troubled diva  
 

My freelance writing can now be found at mikeatkinson.wordpress.com.
Recently: VV Brown, Alabama 3, Just Jack, Phantom Band, Frankmusik, Twilight Sad, Slaid Cleaves, Alesha Dixon, Bellowhead, The Unthanks, Dizzee Rascal.

On Thursday September 17th, I danced on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.
Click here to watch, and here to listen.

Monday, September 28, 2009

My cupboard is bare...


(Photo taken by bourgeoisbee)

...so I'll just quickly fill in with some favourite items from the "recently spotted" section of my sidebar. (If you only read me via RSS, then you may have missed this section - but I've been keeping it regularly updated for a good couple of years now, even when I've not been posting.)

1. Petite Anglaise says "au revoir" to personal blogging for the forseeable future.

2. The Annotated Weekender wreaks its usual pictorial havoc over my Saturday supplement of choice.

3. Freaky Trigger's Vic Fluro dissects "Can't Buy Me Love". (This is part of an extended series of posts on the Beatles Rock Band game, all of which have made me chuckle.)

4. Faustus M.D. witnesses a touching meeting of minds on the New York subway.

5. Vicus Scurra steps out of character, in order to serve up a pungent and on-point rant.

6. Almost everybody on The Singles Jukebox has vastly complimentary things to say about Fuck Buttons (yes, them again).

7. JonnyB offers beginners' tips on keeping chickens.

8. Qwerty Queen writes movingly on the occasion of her 20th wedding anniversary.

9. And finally... Beleaguered Squirrel has an awkward conversation with her 7-year old.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Pretentious twat."

Such was the verdict of the esteemed Nottingham Evening Post commentariat, shortly after a shortened version of my "emotional journey" piece appeared on its website this morning. (The same piece is in today's print edition, complete with a nice photo taken by K and a bloody awful photo which I don't recall seeing before. I'm all chin! Eww!)

"Bring it on, Philistines", I smirked, eagerly awaiting a torrent of similarly pungent insights throughout the course of the day. But alas, it was not to be. Well, it would have been tricky to insert the usual "Zanu-Labour"/"we pay enough council tax"/"Bottler Brown's broken Britain" rants into a piece about a prancing poof on a plinth, even for the most zealously committed of regular commenters.

All of which gives me a handy excuse to wrap up this bumper month of plinthage with a couple more links. Adrian Sevitz has a cute little video of a bunch of impromptu "fan dancers", paying their own twisted form of homage at the foot of the plinth last Thursday - and my official portrait artist Lucy Pepper (see graphic in top right corner) has immortalised my hour with a lovely drawing, attached to a post that seems to place me as some sort of poster boy for Generation X. (I see myself more as nestling within the Baby Boomer/Gen X cusp, but I'll take my compliments as I find them.)

Another footnote. Having repaired to the Ship And Shovel for a post-plinth drink with friends and family, we found ourselves sharing boozing space with the presenters and crew of Channel 4's Time Team. On my descent to the toilets, I found myself just behind one of the presenters, Phil Harding, who was being accosted by an enthusiatic fan.

"It's Mr Harding, isn't it?"

(Gruffly) "Yes."

"Oh, could you tell me, are any of the episodes of Time Team available on DVD?"

(Even more gruffly) "I AM GOING. FOR A SLASH."

"Oh, well, can I ask you about it when you come out?"

* SLAM *

He left the pub pretty sharpish after that. Fame, who'd have it?

And now, if you'll excuse me, we're off for a beer in Beeston with Buni and his bloke. Please pray for my safe return. (As older readers might remember, I have a healthy suspicion of Nottingham's academia ghetto, as friends have had a habit of moving there and never being seen again. This archived piece from Troubled Diva's Golden Age will make everything clear.)

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

When bloggers blog about blogging, Mike is always interested.

Now, here's a curious thing: two "whither blogging?" posts in two consecutive days, from bloggers who I've been following ever since they started up - and they share the same title:

Hydragenic: The Seven-Year Itch.
Diamond Geezer: Seven year itch. (Title only visible through RSS.)

As I have been blogging for seven years and just under ten months, you could argue that my recent extended radio silence has been another manifestation of the same complaint, and that my current September Challenge represents an attempt to address it head on.

Or you could simply shake your head, and tut at all the meta. And who could blame you?

Oh, and for those of you who have spotted parallels between the development of blogging and the development of Twitter, this post from Meg Pickard should cause much vigourous head-nodding. (Click here to view Meg's graphic in full size.)

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

My ultimate supergroup.

Over at The Art Of Noise, Ben has been running a series of fortnightly guest posts, in which contributors are invited to construct the line-up for their ultimate all-star supergroup.

This week it was my turn, giving me the opportunity to revive a line-up which I first put together at the age of twelve.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I offer you... KING CONSTANTINE!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Sleccy's vinyl countdown.

I've got a piece in today's Guardian Film and Music section, which charts the rise and fall of one of the UK's finest independent record stores: Nottingham's Selectadisc, which closes its doors for good at the end of this month.

Click here to read it online.

(And now you know why this year's "Which Decade" has been running so slowly. This took time!)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Patience rewarded?

Some time in the mid-Nineties, an NME letters editor commented wryly on his paper's long-suffering and unacknowledged residual readership: gentle, uncomplaining but perpetually disappointed folk, who still picked up a copy every week in the hope of finding an interview with Medicine Head, or news of the latest Stackridge tour.

And so it is with Troubled Diva's similarly unacknowledged clump of diehards from the old days, when reckless divulgences ruled the roost, fancy-schmancy I-iz-a-Writerisms prevailed, and no I was ever TM.

Cometh the hour, cometh the blog post. (My contribution's at the bottom, but don't you DARE skip past the others en route.) I may not have much to confess these days, but a man will always have his memories. Contains strong language and scenes of an adu... hello, where have you all gone?

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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Art Of Noise: 5x5 II.

It's been a good while since I last guest-blogged... but here's me and four other panellists (including SwissToni and JonnyB), giving five current recipients of so-called "A&R buzz" a Juke Box Jury-style Blind Tasting, over on the collaborative music blog The Art Of Noise.

Last time we did this, a full 18 months ago, we found ourselves waxing lukewarm over such future luminaries as The Ting Tings, Laura Marling and, er, Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong. So take heed: here's where The Stars Of Tomorrow are made!

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Spotted during the week...

1. Diamond Geezer's Two Minute Silence expanded upon the concept of "Lest we forget" to memorable effect. This one haunted me all week.

2. Clare Boob Pencil's Fairy Tale series fondly examined her relationship with her grandparents over four decades and five superb, poignant posts. (Follow the “to be continued” links at the end of each episode.)

3. Sarsparilla posted a couple of new dispatches from Darkest Peru. One is a white-knuckle bus ride through almost unimaginably treacherous terrain; the other is a delicious skewering of a couple of hippy travellers.

4. How could I resist listening to this? The first ten seconds of every UK Number One single of the 1980s (via Adrian). (Warning: you may never want to hear a Fender Rhodes again.)

5. It's been quite a week for my old pal Dymbel. On Thursday evening, he and Dymbellina celebrated 25 years as a couple, K and I joining them at Restaurant Sat Bains for possibly the best meal I have ever eaten. And yesterday evening, we attended the launch event at Bromley House for Dymbel's first published adult novel, The Pretender. I'll be posting a review of the book as soon as I've read it - but in the meantime, here's an introduction in the author's own words.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Now, that's what I call a Major Blogging Project...

Respect is due to the remarkable Marcello Carlin, for embarking on a marathon project that will see him review every UK Number One album from 1956 to the present day. Meanwhile, his wife Lena has started reviewing all the singles which reached Number Two (but no higher) on the British charts. Good luck to them both, and I'll be following both projects avidly over the coming weeks/months/years/decades.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Yet another new section on the sidebar...

Inspired by Gordon's "live blogroll", I've added a recently spotted section to my sidebar, just below the recent comments section. This is designed to flag up blog posts of interest from my regular reads, by making use of the "share" facility within Google Reader. As adding a new item to the list basically involves a single click on a single button, I do intend to keep the list frequently updated. (But we shall see.)

Unfortunately, I'm still saddled with Google Reader's default layout, which makes the section a bit of a jumbo-sized eyesore. I've found details of a hack which will let me customise the design to my usual colours and fonts, but it's a bit involved (eek, Feedburner!) and so I'm going to leave it for now.

Anyway, happy clicking and all that.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The best prawn curry, like, EVER.

In search of a recipe for prawn curry the other week, K stumbled across a posting on a London-based food blog called Eat Like A Girl, and decided to give it a whirl.

The results, we both agreed, were spectacular. As I said in Eat Like A Girl's comments box at the time: "A nice combination of aromatics and sweetness, with a great texture (the prawns work very well in this respect) and a lovely long finish."

The dish has since become a regular fixture; we must have eaten it four or five times over the past couple of months. And so, in the name of Spreading The Joy, I'm linking to it here.

(Seriously, just try it. It will take you to a Happy Place.)

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A plug for Booklert.



Long-term TD reader Adrian McEwen has just launched a new web-based service called Booklert, which should be a useful tool for any authors wishing to track their Amazon sales rankings on a regular basis.

The service lets you choose the book (or books) whose rankings you want to follow. (These don't have to be books that you have written yourself, of course.) It also lets you choose how often you want to receive the updates: weekly, daily or even hourly, at time slots of your choosing.

Updates can be sent to you via e-mail, or via Twitter.

Badges can be generated showing your books' current rankings, which you can then display on your website. These will also allow click-throughs to the Amazon pages for each book.

The Booklert site is here. Further product info is here, and the sign-up page is here.

As an inveterate Stats Freak, I have to say that this appeals to me greatly. Now, all I need is a Book Deal...

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Let it never be said that Nottingham's creative community lacks inspiration...

Er... blimey!

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Gay Up Me Duck.

Oh dearie dear. Although I have yet to track down a copy myself (they're being distributed rahnd tahn as I speak), I have been regretfully informed that, owing to a "design error", my debut article for LeftLion magazine has suffered somewhat in the "actually being able to read the text on the page" department.

(Or to put it more succinctly, it "has come out looking like a dog's arsehole".)

I particularly look forward to viewing the final paragraph, which has been partially obliterated by a cut-out of a Tom Robinson Band badge. My my, someone has been having fun!

Anyhow, the happy upshot of this bothersome situation is this: the full article has been made available, with immediate effect, on the LeftLion website.

I particularly like the illustration, which casts various Midlands Gay Icons (yer Pollard, yer Fash, yer Nolly G) trolling for trade outside the Vic Centre Tesco Metro ("Nottingham's cruisiest supermarket", as the article goes on to explain). JP and I both want it on a T-shirt, so we do.

Hope you like the piece, anyway. And for those of you too lazy to press your clicking fingers into action, I'll be re-posting the piece on TD in the fullness of time.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Village blogging: an update.

Ten days after the official launch, the instant success of our village community blog has surpassed all expectations. New posts are appearing at least twice a day, usually more (to say nothing of static pages on the rest of the site), and people have been quick to grasp the concept of leaving comments. We have received many e-mails from people both inside and outside the village, offering extra written and photographic content, or simply expressing their appreciation. Our initial editorial team of three will have expanded to six by the end of next week; we've been mentioned in one local magazine, and are getting whispers about possible coverage in a national magazine; and as for the visitor stats, we pulled in a whopping 429 page views on Tuesday alone.

(It took me about eighteen months of solid, regular blogging to achieve a similar figure on Troubled Diva, and yet the village blog has got there in less than two weeks. Which isn't bad going for a community with only 500 people on the electoral register.)

What I haven't yet explained is that there's a serious purpose behind all of this effort, which extends over and above the immediate benefits of providing an information service and community-building facility.

We are currently seeking funding for an ambitious yet necessary re-build of our memorial hall, and have already passed the first stage of the lottery bid, netting £23,350 in order to help us prepare for the next stage.

To support this application, as well as applications from other funding bodies, a lively and active blog provides demonstrable evidence of our strengths as an active community, that is capable of successfully organising itself. We also hope that it will help to attract commercial sponsors, who will see the benefits of being visibly associated with such a worthy initiative. Many companies set money aside to support projects in their area, and we hope that this will make us a particularly attractive box to tick.

It therefore helps our cause to have the blog being talked about, outside the immediate confines of the village - and we already know that this is starting to happen.

And of course, anything that you can do to help us along would be more than welcome...

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We're all going Muxtape maaaad!

Shiny New Web Toy of the week has to be Muxtape, which is spreading like wildfire around some of the places which I frequent.

Here's mine. Now show me yours...

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Village blogging.

Since the closure of our village shop at the end of February, weekends in the cottage have taken on a notably different complexion. Gone is the (relatively) early morning yomp through the village to pick up a newspaper, milk, bread, eggs and various other bits and bobs - indeed, gone is the very concept of a weekend newspaper. Gone is the opportunity to bump into friends and acquaintances on the street: exchanging pleasantries, catching up with news and gossip, making plans, extending impromptu invitations. (K's record for "popping out to get a paper" was a socially impressive 90 minutes.) And gone is our regular glimpse at the noticeboard outside the shop, with its various posters, announcements, adverts and miscellaneous pieces of information.

Although plans are well underway to set up a more modest retail venture inside the village pub, there is a subtle but distinct feeling that something significant has been lost. Suddenly, we feel slightly less like a self-sufficient community, and slightly more like a dependent satellite, a dormitory for commuters.

All of which makes the long-awaited launch of our village community blog all the more timely, and all the more significant. We have been planning it for months. There have been prototypes, presentations, strategy meetings, long discussions, calls for volunteers, feasibility studies, brainstorming sessions... why, I even broke a long-held personal rule, and put together a detailed presentation in (hack, spit) Powerpoint.

And now, finally, we have a site which is up and running, with a firm commitment from our team of three to keep it regularly updated. We may not be the first village community blog in the UK (I've found three, only one of which is currently active), but I can safely predict that we'll be the most successful in achieving our aims.

For any of you who have wondered exactly where K and I spend our weekends, the mystery is about to be lifted. Click on the screenshot to access the site...

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"You're Not The Only One" - a charity blog-book anthology for 2008.

Just under a year ago, I launched Shaggy Blog Stories: a blogging anthology which went on to sell over 500 copies, raising over £2000 for Comic Relief.

This year, Peach has picked up the baton, in the form of You're Not The Only One: a brand new blog-to-book project, with a brand new theme, a brand new editorial team, and a brand new charity.

The theme: You can basically write about anything you like, provided that it describes a personal experience. As Peach says:
We would like you to submit a written piece about something you've been through from any aspect of your life that you want to share. It can literally be about anything: your relationships, your past, a road not taken, being a parent, an illness or your regrets etc. We've called it "You're Not The Only One" to reflect the camaraderie of blogging.
The team: Peach has recruited an all-female crew, consisting of herself, Ariel, Ms R, Sarah and Vi. However, just because the team is all-female, this doesn't mean that the contributors all have to be female. Indeed - and this is another change from Shaggy Blog Stories - you don't even have to be British.

The charity: Roughly £4.30 from every copy sold will be donated to WARCHILD.

The details: Full info can be found on Peach's site. If you're spreading the word, then please be sure to include the same link.

This should be an excellent project. Can't wait to see the finished article.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bollocks to Valentine's Day.

As long-term readers may already know, K and I don't do slushy - and we most certainly don't do Valentine's Day.

(Well, OK: I did it once, in our first year together. When my lovingly selected, oh-so-tasteful "designer" card turned out to be unreciprocated, we made a solemn pact. And besides, with my birthday falling three days later, all superfluous distractions are to be discouraged.)

However, if we did do Valentine's Day, then we might well be doing it like this. And if I were a hetty bloke (with a healthy knicker fetish to boot) and he were a lovely lady, then I'd want to be reading this first...

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Post of the Week: now with added democracy!

I forgot to mention this at the time, but at the end of last year I handed over the day-to-day administration for Post of the Week to the estimable Ms. Peach. One of Peach's first acts on taking over was to extend the reach of the weekly voting: a splendid innovation, which means that everybody can now vote for their favourite five posts from the weekly shortlist.

Although time is almost up for this week's voting, I still thought it worth alerting you to the current shortlist, as it's one of the strongest selections in ages. Without wishing to sway the jury, my money's on A Large Number of Small Experiences: Race-day psychosis, which is (given my pathological disinterest in anything sports-related) a surpisingly gripping account of what it's like to take part in a competitive rowing event.

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Troubled Diva: the demo.

If this were still 2001, then we'd all be linking to daft little short-attention-span time-waster apps like this (best viewed when either bored at work or sloshed off your tits; I've tried it both ways, and the effect is equally delightful).

Sometimes, I miss 2001. (via)

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mixes we'd like to hear.

Song 1
Song 2
Song 3
Song 4
Song 5
Song 6
Song 7
Song 8
Song 9
Song 10

(You didn't, did you? I can only apologise.)

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hanging out with the Popular crowd.

It's been a long time since I last plugged Tom Ewing's splendid Popular blog, over at Freaky Trigger. The premise is a simple one...
The UK's 1000+ Number One Hits since 1952, reviewed, in order, irregularly, for as long as I can bear to keep doing it. A history of pop in the shape of a chart.
...and now that the story has reached 1973/74, I have re-joined the fray in the comments box.

Here's a Lazy Ass Sunday Afternoon Cheap Content Cut And Paste Job, containing selected excerpts from the many comments that I've made on the site during the past couple of months.



SLADE - “Skweeze Me Pleeze Me”

This is precisely the point at which Slade could have slid into reductionist self-parody, a trap which they sidestepped in the nick of time with My Friend Stan, but Skweeze Me Pleeze Me j-u-s-t gets away with repeating the wilfully dumb Mama/Noize stompalong formula for one last time, cheerfully giving us exactly what we wanted.

But there was always more to Slade than wilfully dumb stompalongs, as the singles leading up to, and away from, the central Mama/Jane/Noize/Skweeze run demonstrate, and I for one prefer the earlier and the later (Old New Borrowed Blue/Slade In Flame) material.

Speaking personally, Skweeze Me ruled a line in my own 11-year old life, being the last Number One before my parents announced their divorce - a bolt from the blue, which took immediate effect, and ensured that, like Slade, I could never be quite so all-embracingly dumb (”When a girl’s meaning yes she says no”, well REALLY!) and daft and uncomplicatedly gleeful again…



GARY GLITTER - “I’m The Leader Of The Gang (I Am)”

Its appeal (or otherwise) is wholly centred around the personality of Mr. Glitter, and its only function is as a vehicle for that personality. If you bought into GG (as I most assuredly did at the time, aged 11), then you’d have bought into “Leader”.

When GG morphed into an overtly self-parodying pantomime act/Queen Mum style “national treasure” (early 1980s - late 1990s), so did “Leader” morph from flashy pop thrill to corny old showtune. And since his disgrace, all its remaining stock value has been wiped clean.

If Michael Jackson had been found guilty, then I reckon we’d still be enjoying “Billie Jean” with clear consciences - because its greatness transcends its creator, whereas “Leader” is shackled to it.



DONNY OSMOND - Young Love

“Young Love” is my favourite solo Donny hit. The pre-pubsecent songs were too strained and pleading for me, whereas Donny seems a lot more relaxed and at ease here, stretching back and enjoying the peak of his success. The clippety-cloppity Windy-Miller-style “ambling gait” is also a key factor.

Key memory: at the presenter’s suggestion, turning down the brightness control during the video clip on Top Of The Pops, so that only the waggling teeth remained.



WIZZARD - “Angel Fingers”

Yet to become a serious vinyl collector - that was still a few months way - “Angel Fingers” was a rare purchase, and sounded wonderful when played on the Bush mono gramophone with the smoked-effect perspex hood that my father bought me to cheer me up when my mother walked out on us to marry his best friend.

In the midst of such a desperately miserable year, the surging day-glo joyfulness of glam-pop was exactly what was needed to take me out of myself, and “Angel Fingers” took me further than any other single from that year. I played it incessantly and obsessively, luxuriating in its maximalist thrill, dancing with myself in the sanctuary of my room. (I had routines, and a video in my head.)

Sonically, it’s a fuller, tighter, more intricately worked upgrade on “See My Baby Jive”, with a scintillating pizzicato break and glorious french horns. Wood’s continuing Spector obsession eventually led me back to the original productions, but this was a case of the pastiche surpassing its source.



THE SIMON PARK ORCHESTRA - “Eye Level”

Matt Monro’s vocal version sticks in my memory for marking the only occasion, ever ever EVER, when my mother was moved to comment favourably on anything even vaguely resembling pop music. I remember her excitedly dashing from her kitchen into the sitting room of her new house, during one of our early visits, wiping her hands on a tea-towel as the song played on the radio, and exclaiming, with a rare glimpse of shining-eyed fervour, “I LOVE this song.”



DAVID CASSIDY - “Daydreamer”/”The Puppy Song”

Ah, Stewpot and Junior Choice - which was exhumed for an hour on Radio 2 yesterday morning (MOR-NINNG!) as part of the station’s 40th anniversary celebrations, and which I listened to with decidely mixed emotions (Stewpot himself failing to mask the essential bitter grumpiness of the Yesterday’s Man, which seems to be shared by so many former national radio DJs, but why did Two Little Boys reduce me to tears at the breakfast table?)

Looking back, they must have relied on a fairly tight central playlist, year in year out, as all of the songs I predicted got a least a partial airing: Sparky’s Magic Piano, Hello Muddah Hello Faddah, My Bruvver, Right Said Fred, The Ugly Bug Ball etc. And they must have hammered The Puppy Song at the time, hence allowing Dreamy David to hoover up the weeny-bopper market as well as the usual staring-vacantly-into-the-misty-middle-distance early-to-mid teens.

Dreamy David’s 2005 performance at the Nottingham Arena, where he headlined over David Essex, The Osmonds (sans Donny, avec Jimmy) and Les McKeown’s latest pick-up band, ranks as the most grotesquely creepy and disturbing performance I have ever witnessed. Literally hundreds of people walked out early, any lingering teenage dreams cruelly shattered (as an impromptu vox pop outside the venue confirmed).



SLADE - “Merry Xmas Everybody”

On a personal level, Christmas 1973 was our first since my parents’ divorce, and hence touched by an invisible sadness that no-one spoke about and everyone danced around, gamely trying to resuscitate the magic. (Plying my sister and myself with gifts being one of the key strategies; it was at about this point that the vinyl habit kicked off in earnest.) And so there was something immensely reassuring about “Merry Xmas Everybody”, which depicted the sort of fondly idealised holiday season which we dearly wanted to cling to - but with enough wry realism and unspun warmth for the exercise to ring true.

(Even if I couldn’t listen to the jokey line about Daddy catching Mummy kissing Santa Claus without briefly freezing in embarrassment. Most lyrics in most songs about infidelity, abdandonment or lost love in general had that effect on me.)



MUD - “Tiger Feet”

Well, this was first and foremost a party record - and in my case, I had a party to go with it. Having been featured on TOTP a couple of weeks ahead of its release date (hence the unusually high entry position, and a brief foretaste of marketing strategies to come), “Tiger Feet” was at Number One over the weekend of my 12th birthday, for which a DISCO!!! was held at home for all my and my sister’s friends and classmates. The good-looking trendy smoothie dude in the village acted as the DJ and brought over a twin turntable - my first exposure to such a wonderous device - and the nice lady from two doors down nipped out on the morning of the party and, to my rapturous delight, brought back a copy of “Tiger Feet” from the nearest record store (”Well, you can’t have a party without having the Number One, can you?”) All hyped up on Cresta, Coke and crisps, we all duly went happy-hardcore bonkers to it (along with “Dance With The Devil” and the comparatively sedate “My Coo Ca Choo” and “Roll Away The Stone”, as well as our next Number One - but, alas, no “Teenage Rampage”), the party climaxing with trendy smoothie dude playing it three times in a row. Dancefloor epiphany or wot!



SUZI QUATRO - “Devil Gate Drive”

The first half of 1974 marked my brief heterosexual phase, but my particular Dream Gal was foxy, busty, corseted and suspendered Dana Gillespie. Suzi Q was more like one of the lads to me, but the androgyny didn’t push any buttons - clearly I liked my women to be women (*embarrassed cough*).

I prefer “Devil Gate Drive” over “Can The Can”, which left me cold at the time. This one’s warmer, poppier, more of a party record. I do love the way she’s progressively coaxing and urging and commanding, and the way the track ends in a groaning sweaty call-and-response climactic mess (”Come ALIVE! Come ALIVE! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! WOOOO-urrgh!”)

With this, “Tiger Feet” and “Teenage Rampage” all in the Top 10 at the same time, this has to mark the zenith of Chinnichap, followed by a fairly swift decline (but let’s not forget Arrows’ “A Touch Too Much” a few months later, whose rampant sexiness must have been instrumental in steering me away from the bosomy charms of La Gillespie, and back onto my true path).

Filial pride also commands me to mention that my sister won a local “Stars In Their Eyes” competition last Christmas, performing this very song.

And finally, in the Misheard Lyrics department, I initially thought that Suzi Q was singing “down in Dimbleby, down in Dimbleby, down in Dimbleby Drive”. That’s Medium Wave for you…

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hello Pittsburgh!

Following his recent trip to Pittsburgh, a news report on K's dog cancer company was screened on the city's KDKA television channel yesterday evening.

You can watch the clip here. (To replay it, click on the dog photo under the caption "related".)

He scrubs up well, doesn't he? I'm that proud.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Minilinkdump.

Robert Sandall, writing for Prospect magazine, casts a well-informed eye on the current economic status of the music industry. Worth reading for the shock value of first two paragraphs alone.



Thanks to a swift phone call from a well-connected source just after 7pm on Friday evening, I found myself in possession of a Hot Scoop. Sadly, it wasn't the sort of Hot Scoop in which I could take any measure of pleasure. I duly parked it on I Love Music, about 20 minutes or so ahead of the rest of the web, and moved on with the evening.

Since then, the tributes have of course been pouring in, not least two particularly well-informed and touching pieces from Paul Morley in yesterday's Observer and today's Guardian. But the one I'd like to link is this one from May Contain Notts, the blog for Nottingham's Leftlion magazine.

(Update: OK, and this splendid tribute from Marcello Carlin's The Church Of Me.)



Calling all hacked off Prince aftershow victims: if the BBC have taken up the story, then maybe there's renewed hope for a refund...

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lowdham Book Festival blog-talk: supplementary links.

Mike at the Lowdham Book Festival

Yesterday's little blog talk went just fine, thanks for asking. It was a modest turn-out, but certainly enough to make the event worthwhile, and thanks are due to my hometown posse (including JP, MissMish, Rullsenberg and Cloud) for turning up, lending support, and pouring ale down my neck in the pub over the road afterwards.

However, being my own harshest critic and all and all, my immediate post-talk thought was annoyance that I hadn't managed to squeeze all my material into the allotted 45 minutes. As it was, I spent too long on the first half (essentially a 2007 remix of the talk I gave at Broadway Cinema a while back), and ran out of time to get stuck into the all-new second half, thus spluttering to a rather abrupt halt. Which was a shame, as the second half was all about bloggers and book deals, and the differences between blog writing and novel writing, and I'd spent a long time researching and assembling the material. In fact, it was the second half which I was looking forward to the most. Lesson learnt: do a timed run-through in advance, and chop your material accordingly. (I did this last time, but got a wee bit too complacent this time.)

That said, the talk went well, and I managed to strike the right balance between scripted and off-the-cuff material. It would also have been fun to have extended the Q&A session at the end, which did give me the chance to shoe-horn a couple of sections from the overly abridged second half. And it was good to meet Sally Morten (one of the Shaggy Blog Stories contributors), as well as a previously unknown regular reader (who asked me some rather penetrating questions about blog stalkers, before re-assuring me that his presence at tomorrow night's Ted Leo & The Pharmacists gig didn't mean that he was one of them, ahahaha, dear me no, thanks for reading, see you at the gig).

I left Lowdham with a very strong urge to do this sort of thing on a more regular basis, preferably with at least a 60 minute timeslot. So, readers, if you're hiring, then I'm ready, willing and able...



Anyhoo, since I promised to do this yesterday... for the benefit of those who turned up, here's a quick link-list of various points arising.

· Technorati: The State of the Live Web, April 2007.
· The "Online Disinhibition Effect".
· Heather Armstrong on being "Dooced".
· The Bloggies: 2007 Weblog Awards.
· Bloglines: personalised site feed aggregator.
· Hallam Foe: official blog for the forthcoming movie, which received a special preview screening for bloggers last month.
· Belle De Jour - the first UK blog-to-book success story.
· Girl With A One-Track Mind and Petite Anglaise - bloggers turned writers, whose stories both made international headlines in 2006.
· E-mail from Nicholas Hellen of the Sunday Times to Abby Lee (Girl With A One Track Mind).
· Random Acts Of Reality: ambulance worker's blog, now available in book form.
· The Policeman's Blog - another "job blog", now available in book form.
· Wife In The North: offered a £70k book deal less than 6 weeks after starting her blog. (News story in The Times, February 2007.)
· The Friday Project: independent publishers who specialise in the blog-to-book market.
· Lulu.com: self-publishing service.
· The 2007 Lulu Blooker Prize: literary prize for blogs-to-books, aka "blooks".
· Shaggy Blog Stories: self-published UK blogging anthology, conceived and executed in seven days, to raise money for Comic Relief.
· Post of the Week: set up by myself and others, in order to promote great writing on personal blogs.
· Felicity Lowde sentenced to six months' imprisonment for online harrassment of blogger Rachel North: BBC news story; Times news story; Rachel North's reaction; interesting background article on Lowde and "Narcissistic Personality Disorder".
· Blogger.com: allows you to set up your own blog in minutes, at no cost and with no technical know-how.

Mike at the Lowdham Book Festival

See also: Lisa Rullsenberg's and Sally Morten's write-ups of the event.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Finally, a workable solution to Blogroll Angst.

From now on, my blogroll will be set to display exactly 40 blogs, ordered so that the most recently updated appear at the top of the list (according to blogrolling.com, who provide the service).

Every time I read something particularly good on a blog that's not listed, I'll add them to the list, removing the site that's currently at the bottom. Now that I'm subscribed to blogrolling.com, this will be a quick and simple operation, which won't require messing around with the HTML in my template.

When today's initial list of 40 blogs has been completely replaced, I shall continue by removing the site which has been resident on the list for the longest period of time.

Of course, there's then nothing to stop the deleted blogs being reinstated, the next time that I read something particularly good on them. In fact, I'd expect it to happen a good deal of the time.

In this way, my blogroll will actually work like, goodness me, a roll. It will act as a snapshot of what I'm currently enjoying, which will inevitably be a mixture of old favourites, nifty looking newcomers, occasional pleasures and passing fancies. It will be more interesting to monitor on a regular basis, and more useful in terms of providing a manageable set of up-to-date recommendations for curious readers. And best of all, no-one need feel offended ever again when they drop off the bottom of the list, as this will inevitably happen in turn to every site that's listed.

It has taken me five and half years to come up with a blogrolling policy that I actually feel comfortable with - so phew for that, eh?

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Japanese fooled in poodle scam.

Mike to K: I think you’ll like this. It’s professionally relevant.

K to M: Oh. My. God!

(via Twitter)

Update: Thanks to the estimable Vicus Scurra for pointing out that this is a load of old twaddle. Boo. As you were, readers.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday afternoon link splodge.

1. The talented chap who was responsible for building the PDMG has just relaunched his website, and has seen fit to include us as one of his Case Studies. "Simple yet Stylish", he says. We like that.

2. Last night, I finally got to meet Top Nottingham Blogger SwissToni, who has handily provided a full report of the evening. Blog post outsourcing - it's the way forward.

3. As the Sitemeter Scandal rolls on, a representative from the company has been leaving comments on a lot of the blogs who have reported on the affair. Here's the comment that was left on this site. Make of it what you will. For my part, I shan't be re-installing the service.

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Chig's UK50 Eurovision Vote-a-thon.

Cliff, Lulu, or Belle and the Devotions?
Kathy Kirby, Kenneth McKellar, or Katrina and the Waves?
Rikki, Ryder, or Live Report?
Patricia Bredin, Pearl and Teddy, or Bryan Johnson?

Over at World of Chig, your votes are requested for the splendid UK50 Project, in which all fifty of the United Kingdom's Eurovision entries are presented for your examination, in a vote-driven knockout competition. Each day, three songs are presented as an MP3 medley, with Youtube clips to match. Your task is to rank each selection in order of preference, and to cast your votes accordingly.

Apologies for not linking this sooner. However, there's still time to start at the beginning and work your way through.

Who wins? Who goes? You decide!

(NB: Chig's lovely logo was designed by my blogdaddy David - formerly of Swish Cottage, and now to be found on various Web 2.0 sites such as this one and this one.)

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Another Shaggy Blog Stories project.

Alan Sharp has come up with a great idea for a book-related stunt, which could well pitch him as the Dave Gorman of the UK blogosphere. Head on over to his place to find out what it's all about.

Podcast Update: I've had some fantastic submissions, and currently have about 50 to 55 minutes of material. If you're a Shaggy Blog contributor who hasn't yet taken the plunge, then rest assured - there's still time.

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A little experiment with Johari windows.

To what extent do other people see us as we see ourselves? Here's a way of finding out. Bearing in mind some of the topics which I cover in the post below this one, this feels like a particularly appropriate moment...

Whether you "know" me offline or not, please follow this link and select five or six words which you think describe me the best. I've already picked my own. Be as complimentary or as critical as you like; the experiment works best if you're as honest as possible.

You will then be taken to a page which compares my perceptions of my personality with yours, by dividing the words that been chosen into four categories:

"Arena" - known to self, known to others.
"Facade" - known to self, not known to others.
"Blind Spot" - known to others, not known to self.
"Unknown" - words that haven't been picked by anybody.

(Thanks to Meg for the heads-up.)

Update: For the more critically minded, and for those who felt that the available choices were overly complimentary, I dare you to try the Nohari window. Come on, I can take it! Remember that "Anonymous" feature!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I am temporarily breaking my blogging silence,,,

...to link to this post, which brought me quite near to actual, physical, whooping. Were I of the Northern American persuasion, it might even have pushed me over the brink.

One of the reasons (but by no means the only reason) why I have been maintaining a blogging silence is that, were I to break it, I would find myself having to write an over-long, over-wrought and highly jaundiced piece about The State Of The Blogging Nation, and my disenchantment with certain aspects of the whole Web 2.0 mindset - particularly its largely illusory re-appropriation of the concept of "friendship". Consider this as a substitute.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Is this the beginning of the end for yucky DRM copy protection on legal downloads?

And is this the beginning of the beginning for decent sound quality on paid-for MP3s?

In both cases, and despite significant reservations regarding using this as an excuse to bump up the purchase price, I hope that the answer is Yes.

But for now, as always, I'll be sticking to CDs for the music I care about, as opposed to the music about which I might display a fleeting curiosity.

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Charity screening of An Inconvenient Truth, London, Sunday April 29.

Here at Troubled Diva, we only Do Adverts if they're a) for friends and b) for worthy causes. This is one such rare occasion.

My good friend Sasha is embarking on a humanitarian aid mission to Moldova in May, and she needs to raise £5500 before she leaves. With over £2500 already raised in donations, she has decided to generate additional funds by arranging a one-off Sunday lunchtime screening of Al Gore's Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

As the film isn't currently on general release, this might be an ideal time to catch it, and to sprinkle a little bit of philanthropic love-dust along the way.

The screening takes place at the Tricycle Cinema in Kilburn, London, at 12:30pm on Sunday April 29th. Tickets cost £12.50 (including nibbles), and can be booked by calling 020 7328 1000.

Full information can be found at www.sashinka.com/tricycle.

I'm fully aware that, y'know, linking to things is, like, soooo 2002. (Weblogs that link to things? Whoever heard of such an idea?) But nevertheless, it would be very cool (retro-cool, even) if you could spread the word.

Here, have an image for your sidebar.



Here, have some HTML code to go with that.

<p><a href="http://sashinka.com/tricycle/"><img src="http://www.sashinka.com/tricycle/inctruth29thbox.jpg" width="250" border="0"></a>

Image too big for your sidebar? If so, then take that width="250" down a few sizes.

Thank you. We now return you to your regular scheduled programming.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Is it just me...

...or has last night's lunar eclipse revealed the Man in the Moon with shades on, kissing a baby monkey?

It's not just me, is it? K's sitting next to me, and he can see it too...

Update: Ah, good. It wasn't just the red wine, then. Here's a hand-drawn outline of Sunglasses Guy, which might make things a little clearer...

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

SwissToni's Earworms.

I've been doing a spot of guest-blogging over at SwissToni's Place, as part of his excellent "Earworms of the Week" series. The concept of the series isn't necessarily to list your ten current favourite tracks; it's more about listing the ten tracks which have been occupying the most space on your internal jukebox. It's a subtle but significant difference...

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The Reluctant Nomad Amsterdam Anagram Metro Map.

My dear friend Alan, who has been living in Amsterdam since the beginning of the year, really has excelled himself with this one. Take a look at his version of the Amsterdam metro map, with all the station names replaced by their anagrams, and hover your cursor over each station name for its real-life equivalent. (Background and explanation is here.)

If you think that sounds a bit dull and non-clickworthy, than all I can say is: wait until you see the station names. Oo-er!

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Friday, February 16, 2007

When Mike met Duke, and other stories.

My interview with the Irish singer-songwriter Duke Special can be found in the EG supplement of today's Nottingham Evening Post, and also on the paper's website. To my surprise and delight - as I was expecting some fairly savage cuts - the full 1200 word feature has been published exactly as I wrote it. This makes me very happy, as it's my favourite piece of work for the Post to date, by some distance. Even if you're not that interested in the man himself, he has some interesting observations to make on the songwriting process, and on the extent to which personal experience can be spun into fiction without compromising its essential truthfulness.

Meanwhile, a few pages further on in the same supplement, a Q&A session with X Factor finalist Ray "Snappy Fingers" Quinn makes my recent interview with Shayne Ward look positively Socratic by comparison.

(Incidentally, for all you Shayne fans out there: here's Chig's review of his Tuesday night show at Nottingham Arena, as composed on the PC in our study, while the rest of us all sat around and chatted. I couldn't have coped with the distraction, being far too much of an "I need space!" prima donna, but Chig didn't have a problem with it at all. The man is such a professional.)



And finally, on a completely unrelated note, here are a couple of choice links from the past week's browsing.

1. Adrian Sevitz: Unemployed, Single and Ill. A remarkable piece of home video, made using stop motion photography over the course of several days, with a well-chosen soundtrack.

2. For his regular "Open Thread Thursday" spot, Joe. My. God. asked his predominantly gay male readers: What was your worst sex ever? The many, many answers which follow make for fascinating reading, in all sorts of ways - but be warned, and I cannot stress this too strongly - the content is very, VERY explicit, and absolutely NOT for the squeamish.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ah, the sweet smell of desperation...

SHAYNE WARD - THE PERFECT VALENTINE DATE.

Do you fancy a hot date this Valentine’s Day? Well spend the big day with your loved one and Tuesday 13th February with Shayne Ward.

If you’ve not got your tickets yet there’s still chance to spend a night with last year’s X Factor winner at Nottingham Arena.
Hmm. Perhaps that "major arena" tour was a little over-optimistic after all?

Having turned down the chance to review Shayne's Nottingham show this evening (the interview was quite enough, and we've decided to see Dreamgirls instead; even more Gay Points), I have instead sub-contracted the assignment to Chig, who will be hot-footing it over from Birmingham this evening, notebook and pencil in hand. (The relief from my editor was palpable.)

As usual, K and I won't be celebrating Valentine's Day, because a) we don't do slushy, b) it only distracts attention from my birthday on the 17th, and c) it's a bag of bollocks, as this lethally accurate post from last week's Post of the Week shortlist illustrates.

Alternatively, maybe I'll send him one of Meg's Anti-Valentine cards instead. It wouldn't be the first time...



While we're on the subject of Post of the Week: although the project is going every bit as well as I had hoped, we could still do with a few more volunteers. To this end, we have introduced a new category of volunteer: the Permanent Judge.

The duties of a Permanent Judge are dead simple, and not in the least bit time-consuming. Once every four to six weeks, you'll be asked to read the shortlist - which contains between six and twelve of the week's best posts - and to e-mail the names of your favourite five posts, in order of preference. You'll have from Saturday lunchtimes to Sunday nights to do this. I can't imagine it taking any longer than 30 minutes at most, and you'll get to read some damn good stuff into the bargain.

If you're interested, then please e-mail me.

What do you think of Post of the Week, anyway? I'd be interested to hear your opinions, criticisms, suggestions, whatever...

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Outed! Outed as a knocker clocker!

Oh dear. (Paragraph 6)

But there again... (Paragraph 2)

Although I did once say... (Paragraph 4)

The truth, I suspect, lies somewhere in between.

(No, not between the left one and the right one. Are you fixated or something?)



Update: I've left some extended spin-off thoughts in the comments. In many ways, they merit re-working into a proper post - but in other ways, I'm actually happier to leave them slightly buried. Yup, it's a return to "confessional" blogging...

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Yes, it's everybody's favourite subject: Blogging Awards!

The steady trickle of hits that I have been receiving from a password-protected "panelist" page on the 2007 Bloggies site can only mean two things. Firstly, that the judges are working through the "long-lists" (typically between 20 and 30 sites in each category, if memory serves correctly), and voting on which sites should make it through to the shortlists. Secondly, that Troubled Diva has made it onto one of the long-lists, most probably in the World's Best Poof category.

At the risk of sounding complacent and blasé, this doesn't come as a huge surprise, but for one very simple reason: unlike the majority of "gay" weblogs, the readers of Troubled Diva are mostly straight. Thus, when it comes to making nominations in the World's Best Poof category, they are more likely to think of TD. It's a cute enough little loophole, but not one to which any great measure of ego-stroking self-importance should be attached.

In any case, as anyone inside our cosy little loop would tell you, this year's Bloggies have been overshadowed by two vastly more important blogging award shebangs: the First Annual Insignificant Awards (who announced their winner yesterday), and the Second Annual Swampy Awards, which came out on Monday.

Now, since last year's "Swampy" (for Best British Blog; pictured left) constitutes the only accolade I have won since picking up the school Scripture prize in 1974 (always the chuffing bridesmaid, story of me life), you can imagine my horror at discovering that this year, I have been deposed by some upstart newcomer called Little Red Boat.

Well now. If that Anna Pickard thinks I'm going to graciously hand over my tiara without an unseemly scuffle, she's got another think coming. Frankly, she's going to have to prise it out of my jealous little fingers with a sharp instrument.

I'M STILL BIG!

IT'S JUST BLOGGING THAT GOT BIGGER!

I AM READY FOR MY HYPERLINK, MISTER KOTTKE!


Sorry. Just trying to maintain some Brand Consistency here.

(But sincere thanks to everyone who nominated. I'm no Ungrateful Diva.)

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Friday, January 12, 2007

This week's pre-occupations.

1. Once again, K and I have become Big Brother's bitches. Once again, Grace Dent provides the sharpest commentary. Also on the telly tip, I was able to identify the precise moment when the hitherto flawless Shameless jumped the shark: namely, when an unconscious Frank Gallagher was dragged from his burning kitchen by his pet dog. I mean, really.

2. As the Hellen Affair rumbles on, Zinnia Cyclamen provides a neat rebuttal of his rebuttal.

3. Much to my surprise, since I'm not exactly Mister Gadget Man, I have been completely sucked into the Apple iPhone hype, and now find myself pining for ownership. Engadget has the most thorough explanation. Unfortunately, K's plans to surprise me with a Blackberry on my birthday now lie exposed and in tatters. If only he was going to Florida in June...

4. ...rather than today, six months short of the device hitting the shops. In preparation for this, my valeting services have been in great demand this week. We had a lovely time picking out fresh shirt-and-tie combinations for him a couple of evenings ago (does pink scream "Spring 2006", or can we get away with it for a while longer?), and I have never been far from an ironing board. Oh, I do have my practical uses.

5. Alarmingly, K will still be out of the country when the kitchen fitters arrive next week, thus leaving me as de facto Site Manager. But what if they ask me technical questions about, I don't know, angle brackets or something? I shall be all at sea. Thankfully, K's business partner's wife E - who is something of an expert in this field - has volunteered her services as Relief Manager. She knows her way round kitchens, does E. I don't usually stretch much further than the fridge, the kettle and the microwave.

6. Facing the prospect of being home alone with no working kitchen for a few nights, I intend to be Out and About as much as possible next week. Owt good at t'flicks?

7. My intensive pre-interview research into the Life and Times of Will Oldham/Bonnie 'Prince' Billy is yielding rich dividends. In particular, his most recent album The Letting Go is a quiet revelation. I don't have many alt-country moments these days, but this is one of them.

8. With the Amsterdam weekend imminent, blogging might be light, but Twittering will hopefully be moderate-to-heavy - so keep your eye on the newly expanded "we twitter" box on the sidebar. (I am SO PROUD at having hacked the code around for this, although it has rather buggered up my archived unordered lists.) In the meantime, why not refresh your memories with details of my previous visits in 1991 (in which I found myself the unwitting star of a Benny Hill sketch at a *cough* "men-only event") and 2002 (in which cracks appear in my carefully constructed professional facade)? Ah, for those heady devil-may-care early days, when Troubled Diva was still a byword for Too Much Information...

9. Preparations for Which Decade Is Tops For Pops and Post of the Week have taken up most of the rest of my spare time - and at the time of writing, there is still one more vacancy for another member of the Post of the Week editorial team. More details below.

10. If spin the list out to a nice round ten, I'll make myself late and miss my plane. Have a good weekend!

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Nicholas Hellen is the new Serenata Flowers.

"My place, posh frock, or else the Mother gets it."

And so, just three days after Girl With A One Track Mind first published it on her blog, and following a steady ground-swell of linkage from duly appalled fellow bloggers, an odious piece of e-blackmail from the Sunday Times finds itself at Number One on Google for a search on its author's name. Coming hot on the heels of last month's similarly successful blog-link campaign against a spam-commenting online florist, this is further proof of the power of the collective link.

Of course, some might maintain that Abby "One Track" Lee was "naive" for thinking that she could hang on to her anonymity, and that Hellen was only hastening the inevitable, and that the rest of us are being "naive" for throwing up our hands in maiden-auntish horror. Happens all the time, journalism's a rough old game, only doing his job, yadda yadda.

To which I say: isn't that the moral equivalent of justifying the theft of an unattended handbag on the grounds that someone was probably going to steal it anyway, and so you might as well get in there first?

Actually, no. It's worse than that. Handbags and their contents can be replaced; personal privacy can't be.

If Abby Lee and her supporters are to be branded as "naive", then that's only because, like most reasonable people, they operate from the assumption that most of us are still minded to treat each other with fairness, decency and respect. In which case, I'm glad that, in these hard-nosed, cynical times, Nicholas Hellen's e-mail still has the power to shock.

In any case, the balance of shaky assumptions lies firmly on Hellen's side. Assumptions that Abby Lee would comply with his demands through fear, or that her vanity and/or desire for "success" at any price (to use a somewhat dubious definition of the concept of "success") would send her rushing into the arms of her captors, posh frock in hand, ready for her Glamorous Makeover. Not to mention the assumption that the unmasking of the author of a newly published and still relatively unknown book constituted a legitimate, public-interest news story, fit for Page 3 of a "quality" Sunday broadsheet.

But perhaps Hellen's most "naive" assumption of all was in thinking that he could f**k with an extended community of nice, friendly, supportive people with Google Page Ranks of 5 and 6, and an aggregated readership of thousands, and get away with it. Hopefully, this little campaign will send out a signal to Old Media's most reptilian foot-soldiers, in possibly the only language they respect or understand, that we are NOT to be f**ked with in the future.

Update: Nicholas Hellen defends his actions to vnunet.com (on page 2 of the article).

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Twitter-speak is infectious.

Haven't got a lot to say for myself right now, but feel I should check in with you anyway.

That "too much soy turns you boy-on-boy" link (see below) is now all over t'blogosphere. It's so two-days-ago! Such is the nature of our medium.

(I like Siobhan's comment: "You just watch, as every tranny in the country starts drinking Alpro.")

Après-Twitter, all my thoughts are manifesting themselves in the present continuous, with a 150-character maximum. Brevity's as good as a rest.

Random surfing has unearthed a great new hand-drawn blog, documenting its author's attempts to get a job in the UK advertising industry. Start here, working up from the bottom; then go here.

K and I (but mostly K) are still reeling from yesterday's entrance into the third circle of MFI Fitted Kitchen Hell, which commenced when the fitters turned up and discovered that key parts were undelivered.

Sparing you the details of K's quest to extract redress from MFI's intransigent "Customer Care" wonks, but suffice it to say that they're buying us a new washing machine. God, he's good.

Hoping that K has recovered from the ordeal, which stressed him so much that he filled his diesel tank with petrol and ended up stranded in Sainsburys car park for 2 hours, awaiting the recovery people.

Interrupting this post to read Tom "Random Reality" Reynolds writing about Twitter on his brand new "anything but ambulance stuff" blog. (via)

Streaming new-to-me music from Calvin Harris ("Acceptable In The 80s", also via) and Johann Johannsson (lush Icelandic orchestral electronica, recommended by the chap who made my lunchtime sandwich).

Playing newly bought CDs from Amy Winehouse (Fopp impulse buy, as it sounded "seasonal" over their speakers) and Beirut (orchestrated yet loose Balkan folk with mariachi trumpets, from 19-year old multi-instrumentalist).

Remembering how much I enjoyed seeing Shortbus on Tuesday. Beautifully acted; emotionally astute; explicit but not gratuitous; accurately portrays a recognisable attitude to sexuality which I have not seen represented on screen before; much gayer than expected (woo); can even forgive it for the unconvincing bolted-on happy ending.

Realising that brevity is rapidly deserting me, and so deciding to crack on with the rest of my evening.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

You Couldn't Make It Up Department, part 94.

BREAKING NEWS: A devil food is turning our kids into homosexuals.

"The dangerous food I'm speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they're all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore."

There's a quip to be made here about "bean munching", but I'm in no fit state to make it right now - especially not after the VILE SLUR that the writer casts upon the relative size of gay willies. Talk about hitting below the belt...

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Parish news.

Marcello has started counting down his Top 50 albums of 2006; meanwhile, my mate Dymbel is episodically blogging the contents of his annual Best Of The Year mix CD, in a rolling post which expands more or less daily.

Diamond Geezer spotted an Olympic cock-up; the newspapers were alerted; the council apologised. Ever the provocateur, DG is now arguing in favour of closing 20% of Britain's post offices.

Why are bin bags so flimsy? Gordon posts the definitive answer.

JonnyB has been nominated for "Best UK Blog" by a bunch of yee-hah, woo-for-war neo-cons. As a result, a concerted collective attempt is being made to get him to win, thus striking a blow for... well, I'm not quite sure what, but a blow most certainly would be struck. Oh yes. At the time of writing, he is in second position and rapidly closing the gap on the current leader. In a thrilling twist on the principles of democracy (but hey, it wouldn't be the first time for this lot), you are permitted to cast a new vote every day. Hint. Hint.

And on a similar theme:
"The Insignificant Awards is the world's most unheard of blog competition. It's a place for the undiscovered to be discovered."

"As the annual weblog popularity competitions begin once more, we at The Insignificant Headquarters wish to praise, encourage and salute the unknown blogs that sit in the unrewarded wilderness. Those blogs that will never be voted for by the masses. Those bloggers who will never be nominated for anything (but should be)."

"Remember the golden rule of The Insignificant Awards: it's the taking part that counts - not the winning."
(I wanted to nominate that funny American lady who lost her job and has a daughter, but I couldn't remember the URL.)

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Open Mike #6 - Question 4.

An Unreliable Witness asks:

Since getting out of medical chokey, I am completely and utterly and dreadfully uninspired by blogging. If I had something better to do with my time, I would do that. But I don't. So help me, O Diva of the Troubled! What's inspiring you in the world of blogging (I refuse to say blogosphere, or I may vomit copiously) these days? What should I be reading? What can I simply not miss?

Alas, alas, this is one of the perils of being Ancien Regime; for the days when I used to be able to spot Hot New Blogs before they Made It Big are long gone. These days, I'm more like the clapped-out old rock star who says things like "I'm getting into this great new band called the Kaiser Chiefs, have you heard of them?"

Consequently, all of my newest reads are the same ones that everyone else has been getting into: that chap who takes photographs of a bathmat, that unemployed lady who posts pictures of simian life-forms, that bloke who gets pissed off a lot... all very Hive Mind, I'm afraid.

(But do any of these "inspire" me? No, that would be the wrong word. Many, many blogs have inspired me over the years - not least because I'm a right old imitative bastard at heart - but currently, the bar for UK personal weblog writing is being raised so high that I'm finding myself rather over-awed by it all.)

(I'll tell you what the above three new-ish blogs do make me feel, though. They make me feel nostalgic. Nostalgic for the days when I was still discovering, on a daily basis, just what I could do with this medium - fired up with energy and enthusiasm, on a roll, breaking rules, taking risks, posting like a madman, and building my audience. There's a particular phase which a lot of blogs go through, somewhere towards the end of their first year of existence or thereabouts, where it all comes together and you can feel the buzz in the air. It's a lovely phase, and I enjoy bearing witness to it.)

On the music front, I've been enjoying the weekly "In The Dock" feature on The Art Of Noise, which is currently deliberating over whether Birmingham has a musical legacy which is worth defending. It's particularly refreshing to read a group of people talking about music without ostentatiously parading their knowledge, and without seeking to score points off one another.

However, if I am to target my recommendations specifically at you, dear Witness, then - having briefly paused to check your links page (and I see that Bathmat Boy, Monkey Lady and Furious Fella are already present and correct) - might I direct your attention to The Overnight Editor? I suspect that this will be Your Sort Of Thing... and indeed, many other people's Sort Of Thing besides.

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