Stylus Singles Jukebox: Fingerpaint the Entire Classroom

This blog on a Monday is getting a little predictable, nicht wahr? Post Of The Week results, followed by a link to the new singles reviews on Stylus… well, maybe I could use a little predictability from time to time.

In this week’s column, I turn the sharp glare of my critical eye upon new releases from Tokio Hotel (German teen metallers), Chris Brown (drippy, lisping R&B), Elena Paparizou (her what won last year’s Eurovision), West End Girls (Swedish Pet Shop Boys covers act), and The Go! Team (still flogging that 2004 album).

These blurbs are mercifully shorter and snappier than last week’s rather over-laboured bunch (and in the case of Tokio Hotel, which has been edited to remove factual duplication, even shorter and snapper than was originally intended).

Nottingham blogs: who’s out there?

Just under a year ago, I compiled a small list of Nottingham-based blogs of note. For reasons which may or may not become apparent, I’d like to conduct the same exercise again. So if you either write or know of a decent local blog which should be included in this list, then please let me know in the comments box.

Post of the Week: Week 9 results, Week 10 nominations.


Oh, are we on-air? Right then. Not much time, so let’s crack on with this week’s results.

Some weeks, there’s a clear consensus amongst the judges; other weeks, votes go flying all over the place. This week was firmly in the latter category; so much so, that – for the first time ever – only one post picked up votes from all three of us (myself, Ms Boob Pencil and Ms Stressqueen). Happily, this post also scored the most points numerically. And the name of that post is…

forksplit: F**k You, Barbie.

“Engaging”, said one judge. “A tale many of us can identify with; it is
delightfully written and contains a sting in the tail”, said another. Quite so, quite so.

Please place your nominations for Week 10 in the comments box below. This week’s judges areMartin R and Looby.

1. Open Book: Stories.
(nominated by Sarsparilla)

They held each other tight, seeking, one from the other, refuge from the storm. And in their tangled limbs, their slowing breaths, their resting hearts beating in rhythmic sync, they took, one from the other, shelter, comfort, and peace.

2. Stupidity hurts
(nominated by Rob and asta)

Pootle about, wash, make-up, some vague form of breakfast, some vague form of tidying, check everything is in bag, check again, check again, run around in circles, leave the house.

3. Blogadoon: Say what you like about Simon Hughes…
(nominated by asta)

Say what you like about Simon Hughes’ dramatic retraction of his claims to heterosexuality, but it’s certainly kept the homophobes in column inches.

4. Stephanie Sparer: “I’m spreading my eggs too thin.”
(nominated by Looby)

And then the real reason we were actually there with full face make up and styled hair at 10:30 AM on the dot walked in. Our professor. Names aren’t important. Played by George Clooney.

5. this too: Pop.
(nominated by Zinnia Cyclamen)

After thirty years in London, they still seemed country people, he and my plump rosy Gran, as short as him but twice as wide, her eternal respectable hats firmly anchored with a huge pin. Over their broad voices lay a soft measured primness quite unlike their city neighbours, learned, I suppose, from the land-owning family with whom they’d been ‘in service’.

6. Bonanza Jellybean: Boys Will Be Boys.
(nominated by Hana)

Men like to look at naked women. A lot. Asses, boobs, legs, all parts combined, you name it. They like it. IT MEANS NOTHING. And yet their women freak the f**k out about it. All the time.

7. GUYANA: the enemy.
(nominated by Zinnia Cyclamen)

I hear a crick crack snapping sound…and the rope bruk in two…and the second half o’ the rope turn into a snake, a two foot snake with a small, small face and thin, thin tail. Was a pale snake, sort o’ light grey-brown, pale, pale with really light markings. The snake wriggle past me and disappear under the old house.

8. diamond geezer: I’m up for a Bloggie!!!
(nominated by martin)

But it’s not the prizes which matter, it’s the acclaim of being voted for by thousands of random Americans who’ve never read my page before. Hello Wyoming!!!

9. The Religious Policeman: A Memo.
(nominated by mike, via Gert)

From: Royal Press Secretary
To: His Majesty
Date: 1st February 2006

Subject: Cartoons

As Your Majesty requested recently, in order to divert public attention from the regrettable demise of a small number of pilgrims in Makkah during the last Hajj, Saudi newspapers were instructed to revive the four-month-old story of cartoons about the Prophet (PBUH) in a Danish newspaper, and turn it into an attack on Denmark, together with a “spontaneous demand by the people” for a boycott of Danish goods.

10. Latigo Flint, Quickest Quickdraw in the World: Alternative Energy Sources
(nominated by Rob)

Benefits: Makes millions of hippies giddy with joy.
Downside: Sure, today it’s corn oil, but tomorrow it’ll be baby oil (the oil of smushed up babies) and soon it’ll be the oil from the eyeballs of endangered birds–we all know how these things go.

11. Rachel from north London: Clean skins.
(nominated by mike)

The change looks innocuous enough. Wives, parents, friends may even be pleased that the young man seems to be getting so deeply interested in matters of faith and spirituality. What can be more harmless and praiseworthy? Thus the fact that the young man is becoming interested in an extremist, violent ideaology slips under the radar. ‘At least he is not taking drugs, getting into trouble’.

That “four things” meme, then. (Sheesh, I was beginning to think that no-one would ever ask…)

Isn’t it great that Meg (*) has started blogging again more frequently? Quite like old times.
Yay, Spirit of 2001! (See also next post down.)

Anyhoo, in keeping with the Spirit of 2001 theme, Meg has tagged me with a meme. Mark my words, we’ll be doing “Which work of art are you?” quizzes next. (Remember that one? That one was massive.)

Four jobs I’ve had:

  • Demonstrating “Magic Plastic” balloon kits to gullible tourists, on the ground floor of Hamleys in Regent Street. (Evil stuff. Takes the polish off wooden furniture.)
  • Loading crates of electrical wholesale equipment into the back of trucks, in a warehouse in Doncaster. Only got the job because my dad knew the boss, and so was roundly despised by all my co-workers. “Character building”, allegedly.
  • Computer programmer for “Europe’s largest manufacturer of nightie cases“, as the people at the software house proudly told me at the time. Oh yes, all the big names: Poochie, Teddy Beddy Bear, My Little Pony (with free grooming brush), you name it. Management got free samples at Christmas. Jealous doesn’t begin to cover it.
  • Club DJ, in the days before anyone gave a stuff about seamless beat-mixing. Biggest Choons: The Only Way Is Up (Yazz), Theme From S-Express (S-Express), Big Fun (Inner City), Can You Party (Royal House), Alphabet Street (Prince), Sympathy For The Devil (Laibach).

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  • Actually, I never do this. But, um, boring answer: Withnail And I, which K has watched over and over.
  • Groundhog Day: it goes deep.
  • Breakfast At Tiffany’s: sentimental reasons.
  • There’s this Falcon Studios one from about ten years ago, where they’re all farm hands… oh come on, do you think I know the titles of these things?

Four places I’ve lived:

  • Doncaster (I only go back for funerals).
  • West Berlin (not been back since The Wall came down).
  • Loughton, Essex (99% certain I’ll never go back there again).
  • Cambridge (stayed away for years, until my mother moved there).

Four TV shows I love:

  • Six Feet Under: currently working my way through Series 4 on DVD – but I can only watch it when K isn’t around, because all that DEATH freaks him out.
  • Shameless: now into its third series, and still right up there with the greats.
  • Posh Nosh: we haven’t been so comprehensively nailed since…
  • Frasier: I even liked it when the quality occasionally dipped, which is always a good sign (though Niles and Daphne should NEVER, etc etc).

Four places I’ve been to on holiday:

  • Vietnam, which I wrote about at some length.
  • The Azores: one of the planet’s best kept secrets.
  • Gran Chuffing Canaria, with its fabulous Yumbo Centre. Crapshagtastic!
  • Lowestoft Harbour. Storm-bound, in a cabin cruiser, for four miserable days, with my perpetually warring seven-strong family/step-family. We got given 50p a day for the amusement arcades, and had to get into a dinghy and row across the yacht basin, every time we wanted to step ashore. Total and utter f**king misery from start to finish, which I attempted to alleviate by listening to the John Peel show, sitting on the chemical toilet, with a mono earpiece in one ear. Yes, I was that desperate.

Four of my favorite dishes:

  • The pressed meat terrines at The Druid in Birchover: like angels’ kisses, melting on the tongue.
  • The monkfish at The Bowling Green in Ashbourne: fresh from the Manchester fish market, delicately fragranced in a way that I didn’t know monkfish could be (as when monkfish was trendy during the early 1990s, everyone used to slather it in too much sauce).
  • The caramelised calves’ livers that were personally cooked for us by Marco Pierre White, on the day of our tenth anniversary. The Apotheosis of Posh Nosh.
  • Currently, it’s Tung Pau Yuk, which I’ve enjoyed four times in the past month.

Four sites I visit daily:

Four places I would rather be right now:

  • In the cottage, on the sofa, in front of the fire, with a nice glass of wine.
  • The Banyan Tree, Phuket: standing in our pool and staring into space, with a faraway smile playing across my lips.
  • Hangzhou and/or Shanghai, if only it were possible to “pop across” for the weekend. China got under my skin, in a way I hadn’t expected.
  • London. I wish we got to spend more time there. One day, not so very far in the future, we probably will.

Four bloggers I am tagging:
– with all due apologies if a) they’ve done it before, or b) they hate doing memes:

(*) Anna‘s sister. Gosh it feels weird, having to explain that.

Frozen: a brazen plug.

Everybody should go and see Frozen this weekend: an independent British film, featuring the wonderful Shirley “Moaning Myrtle out of Harry Potter” Henderson in her first leading role, which has finally secured a limited UK release (check here for screening details).

Last night, at a special preview screening, we met Ms. Henderson, who – along with producer Mark Lavender – introduced the film and answered questions about it afterwards. It was a strange experience, meeting someone in the flesh and then seeing them up on screen a couple of minutes later – and for the first couple of scenes, I wondered whether I was going to be able to suspend my disbelief.

It is to Henderson’s immense credit as an actress that, after less than five minutes, I was fully engaged with Kath, the character whom she portrays: a fishery worker from Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, with a missing-presumed-dead sister, who is determined to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding her disappearance.

Imbuing Kath with the sort of quiet, ambiguous, is-she-disturbed-or-just-different singularity of character with which she has come to be associated (I’m a long-time fan), Henderson compensates for Kath’s verbal uncommunicativeness by means of an extraordinarily subtle, intense, multi-layered performance, in which Kath’s facial expressions speak volumes on her behalf: you simply can’t tear your eyes away from her. To have constructed so rich a character from such sparsely and simply worded dialogue is an astonishing achievement, and a process which Shirley was happy to talk about during the Q&A (revealing an unexpected Scottish accent in the process).

It’s a slowly paced film – a mood-piece, beautifully shot on location in Fleetwood – and yet, despite the lack of constant forwards movement in the plot, I found myself riveted. There are mysteries to be solved, not all of which are ever fully explained (although you are given some fairly clear nudges in certain directions), and the film cooks up an intriguing brew of the real and the imaginary, the natural and the supernatural, the logical and the just plain baffling.

(Oh, and that gorgeous man who starred in the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North And South is in it. Woof woof, readers!)

I might have been on BBC Radio Nottingham today, commenting on the film – but we can’t stream radio at work, so I’ve no way of knowing. (It was a little disconcerting, giving a gushing review of Shirley’s performance while she was standing only a few feet away, in full earshot, but I’m sure she’s used to worse.)

Frozen, ladies and gentlemen. I commend it to the group.

Guest doodles resurfaced.

It’s good to see that Demian is slowly rebuilding Guild Of Ghostwriters: a hand-doodled blog which went AWOL a while ago, before being reborn on Blogspot.

It’s particularly good to see him re-posting the guest doodles which he solicited during the autumn of 2004 – and extra-specially good to see him re-post the three guest doodles which he submitted from me.

But what’s Pete Burns doing in there? (Second doodle, second row.)

…and now it’s his turn.

Yes, we’re quite the local media couple these days. Following my “Business Diary” piece in the Nottingham Evening Post from two weeks ago, my partner K’s day-by-day account of his recent trip to Florida will appear in the same slot, in tomorrow’s (i.e. Tuesday’s) pullout Business section.

What K’s article doesn’t mention – and this is a bit of a shocker, so hold on tight – is that when his business partner G arrived back in the UK from the same trip, and opened his suitcase (which he had left unlocked for the duration of the journey, to comply with US security requirements), he discovered, sitting on the top of the publicity leaflets for the company…

…a live bullet.

Now, explain that one to me. Chilling, n’est-ce pas?

We’re trying to persuade him to contact the head of security at Virgin Atlantic – with whom he flew, Upper Class, from Orlando to London Heathrow. Because, well, that sort of thing is just not really On, wouldn’t you say?

Meanwhile, K arrived in Orlando to find that his Samsonite suitcase had been smashed open by airport security – just as his other Samsonite suitcase had been smashed open by airport security in Miami in 2004. And this despite the notice on the relevant website which says it’s OK to lock Samsonite suitcases, because US security personnel carry a full set of master keys. (Of course, that would have been far too much intellectual effort for them, when compared to the pleasures of a healthy bit of brute force.)

Are you beginning to see why we’re not awfully keen on travelling to and from the US these days?

(Oh, and word from K: he will never, ever fly with United Airlines again. Attitude Problem ain’t the half of it, as previous experiences had already indicated.)

Stylus Singles Jukebox: Gloriously Faceless.

In this week’s column, I get to come over all arch and clever-clever about releases from A-Ha (Norwegian 1980s survivors), Cascada (German eurotrance), Remioromen (Japanese indie-lite), Pharrell Williams (confused R&B) and the sublime Richard Hawley (MOR C&W – with a twist! – from South Yorkshire).

Actually, I’ll retract the “arch”. This week, I tried to approach my reviews from a different direction than usual. See whether you think it worked.

Post of the Week: Week 8 results, Week 9 nominations.

After the marathon catch-up session of Week 7, Week 8 yielded the smallest number of nominees to date: just seven in all, which lightened the load for our guest judges: D from Acerbia and Tokyo Girl. This also meant that every nominated post picked up at least one vote, which is nice isn’t it, yes, I thought so too.

In amongst the pet birds, minor league football matches, Bush-bashing fantasy games, blog performance reviews and multi-coloured “slabs of control and stability” (oh yes!), two winners emerged, both polling the same number of votes. Rather than exercise a casting vote, I have decided to award this week’s POTW jointly to:

Waiter Rant: Treasure.
GUYANA: Cane-cutters and their wives.

Here’s what our judges said:

I just loved the bitchiness of [Waiter Rant’s post]; giving the guy the plastic cork was pure evil. The waiter was too nice to the wife. She married the guy, and she is still married to him. She must be getting some sort of a platinum-card advantage out of the arrangement. I hate going to a restaurant with a dieter, and if they are going to fuss around, counting calories, then I would be only to willing to help them out by drinking all the wine. The wife was too subjugated* for a woman of the affluent first world, shameful.

*(This word, in this context, is new to me, see below, and I am going to use it to death.)

[Guyana’s post] gave me a feeling of a totally different way of life, an alien society, a world in which the women are “subjugated” (I had to look that word up in the dictionary). I loved this post.

Both superb little episodes offering perspectives into other people’s lives. The waiter acts as silent and practically unoticed observer to the brash man and his timid wife and the cableguy as raconteur to the author’s audience. These glipses, these anecdotes are exactly what I love about catching odd posts on other people’s blogs, no back-story, no linking out to other sites, they’re self-contained slices of life, momentary digressions that transport you.

Please leave your nominations for Week 9 in the comments box below. Rules of engagement are here.

This week’s judges are Clare and Stressqueen.

1. Twenty Major: Shut it you fat c***s.
(nominated by stressqueen)
(WARNING: Very strong language, very opinionated “rant” style, may offend.)Lazy c***s sitting around eating more food every day than your average African child eats in a lifeitme is not a disease. It’s greed. It’s gluttony. IT. IS. NOT. A. DISEASE.

2. forksplit: F**k You, Barbie.
(nominated by patita)
I love lonely sad sacks. I love losers. Love them. Probably because I am one, although I don’t really look like one anymore. That’s what junior high was for. But looking like a pudgy, four eyed beaver throughout my formative years gave me a little insight into the painful reality of being ugly and awkward and undesirable. Thanks to puberty and contacts and braces and restrictive dietary practices, I’ve just learned to hide it better.

3. Nutgroist: Tuesday 3rd January – Saturday 14th January.

(nominated by JonnyB)
I call the promoter. It’s very simple – they have a packed night with top quality comedians but I can do 5 minutes and it must be 100% clean and NO mentions of sex, NO swearing and if he doesnt like what he’s hearing he’ll flash his light to either get me to move onto the next joke or to get off the stage entirely. Apparently the audience will all be religious jews who can get easily offended. Jerusalem, ladies and gentlemen. Who’d have guessed it?

4. light from an empty fridge: Two things that you see.

(nominated by Sarsparilla)
(Short post; too short to quote here.)

5. a beautiful revolution: Self-mythologising (near) stream of consciousness (guest post by Vaughan)

(nominated by JonnyB)
when andre asked me to do a guest blog entry i was only too delighted to accept but i did say i did warn i did suggest that as i havent blogged properly for nearly four months thats nearly four bleedin months i might be a bit rusty i said a bit out of practice i said what is this blogging of which you speak that’s what i said and andre replied oh that’s alright mate write anything you want and i said are you sure and he replied i’m sure of course well of course we didn’t really have this conversation because we’re both too nervous and shy to have such a conversation but i wanted to build up the drama ot this entry a little bit and make it sound like we are blogging gods in a secret cabal as if i said as if stop(and breathe)

6. Silent Words Speak Loudest: “If nothing gets challenged, nothing gets changed”

(nominated by Pete Ashton)
The best book about punk rock and pop culture ever“. Thus reads the NME critic’s appraisal on the cover of Jon Savage’s ‘England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols And Punk Rock’. Perhaps it’s just an idiosyncratic tendency of mine, a function of my cynicism, that leads me immediately to view such pronouncements with suspicion and spend my time hunting out and dwelling upon perceived faults. Anyway, more of that later.

7. The Tool Shed: Tool of the Week: 01.22.2006

(nominated by patita)
I finally met with my GP after two weeks of making internal decisions like “When I tell my friends about my cancerous cojones, should I make a joke about it to break the tension? How about stoic with just a hint of quivering jaw and downcast eyes? Maybe milk the Spiritual Genius angle, like that kid who had MD and wrote poetry?” I even, friends and neighbors, had planned to blog the treatment process, and I devised a title for the project: My Mutinous Manberries.

8. ambainny: breaking bounds.

(nominated by guyana-gyal)
The school was obsessed with controlling girls, by not allowing them out of bounds, a bit like the purdah, zenana system. Boys on the other hand, could do what they liked and go anywhere, except where the girls were.
The girls dormitory would be locked from outside at night, by the matron. This was a huge fire hazard, all of us could have got singed, unable to escape. The priority was protection of our virginity rather than our safety.

9. meanwhile, here in france: survival.

(nominated by Clare)
It is quite a challenge to maintain one’s own lyricism next to a pneumatic drill in chamber music. It is even more of a challenge to maintain one’s confidence. We are all struggling to stretch our limits, facing the roots of habits that have been fed like weeds during months of orchestral playing. My personal weed has grown mighty strong and having it pulled at by someone who cares both about the music and about me is quite enough to leave me feeling about seven, raw and blushing with shame, hiding behind my cello and not wanting to come out…. I don’t need this.

10. Diary of a Goldfish: Love is real, real is love.

(nominated by Vaughan)
It was getting kind of late, so Johnny suggested that they head back to his cave for a coffee.Jane pointed out that they were on the wrong part of the continent for coffee, even if they could work out, within the space of an evening, how to process the seeds of that plant into a stimulating hot beverage. As you can imagine, without language, this took the best part of an hour to get across.Johnny averted his eyes and twiddled his thumbs as if to say, “I know, but I just invented the euphemism.”

We like it when our friends become successful (2006 edition).

Blogs from my sidebar which have made it to the shortlists for this year’s Bloggies:

Best Asian: Tokyo Girl.
Best European: Vitriolica Webb’s Ite, My Boyfriend Is A Twat.
Best British or Irish: Little Red Boat, Diamond Geezer, Girl With A One-Track Mind.
Best Latin American: Guyana.
Best GLBT: Joe. My. God.
Best Writing: Mimi In New York.

..and… wait for it…


Sincere and hearty congratulations to one and all.


Agonising is a brand new collective blog, in which a bunch of self-styled “interfering busybodies” attempt to answer their readers’ Life Problems.

Having always fancied myself as a bit of a Marge Proops/Ann Landers (delete as appropriate), I didn’t hesitate to sign up with the team of counsellors, headed up by Clare “Boob Pencils & Sympathy” Sudbery.

Today, having prevaricated for quite long enough, my first piece of online advice can be viewed on the site: I’m 25 and Still Single.

If you would like to add your own words of advice – and I suggest that you read the site disclaimer at the top of the page before doing so – then the site’s comments box is at your disposal. Continue reading “Agony-aunting.”

Things that I have learnt from being a long-list judge for the Bloggies.

1. Cupcake blogs are huge. No, that’s not some hip new Web 2.0 terminology which you haven’t heard of before; I’m talking about weblogs which are solely devoted to cupcakes. Huge, they are.

2. The Big New Thing in US blogging seems to be reprinting unflattering photos of celebrities, accompanied by incisive comments such as “OMG WTF LOL Check out BRITNEY she looks so freakin FAT lay off the Krispy Kremes already TRAILER-PARK SKANK HO!!!“, or “HELL-OOO?!! Jessica Simpson looks so freakin THIN eat some goddamm Krispy Kremes already SKINNY-ASS BEE-YOTCH!!!” Any UK readers who have browsed the front cover of Heat magazine recently should know what I’m on about.

3. The GLBT category divides between a) gay bloggers writing about Big Gay Stuff for a gay audience, b) bloggers with a principally straight readership who “just happen to be gay”, and c) more snarky queens being gratuitously rude about celebrities (see paragraph 2).

4. When faced with the ethical dilemma of whether or not to vote for yourself in a particular category (see paragraph 3 section b), you will agonise for, ooh, seconds.

5. The most disappointing category by far was Best Podcast; I was hoping to walk away with a fistful of recommendations, but instead walked away with only one. Indeed, this was the only category for which I was unable to use up all five of my allotted votes. What disappointed me most was the way that almost all the podcast presenters affected the same blandly generic “US public broadcasting radio” voice, as I hadn’t expected podcasting to be such a blatantly aspirational medium. Just as blogging differs stylistically from journalism, so I had expected podcasting to differ significantly from radio broadcasting. Where were all the personalities?

6. Waiter Rant, a sharply observed “job blog” from a New York waiter, is a damned fine read, and the one discovery that I shall take away from the whole dizzying, exhausting experience.

7. Ohmygod ohmygod Bryanboy… there are no words. (I had come across him once before via Lubin, but hadn’t quite appreciated what a pan-global phenomenon he had become.)

8. Having roped in my almost-impossible-to-impress aesthete of a Life Partner to help judge the Best Designed category (he also lent a hand with Best Food), we both agreed that one site stood clearly ahead of the pack. If it makes the shortlist (announced on Friday), then I’ll tell you which one.

Update: It was this one. Although it does look better in Firefox, as the disclaimer for IE users says.

9. Although I wasn’t judging the Best Photography category, I found myself browsing some of the outstanding candidates from previous years, in order to showcase the medium to K (who has just resolved to buy his first digital camera). Not having browsed a photoblog for many months, I had forgotten just how excellent some of them can be. Here are my three favourites: Daily Dose of Imagery, Heather Powazek Champ, The Narrative.

(Still not convinced? OK, go here. And then here.)

10. Over the pond, blogvertising has reached epidemic proportions, as “ProBlogging(via) becomes the new aspirational paradigm. Indeed, whizzing through the lists of dazzlingly ad-enabled candidates and then returning to my own place, I felt positively dowdy by comparison.

Last September, Rafael Behr wrote a lengthy think-piece for The Observer which, at the time, I thought was drastically overstating the “commerce will kill us all” case. Four months on, I can only commend his prescience.

“The culture of common purpose that prevails today is a product of neglect as much as design. The real gold rush has barely begun. To experience the sharing culture of the blogosphere today is like living in a commune built on an oil field. One day, the diggers will move in.”

I can hear the rumbling from here, folks.

Not an entrepreneurial bone in my body.

Well over twenty years ago, I had this ace business idea. Not for something that would ever have made me seriously rich, but for the sort of pile-em-high, sell-em-cheap novelty that might have been massive for a few months, before vanishing as quickly as it had arrived. You know: like clackers, bonce-boppers, or the SDP.

OK, so I never acted on the idea – but it always comforted me to think that no-one else had ever come up with it either. My cosy little pipe dream: the Killer App which got away.

Via a rather circuitous route, and some judicious Googling, my pipe dream has been abruptly shattered.

In fact, it was shattered over ten years ago, had I but known at the time. (*)

Damn. Look, I was getting around to it, OK?

He who hesitates is lost. It’s a cut-throat world out there, folks.

(*) This is the link which you click to find out what my Big Idea actually entailed. What do you MEAN, tacky? Given the right marketing push, they could have been MASSIVE…

Stylus Singles Jukebox: A Winsome But Completely Precious Amalgam.

Having signed myself up for another spell of reviewing the week’s new singles for Stylus Magazine, my first week’s contributions can be viewed here. This week, I cast my jaundiced eye over new releases from the Arctic Monkeys, Ashlee Simpson, Belle & Sebastian, Cat Power, Mark Owen and The Veronicas.

(Warning: if the writing style leans a bit towards the clever-clever at times, then that’s because the frighteningly clued-up readership of Stylus Magazine generally leans the same way. One has to pander to one’s demographic, after all.)

“Late Bars? I need a stiff drink.”

Now, when it comes to enjoying a late drink in the city centre, Our Journalist Friend (aka OldEngland) is anything but a killjoy. Many’s the time, etc etc.

However, things do take on rather a different complexion when one’s bedroom window is situated a mere 120 feet away from the nearest late-licensed bar. A bar which sits on the same strip as several equally lively late-opening establishments, all in competition for the same group of high-octane, high-spending young pleasure seekers. All of this in an area (Nottingham’s Lace Market) which has been heavily promoted as our hottest, most aspirational “city living” residential zone – but which is now being equally heavily promoted as a centre for our glammiest, glitziest “destination” bars and clubs.

Such is the fallout of the UK’s newly relaxed licensing laws, where it has become incumbent upon aggrieved residents to file their own individual objections to each individual establishment. By doing so, they will find themselves entering a Kafka-esque minefield of bureaucratic obstructions, and batlling against a system which would appear, whether by accident or design, to be heavily weighted against them.

Amongst the many and various obstacles which lie in their way, one in particular stands out: that if an objection should fail in court, then the complainants are liable to have the full costs of the case awarded against them. This is, shall we say, hardly an incentive for active citizenship.

Our Journalist Friend – a well-connected fellow, with a background in the law and the ear of many of the city’s great and good – has managed to take his struggle for a peaceful night’s sleep much further than most. Yesterday, he even succeeded in gaining a half-hour’s audience with the relevant cabinet minister. However, such victories should be measured against the innumerable frustrations which have beset him at every turn, some of which have been detailed in this article which he penned for the Nottingham Evening Post.

To those of you who, like me, live in nice quiet streets where nothing ever happens past midnight: read it, and give thanks for your good fortune.

Post of the Week: Week 7 results, Week 8 nominations.

With nominations accruing over the period that I spent working in China, we ended up with a bumper crop of 22 posts this time round. As no-one in their right mind could be expected to plough through 22 posts in one go, I duly whittled this down to a shortlist of 12 for the benefit of my co-judges: Martin and patita.

As it’s an untypical week, I’m going to break with convention and list the top three – because in any typical week, any one of these could have been the winner.

In third place: qarrtsiluni: An Indian Scale. To a backdrop of cellos, stinking shit, crap hotels, street vendors, Indian scales, cookery classes and Ayurvedic massages, the story of a deeply personal journey is beautifully spun. As one judge commented, this was a great examination of a critical transitional time.

In second place: feeling listless Review 2005: Gary Hollingsbee. This is a piece about an anxious father who is trying to do the right thing, a young son who might (or might not) be struggling at school, and an education system which might not (or might) be working in their best interests. Here’s another comment from one of the judges.

He keeps talking about guilt, but it’s the gnawing sense of inadequacy that chases him through the events described that’s so gripping. It’s a story I want to follow to the end.

So, who is our winner? Why, it’s Zinnia Cyclamen, with Real E Fun: Sam and Felipe. Originally published on the day when the first same-sex civil partnerships could be celebrated in the UK, this is a timely reminder of a recent past in which things were not always so straighforward.

When you read this – and read it you should, if I might be so very bold – please don’t do that horrible short-attention-span skim-reading thing, which can so easily affect our enjoyment of good writing on blogs. This one deserves to be read at a steady pace. You know, like a good book or something. Remember books?

Onto this week’s nominations, which can be placed in the comments box below. Rules of engagement are here. In particular, please remember the following: you can’t nominate your own posts, you can’t nominate any of my posts (but bless you for the thought) – and while it’s OK to nominate more than one post, please don’t get carried away.

I’m also going to introduce a new rule, to lighten the load for my judges. From this week onwards, you’ll only have to vote on a shortlist of ten posts, which I shall select at the end of the week. (This won’t be made public, to spare any blushes.)

Our guest judges this week are Tokyo Girl and Acerbia D.

1. Waiter Rant: Treasure.
(nominated by mike)
Now you might think I’m being a little hard on this woman’s hubby. Maybe the guy’s closing the biggest business deal of his life and he’s a bundle of nerves. Maybe he’s madly in love with his wife and I just caught him on a bad day – we all have ‘em. I only get to see a small slice of a person’s life when they’re in The Bistro. I’m well aware there are other slices that I don’t see. But what I do see is often very revealing.

2. Hobo Tread: Barrow 1 Cambridge City 2.
(nominated by Ben)
Being like a pencil mislaid behind England’s footballing ear, Barrow are able to attract a decent size crowd for their level, with no pro club within a 50 mile radius (particularly in that wet bit to the left).

3. defective yeti: Xyzzy.
(nominated by mike, via Rachel)
You are standing inside a White House, having just been elected to the presidency of the United States. You knew Scalia would pull through for you.There is a large desk here, along with a few chairs and couches. The presidential seal is in the middle of the room and there is a full-length mirror upon the wall.What do you want to do now?

You are not able to do that, yet.

4. Boob Pencil: Unlocked.
(nominated by Rob)
Sometimes people tell you to close your eyes and imagine a time when you were happy. It’s the meadow you think of, and it never works. You know the sky was blue, the grass was green, the sun was warm. You know you felt euphoria. But all you can see is CLICHE CLICHE CLICHE and all you can think is that even if you were lying in a topaz-skied emerald-carpeted field right NOW you would probably be complaining about an itchy back, a lack of sunglasses or just a general fidgetiness. And anyway, you’re not. You’re in some boring grey room and you feel like shit.

5. diamond geezer: Performance Management Appraisal 2006.
(nominated by mike)
It’s that time of year again. Your blog performance review is now due. This important annual procedure encourages improved achievement by identifying key objectives and core competencies against an agreed framework of developmental targets.

6. thought intersect: On keeping birds, or a ramble about love.
(nominated by Zinnia Cyclamen)
I didn’t know that a creature that weighs barely 100 grams could make such a loud noise. I didn’t know that he would be afraid of every new thing he saw, and screechily skitter in terror when the new object would be brought near him. I didn’t know that a bird could look into your eyes and listen, nodding after everything you said like it was important.

7. GUYANA: Cane-cutters and their wives.
(nominated by Zinnia Cyclamen and Clare)
He stop twiddling with options and connection settings and turn to tell me, “Those women are the most subjugated in Guyana. They are cane-cutters’ wives. People say that suicide in Berbice high but they don’t stop to examine why.”

Open mike.

I’ve got some spare time this afternoon, and am in the mood for a bit of blogging; except that I’m feeling too lazy to go to all the bother of constructing a proper post.

So instead of that, ask me some questions in the comments box. Every question I get for the next hour and a half WILL be answered.

By the way, I’m still one judge short for Post Of The Week.


Sarah asks:

1. When is the next podcast coming out?

Good question. I’ve been meaning to record another podcast for many weeks, but am forever procrastinating. This week would have been ideal, as I was home alone while K was at a conference in Florida, but sadly the thought never occurred to me.

Incidentally, K and I were joyfully reunited this morning, after a separation which dragged on for four weeks. (As I returned from China, so he flew out to Florida, in a sort of global cat-and-mouse game. Most frustrating.)

Back to the podcast qusetion. I’ll try and get one recorded before the end of the month, OK? Erm, that’s a sort-of promise.

2. What is the best Christmas gift you received/gave?

Best gift received: The tricycle which my parents gave me in 1966. To this day, it is the only vehicle which I have successfully mastered.

Best gift given: I’m very pleased with my mother’s present this year: an amateur watercolour of Belfield House in Wyke Regis (on the outskirts of Weymouth), painted in 1907 by the niece of the occupants. This is the house which my mother grew up in, from the age of six to sixteen. I have recently been transcribing her memories of life in Belfield House on her own blog – and while doing so, a speculative Google search took me to an active eBay auction for the painting. I’ll be picking it up from the picture-framers tomorrow.

3. If my husband and I were transferred to a city in England called Birmingham next year, would I be miserable?

No, not at all. Birmingham gets far worse press than it deserves. Brummies are a largely friendly bunch, with a delightfully dry, laconic wit, and the city is culturally rich in just about every way. It may not be the most beautiful city in the world, but the city centre is much improved, and there’s an essential warmth to the place which the last fifty years of crap town planning has failed to extinguish. Oh, and it’s handy for the countryside as well.

(Ben? Chig? Pete? Do you agree?)

“Satisfied customer” asks:

I have been trying to find good internet radio and podcasts to subscribe to, but am somewhat baffled by what’s available, at least on i-tunes, which seems:
1) overwhelmingly American
2) unburdened by any system of ordering
3) somewhat too copious to go at hit or miss

Any recommendations?

Oh dear. This might surprise some of you, but I don’t actually subscribe to any podcasts. (No, not even the Ricky Gervais/Guardian podcasts, as I didn’t think much of the first one.) The reason is that I already consume an abnormally large amount of new music, and there aren’t enough spare hours in my listening day to take a punt on someone else’s taste. However, if someone else would like to suggest some good podcasts, then please do so.

Ellie asks:

Hypothetically speaking, if someone slapped you in the face and generally intimidated you during the course of a drunken argument but then couldn’t remember it in the morning – should you never speak to that person again, or would you forgive and forget?

Neither. I would raise the issue with them within the next couple of days, calmly and clearly explaining what they had said/done, and how it made me feel. If suitably sincere apologies were forthcoming, then forgiveness could ensue. As for the forgetting: I’ve got too retentive a memory for that ever to be much of a possibility, but the forgiveness would do a good job of keeping a lid on the memory.

If the apology was not sincere, or over-qualified with dubious self-justifications, or turned back against me as somehow being my fault, then I would have to consider my position further. The same would hold true if the slapping/intimidation had become habitual.

There’s also the question of how much the drunken behaviour either magnified or masked the true character beneath. When I get drunk, I do still stay recognisably in character, even if some elements might become magnified at the expense of others. However, I do know of a few people who undergo complete Jeckyll & Hyde personality changes after their alcoholic consumption has passed a certain limit, and that can be even scarier for them than it can for me. My reaction to drunken bad behaviour can therefore vary considerably according to the personality involved.

Yikes, and I’m flat out of time. That was fun. Thanks to those who asked.

An asterisk is no defence.

A friend of mine works in the IT department of a large company. This company has a high public profile, and provides a service to millions of personal customers.

Recently, my friend sent a short personal e-mail, using his company’s e-mail account. This e-mail contained the word “shit”.

Or rather, it didn’t contain the word “shit”, as my friend had prudently replaced the letter “i” with an asterisk. Like so: sh*t.

Shortly after sending the e-mail, my friend received a phone call from the head of his company’s security team, who informed him that the e-mail had been intercepted and blocked, and that using an asterisk in the middle of a word was not enough to stop it from being censored.

I was going to describe this as “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”, but I fear my friend might never forgive me if I did. However, if – laying any privacy issues to one side – you can supply a sound business case justification, then I for one would be fascinated to hear it.

In the office, yesterday.

Mike: So, are we seeing Brokeback Mountain tomorrow night?

JP: Yes, definitely. Er, you do know it’s quite sad, don’t you?

Mike: Is it? Well, that’s fine. I have plenty of moral resilience.

JP: Huh?

Mike: Oh, did I say moral? I meant emotional. Emotional resilience.

JP: Now I understand.

Mike: I got my emotions and my morals confused. Not for the first time, either.

JP: Always dangerous when that happens.

Mike: Tell me about it…

Update: How strange. I left the cinema last night dry of eye, distinctly underwhelmed, and cursing my over-heightened expectations; and yet today, I can’t shake the damned film out of my head. Meanwhile, two people I know have already been to see it twice, one of them claiming that it’s the best film he has ever seen.

I shall file this one under Slow Burner. Perhaps because it has taken a little while for my perspective to pull back from the particular (a gay “issue” flick) to the universal (a meditation upon missed opportunities) – but also because of the lingering quality of the individual performances: the looks, the pauses, the things left unsaid.

I’d do a longer review, but Tom Coates and Lubin Odana have already done such excellent jobs that there scarcely seems to be any point. Go read them instead. They nail it.