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.