diamond geezer

 Friday, February 28, 2003

The best of February

TV programme of the month: A series about football with no football in it? Footballers' Wives is quite the worst idea anyone's ever had for a TV drama, and therefore it works brilliantly. Clothes horses and amoral fashion victims more like. Poor old Kyle and Chardonnay have had nothing much to do this series, except provide a stream of public service information about hermaphrodite babies. Jason and Tanya, however, have been having a whale of a time with tacky plots and ludicrous dialogue. Neanderthal man meets Harvey Nicks woman, and then gets pushed off the top of a tall building. I for one will be back next year to find out whodunnit, and how many extreme tabloid-type stories they can pack into the next series.

Football result of the month: Arsenal 5, Manchester City 1. It's a good score, 5-1. That's the same score we beat Farnborough by last month, and I seem to remember David Beckham thrashing some Germans by the same margin exactly 18 months ago.

Film of the month: I couldn't decide between Ghost Ship and Final Destination 2. Ghost Ship was by far the classier of the films, if you can call a 1950s Italian ocean liner inhabited by murderous spirits classy. The method of onboard death in the opening scene of Ghost Ship wouldn't have been out of place in Final Destination 2, where it seems the more unlikely the means of despatch the better. I left the cinema after FD2 with my eyes peeled for freak accidents... maybe that lampost could be hit by lightning and fall onto a passing motorbike causing a lorry laden with oranges to swerve and overturn, scattering its cargo across the road so... or perhaps I was just having a premonition of the plot of FD3.

Album of the month: Unrest by Erlend Øye. I don't usually risk buying an album when I've not heard even one track off it beforehand, but this risk turned out really well. Erlend's probably best known for doing Royksopp vocals, but this is more melodic than Melody AM, poppier and rather excellent. Two standout tracks - the charmingly quirky Prego Amore and the opener Ghost Trains.

Single of the month: Move Your Feet by Junior Senior. As reviewed by legendary chart supremo James Masterson... "Junior Senior are two blokes from Denmark and as the name suggests are from two different generations. Their music however is nothing short of spectacular, this single being a case in point, a hugely infections blend of funk, disco and soul that almost literally commands you to get up and dance."

Gig of the month: The Streets at the Brixton Academy. Review here.

Satellite image of the month: Ever wondered what London looks like from space? The international space station flew over earlier in the month and took this rather fantastic snap of the South East at night. It turns out that London looks like a huge glowing amoeba with tentacles. If you look at the image carefully you can see the cell nucleus that is central London, a surprisingly large ribosome at Hyde Park, plus the vacuole called Essex. And much respect to Steve who's taken the NASA photo and done something really Flash with it. Awesome.

4137, not 4317, sorry.

The Count: 2050 298 103 23 20 52 130 97 69 0

 Thursday, February 27, 2003

retail therapyThe retail therapy project (Phase 3) (additional guidance)

There's £100 to spend on something electrical or gadgety for my birthday present... but on what?
A little background reading for those of you who have still to make up your mind.

Here's what the nominees said about each of the five possible presents. Myself, I'll try to be more objective.

(a) Clear Door Cooler
drD said... "Ok has to be the Clear Door Cooler - £99.99 - MP6320 from Innovations. Space for plenty of beer bottles, under a ton + it's new on 3rd March. You can use it in the office too for warming pies...and you get to spend a penny."
I said... "Very thoughtful, not least because after drinking the contents of that cooler I'd need to be able to spend a penny. There's a bottle of champagne in my fridge that's been there for 18 months without being opened - that should be nicely chilled by now."

(b) Mathmos Flip and Faze Tumbler lights
drD said... "On the basis that less is more I recommend a Mathmos tumbler or two. Just the thing to channel your Chi around that heavy electrical lfestyle."
I say... "I do actually have one of the Mathmos bubble lights, except it only does blue and it doesn't change colour. I also own a lava lamp, or at least a vial of orange goo left behind by my landlord who has an unnervingly 70s view of home design. Just don't even try to imagine the hideousness of my/his orange sofa."

(c) Philips Provapor Steam Iron
Blue Witch said... " To cut down your ironing time: Argos 410/8070 Philips GC6022 Provapor steam generator, £99.99 (P 32)"
I say... "I get to iron five shirts a week, which takes me away from my keyboard for at least twenty minutes. Sadly my keyboard is too small and lumpy to use as an ironing board, but a steam iron would no doubt melt the keys even faster."

(d) Logitech Cordless Desktop Optical keyboard and mouse
Blue Witch said... "To improve your internet experience and enable you to write DG from your armchair: Argos 676/1721 Logitech cordless desktop optical keyboard and mouse, £99.95 (P 841). NB You can get a very similar Logitech set from Viking for £49.99 + VAT currently."
I say... "With this gadget I could sit and type from the discomfort of my orange sofa, or maybe even double-click at the ironing board. Hmmm, I wonder how easy it is to read the text on a computer screen from two metres away. Don't be surprised if you log in one day and find diamond geezer published in font size 48."

(e) Voice Commander remote control
paulg said... "A voice activated remote control £79 off iwantoneofthose.com ... perfect for couch potatoes who cant move from their sofa except for stretching for the Pringles, billy-no-mates who have no one to talk to but their domestic appliances, and tech heads who can never have too many batteries :o)"
I say... "It appears I could be spending a lot of my post-birthday life on that sofa. I wonder if the Voice Controller can be programmed not just to change TV channels but also to feed me Pringles? Might be my only comfort assuming I've frightened away all the friends who've caught me talking to my CD player."

A reminder that you can cast your vote by visiting this special online survey site (select survey number 4137, that's 4137), or by posting a comment in the comments box below, or by email, any time beween now and next Tuesday. Further details below.

Of course, only I could launch the final phase of this project into a dead-comments-link environment, so I'm very sorry if you're burning to say something at the moment. Either cross your legs and hold it in, or go and vote on the survey site instead.

The Count: 1972 289 98 20 19 46 121 94 67 0

 Wednesday, February 26, 2003

retail therapyThe retail therapy project (Phase 3)

I have set aside exactly £100 of my own money to buy myself a birthday present.
I'm asking you, the readers of diamond geezer, to tell me what exactly what to spend that £100 on.


Phase 2 of the project (nominate an electrical/gadgety present) is now complete.

Many thanks for all your nominations. I've been busy looking at your many suggestions (and wondering about your mental state too, some of you). Now I'm ready to narrow the field down to a final five electrical/gadgety things for you all to vote on over the next seven days. I've selected the final five not because I like them but because they're the only suggestions that fall within the price range £70 - £110, which is about right.

Phase 3 of the project (vote to choose my £100 birthday present) is therefore now open. You are invited to choose one of the following five presents, which are arranged in descending order of price. Just pick a letter...

(a) Clear Door Cooler £99.99 - "Clearly our best-ever mini fridge! This has to be the best 'anytime, anywhere' portable fridge we've ever seen. Its 20 litre capacity is quite a lot more roomy than our previous version and it's even better value at under £100. The design features an outrageously cool see-thru door that makes it look more like an expensive wine chiller cabinet - plus an LCD display showing current internal temperature."
From Innovations (catalogue number MP6320) and nominated by drD.

(b) Mathmos Flip and Faze Tumbler lights £99.90 for 2 - Flip: "A light brick that turns itself on and off when tumbled, the Flip light brick glows with 9 different colours that change every time you flip it over, which should be enough to satisfy anyone with the wildest moon swings!" Faze: "Like a slo-mo chilled out club light it sits there gently pulsing from one colour to the next - on it's back the colours change every 30 seconds, on its side they change every 5-10 seconds, and upright the colours change continuously. Pop it by your bed for a great effect while, well, you know."
From Mathmos and again nominated by drD.

(c) Philips Provapor Steam Iron £99.00 - It's a steam iron with a big reservoir underneath. "70g/min steam output. 2000 watts. Ceramic coated soleplate. 1 litre water tank."
From Argos (catalogue number 410/8070) and nominated by Blue Witch.

(d) Logitech Cordless Desktop Optical keyboard and mouse £84.95 - "The freedom of cordless... the performance of optical... together in one eye-catching design. Logitech Cordless Desktop® Deluxe Optical features a comfortable, ultra-flat keyboard and a gently curved optical mouse, making it an excellent choice for home and office users alike. Advanced digital radio technology lets you work securely anywhere within a 2-metre range from your computer. And the cordless optical mouse delivers maintenance-free performance and reliability."
From Logitech or Argos (catalogue number 636/8070) and also nominated by Blue Witch.

(e) Voice Commander remote control £79.00 - "With a clever mixture of voice recognition software and multi-directional infrared transmitter the Voice Commander puts you in charge. "BBC 1", "Turn it up", "Record This", "Play a CD", "Shut Up" - oh the amount of fun you can have with this is endless! You're watching TV and something great comes on, you don't have to move a muscle, just tell your little slave to record the programme and it will instruct your Video to do it."
From I Want One Of Those (under 'electronics') and nominated by paulg.

Tomorrow I'll post a bit more information about these five electrical gadgety type things, in case that helps, so you don't have to decide on your choice today.

You can cast your vote by visiting this special online survey site (select survey number 4137), or by posting a comment in the comments box below (assuming it's working, sigh), or by email. This week just a letter is needed, and only one vote per person please (none of the 'e' overdose that one of you had last time you were allowed to vote, OK?). All votes to be received by midnight next Tuesday 4th March. And next Wednesday I'll announce the winning present, which will give me a few days before my birthday to go out and spend £100 on whatever it is you finally select.

Please vote. My retail therapy depends on you.

The Count: 1880 278 93 19 18 46 116 90 63 0

 Tuesday, February 25, 2003

.tnaillirb si sihT
.skrow ti woh si siht dnA


And five other real Googles...
geezer viewer, geezer-related, geezer news, Klingon geezer, Diamantgeezer

retail therapyThe retail therapy project (Phase 2) (final update)

Last chance to nominate a £100-ish electrical/gadgety thing for my birthday present. Here's one more (Gadget Shop) website you might want to take a look at, just in case there's a possible winner on there somewhere.

Stick a nomination in the comments box below, or email it, before midnight GMT. You know the score.

The Count: 1781 267 91 18 18 46 111 86 59 0

 Monday, February 24, 2003

Broken links

There are a number of links in my internet favourites list which once worked, but no longer do. There's this one, for example, or this one, or even this one (which was fantastic). You know the drill - you just click on the link, and up comes that dreaded error message again. Last weekend I stuck this link in my post about TV nostalgia, only for it to suddenly stop working two hours later (although thankfully it's back again today). And only this morning this link wasn't working, which was surprisingly frustrating. Sometimes you find that the old site's merely moved, but often this is the last you ever see of a great site.

So, in an attempt to circumvent the problem of links that suddenly stop linking, I've decided to take another approach. Below are a set of ten links that don't link to anywhere at the moment, but one day will. Not very useful today, admittedly, but do bookmark this page and come back later. Maybe in a week, maybe in a month or maybe in a few years, but I'm sure they'll all be well worth visiting one day.

Link1 - Link2 - Link3 - Link4 - Link5 - Link6 - Link 7 - Link8 - Link9 - Link10

The Count: 1679 256 88 13 18 46 105 82 55 0

 Sunday, February 23, 2003

retail therapyThe retail therapy project (Phase 2) (update)

There's £100 to spend on something electrical or gadgety for my birthday present... but on what?
Your nominations are pouring in. Well, I've received a few anyway.

The following websites have been mentioned, so maybe you'd care to have another look and see if there's anything else electrical or gadgety in there that you think I might like.

I Want One Of Those - Warning: you may discover something you want here instead.
Mathmos - something nice and glowing perhaps. I wonder if Sellafield sell anything similar?
Argos - one of the few household catalogues that doesn't fall open at the underwear page.
Shires of Bath - apparently there is something gadgety in there somewhere, honest.
...and i'm surprised nobody's suggested this next one yet...
Innovations: Surely the ultimate collection of the astonishingly useless. There must be something in there you'd like to inflict on me?

You should nominate my £100-ish birthday electrical gadgety thing by posting a comment in the comments box below, or by email. Tell me the name of your nominated thing, and if possible a price and a website I can see/buy it on. All nominations to be received by midnight on Tuesday 25th February. Full details here.

that'll be a fiver pleaseLondon's Congestion Charge (one week in)
The official information here.
The biased Evening Standard anti-viewpoint here.
One of the best ways to ride into the charging zone here.
Total disregard for the charging zone here.
Or just stay at home and play this instead. (Thanks Jon)

The Count: 1590 250 85 13 17 40 102 82 55 0

 Saturday, February 22, 2003

Wallow in TV Nostalgia

Transport yourself back to your childhood, sat on the sofa in the early evening watching the telly eating Smiths crisps and drinking Cresta. How many of these ten links will give you a shiver down your spine?

TV themes: There are more than 300 classic TV themes here, and I was desperately trying to click on the next mp3 even before the last had finished playing. As a taster, here are 26 of the downloadable gems I've rediscovered and adored (well, rediscovered anyway): the Adventure Game, Bod, Chockablock, Doctor Who, Emu's Broadcasting Company, Fame, Going Live, Hong Kong Phooey, Interceptor, Jigsaw, Knight Rider, Ludwig, Monkey, Nationwide, Playaway, Rentaghost, Stop the Pigeon, Think of a Number, Ulysses 31, Vision On, Wacky Races, Watch, Why Don't You, White Horses, Willo the Wisp, Wonder Woman. (hang on, that's too many W's, but all memorable nonetheless)
TV Ark: And now, the same but with pictures! Watch the intro to Animal Magic, Crystal Tipps and Ivor the Engine. See the adverts for Shake and Vac, Ariston and Coco Pops. Experience the original Channel 4 logo, the start of Eldorado and... oh go on, just go and have a look. See you back here in an hour.
Cult TV: The BBC have realised that some of their old programmes are cult classics. This is of course shorthand for 'We know they're very good, but we're never going to show them again. Relive memories of the Adventure Game, Blake's 7, Ghostwatch and Play School, amongst many others.
Radio Times Covers: Some of these covers are design classics. Some of them aren't, sadly, particularly those with Carol Smillie or the Queen on the front, but Christmas is usually a winner. And if you want to look behind the cover to see what programmes were being shown on various dates from 1936 to 1997, look here.
The BBC Schools Diamond: You'll remember it the minute you see it, whisking you back to those days sat cross-legged in the school hall. And wow, someone's gone to the effort of recreating it for a post-modern grown-up audience.
TV regional idents: The same person has brought back to life all those regional logo sequences that used to introduce the programmes. Here's LWT. And here are all the BBC equivalents. Strangely therapeutic.
BBC2 logos: I never tired of watching blue paint being chucked at the BBC2 logo. Sadly the programme controller did, and now we're lumbered with some dull yellow idents instead.
Charley says: Charley and I were in the park. Then this man came up and said would I like to see some puppies. Even 30 years ago, it seems grooming was an issue.
BBC News 24: News 24 used to play a unexpectedly funky countdown at one minute to the hour, just before the main news. Here's the full 90 second version - why has no producer turned this into a hit dance record yet?
TV Cream: No serious wallow in TV nostalgia would be complete without this site. If you can't spend 3 hours of your time looking through this outstanding archive, you surely didn't have a television while you were growing up.

one.... two.... three....The Count (update)

Count 1 (blog visitors = 461 + 505 + 565 = 1531) ...and looking like I might top 2000 in a month for the first time.
Count 2 (google searches = 83 + 93 + 68 = 244) ...but I bet most of them are disappointed when they arrive.
Count 3 (blog content = 23 + 29 + 26 = 78) ...three quarters of the way to my 100kb target, near enough
Count 4 (spam = 1 + 7 + 4 = 12) ...not quite so bad this week, and thankfully not quite so many Nigerians.
Count 5 (nights out = 7 + 4 + 5 = 16) ...so it's amazing I'm ever in to write this, to be honest.
Count 6 (alcohol intake = 13 + 10 + 11 = 34) ...a pretty average week, although most of that was in the last four hours.
Count 7 (tea intake = 30 + 37 + 33 = 100) ...another pretty average week, and that's now a ton of teabags.
Count 8 (trains used = 28 + 27 + 27 = 82) ...and not as packed by congestion charge escapees as I was expecting.
Count 9 (escalators walked up = 21 + 19 + 15 = 55) ...including the longest escalator on the Underground (at Angel).
Count 10 (mystery count = 0 + 0 + 0 = 0) ...which is at least very predictable if rather disappointing..

Three things the zero-rated mystery count could be, but isn't:
• number of copies of the Big Issue purchased.
• number of successful retail therapy shopping trips.
• number of Brit Awards going to the most deserved artist.

 Friday, February 21, 2003

Brits 2003

British male solo artist: The Streets
British album: The Streets, Original Pirate Material
British urban act: The Streets
British breakthrough artist: The Streets

... bugger, I'm dreaming. The judges clearly aren't paid to recognise class. Or maybe it's just that they don't let you win an award if you decide not to turn up at the ceremony. A bit careless to be nominated for four awards and then to win none of them, but the Brits were never about taste. Except maybe bad taste, of course.

Here's the actual list of awards, or at least it's correct as far as I could tell from the telly:
British male solo ego: Robbie Williams
British female solo anti-war polemic: Mrs Dynamite
British album: Coldplay, A Rush of Money to the Bank Account
British group with nice safe middle-of-the-road album appeal: Coldplay
British single voted for by listeners to commercial radio say no more: Liberty X, Just A Little
American British urban act: Ms Dynamite
British dance (in a wedding-reception-karaoke-dance-type-stylee) act: Sugababes
British granny-market-breakthrough artist: Will Young
British pap act: Blue
International mixed doubles: Kylie and Justin Timberlake
International male named after Smarties-like chocolates: Eminem
International (American) female inexplicably seen dancing with British guardsmen: Pink
International album: Eminem, The Eminem No-Show
International mildly original reading of autocue: Red Hot Chili Peppers
International who-the-hell-is-that? artist: Norah Jones
Outstanding contribution to music television: Davina McCall

The Count: 1450 236 75 11 15 28 97 80 55 0

 Thursday, February 20, 2003

retail therapyThe retail therapy project (Phase 2) (additional guidance)

There's £100 to spend on something electrical or gadgety for my birthday present... but on what?
A little background reading for those of you who have still to make up your mind.

Here's my 10 current favourite electrical/gadgety things:

1) Sony NWMS9 Memory Stick Walkman: Ahhh, now I can download 2 hours 40 minutes of ace music of my choice into something small and shiny that fits dead easily into my pocket. This gadget has improved my tube journeys no end, allowing me to travel to work lost somewhere inside headphone world. Just so long as I remember not to start singing along in public.

2) Dell Dimension 4400 computer: OK, so it may not be the most glamorous PC in the world, but it works, it works well, and it gets me online to talk to you lot. And yes Apple fans, I know it's not a fashion icon like your white designer slab of technological wet dream, but I do sometimes like to be slightly conventional.

3) Sony Ericsson T68 mobile: My phone's a year old this week, so it's not exactly cutting edge any more, but at least it's had the upgrade so it thinks it's a T68i instead. Colour screen, WAP-enabled (whatever happened to WAP?) and a rather smart Arsenal background. One day I must learn to use it for something other than text messaging and playing patience.

4) Sony Cybershot-U DSC U10: Good to know that, should aliens ever land in Piccadilly Circus, I can whip my camera out, snap a few megapixels, upload the scoop of the century onto my PC and publish it on my blog. Assuming the aliens haven't zapped me dead first using their favourite gadget, of course.

5) Sony CDP-CX235 200-Disc Megastorage CD Player: When your CD collection exceeds 200, it's great to have the black-box equivalent of a jukebox to play them all in. Of course, if your CD collection really exceeds 200, it's still tough to decide which discs to leave out. I've set my black box permanently on completely random play, so it chucks up gem after gem after 'oh God, is that in my CD collection?' after gem.

6) Hewlett Packard Officejet G55 printer: Go back 25 years and photocopiers were fridge-sized smelly boxes that produced grubby A4 documents printed in grey at an angle, and you might just have seen one in an office. Now I have one in my own home that's small, accurate, clean and prints in colour. I believe it's also a fax machine, but I have yet to try getting that to work.

7) Pure Digital EVOKE-1 digital radio: It sounds better than it looks but, at last for under £100, perfect quality wireless. It took two months to find a shop that actually had one in stock, but now at last I can listen to more than just the five BBC stations, cheesy commercial drivel, geriatric phone-ins and amateur interfering local pirates. Top 3 favourite digital stations so far: BBC 6music, Ministry of Sound and XFM.

8) Philips 28PW6615 television: It's big and it's silver. It's also widescreen which means it has 20% extra TV picture, except that nothing ever happens along the edge of the screen so I'm still not sure why I bothered. Ah, if only my TV aerial could deliver the pixel-perfect picture quality of my television I'd be delighted.

9) ITV Digital box: Since the advent of Freeview my viewing pleasure has happily increased, for no additional money. I can watch TV Travel Shop. I can watch QVC. I can watch CBeebies. Thankfully there are a few other channels that are actually worth watching.

10) Oregon Scientific Projection Clock: I'm the kind of person who likes to know exactly what the time is to the second, and not just that the big hand is somewhere down the right-hand side of the dial. That's why I still wear a digital watch, whereas the trendier amongst you prefer an inaccurate but more fashion-conscious analogue bracelet. This radio-controlled clock satisfies my need for accuracy, plus it projects the time onto my bedroom ceiling so that even the myopic can be certain what time it is at twenty seven minutes past two in the morning, precisely.

That's 10 gadgets I already own.
Hopefully there's plenty of scope for you to nominate something I haven't yet got.
Maybe even something I might like...

You should nominate my £100-ish birthday electrical gadgety thing by posting a comment in the comments box below, or by email. Tell me the name of your nominated thing, and if possible a price and a website I can see/buy it on. All nominations to be received by midnight next Tuesday 25th February. Full details below.

The Count: 1370 228 69 11 14 28 93 78 55 0

 Wednesday, February 19, 2003

retail therapyThe retail therapy project (phase 2)

I have set aside exactly £100 of my own money to buy myself a birthday present.
I'm asking you, the readers of diamond geezer, to tell me what exactly what to spend that £100 on.


Phase 1 of the project (select the category for the £100 birthday present) is now complete. Many thanks for all your votes (all thirty-something of them). I'm pleased to announce that the votes from the blogland jury are as follows:

   Books - nul points
   Clothing - un point
   Travel - trois points
   Videos/DVDs - quatre points
   Other - quatre points
   Music - quatre points
   Home furnishings - neuf points (suspiciously high number of votes for that yesterday!)
   Electrical/gadgets - dix points

And so, as the returning officer for this project, I do hereby declare that Electrical/gadgets has been elected as the category from which my birthday present will be chosen. Should be possible to blow £100 on that quite easily...

The two remaining project stages are:
Phase 2 (until midnight Tuesday 25th February): nominate possible presents within the chosen category.
Phase 3 (until midnight Tuesday 4th March): vote to choose my £100 birthday present.
...which still gives me a few days before the weekend to go out and buy whatever it is you finally select.

Phase 2 of the project (nominate possible presents within the chosen category) is now open.
Your nominations are invited. Think of something electrical or gadgety that you reckon I really shouldn't live without, maybe because you can't. The thing you nominate should cost in the order of £100, but I reckon I might be willing to go a bit over £100 for the right thing. Be creative - I'm sure you will be - but not too creative, OK? ;o)

Tomorrow I'll post a bit more information here on the sorts of electrical gadgety type things I already own, in case that helps, so you don't have to decide on your choice today.

You can nominate my birthday electrical gadgety thing by posting a comment in the comments box below, or by email. Tell me the name of your nominated thing, and if possible a price and a website I can see/buy it on. All nominations to be received by midnight next Tuesday 25th February. And next Wednesday I'll announce the list of nominations, narrow that down to something manageable, and ask you to start voting for your preferred present.

Please nominate. My retail therapy depends on you.

The Count: 1282 218 66 10 14 28 88 74 51 0

 Tuesday, February 18, 2003

I couldn't possibly comment...

The Haloscan comments system is down.
It's been down for far too long.
This means it's impossible to leave comments on certain people's blogs at the moment.
This means there's a lot I'd like to say but I can't.
So I thought I'd say it here instead.

My ace life (13:04 17 Feb 03): As I think I said here, I have no hope of ever growing a beard, for which I remain thankful. Course, it means I have to buy my own sandpaper, and I have to leave the office at lunchtimes to buy food rather than just pick it out of my chin, but I can live with that for the additional time that not shaving gives me in bed each morning.

By A Woman (18:23 18 Feb 03): You're the lucky one. I've never had a fanciable doctor who made my heart miss a beat. I've got through six different dentists in the last ten years, but none of them have had nostrils worth looking up. Even when a BT engineer's had to come round for a fix, they've never sparked. I therefore reckon you should continue to consult your new Dr Luuuuurve while you can, before Holby City signs him up for his looks.

London calling (11:10 17 Feb 03): An excellent link, well spotted.

Volume 22 (10:28 16 Feb 03): Most people seem to think that Google buying Blogger will be a 'good' thing. Today the Guardian newspaper even featured blogging in its editorial leader column. We're going mainstream...

Diamond Geezer (07:00 17 Feb 03): I noticed on Monday morning that Ken Livingstone's congestion charge had miraculously reduced road traffic levels to school half-term holiday levels. Then I realised that there was probably another very good reason for that...

retail therapyThe retail therapy project (end of Phase 1)

There's still £100 to spend on my birthday present... but which category would you choose?
(a) Music, (b) Books, (c) Video/DVDs, (d) Electrical/gadgets, (e) Home furnishings, (f) Clothing, (g) Travel, (h) Other.

Today's the last day for you to cast your vote for your chosen category. A final reminder that you can cast your vote by visiting this special online survey site (select survey number 3905) (go on, go on, go on go on go on go on go on), or by posting a comment in the comments box below (assuming Haloscan ever get up and running again), or by email, any time beween now and midnight GMT. Full details here.

The Count: 1202 209 63 10 13 23 84 68 46 0

 Monday, February 17, 2003

that'll be a fiver pleaseCongestion Charging

Blogging is a rapidly increasing global activity, but huge increases in online traffic are in danger of bringing the information superhighway to a halt. Every day large numbers of bored office workers attempt to log onto their favourite blog websites, creating lengthy queues and gridlock across the internet. Average download speeds on many websites are now under 10kb per second throughout the working day.

To tackle this problem, diamond geezer has decided to introduce congestion charging on this website. It is hoped that by discouraging people from entering Central Blogland, traffic will be increased on other periforal webpages, to the benefit of all. As of today, a £5 daily congestion charge will help to get diamond geezer moving. It will reduce traffic, making downloads more reliable, and save hundreds of wasted working hours each week.

The diamond geezer congestion charge applies from 10am to 12 midnight, Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays. The charge does not apply at weekends. Evidence from statistics suggests that these are the times during which page access overload is at its peak. By redistributing blog visits to quieter times such as 4am GMT, the congestion charge will ease traffic conditions for insomniacs and Americans, if for nobody else.

You can pay the congestion charge either in advance or on the day of your visit. The charge is £5 if you pay by midnight on the day of your visit. Payment of the congestion charge allows you to enter, click around, and leave the charging blog as many times as you wish that day. There are some exemptions and discounts, for which regular readers should apply by email.

If you are due to pay and don't, a Penalty Charge Notice will be issued. Tracking software will be used to read your IP address as you enter the congestion charging zone and check it against our database. Following a final check at midnight, the computer will track the IP addresses of readers that should have paid but have not done so. We will then issue a Penalty Charge Notice of £80 to the unregistered viewer. Failure to pay the penalty charge within 28 days will result in the penalty being increased to £120.

You should pay the diamond geezer congestion charge right here on this site.
Please enter your full bank account details below.
 
Congestion charging - you know it makes money chaos sense.

The Count: 1111 199 60 9 13 23 76 64 42 0

 Sunday, February 16, 2003

The Unknown East End

I spent this afternoon walking the streets of the East End. I wrapped up warm and joined the London Walks guided tour of the Unknown East End. Fascinating stuff. A rabble gathers outside Whitechapel tube station at 2pm every Sunday afternoon, waits for the guide to make him/herself known, pays a fiver, then sets off to hear about the real history of the area. It's one of many tours this company does and, after today, I'm tempted to go on a few more (but maybe only when it's a bit warmer).

Some things I learnt about the East End this afternoon:
Jack the Ripper's first victim, Polly Nicholls, was taken to a police mortuary that's now a McDonalds.
• Mile End is so called because London's Jews were once forbidden to live within one mile of the City of London.
• When Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell in the eye in the Blind Beggar pub, the record 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More' was stuck on the jukebox.
• John Merrick, the 'Elephant Man', was exhibited as a freak on the Whitechapel Road until he was rescued by a compassionate local surgeon.
• Winston Churchill attended the Siege of Sidney Street, a famous shootout ending in the jewellery robbers' hideout burning to the ground.
• Joseph Stalin lived for three months at the gothic Tower House in Fieldgate Street, now boarded up and ripe for redevelopment.
• William Booth founded the Salvation Army in Whitechapel to fight the social injustice of Victorian times.
• The Liberty Bell was cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, so I guess it's also their fault that it cracked.

Blimey: Google buys Blogger!
Prepare for blogworld to discuss nothing else for at least a week.

The Count: 1045 191 56 8 12 23 71 62 42 0

 Saturday, February 15, 2003

The Stop The War demo - your handy cut-out-and-march guide to the route

March A starts on the Embankment, not that far from:
Bank station, where 117 civilians lost their lives in a direct hit from a German bomb in 1941.
Monument, built to remember the firestorm that destroyed the capital in 1666.
Cleopatra's Needle, a Middle-Eastern artefact deported miles from its cultural home.
The Crimea Memorial, cast from Russian cannons captured at the Battle of Sebastopol.

The march passes through Parliament Square and up Whitehall, past statues to:
Oliver Cromwell, instigator of a bloody civil war in Stuart times.
Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, the celebrated desert fighter of World War Two.
The Cenotaph, national memorial to the millions killed in World War One.

On through Trafalgar Square, home to:
Nelson's Column, erected in honour of the admiral killed in battle while defeating the Spanish.
Sir Henry Havelock, veteran of the first Indian mutiny and served in wars against Burma and Afghanistan.
Sir Charles Napier, leader of the conquest of the hill tribes of Sindh, now part of Pakistan.
Admiralty Arch, once home to the offices of the British Empire's all-conquering naval forces.

Meanwhile March B has passed by:
Tottenham Court Road station, where a huge underground shelter was built in 1942 to protect Londoners during air raids.
Eros, the famous statue of the Greek god of love, and therefore a bit out of place in this list.

The two marches join at Piccadilly Circus and proceed to Hyde Park, passing close to:
The Wellington Arch, built to celebrate the Duke's defeat of the French at the battle of Waterloo.
Marble Arch station, hit by a German bomb during the Blitz in 1940, killing 17 Londoners sheltering there.
Tyburn, site of public executions for petty criminals and dissenters for over 600 years.

one.... two.... three....The Count (update)

Count 1 (blog visitors = 966) ...which is still about 65 a day, and rapidly approaching a grand total.
Count 2 (google searches = 176) ...with diamond geezer still top of my searched-for list.
Count 3 (blog content = 52) ...halfway through the month, and just over half of my allocated blogspace used up.
Count 4 (spam = 8) ...which has increased eightfold over the last week (but still only one spam a day).
Count 5 (nights out = 11) ...not quite as out as last week, but still more out than in.
Count 6 (alcohol intake = 23) ...so, if I've not been out drinking quite so much alcohol this week...
Count 7 (tea intake = 67) ...I must have upped my tea count. Anyone fancy a brew?
Count 8 (trains used = 55) ...this week including rather too many unpleasantly cattle-truck-like commutes.
Count 9 (escalators walked up = 40) ...which is now the equivalent of walking to the top of the Empire State Building.
Count 10 (mystery count = 0) ...and still nothing to count, so maybe you're getting the hang of this one now. I am.

Three things the zero-rated mystery count could be, but isn't:
• number of Valentine cards/emails/texts received.
• number of journeys taken on the Central Line.
• number of matches Arsenal have lost.

 Friday, February 14, 2003

The Curse of VD

Valentine's Day has come round again. It's a source of some comfort in my life that I am likely to experience less than a hundred of them.

I've only ever received three genuine Valentine cards, one of which I so didn't want, and the other two of which I thought I wanted but I turned out to have thought wrong. My brother, on the other hand, has received hundreds of cards over the years on February 14th, but that'd be because today is his birthday (HB2U). Always makes it very difficult trying to buy him a birthday card though, because half the floorspace of every card shop in the country has been replaced by a red and pink Lurve Zone for the last month.

Today's a very tough day to be coupled. You have to buy an appropriate present for your loved one that's at least as good as the present they've bought you, without being so good that it puts their attempt to shame. You have to buy the right card that's just the right mix of cute, fluffy and sincere, and send the right text message that's not too serious but not too frivolous. And you have to remember to buy everything before today, otherwise you find the card shop is packed the but the florists is empty. Get anything wrong and next year you'll be single.

Today's also a very tough day to be single. Nobody wakes you in the morning with a single red rose or a champagne breakfast. You get to watch other people at work eating Belgian chocolates all day while listening to them discussing their oh-so perfect partners. And this year Valentine's Day and Friday night coincide, so everyone I could be going out on the town with tonight is going out with each other instead. I hope London's restaurants have enough tables for two to cope with the demand. Maybe I should book a reservation now for next year, just in case?

The Big Count: The 2001 Census figures are just out, and even the non-Jedi parts are strangely fascinating. Of the 376 boroughs in England and Wales, I've discovered I live in the most un-Christian of the lot, the third fastest growing, and the fifth most crowded. We're bottom of the home ownership league, third lowest for owning a car but definitely in the Top 10 for single people. Nice to know that, for round here, I'm almost average.

The Count: 887 164 49 7 10 16 60 49 35 0

 Thursday, February 13, 2003

retail therapyThe retail therapy project (additional guidance)

There's £100 to spend on my birthday present... but on what?
A little background reading for those of you who have still to make up your mind.

(a) Music: I'm getting a bit better at buying albums. I even bought a new one yesterday, though that's not as common as you might think. If this category gets chosen next week, I guess it'll have the smallest impact on my retail habits, but it'd be fascinating to see what records you think my collection is lacking.
(b) Books: I don't read enough books, mainly because I choose to use my daily commuting time reading a newspaper instead. I guess, like the previous category, it'd take a lot of books to total £100, but you could always prove me wrong on that.
(c) Video/DVDs: My entire video collection currently totals well under £100, and you'll remember I'm currently DVD-less. Very abnormal. However, the DVD situation may all be about to change, so voting for this category might help kickstart something completely fresh in my life.
(d) Electrical/gadgets: Quite a broad category, but there's a lot of scope for an interesting £100 purchase in a few weeks time. My favourite gadget at the moment remains my personal mp3 player. It makes daily commuting strangely enjoyable, not least for the other people standing on the platform watching me enjoying the music...
(e) Home furnishings: I live in a rented furnished flat and I'm not allowed to stick things on my walls, so that may restrict this category somewhat. However, you could cause me serious inner personal trauma by forcing me down to IKEA for my retail experience.
(f) Clothing: Plenty of scope here to blow £100 on something hip, expensive and unnecessary. I tend to buy most of my clothes in sales, but (lest you think I'm a complete cheapskate) never from George at Asda, never from charity shops, and never anything in brown corduroy.
(g) Travel: What, leave London? You must be kidding! OK, so I have ventured a bit further than £100 could take me already this year, but if you do select this category, please make sure you allow me to buy a return ticket.
(h) Other: Could be anything this (except, obviously, music, books, videos etc). At least three people have already voted for 'other', so they clearly have something specific in mind. We'll see what happens should this get selected.

A reminder that you can cast your vote by visiting this special online survey site (select survey number 3905), or by posting a comment in the comments box below, or by email, any time beween now and next Tuesday. Further details below.

The Count: 793 144 45 6 10 16 53 45 31 0

 Wednesday, February 12, 2003

retail therapyThe retail therapy project

It's my birthday in just under a month's time. Birthdays are of course a time for presents, except that at my age (ie over 12) you don't tend to get given that many birthday presents any more. So, I've decided it would be a very good idea to buy myself a birthday present. However, I am rubbish at shopping. I think we established that yesterday. I never can spend money on myself, which will of course be a major stumbling block in trying to buy my own birthday present. So I've come up with this plan to ask you lot to help me out...

I have set aside exactly £100 of my own money to buy myself a birthday present.
I'm asking you, the readers of diamond geezer, to tell me what exactly what to spend that £100 on.

The plan (100% genuine, honest) for the next three weeks goes like this:
Phase 1 (until midnight Tuesday 18th February): select the category for the £100 birthday present.
Phase 2 (until midnight Tuesday 25th February): nominate possible presents within the chosen category.
Phase 3 (until midnight Tuesday 4th March): vote to choose my £100 birthday present.
...and that gives me a few days before the weekend to go out and buy whatever it is you finally select.

Phase 1 of the project (selection of birthday present category) is now open.
You are invited to choose one of the following categories. Just pick a letter...
(a) Music
(b) Books
(c) Video/DVDs
(d) Electrical/gadgets
(e) Home furnishings
(f) Clothing
(g) Travel
(h) Other

You can cast your vote by visiting this special online survey site (select survey number 3905), or by posting a comment in the comments box below, or by email, or just tell me your choice should we happen to meet in the street. This week just a letter is needed, and only one vote per person please (yeah, like I'm going to be able to check up on that one). All votes to be received by midnight next Tuesday 18th February. And next Wednesday I'll announce the winning category and ask you to start nominating possible presents within that category.

Please vote. My retail therapy depends on you.

The Count: 710 127 42 4 9 16 46 41 27 0

 Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Retail therapy

Some people are really good at shopping. They enjoy nothing more than five hours on a spending spree, spending time spending money. They'll happily potter endlessly round department stores, markets, boutiques and car boot sales. They can spot a bargain, buy on impulse and haggle a good deal. They know the value of a good label, and the cost of being seen wearing anything else. They juggle their credit cards with skill, buying now and paying later. They must have the latest gadget, if only so they can put it on a dusty shelf next to the last three.

I am rubbish at shopping. I may be able to spend time in shops but I can't spend money. I can walk out of a string of department stores empty-handed, and walk away from a car boot sale with nothing but mud on my feet. I prefer to buy stuff in sales, but I always have to go back twice before I'll buy something. I don't need to have the latest label, or mind if I'm seen wearing last year's. I prefer to pay with cash than to pay by card (although I always seem to get stuck behind the opposite in queues). Advertising executives despair of me, because I contribute to economic depression.

Now, to be honest, being rubbish at shopping can be a good thing. My bank manager thinks so anyway, because I've never had to meet him. It's good to be able to walk through shopping centres financially unscathed, it's good not to be taken in by feeble marketing campaigns, and it's good to be in credit and credit-card-free. There's a down side of course, in that I could easily afford to waste my money on buying unnecessary stuff because I've spent too much of my life saving money through not buying unnecessary stuff. Call it solvency abuse.

I went out to a nearby shopping mall the other day to see if I could cure myself of this affliction. I came home with absolutely nothing for myself, and just one birthday present for someone else that I don't actually need until June. I stood in a newsagents and failed to see even one magazine I wanted to buy (this was before yesterday, obviously). It would be nice to be better at spending money on myself for a change, but I'm just not good at wanting, or needing. So, erm, I have a proposition to put to you, dear readers. Catch the financial news here tomorrow.

Broadband-less: Blimey, and to think I once thought not having any comments up and running on here was traumatic. Not compared to this. I've been completely internet-less since some mysterious time in the early hours of Monday morning. End of the world at the very least. Of course, the minute you suddenly find you can't get internet access the first thing you want to do is to log on to your service provider status page to see if there's a problem, which of course you can't do because there is. Eventually I discovered that another internet company had conspired to bugger up the Demon ADSL connections to 203 separate telephone exchanges, including mine. It's been terrible - I've had to get myself a life instead. I actually did some 'working at home' without any online distractions. I rediscovered teletext. I went out to the cinema (Ghost Ship, not bad I suppose, for a Monday anyway). I even nearly did some ironing, but that would have been taking things too far. But this morning I can finally stop twitching, because after 24 hours in the reality wilderness my online connection to the rest of the world has at last been restored. I know I've missed my 5000th visitor (sorry if that was you) but did I miss anything else?

The Count: 632 107 39 4 9 16 41 37 23 0

 Monday, February 10, 2003

The Word

Today I had the pleasure of a train journey from London to Cambridge, commuting against the flow in half-empty carriages. I knew that my newspaper would only sustain my brain as far as Hitchin, so I had to buy myself a magazine in order to survive the complete round trip intact. Usually I'll stand in a newsagents and stare at the assorted glossies for ages without ever seeing a single copy of anything I actually want to buy. It's been like that ever since the demise of Record Mirror back in 1990, may God rest its pop soul. However today, on a Swish recommendation, I decided to buy the launch issue of Word magazine. Excellent choice.

At last, a magazine that's actually worth reading. Word is the nearest thing I've ever seen to reading blogs in print, an intelligent selection of opinions, previews, reviews and recommendations. Mark Ellen is the editor behind the project, so there's a definite Q-music angle, but there's much more than that in the way of books, entertainment, interviews, films and gadgets. I shall certainly be back down the newsagents for issue two.

Top reads in this next month's Word:
• deep meaningful interviews with Neil Tennant/John Peel/Nick Cave.
• how old famous people are, one for each age from 11 to 100.
• Laura Cantrell's US Thrift Shop radio show.
• the history of the Found project.
• how the online CDDB database and mobile service Shazam recognise music.
• new headphones to die for.
• how long it took Andrew Collins to write 12 episodes of EastEnders.
• the credibility of the Top 40 chart.
• top advice from successful publisher Felix Dennis ("Only fools lend books" apparently).
• Kim Wilde, Five Star and the Human League on an 80s revival tour.

 Sunday, February 09, 2003

The All New the magic number?BBC Three

As of 7pm tonight, the BBC offers less choice than before. In fact no Choice at all, as the old digital channel metamorphs overnight into BBC Three, the distinctive new youth channel. That's BBC Three, not BBC3, presumably to make the channel distinctive enough to keep government ministers happy. I'm pleasantly surprised that my once-dire TV reception has recovered sufficiently to let me watch the opening night, although the first two hours are also being shown simultaneously on BBC2 too. A lot of money and publicity is being thrown at this relaunch, not least the decision to show EastEnders a day early on BBC Three for the next two weeks. But, is Three the magic number? Let's see...

7:00 Aww, those endearing Aardman animated blobs crawling all over the BBC Three logo have done De La Soul proud.
7:01 Wasn't Johnny Vaughan also the 'face' of the opening night on Channel 5?
7:10 Johnny Vaughan pretends to be David Letterman, only with British celebrities, a better-looking band and funnier jokes.
7:43 Dermot O'Leary introduces ... hey, who cares what he introduces, just so long as he's on the telly.
7:58 Liquid News is live from Los Angeles, but fails to report on how this transatlantic junket will increase your licence fee.
8:14 The latest Radio 4 comedy jewel to translate to TV is Matt Lucas and David Walliams' Little Britain. Quite sparkling.
8:40 Dermot twice in one night? Blimey. I only ever saw him once in one afternoon - remind me to tell that story one day.
9:02 Steve Coogan on stage as Paul and Pauline Calf, but it looked like the audience enjoyed it rather more than me.
9:30 Public service broadcasting quota programming - six people get drunk and a scientist films their intestines.
10:00 Dom Joly hosts a chat show (well, more of a shout show) on which the guests all appear suitably embarrassed.
10:35 Burn It is a This Life-type drama, only with the lawyers replaced by suburban Manchester scallies. 6/10
11:15 Monkey Dust is an animated satire sketch show, a non-celebrity 2DTV, very dark, very clever, and very good.
11:50 And finally, three black women rip off the original Dom Joly Channel 4 rip off of Candid Camera. Time for bed then.

The All New Official Top Forty Chart Show

At last, two months after Mark Goodier hung up his chart overcoat, the Radio 1 Top 40 has a new presenter. 23 year-old unknown Wes Butters has been plucked from obscurity (well, Birmingham) to front pop radio's most enduring landmark show. Bruno Brookes and Mark Goodier may have run things capably for the last 17 years but, let's be honest, both of them had the perfect face for radio. Station bosses have now decided that what the target audience really needs is someone they can relate to, and indeed pin up on their bedroom walls, and they've promised a major revamp of the show too. Wes's overnight success just goes to show that not every media studies degree is a passport to the dole queue. Let's see how he does...

4:00 A confident natural start - the boy's gonna do fine.
4:10 We've just survived a ten minute recap of last week's chart, but any chance of some of this week's singles action?
4:11 No. Instead we face twenty minutes of the new Top 40 album rundown. I may learn to live with this, just maybe.
4:31 Liberty X have a chat with Wes, and then perform Just a Little live. Why?? It's not been in the charts for six months.
4:38 At last, the new singles chart. Ah, hang on, numbers 21-40 are relgated to 'The Continuous Countdown'. It's now highlights only, with just new entries and target-audience-favourites in full. Robin Gibb 20 seconds, Avril Lavigne 3 minutes. It's been 15 years since this show dared not to play all 40 tracks in full, and this is the beginning of a slippery chart slope.
5:18 We've reached number twenty in record time, but first there's a competition and Liberty X sing again. I had hoped that only the Network Chart Travesty did competitions.
5:26 The 'complete' Top 20. Normal service is resumed. Thank god for that.
6:06 A long pause before the Top 10 during which Liberty X sing their forthcoming cover version and get asked some Smash-Hits-level questions. Next please.
6:40 Justin Timberlake can only manage new in at number two, and Oasis were only in at three, so...
6:50 ... so TATU are still number one with All The Things She Said. Which means the number one act is still younger than the chart show DJ, and all is normal with the world again.
6:55 A quick preview of next week's hits, and then Wes heads off for a well-deserved celebratory Ribena.

The Count: 498 88 29 2 8 16 33 28 21 0
Today's posts will be brought to you by the number 40 and the magic number 3.

 Saturday, February 08, 2003

What the papers say

The Sun
Hot topic: Child molesters - burn them now, ask questions later.
War in Iraq: A good thing. God bless our lads in the battle against Saddam.
Tony Blair: We don't like him... unless he's supporting war in Iraq.

The Mirror
Hot topic: Equality, social justice, and tumbling readership figures.
War in Iraq: No war. War is stupid. War - uh-huh - what is it good for?
Tony Blair: We like him... unless he's supporting war in Iraq.

The Daily Mail
Hot topic: Asylum seekers - they're all criminals and they bring your property prices down.
War in Iraq: Will probably mean even more immigrants asylum seekers entering the UK.
Tony Blair: He's the evil man who wants to house all those asylum seekers in your street.

The Guardian
Hot topic: Real Ale shortage likely at Stop the War demo.
War in Iraq: See you in Hyde Park next Saturday?
Tony Blair: Actually, that Charles Kennedy might be a lot safer.

The Financial Times
Hot topic: Aren't your shares doing badly at the moment?
War in Iraq: And they're going to carry on plummeting.
Tony Blair: No comment.

The Daily Telegraph
Hot topic: Poor old Pinky Smithers died last week, here's his obituary.
War in Iraq: We remember the Korean war, you know. Got a medal for it too.
Tony Blair: With our failing eyesight, he looks a lot like Margaret Thatcher.

The Daily Star
Hot topic: Breasts.
War in Iraq: More bare-breasted babes posing in army camos.
Tony Blair: Has no breasts, therefore we're not interested.

one.... two.... three....The Count (update)

Count 1 (blog visitors = 461) ...which is about 65 a day. Which was nice.
Count 2 (google searches = 83) ...including rather a lot for Lemon Jelly's Nice Weather For Ducks
Count 3 (blog content = 23) ...which is about a quarter of my monthly posting limit, so I'm on target.
Count 4 (spam = 1) ...and could Sam Wong tempt me to host a hot money-making website generating me cash 24 hours a day? Oddly enough, no.
Count 5 (nights out = 7) ...so I've beaten my total for the whole of February 2001 in Ipswich after just three days this month in London.
Count 6 (alcohol intake = 13) ...which is about two bottles of Becks a night, although rather above that average last night.
Count 7 (tea intake = 30) ...which is about four cups a day. At least it's lower than the lager index.
Count 8 (trains used = 28) ...which is a mean of four trains a day, many of which really were mean journeys.
Count 9 (escalators walked up = 21) ...which is already the equivalent of walking to the top of Canary Wharf, only not all in one go.
Count 10 (mystery count = 0) ...so still nothing to count, which I must say is not entirely unexpected.

Three things the zero-rated mystery count could be, but isn't:
• number of cups of coffee drunk
• number of journeys taken outside London Zone 3
• number of attempted door-steppings by visiting Jehovah's Witnesses.

 Friday, February 07, 2003

The Streets - Brixton Academy

   you're listening to the streets
   you will bear witness to some amazing feats
   bravery in the face of defeat
   all line up and grab your seat


Geezers need excitement, so it was off down to Brixton to see The Streets as part of the NME Awards tour. "The who?" they asked at work when I told them where I was going. Never mind, you'll all hear about fresh-faced Mikey Skinner when he sweeps the Brit Awards in a fortnight's time.

The Brixton Academy filled up with lads in hoodies, dwarf girls fresh from Claire's Accessories, hip twenty-something music-lovers and gangs of weedheads from Billericay sixth form colleges. The ethnic mix inside the venue was exactly the opposite of that on the streets outside, more Beastie Boys than Grandmaster Flash. We had to stand through Killa Kela, the human beatbox (very very impressive, but just the once thanks) and the woefully miscast More Fire Crew. And finally, about 11, on came the original pirate material.

Mike Skinner's not a big bloke, but he had geezerly stage presence by the barrowboy-load. Cheeky and sharp, he smiled out from under his baseball cap, mesmerising the crowd into action. We were treated to 80 minutes of lager-fuelled suburban rapping, showcasing the whole of the last album. Turn The Page was a rabble-rousing crowd-pleasing opener, the sharp wit of Too Much Brandy hit the target audience square on, and the encore of Let's Push Things Forward merged perfectly with The Specials' Ghost Town, A video screen provided visual accompaniment - a moped ride across London, Hampstead Heath benchlife, spliffed-out sofa junkies, and a bloke dressed only in red y-fronts smashing up his car with an iron bar. Not every track worked live, and there were so many lyrics it was tough to chant along, but the gig was a triumph nonetheless. Genius.

   blinded with the lights
   blinded with the lights
   dizzy new heights

The Count: 394 72 23 1 6 8 27 20 16 0

 Thursday, February 06, 2003

Are you In or Out?

I don't remember exactly when it was that I noticed I wasn't like the other boys at school. They were all off playing football at breaktime, hanging round with mates on street corners in the evening and going out with girls at the weekends. I was different. I was more likely to be hiding out in the library at breaktime, watching telly in the evening and staying in at weekends. It wasn't obvious at the time exactly what the reason for my behaviour was. It certainly wasn't the sort of thing you discussed at school, either in or out of the classroom, for fear of getting beaten up. Back then there was no internet where I could have found out more about my condition and maybe been able to chat online to others of a similar mentality. I didn't know that we were outnumbered and that most 'normal' people in society weren't like me. It took me a while to work out who I was and what I was, but I got there in the end and I'm perfectly happy with how I turned out.

It's time to stand up and admit the truth - I am an introvert. And if you're the sort of person who writes a blog or reads other people's regularly, you may well be an introvert too. Amazing how many of us there are online. I reckon that's because the internet is a very safe environment where you can make contact with other people without having to go to the effort of actually risking meeting anyone. You can take time to think over exactly what you want to say, and edit and redraft your words before you finally make your voice heard. And it beats going down the library.

I've uncovered an excellent set of definitions for introverts here (thanks to Vaughan). I wonder if this list will strike a chord with you as much as it did with me. Especially these three...
Alone: For an extrovert this translates as 'lonely'. For us introverts it merely means 'enjoying some peace and quiet'. And not feeling lonely, which is good.
Friend: An extrovert has many friends, because a friend is 'someone who makes sure that you're never alone'. Us introverts tend to keep few friends, because friends have to be 'someone who understands that you're not rejecting them when you need to be alone.' I'm glad my friends have worked that one out.
Good manners: An extrovert thinks it's good manners to 'make sure people aren't left all by themselves.' An introvert, on the other hand, considers good manners to be 'not bothering people, unless it's necessary, or they approach you.' And yes, 'sometimes you can bother people you know well, but you make sure they aren't busy first.' Very me, that.

Apparently there are three times as many extroverts in the world as introverts, which is just as well or else pubs would go out of business and the internet might grind to a halt through overuse. Maybe it's time for all of us introverts to join together and become a force to be reckoned with... but only if that's alright by you and you haven't got anything better to do.

The 7am puzzle (11): Last Saturday was 1/2/03, and 1+2=3. Yesterday was 5/2/03, and 5–2=3. Today is 6/2/03, and 6÷2=3. That makes three different arithmetical dates in one week, with just multiplication missing. When's the next occasion that there will be four such dates in one week?

The Count: 313 54 19 1 6 8 19 16 12 0

 Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Minute distances

In every other part of the country distances are measured in miles. In London, however, distances are measured in minutes.*
* Visitors to London should note that distances on the Underground are measured in Tube minutes. These are approximately 40% longer than normal minutes so that, for example, when the train indicator board suggests that the next train is due in 3 minutes, it will more probably turn up in 5.

Five miles along a motorway in the Midlands may take less than two minutes, but five miles across London can take a lifetime of traffic jams, one-way systems, waiting on platforms and changing trains. In London no form of transport, be it train, bus or car, is permitted to travel for more than two minutes without stopping at a station, in a tunnel, at a bus stop or at traffic lights.

I've just taken thirty minutes to travel less than two miles across East London. It would have been good to be able to travel in a straight line, only this is nigh impossible with a river, industrial estate, rugby ground and cemetery blocking the way. As a result I've actually travelled at least 50% further than necessary in order to get home. What's more, this time-wasting seemed perfectly normal for London and I thought nothing of it. When I was living in East Anglia I could have spent those same thirty minutes driving as many as thirty miles from Ipswich to Bury St Edmunds, rather than the miserly distance I've just travelled. The biggest difference between London and Suffolk, however, is that there never was any point in travelling to Bury St Edmunds, whereas two miles across London can be worth every minute.

No comment: You never realise how important comments are to a blog until they're not there. And, at the moment, they're not there. One web service down, and suddenly I'm response-less. For all I know, Michael Jackson has been trying post answers to my ten top questions below all day but has failed to gain access, and so will have buggered off for a ride on the dodgems and a Slush Puppy instead. It's always good to get comments from blog readers, even if they is merely pointing out a grammatical mistake or proof-reading my poor speling. Sometimes I'm surprised when lots of comments appear alongside a post I thought was pretty innocuous, while at other times I'm convinced a post will get at least one response but absolutely nothing develops. Such is the joy of feedback. Ah well, until they decide to get those comments up and running again, apologies for the 29 error messages on the page and normal service will hopefully be resumed as soon as possible.

The Count: 229 45 16 0 5 8 17 10 8 0

 Tuesday, February 04, 2003

10 more questions to ask Michael Jackson

• Why?
• Who nose?
• Is Pinocchio your favourite Disney film?
• Do you share any records with Jonathan King?
• Say Say Say, Man In The Mirror, Black or White?
• Exactly how many of your genes could there be in your white 'son'?
• Is your baby called 'Blanket' because you like to shake him over a balcony?
• Wouldn't it be cheaper and potentially more successful to pay Diana Ross to have plastic surgery to look like you?
• Are you planning to adopt several more children merely in order to ensure a steady stream of kids available for future sleepovers?
• Does it worry you that more people tuned into your freakshow on television in the UK last night than bought your last album worldwide?

The Count: 168 27 15 0 4 8 12 6 4 0

 Monday, February 03, 2003

in the middle of our street....Our House (Cambridge Theatre)

I'll confess that I don't usually enjoy musicals. Usually the composer has merely written one great song surrounded by twelve duffers, the location is somewhere impossibly exotic like the South Pacific, New York, Chicago, Saigon or Paris, and all the characters have an annoying and unnatural tendency to burst into song at any tenuous opportunity.
"Hey Curly, see that surrey over there? What Laurey, the one with the fringe? Yup, the surrey with the fringe on top..." (enter dancing cowgirls, all of whom are mysteriously able to perform a synchronised dance routine whilst waving pitchforks).

I get especially concerned at the thought of any musical based on a top music artist's back catalogue. It's far too easy merely to scrape together the vaguest of plots in order to link together all the best songs, and yes Ben Elton, I am thinking of you.
"Say Agnetha, does your mother know there's a queen over there, dancing?" "What, the killer queen in that bicycle race? Mamma Mia, let her go!"

So, it was with some trepidation that I ventured to watch 'Our House', a musical set in London NW1 based around the greatest hits of 80s super group Madness. Would the theatre be a House of Fun, or instead would the show go One Step Beyond and be an Embarrassment? I needn't have worried - the show is very enjoyable. I was put in mind of an extremely good school play delivered fantastically well, and the young cast put everything into their performance.

The story follows our hero Joe Casey into two potential futures following a break-in on a local housing estate. Bad Joe runs off and ends up rich and successful (in a black tracksuit), while Honest Joe turns himself in and ends up in prison (in a white tracksuit). Star Trek scriptwriters please note, this is the way to handle a temporal distortion parallel timeline story.

It appears that Suggs and Co were deliberately writing songs with great descriptive lyrics 20 years ago with the sole intention of making a musical out of them, so seamlessly do they fit into the narrative. Baggy Trousers was always meant to be a classroom riot, My Girl remains perfectly descriptive of every teetering relationship, and Night Boat To Cairo just had to be part of a Las Vegas wedding ceremony (OK, maybe not the last one). Even though the entire audience knew that It Must Be Love had to be coming up at some crucial turning point in the second half, it was delivered with such originality that its impact was enormous. Driving In My Car was another particular favourite, with its humorous nods at Hollywood blockbusters, and the Mary-Poppins-esque dance routine to The Sun and The Rain down at Camden Lock market had the crowd in stitches.

Verdict: House of Fun

The Count: 107 18 12 0 2 7 8 3 2 0

 Sunday, February 02, 2003

Pet Shop Boys - Disco 3

The new Pet Shop Boys Disco 3 album is released tomorrow. It's the third album of this type they've released, following 'Disco' in 1986 (which was good) and 'Disco 2' in 1994 (which so wasn't). The album features ten dance-orientated tracks, all written, recorded or remixed at the same time as the last studio album 'Release'. The Boys have kindly set up a website where you can listen to the entire album before it's released, in the hope that you'll want to rush down to the shops tomorrow and buy a copy - which, having had the thing playing on auto-repeat all weekend, I most certainly do. This is a real return to form. As Neil Tennant says "It's the new Pet Shop Boys meets the old Pet Shop Boys" - and about time too. And hey, the cover is a shot of London by night, so I was bound to have fallen in love with it.

Time on my hands: Chris Lowe's voice always adds a certain magic to a PSB song. A great opening track, and not just because it features counting.
Positive role model: Sounds like Barry White's about to burst into song at the beginning, but no. Another typical PSB track with a vocoder one-note chorus.
Try it (I'm in love with a married man): Written by producer and mentor Bobby 'O' in 1983. First heard (and enjoyed) on a John Peel session last year. Still wouldn't recommend 'trying it' though.
London (thee radikal blaklite mix): You could never have danced to the original, but the remix is much better than its name.
Somebody else's business: Decent dance music with intelligent lyrics? Beats most of the current floor fillers that just repeat the words 'reach', 'high', 'lift' and 'pap' in random rotation.
Here (extended mix): Wry social observation, a sort of English version of Cher's 'Song for the Lonely'. Just much better.
If looks could kill: Written in 1983, finally remixed and released here - the Boys could write a killer hook even 20 years ago.
Sexy Northerner (superchumbo mix): I hate it when a remixer takes a brilliant song (in this case a recent ironic B side), removes all that was great about it and shoves a backing track underneath. Pity.
Home and dry (blank and jones mix): ...whereas this one does still work (as proven on the dancefloor last summer). The lyrical theme of transatlantic distance resonates too.
London (genuine piano mix): It's the slow dance number at the end of the evening. This is how to do a piano number - Elton John listen and learn.


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