Monthly Archives: May 2007

Vernon Kaye: The truth

Vernon Vs GuyStanding on TV like a flesh and blood Guy Smiley with his gormless, vapid grin, ludicrous hairstyle, and wacky posturing, you’d think that Vernon Kaye was a completely expendable moron. But please don’t be fooled, he’s not what he seems. You’d even be forgiven for thinking that he could fuck right off and stuff his slimy repartee up his arse…but it’s just a clever ruse.
The sinister truth is that he was created, Steve Austin-style, from the remains of a car crash involving the bastard son of Roger Moore and a fresh leg of New Zealand lamb. They reconstructed his body using a new type of plastic resin and then replaced his brain with that of a cretinous dog, wired into the main circuit board of an unwanted BigTrak. The result is the distilled form of Saturday-night ITV “personality” that the commercial stations have been searching for since the birth of television.
It’s perfect. He has that bizarre, hollow expression combined with a lantern-jawed, gormless countenance which, when combined with spray-on-tan, gets the ladies of ITV’s target audience moist. But at the same time he has the powerful ability to spew a perpetual stream of saucy trifling drivel that the male members of the audience – and I mean “members” – can enjoy. Those in the audience with some sort of vestigial brain may also enjoy Vern’s televisual presence by convincing themselves that his camp twattery is all “ironic”.


 A while back I mentioned a passing interest in Morse code (or CW as the hams call it), but since then it has escalated to a significant interest, bordering on the obsessive. As obsessions go it’s not such a bad one I suppose, although the reaction of most people when I tell them is a combination confusion and pity. But it’s got to the stage where Suzanne (my CW co-conspirator) and I are planning to get a ham licence each. Do we really need this much geekiness in our lives ? Too late really, we both now own brand new morse keys and can happily recognise the alphabet. Oh dear.

Some good things from this week:

  • Meeting up with an old friend/colleague at a pub in the west-end that served Thatcher’s Heritage cider.
  • On the way home getting a legendary, cow-sized salt-beef sarny from Gaby’s Deli together with a latke, a pickled cucumber, and a complimentary falafel and sweet….as I say, it’s the little things.
  • Someone from Yahoo contacted me to ask if they could use one of my pictures for a feature article.
  • Managing to fix my parents Freeview PVR by replacing the knackered 80G hard drive (Maxtor) with a 200G Seagate. This is the first time I’ve bought a drive that wasn’t OEM; it’s amazing, you get a shiny box, a manual, a five year guarantee and everything!
  • Some nice evenings in the pub.
  • Long weekend ahead…

Death and Religion

Yesterday was the annual Nunhead Cemetery open-day, which sounds a lot more weird than it actually is. In reality it’s a chance for the middle classes throughout South-East London to spend a day in a beautiful Victorian cemetery, swap leaflets and entertain their kids. Michele is always keen to attend because there are frequently exhibits with birds of prey and owls, so we went along with Dave and took some pictures. As we started to walk along the verdant paths, flanked with the intricate, ornate monuments Michele commented that it was surprising the place wasn’t choc-full with goths. Goth with an owlWe turned the corner and bugger-me there were millions of them, all dressed up in OTT pastiches of Victorian mourning costumes, taking pictures of each other by the monuments.

In all it was a lovely couple of hours but marred at the end, for me anyway, by the presence of a smug stall of neo-Christians who were there trying to indoctrinate children. Apart from referring to non-believers as “fools” in their posters, the thing that really pissed me off was this smug, simple-looking guy’s t-shirt that said “The secret of life is the Bible. Believe it.”
This angered me so much; it encompasses everything I hate about religion and everything I hate about the world. In one snappy phrase they not only push their point of view without explanation, but also try and encourage you not to question it or anything else for that matter; don’t question what we say, just believe it! It’s got about as much validity as saying “The moon is made of cheese. Believe it.”

So last night I joined the National Secular Society and ordered an “Atheist and proud” t-shirt. I encourage everyone to question the wisdom of that decision.

Arrive Me!

Like every other aspect of the NHS, our GPs’ surgery has recently been “modernised” with the magic of PFI. This basically means that they’ve given up their old building in return for a newly jerry-built, impressive-looking, totally unfit for purpose building, and a commitment to pour huge amounts of public money into the pockets of a private building company for the next 25 years.

The day came where I needed to see the quack and so I wandered in and staggered through the sweltering heat (glass building – no aircon – nuff said) up to the receptionists to let them know I was here.
“Have you tried using the automated system ?” the receptionist asked.
“Eh ?”
“Over there” she said impatiently, gesturing towards a line of bewildered looking pensioners who were staring blankly at the screen of a kiosk PC over by the door.

It turns out that these systems are cropping up in many GP surgeries these days. After you identify yourself by selecting your gender and date of birth, you are presented with a list of names and addresses of people that match that criteria…cough…data protection…cough… Once you select your details you are presented with a button labelled:

Arrive Me

What ? What does that mean ? What language is that ? Are you supposed to press it ? The biggest problem I have with it is not knowing what is technically incorrect with that phrase; it just seems so, so wrong. Perhaps someone who was lucky enough to be taught English at school could explain it to me.

This system streamlines the entire process of checking in, or “arriving yourself”, by

  • Scaring and confusing old people.
  • Giving away personal details of other patients.
  • Changing the receptionists job from someone who acknowledges your presence, to an application support person who ends up having to explain the whole concept to each and every patient that walks through the door.

No wonder that every time I visit the place the same pantomime is performed:

  • Punter walks in and over to reception.
  • Receptionist wearily directs them to the PC.
  • Depending on the patients level of skill with English and computers they either “arrive themselves” or pathetically stab the screen until they’re forced to go back to the receptionist.
  • Rather than capitulate and just “arrive” the patient themselves, they invariably try to explain the procedure and send them back across to the evil device.
  • This procedure can continue for three or four cycles until the patient either twigs it or loses the will to live.

Where would we be without such amazing advances in technology ? In with the doctor probably.
[Update: K8 was kind enough to point out that “arrive” is intransitive and therefore should not have an object. Thanks K8, your poshness pays off again 😉 ]

A weekend in Royston Vasey

Ok it’s actually called something like Wainscotting or Firfleet but the longer I stayed there the more disturbingly Vaseyesque it became. Michele has been booked up for her dream day out for months: a day looking after parrots in the National Parrot Sanctuary. The only problem is it’s in the arse end of nowhere, or Lincolnshire as the maps call it. So, we thought we’d both go and make a weekend of it. You know; stay in a nice hotel; go out to a nice little village bistro; a nightcap in the hotel bar; that sort of thing.
At first I thougt we could stay in the lovely seaside town of Skegness, but we were emphatically warned off the idea by a friend who’s been there. In fact she did her best to persuade us not to embark on the whole Lincolnshire adventure, but by then we were up for it and so I booked a room in a local Inn I found on the Internet.
So after a surprisingly pleasant 5 hour journey, we arrived in rural WainsWold or whatever it’s called, and walked to the hotel. It was a basic but cosy (and clean) room so we were happy and decided to explore the village; maybe we’d find a nice restaurant for later.
Exhaustive exploration took around 10 minutes and can be summed-up thus:

  • Apart from about 50 chip shops, the only places to eat were the 3 pubs that serve almost identical menus based around sausages and chips.
  • All the people we encountered looked like extras from Deliverance.
  • There’s nothing else within walking distance apart from a charity shop, a butchers, a newsagents,a small co-op and Bateman’s brewery.

We opted for the Brewery as it was only half three and a sign indicated they served food. Obviously, they close at three. As we considered our stifled entertainment possibilities, it began to rain. Then hail. We sheltered in a doorway, pathetically holding the broken remains of an umbrella over the bits of us that were exposed and started laughing at the extent to which our plan had gone-up titwise. Under a busted umbrella
Eventually the rain subsided enough for us to go back to the hotel for a rethink, a pint of Batemans and a cheese and onion baguette. It was then that we noticed the signs threatening a Karaoke that very evening…
To cut a long story short, we ended up eating in an “American Italian” theme restaurant in Skegness. Nuff said. When we returned to the hotel several hours later (the service was spectacularly bad in the restaurant) the Karaoke was in full swing and so we went up to the room and watched the laughable spectacle of the Eurovision scoring before trying to sleep; Michele had to get up early the next day for the parrots and I didn’t want to miss my full English breakfast. Have you ever tried sleeping in a room above a Karaoke ? It’s a bit like trying to sleep through a load of drunk, talentless arseholes screetching through a handful of Robbie Williams and Celine Dion songs. In fact that’s exactly what it is.
Bereft of our nocturnal MP3 player, which was tucked up in the bed at home, we resorted to writing Limericks:

The Lincolnshire town of Wainfl33t
Had very few places to eat
Unless you like chips
The place is the pits
And the weather is rain or it’s sleet.

There once was a town called Skegness
Whose seafront was really a mess
On saturday nights
Its all vomit and fights
As for culture I’ve never seen less

Beneath the floor I hear vocals
The Karaoke of drunk Wainfl33t locals
All through the night
The singing was shite
Did you expect any more from these yokels ?

There were more but I can’t remember them. This helped us laugh ourselves to sleep. I know they sound really snobby but that’s because they are. Go on, I defy you to go to Skegness and not want to write snotty Limericks about it.

The next morning, after Michele got her cab to the Parrot place, it started to get scary. I already had the theme tune to the League of Gentleman stuck in my head as I headed down to the station but when I realised that there were only four trains out of the place all day, starting at two that afternoon, I started to panic. Earlier I’d attempted to do battle with the new costly National Rail voice unrecognition service and assumed it was wrong; there have to be more trains than that…The image of the Royston Vasey sign appeared suspended in front of me together with the disturbingly appropriate phrase “You’ll Never Leave”.
The Brewery didn’t open for another couple of hours and even then, trying to kill 4 hours here would be difficult at best. And who knows what could happen to me – I could end up in that butchers window. So, I called a cab using a number I found on the Internet. The hotel had given me a cab number but of course there was never any answer. After a 20 minute wait at the deserted station, the cab arrived and I was so delighted that the driver looked normal, and wasn’t a gravel-voiced pre-op transsexual, that I accepted the expensive estimate to get me to the relative metropolis of Boston. He turned out to be such a nice, normal bloke that he even bought me a coffee and reduced the fare! Needless to say he’d only recently moved to Lincolnshire from somewhere more normal.

Killing time in Boston seemed like a more reasonable proposition as there appeared to be open places other than chip shops there. The “centre” was pretty grim nonetheless and so I went back to the station and sat in the grim station cafe/bar, Shunters, and drank a nice pint whilst blogging and awaiting the train to Grantham: gateway to normality…who’d have thought I’d ever write that sentence.

Of course, despite the lack of staff, signs, or announcements it turned out that the trains had been cancelled for the day. If it hadn’t have been for a kindly drunk at the bar telling me that I probably wanted to get on the coach that had pulled up outside, I’d probably still be there. In a moment of public spiritedness I went along the platform and shouted to the 20 or so assembled punters that we had to get on the coach or be stuck here; they eagerly followed, grumbling and chanting traditional insults about our 3rd world rail network.

Eventually we did make it home intact though. I was hoping for an argument with a ticket inspector en route but sadly it didn’t happen.

Still it was nice to get away, and the breakfast was pretty good. Michele enjoyed the parrots too.

The Genesis of Fascism

This is a pro-American post. If you don’t agree after reading it, re-read it.

A few weeks back, Naomi Wolf wrote a beautifully concise description of the way Fascism can creep into a supposedly free society without the majority of people noticing. She defines 10 easy steps to take if you want to turn a democracy into a dictatorship and then clearly identifies how the US government have already taken them. I’d urge everyone to read this if they haven’t already, especially Americans.

But there’s been another worrying phenomenon in recent years that doesn’t get a mention in the above article and I’m over the increasing belief that it is directly related: Creationism and the debasement of Science. Another feature of dictatorships is that they inevitably assume control of a “higher power”. Even the Communists, by banning organised religion, managed to elevate their own leaders into the spiritual gap left by the exorcism. Once the state has control over an infallible belief system they can argue that they are merely doing the bidding of God/Allah/Der Fuhrer/The Faeries.

“God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.”
George Wanlker Bush

When one hears the drivel the Creationists come out with, and then observes the respect with which they are treated by the US (and UK) governments, one can’t help wondering if these people really are that stupid. Take this ludicrous example of a Creationist using a jar of peanut butter to prove life is solely God-given (or watch this one, that includes a much-needed laughtrack)
Now, this is so ridiculous that no-one with a normal level of reasoning and access to books other than the bible could possibly believe it. But in parts of America, particularly parts of the big, red, hole in the middle, see this as pure truth. It can be no-coincidence that the only other group of people who publicly support this cobblers are those currently in power.
Nearly all of the original core values of America have now been eroded to nothing. Pretty soon just being an American could make you very Un-American.

Fuck Facebook…

In the pub the other evening I overhead a friend describe Facebook as “the new MySpace”. For many reasons this was quite depressing but, despite Facebook being nearly as old as myspace, truly accurate. Of course, technically, Facebook is far superior to Myspace, although that’s not saying much, but it’s just another social network nightmare, and that’s it. Users of these hopelessly pointless systems are easily classifiable:

  1. Kids
  2. People who want to flirt with people, with the pathetic hope that they may meet the boy/girl of their dreams
  3. People who want to flirt with people, and hope they may get some anonymous sex out of it
  4. Old farts who are desperately trying to cling onto their youth – sometimes literally

You don’t need me to point out which category you or I fall into.
Still, it’s interesting to see the same people migrating from one network to another en mass and leaving the same chirpy, flirty, dropping on each others pages. Me included…The real users (ie types 1-3 above) have the same conversations in “private” using IM systems but they still feel the need to talk in public too. Frequently people use the public spaces to allude to private conversations and in-jokes. Why ? Marking territory perhaps ? All very odd.
The only one of these things I’ve ever got into is flickr, and that’s probably because it primarily serves another purpose: to host your pictures using their bandwidth and with their excellent tools. But now and again it’s nice to have a look around the groups and meet like minded people.
The best thing is that Facebook will import this blog entry automatically together with the title.
It’s the little things.

Selected Target

Last week Surrey House, the student block that we have “temporarily” been living within for the past 3 years, was violated by a very professional burgler. The Halls’ manager asked me to help get a snapshot from the CCTV footage so I was fortunate enough to see him in action.
The first thing that struck me was how old he was – at least in his 40s. Not the sort of ratboy I’d expected. The second was how coolly he managed to wander in. From the end of the road he clocked a bunch of bewildered looking parents heading to the main door, and ran up until he got within sauntering distance. A student heading to the launderette was only too happy to admit the complete strangers before they even got a chance to ring the doorbell, and our man kindly held the door for the parents as they preceded him into the foyer.
A short while later he sauntered back out with a newly acquired carrier bag containing a newly acquired laptop. The former owner of the laptop had thoughtfully left her door unlocked while she went out for the day.
Now, to be perfectly honest, this really didn’t bother me too much. If there are going to be burglars then I’d much prefer them to be polite, efficient, thieves of easily replaceable consumer goods from unlocked rooms, rather than home-wrecking turd-distributors that piss all over your photos. In fact I almost admired him…
But when, a week later, he interrupts my mellow programming by looking at me through my front window I think that’s taking the piss. It’s like mice; I don’t mind co-habiting with mice. But when they start crapping over my food and interrupting my TV viewing I get the mousetraps out.
So I ran upstairs to get a second opinion. The only person I could find was Adrian, a really good, old, friend whom I haven’t seen for months, and this took me by surprise; a dangerous thing to happen when you are already in a state of surprise. Unable to explain the situation, I pathetically spluttered, and gestured until, like Lassie, I managed to persaude him that I wanted him to follow. We watched him amble around outside the door and then, after taking some shit out of a skip, wander into the back garden of a house over the road. This was definitely the guy…

So, I called the Police on the poor bugger. They turned up in about 10 minutes (not bad at all), by which time Raffles had fucked off up the road. Five minutes later they called me and told me they’d caught him! They described him to me and asked about the CCTV footage.
Now I’m waiting for a further call back.

What if it’s not the guy ?
What if it is the guy ?

Inside inside

Firstly, let’s all raise a glass to Alex and Jael’s new baby, Scientific, who was born at 2:30 on May day. Nice one Alex! May day is the best it could be. He’ll become the next Zapata!

Working at home affords you the luxury of being able to watch Film 4 in the afternoons. Film 4 has been showing some seriously good stuff in the afternoons recently and I often wonder who else gets a chance to see them. The sort of films that everyone should see but few rarely get an opportunity. Who has the time in their lives to go out and watch a couple of film noir classics like The Ministry of Fear and The Dark Corner. Not me, but being able to experience them, even on our crap little telly was a thrill. Whenever I see people making films in black and white these days I think “you wanker!” That doesn’t make it cool! Black and white was the only option in those days, and the guys stretched the medium to its full. The lighting in any Fritz Lang film makes your hairs tingle. They were using the medium and extending it. Simply filming in black and while whilst hoping it looks more arty is the habit of the morons. Fuck off and stick to commercials.
We’re spoiled in this country, or at least I am. Imagine being able to watch classic films during your working day and then loads of Secret Army ? Doesn’t get much better than that…except for Blakes 7 obviously.

This evening Michele and I went to a local restaurant that gets loads of good reviews. We’ve both been meaning to go there for a while but never seemed to have the chance. Tonight, after a very pleasurable drink in the Royal Albert with some very pleasurable (ex)Goldsmiths people, we went along.

Restaurants that have menus with too many adjectives normally turn me off. Things like “free-range, home-reared, corn-fed, lightly-grilled, lovingly prepared , scottish chicken” make me think “chicken”. This place had the full quota of bullshit, right down to the snotty French staff, but we persevered. Let me tell you, it wasn’t a mistake. The bullshit and snottyness were heavily outweighed by the heavenly food. We eat out a lot compared to most people our age, but this food was simply spectacular.

I started with lamb-sweetbreads, together with a pea and mint sauce in a lamb/madeira “jus”. I know, wanky name, but it shook me and my expectations. Such flavours, such textures and such pleasure. The second course was equally good and contained a prefect piece of perfectly prepared, perfect, beef, in perfect sauce.

Michele seemed equally happy. Go there.

I was going to write a long spiel about couriers,morse keys and general modern cuntiness but I won’t. Think of lovely food instead. Or maybe think of baby Alex! That’s what I’m doing.