So that was Guest Week, then…

…and now it’s just back to little old me, blogging on me tod, with – as from tomorrow, April 1st – increasingly less time at my disposal to do so. But as long as you’re not coming here for Quantity, then I’m sure we can work something out together.

Wasn’t Guest Week great, though? Wasn’t it? Wasn’t it?

For my own part, I particularly enjoyed the novel sensation of regularly checking for updates on my own site. I also liked the way that a lot of the postings naturally followed on from each other in terms of subject matter – be it chocolate, spoons or, erm, self-mutilation. Now, that’s memetic.

But most of all, I must pay tribute to the sheer quality of all five of my guest contributors – and yes, I do mean that most sincerely, folks. Appreciation, gratitude, Massive Respect and Big Big Love goes out to:

  • the fragrant lady Ms. Anna Pickard of – bigged up in this morning’s New Media Guardian, no less, and deservedly so.
  • my brand new buddy D of Acerbia (the blog from over here that’s big over there), creator of last week’s gorgeous title graphic.
  • Faustus M.D., still searching for love o’er yonder pond – good luck with the cabaret show, and make sure you sue the asses off those printers…
  • Mr. Cor, Worra Whopper! D., the non-weblogger who took to the medium like a seasoned natural.
  • velvet-tonsilled noodle vague of The World, Backwards, whom I shall imagine for ever more in a midnight blue sequinned jerkin and Simon Cowell trousers, giving it up for the Bingo Ladies of Humberside.

Coming up later this week:

  • Apotheosis Of Blog (Slight Return) – linky-love (and skilful product placement) writ large in the Big Smoke.
  • Building The Brand with official TD merchandising (coming up in Phase 2 of the campaign: the TD range of tasty and refreshing milk-based drinks)
  • Yet another competition, this time in the form of a tribute to the tedium of the fully extended dance mix.

But now – bed, sweet bed. Because after the weekend just gone, my battered little brain is no longer capable of forming another coherent thought.

War, it simply isn’t cricket dahling

Posted by D

And so guest week ended very fittingly with a fleeting visit from Mike. We took him to enjoy the serene celebness of Café Seventy-Nine in Primrose Hill replete with teacup chandeliers and vegetarian sausages that were more like evil potato croquettes. We saw luggage tags tied to fences extolling how war in Iraq “simply isn’t on”, a hedgerow shaped like a pigeon out cold, and the silo on Primrose Hill where Thunderbird One is kept locked away in case London comes under terrorist attack. I have a piece of unique Troubled Diva merchandise that I will cherish and checking the keyboard now I can understand how someone can typo “racist ducks” since the d and the f are side-by-side…

I have been given lots of food for thought regarding my tastes in chocolate (no literally, Mike gave me some rather posh chocolate) and gained a fearful respect for liver. In future I will hide myself under a blanket to drink milk just in case any nearby pieces of liver decide to have a go. Also… Jeremy Clarkson, he’s alright really. Honest. Not as alright as Nigella Lawson though. Phoar!

Goodnight Children, Everywhere.

(posted by noodle vague)

So that’s it then. What a luvverly week it’s been. I’ve learned why Hershey’s Kisses taste so rank, and where the SS took their holidays in 1939. I’ve enjoyed meeting new people and reading their frabjous blogs. I’m only sorry I don’t have a picture of me stood next to a big ol’ eel to leave you with.

I’d like to give big thanks and love to Mike for allowing us to squat his luxury pad for the week. I think I’ve got all the furniture back where it came from and I’m sure that unsightly stain in the spare bedroom will come off with a bit of bleach. I’d also like to thank all of Troubled Diva’s regular readers for putting up with this pish and not throwing stuff. I’m sure normal service will be very much resumed tomorrow.

‘s been a gas. Peace out.

Stars in their Pies.

(posted by noodle vagueness jr)

I was once, briefly, a Trainee Cabaret Singer.

It’s like this. Having left my first proper job in the Civil Service by mutual agreement (they wanted desperately to get rid of me, I wanted desperately to get out) I decided that me and steady employment were never destined for a loving, consensual relationship. As I trolled along Park Avenue beneath the trees in warm June sunshine, I realised that walking along in the sunshine with nowhere to go was somehow more satisfying than sitting in an office wearing a shirt and tie and trying to sound interested in the package holiday destination of the woman sat opposite. That was my damascene conversion, the blinding revelation muted to leaf-shadowy green and backed with sparrow twitter.

Of course, the eremitical life is pretty groovy in summer, but less so in November. Not that my resolve had weakened, but after signing on for nearly 6 months I knew I was going to be “encouraged” to start a training scheme very soon. Which was when I saw the card in the Job Centre: “Trainee Cabaret Singer.” 10 quid a week on top of your dole. Learn how to make a living on the Club Circuit. So I applied. The suit I handed the card to looked at me as if I was taking the puss. Which of course I was. But he arranged an interview.

Jimmy Pitt is the capo di tutti capi of the club scene in this city. His band, The Deuces, once legendarily supported The Beatles. Tanned, permed, shaded and sovved (and I have too much pride in my cliche-dodging for any of those adjectives to be inaccurate), Jimmy is the model of a Showbiz Survivor. Still performing in his own right, he now spends much of his time coaching and advising a new generation of talent. I ran through “Folsom Prison Blues” at my audition, and apparently it was good enough. Jimmy told me in future to keep me shirt tucked in and to take me jacket off. I was in.

I stuck the course out for a couple of months, during which time I got to perform at perhaps half a dozen charity gigs. I could see how intense and real the whole thing was to the would-be performers, to the extent where I felt guilty for playing at it. I played venues that reminded me of family weddings as a kid. I learned a warm affection for that whole scene – its sentimentality, its lack of pretensions, its beer-and-pie-and-peas-and-bingo-ness. I loved it. But I could never have been any good at it. Apart from being a mediocre singer at best, I lacked the sincerity.

Great pub and club singers are utterly attuned to their audience. There’s no knowing campness, no irony, just a pride in performing loved songs well. And a singer or group, no matter how technically poor (and most are very skilled, since they work far harder than a Star ever has to) humanises what they play. Take the sleekest, airbrushed, Hollywood-distant tearjerker from Celine or Mariah or Cherilyn, belt it out through a cheap P.A. in a small club, and watch it become the Best! Song!! EVAH!!!

Half of me lives in that world, can cry with the best of them at Dionne Warwick et al., and knows all the words to “Forever In Blue Jeans”. Half of me knows it’s a False Memory Syndrome though, the half that read too many books and realised that Mom and Dad were never quite comfortable at those family weddings. I’ve been educated to escape from me roots, either that or some weird gene in the Vague chromosomes means we’ll always lack roots, never quite fit in anywhere, always deconstruct the pleasure we’re having as we’re having it. Just slightly too sarcy and ambiguous to ever belong to anybody else’s Club Land.

This is dedicated to all the talented people I’ve known who mean it, man.

The great liver/milk experiment.

(posted by Mike, in response to noodle‘s “Organ Accumulator” posting below, using information gleaned from article FT129 on this page)

So, is anybody up for doing this?

What you need:
1. A good-sized piece of fresh liver.
2. A glass of milk.
3. A digital camera.

What you do:
1. Place liver 10-20cm (4-8in) away from the milk, on a level surface.
2. Measure the precise distance between the milk and the liver.
3. Take “before” photograph.
4. Go away and do something else for 45 minutes (no peeking – it might spoil the magic), or leave overnight.
5. Return to liver and milk.
6. Measure the new distance.
7. Take “after” photograph.
8a. If you have a weblog, post the results (including photos), and leave the link in the comments box beneath this posting.
8b. If you don’t have a weblog, e-mail me with the results and photos, and I’ll post them here.

Let’s prove this one way or the other, shall we?
This is a truly important moment for science.

Update: First (and only?) result now in!

Kisses and Other Sweet Nothings

(posted by Faustus, M.D.)

The explanation for the difference between European and American chocolate is best set forth in Joel Glenn Brenner’s The Emperors of Chocolate. It’s been several years since I read it, and my copy is hundreds of miles away at the moment, but my recollection is that Mr. Hershey went over to Europe and worked in chocolate factories essentially as a corporate spy, learning their secrets so he could steal them. When he came back to America, he started developing his own methods based on but not exactly the same as the methods he stole. The process he came up with in the end was one in which the milk spoiled ever so slightly. This became the standard taste of American chocolate, and is the reason people from across the pond find our version of the food of the gods so repulsive. Having grown up on it myself, I don’t have a problem with it, but, like any sane person, I prefer the taste of European and English chocolate.

Interestingly, the one chocolate made in America using the European methods (and so tasting much better) is Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. Cadbury is of course an English company, but the eggs sold in America are manufactured, if I’m not mistaken, by Hershey. The only time we get them is around Easter. Strangely, though, I’ve had extraordinary trouble finding them in the last few years; I don’t know if this is because they’re just not common in New York or whether the whole country is turning away from them, in which case I know we are in bad shape.

The other interesting thing is that European and English experts, while generally disdaining the taste of American chocolate, tend to agree that it works very well in combination with almonds–the sourness of the chocolate, they say, somehow accentuates the bitterness of the almonds in an interesting way.

Schlock an’ Eurrgh…

(posted by Mike)

Purely in the interests of research (see D’s Choc an’ Awe posting further down the page for background), I have just tasted my first ever Hersheys bar, as purchased at the lovely posh deli which I patronise every lunchtime. (“You’re such a dear little deli. Michael likes you very, very much.”)

Well, just half a bar, actually. I simply couldn’t face the rest. Jesus Freakin’ H. Christ, it was REPELLENT.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Despite the choc-snobbery on display in the Choc an’ Awe comments box, I will quite happily chow down on a nice fat slab of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, if the mood suits. But honestly, this Hersheys bar was quite the nastiest thing I have tasted since K and I tried microwaved-chips-in-a-box in a service station in the middle of nowhere, about five years ago.

And they sell this in my lovely posh deli? An outrage.

Why I Hate Everyone

(posted by Faustus, M.D.)

An organization that develops new musicals is producing a cabaret show of my songs that opens in a week and a half. Since this was kind of a last-minute thing, there’s been very little time to promote, and in order to get postcards (to send to my mailing list) in time for them to do any good, I had to buy a vast quantity of them.

I just found out that the producing organization gave me the wrong telephone number for people to order tickets. The guy who gave me the information is dyslexic and switched three numbers.

I now have 5,000 post cards about my show that tell people to call some poor schmuck in midtown to get tickets.

I face one of the more attractive choices ever offered me: get a repetitive stress injury from crossing out “686” and writing “868” 5,000 times, or play to an empty house.

I am going to shoot anybody who tells me to have a nice day today.

Can you see the real me? Can ya? Can ya?

(The Who – “The real me” from “Quadrophenia”)

(posted by Mr. D.)

As my weekend is a resolutely keyboard-free zone, this will be my last post.
(Utterly predictable sound of trumpets playing mournfully, off).

Back at the podium where I started, and blubbing with the prescient knowledge that from next Monday my input “will no longer be required, thankyou very much”, I’d once again like to thank the TD for his selfless generosity and magnanimity. (“That’s easy for you to say”. “You can say that again”. “It wasn’t and I won’t”).

The unsolicited link to the MND website was particularly appreciated by the friend who lost her father to the despicable disease.

And if this member of The Infamous Five has had real writers rotating in their crypts (like the alliteration, eh?), maybe that’s no bad thing … It’s been, as they say, a large explosion.

So before putting a face to the name, and perhaps? improving on the ? that the TD bestowed on me in his “Parallel lines” montage, I’d like you to know:

1. It was the last fish of the day.
2. It was the biggest fish of the day.
3. It was the biggest fish of my life (58lb / 26 kilos).
4. It made an inexhaustible supply of fish-cakes.
5. I do not use Grecian 2003.
6. I am not related to any Iraqi dictator, past or present.

And for the fashionistas – the suit is by “Man at Milletts” (it’s a camping shop, Faustus, M.D.)

And my real name? Rudolph Hucker. Say it quickly and remember me.

… dons scuba tank, stuffs regulator into gob and slowly submerges below the surface ….

Mr. D.


Organ Accumulator.

(posted by noodle)

When Parky told me about the creeping liver the other week, I laughed. Her mother had once told her that if a piece of liver is placed on a work surface near a glass of milk, the liver will crawl towards it. I said she was pulling my leg. No, she said. Then her mother was pulling hers. She didn’t think so, and she thought she’d heard the same story somewhere else. I told her it had to be a myth, a mythtake.

Then today I came across this anecdote (you’ll have to scroll down a little to the piece marked FT129). I can’t find any other reference to this phenomenon on Google. Has anybody else ever heard this story? Or witnessed it? There’s only one thing to do. On Saturday I’m going to buy some liver. In the interests of science, I urge you all to do the same.

Choc an’ Awe

(posted by D)

I could just go for a chocolate spoon right now… I’d stir coffee with it and turn it into a mochachino, then give Nigella Lawson the spoon to lick for her studio audience’s delight.

One thing I have discovered over years of travelling the world is that there is no doubt, and I can guarantee unequivocally, that Cadbury’s chocolate is, to put not too fine a point on it, the best on the planet. No arguments, it just is. No, really shut up. It is. I’ve conducted exhaustive studies by eating lots of it.

The French like to think of themselves as chocolate connaisseurs, something to do with them being so close to Switzerland no doubt and every March the patisseries and boulangeries are filled to the gunnels with chocolate fish for April 1st “Poisson D’Avril” day where you give people chocolate fish that taste of cr*p (had to remind myself to bleep that) and pin paper fish on their backs. None of this detracts from the fact that Cadbury’s is still far supperior to their Côte d’Or, Nestlé and so forth.

Lets not even mention Germany and Spanish chocolate, they’re awful, bitter and just plain nasty. The only other contender in the world arena for chocolate would be Hershey’s and Mars. Mars doesn’t go for straight chocolate products, they usually use it to coat fillings like fluffy hooverbag contents and caramel, or conversely to hide the chocolate away within brittle shells that break your teeth. Hersheys… Hersheys…

Let me tell you about Hersheys…

Its awful. Its so awful that the Yanks don’t realise that it is, and it really is. When confronted about how poor their chocolate is they reply that its what they’re used to. For a while after I moved to London I would be woken up in the middle of the night by the three a.m. freight train that the landlord hadn’t warned me about. I got used to it but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t annoying. So I guess I feel lucky to be back in a country that understand the principles of making good chocolate and making it all year round.

Plus I love that purple metallic wrapper… and the snap of the chocolate after its been in the fridge for a while… and the way you bite into it and leave teeth impressions… oh man, I need some Dairy Milk now…

Spoons AND roses.

A rose is a rose, and a spoon is a spoon. Or are they?Not according to James Chambers, 43, an inmate who is serving out a sentence at the Carter County Jail and who says he has found a way to bridge worlds.

Click here for the full story.

An inspiring tale, don’t you think?
So, do you fancy having a go for yourself?
Yes, you too could turn something like this…spoon

…into something like this.


Your examples on my desk by tomorrow morning, please.

(posted by Mike)

A list.

(posted by anna, late in the night, refreshingly sober)

The main differences between roses and spoons

  1. Although the basic structure of spoons and roses is similar (-long slender stem, bulbous tip-) spoons seldom have thorns.
  2. Giving someone a dozen spoons during courtship is unlikely to get them into bed.
  3. It is very difficult to eat anything with a rose. Apart from yoghurt.
  4. Spoons are man-made. Roses are not.
    Unless you take ‘man-made’ to include God, which we won’t, on grounds of sexism and agnosticism.
    (Not necessarily male, and probably doesn’t exist anyway.)
  5. Roses taste better raw than spoons. Unless the spoon is made of chocolate.
  6. Although roses are often present at weddings, they are seldom given as a traditional gift.
    Because they would die, and that would not be an auspicious sign.
  7. Instead, a wooden spoon is often given as a wedding gift, much more positive in symbolising the handing over the role of disciplinarian from the father to the husband.
    So that‘s alright then.
  8. If you bury a spoon, it will not create new spoons.
  9. It is difficult to kill someone with a rose.
  10. People dancing Tango never clench a spoon between their teeth.
  11. Spoons don’t smell nice. Unless they’ve been somewhere nice.
  12. Roses always smell nice. Unless they’ve been somewhere horrible, like up an animal’s bum or something.
  13. At the end of a ballet, people don’t generally throw spoons at the stage.
    I think they should.
  14. People don’t wander from pub to pub, selling ‘a spoon for the lady, sir?
  15. If you leave a spoon in your coffee, nothing will happen. If you leave a rose in your coffee, it will die, and people will think you’re mad and run away from you. It’s not nice.
  16. The rose is the symbol of several countries, counties and states. It is a fine and noble flower.
  17. The spoon is rarely adopted as a national emblem. Because it’s a spoon.


(posted by Mr. D.)

I was dubious about seeing “The Fellowship” because I’m old enough to remember being ripped off by the cinema world’s first attempt. We paid to see the cartoon version, knowing that they’d run out of funds and so Parts 2 and 3 would never be made.

But knowing the rest were in the can, I loved this one and The Two Towers.

And sitting here, composing this and coincidentally listening to NZ’s finest, Crowded House, I’m wondering if they’ll hold fast and not bestow a Kiwi accent on Shelob this Christmas.

“G’day Frodo, that’s a fine piece a julry ya got slung rand ya nick!”

Hope not.

Mr. D.

P.S. “Peter” – I took advice on the phonetics.

Perhaps you Church of England people can help me out with this one.

(posted by Faustus, M.D.)

Considering the fact that I’m Jewish, it sometimes seems odd that I am so passionately reactionary about the Christian liturgy. I have a job singing in an Episcopal church in New York that has both the most beautiful acoustic in the Western hemisphere (and the only acoustic I’ve ever sung in in the Eastern hemisphere that surpasses it is the Lady Chapel at Ely) and the most gorgeous and grand architecture imaginable.

So why the hell are we using Rite II?

I really am baffled by the fact that I care about this, seeing as how, oh, Christianity has been responsible for the death of millions of my people over the last two millenia. And yet every time we skip the Kyrie, my hackles start to go up. If I had my druthers, the whole service would still be in Latin.

But why we’re using Rite II isn’t really my question, since there’s not really anything I can do about it.

My question is about the hymn text “Ye who own the faith of Jesus,” which we sang last night in celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation, when Gabriel showed up at Mary’s place and said, “Surprise!” The hymn, a pretty dreadful and bombastic piece written in 1906 by one Vincent Stucky Stratton Coles, contains the following line:

Praise, O Mary, praise the Father, praise thy Savior and thy Son.

But here’s the thing: if Mary was conceived, as the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception tells us, without the stain of original sin, then she didn’t need saving from anything, so Jesus couldn’t very well be her savior.

I mean, I suppose one could argue that she sinned during her life, but that seems a little contrived, especially because if she did, those sins were almost certainly venial instead of mortal–I can’t imagine Mary committing “sacrilege, murder, adultery, false witness, theft, robbery, pride, envy, avarice, [or] if it is of long standing, anger, drunkenness, if it is persistent, [or] slander,” which is the list, according to Caesarius of Arles (writing in 522 A.D.), of mortal sins.

So what gives?

I’m inclined to believe that Mr. Coles was guilty of sloppy theology, but if anybody else has an explanation that allows him to escape such criticism, I’d love to hear it.

Now please excuse me while I put on a yarmulke and go to synagogue.

How to blend with the English – a bluffer’s guide.

(posted by Mike, inspired by Mark, and dedicated to D)

1. Cultivate an appreciation of draught beer. Vital, unless you’re an Old Compton Street queen (imported bottled lagers) or an Essex girl (Bacardi Breezers).

2. Sartorially, either go for anonymous muted tones from Marks & Spencer (you will think of this as your “classic” look), or else adopt a suitable street-style which “expresses your individuality” in some way.

3. Your sense of humour should be evenly divided between gentle self-deprecation, wry observation and bitter, withering sarcasm.

3a. If you consider yourself to be a person of breeding, then you should also add “hilarious” impersonations of regional dialects to the above list.

4. In conversation, be prepared to hold forth at great length on:
· the weather.
· house prices.
· the appalling state of customer service these days.
· road works, diversions, and detailed discussions of the best route from A to B, quoting full road numbers and motorway exit points.

5. Complain about everything – but never directly to the person or persons who have caused your grievance, because that would be drawing attention to yourself.

6. Never deliberately draw attention to yourself.

6a. Unless you are drunk, in which case the reverse applies.

7. Use any of the following words/phrases:
· Blimey!
· Dearie me!
· Cheers mate! (double points if used sarcastically to someone who is just out of earshot)
· Oh, that’s all we need…
· Too clever by half.
· Just a quick one, then.
· Anyway. (used on its own, in an attempt to wind up a conversation)
· I’d give him/her one. (an all-purpose expression denoting a wish to commit an act of sex or violence; meaning differs according to context and gender)
· Here we go! (South of England) / CUMM-on! (North of England)

8. Speak – Very – Slowly – And – Distinctly – To – All – Foreigners.

9. Never attempt sexual congress when sober. Because that would just be embarrassing. And you wouldn’t want that.

10. Never cry in public, except in the following circumstances:
· Royal funerals.
· Major sporting defeats.
· When appearing on light entertainment shows.

Finally: never win at anything. There is nothing that the English respect more than a noble loser.

Eau de roast beef

Posted by D

When I came back to Britain after nearly a decade living in Europe with Americans (see, its starting to make sense now, isn’t it?) we seemed to be at the height of Cool Britannia. Lock, Stock had made east end gangster movies the height of cinematography (followed by innumerable wastes of celluloid), Oasis were the darlings of New Labour and Blur had dominated underground rock. It seemed to me a very good time to be British.

Only… I never could project that Britishness, that essence of Brit, that je ne sais quoi that personifies Johnny Brit.

Johnny Vaughn’s got it. John Cleese too. Tony Blair’s a little too slick to have it but I suppose he does by default of being the Prime Minister although the image of those red demon eyes has been etched into my brain. Elizabeth Hurley, Kate Winslet, Nigella Lawson, there’s just no mistaking them as anything other than British totty (well Nigella is totty as far as I’m concerned, have you seen her lick a spoon?!)

Now make no mistake, I am not talking about that bumbling character Hugh Grant always plays, the “terribly sorry” type who has a heart of gold hidden behind ineffably stupid clumsiness and verbal dithering. Although tentatively there may be some truth to that Mr Bean-esque Chaplin comical quality; doing something with the right intentions for the wrong reasons.

Did Britain ever recover from losing an empire? And yet its not like we lost it, we didn’t suddenly wake up one morning and collectively start looking down the back of the couch… sorry, sofa… or behind the fridge. We did the right thing, for the wrong reasons. We gave the people their indepedence (albeit with a little bit of a struggle) and in return they promised to thrash us at every sport we’ve ever invented except golf. All it took was a skinny man in a nappy making salt and refusing to fight back to show us the error of our ways.

Tea. What could be more essentially British than tea? There’s an art to making tea I learned from Douglas Adams. Still makes tea taste like distilled weeds but my sister seems to appreciate a good cup of char every other minute… its a drug, isn’t it? I managed to escape the country during those formative years where you’re all put on Earl Grey drips and forced to sniff tealeaves, right? Not that coffee is such a huge leap up the scale, its just soggy ground up beans. I’d be quite happy if Starbucks just sold cups of warm brown sugar water so long as it came with whipped cream and a biscotti.

So I can’t emulate our British celebrities, I can’t sympathise with our politicians, I can’t understand our social order structure or class system (am I upper middle-class, lower upper-class, middle upper-class? Can I look royalty directly in the eye?) and I don’t like tea. I think I’m probably just a failure as a Brit altogether. Terribly sorry about that.