Top Five Porn Stars

1. Chloe Dior
2. Taylor Rain
3. Keely Coles (Kacey)
4. Jenna Haze
5. Jenna Jameson

Would you believe several of these performers now have I.M.D.B. and Wikipedia pages? I found them while searching for Kacey's full name. I guess porn really is becoming more mainstream!

I won't use the old "it's empowering" cliché but it's clear the industry is a lot more open and regulated than it used to be and an increasing number of women feel that getting laid by some of the most skilled men on the planet and collecting immense riches for the trouble is not such a bad way to spend your twenties. I'll just paraphrase Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja, who had to publicly defend his viewing habits after having been wrongfully arrested for possession of child pornography in 2001: "having it, watching people have it, reading about it... I like sex."

Have you ever worked out your porn name? There are convoluted tests to be taken online, of which I took three today and got three different answers ranging from the sublime - Xavier Hammer - to the ridiculous - Chris Cucumber. Of course, I'm no relation to this guy (the link page is SFW - I make no promises beyond that).

In school, our method was to combine your first pet's name with either your mother's maiden name or the name of the street where you grew up. My brother and I shared fish called Tom and Jerry which makes me either Jerry Ford, Tom Kipling, or some permutation thereof. I think I like the first one best because it sounds like an ex-president.


I rarely remember my dreams, but on the strength of these I wish I did!

Last week, I'd been listening to The Lyre Of Orpheus by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Several tracks have backing vocals by the London Community Gospel Choir, which means lots of oohs and aahs on the quieter ones. In my dream that night, I was directing them to get their oohs just right. In my brain, the studio was like in Saturday Night Live's infamous "more cowbell" sketch. I asked them for a more jazzy sound and they burst into a free-form acid jazz montage completely at odds with Nick Cave's style. I folded over, laughing uncontrollably, because it so wasn't what I wanted yet they had done exactly what I asked them.

In last night's dream, I was staying at a friend's house while they were away (just like I did with Kristina last week). Dream person had an older relative to stay at the same time. As the god of sitcoms would have it, this man and I hadn't met before and my dream took place on the day he arrived and found fault with everything about the place - even furniture arrangements and the like that were the owner's choice and nothing to do with me. More weird, this sextagenarian was B.B.C. newsreader John Humphries (looking grumpy, above). Inside the dream, I asked if I could take his picture so I could blog about meeting him!

Dream analysis websites weren't much help but if you like pop-up ads, you should go to one now. The first dream clearly said to me "when life gives you lemons, look back at your shopping list and see if you didn't actually order them". You make your bed, you lie in it, etc.

In the second, the home obviously represents safety and security: the fact that I didn't have my own place, and was criticised, could mean that I seek more of those things. On the flip side, I was welcomed into someone else's home and I took on many of John Humphries' criticisms to get along with him better, even when they weren't my fault. I don't know what that means precisely, but it's radically different from the first interpretation.

If anyone thinks they can better interpret these messages from my subconscious, be my guest. All I know is I woke up smiling both times.



"You know, salsa is fine but I have many eclectic tastes."
"That's a big word for a Canadian."
"If you want, next time I'll say it slower."

- Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles on Whose Line Is It Anyway? (2004).

Name And Shame

Pulp fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard is quoted as saying in the late 1940s, "writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

In 1949, he published his concept of dianetics in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction, which suggested cognitive powers and mental health could be improved through discussion exercises - hardly a great leap forward from Freud. However, Hubbard wrote "the creation of dianetics is a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch." Dianetics was expanded into Scientology in 1952 and you know the rest. (If not, check out Hubbard's Wikipedia entry and critical website Operation Clambake for details of the criminal activity and the punishment zones.)

There are lists of celebrity involvement all over the net, but here are some people I hoped would know better:

Beck Hansen*
Charles Manson†
Giovanni Ribisi*
Geoffrey Lewis
Isaac Hayes
J. D. Salinger†
Jason Lee
Jerry Seinfeld
John Travolta
Juliette Lewis*
Karen Black†
Laura Prepon
Leonard Cohen
Michael Roberts
Nancy Cartwright
Neil Gaiman*
Placido Domingo
William S. Burroughs†

* born to Scientologist parents.
† out of Scientology now (or before time of death).


Top Five Fragments

I'm late to the table with this so I'll limit myself to just one fragment for each year I was in my old job.

1. The Sheraton Hotel, Essen.
The first time I went to the world's biggest games fair in Germany, I booked my flight and a colleague booked my hotel. Unfortunately, our dates didn't match and I had nowhere to stay that night. After saying the hotel was full for the fair about a dozen times, the desk clerk somehow found me a room. Upon entering, I noted the in-room bar, the fresh fruit, the conference table, the piano, the leather sofa, the mirrors and the big-screen television. The hotel channel was running an advertisement for their Presidential Suite, and it took a moment or two to recognize my surroundings on the screen. I flew to Essen four more times and even drove once, post 2001-09-11. The head receptionist is a great kisser too. In a sea of a hundred, this is one hotel that will be hard to forget.

2. The Lord Of The Rings advanced screenings.
When I was one of two people working for the company over in Europe, all licensees were invited to pow-wow with the U.K. marketing agent for New Line Cinema on a semi-regular basis. We were all in it together, and J.K. Rowling was the enemy! As nonchalant as I like to appear, it was a huge thrill to see The Fellowship Of The Ring and The Two Towers at their London press screenings, a week before the rest of the country. I still have my ticket from the second film, complete with authentic made-in-the-dark coffee art on the back.

3. Travelling the world.
On a single promotional tour in 2003 I visited Dublin, Glasgow, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Lisbon, Utrecht, Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki and Gothenberg. Of course, the curse of the busman's holiday is that you only see train stations, airports, comic shops and hotels but (if you're lucky) you get some good restaurants too. I took the opportunity to collect translated Spider-Man comics on this trip, as souvenirs. The line of duty also took me to Bonn, Munich, Nuremberg, Paris, Brussells, Ghent, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Orlando and Indianapolis - and back to my old alma mater - all on somebody else's dime!

4. Working conditions.
When I was first hired, the British office was shitty but the location let me catch up with a bunch of friends from university who were based nearby. Shortly, I got permission to work from home which allowed me to move to Brighton. Then Joeri joined the company. Our patience was tested, living and working together in the same building, but I've never known another human being so well... it's enhanced by the fact that we can never break up with each other! We were ultimately offered positions in the main U.S. office and I emigrated on 2004-04-30. It was cool to work face-to-face with (i) more than one person for the first time in years, and (ii) people I already knew via e-mail. Even on dark days towards the end, someone always had a joke to lift your spirits. Good times!

5. Celebrity encounters.
Because of other roles in various nerd-burgling productions, I met Howlin' Mad Murdoch from The A-Team and Mr. Bronson from Grange Hill. I saw Claudia Christian sign pictures of her full-frontal Playboy spread for her fans, and I stood next to former Doctor Who Peter Davison in an elevator in Atlanta last summer. It was a little uncomfortable because I'd clearly recognized him but (a) it was late and I didn't want to bother him, and (b) for the entire ride I couldn't think of a single conversation we could have that would do justice to what he meant to me when I was ten.

It's sad to leave the past behind, but these are just five ways in which the ride changed my life.

Doctor Who-re

I'm looking for jobs in one window and in another I'm browsing for Doctor Who fansites - it's a left brain/right brain thing. I found a fun one with clips from the B.B.C.'s internal bloopers tapes. (Requires RealPlayer.)

In this out-take, The Doctor and his robot dog, K-9, are not getting along. (The one pictured costs $1,999.99 from Sony, by the way. A small price to pay for the destruction of civilisation as we know it by canine overlords!!)

His assistant, Romana, joins them in celebrating Christmas early. Do you think Tom Baker got what he wanted that year? He married his next co-star, so my money says yes.



This hurts to report. I studied Film and Theatre at college and tried to toe a line of normalcy among my show tune-singing, Tarantino-worshipping, self-fellating cohorts. I must have been lucky at high school, where my fellow thesps were down-to-earth and more about engaging with the script than being the centre of attention.

Now, one of the egos has escaped. And it has a blank cheque. I can't bring myself to click some of the links because of what I might find. (Daliah: if you're reading this, you were far from the most annoying person on campus. We choose to live our adult lives differently, is all. Good luck with the record, but lose that hat!)


Doctor Wow!

The world's longest-running science fiction TV show is back! It's clocked only half the total screen time of Star Trek but it's been on the air longer (five more years and counting) and has the distinction of being a single serial - no next generation spin-offs with tangential premises. Though I have heard its original run called "T.O.S." already, as in "That Old Shit".

New Doctor Who is refreshed and re-tooled with a budget to hold a torch to the best U.S. genre shows. It's a huge hit back home. Fanboys everywhere are rejoicing that something they love has broken back into the mainstream. Critics praise it for revitalizing family drama and "appointment TV" - it's no small feat to get mum, dad, sis and bro together at 7pm each Saturday in this digital, "on demand" age.

We're three paragraphs in... you're probably wondering if I'm going to tell you what the show is all about.

The last of the Time Lords wanders space and time, setting crooked matters straight along his way. He's the antithesis of Captain Picard and his Prime Directive. Though his people have a similar rule about non-interference, he eschewed it as irresponsible. If someone can help then they should, he believes. He never reveals his name, calling himself simply The Doctor - or, in extreme circumstances, Dr. John Smith. He picks up new travelling companions from time to time - usually chicks - and has the gift of cheating death a dozen times, regenerating his body to live anew. In this way, cast members come and go frequently but the momentum of the show isn't halted.

It was devised in the 1960s to teach children about science and history, but it's probably the most imaginitive TV show I've ever seen. It may look like sci-fi on the packet but, depending where our hero materializes each week, individual stories range from faithful historicals to gothic horrors and black comedies. His timeship is supposed to always blend in to its surroundings, but it's an old model and this feature hasn't worked since the first episode, set in then-present day London. A tight budget required an inventive work-around and made the British police box a national icon that's lasted long after they were phased out of use in the real world. (In fact, the B.B.C. owns the design copyright now, having purchased it from the Metropolitan Police.) It's a thrill to see that blue box in anachronistic settings - like seeing a Harley Davidson on the moon.

Twelve years in, the show is at the height of its popularity. Tom Baker is adored at home and abroad for his bohemian take on the character, and plays The Doctor for seven years.

Flash forward another twelve years and the show is on its last legs. It was sad, like watching a morphine-happy relative slowly give up living. The Powers That Be dripped out a final few seasons and finally euthanized the old coot in 1989. In 1996, Fox and the B.B.C. co-produced a poorly-written TV movie starring Paul (Withnail & I) McGann and Eric (Julia's brother) Roberts but, unfortunately, it stank on ice.

Like Fox, the B.B.C. has made some questionable decisions - like destroying over 100 early episodes because they thought they had no further use for them, or kow-towing to the moral majority and sanitizing the show beyond belief in the 80s. But Paramount could take a leaf from their book when it comes to taking time out to revitalize a beleaguered franchise. Take the genre-busting producer of Queer As Folk, an established stage and film actor for the least derivative take on the character since Baker in the 70s, and one good-looking ex-teen pop sensation who can actually act. Tell stories with confidence, but don't take it all too seriously. Then pray!

This year we met Rose, a sales assistant in a London department store. She's a bit chavvy but the Doctor saves her from an attack by "living plastic" and blows up the department store where she works - "it's a price war", he jokes. (By the way, he's 900 and she's 19. Woody Allen is envious.) He expands her mind and she brings out his compassionate side. It's a love story way beyond the physical and the trip of a lifetime.

Rose: "If you're an alien, why do you sound like you're from the North?"
The Doctor (defensively): "Lots of planets have a north."

From there, it gets funner. In episode 2, an "ancient Earth ballad" (Britney Spears' Toxic) is played over CGI shots of a space station exterior and our planet burning to death. Then Stanley Kubrick turns in his grave.

I won't enthuse any more because you should watch it, not have it spoiled by me. (One more reason to move to Canada!) It's hard to convey to non-Brits the place this show holds in our hearts... Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood? Apart from a couple of ill-advised burp and fart jokes, it doesn't pander to children nor shirk from addressing subjects such as death and sexuality. Kids are being challenged by their entertainment once more and have a moral alien hero to follow, just like my generation did.

Doctor Who is no longer an artistic black hole, and talent is lining up to appear in the second new series. A third series has been commissioned already. It's completely fucking wonderful to have it back.

Año Uno

It's easy to re-evaluate when you've been away. It's no secret I didn't have a good time here for much of Year One. I did a lot of stuff that reads well on paper but I just wasn't "feeling it".

A year and nine days in, my job was made redundant - unwelcome news for many lay-offees, but my world badly needed shaking-up. Initially, I was indifferent about going home or staying; any change would have been an improvement. My trip to New York really blew the dust off; it tipped me. If I had to leave tomorrow, I could say I had more fun in America than not. I feel less like I've failed here, and I'm excited about my future again. Cool.


Nusswatoks From Nassawadox

Douglas Adams and John Lloyd wrote The Meaning Of Liff on vacation. Their premise was to take words that are currently just hanging around on signposts with no inherent meanings and assign them to widely recognizable (though as-yet-unnamed) things or situations from life. For example:

Bolney (n.)
A song created by one's father during one's infancy, which consists of a large variety of made-up words in addition to said father's sporting and cinematic heroes.

Tearing up the US-13 last week I saw plenty of funny place names: Assateague, Nassawadox and Onancock. Yeah, really. "Onan" and "cock". Together. Outrageous! I also enjoyed the sign welcoming me to Seaford: "voted 28th best small town in the U.S.A." I didn't stop.

Top Ten Celebrity Crushes Updated

Christina Ricci (Anything Else)
Elisha Cuthbert (24)
Eliza Dushku (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Eva Green (The Dreamers)
Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Mia Kershner (The L Word)

Reiko Aylesworth (24)
Sarah Chalke (Scrubs)
Sarah Silverman (Mr. Show)
Zooey Deschanel (The Hitchhiker's Guide)

Old and busted: Katee Sackhoff, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Vincent Kartheiser. I swapped a straight man for a gay woman. Awesome.


A Tribute To Rain's Fine Ass

He heh. Rain said it was cool to do this. Who wouldn't want a webpage dedicated to their derriere?

Saturday was a hangover day. Laid on the couch for hours, too weak to even turn off Indiana Jones And The Pile Of Hokey Crap. Or Ocean's 12, though the post-modern stuff with Julia Roberts always raises a smile.

Egg sandwiches arrived. Gisela arrived. Three Pisces in the same room: the Scorpios of the world didn't stand a chance! I put yesterday's clothes on and went to the Connecticut Muffin on the corner. Coffee helped my headache but I succumbed to a disco nap. Eventually we had to bear up and get ready for Celia's party, which was the whole reason I was even in New York; the whole reason we promised ourselves we wouldn't over-do it the previous night.

Gisela and Kristina bought vodka while I watched. Stupid ATMs wouldn't give me any money. I ended up changing Canadian dollars at the bank on Monday morning to pay the tolls on my drive home. Poor, broke-ass me... Some dude on the street with a stack of pirate DVDs tried to sell us Me & Mrs Smith (sic). He hadn't sold many... why do you think that might be?! Over to Gisela's apartment, and hundreds of photos in albums. It was fab to see my friends having fun down the years. I resolved to take and share more pictures myself. Starting... now.

Kristina and Gisela drank champagne. I had a cold Guinness because I didn't want to mix again. Because the Pope has recanted his Catholicism. We took a cab to Waverly Place in the Village, where Becca - who's fault it is that I know all these clowns - lived when I first visited the city in 1997, and Celia would continue to live for eight more years before "going into the west" today (Thursday, the day I'm writing this).

I know Becca from 1994 at the University of Kent, when I was directing the stage play Glengarry Glen Ross. She was on a year's exchange and coached my actors with their American accents. I and others (having the nous to know a cheap vacation when we see one) got to know her as fast as we could and never lost touch, even after we'd been to New York and abused her hospitality. Because she has such a big heart. And because her parents have a place in Miami.

Back to Saturday night. I met a lot of people I'd only seen in photos an hour earlier yet somehow managed to only take pictures of three of them: Jan, Gordon, Danny, Tom, Leah, Clay, Maya, and Lucy (caught here with Becca).

Alexia Pilavachi. What more can I say?

Rain and this guy got into a conversation about the odd wardrobe malfunction she was having. She is not large by any stretch of the word, yet her clothes habitually burst apart at the seams. (It's happened before.) Luckily, I was there to record the symptoms for further, you know... investigation.

You might think that me and five ladies is the ideal set-up for a game of Monopoly, but I had competition! Drew and Spencer completely out-suaved me in my "Virginia Is For Lovers" t-shirt. And Jan has this way of getting up in your face... It was tough there for a second.

The vodka flowed until long after there was anything appropriate to mix it with. Vodka and ginger, anybody? Rain, Spencer, Gisela and I absolutely did not need to go for a nightcap at a small Irish bar, but we went anyway. I could tell it was Irish because there was a kettle behind the bar. I thought that was the funniest thing ever, and barmaid Claudette humoured me. Next she introduced me to her is-he?-isn't-he? boyfriend (she said he was and he said he wasn't, which was new to me) who is from Bath in the U.K, barely 30 miles from where I was born. Small, drunken, late-night world! I bailed shortly after. I'd recognised my limits when I sailed past them earlier. Spencer danced on a table and gave me taxi cash.

I knocked into a chair and dropped a glass, waking Kristina not once but twice at home. She had an early flight to California for Father's Day. Sorry, honey! She surprised us both by feeling fine and not slapping me upside the head the next morning. She took a cab to J.F.K. and I took a beeline back to B.E.D.

Sunday was a hangover day. Wash, rinse and repeat.


Alphabet Soup

It's ironic, I suppose, that I can conquer 360 miles of unfamiliar road and nearly kill my first pedestrian two doors from where I'm going to be staying. Hey, this is New York... far worse probably happened to my victim that day than somebody braking a car in his rough direction.

The delectable Kristina played host to me for the weekend, at her apartment in a totally non-shitty part of Brooklyn. She ordered Thai take-out while I showered off my car sweat, then two gay guys called her to say it was their last night here so she should wear a little something that showed off her boobs. God bless non-threatening males and ladies that dress to accentuate their best assets: together you make my world a happier place!

We took a cab over to The Clubhouse, at the corner of 9th and C. I've only been out in Alphabet City a couple of times, to the Lakeside Lounge and restaurants - before the no-smoking rule, naturally. Smokers are going to smoke, even if they have to stand out in the rain to do it. As expressions of freedom go, it's a relatively inexpensive one - especially if you live in Virginia, the home of tobacco! So it's hard to adjust to the fact that I'm allowed to both smoke and drink there now, as long as I don't want to do them simultaneously.

I forgot to carry my I.D. This is a really inconvenient habit of mine. I've been legally drinking for thirteen years now, so it just doesn't occur to me that the god of alcohol is suddenly going to reject my libation. Luckily, I've been in this situation before so I knew to hang on to Kristina's arm, turn my accent up to 11 and tell the bouncer I was over here on "holiday" (not "vacation") to see my girlfriend. I was in like Flynn!

Kristina sells wine, so we'd opened a bottle before we went out. Her Irish associates bought rounds of beer at the bar and I ordered 7&7s, as usual. It took me until Saturday afternoon to remember these details. I'm not an abusive drunk so I trust myself to an extent when my memory fails. I also trust the people around me to let me know if I'm crossing any lines. I wonder what else I did or said that night that I can't remember?

I do remember meeting fellow Brits Danny and Steve, and being a little too interested in their sex life. There are so many intolerant people in the world, I can sometimes be too eager to balance the scales. I remember all kinds of philosophical questions, such as how to reconcile the occasional gay man realizing that he likes girls after all (which just happened to a friend of a friend back home) with the belief that a person's sexuality is an innate part of their being. I remember saying I was considering becoming bi-sexual because it might double my chances of getting laid. I thought I was being so sensitive and insightful! They humoured the inebriated straight and gave all the right answers from Gay 101. It was a good conversation, regardless of the slurring.

I remember music, dancing, and an amusing taxi driver on the way home who told Kristina and I - who must have been exuding drunk, single, frustrated vibes in the back - that we should take a shower together. (He got tipped!) I remember going to bed around 5am. I remember falling out of bed and hitting the floor with a bump shortly after that. I don't remember having that much fun on a Friday night in a long time.


King Of The Road

I just returned Rental Car #2 of the weekend and stepped in the door. Even when you the place you live does very little for you, it's still good to come home: to your own bed, your Netflix and your supply of various teas and coffees. But great googly-moogly - did it ever feel good to get off my ass and do something worthwhile with my time for a change!

I booked a car with Thrifty but they hadn't updated their website properly. Their new downtown location was actually out past the airport! One cancellation later, I'm with Enterprise but when I went to pick up the car they didn't have one in Compact Class (i.e. El Classo Del Cheapo), which is what I booked. Problem? Nope. I got a free upgrade to a sporty white Pontiac Sunfire!

Mine didn't look like that, of course. Contrary to rumour and prediction, I didn't die once. I didn't even make a wrong turn until after the Holland Tunnel, when a cop helped me reverse down a one-way street and put me back on course to the Manhattan Bridge. I forgot directions for the return journey but the signing here is pretty good. Norfolk was signposted from over 180 miles away. But I'm speeding ahead, and not for the first time today...

According to Mapquest, I was looking at a seven hour drive. After ten-hours as a passenger to Atlanta last summer, seven driving sounded like a walk in the park - despite the lack of a gear stick to help pass the time. However, I had three delays en route. First, at one of the Seven Engineering Wonders Of The Modern World, the 20-mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. We spent 20 minutes in line for the toll booth while it seemed like all they did was change booth staff. The car didn't restart on the first try here, but I thought nothing of it.

Next, at a town called Delmar on the Maryland-Delaware border. Dig that naming comvention! The entire land mass is called the Delmarva Peninsula because it passes through Delaware, Maryland and Virgina. Neat! Anyway, I stopped for a bathroom break and the car wouldn't start again. At all. While I waited for roadside assistance, I continued fiddling and eventually got ignition. This cost me an hour in all, and pissed me off no end because my beautiful Puegot 205 (back in the day) had exactly the same problem and I went through two batteries in five years before we diagnosed the fault as the alternator.

So I got to the end of the NJ Turnpike around 8pm and waited another hour in traffic to enter the Holland Tunnel. I swore I was going to run out of gas while I sat there, and I didn't dare turn the engine off again.

Total outward-bound trip time: 9 hours.

Today, I wanted to get at least halfway home before taking a break but three coffees got the better of my bladder. Still in the Garden State, the car failed to start on me again at a rest stop. "Alright," thought I, "it'll be fine after it's had a rest. Let's make this work to my advantage." I called the rental office, and they agreed to slash the cost of my per-day rate and not require me to return the car with a full tank. Add-on costs like fuel, tolls and insurance had practically doubled what I first thought my weekend was going to cost, so this was super-sweet news. Of course, the car still wouldn't start so I wasted time before I called for roadside assistance. In all it cost me two frustrating hours at the only rest-stop in the States I'd ever been to before with an ex-girlfriend. That was weird!

The guy from the local Enterprise office finally showed with a silver Kia Spectra for me. I broke with tradition and didn't leave any CDs in the Sunfire. Result! But first we had to drive to Bordentown, New Jersey, to do the paperwork... He knew a sneaky way out of the rest stop that avoided the Turnpike tolls and said, "follow me, and don't look like you're doing anything wrong." After that, we drove another couple of miles to where Car #1 was to be repaired. Finally, I dropped my new life partner Dennis back at work and got back to doing what I wanted to do with my day.

The speed limits here suck. The country that gave the world fast food and instant gratification in so many walks of life doesn't want its people to get around too fast, it seems. To easier track them by satellite, maybe? Or have I watched too much 24? Most highways are 55mph compared to 70mph as the standard in the U.K. Back home you can easily drive 80mph and, providing there's some asshole weaving between lanes at 100 - and there usually is - he'll get pulled over before you do. You rarely even see traffic police. Here, they'll literally hide behind an ad hoarding and jump out after you like Roscoe P. Coltrane.

There seemed to be less po-lice on the road as the day got longer, so I pushed my five-over-the-limit rule to ten and finally fifteen over, which got me in the door by 10.30pm. I wrote about five blog posts in my head today, and they were all funnier than this one.

Total homeward-bound trip time: 10.5 hours.

So that's the whys, the wherefores and the how-I-didn't-get-killed-by-oncoming-traffics. I do feel like a very big boy indeed for single-handedly tackling the East Coast, and it was fantastic to see so many familiar bodies this weekend. My later, funnier posts are coming soon and include hot party pictures from Saturday night. Never let it be said that I don't know how to work an audience!


My First Big Solo U.S. Adventure...

...starts today. Boy, am I excited! My CD wallet is packed with almost two dozen albums that I've bought in the last year but not paid proper attention to. There's nothing like 18 hours in a car to put that right. My travel bag still needs unpacking because it's full of clean laundry right now.

I got up so early, I think I still have time for a disco nap before setting off. Tales a-plenty here in a few days' time. Start spreading the news!


Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Fun times at Moe's in Ghent last night. I traded up from my staple burrito, the Triple Lindy, to the Homewrecker and I didn't regret it for a second. Mmmm. Justin entertained us all with a one-question pop quiz about best-selling albums that lasted 15 minutes or more, and I challenged him back: what's the current all-time top-selling DVD?

He guessed Finding Nemo and I told him it was Chappelle's Show, cos I'd just read a press release bragging about that. In hindsight, I think I succumbed to the hype. I can't find anything independent online anywhere to back it up. If anyone knows better, let me know! I think Justin might have a pint coming his way.

We riffed on my favourite Chappelle skit for a bit, the Racial Draft (where celebrities like Tiger Woods and Halle Berry are drafted into one ethnic group or the other, for good). It ends with China picking the entire Wu-Tang Clan who get up to the podium and say, "Kanichiwa, bitches!"

We're sat ten feet from the cash register and we're laughing and saying, "Kanichiwa, bitches!" I look up, and there's an Asiatic black girl buying her burrito. Miss, if you're reading this, it had nothing to do with you. Me and my big mouth...



I was walking across the bridge today when I saw a man standing at the edge, ready to jump off. I immediately ran over and pleaded with him to reconsider. "There's so much to live for!" I said.
"Like what?" said he.
"Well... are you religious or atheist?"
"Me too. Are you Christian or Jewish?"
"Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
"Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
"Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
"Baptist Church of God."
"So am I! Are you Original Baptist Church of God or Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
"Reformed Baptist Church of God."
"Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God from the reformation of 1879 or Reformed Baptist Church of God from the reformation of 1915?"
So I called him a heretic and pushed him over the edge.


Talkin' 'Bout The Midnight Rambler

Last night I had couldn't sleep and posted here to pass the time. This morning I read my whiny drivel and deleted it. Some things that are already well-documented here were bugging me so I wasn't adding much soul to the Marcus Brand by repeating them at 3am. (Incidentally, my top five things to combat insomnia are smoking, drinking, eating, earplugs, and a CD from Brookstone called Music To Promote Sleep. It features pulses and delta waves and other black magic "scientifically proven" to put you to sleep, and didn't I feel about 60 years old when I bought it?)

Anyway, I said weekends really highlight how little I have going on here. I get listless and grouchy unless I have social plans. There's a theory that you're happier all week when you have something to look forward to, so I resolved to rent a car and get myself a change of scenery next weekend. Destination undetermined...

As if to endorse the idea, tonight a couple of friends called to say they've decided I haven't been to see them enough since I've been living here. They're gonna pay for me to get up to Celia's "Farewell To New York" Party this weekend. What a godsend! I feel like I have a backlog of fun to burn through. I'm gonna be incorrigable. Ladies, I love you! I'll even blur your faces when I blog about it.


A Lifetime In Drugs



The world's longest running sci-fi show is back for its 27th series. But it's Saturday night and I already squandered my Friday night lauding another back-from-the-grave show. Here's something fun to play with til my potted review following the season finale next week.

Among the deluge of new web content for the big-budget relaunch of Doctor Who is The Radiophonatron, a flash application that lets you tinker with elements of its famous theme tune by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Unfortunately, it won't let you save your work, control how long a clip plays or help you sync the samples together.

I recommend Neow, Rub-A Dub and Wee Wah Woo from the early 80s because I grew up with those sounds, plus Diddly Dum, Oo-Ee-Oo and Hiss from the original theme. The analogue engineering of the day (1963) only adds to the creepy, other-worldly vibe. Kraftwerk on steroids.


Top Five Dream Jobs

If there were no restrictions on what I could do next...

1. The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.
This is a real shopfront in Brooklyn. It's run by 826NYC, a non-profit organisation that provides writing workshops to the young in New York City. The hero thing helps attract new kids to the program and - conveniently - the Fantastic Four, the new Avengers and all the other superheroes based in the city can use it too.

2. Pornflix.
Like Netflix, but more educational for the bedroom. Apparently no-one else has identified this particular niche market. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to start a business here. Shame, because I'll bet it's a lot less niche than you think. I'm not sure what makes me think a Netflix disc is clean when it arrives, but there would be very strict rules about hygeine at Pornflix.

3. Wingman.
Like www.wingwomen.com, but for the laydees.

4. Fiancé of stupid showbiz starlet.
I don't know... when I saw the ratboy Christina Aguileira shacked up with, she suddenly seemed a lot more available to me. It's a paid position in lieu of a TV show or recording contract. And I'd get a bonus for each chihauhau I had to look at.

5. Any gaming industry job in/near New York, D.C. or Seattle.
The location is much more important to me than the precise nature of the job, though I'll be loyal and committed if I like where I'm living. Hire me now!

Doves And Hawks

Sci-fi author Orson Scott Card recently wrote an article in the L.A. Times about Star Trek going off the air for the first time since 1988. I think he was a little harsh on a series that promoted ethical values in an entertaining way and featured the first interracial kiss on network TV. (As if Kirk gave a hoot what colour his conquests were!) But Card also touches on elements of what I consider to be good science fiction and why I find the genre so compelling. It takes more than shiny things going boom to flick my switch...

When Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, it's clear she was concerned about modern medicine and whether it had any limitations. She updated the Greek myth of Prometheus, who angered Zeus by creating life out of clay figures. Anyone familiar with the Terry Schiavo case knows that the issue of "playing god" is still relevant today. So Frankenstein can be considered the first science fiction story because essentially Shelley asked "what if X were scientifically possible?" A better name for the genre might be Speculative Fiction.

By their very nature, sci-fi stories can be pessimistic. The author is bothered by the direction that our own society is taking and fires a warning shot. Much of Philip K. Dick's work focuses on human characters trying to survive in societies that are removed from our own only by an invention or discovery of some kind. What if the police could arrest you before you committed a crime, as in Minority Report? What does that do to the concepts of guilt and free will?

Allegory is one of the easiest ways to criticise something "under the radar". The reader knows that the author is writing with contemporary social concerns but the targets of his criticism are not aware of this arrangement. Looking over, they see only a silly futuristic or historical story. What possible threat to the current hegemony could Shakespeare's Richard III present, for example?

Which brings me to the new version of Battlestar Galactica. Outside of childhood, I was never a fan of the old show. It was Star Wars made for TV, and "space opera" says nothing to me about my life. There was a lot of hokey mumbo jumbo about life on Earth starting "out there" too, inspired by Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods (a popular book of the 1970s).

New Galactica is good and different. For one, the military isn't in charge. Leadership is shared with the civilian sector and it wasn't long at all before these two incompatible approaches clashed in a big way on the show.

There was a huge and unprecendented attack on home soil. Only 50,000 people survived. Watch them get scared and panic at times. Watch the population continue to turn up for work, to ensure that civilisation as they know it survives long after the attack. How many of their civil liberties will they give up in this time of war in exchange for greater security? Tell me again how science fiction has nothing to do with the real world!

There are a million more reasons why I'm a fan of new Galactica and half of them are that Katee Sackhoff is in it. (She's in my top ten too.) Apologies for the Science Fiction 101 to those of you in the choir. To the heathen at the gates, I hope you have a better idea why we sing.



This one's for the folks back home. Countrymen! I cannot emphasise enough that the weather in southern Virginia was one of the most difficult things for me to adjust to in my new life Stateside. It's hot here!

I'd been to Miami before and the weather was warm, but it was only February and the evenings were blissful. I'd also been to Baltimore and New York several times, but they're 4 and 8 hours north from here by car (respectively) and personal trips usually took place outside of summer because that was the trade show season at work.

I've been to Vegas twice. I don't suffer much from dandruff but it was so dry out there that I washed my hair at the hotel one night and, as it dried, I noticed my scalp was flaking. Yeah... gross. There's no such problem in Norfolk or I wouldn't have dyed my hair dark again. Any white here is me using too much product, or actual grey hairs (which is a myth, of course; hairs are either coloured or white). My scalp is quite moist now, thank you.

It's humid from Spring to Fall. All the time. It hit me like a brick when I arrived on 2004-04-30. Without air conditioning, I get out of the shower, dry off, then sweat. Back home you open a window to cool down but that's suicide here. I carried a CD to work one day and the plastic case steamed up as soon as I stepped out of the apartment. Crazy. The only other place I've experienced anything like it is in the greenhouses at Kew Gardens in London.

The great big plus to all this is the thunderstorms. Some days you feel the humidity build to breaking point, and the heavens unleash furious rain. When I can, I get out there and revel in the coolness before the invisible cloud of you-can't-breathe comes back.

Mark Twain once said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." I plan to move north.


Next Five Beastie Boys Rhymes

Because this is a serious subject and I made rookie oversights last time.

6. Sure Shot (1994).
I'm that kid in the corner/All fucked up and I wanna so I'm gonna
7. Super Disco Breakin' (1998).
Sometimes I like to brag/Sometimes I'm soft spoken
When I'm in Holland/I eat the pannenkoeken
8. Putting Shame In Your Game (1998).
I'm the king of Boggle/There is none higher
I get 11 points/Off the word "quagmire"
9. Sabotage (1994).
I can't stand it/I know you planned it
I'm gonna set it straight/This Watergate
10. Hey Fuck You (2004).
I've got billions and billions of rhymes to flex
I've got more rhymes than Carl Sagan's got turtlenecks

With credit to Paul's Boutique Samples & References Page and Beastie Boys Annotated for clarity. Now I know what Bear Magazine and Reunite are, and I can't unknow it.


Top Five Beastie Boys Rhymes

1. Three MCs And One D.J. (1998).
We be getting stupid in your area/Causing all kinds of hysteria
My beats are sick like malaria/But don't worry, we'll take care o' ya
2. Get It Together (1994).
Got to do it like this/Like Chachi and Joanie
Because she's the cheese/And I'm the macaroni

3. An Open Letter to NYC (2004).
We're doing fine on the 1 and 9 line/On the L we're doin' swell
4. Ch-Check It Out (2004).
I'm like a scientist/When I'm applying this
5. Funky Boss (1992).
Funky boss/Funky boss/Funky boss/Funky boss
Funky boss/Funky boss/Get off my back!

Click to see a miniature Manhattan Unfurled (Eastside) by Matteo Pericoli (2001), which is the art used for the cover of their last LP. The original sketch is 37 feet long and has a companion piece based on the view from the Westside. Anyone owning 74-foot art gallery should contact the artist.

Prints Charming

In February I moved into my studio. A big bare wall needed a centrepiece so I tracked down some prints by the much-imitated Alex Ross on eBay. My finances were recovering after the traditional Christmas splurge so I decided to get some framing done.

Last week the frame shop called to say my job was finally ready. Luckily, I'd paid half as a deposit back when I still had a job and an office to hang one of the pictures in. (By the way, if anyone needs 20th Century Heroes in a an 18" x 28" humidity-resistant off-black frame, I might be able to hook you up.) The big question now is, with yet another move on the horizon for me this summer - my nineteenth in life - do I risk a further bill from the landlord by putting nails in the wall to hang them?


New York City

"Where people make radio requests like 'this is for Tina... I'm sorry I stabbed you.'"

- Carol Leifer, writer for Seinfeld and The Larry Sanders Show.

Meg Is Dead... Long Live Meg-Bot!

As any fan of The Doors will tell you, you judge the art, not the artist. You applaud Jim Morisson for his song-writing, not for locking his wife in a closet and setting fire to it. I couldn't care less what my favourite singer eats for breakfast: celebrity gossip is pointless. So it's fun when "stars" start to play around with the phenomenon. Anything that breaks the banality is fine with me.

Maybe David Bowie went a little far in 1977 with a Nazi salute... He's adamant to this day that the photographer just caught him mid-wave, though he was wearing full S.S. uniform at the time and had previously said in interview that Britain could benefit from a dictatorship. Hey, it's an easy mistake to make.

John Gillis and Megan White were married in Detroit in 1996, formed The White Stripes in 1997, and divorced in 2000. Their first album released the same year. (Moral of this story: don't date someone you work with.) Jack took Meg's name in the marriage but he would soon be a White anyway, the same way Johnny Marr is and always will be a Smith. As the music press became interested in their private lives, Jack and Meg encouraged rumours that they were brother and sister. And now the truth is out! Evidence has been building for years at The White Stripes Conspiracy Reader and the duo have finally 'fessed up. Meg was killed in a car crash and Jack built a robot to replace her.

Meg: When I broke my wrist there was a theory that they were just updating me. Meg-bot 2.0, I believe.

Jack: Meg-bot version 2.0.

Meg: But if I'm a robot I should have perfect rhythm.

Jack: You do have perfect rhythm, Meg.

Initial clues to the Meg-bot conspiracy were found through their work: in the video for We're Going To Be Friends, "Meg" just lies on the couch and doesn't move; in Hotel Yorba, she plays with a mouse and everyone knows real girls are afraid of mice; and on the sleeve art for Elephant, Meg is standing on a footstool with a mouse on the floor (clearly, either it's a robotic mouse or Jack has reprogrammed her to be afraid of mice to not raise any more suspicion).

Most incriminating of all, the drum solo in Hello Operator is morse code for "Meg is dead and I created a robot to replace her - Jack."

Jack's been in the papers again because he just married British model Karen Elson in a canoe in the Amazon, scant weeks after his ex, Rene Zellweger, wed some country music singer in the Carribean. She's judging the man and not the art, that's for sure.


Love Story 1, Skanky Hoe 0

I turned down a skanky hoe last night. Yay me!

An odd girl that I met soon after arriving here (who hopefully doesn't know that I blog) called me up around 10.30pm. She was driving. She was cussing mad at her redneck boyfriend and she asked if I wanted to go dancing "now". Ignoring for a moment that there's nowhere good to go dancing downtown, I had a vision of me listening to her complain for three hours just to get some play. I said no and gave some advice about her boyfriend issues.

Do I respect myself more these days, or am I just getting better at detecting trouble at the outset? Whatever, I stayed home and watched The Village instead.

So many people were critical of that movie, I was able to thoroughly enjoy it. The problem of hype and expectation is exacerbated with a Night Shyamalan movie because, since The Sixth Sense, the audience expects a big twist. As a writer-director, what do you do? Twist? Double-twist? Fake-out twist? Try something original and everyone will say the great M. Night has lost it. I'm not sure you can win when your audience is expecting to be surprised. That's a self-defeating frame of mind and makes about as much sense as your XO telling you to "expect the unexpected".

Sure, Ramalamadingdong manipulates your sense of danger with a minimalist approach to sound design and some really tight framing - so you often can't see what's right next to Ivy, who is blind - but his writing is so sharp I forgive him these "tricks of the trade". His characters don't avoid the burning plot questions, which often happens in movies to prolong the tension (think The Ring, The Grudge, or The X-Files on TV). He takes a simple idea and explores every single facet. Despite being a part of the summer blockbuster line-up, his scripts are the antithesis of many Hollywood movies which aim to entertain through spectacle and distraction. I like his stuff.

I guessed a large part of the ending before the movie even started. Maybe I liked this movie because it made me feel smart? Or maybe because I have a soft spot for unconventional love stories like this, Solaris, and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind?

Ivy: "Why won't you say what's in your head?"
Lucius: "Why won't you stop saying what's in yours?"

That's right, ladies... I'm sensitive, single and I don't pick up scraps anymore. Unless they're really hot. Or it's a bet. And we don't speak of such things.



Razors pain you, rivers are damp,
Acids stain you and drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful, nooses give,
Gas smells awful; you might as well live.

- Resumé by Dorothy Parker, from Enough Rope (1926).

Get Behind Me, Audio Pirate

Obeying a link from The Paranoid Mod this morning, I found The White Stripes' new album, Get Behind Me Satan - due for release 2005-06-07 - spoiled on the internet. Not reviewed-spoiled but available-spoiled: tracks 1-6 here and 7-10 here!

The link I have for tracks 11-13 doesn't work but I'm sure they're out there if you want them. I don't need them, because I've heard enough already to buy the album when it releases. For me, downloading TV shows and music works just like a listening post in a record store or watching a show during its free run on network TV. It doesn't make me any less likely to buy a certain CD or DVD - if anything, sampling more material blows open my selection and helps me try new things. I think I contribute more cash, not less, to support new music as a result.

Is sharing digital media over the internet illegal? It depends where you are, of course, but it seems to me like the authorities are always trying to justify their case. Several websites claim it's about as illegal lending your favourite album to a friend, and others urge the music industry to catch up and maximize the benefits (like I described above) of new technology.

Jay-Z made The Black Album available online in pieces to encourage people to remix it, and we got DJ Dangermouse's The Gray Album out of it. No matter what Paul McCartney thinks, that's a fine piece of work. Wilco made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot available months before its retail release in exchange for voluntary donations to their favourite charity and a pledge from fans to buy the LP later. On release, it entered the Billboard chart at #13. When A Ghost Is Born somehow escaped onto the internet, they responded not with a lawsuit but with a corrected list of song titles! Their manager said, "real music fans are prepared, even anxious, to prove their loyalty and support their favorite artists... these people are not the enemy."

As I said, I sleep just fine at night but I know others here who either disapprove of sharing on moral grounds or are scared of being caught if they run a program like Kazaa. On which side of the rip/burn debate do you sit? Does it depend what material is being shared, or who owns it?

Years ago, someone who knew someone who worked on the cover of Massive Attack's Mezzanine brought a copy of that album to a friend's party in London, weeks before it was released. Someone else tried to burn it right there at the party and got busted by the first someone. Ah, good times...

Now share like it's going out of fashion!


To Norva Or Not To Norva

Don't get me started on The Norva's no smoking policy. (Too late!) I don't need to inflict my habit on non-believers, but when the artist is smoking onstage do I really have to go out in the rain?

Anyway, Rilo Kiley plays the Norva tonight. I only know singer Jenny Lewis from "indie super group" The Postal Service. I thought Rilo Kiley was a girl's name for the longest time. Seeing as how it's, like, three blocks away, man, I'd normally take the risk and go. But semi-frugal living plus a headache today mean I'm gonna skip it.

I think I'll close my eyes on the sofa and listen to voices on a DVD commentary until I fade out. Do I feel at home here? Aye.