…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…