Gifts That Keep On Giving

Two months on you can really tell the good Christmas presents from the chaff. My mother wins the Most Useful category for a pair of yellow plastic night driving glasses. All the cool kids are wearing them, you know.

Joeri wins the Best Media award for a live double album by Kraftwerk. At 220 minutes, it's great on long journeys too. If I'd known everything that had released when I posted my Top Five Albums Of 2005, it would have looked more like this:

5. Minimum-Maximum: Kraftwerk
4. Tales From Turnpike House: Saint Etienne
3. Witching Hour: Ladytron
2. Employment: Kaiser Chiefs
1. Twin Cinema: The New Pornographers

Truly, the gift that keeps on giving is Forty Years Of The Amazing Spider-Man on eleven CD-ROMs. Kyle and I bought it for each other in a pact two Christmasses ago and I'm still reading the Eighties.


Midweek Musings

Some thoughts I had on Wednesday but Blogger bitched out on me:

I must remember that Holly at Toni & Guy isn't Greek because she just gave me exactly what I wanted for a haircut so I'm going back and it would be embarrassing to ask her that twice.

It's funny to see the word "taint" used for its sexual meaning in a B.B.C. news article.

SatNav knows more than we do but using it makes us dumber, not smarter.

I'm excited about the Venom storyline in Spider-Man 3. Ol' Webhead is wearing black and Topher Grace is cast as the dark Peter Parker. Genius!

How do you tell if someone likes you when you have work ties? Her company provides a service to mine but it's not me that has the direct relationship with them and the person who does is encouraging me...

I've known the German word for "Wednesday" for 18 years but I've only just realised the connection between Mittwoch and "midweek".


Damon Days

Six days with no new post usually means I've been working my ass off. I gave a Powerpoint presentation on Friday and procrastinated so much preparing it that a colleague stayed late on Thursday to help me finish, earning herself a box of Swiss chocolates in the process.

My father had some bad news about his health this week: his white blood cell count is up to 50. At 100 they consider chaemotherapy. I went for some retail therapy when I heard that.

There's a shop on Park Street called Fopp where you can't listen to albums before you buy them so they let you return them if you don't like them. If you're fussy like me, that's heaven. Under these circumstances and these circumstances only I'll try Demon Days by the "supergroup" Gorillaz.

I was a big Blur fan back in the day so I've kept an eye on the band members' solo careers since. Damon Albarn's opted for a series of pretentious collaboration projects, disguising his lack of inspiration with different musical styles. Demon Days is an improvement on Gorillaz (their eponymous debut) but it's still just two-thirds-baked.

You can hear which tracks are single material as soon as they kick in because they're all kinds of groovy and funky, but the rest sound messy and unfocussed by comparison. O Green World is Blur-ry and Dare has Scissor Sisters written all over it, but they're good. Damon resorts to the same annoying vocal tricks as in Blur but we're spared the frantic-guitar-song-per-album. The guest vocalists are undeniably impressive: Shaun Ryder, Roots Manuva, De La Soul, Neneh Cherry and Dennis Hopper.

If it was ten minutes shorter it would be far better... if it were a four-track E.P. it'd be my Single Of The Year! Will I take it back? Probably not. I like the way the cover riffs on Let It Be.

I bought The Aristocrats too and got a new season of 24 for less than I sold a used one on Amazon Marketplace. I sold a limited edition model Concorde (a corporate gift from London Toy Fair) on eBay for £43.01. This completes my trading report for February.



I made an impulse purchase yesterday. Not so impulse that I hadn't considered it before but circumstances aligned themselves in such a way that I couldn't resist any longer. I'm now the proud owner of a foot-tall remote controlled Dalek.

Brits love Daleks. We have for forty years. Yes, they look like they fell out of a Fifties B-movie. Yes, their motivation is one-dimensional - woe betide anyone that stands in the way of their plans for universal domination. Yes, they sound exactly how you'd expect mechanized villains to sound and if you run up stairs they can't follow you. (I imagine many parents being grateful for that flaw when their kids have Dalek nightmares. I hope they gloss over the fact that one Dalek could probably level an entire building, regardless of how many staircases it has.) In short, they're completely risible but the concept works because it's so O.T.T, not in spite of it.

Doctor Who is ultimately a light entertainment show and that can be problematic for people who like their drama 100% serious. But scratch the surface and, with Daleks, you'll find a lesson in National Socialism. Inside the metal contraption pictured above is a living breathing organism so horribly mutated through generations of chemical warfare that it needs this apparutus to move and communicate. (Science Fiction 101: Daleks aren't robots.) Next it was genetically stripped of its compassion and humanity, brainwashed to believe that all other forms of life are inferior and given a set of deadly weapons.

So: pure evil? Indubitably. But Luke 23:34 also springs to mind. And lo, this did pass for children's programming in the year of Our Lord nineteen-hundred-and-seventy-five. Genesis Of The Daleks is out on D.V.D. in April.

Yesterday I met with the Marketing Manager of a well-known retail chain at their new Bristol store and, when the business chat was done, I slipped into Fan Boy Mode and browsed for cool shit. A Dalek looked at me; I stared it back. I told myself £35 was too much for an executive toy and the novelty would wear off in a day. Marketing Manager Man offered me staff discount and I came close to cracking. When he said I could have a third off £30-worth of comics too I mentally applied that saving to the Dalek (because I would've bought Daredevil and The New Avengers at full price) and the deal was sealed. Amazing how we justify the things we want to ourselves, eh?

It's been a day now and the novelty is wearing off. But my father loves my mass-murdering mutant toy too and asked if I'd leave it when I move out next month. When I hesitated he told me to consider it his birthday present and I agreed. If the novelty hasn't completely worn off by then it's clearly a better product than I first thought and I'll happily pay full price for a replacement.

Then all I need is a cat. A contented Dalek pet needs something to chase.


Top Five Hellish Days

5. 24: Season Four
4. 24: Season One
3. 24: Season Five
2. 24: Season Two
1. 24: Season Three

Just my way of saying the fifth series of 24 has started in Britain. We got a double-dose opener and we get two more episodes next Sunday. In the space of just seven days I'll be a sixth of the way through the series and 99% certain to watch it until the end because (on some dumb level) I'll feel like I've invested four weeks into it already. Now that's what I call marketing!

Season Four was problematic in that Three was kinda final for many of the characters we loved (and loved to hate). It was difficult to care about inexperienced new C.T.U. staff members and a new Nixon-esque P.O.T.U.S. when they had no redeeming personality traits. Eventually Tony, Michelle and Palmer were crowbarred back into the action but it was too little too late for this veteran viewer.

Rather than repeat this mistake, several familiar faces were onboard at the start of Season Five... for about ten minutes. It was brutal. Michelle in the car with a bomb and Palmer in the neck with a sniper rifle. He was a Lead That Should Never Leave The Show, like Mulder in The X-Files and John Cleese in Monty Python's Flying Circus, but I have faith that they know what they're doing. (Prediction: Mandy will be back by lunchtime.)

Best of all, I'll be able to read Heimlich Manouvers again in twenty weeks!


The Life Of The Book

How often do you re-read books? I've done it three times in my life, maximum: Catch-22, The Hitch-Hikers Guide and... Mr. Tickle?

Already-read books have little to look forward to in my house. The good ones go on a shelf and give me happy memories when I catch them out of the corner of my eye. They make me look clever (but not so clever as I really am) and foster those moments at parties when two people that detest each other suddenly discover they have the same favourite author or both their sweater patterns come from the same beastly tome. I'd lend more to friends if reading weren't so terribly out of vogue these days. Unless they contain meticulously-indexed factoids or "tasteful nudity", old books mostly just sit there. It's a waste.

Then along comes one of those rare useful marriages between technology and the real world giving your books a new lease of life and giving you the facility to stay in touch with them - for free! As soon as I get 90% of my worldly belongings out of that garage in California, it's the first thing I'm gonna do.


Unidentified Drinking Injuries

What caused the pain in my lower left rib for three days last week? Nothing I could remember. Someone asked me if I'd been drinking over the weekend and I had. "Well," they said. "It's a U.D.I."

Two mornings ago I woke up with cold feet -- nothing new when your body's longer than your bed. A cut on the bottom of the second toe on my left foot had healed solid and I couldn't walk without it hurting. I suppose it was from the party last Friday, but I can't say why it took me four days to notice.

Am I getting old? Or just better at whingeing?

Last night I dreamed I was a rookie cop and Lalla Ward was my big city mentor. We rode the subway and trailed the bad guys to their converted warehouse. Everything had a green hue like in the first Matrix movie. I stood and watched as she served and protected in her 70s-style leather pants, using a pistol and some Slayer-esque high kicks. This one I can explain: too much blue cheese before bedtime.

Update 2006-02-12: I think Beastly Knits has cured my Lalla Lust.


What Marcus Looks Like

Marcus looks like he was out late last night.
Marcus looks like any other child except for the large scars on his head.
Marcus looks like the special guest at a scarecrow convention.
Marcus looks like Doc Brown giving head.
Marcus looks like a mucus-covered Nosferatu.
Marcus looks like quite an awkward name.
Marcus looks like doing in the top Ford team.
Marcus looks like your average everyday ex-drill sergeant just waiting for the gay porno casting call.
Marcus looks like someone that wanted to be a marine but failed the test when he couldn't fit his head in that friggin' jar.

If you want to be insulted for free in 0.12 seconds, Google's the place to go.

Spielwaren Uber Alles

It's been a sleep-defying couple of weeks. London Toy Fair was followed immediately by Nuremberg Toy Fair.

This crazy-ass scheduling is a "legacy problem" that nobody wants to fix. Before communication and world travel became what they are today, trade shows were set up within a few weeks of each other all over the globe. (There are more in Hong Kong, Paris and New York.) Manufacturers would reveal their ranges for the entire year and buyers would decide on their big Christmas items based on what they saw in January! Needless to say, much has changed. It's pretty pointless to meet with people you saw only the week before when neither of you has had time to follow-up on anything you talked about yet, but we go through the motions anyway.

My company knows how to keep its clients entertained. (For "entertained" read "plied with drink and away from other manufacturers".) And if the employees catch a buzz too, good for them! Detox Month went out of the window as soon as I realized someone else was paying. I danced twice in two weeks, if you can call what I did to "We're the kids! We're the kids! We're the kids in Americaaa!!" dancing. I started many converations in German that I had no hope of ever finishing and irgendwie im vollständigen Prozeß rediscovered my knack for international relations. I swear I go to worse parties in my private life.

Here are some of the fab people and places I've seen since we last spoke.