Saturday, December 23, 2006

Do you think Mary and Joseph had a stable relationship?

Yes, yes, I know. There's a reason I never used that line in my stand-up.

Anyway, just a quick post to say that I'll probably be away from the keyboard for the next few days, and to wish you, my constant reader(s), a very happy Christmas /Yule / Saturnalia / Insert own pet name for week-long present- and food-fest.

The picture above was taken yesterday in Central London, as I finished off my shopping - the star in the centre is illuminated, and shoots out spangles of light along the radiating lines every couple of seconds; and all this is on the front of a functioning office building, it seems. Once again, I smile wryly and shake my head in amusement at the casual wonders of the city where I live.

Have a good Christmas, and may you get everything you deserve, and at least one thing you don't.

She’s Leaving Home (But She Has Her Phone With Her, So That’s All Right)

To the left there, one of a series of phone ads which are currently plastering the Tubes here in London.

And one of the oddest ads I’ve seen in some time, I feel; the suggestion being that the young woman in the picture hasn’t called home for a while, and the caption suggests that it’s something she ought to do, and so I’m rather inescapably driven to conclude that she may have run away from home.

Given the fate which so many female runaways are in danger of, and the shape of her mouth in the photo they’ve chosen to use… well, it looks to me as if Nokia are trying to get a slice of the teenage runaway prostitute fellatrix market.

I don’t know much about advertising, but I can’t really imagine that it’s one of the larger demographic slices. Ah well.

The Running Man

The rumours are true, yes; I have managed to get a place in the London Marathon 2007.

I’ll be running for a charity, so will be setting up a page online where you can sponsor me, probably in the next week or two.

More news as I’m able to share it.

REVIEW: Casino Royale

It’s been a few weeks since I caught this at the cinema, but it’s worth me giving a quick review, I think – if nothing else, it gives me a chance to post the picture to the left there; Daniel Craig’s first press conference after it was announced he was playing James Bond led a lot of the papers to be rather scathing, but the majority of them did a volte-face when they saw the actual film. Apparently they’re not able to distinguish between the actor and the role, though perhaps such a tenuous grasp of the difference between reality and fiction is a job requirement for journalists.

Anyway, Casino Royale is a very decent Bond film, and a good solid thriller in its own right. It features the standard elements of the Bond films (pre-title sequence, him saying his name in – y’know – that way, specific drink orders, etc), but unlike, say, its immediate predecessor (the woefully patchy Die Another Day), it also features a strong plot with a discernible through-line (as they say), and good performances by all the cast.

One or two of the lines are a bit wonky, but the general pacing’s very good, and they do well in coming up with some stunt sequences that are actively inventive (the free running bit, for example), and the pre-title bit sets out the stall well; it’s a flashback, and then they go into a flashback within that. Fairly unusual for a Bond film, let’s face it, and streets ahead of the thinking that leads to such nonsense as invisible cars.

Anyway, heartily recommended if you want a good entertaining film with some actual character development for Bond, and some respectable twists. And worth seeing on the big screen for the ‘wow’ factor – one or two scenes had the (admittedly fairly lively Saturday night) audience I was a member of actually gasping, which must mean the film-makers were doing something right.

Invading myspace

In answer to the several queries I’ve had, no I don’t have a myspace page, nor do I intend on setting one up in the foreseeable future.

The simple reason for this is that with very few exceptions, the pages seem to be exceedingly ugly and slow to load, and invariably chock-full of postings from bands in Wisconsin saying ‘cool site!!11! Be sure to check out our page too!!!! Lol!1!’ and the like.

And for some reason, I can’t bring myself to get involved with all that. And let’s face it, I don’t post enough updates to this blog as it is, let alone update my web space on any kind of regular basis.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

That Sound You Hear Is That Of TV Execs’ Fingernails On The Bottom Of The Barrel

I've often maintained that ITV2 shows the stuff that even 'ITV1' knows is unfit for broadcast, and as if to prove me very right indeed, tonight at 9pm they are showing the following:

Ghost Hunting with Girls Aloud

Let me say that again.


… you know, I’m almost tempted to type those words over and over again, like Jack Torrance in The Shining, but let me just say that the idea that this is an actual programme, occupying two whole hours on the schedule, is far more terrifying than any supernatural element that the programme could possibly contain.

Granted, not half as scary as being a nightclub toilet attendant when the girls are out on the lash at night, but still deeply troubling.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Corduroy pillowcases could create better headlines, frankly*

Today's Evening Standard board, with a typically nonsense use of language.

Unless he shouted 'Why is a raven like a writing desk?' as he fell, I think the word 'mystery' would have been more appropriate.

*Apologies to Bill Watterson

Vive la difference!

I’m doing some market research this week, and as part of it I’ve been asked to complete some online diary-like exercises. Apparently, the same research is being done in France at the moment (albeit one hour ahead). As I’m rather inclined to be impressed by the culture-loving ways of the French, I can’t help but wonder about the possibility of a vast difference between the two sets of diaries.

It was raining. Went to work. Had a couple of drinks with the lads after work, and got a kebab on the way home. Think I sent my ex a text message or maybe even called her from the pub just before we got thrown out, but I’m not sure. Some tosser was mouthing off on the bus, so I lamped him. Was sick in a skip outside next door’s house. Fell asleep watching ITV Play.

Spent the day in a café with Luc, smoking Gauloises and drinking coffee, and arguing about literature. He insists on the importance of Perec’s influence, but I disagree, and refuse to accept that anyone other than Baudrillard has any true and lasting merit. We agree, though, that Proust was an effete dilettante, and that Sartre, whilst important at the time, is now merely a poster-boy for students and would-be intellectuals, which is only right, as existentialism remains fundamentally adolescent in both its concerns and outlook. We drank wine, talking late into the night, ignoring the rain outside, and when we were finally thrown out of the café, I walked the streets for several hours, my steps inevitably leading me to the street corner beneath Marie’s apartment. Taking a pencil stub from my pocket, I wrote a brief but heart-felt villanelle about love, loss and destiny on the wall, there beneath her window. I know she will see it, and I fancy it might bring a tear to her eye and perhaps even regret to her mind. I made my way home then, smoking the last of my cigarettes and enjoying the sound of my footsteps on the rain-slick pavement as the new day threatened to dawn.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

REVIEW: ‘Helltown’ by Dennis O’Neil

O’Neil is a long-time comic writer and editor, and this novel is set in the DC Comic Universe, re-telling the origin of The Question, a character O’Neil wrote to considerable acclaim in the 1980s.

Vic Sage, alias the Question, isn’t a standard superhero character – he’s essentially a man in a trenchcoat and fedora whose face is rendered blank by a mask. Quite a creepy image, and in making the character an orphan, the character truly is a blank slate, and his driving motivation in the comics (under O’Neil, at least) is that of curiosity, as well as a wish to see justice done, though that’s often almost incidental.

I was a huge fan of the Question comics (even writing letters of comment , some of which, to my adolescent fanboy glee, were published in issues’ letter columns), so I was keen to see what O’Neil did in the prose medium.The results are ... let's say mixed.

In the novel, starting from scratch and set in in the present day, a lot of the ideas underpinning the comic series are lost, and the need to reintroduce the characters – and even other DC Comics characters like Batman – takes a fair amount of time, leaving certain elements overplayed and others rather truncated. It starts rather uncertainly, too, and it’s not entirely clear who or what of the various elements described is going to prove relevant, and what’s just scenery.

The original Question, created by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, was a single-minded and pretty harsh character, and in order to start afresh, the 1980s comic series as good as killed him off, but this novel doesn’t quite have the same approach, and to my mind that was a bit of a pity. The reduced role of Myra, the love interest, is a shame as well, and indeed she’s reduced to little more than a love interest, and a rather token one at that – there’s no real reason why Vic should be so keen on her after so few interactions.

That said, the book hangs together pretty well, and some of the action sequences are quite tautly written, even if characters do have some frankly unlikely names (Emiline Grandyfan, Thaddeus Crate, and Eustis McFeely, for example), which rather disrupts the flow when reading. A pity, especially as some of the dialogue is quite snappy.

A cautious recommendation to fans of the original comic series, I guess, but in all honesty you’d be better off hunting down back issues (especially the first 12-15 issues), or even checking out the character's appearances in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon series over the past few years.

Nano Writing Month

Well, it’s the end of National Novel Writing Month, and I’m sure you’re wondering how I did. A quick click on the link to the right will tell you, but let me save you the trouble: out of a goal of 50,000 words, I wrote… around 3000. Less than 5%, by my quick calculation.

By any estimation, this is pathetic, and I’m frankly ashamed of, and embarrassed about, it. Granted, November has been one hell of a month for a variety of reasons, but it’s things like this which make me wonder if I might gradually be turning into one of those people who wants to have written, rather than to write. Many people think that they’d like to write, but it’s the act of keeping the backside on the seat and the pen moving over the page (or, if you’re all modern-like, the cursor scooting over the screen) which is all too often the key part of writing.

There’s a joke I both love and hate, and at the moment it rings all too true:
Two men meet at a party.
“I’m writing a novel,” says one.
“Really?” says the other. “Neither am I.”

REVIEW: ‘The Traveller’ by John Twelve Hawks

Touted as 'the new Da Vinci Code’, this novel is, thankfully, much better than that, though I guess it shares some themes – secret societies, and the notion of a true history of the world which remains hidden from the general population.

The Travellers of the title are people born with the ability to travel out of the material realm as we know it into other dimensions. They’re seen as a threat and tend to be eliminated by the ‘Brethren’, who are keen to make the world as regulated and ordered as possible. Travellers are protected by a warrior group known as the Harlequins, and this book – the first of a trilogy, it seems – tells the story of a Harlequin called Maya trying to protect two could-be Travellers from the Brethren.

From that description, it might all sound a bit science-fictiony, but the book’s set pretty much in the present day (perhaps a few years in the future), with most of the trappings of today, and quite a bit of the paranoid-sounding stuff about surveillance and tracing people has its roots in current events.

It’s pretty well-written, even if plot requirements sometimes force characters to speak in exposition-ese, and there are some interesting twists. I mentioned above that it’s the first of a series, and rather irritatingly this isn’t really very clear from the cover, and I half-wonder if the themes (which will be familiar to anyone who’s seen The Matrix or read The Invisibles comic series) won’t feel a bit stretched over more than a couple of books. But I was sufficiently interested to make a mental note to keep a look out for the next book (in paperback, mind).

There’s a certain amount of internet hoo-hah about the author, as he apparently ‘lives off the grid’ like characters in the book, but I’ll take that with a bag of salt, frankly. Anyway, the book’s not bad, and if you want a dose of easily-absorbed conspiracy-laden reading, I’d recommend it.

File Under ‘Dignityphobic’

To the left there, the cover of the latest Heat magazine.

Just when I thought that the magazine, and Peter Andre and Katie Price, couldn’t stoop any lower, or appear any more desperate to fill pages at any cost, comes this latest issue, with the photo touting an article showing the happy couple ‘at home’.

Yes, she's sitting on the toilet, her knickers are spooled around her knees, and he’s handing her some toilet roll, presumably to wipe after she’s urinated, defecated or both. All, quite charmingly, captured on film.

I’m not actually supposed to admire these people, am I ? Please, someone, reassure me.

The Bigger They Are…

Obviously, this is true.
But of course, I can cheerfully agree with it from my lofty perch (that's over 6’, ladies)…

All right, so it’s yet another bit of pseudo-scientific non-news. But it beats this rather grim prospect for tall men.

And I have to say that I know very little about women, but one thing I’ve come to realise is that they can forgive fat, they’ll even be tolerant of bald or balding, but that (paradoxically) they won’t overlook short…

Monday, November 27, 2006

LIST: Things I Strongly Believe One Should Never Skimp On The Purchase Of

Tea Bags

… any others you can think of? Let me know.

*Surely the ultimate in false economy.

Don’t say I never give you nuffink, awright?*

Here’s another one of those free iTune codes (see this post for how to redeem it): SPMZTSPZCRFF. First come, first served once again, but let’s pause for a moment and consider what a good score that code might warrant in Scrabble.

And, assuming that this isn’t one of those tiresome e-mail hoax whatsits, this could be useful for those of you who, like me, have something of a weakness for the smell of a new book…

*This line copyright © EastEnders Christmas Afternoon Specials every single year since it started. Used with derision.

Give Stray Thoughts What They Want, And No-One Gets Hurt

1. Backnowyes, long time nopost, but verybusyvery oh yes. Don’t hurtbe, sometime things be thatway.

2. My current pet peeve; people who approach me in the street and ask for money – specifically, a particular amount (recently 20p, 40p and 50p, though not in that ascending order). The main thing that annoys me about this is that the approachers have mastered the art of looking sincere and bewildered as if they’re about to ask for directions, so I take my earphone out and ask if I can help, only to be asked for money. I’m always hmm on being asked for money this way anyway, but when I wear earphones to block out extraneous and nonsensical noise and then have it interrupted by specifically the kind of thing I’ve put the earphones in to counter… well, grr.

3. Okay, this seems to have some kind of pseudo-commercial element to it, but I rather like it – can’t explain why, but there’s something rather joyously silly about it. Just ignore the final captions, and the unpleasant interruption of commercial considerations.

4. Meanwhile, do give your money to these good folks, who are releasing DVDs of live comedy. Their first one is from Stewart Lee, and is a bit of a barg (I know, cos I’ve got mine already). Support the independents, and stick it to the man. Yeah!

5. While in Paris the other week, I went to the Buddha Bar. That’s right, look impressed. Yes, I went to this much-vaunted drinking place, where a huge statue of Buddha towers over the dining area, and where the bar is full of candlelit secluded corners which have played host to Johnny Depp, Cameron Diaz, and many other people you’ve heard of (as well as many you haven’t). It’s cloaked in shadow, with only the odd neon light from the bar and flickering flame from a candle or tealight casting any illumination. All of which is my characteristically long-winded way of saying yes, I bumped into a bar stool in the dark, and sent it flying. Smooth.

6. In answer to your several e-mails, no, I have not seen Casino Royale yet. But I intend to, and depending on what I think of the film, I’ll probably post a review of it here.

7. Started Xmas shopping yet? No, nor have I. But I was on Bond Street on Thursday Evening, where it transpires Thandie Newton was switching on the lights, and I had no idea. Curses!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Yes, I did order the Creme Brulee*

I’ve been away from the keyboard a bit recently, I know.

And one of the places I’ve been is the Café des Deux Moulins in Paris, perhaps best known from the frankly terrific film Amelie.

The photo here is taken from the telephone booth where two people … er, let’s say ‘get frisky’ in the film. And whilst the place is nice, I have to say that it wasn’t quite as sunny and colour-washed as it was in the film. Damn those film-makers with their filters and lenses and washes and doodads.

Y’know, it’s almost enough to make a chap think that there’s some kind of difference between films and reality.

I said almost.

*Though unfortunately they didn't have it.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

REVIEW: ‘Good News, Bad News’ by David Wolstencroft

This is the first novel by Wolstencroft, who’s one of the creators of the BBC drama ‘Spooks’ (known as ‘MI-5’ in the USA, I believe). I’d read positive reviews of the book, and as I’d enjoyed the first couple of series of Spooks (until they’d seemingly been forced to let plots be driven by the need to write various cast members out), I was pleased to get this for 75p in a charity shop.

As you’d expect, it’s a thriller, about two men, Charlie and George, who, at the start of the book, work in a photo developing booth in London. This happy little situation is shaken up quite quickly within fifty pages or so, with some really rather clever twists and gradual revelations about the two men which undermine the expectations which have been built up.

However, once the whole spy and espionage aspect of the book gets going, the constant twists and turns of the plot start to border on laughable, reminding me of Voltaire’s ‘Candide’ in that characters seem incapable of staying dead when seemingly demised. There are also some sequences which I simply couldn’t follow – there’s one in the ladies’ toilet of Oxford Circus tube (does such a place exist? I have my doubts), and another chase in a tube tunnel, where I honestly had no idea what was meant to be going on.

The number of pages devoted to events seem disproportionate too – dozens of pages detailing a trip on the Eurostar (albeit a covert one), but at another point in the book, bam, a new chapter begins and they’re in a totally different country with scant explanation of how they got there. And the plot hinge upon which the whole book moves seems pretty feeble too, and certainly not worth the Security Services creating the mayhem involved in the book.

Finally, there’s one ‘big revelation’ which I found utterly risible, and which, if you don’t want to spoil the book, you can avoid by jumping to the next paragraph. Right, still here ? Okay, brace yourself then, this is it: the two baddies chasing Charlie and George are actually the same person – Rose Willets is Latham. Yes, she apparently is also Latham, a male character, referred to as ‘he’ in the narrative, in spite of the fact that the male pronoun should not apply to a genuinely dispassionate omniscient narrative such as the book purports to take. Quite how she is also meant to be he is never fully (or at least plausibly) explained.

To be fair, Wolstencroft’s writing style is generally quite readable, but the incessant twists of the story undermine the whole thing to the extent that, like Dan Brown’s inexplicably popular bad book, I just kept reading to the end in vaguely awed and appalled fascination - to see what he would come up with next; and not in the sense of being hooked by the tale and concerned about the characters, as they’re pretty much a uniformly unsympathetic bunch.

So, far from recommended, and disappointing after a good start. I got it from a charity shop, as I mentioned, and it’ll be going back to the same place. Here’s hoping they benefit more from selling it again than I did from reading it.

Remembrance of Things Past

It’s Remembrance Sunday, and I’d be remiss to let it pass without some kind of remark, I think.

I stand by what I posted this time last year, though it has to be said that I probably didn’t actually say as much as was appropriate about my respect for the troops involved, instead grinding my teeth about the politicians who send them to their fates (a reaction which was not diluted in any way by seeing Tony Blair lay a wreath this morning. The man clearly has no sense of causation, or even conscience).

So: I think war is a bad thing. A very bad thing, in fact, the very breakdown of civilised behaviour, and a sign that at least one party to the situation is allowing the primal basal ganglia of the brain to rule over the more evolved parts. Not a good thing at all.

And sometimes it does seem that there are some people who are unwilling to listen to reason, and who seem incapable of being dissuaded from certain actions unless it’s with the application of force, or the threat thereof. Granted, there are obvious examples of this where one can easily point to a moral high ground, and other examples where the morality is more murky, or downright absent. That said, there does therefore seem to be an argument – however regrettable the need – in favour of the existence of some kind of military.

The point I’m trying to make here is that whilst I think I admit with some chagrin the need for the military, there does seem to be such a need at this stage in human evolution, and as such I’m both grateful to, and in awe of, the men and women who fulfil these roles, and who are willing to die in doing so. I don’t think I could do it, frankly.

Gallingly, though, there seem to be all too many people who think that war is some kind of game, or political stratagem, or personal crusade, and these people utterly lose sight of the fact that what is lost is not a handful of votes or some financial amount, but the lives of real people, who will be missed and mourned.

Even more annoyingly, all too many of these armchair commanders are people who seem to know little about the subject of war, or (and you know who I’m talking about) have actively sought to avoid it whilst being all too happy to send others into conflict, or to send them into battle for the most spurious of pretexts. These people, unfortunately enough, seem all too frequently to find their way into government.

And their actions do nothing to honour the memories of those who die in the service of their country. It is the bravery, unfortunately, of those who are safely out of range.

Friday, November 10, 2006

LINK: Good sportsmanship, I’d say

Granted, many people feel (moderately justifiably) that the song was rather overexposed, but I like this – it’s for one of my favourite causes, and I think it certainly shows her in a good light, particularly in the last couple of minutes.

Free iTune

I drink too much Diet Coke, and thus have reached my limit in using their free iTunes codes (only 5 per person).

Thus, the following code can be utilised by anyone who wants it - first come, first get. Head over to iTunes' site, find the 'Coke Free Song' section or whatever it's called, and enter the following code to get a free song: TFFRNWCXSBMB.

If you try to use it and it doesn't work, that probably means some-one beat you to it. Them's the breaks, kid.

Evening Standard Free West Wing DVD Codes

This post will make no sense at all to anyone who doesn't live in London and didn't get the free item in question, but here's hoping that anyone who strays here by the almighty power of Google finds this useful:

Episode 2 - 199416

Episode 3 - 269679

Unlock, and enjoy two more episodes of one of the better examples of TV in recent years. Of course, you could have got these numbers by buying the ES yesterday and today, but frankly, the fewer people who buy that tatty Daily-Mail-affiliated rag, the better.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

LINK: Hear here

If you're missing my updates, then you can get a (small) dose of me by clicking here and scrolling down to the bottom of the page, where Cameron, the leader of the Mount Ararat Trek I did in July, has posted a free podcast all about it.

It's well worth listening to, especially if you're not expecting more than half a dozen words from me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Suddenly, one year later

Lawks alawdy, if it hasn't been a year since I first posted on this blog. Cripes.

No major observations to make on the changed world since 365 days ago, but to note - as I'm often driven to -that if, this time in 2005, I'd tried to guess what my life was going to be like, I doubt I would have been even remotely close.
How about you? Is your life taking you unexpected places? I hope so, and I also hope they're places you're happy to be.

Happy Guy Fawkes' Night.

Separated at birth (or, rather, death)?

The BBC show's logo came after the HBO one, I think, which is rather unfortunate.

...Surely I can't be the first person to have noticed this?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Bit Of Window Licking

Was amused to see this in the window of a London bookshop yesterday.

Ignoring for a moment the fact that the title of the book is asking for trouble (that is, the way to survive them would seem to be ‘don’t watch their programmes’, which suggests the book is rather padded out), I love that they’re giving away free mini bars of chocolate with the book.

Perhaps I‘m being simplistic, but I fear that many of the people who might buy the book might also be the kind of people who’d view chocolate as something to be avoided or feared…

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Story Time

Well, as I mentioned the other day, I'm taking part in National Novel Writing Month - hence the little logo in the Profile box to the right. However, rather than bore you with posts which simply say things like '11 words today, think my pen might be faulty', I've created a new link in the column to the right which will take you directly here, where there'll be a running total (assuming the technology doesn't go all HAL on me).

Will I make it 50,000 words, and finish 'Coming Back To Haunt You'? Dunno, but I'm thinking that by stating my intention in public, I might feel your eyes on me, and motivated to avoid public shame. We shall see...

LIST: Films which would be shown as part of a season for dyslexic nature lovers*

- Dead Clam
- Dragon: The Bruce Eel Story
- The Dogs Must Be Crazy
- Mission To Rams
- O Rat! O Rat! O Rat!
- Cats Away
- Vole Actually

*I know, I know, it is a feeble excuse to make lots of anagram puns, but puns aren’t the lowest form of humour, that would be Balls of Steel or The Friday Night Project. And though John Cleese may be on record as knocking puns and plays on words, do bear in mind that he co-wrote and performed the line “The plaice is grilled, in fact the whole room's a bit warm, isn't it?” (Fawlty Towers: The Germans.)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

REVIEW: ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell’s first book, ‘The Tipping Point’ was a perhaps surprisingly well-received book analysing social trends, and what makes them emerge, fade or become part of ongoing culture. In Blink, he looks into the power of snap judgments, and the benefits of being able to make speedy (but accurate) decisions.

There are some very good examples – a fake sculpture which fooled most experts, but nonetheless made some say hmm at first glance, and a marriage guidance counsellor who can analyse discrete moments of behaviour and make startlingly accurate predictions about the likelihood of the couple staying together. There are more examples like this, and Gladwell writes well, and yet I must admit I was vaguely disappointed with the book.

Whereas Gladwell’s previous book analysed the people and factors involved in social trends, Blink doesn’t repeat the analysis in Blink; after two hundred pages or so of discussing why it’s a good idea to try to ‘think without thinking’, he spends about a dozen pages talking about how one might go about doing this. Maybe my expectations were inappropriate, but it seemed to me that it would be a good idea to actually suggest ways that the reader might develop the skill of making snap judgments.

So it’s an interesting read, but it rather fails to reach a conclusion – or, at least, the one I was hoping for; as opposed to ‘hey, that could be something to try’, it remains slightly removed, restricted to the lives of others, and thus in the realms of ‘oh, that’s interesting’.

Which the book is: interesting. But not, I felt, fascinating or gripping. Cautiously recommended as long as you don’t expect suggestions as to how to apply the lessons of the book to your life, but if you’re looking for a pseudo-self-help title, you’ll probably feel slightly let down. I certainly did.

Put it in your dictionary

Morkish [Maw'kish] a. artificially and manipulatively sentimental; ostensibly emotional but lacking sincerity. Characteristic of the mid-career film work of Robin Williams.

Monday, October 30, 2006

LIST: A Life Of Surprises

Here, then, are some facts about me which might surprise you, but they're all utterly true. Thought I'd share:

1. I was knocked down by a car at the age of 7.
2. I was the only male in the 'Top 6' recorder group at my junior school. I was miming quite a lot of the time.
3. I've never been met at the airport by a loved one on returning to the UK.
4. My geography is appalling. I genuinely have no idea where, for example, Sweden is (sorry, Sweden).
5. I've never put the phone down on anyone in anger (yet).
6. The first album I ever owned was a tape of a Muppet Show album. A home-recorded tape, at that.
7. I have watched Dirty Dancing and Dirty Dancing 2, and think they're all right.
8. I've never walked out of a film at the cinema (yet).
9. I seem to have been genetically gifted with large lungs, but cursed with migraine headaches.
10. In relation to women, I've rebuffed far more offers than I have accepted.

Those were (some of) my truths, now tell me yours. Seriously, send in your surprising boasts/confessions to, and I'll post the most knee-bucklingly staggering ones (let me know if you'd rather I withheld your name) ... that should help make this post seem less self-absorbed.

Well, perhaps.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Recycled Meat (Leaves A Bad Taste In The Mouth)

As you may know, Meat Loaf’s released a new album this month, called ‘Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose’. A quick Google search will show you that it’s not written and/or produced by Jim Steinman, the chap behind the first two ‘Bat’ albums in 1977 and 1993. In fact, there’s been a bit of backstage hoo-hahing about the album, as Messrs Loaf and Steinman have been engaged in a bit of legal fencing, it seems. Anyway, they’re all friends now (ahem), and so this new album – apparently the final one in the ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ series, has come out.

Well, I say “new”…

Okay, let me say this now, before I get into the petty criticism; I think that Jim Steinman is a remarkably gifted songwriter, and it’s an indication of his ability that his songs have a very distinctive sound; often a ridiculously overblown one, with several instrumental breaks, layers of sound piled on top of each other, and lyrics built on paradoxes and plays on words which lend themselves all too easily to parenthetical titles, but a distinct and unique sound nonetheless, and one which I like a heck of a lot. He’s a great songwriter, and in Meat Loaf he finds an ideal mouthpiece – the Hugh Grant to his Richard Curtis, if you will. But…

But the thing is, Jim’s not averse to a bit of recycling. A whole lot of it, if we’re honest, and in its way, that makes the claim that ‘Bat III’ features new songs a smidgin close to untrue. To be fair on Steinman, that claim’s more being made by the album’s label and publicists, who’ve also rather cheekily claimed that the album has been thirty years in the making (predating the original Bat Out Of Hell, inexplicably enough), but all this publicity (and even the sticker on the CD) rather suggests that Steinman’s involvement is greater than the 7 out of 15 tracks it actually is. Tsk.

And because it’s the way I think about things, I think an analysis of the man’s contributions is in order:

Track 3: It’s all Coming Back To Me Now
Does this song, Meat Loaf’s current single, sound familiar to you ? It should do, as this is the third time it’s been released. It was first released in 1989 by the Steinman-steered group Pandora’s Box, and then again in 1997 By Celine Dion. This is, however, the first time it’s been made into a duet. In all honesty, I don’t really think it works in this way, but I have a cynical suspicion that the phenomenal success of ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ makes the Loafster feel that duets are a good idea.

Track 4: Bad For Good
Is the title track of Steinman’s 1981 solo album. The album itself was intended as the follow-up to the original Bat Out Of Hell, but disputes between Steinman and Loaf (there does seem to be a theme here, doesn’t there?) led Steinman to sing his own vocals over the recorded backing tracks. For my money, the new version’s somehow got less fire to it, and the presence of Brian May’s distinctive guitar style is actually a little bit of a distracting element, accomplished though it is.

Track 6 : In The Land Of The Pigs (The Butcher Is King)
An oddly-titled track, and even more so when one considers that according to Steinman’s blog the correct title is in the singular – ‘The Land Of The Pig’, which does more readily echo the famous quote from Machiavelli. This song hasn’t been heard before, and (bizarrely though perhaps appropriately) it was from a never-produced Batman musical that Steinman was working on. It sounds like it, too, with a more obviously operatic feel, and whilst I can imagine it might work as part of a musical, it sounds rather out of place on Bat III.

Track 10: If It Ain’t Broke, Break It
Whilst one review I read suggested that this song might be about US Foreign Policy, I have my doubts, mainly as this song has been heard before, as part of the film soundtrack Steinman prepared for a 2003 made-for-MTV modernisation of Wuthering Heights. It’s a pretty decent track, though.

Track 12: Seize the Night
Is a funny old track; Steinman wrote this song for the German-language musical ‘Tanz der Vampire’, itself a stage adaptation of the Polanski film ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’. After a pretty successful run in Europe, the musical was taken to Broadway to star Michael Crawford, where it didn’t run for very long at all. So the song’s far from new – and even less so when one considers that its opening is taken from ‘The Storm’ on Steinman’s aforementioned solo album, and that the central guitar riff is a lift from ‘Back into Hell’, an instrumental track which appeared on Bat II. Perhaps because of this, the song feels a bit like a patchwork, and doesn’t really hang together. It’s all right, but its familiarity rather undermines any ‘sit up and pay attention’ possibilities.

Track 13: The Future Ain’t What It Used To Be
Another song which has been heard before in two different versions, and another one which has been turned into a duet. This was the finale on the aforementioned Pandora’s Box album, and was also used in the MTV Wuthering Heights film. It’s a good number, no question about it, though I think I prefer the original for no reason I can easily articulate.

Track 14: Cry To Heaven
Is another track that was rescued from the aborted Batman musical. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really go anywhere new, and I have to say that the other songs from the musical (under ‘Blog Mentioned Songs’ here) are a little more interesting, but granted they don’t really lend themselves so readily to a solo male vocal (or duet with a female vocalist).

… now, the reason I’ve even bothered to mention this stuff in such great detail is, I guess, that both the previous Bat albums were written and produced by Steinman (though 6 of Bat II’s 11 tracks were recycled, but let’s not get into that now). And so, in its way, Bat III is no more a ‘proper’ Bat Out Of Hell album than any of Loaf’s albums which have only featured a small number of Steinman contributions. Two other albums (Bad Attitude and Welcome to the Neighbourhood) have featured what are effectively cover versions of old Steinman songs, and neither of them has had anything like the success of the Bat albums, and I think the absence of Steinman is probably the link here.

So I rather feel that the marketing of Bat Out Of Hell III as an album in the series is, at best, misleading, and at worst, something of a money-getting scam. A shame, as it leaves me with rather a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing, and I’d previously enjoyed the collaborations between the two chaps, and this feels a bit unnecessary, and has that odd effect of retroactively souring my feelings about the original works, if you know what I mean. A shame, I think, and I wanted to explain why, rather than just making an offhand sneery comment about ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)*’, which would be the easy option – and if you don’t believe me, watch just how many comedians and writers take the release of Bat III as an opportunity to dust off their old material about the meaning of that song title…

*This title is, in itself, a recycle by Steinman from an earlier work: it appears as a spoken line in the song ‘Getting So Excited’ on the Bonnie Tyler album ‘Faster Than The Speed Of Night’, which Steinman didn’t write, but did produce.

LINKS : Writers of very few words, and a man who lets his actions speak for him

The cliché is that brevity is the soul of wit, which is probably why so many of the stories here strike me as so amusing. Clever stuff.

And you’ve probably seen this this news story before, but I wanted to share this version of it - love the way that a rampantly silly story is rendered all the more ridiculous by the headline.

Lookee, I've mastered putting the links in more elegantly! Yee!

With, of course, hilarious consequences

Those of you who know me will be all too aware that things often happen to me which are usually confined to sitcoms or farces.

And so, without going into enormous amounts of detail about it (I’ve done that several times already in the past twenty-four hours), I’ll just say that there was no surprise – and indeed there was a general air of sickening inevitability about it – to my Saturday night, when I was babysitting the young daughter of a friend.

It was, of course, only right that when I put a pizza in the oven, and nipped off to the bathroom for a quick slash, that the bathroom door lock completely and utterly seized, leaving me trapped on one side of the door, and my infant charge on the other side.

No, I’m not kidding.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

LINK: I'm gonna need you to go ahead and print this out...

... okay, so that title's pretty meaningless if you haven't seen the film Office Space, but this is a good opportunity for me to recommend you do so.

Anyway, I'm fortunate in that I currently work with decent folks in a decent environment, but I know what it's like to suffer from lousy management.

And that's why I've created the item at for you to print out, customise as necessary, and hand on to a rubbish boss.

Please note: You may want to use an internal mail system, or sneakily slip into onto their desk when they're not looking, if you dislike the boss but enjoy receiving a salary.

November: no more is NaNoWriMo a no-no, it's a go-go

... which is to say that this year, I've decided to have a go at National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo).

Granted, I'm about halfway through a novel already, but that's been the case for too damn long, and it's time to get that story all finished so I can get on with the next one, which is niggling away at my mind like the thought of a friend I really ought to spend some time with.

So I've signed up at, and so like a sizable number of people (it's more international than national, really), I'll be endeavouring to get 50,000 words done during November. Many of them are starting from scratch, but I'm using the communal aspect of it to motivate me to get 'Coming Back To Haunt You' finished (or at least its first draft). I shall no doubt update you as next month progresses, but if you know for a fact I'm skiving off when I should be doing some writing, I respectfully request you send me a harrassing e-mail at I'll probably make excuses at the time, but I'll thank you for it really.

And if you feel like you might want to join in, why not visit the NaNoWriMo site and sign up?They say that everyone has a book in them, after all...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

LINKS: One strange, one painfully obvious

There are so many strange elements to this story, I'll let it speak for itself...

Whereas this link - - must win the day's award for stating the bleeding obvious, and therefore needs comment; of course George was a fan - he appeared in the film, for goodness' sake. Sigh...

Friday, October 20, 2006

LINK: Our man knows…

Armando Iannucci has produced some very decent comedy over the past couple of decades, and so I think he knows a lot about the subject of comedy and satire.

And at,,1924846,00.html, he shows his insight also covers the media and politics (especially in the paragraph that begins “I found myself hungry for narrative in the build-up to the war in Iraq…”).

Worth your time, I feel.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I can resist everything except the temptation to tempt fate

So, I'll push my luck: my Broadband connection appears to be working (yay), and all because I've been given a new modem, which I suggested was the problem sometime back in August (tch).

Anyway, assuming it doesn't die on the stroke of midnight or something, posts should be much more frequent now.

Dammit, there goes my excuse, eh ?

Oh, everyone always exaggerates everything

Granted, this is quite old now, but I thought this frankly insane turn of phrase on the part of the ever-rubbish Evening Standard was still worth mocking.

Maybe it’s just me being over-sensitive, but do you think that the word ‘hijack’ could be seen as slightly inflammatory, as well as being untrue (he interrupted his speech)?

I can't imagine a world without Stray Thoughts

1. Now, from my deep and thorough political research (that is, watching 'Team America: World Police'). I'm aware that Kim Jong-Il is a decidedly odd fish, and not really the sort of chap that one wants to have access to nuclear capability. However, given that Iraq is so obviously the new Vietnam, does it really show any sense of learning from history for the USA to be making noises about military action in Korea ?

2. I've been quite enjoying 'That Mitchell and Webb Look' on BBC2. One of the refreshing things is that it's a show which has different sketches each week, and fewer recurring characters than is currently popular. Shows like Little Britain, Catherine Tate, and Swinging tend to remind me of the oriental proverb that one should 'be wary of the artisan who claims to have twenty years experience - he may simply have one year of experience, twenty times over'. In the same way, these catchphrase-based shows feel like one 30-minute programme rehashed six times.

3. It's not too late to donate/sponsor for my recent weekend of torturing my feet - you can see the glass walk picture on my previous blog entry at, and the timings for the 10 mile run are at (I'm very low down at 119th, but in my defence I got held up on the tube and ended up starting 15 mins or so after everyone else). Impressed by it all ? Great, grab a credit or debit card and get thee to - and thanks.

4. There's a Prince song ('New Power Generation', if memory serves), which features a line to the effect of 'I hope they bury your old ideas/The same time they bury you'). Over the weekend, a good friend of mine told me that my secondary school ( is to be knocked down and rebuilt, and in relation to that I would heartily echo the purple man's words. Some people might want to go back and say farewell to the place, but for my part I'd cheerfully volunteer to drive one of the bulldozers. But I'm not entirely unsentimental about it; I'd make sure they got the kids out first.

5. Am I the only one who thinks that people are currently a tad too ready to resort to threats of violence when someone says something they don't like or disagree with? People of various religious shades seem all too ready to threaten (or worse, carry out) violent acts, often when someone's done something like, suggest that their religious advocates violence or intolerance. The irony is almost overwhelming, but that seems to be missed. I can only hope that atheists don't decide to take offence in a similarly touchy fashion, and start burning down all places of worship, or picketing religious events. Though atheists don't tend to do that sort of thing, do they? Probably for the best.

6. On occasion, I wonder if the Krankies' stage act is just a bedroom game which got horribly out of hand.

7. In London, there are currently two free evening newspapers, and the distributors positively clog the pavements. One of them, the recently renamed London Lite, is owned by the folks who own the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail, and the newcomer, the no-capitals-no-spacedly-named thelondonpaper is, I think, owned by News International. It's quite a heated thing, I gather, though given that the papers are free (and, like the Metro in the morning, essentially padding and piffle), I think they'd be daft to think that commuters are in any way going to develop any sort of loyalty to either title. However, since the 'circulation war' will have a loser, and it'll either be Associated Newspapers or News International, I like to think that whoever loses, the world at large wins in a way.

Fry on Friday

As I may well have mentioned at the time, I recently went to see a recording of the TV programme QI, hosted by Stephen Fry. The episode in question will be shown this Friday (20 October) at 10pm on BBC2.

Wisely, in editing down the 90+ minutes of material, they've decided to omit Rory Bremner's earlier attempts to shoehorn political impressions into the format (which he sensibly dropped as time went on, and instead demonstrated some rather impressive general knowledge), and left many of Ronni Ancona's funny replies in (I draw your attention to her lengthy answer about 'obscurity').

Anyway, as ever with QI, it's funny and makes one think, which is an appallingly rare feature of TV nowadays as far as I'm concerned.

QI, incidentally, has its own website (and a shop and a club, intriguingly enough), and lo, the following link shows I'm not alone in appreciating the show:

Very impressive, I think you'd agree. Whether it makes people at the BBC think twice about the programming on either side of the timeslot in question is, of course, another matter entirely...

Monday, October 09, 2006

REVIEW : Spamalot

Yes, this is a review whilst it's previewing, but rather than being a bit previous, I like to think I'm ahead of the game, okay ?

As you may know, this is a stage musical based on the film 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', which has the blessing of the remaining Pythons, though it's mainly (and when you see it, pretty clearly) an Eric Idle-steered item. It's done well on Broadway, and now it's transferring to the West End of London, as is Tim Curry, who plays King Arthur.

So, what's it like? Well, it's a mix of bits from the film and new bits - a few new songs, expanded versions of favourites like the title song, and new plot-type bits. Overall, it's pretty good, but it doesn't truly hang together as a story as well as the original film does.

Notably good are some of the new songs, especially 'This is the song that goes like this', a great parody of the big romance numbers that all big musicals seem to feature, and the song about needing more Jews involved to get ahead in musicals (though this feels considerably less relevant in the UK than I'll wager it did in the USA). And the sets are very good, and there's quite clever use of Gilliamesque animated bits (the picture above is the animated 'Trojan Rabbit' which appears on the interval curtain, for example).

Less good is ... well, the thing is, because there are whole scenes which are lifted directly from the film, Python fans will be used to hearing them performed in a particular way, and whilst it's perfectly understandable that the cast want to make the parts feel their own, or to vary them when they're doing so many performances, bits like the Knights of Ni, Constitutional Peasant, the Black Knight and French Taunter are so well- known and well-loved (and rightly - for my money, Holy Grail's one of the funniest films there is), that hearing them performed by other people, with different emphases and inflections just feels wrong - like overhearing someone reciting Python in the pub or on the train, if you know what I mean. It has the unfortunate side-effect of making it feel almost like a student review version of the material, and that's not really what you want from a West End show.

That said, there are some nice jokes, the staging's really very good, Curry holds it all together well, there are enough in-jokes to keep Python fans happy, and there are new audio bits from Idle (introducing) and Cleese (as the voice of God). I have to accept that (my ongoing quest to spot the Pythons notwithstanding), this is probably about as close as I'll ever get to seeing Monty Python live, and as it's a fun night out, I'd cautiously recommend it; cautiously, as you have to accept it's NOT the Pythons, but once you do that, it's really pretty good.

Of course, as it's currently in Preview, it may well be that the critics will slate it when it opens 'officially' (after all, the member of Python are revered throughout the western world, but particularly in the UK, so there might be cries of 'what have they done to our Python?' or the like), so it might close quickly and you might not get a chance to see it, should you so choose. Or, it might be hyper-well-received (as I gather it was in the USA), and so tickets will sell out well in advance, so you might not be able to get tickets before 2008... now do you see why I decided to go to the Preview?

Who said that meetings are a waste of time?

I mean, I recently managed to doodle THIS!

And to think, my Sixth Form Head said I was shallow...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Bottle and Glass, as we say in London

This is a picture taken at the glass walk I did last Saturday. Yes, that's a walk on bits of broken glass, laid down on tarpaulin. And then the next day I ran ten miles.

I know, I know, doing such things in close succession is plain stupid, but of course that's part of the appeal. Then again, I do it because it's in aid of Phoenix House, a charity which helps to rehabilitate people with drink- and drug-related problems, and you can sponsor me or donate at the following page : - this page gives more details about the charity, and also how your donation can be worth even more to them, without you having to pay an extra penny.

Please? Pretty please with sugar on it? Oh, thanks...

LINK : Director hits back

This made me laugh:

I mean, I have a really sceptical view of the importance or relevance of critics, professional or otherwise, but I don't think one should necessarily take it this far.


A far from gruntled customer

Since there's absolutely nothing more gripping than hearing about people's utility hassles, just to say that I've lodged my complaint about lousy service with the higher echelons of Talktalk, and they're looking into it, allegedly. Be interested to hear why the company hasn't called me back (as they promised to do in late July) or sent me a replacement CD (over a month of waiting now) in order to get me the broadband I've been paying for.

So, if you're thinking about signing up for TalkTalk's package with the 'free' broadband, I strongly suggest that you don't, as - in my experience - their customer service is atrocious, and the broadband doesn't work. You know, I rather miss my dial-up with its usual connection speed of way below 56K, as that was infinitely faster than none at all.

If you have a Broadband deal which doesn't costs a lot, and includes calls (ideally evening and weekend, but I'll make do with the latter), please let me know, as unless Talktalk pull something rather remarkable out of the hat (and as I cc-ed my latest e-mail to their MD, maybe they will), I'm looking to change interweb provider... please e-mail your suggestions to me at

And of course, until this is sorted out, updates will continue to be sporadic... yes, I'm as tired of that refrain as you are.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Not dead yet

... though you'd wonder from the paucity of updates, wouldn't you?

In brief, Talktalk's 'Free Internet Forever' offer actually seems to mean 'free internet for about ten minutes if you're lucky and then it dies and you can't reconnect but you can call our helpdesk and stay on hold for ages and pay a premium rate and then get asked to reboot or reinstall the software and then it works for about ten minutes if you're lucky...' and so on ad infinitum et absurdum, which is why updates have been so non-existent recently.

I'm as annoyed as you are, my special ones, as I had loads of things to say, such as how this blog has led an old school friend to contact me after a decade, how I almost went to see ITV's Sharon Osborne Show being filmed, and the like. Ah well, soon I will tell... though I don't know if the naming-and-shaming above will necessarily catalyse a happy solution. Still, the blog does sometimes appear to have magic-ish powers, so let's see.

So, in summary: this blog isn't dead, and nor am I. Will post more - and more interesting stuff - when I can. Honest

Anyway, enough about me, let's talk about you. What do you like best about me?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

LINKS : Acronyms and Anachronisms

When I was at school, I contributed pretty heavily to the school magazine, including writing the introduction, which, when one took the first letter of each sentence, revealed the word ‘Masturbation’. Now, you might think this is unsophisticated and foolish, but I’m not the only one who does such things…,,1859782,00.html

The American comic industry has a lot of problems in regards to sales, readership, format, and of course content. None of these are likely to be solved by this bit of news:
No idea why, but I’m reminded of the bombing of the mansion in ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut’…

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Shambles indeed

As you may have seen, last week's Big Issue had a free CD with it.
"Ooh, free CD," I said to the chap near Victoria Station who I usually buy one from. "Who is it?... Oh, it's Babyshambles."
"I know," he said.
"That's a shame."
"Yes," he nodded, "it's not what I want to be associated with, really."

Note to Pete Doherty*: If people who are unfortunate enough to have to live on the street are looking down on you, it may be time to re-examine your life.

*Believe it or not, he does read this blog occasionally, so the web-bods tell me. When he's between tracks, I guess (See what I did there? Comedy).

Shoppers' Paradise

I was so scared / intrigued by the items being bought by the man in front of me in the queue at Tesco East Ham on Friday night, I craftily took a picture of his items .

This was all he was buying - note the bottle of Teacher's to the right.

I dread to think what he had planned for the weekend...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stop wasting your money on overpriced coffees...

... instead, give it to a worthy cause.

Sarah, a very good friend of mine (and the mother of my lovely god-daughter) is taking part in an event called the Aviva weekend, from 15-17 September. Over the course of this weekend she'll walk 60 kilometres (over ten times the height of Mount Ararat, and you know how much effort I said that took), to raise money for the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Breast cancer is - as I hope anyone smart enough to read this knows - a very bad thing indeed, and it ruins the life of so many people - women and those that care for them alike. I'm totally in awe of what Sarah's doing, and I hope you'll be similarly impressed, and kind enough to take a moment to click on the following link and sponsor her:

No donation is too small, or too large, and I think she's also got her employer to agree to match donations made, so please give as much as you can. She's set herself an ambitious target, so please help her to reach it and help what is obviously a worthy cause.

And, of course, please feel free to pass this link on to your friends. Sponsors get to feel good, and the money goes to help breast cancer research and educational programmes, so other people will benefit from your generosity. It really IS a win-win situation, so why not do it now?

Oh, go on...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Update Frenzy

Nine updates in one day (well, ten if you count this one)! That must be a record. For me, anyway.

So there's lots for you to read, and please feel free to comment/correct/dispute as you see fit.

Once the bloomin Broadband hassle is sorted out, I'll see if we can have less of this 'feast or famine' updating, and a more consistent (if not necessarily daily) flow...

Last week I went to Berlin

And to prove it, here’s a picture of the Brandenberger Tor – not the big one in the centre of Berlin, but a namesake in Potsdam, a town just south-west of the city.

It was good (will write more about it soon, promise), and I even took the opportunity to use my rusty German (I know, I should oil him, but I never get round to it). I even ate a chocolate bar called – wait for it – a ‘Wunderbar’.

Which, like the rest of my time there, it was.

LINKS: Shake your head / Let's go to bed

Join me, please, in finding the following to be ridiculous, and indeed laughable were it not for the alarming free speech implications: Should we expect Stephen King to be arrested for the content of his pseudonymous novel 'Rage' any time soon?

And on a thankfully more reassuring note...

I'll freely admit that I find someone more or less appealing depending on what they choose to read, and it seems I'm not alone:
The comments are worth looking at, arguably more than the article itself.

Spotted on a Central Line tube the other day

Very possibly the most immature bit of graffiti I’ve ever seen, but it made the schoolboy in me laugh.

Can’t help but wonder who’s tried to remove the sticker – a religious person offended by the addition? A gay person offended by the use of ‘gay’ in a pejorative sense? An atheist who cares not for JC’s sexual orientation but doesn’t like religious material being displayed in an ostensibly neutral environment? Or someone else?

I wondered about this most of the trip home. Well, kind of – most of it was spent stifling giggles at the pen addition.

REVIEW: Eating Myself by Candida Crewe

The personal, it’s said, is the political, so let me just get the personal stuff out of the way before I get into the review of this book: I probably know more than I’d like about eating disorders, and care a bit more than is probably healthy, and the notion that people are suffering from them upsets me greatly, all for reasons I can’t fully articulate, though experience (inevitably) is a part of this.

So I was genuinely interested to read this book, as the cover flap claims it’s a memoir “which speaks to all women”. Given that one of the things I find so upsetting about eating disorders is the (for me) sheer impenetrability of the thought processes underlying them, I was keen to see if this book shed any light on them. It did not, and quite frankly proved by turns alarming, depressing, and annoying. Let me explain why.

The book is a mix of chronological recollections about Crewe’s life, and details about her current preoccupations with food, weight and the like. As such, I was rather hoping that there might be some clues or even analysis as to the point in her life when she started to feel a certain way about food and her self-image, and to factors which had triggered it. But these don’t appear; instead the worries seem to come along almost fully-formed in her early teens, and much of the time there are generalisations to suggest that most, if not all, women feel as she does. I often find this kind of generalisation faintly irritating (I want to know why so many women feel this way, not just that they do), but even moreso when the generalisation is one which just doesn’t sit at all with personal experience – the best example of this is on page 51, when referring to school dinners, she says, “Like many resourceful children down the ages, confronted with similar fare, when the teacher wasn’t looking I shoved it up my skirt, down my knickers and afterwards into the jaws of an appreciative lavatory”. Now, perhaps I’ve led a sheltered life, but I attended school (several, in fact), and ate school lunches, and never not once ever did I see, or hear tell of, anyone who shoved food in their pants (and this doesn’t just seem to be me, as I’ve asked a few female friends about this in the past few days and they’ve all looked at me as if I’m insane. So I think Crewe is alone on this one, and that her generalisation is extremely spurious).

That sort of thing was alarming, but more depressing material came in the form of Crewe’s comments about how her preoccupations with food and body image affect her daily life; she tells us how she tries to avoid eating breakfast wherever possible (p15), how she can’t settle in a room until she’s assessed who’s the fattest person in there (p82) and how she loves walls because “they hid the whole of one side of me. I have made use of them ever since” (p85). As I say, I found this depressing because the thinking underlying it is something I find utterly alien, and simply cannot grasp, and I just want someone to explain it to me, so I can understand it, if not necessarily agree with it.

Jumping ahead to the present in her life, Crewe tries to analyse where this preoccupation came from, and thankfully doesn’t give much credence to the received wisdom that it’s all the fault of men, saying they find “this mild lunacy… tedious and unsexy” (p200), though I feel she skirts the issue of whether it’s because of the judgmental eyes of other women, trying to assess which women. I’d say it’s more likely to be strangers than the known-to-me individuals which Crewe examines (friends, family, etc), but I’m guessing here. At least this section of the book has the benefit of feeling as if it’s actually analysing things, as opposed to just stating that this is how things are and not explaining them.

Then, Crewe tells us, she showed her husband the first draft of the first half or so of the book, and that he was upset, because he hadn’t realised that she was so unhappy. To which she replies that she’s not unhappy, and so she re-reads what she’s written, and says: “Looking at the narrative again… I realised that I was not actually writing about the immediate here and now but my distant and recent past” and “…I think I exaggerated or, rather, played a little freely with my use of the present tense” (p221). And then “What I did was to make out that I am still living by [those various habits, practices and beliefs] every day… While I admit that they do not malignly exist today as they once did, they have not entirely disintegrated.” Just in case those extended quotes are a little hard to understand, don’t worry, I’ll translate them into a three-word summary for you, paraphrasing Austen: Reader, I lied.

And this was a profoundly annoying section of the book for me, both as a reader and as someone who takes the use of words fairly seriously (despite often using them for flippancy). As a reader, I felt cheated, because the stuff that I had found so alarming in the first section of the book – about how she thinks x and that all women think x – turned out not to be true, which of course brings pretty much the rest of the book into doubt. She lied about her current preoccupation with food, so how do I know she wasn’t lying about the bulimia in her 20s? How do I know the academics she quotes from exist, or that they said what she claims they said? After the beautifully-phrased admission quoted above that what she said wasn’t actually true, you can see why I’d doubt it.

That’s my reaction as a reader, but as user-of-words my annoyance is two-pronged: firstly, that a subject as serious and life-ruining as eating disorders is something that can be written about in a haphazard way, and secondly - tying in to that haphazardness – that the book wasn’t rewritten after that first draft elicited this reaction and Crewe realised that she hadn’t been telling the truth. If you’re a writer or editor with any integrity in that situation, you say ‘okay, well, now, that stuff wasn’t accurate, so I’ll take it out’ and then you do that. You don’t just stick in a bit at the end saying ‘the first draft contained lies which upset my test reader, but I’ve left them in and acknowledged them here, so that’s all right’, because it isn’t. It borders on contempt for your reader, their intelligence, and undermines the seriousness of any point you’re trying to make. In writing terms, it’s hackwork, an example of the ‘that’ll do, get it to print’ mentality, and it does nobody any favours.

As you can tell from this extended review, I feel strongly about this book (because I feel strongly about the subject). I have no objection whatsoever to books which mix personal feelings on a subject with cold hard facts and analysis, and on a subject as emotive as this I think it’s almost inevitable. But as a contribution to the examination of the rise of eating disorders and an analysis of the roots of it, this book is utterly worthless. As a personal memoir – and it’s more that than anything else – it’s very well-written, but since we later learn that the author hasn’t been telling the truth, it’s invalid on that count as well.

On the strength of my dislike for this book, you might feel a perverse inclination to check it out (it’s in hardback at the moment, so maybe your local library will have a copy). In no way do I suggest you do so, but if you do, consider yourself well and truly warned.

As far as I can see, there’s still an important book to be written on the issue of eating disorders, their social and cultural roots, their triggers and cures, and all the associated issues. It would need, to my mind, to be a mix of the anecdotal and the factual, possibly with autobiographical elements, possibly without. I haven’t come across such a book yet (though if you know of one, please let me know – usual e-mail address), and I sometimes wonder if I ought to write the damn thing myself. I’ll add it to the list of projects. With the working title of ‘WTF? I mean, W-T-F?’

Along with general nausea, Stray Thoughts may be a sign of Attitude Sickness

  1. Following on from the Fire Walk I did last year, I’ve recently received a letter from the same charity asking me to do a sponsored walk over broken glass. I haven’t yet decided if I will or not, but I must admit I love that my life is such that people write to me and suggest I do that sort of thing.
  2. On the subject of foolhardy behaviour, I have to say it’s been interesting to see the reactions of women I know to the picture of me at the summit of Ararat. Many of them seem oddly … let’s say moved by it. Perhaps it’s the latent (more like blatant) symbolism of the ice axe…
  3. Have you heard that Mousse T/Dandy Warhols remix, ‘Horny Like A Dandy’? It’s an obvious summer novelty track, mixing – yes – ‘Horny’ with ‘Bohemian Like You’. As a fan of one of those tracks but not the other, I can’t quite decide whether it makes the good one a bit shoddier, or lifts the rubbish one to the level of acceptability by association.
  4. Shopper’s Paradise: last time I looked, Virgin had all Bill Hicks’s CDs available for £6.99 each, and Woolworths were selling the ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ DVD for £5.99. All of these are worth your time and money.
  5. Oh, and speaking of films, re-watched ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ the other day, for the first time in something like a decade, and was reminded just how great it is. Strong performances all round, and once again I’m forced to wonder if David Mamet could write dull dialogue if he tried. Not that I’d want him to, but…
  6. Something which I remembered the other day: when a relationship was on the way out, but we were refusing to admit it, I spent a couple of awkward Sunday mornings with the then-girlfriend, when neither of us seemed to be in a hurry to get out of bed (and not for fun reasons). You know how it is. Anyway, some time later, after things had ended, she told me that she’d been pretending to be asleep so as not to have to talk to me. On balance, I can’t decide which is the worst aspect of this – that she did it, that she told me, or that she assumed I wasn’t clever enough to realise what was going on, and so felt that she had to point it out to me?
  7. Although I only got about 10 pages in Madame Bovary before giving up, I’m not discounting Flaubert as a writer, as I came across this quote from him (or, at least, attributed to him) which I think is rather insightful: “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work”.

REVIEW: Belshazzar’s Daughter by Barbara Nadel

Another book I bought on the cheap because it featured Istanbul as its setting, this is a thriller, and essentially a murder mystery.

The basic premise is as follows: an elderly Jewish man is murdered in Istanbul’s Jewish quarter, and a swastika drawn above the corpse in blood. There are a handful of characters presented as likely suspects, each with moderately plausible motives, and it falls to the central character, Inspector Çetin İkmen, and his colleagues, to find the killer.

The characterisation’s key here, and Nadel succeeds in providing a cast of notably different characters, as well as a likeably quirky lead. I found the opening ten pages or so a bit of a struggle, as we keep switching locations and characters without it being quite clear what’s going on, but once the relationships between the characters become apparent it’s genuinely interesting, and there’s some good dialogue and interior monologue.

However, having set up an interesting situation, the book falters in that something needs to happen in order to upset the status quo and allow İkmen to figure out who did what and when. And this comes, but in a rather heavy-handed fashion, almost as if Nadel realised that the set-up was so tight, and the characters so tight-lipped, that the only way to resolve the story was to drop a bit of a Deus Ex Machina plot device into it, rattling things enough to enable characters to make mistakes and for the detective to figure it out. Given how tightly written the book is generally, this felt like a bit of a fudge, though it does at least move the story out of the corner it seems to have written itself into.

But the writing’s generally of a very high standard here, with the characters feeling real and (in places) genuinely creepy or evil, and Istanbul is (to my mind rightly) portrayed as a city burdened by its own history, struggling to make a smooth transition to the present.

A shame, as I say, that the story’s resolution feels it was wheeled into place by plot levers being so blatantly pushed, but I only paid 99p for this book, and it was more than enjoyable, so I’d cautiously recommend it. Nadel’s written further novels featuring the same character, I understand, so they may well be free of the plot problems I felt this one had.

No coincidence, only the illusion of coincidence

As I’ve been saying for weeks now, I have arranged Broadband for my phone (and, of course, computer). I was hoping that I was going to be the first person in my circle to have it installed without hassles, breakdowns, or the usual delays. Oh, my optimistic folly!

The Broadband was not working for the first week after the first installation, and of course the ‘call back within 48 hours to tell you what the problem is’ didn’t happen. A snotty e-mail from me elicited a response, apologetic and saying that it was fixed now. Indeed it was, for about two hours, and then the phone line went dead, and remained that way for five days.

Now, I’m not saying that the phone line died because of the broadband installation being screwed up, but it looks bad, doesn’t it? I’m aware of the dangers of ‘Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc’ thinking (except when it comes to the West Wing episode of that name, which is as good as you’d expect), but the conclusion’s pretty inescapable…

Anyway, the landline’s back on now, but the Broadband problem’s happening again. Hmph. If it’s not resolved soon, I’ll name and shame them - that’ll scare them into sorting it out, oh yes by jiminy.

(And the reason I’m able to post this is because I’m doing it in one of those interweb café places – I know, I know, spending money just to update the blog! How good am I to you folks, eh?)

REVIEW: The Double Eagle – James Twining

Background: I bought this book because it was 99p, and it featured Istanbul as one of the locations, and so I took it with me to Turkey on my recent holiday. The woman behind the counter – rightly – observed that the cover made it look like the Da Vinci Code, which we guessed wasn’t an accident, but now I realise that should probably have been a clue.

The book’s a thriller, but the ingredients aren’t really very thrilling, to be honest: an ex-thief being pressured to do ‘one last job’, an FBI agent trying to prove her worth, FBI bosses who won’t be convinced about the agent’s hunches or ability… you get the general idea.

Do I sound dismissive? Probably, and that’s because, even for 99p, this book isn’t really very good. The central premise is moderately interesting (though probably much more so if you’re a numismatist), but the writing’s really rather poor, so perhaps the resemblance to Dan Brown’s waste of trees isn’t a coincidence. The low quality of the writing really started to bite for me around page 84, where two characters are talking in a graveyard, though oddly enough we’re told that one of them “stared down at the floor as he spoke”. I think he means ground – in fact he definitely does, and he knows they’re outdoors, because on page 85, he tells us that one of the character’s “black brogues [sank] into the grass’s soft pile”. It’s a decent enough comparison, that grass is like carpet, but the use of the word ‘grass’s’ is horribly clumsy, and really should have been caught before the book went to print. And that’s on two pages of a book that runs to 549 pages, which is why, like the aforementioned other novel, I kept reading, and re-writing it in my head as I went to see how it could have been done. Which is not a good thing.

Also, the ‘twist’ at the end is easy to guess (I did so on page 238, so when it came on page 482, imagine my smug boredom), so the drama of the ‘reveal’ is almost non-existent, as is that of the epilogue.

According to the author biography, James Twining’s working on another novel featuring the same protagonist, and I wish him well with it, but I certainly won’t be buying it, because I really can’t recommend this book, even as a spot of light reading.

In Deep Water

A picture here from my recent holiday in Turkey, taken with a waterproof camera (I know – technology, eh?).

The fish who’d been so prevalent up until the time I took the camera underwater were conspicuous by their absence once I started snapping, but I think you’ll agree that the water’s not exactly unappealing, nor un-blue…

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

And yet at school my grades were persistently below 'C' Level

This is me at the summit of Mount Ararat in Turkey, 5137m above sea level, about ten days ago.

No idea why my hat's decided to make me even taller than usual, so instead focus your attention on the ice axe in my hand, and the high-altitude beard.

LINK: Are these words from the future?

I like this :

Go on, you know you want to.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

LIST: Music To Climb Mountains By

You can keep your iPods with their single-digit battery life, my Sony bean-shaped music thing has a 50 hour running time when fully charged, and so is ideal to take on holiday.

And that’s what I did, and despite me accidentally leaving it running a couple of times, it didn’t run out until after I got home. Which is handy, as occasionally you get tired of the sound of your own ragged breathing on the mountain, or the aircraft’s engine drone, and want to listen to some proper music.

The following, then, is a list of what I listened to in Turkey (those marked * are single tracks, all the others are albums):

They Might be Giants – Istanbul Not Constantinople*
Pink Floyd – Echoes: The Best Of
Aimee Mann – Wise Up*
Jewel – Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices*
The Divine Comedy – Victory For The Comic Muse
Somnium – 17*
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Best Of
Camisra – Let Me Show You (Tall Paul remix)*
Scott Walker – Sings Jacques Brel
Fire Inc – Nowhere Fast*
Original Soundtrack – Blade:Trinity
Fire Inc – Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young*
They Might Be Giants – A User’s Guide To…
Sebastian Tellier – Le Retournelle (original version)*
Big Bam Boo – Fun, Faith and Fairplay
Long-View – Mercury
Fatboy Slim – Right Here, Right Now*
Craig Armstrong – Love Actually (Orchestral Score)
Snow Patrol – Run*
Deacon Blue – Raintown
The KLF – America: What Time Is Love? (Full version)*
Kubb – Mother
Moby – James Bond Theme*
Craig Armstrong – Film Works 1995-2005
Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine – The Taking of Peckham 123*
The Divine Comedy – Casanova
Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine – Lean On Me I Won’t Fall Over*
Bonnie Tyler – Best Of
Malik Adouane – Shaft (from Buddha Bar Vol 1)*
The Orb – U.F.Orb

So: 225 tracks, 16 and a half hours of music, and the machine was only half full. Did the job for me…

Darling, I’m Home!

Well, for those of you who didn’t know, I’ve been in Turkey for a couple of weeks, initially climbing Mount Ararat (I’ve been asked to write a magazine article about this, and will post the appropriate link), and then taking a few days to recover and do some diving (beautiful blue water, and fish all around). Heaps of fun, and I broke a few of my own rules as well, which is always a healthy thing.

And, of course, I met some lovely and interesting people, as you can see from the attached picture.

Friday, July 07, 2006

You have not heard the last of me

As villains tend to say as they fall victim to their own diabolical death-trap, shaking a fist (or hook or claw) defiantly:
"Mark my words, I shall return!"

... which is to say, updates will be few and far between for the next few weeks.
Please bear with me.
Your patience is appreciated.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

REVIEW: ‘Inside Out’ by Nick Mason

This book is Mason’s account of his life and times as a member of Pink Floyd, from its very beginning until the recent Live 8 reunion. As the only person who’s been a member from the start until the present day, Mason’s arguably well-placed to give a sense of the bigger picture.

And he does so pretty well; from the swirly psychedelic start at UFO and other London underground clubs to the grottiness of touring, he gives decent insights into the way various albums (and sometimes individual songs) evolved, with an amusingly dry modesty. The book wouldn’t be complete without references to the departures from the band – Syd Barrett and Roger Waters – and he doesn’t take the opportunity to pretend to be blameless in either situation, which I feel is a good thing. The book ends on a happy note, with the paperback containing an epilogue about the Live 8 reunion, but even without this it would be a good read, and it’s interesting to note just how the Floyd went from being improvisational and free-form to very ordered and regulated in their work (the overabundance of that from Waters sounding like the problem when it came to ‘The Final Cut’ album, I fear).

A very decent read, thankfully free of muso-style pretension or similar excesses of music writing, and definitely worth a read if you’re a fan of the band in any of their incarnations (I like most of it, though the Waters-led period suits the often rather adolescent nature of my concerns, but if you like the Barrett or Gilmour eras, these are just as well covered).

Postscript: Just this weekend (though I didn’t attend), Mason was special guest as Waters performed The Dark Side Of The Moon in Hyde Park. Nice to see the rapprochement continuing. But I would question the appropriateness of the heading under which this concert took place (see picture above) – Ambassadors of Rock? Rock doesn’t have ambassadors, with their polite diplomacy and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Rock comes in without being invited, drinks milk from the bottle in the fridge, puts its hand on your bum without apology, and wipes bogies on the curtain before leaving, the door banging as it goes.

‘Ambassadors’. Tch. Rock’s not like it used to be in my young days, clearly…

The ‘To Read’ Pile

Over at, Olivia recently commented on the pressure of having so many books awaiting her attention, and posted a picture to prove it. In a typically male spirit of competition, I attach a picture of the books which currently await my attention, in their increasingly precarious pile atop the bookcase.

I’m not necessarily proud of having so many books bought but unread (it’s just money sat there really, isn’t it?), but I’m not entirely ashamed of it either. If nothing else, it means that, if I’m on my way home from work and find myself close to the end of a book, I’m not going to find myself wanting for something to replace it… assuming I don’t finish it before I get home, that is –too often for my tastes, I find myself finishing a book either on the way to work, or even on the way home but with eight or nine stops to go, and find myself going cold inside with an awful sense of rudderlessness.

What to do? Pick up a discarded copy of the Evening Standard or, worse, Metro? Or just stare at the advertisements overhead for multivitamins and websites?

Good lord, no. Quite frankly, that would be worse than not reading at all.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

REVIEW: ‘Millions Of Women Are Waiting To Meet You’ by Sean Thomas

Asked by Men’s Health magazine to write an article on internet dating, Thomas did so, and wrote this book to tell all. As you’d expect, it’s pretty funny in places (certainly aided by his candour), but it’s also surprisingly touching in others, and even insightful when he thinks about exactly what in his life has made him like certain things in women (height, income etc), and not like others. Would that we could all think this over so well.

However, a few niggles, and they’re petty-ish, but they broke the flow of reading, which is always irritating; Thomas (or his editor), like many people, doesn’t seem to realise that ‘infer’ doesn’t mean the same as ‘imply’ (and it’s always embarrassing when people use it wrongly – better not to use it at all,I feel), and there are several typos, the worst of which is where the name of a girl referred to several pages previously is wrongly substituted for that of his current girlfriend. As I say, minorish things, but they break the spell of reading, and whilst I’ve come to accept that UK reprints of USA-originated novels aren’t going to bother correcting spellings of ‘color’ and the like, I think a book from the UK ought to be better proof-read than this. Hmph.

Hmph-ing aside, it’s a pretty good read – Thomas is likable and honest, and his musings on certain sexual peccadilloes are both frank and funny. Worth a look, though it probably gives away a few things about male thinking which women would rather not hear confirmed (as much as they suspect them to be true).

… Night-Time in the City.

The other night, I went to the British Museum to see their exhibition of Michelangelo drawings (splendid – even the man’s rough sketches are technically skilled, and there’s something about standing and realising you’re mere inches away from the original sketch of the Hand of God). The exhibition’s been very popular (and if you get the chance to see it before it ends this weekend, I heartily recommend it, but the short deadline’s the reason why I’m not reviewing it fully), and thus the Museum was open until midnight.

So I turned up for my timeslot just after 9pm, and I ascended the unusually people-free steps, going into the foyer where two musicians (one violinist, one cellist) were playing classical music, and then on to the Great Hall where they were serving food, before seeing the exhibition. And as I came out an hour or two later with a contented grin on my face, once again marvelling at the things which are available to me in London, I decided to take a picture of the Museum building.

And that, my friend, is the picture above and to the left of these words.

REVIEW: ‘The Final Solution’ by Michael Chabon

A very short novel from Pulitzer-Prize winning author Chabon, this features a mystery in a small English village in the last years of World War II. It’s investigated by an old man who used to be a detective, but now more concerned with looking after his bees. If you don’t know who I’m referring to by now (and the book doesn’t name him) … well, then you might not appreciate it as much as I did, I guess. And frankly shame on you.

Anyway, as I say it’s a short book (126 pages), which means you can rattle through it quickly (an afternoon was enough for me), but it’s a good one, with some nice bits of characterisation and a good sense of pace, as well as a genuine feeling that WWII looms over the action like a shadow. In the paperback, there’s also an additional section containing an interview with the author, in which he makes a reasoned (not to say spirited) argument in favour of genre fiction. As Chabon won his Pulitzer for a book covering superheroes and the history of American comics, and this latest book is a murder mystery, I’d say he was well-placed to comment on, and argue about, this issue, but this may be because I agree with him wholeheartedly.

In terms of value for your money, this is pretty poor (£6.99 for 140 pages or so), so you might well want to see about getting a library copy, but I recommend you do so, as it’s a very good read. And I recommend mulling over Chabon’s comments about genre as well.

Something Happened!*

For those of us in the UK, the first series of ‘Prison Break’ ended the other week. In case you haven’t seen the show, the basic premise runs thus: a man is accused of murdering the Vice President of the USA, and his younger brother, convinced of his guilt, gets hold of the plans to the prison, has them tattooed on his body, and then gets jailed so he can break out with his sibling.

Yes, it does sound fairly preposterous – and indeed it often is – but I suddenly realised that the reason why I’ll be watching Prison Break when it returns is the opposite of the reason why I found the end of the first series of ‘Lost’ so irritating: something happened.

It’s a common problem in TV series – they want to keep you interested, so they set up an attention-grabbing premise or plotline, but network and business needs require that they endlessly play Scheherazade and refuse to resolve the tease. It’s all foreplay, basically. And I’m not knocking foreplay – it’s just there’s a reason why the first consonant of the word is what it is.

And whilst Lost lost (…) my interest by virtue of its refusal to answer many of its own questions, Prison Break had characters die, situations change, and all the things that made it worth watching because it was far from predictable what was going to happen next. Indeed, in places it looked like the writers were playing Consequences, seeing what the next episode’s writer would do to get out of the jam they were in, but the way plot threads faded and reappeared makes me think it was far more organised than that.

It’s a simple enough requirement in a story, I think, that something actually occur, or that the writer(s) have the nerve to make good on at least some of the promises implicit in the set-up, but it often seems to be one which TV serials are reluctant to do, in the belief that a promising status quo is what the viewer wants; for me, that’s not the case, and there’s little I like more when watching a TV show which actually dares to deliver the punchline which its setup promised (finding out who the killer was in Twin Peaks, for example), or which has twists of events which you didn’t expect at all (Spooks episode 2, for example, but more importantly Buffy on an impressive number of occasions).

I may be getting old-fashioned in my approach to things narrative-based, but as all stories involve the creator convincing the audience that these made-up-things in some way ‘matter’ and are worthy of their time and attention, I think it’s implied in that that if the audience spends time and effort following the story, that the creator will in some way reward that. And in TV, it seems that’s almost unfashionable (‘Life on Mars’, I’m looking at you), which I think is a shame.

Not least because it means I get increasingly wary of starting to watch a series in case it just strings me along to no narrative purpose.

*Apologies to Joseph Heller