monday, January 31, 2005

Blockage Films...
Marky and I have been catching up on some of our DVD 'blockages' recently. DVD blockages are those films from our DVD rental list that you get in the post (we use LoveFilm.com), really want to watch, but never seem to find the right moment.

Up until recently we had three blockages: The Passion Of The Christ, Russian Ark and The Virgin Suicides.

Don't get me wrong, these are all films that we do really want to watch - it's just when we get home of an evening and have eaten it's more likely to be something fluffy like Will & Grace or Frasier we want to relax with rather than a brutal gore-fest in Aramaic.

Well, this weekend we finally we found the time to actually sit down and watch The Passion Of The Christ. And OMG! What a relentless-to-the-point-of-being-boring blood bath it is. It just doesn't give up. We had an unflinching twenty minutes of beating with skin and flesh being lashed away from Jesus's body. Blood spurting everywhere. We had a bone cracking close up of Jesus's shoulder being dislocated. We had close ups on each nail being driven through Jesus's hands and feet. Again blood spurting everywhere. It was like a zombie / slasher B-movie. Maybe I missed the point of the film but if it's Jesus literally suffered for our sins - I get it. I really do. But this was torture. Torture on the screen and torture to watch. I think it could have been as powerful to relate the suffering in a less graphic way. The less is more approach. Stabbing and cutting and abusing an already bloodied body added nothing to the story. It just seemed grotesque. My 2p.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Kiki and Herb at Duckie...
Can you keep a secret? Kiki and Herb are on at Duckie next Saturday night. Sadly I'll be away.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Ricky Gervais...
We watched Ricky Gervais: Animals on Channel Four last night. Despite deep suspicions - we loved it. Surprisingly funny.

Best gag? "I'm half French. Name like Gervais - I'm half French half English. I may be crap in bed but at least I've got bad breath."

Friday, January 28, 2005

A day in the life of Newsnight...
Ahem. My name is Jonathan... and I love Jeremy Paxman. There, I've said it. I don't love him in any sexual way you understand. I just love the brisk, no-nonsense style with which he presents Newsnight on the BBC every night and berates student knowledge of all things 'pop' on Univeristy Challenge every week.
He's an interviewer who knows his stuff and is not afraid to ask the obvious and sometimes difficult questions.
If you share my love you may like to take a peek at Paxo's A day in the life of Newsnight which is a bit of a giggle.
Blonde gag...
One day, the three beautiful women were walking along the beach and discover a magic lamp. They rub and rub, and sure enough, out pops a genie. The genie says, "Since I can only grant three wishes, you may each have one." The brunette says, "I've been stuck here for years. I miss my family, my husband, and my life. I just want to go home." POOF! The brunette gets her wish and she is returned to her family. Then, the redhead says, "I've been stuck here for years as well. I miss my family, my husband, and my life. I wish I could go home too." POOF! The redhead gets her wish and she is returned to her family. The blonde starts crying uncontrollably. The genie asks, "My dear, what's the matter?" The blonde whimpers, "I wish my friends were still here."

Thursday, January 27, 2005

UK Pledges £285 Million and Magical Unicorns for Tsunami Relief...
To help with the Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster, the UK has pledged £285 million plus 10 herds of the finest magical Unicorns to help with the disaster.

Tony Blair spoke of the significance of the UK's contribution, "This money will help the South Pacificans rebuild their infrastructure, and these special, magical unicorns will till the land magically, bringing it back to life and prosperity."

World opinion has gone against the UK's promised contribution: an unnamed Indian official's comments showed skepticism that the UK would keep its commitment, "magical Unicorns are fine but I have more trouble believing that Britain will make good on its promise of the full £285 million. In times of crisis, such nations often come up with aid pledges that they don't deliver on once the media attention has died down."

There was also some concern the UK contribution to the relief effort is not enough, especially because of a much larger contribution pledge by Japan of 500 million dollars plus 10,000 burrowing gnomes to aid with the rubble clearing. "At least the Japanese have the nerve to lie to us on a much grander scale," said the Indian official.

The devastated countries of the Indian Ocean region have good precedent to worry about the sincerity of promised financial aid. Of the 1.1 billion promised to Iran after their earthquake last year, about 17.5 million has materialized... and the magic beans were apparently a complete joke.

Related News
Blair: We will solve third world debt by next Tuesday.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Michael Jackson's Boys...
Talking of TV did you see Michael Jackson's Boys on Channel Four last night? Oh. My. God. Food for the angry mob. You could hear the noose being tied.
Google hits the goggle box...
Google's march to world domination came another step closer yesterday with a beta search engine allowing users to search through recent TV programmes. So now you won't even have to remember what you watched on telly last night - you can check on Google. The site, designed in line with Google's minimist style, searches through the closed captions (subtitles) for all the programmes in Google's archive. You can also search by programme name or by channel. You cannot, yet, play the videos directly. At the moment this archive is limited to the dubious pleasures of US networks while the technology is being tested. Google has archived various channels such as ABC, C-SPAN, NBC, PBS and Fox News since December and will add more channels as testing continues. Google American TV here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Hounds Of Love...
I was listening to Xfm the other day and heard the unmistakable lyrics

I found a fox / caught by dogs

OMG! Someone has covered Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love! And sure enough (with a bit of digging)... it turns out to be The Futureheads. It has to be one of the coolest covers ever.

Monday, January 24, 2005

A Happy Monday...
Happy Mondays dancer Bez wins the third series of Channel 4 reality show Celebrity Big Brother. Good for him.
The mysterious case of the 'gay-bomb' request...
As reported in the Telegraph and may other organs recently the US military, planned to use stink bombs, chemicals that cause bad breath, and a so-called "gay-bomb" that would make enemy soldiers irresistible to one another as part of a range of non-lethal, but disruptive and morale-damaging weapons. An Air Force laboratory in Ohio applied for $7.5m funding to develop these, and other similar ideas described as "harassing, annoying and 'bad guy'-identifying chemicals". The 1994 proposal was uncovered by The Sunshine Project, a chemical weapons watchdog group.

In the hunt for "Chemicals that influence human behaviour so that discipline and morale in enemy units is adversely affected", the researchers proposed that strong aphrodisiacs be dropped on enemy troops. The idea was that the deliriously loved-up men would unable to resist one another, but would be suffused with regret once the potion wore off.

The "gay bomb" was just one of many ideas. Researchers at the Wright Laboratory planned a chemical weapon that would encourage swarms of wasps of rats to attack the enemy soldier. Other proposals include a chemical that would cause "severe and lasting halitosis", so that enemy soldiers could be identified even out of uniform; a substance to make skin painfully sensitive to sunlight light and a so-called "who me?" bomb, essentially a very large scale stink bomb that would make enemy living quarters unpleasant places to be.

That last idea was abandoned because, according to the government papers: "people in many areas of the world do not find faecal odour offensive, since they smell it on a regular basis" (!)

Marine Captain Daniel McSweeney explained that the Pentagon receives hundreds of suggestions for non lethal weapons, but stressed: "Gay Bomb' is not our term. It was not taken seriously. It was not considered for further development." The US observes chemical weapons treaties, he added.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Beer fights cancer: official...
Today the Government are laying out their plans for 24 hour drinking. Wasn't that supposed to be law by now?

Anyway Drew and I went out for a few beers last night in London glitzy Soho. Were we looking after our health? Why of course we were - and to prove it, here's the news we've all been waiting for...

Scientists at Okayama University in Japan have rather agreeably discovered that unidentified compounds in lager and stout may help to prevent DNA damage leading to cancer.

Some cancers are apparently provoked by heterocyclic amines - "DNA-damaging chemicals found in cooked meat and fish", New Scientist reports. The university team fed mice these compounds, and then noted that "the DNA damage to their liver, lungs and kidneys was reduced by up to 85 per cent if the mice drank non-alcoholic beer instead of water". Lead boffin Sakae Arimoto-Kobayashi reckons the beer-borne chemicals "prevent the amines binding to and damaging DNA". Naturally, if they can pinpoint the beneficial compounds in question, brewers will be able to concoct cancer-battling superbrews.

But before you all rush off to the pub for a lifesaving pint, some unanswered questions remain. New Scientist notes that heavy boozing is responsible for around six per cent of cancers in the West. Since the mice were refreshed with non-alcoholic beer, the scientists cannot confirm that "moderate consumption of normal beer has any anti-cancer benefits".

Arimoto-Kobayashi notes: "The total benefits and risks of beer with alcohol are still under consideration."

Fair enough. When you've worked it out, chaps, give us a shout - Drew and I will be in Comptons doing a bit of field research.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Coach potatoes...
It was a bit of televisual feast last night actually.

We watched the 2nd DVD of the full extended The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King. Loads of extras and lengthened scenes. Fab.

We watched bits of the Exeter vs Man U match on the Beeb. We were so willing Exeter to win!

We watched Lisa I'Anson getting kicked out of Celebrity Big Brother.
Tina C's Tiny Island Tour...
Do you listen to Radio 4? Well, if you don't, you should. Last night at 11pm was the rather fabulously funny Tina C's Tiny Island Tour.

Tina is the alter ego of comedian (and friend) Chris Green - a "country singer, global activist and icon for peace". Perhaps you remember her singles Of Course I Want You for Your Body - I've Got a Brain of My Own, No Dick's As Hard As My Life or Take Your Hand Out My Panties - I'm Trying To Walk Out The Door.

Tina flew in from the land of the free for an "anti-anti-Amercian" tour. It's an attempt to repair the "special relationship", she says. "That's 'special' like in 'special needs'". Marvellous.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Nice to hear that UK cable firms will (finally) start to offer video-on-demand this year - about time! But where's the Personal Video Recorder (PVR) solution? We don't just want a few films and last night's Eastenders - we want to timeshift anything. It's enough to make you switch to Sky+. Almost.
Mixed Cats...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Elevator Etiquette...
I turn up at the bank of lifts at the ground floor to our office building everyday and often have to wait. It's a busy time in the mornings and the lifts are busy shuttling people up to the top floors. But I'm the first one there. I hit the only button to call the lifts and wait. I stare at the lift doors waiting for them to open.

After a moment someone else walks up. He gracefully leans forward and hits the button to call the lifts. I grimace. I already did that. Didn't I do it right first time? There's only one button for up and it only needs to be pressed once. Couldn't he see it was lit up already? Oh well. We wait together. It's not unusual to wait.

Someone else walks up. He looks at us both as if to say, "you do need to call the lift you know". And hits the up button once again. "We've done that", we both think back. We all go back to staring at the lift doors willing them to open.

Two people more walk up to our impatient trio. They are colleagues who must have traveled to work together. They're chatting and without thinking one of them reaches forward and repeatedly presses the lift call button with his middle finger like he's fighting in a video game. Yeah, like that'll make the lift come faster! We all look at him with pained expressions but he doesn't notice us - he's too busy chatting with his colleague. We all return to staring at the still closed lift doors.

It's been two minutes now. Where is that lift?

Someone else walks up. It's getting to be quite a crowd. She pauses. Looks at us one by one out of the corner of her eye. We know what she's thinking. "Don't do it," we all think - willing her to not press the button again. She stays motionless. At last! Someone with some sense. Then just when we've all relaxed again she lashes out and strikes the up button like a snake. We all sigh. Someone even groans. She flashes him a dark look.

After what seems like an age the lift finally 'bings' and the doors open. Luckily it's empty and we all shuffle in. Convention dictates we all turn round to face outwards. Everyone leans over to select their respective floors and we wait for the doors to close. They seem to take ages. We're all stood there like lemons in a lift with the doors wide open.

Just as the doors do start to close we all see someone dashing for the lift. "Hold the lift," he shouts. Everyone averts their gaze. We all pretend not to notice him. As is correct elevator etiquette though the person nearest the lift buttons pretends to make a vain attempt at reaching for the 'doors open' button to hold the lift - but accidentally presses the 'doors close' button instead. "Sorry", he mouths to the runner with mock sympathy. As the doors are closing he even glances round the lift for support. Which he gets in spades. "I did try", he explains. We smile back silently sharing his mild embarrassment but at the same time admiring his leadership skills. Brave man! That running guy can wait for another lift. We of lift No. 2 have bonded now. We're heading up the building and no one is going to stop us.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Marc Almond on his crash...
In today's Daily Mirror is an exclusive interview with Mark Almond about his motocycle accident in October. Many thanks to Fiona Cummins for bring us this story. And thanks for David for the heads up too.

By Fiona Cummins, Showbiz Reporter (Jan 15 2005)

EXCLUSIVE: It turned me grey and made me stutter again but I'm lucky to be alive

Marc Almond's horrific motorbike crash that left him unconscious for 10 days has brought back his childhood stammer. He gives an exclusive interview to the Mirror.

The Soft Cell star suffered two massive blood clots that caused his head to "swell to the size of a football". He fractured his skull in two places, shattered his right shoulder, perforated his eardrum, suffered a collapsed lung, underwent emergency surgery twice and faced the prospect of brain damage. He couldn't walk or talk in the aftermath of the smash, which saw him tossed 20ft through the air.

One of the most difficult aspects of the accident is that the singer's stutter has returned with a vengeance. "When I was in my teens, I had a terrible stammer," he says. "It has come back worse than ever now and I suppose that's because I was shaken up like a jelly.

"I couldn't get a fix on sounds properly. I was in shock and couldn't form words. Sometimes I can't even speak on the phone. If I hear disembodied voices I can't focus or talk - I'm going to have to work on that." Describing his feelings after the crash, Marc says: "It was very difficult and emotional. But I'm a tough old boot. When I first came round and found out my situation, I was determined to be strong and get out of hospital. I wasn't going to be beaten by it."

The singer, who spent five weeks in hospital, believes it was a CD of daft songs which finally roused him. "I have a parrot at home and I sing these silly, childish songs to it and they played me a CD of those songs. "I also remember the tune Oh Superman, by Laurie Anderson, from when I was unconscious. Apparently somebody on the scene was playing it in their car and the lyrics are: 'You'd better get ready, ready to go'."

But the gay star, who has a long-term partner, didn't go. He woke up instead... and thought he'd been kidnapped. "I opened my eyes and thought I'd been taken prisoner and was being tortured. I couldn't understand why they had stuck all these things in my mouth. I tried to pull everything out because I didn't know what was happening and they had to bind my hands. Eventually, I started to accept my situation. It was just very frightening - the strangest thing that has ever happened to me."

As he began to regain consciousness, Marc's first memory was of voices. "I remember my mother saying: 'You must come round now, you've been asleep for nine days, you've been in a terrible accident.' Then I'd hear the voice of a friend, then my sister, then another voice, asking me to wake up. At first, I couldn't understand why they were there, all talking to me. I was trying to make some sense of the situation... then, eventually, I came round. I wondered if I was in a dream and hoped someone would wake me up."

Although a flamboyant performer with a reputation for excess, Marc's confidence has been badly shaken. The star, whose hair turned grey after the smash, is polite, nervous and apologetic, saying it's the first time he has discussed the accident outside his circle of friends and family. He fears he may become "emotional". But though he is still recovering in many ways, his sense of humour remains intact and he talks non-stop as if he finds it cathartic to share how he came so close to death.

Marc, 47, who has had a string of hits including the 1981 classic Tainted Love, Say Hello, Wave Goodbye and Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart, has no memory of the accident. But the five-inch scar which runs across the right side of his head is a stark reminder. He had been riding pillion on October 17 last year when the Suzuki crashed into a car near St Paul's Cathedral. As he hurtled over the handlebars, he inadvertently dragged off the helmet of the bike's driver - his manager and close friend Mark. And as he lay bleeding, Marc also pulled off his own helmet - extremely dangerous after suffering a serious head injury.

"Yes, I was lucky not to haemorrhage. The paramedics arrived then and sedated me. They saved my life because I had a huge blood clot and my head was the size of a football. They did emergency surgery and then it happened again so they had to operate again."

Marc's gaunt face pales as he tells what happened in the aftermath, when his mother was urged to travel down from Southport, near Liverpool, as it was feared her son may not survive the night. "They had to drive for six hours, not knowing what they were going to find." Marc was in such a terrible condition that they even hid mirrors from him. "Apparently, I didn't look very pleasant at all. My eye was almost hanging down my face and I was black with bruising. I had plugs sticking out of my head, I was having transfusions, I was on an oxygen machine and they had a bolt to monitor the pressure on my brain."

His family were also warned that the star might be severely brain damaged. "The doctors warned them to be prepared but, although I have the stammer and the anxiety, it's a natural thing I've got to overcome - it's not down to brain damage.

"I've gone very grey since the accident and I'd maybe like to use a little hair colour but I want to let the scars heal. I also want to show that I'm not afraid or embarrassed - they're just my war wounds," he laughs. He keeps giggling as he explains that he has no dignity left now, after so many friends have had to help him to the bathroom.

In all, Marc spent three weeks in the Royal Free before moving to the private London Clinic for a fortnight. Of the bike's driver Mark, the singer will only say: "He's had some terrible injuries and is dealing with it in his own way."

Before the accident, the star had been enjoying a revival. He received rave reviews for gigs at London's Almeida Theatre in July, which have been immortalised in his Sin Songs, Torch And Romance DVD, released on January 31. His body may now be a patchwork of scars and his shoulder may never work properly again but Marc says: "I look at it as if I've been given another chance. There was a young guy in hospital with me with a head injury who, sadly, didn't make it.

"Yes, I know my life is a bit different now and it's never going to be totally like it was but it'll be as near-as-dammit." Marc has also battled not to become a recluse, although the accident left him "terrified of going out" and he admits he'll need counselling to help him heal psychologically. At one stage during his hospitalisation, he faced the prospect of a tracheotomy - which could have ended his singing career - but he reports that his voice is fine. In fact, he hopes to be back on stage by the summer after an operation on his shoulder next month and wants to reschedule concerts with his Soft Cell co-star Dave Ball, which were due to take place before Christmas.

His ordeal has made him more philosophical about life. "Some people make their beds, go out for a lovely day and never come home," he says. "I came back after five weeks. "It makes you aware of how fragile you are, of your own mortality and that things can happen just like that - and so randomly. Life is an adventure. It's not about being successful. Success for me is going from one failure to the next without diminished enthusiasm. It's about having an interesting life and great friends. I don't have huge ambitions. I just want to have a good life and a chance to live it."

Then he leans forward, his childish face alight as he repeats euphorically: "I am so lucky. I'm alive, I'm alive."

Marc Almond has not been paid for this interview. A donation has been made on his behalf to London's Air Ambulance, the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, based at the Royal London Hospital.

(c) Daily Mirror

I have also made a donation. You can too.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Cleanliness is next to godliness...
My mum said get a toilet duck. That's just cruel.
Talking Search Engine...
Feeling lazy? Fancy a talking browser? Why, look no further than Speegle.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

1994: The Worst Year Of My Life...
As 2004 has just drawn to a close it has given me a chance to reflect. Reflect upon some of the good stuff and some of the bad stuff in the previous twelve months. But as I did I couldn't help but recall doing the same thing ten years ago.

Ten years ago was the worse year of my life. It was a year when nothing seemed to go right. Terrible things befell both me and many people near and dear to me. It was a year I now look back on with some much sadness and more than a little amazement.

The year started with an inexplicable bout of depression that just wouldn't shift. For nearly three weeks I was miserable as hell. A black cloud had descended and would not lift. Even now I don't know why but something must have triggered it - a hopelessness and feeling of emptiness. At the time I saw no way out. But as inexplicably as it came - it went. The sun rose one day and so did my mood.

Coinciding with this funk of '94 I was told I was to be made redundant. I was left for over twelve months not knowing whether I'd be offered 'alternative employment', signing on the dole or padding out the dreaded CV and hawking my bones round the recruitment agencies. It was a scary time not knowing.

In February 1994 I was mugged outside my own front door. They didn't take much - but left me with little self-confidence. I was petrified of leaving home after that, and didn't do so for ten days.

Many people close to me died in 1994. My granny died. Three very close friends died of AIDS related illnesses. A childhood friend died in a tragic motorcycle accident. My best friend from school died after a bizarre accident of falling out of a tree.

I had a few run-ins with the law too. I was stopped by the police in the spring and failed a breathaliser test. They didn't prosecute. However I was taken to court by the police for not producing insurance documents within seven days (the Christmas post meant the duplicate only arrived on the eighth day). The case was later dismissed but not after a further court appearance three months later.

While I was on holiday in the summer of 1994 my car was stolen from outside my flat by joy riders and written off leaving one of the four passengers dead and another in a persistent vegetative state. I was later sued by her family who claimed the car didn't have working seat-belts - the case didn't succeed as the belts had only recently been checked and were working fine. As you might appreciate I was not particularly sympathetic to this court action. But it represented all that was bad for me in 1994. An inexplicable series of unfortunate events.

Sure many other things went right but on the whole it's a ten year anniversary I don't care to celebrate.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Not Apu. Everyone goes for Apu...
See if the computer can guess what TV or film character you're pretending to be. It works quite well but we foxed it with Mrs Potatohead.
Brain Teasers : The Answers...
1. The answer depends on changing your point of view - try looking at the screen upside down then circle a 9 and three 1s.

2. It's always the last place because, once you've found it, you stop looking.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Brain Teasers...
1. Can you circle exactly four of these numbers such that the total is twelve?

1 6 1
6 1 6
1 6 1
6 1 6

2. When you are looking for something, you always seem to find it in the last place you though of looking. There is a proven explanation of this. What is it?
BRITS 2005...
So the BRITS nominees have been announced. No real surprises. Though it's nice to see Scissor Sisters up for three awards and The Killers up for two.

The Best British Song of the last 25 years has now been whittled down. The five short listed songs are:
We Are The Champions - Queen
Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush
Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division
Angels - Robbie Williams
Leave Right Now - Will Young

Monday, January 10, 2005

2 Dudes...
"You're gay"
"No, you are"
"I think you'll find you are gay"
"You're gay"
"I'm sorry, did you say you're gay?"
"No, you are"

Mr and Mrs Wheatley's rather fabulous 2 Dudes is not be be missed.

And taking it to the next level 2 Dudes 2 takes it to the next level.

Very funny.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Celebrity Big Brother 3...
The 'celebrities' went into the Big Brother house last night for the start of their two week 'ordeal' at the hand of 'Evil' Big Brother (ok, enough with the quotation marks already - assume irony implied). No real surprises in the group. Just top notch class all the way.

The opening odds are:
Bez (from The Happy Mondays)) 2-1
Jeremy Edwards (from Holby City) 4-1
Kenzie (from Blazin' Squad) 5-1
Caprice (from her own little Barbie world) 7-1
Lisa I'Anson (ex-Radio 1) 7-1
John McCririck (from Channel Four racing) 8-1
Brigitte Nielsen (from Arnie and then Sylvester Stallone) 12-1
Germaine Greer (from the 60s) 16-1

OK. Let's be honest. What a bunch of attention seeking, D-list, wannabe, talentless, losers they all are!

Needless to say I'll be gripped.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Nintendo DS...
Look what Father Christmas got me... a Nintendo DS. Yippie!
Banned Aid...
Now Band Aid has been knocked off the number one stop in the UK charts it is perhaps not the best time to expose you to this... but... have a look anyway at Banned Aid (need speakers, not very work friendly).

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Monday, January 03, 2005

Singles Out This Week...
Atomic Kitten - 'Cradle'
Blue Ft. Lil Kim - 'Get Down On It'
Elvis Presley - 'All Shook Up'/'Jailhouse Rock'
Erasure - 'Breathe'
Interpol - 'Evil'
Iron Maiden - 'The Number Of The Beast'
Kasabian - 'Cutt Off'
Manic Street Preachers - 'Empty Souls'
Scissor Sisters - 'Filthy/Gorgeous'
Urban Cookie Collective - 'The Key, The Secret 2005'

I mention this in passing as you may want to pick up both Erasure and Scissor Sisters this week.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy 2005...
Wishing everyone a very fantastic New Year and all the health and happiness in the world for 2005.