Multiple Copyright Infringement

It's that time of year again when I drop everything for a long weekend in another country with someone I just met. Since that never actually happened before it must be that time of year again for something else instead. A compilation album!

My latest has a whole lot less guitar on it than normal. If you have Windows Media Player and a zip extracting program then your whole life has prepared you for this very moment. You may proceed to YourFileHost.com and the downloading of free music: Part I, Part II and Part III. Do not call the cops. Do not collect $200.

Unfathomably, my November mix is still up at RapidUpload.com. Get it via the bottom article in the 2005-11 archive on the left. May other people's stolen music entertain you and educate you in equal measure until I return.

Update 2006-03-29 10.22pm: I'm having trouble uploading Parts II and III and I can't try again for days. Sorry about that.

Update 2006-04-04: All three parts are now online.


Top Five Smells

5. Coffee
Would rank higher if it weren't so ubiqitous. Familiarity breeds contempt!
4. Marijuana
Stan Lee would have called Mary Jane something else... but he got high.

3. Freshly-baked bread
Norfolk is home to the Mary Jane Bread Co.
2. The unperfumed skin of a significant other
Between "I've just had a shower" and "I really need a shower".
1. Tomatoes on the vine
My grandad grew tomatoes in his greenhouse. A doubleplusgood smell.


La Vitesse

They got me doing 67 m.p.h. on the M11. The speed limit there is 70 m.p.h. except for the section of temporary roadworks where I was photographed, where it's 50 m.p.h. I have a fixed penalty offer of £60 plus three points on my licence.

Why is the penalty system based on twelve points when only three- and six-point fines are handed out? A four-point system would work just fine.

Safe Speed conducts independent research into how cameras have made our roads more dangerous by taking the responsibility for setting a safe speed out of the hands of motorists and diverting driver attention from all other road concerns in speed trap areas. There's a lot more to safe driving than speed but no other issue is so profitable for the authorities nor so capable of driving a wedge between otherwise law-abiding citizens and the police over the last five years.

When I'd heard nothing after two weeks I thought I might get away with it but I wasn't the registered owner of the vehicle and they're allowed more time to find out who was driving. The "cash camera" swindle would grind to a halt if everyone in my position opted for a court appearance instead of a fixed penalty but unless everyone is actually going to do it then I think I'll refrain from making an example of myself on this occasion.


Your Licence Fee At Work

Because of the unique way the B.B.C. is funded, it comes in for a lot of criticism. The chief argument goes like this: you were set up with funding from the government with a mandate to provide a public broadcast service. I don't have digital cable or the internet (says the complainant) so you shouldn't be spending my licence fee money on new channels and websites that I can't access.

Personally, I can't remember the last time I watched BBC1 or BBC2 but I'm listening to web radio as I write this so the above argument gets a fat "I'm alright, Jack" from me. Interactive content built into the rolling news channel News 24 gives me the headlines and a five-day weather forecast at the touch of a red button. The Eight O'Clock news on Radio 4 is a staple feature of my drive to work, as is the Six O'Clock News on the drive home. (I like to be informed.) BBC Bristol, BBC Wiltshire and BBC Berkshire tell me why the motorway has come to a standstill and why I can't do anything about it.

Best of all, I can hear shows I've missed for up to seven days using the online Listen Again feature. It's TiVo for radio! I recommend Just A Minute, the panel game where the aim is to talk on a single subject for sixty seconds with no hesitation, repetition or deviation, and the self-styled antidote to panel games, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

"The next round will be familiar to viewers of Give Us A Clue, where contestants must communicate a popular title or phrase without using words. Team captain Lionel Blair got frustrated on the show's Italian tour when he couldn't use his mouth to finish off Two Gentlemen Of Verona."

That's dirty. Unfortunately I'm not sure if Listen Again is available overseas because we never intended for foreigners to Listen A First Time in case they heard what we were saying about them. To find out, click here then click "Comedy And Quizzes" on the right. Finally, leave a comment about whether it worked so I can talk about this with more authority in future.

At four beers per month the licence fee is fantastic value. It's not fashionable to praise big corporations but it's true. Now if only the public would stop watching half the crap on BBC1 we might get better public service television too.


Overheard At Work

"So the department lost a third of its staff and became twice as productive?"

"We're gonna have a wee visit from Jack Frost!"
"You sound like Mrs. Doubtfire when you do that."

"I sat on my right testicle."


"Where are they going to put these wall-planners?"
"Are you being funny?"

"My wife is away and I've run out of milk."

New Killer Car

Seven in the morning is a hell of time to get up when you don't have to but it was worth it to sign for my new car yesterday. Thanks to everyone who gave input last November when I couldn't decide what to order. Ultimately, I chose a Ford Focus almost identical to my then rental car because I knew how pissed off I'd be if I didn't get all the same features.

There were only nine miles on the clock when I took the keys. The paintwork is "sea grey" and the tyres are still black. The delivery man put paper in the footwell so he didn't mess up the carpet. This car left the factory about a week ago.

Tired of being a three-car family we drove to the local Avis outlet to drop off my current rental. In a characteristic show of generosity I offered my father the chance to drive my new baby around the block. He started it in gear and it leapt forward a foot, just short of the next parked car. Then he clipped a kerb corner. I winced the entire ride but we made it back in one piece. Last night I drove to see singer Alice Russell and my passenger opened her door into a high kerb. God damn you people.

And Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Half-Nekkid Thursday

I've been dared to take part in this game.

I think the real game will be staying within the rules of Half-Nekkid Thursday whilst not grossing out my regular readership! The last thing I want to hear at the next industry trade show is any kind of comment about my "online cock" so let me reassure everyone up-front that I won't be going there any time soon. (Though the management reserves the right to review this policy in the face of a staggering number of PayPal donations.)

Week One: feet.


Supermarket Voyeur

TESCO BRISTOL 2 0845 677 9084

Start collecting now!

Orange Squash @1.53
Fresh Milk @0.53
Orange Juice @1.84
Blue Cheese @1.67
Spanish Cheese @1.98
Leerdammer Sli @1.44
Eggs @0.94
Light Mayonnai @1.88
Olive Spread @0.89
Coleslaw @0.91
Chilled Dip @1.49
Houmous @0.93
Tartare Sauce @0.78
Ger Pepp Salami @1.97
Smoked Salmon @2.45
Salmon Flts x2 @1.99
Tuna Steak x2 @1.99
Ch Mini Fillets x2 @2.88
Braeburn Apple @1.09
Org Bananas @1.29
Cucumber Ptn x2 @0.38
Avacados x4 @0.56
Olive Small @1.59
Prepared Iberg @0.99
Beans x2 @0.49
Can Macaroni @0.89
Can Pasta @0.58
Pasta Sauce x2 @1.43
Anti Pasti @2.49
Mixed Pickle @0.74
Express Rice x3 @1.11
Ginster Pasty x2 @1.03
Ginsters Pie x2 @1.99
Large S Roll x2 @2.70
Finest Quiche @1.99
Pln Baguette @0.45
Braces XXX Thi @0.76
Organic Pittas @0.65
Super Noodles @0.39
Peanut Butter @1.21
Lem Marmalade @0.77
Ice Cream x2 @1.59
Devon Custard @1.18
Baby Oil @1.27
Toothpaste @1.48
Deoderant x2 @2.38
Razors @3.09
Cotton Buds @0.28
Quilted T Tiss @1.88
2 In 1 Shampoo @2.96
Chart DVDs @14.84
Greeting Card x2 @2.40
Display Book @0.97
Doc Wallets @1.21

SUBTOTAL: 116.82

Frozen Fish 3 For £5 -0.97
Tesco Ice Cream 2 For £3 -0.18
Loose Avacado 2 For £1 -0.24
Dolmio Pasta Bake 500g -0.86
Uncle Bens 3 For £3 -0.33
Chicken Fillets 2 For £5 -0.76
Ginsters Rolls BOGOF -1.35
Meanz Beanz BOGOF -0.49
Sure 250ml 2 For £3.50 -1.26


TOTAL TO PAY: 108.39

You could have earned 108 Clubcard points in this transaction.

You have earned 10 Computers For Schools vouchers in this transaction. Collect vouchers in store until 14/05/06.

12/03/06 13:15 2151 012 1045 9141


How Long Will We Sing This Song?

No matter what you think of our reasons for going into Iraq, how can anyone justify Guantanamo Bay? Forget the allegations of torture and there's still a basic human rights issue being wilfully ignored. Would we stand for it if the boot was on the other foot? Sometimes I'm ashamed to be British.

While I'm venting spleen, allow me some words for Capote. I watched it last night while Philip Seymour Hoffman was winning his Oscar. He was outstanding but Catherine Keener as Harper Lee looked uncannily like how someone I used to be madly in love with will look in five years. There was no conflict at all yet the film just wouldn't end. All the characters come out of it either scarred or dead and the same could be said for the audience. It killed my birthday buzz after only two days and I slept like crap. Avoid this movie! Especially if you're me!


Such A Perfect Day

I checked my e-mail when I woke up at 0630 on Friday morning to find an e-card from the woman I currently have the hugest crush on. A good start to the day! I staggered to the kitchen to make coffee and found something gift-wrapped between myself and the kettle: the Pixies Sell Out Reunion Tour on D.V.D! Good going, dad.

I was late leaving for work but the traffic was clear and I got there early, to find a card and a bottle of red wine from my colleagues on my desk. Everyone was super-sweet to me all day, except the boss... who'd kindly taken the day off. We finished early. Apparently that's normal but I'm rarely in the office on a Friday so I didn't know!

I was with my mother by 1830. She cooked steak and gave me Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' B-Sides And Rarities triple album. If you're amazed that my parents know my taste so well, I'll let you in on a little secret: we always ask each other for a shortlist of gift ideas because if there's one thing worse than getting a lousy present you'll never use it's the thought of your loved ones wasting their money on crap. My brother and I take it a step further and buy something we like for ourselves then tell each other what it was. (The Aristocrats, that I bought last week, is now from him.)

Home next, to shower and change. I'd left before the postman had called so more cards were waiting for me. My father had felt much better all day, which is great news in itself. (He's got shingles now on top of everything else.) He drove downtown so I didn't have to deal with buses or parking.

I hadn't planned much beyond a few drinks with Sarah but Phil and Tony (and others) were having a night out and we met in The Hatchet. It was a bit more "rawk" than I'd seen it before and Sarah wasn't comfortable at all. Good fortune, then, that two of her friends were running a club night literally upstairs! "Sixties psychaedelia, garage, Northern soul, freakbeat, Tamla, jazz and go-go," the poster said. There was dancing, tequila shots and taxis precisely when we needed them. It's a bit of a blur after that but I got to sleep around 0530, sixty minutes shy of the 24-hour mark.

Saturday was a get-up-late-and-nurse-your-hangover-with-Cadbury's-mini-eggs kind of day. I was smiling though. My tendency not to micro-plan social outings paid off for once!


thisismarcus v3.2

Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday tomorrow
Happy Birthday to me!

(You gotta love Copy and Paste.)

Happy Book Day To You

Today is World Book Day. Who knew? Certainly not me or I would have blathered on about my latest favourite book today instead!

What is a world book anyway? I was being facetious there until I saw the organisers have British and Irish phone numbers and all the advertised events are U.K.-based. Is this like the World Series of baseball, where America wins every year?


Top Five Reasons Why I Love Susanna Clarke's First Novel

At 1000 pages, lesser men might baulk at Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - the so-called Harry Potter For Grown-Ups. I started it in November, finished it at 0100 this morning and I miss it already.

"Can a magician kill a man by magic?" Lord Wellington asked Strange.

Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. "I suppose a magician might," he admitted, "but a gentleman never could."

5. Hyper-Dickens
If you're going to write a 19th Century English novel these days, you'd better be prepared to sweat over each page. It's my (limited) understanding that Dickens and Austen wrote in the language of their time so it doesn't surprise me that it took Susanna Clarke ten years - outside of her day job - to achieve the same effect. Harley Street is Harley-street, choose is chuse, show is shew consistently throughout. Characters use exclamation points at the drop if a hat! The result is the difference between going to Venice and staying at The Venetian in Las Vegas: the copy is more concentrated.

4. Footnotes
Norrell makes a wild claim about the magicians of the past and the bottom of the page tells you that, actually, he's mistaken about that. Strange mentions a spell in passing and your eyes go down to see when it was published, how many copies still exist and the life and times of the author. Alternatively you get whole passages that have no place in the main narrative - free short stories, in essence. Footnotes give what you're reading an air of authenticity, authority and importance.

3. Structure
Does it surprise you to hear that Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has a third section named after someone else entirely? The great thing about imposing a rigid structure early on is ignoring it and throwing the reader for a loop every hundred pages or so.

2. The Gentleman With The Thistle-down Hair
A wicked, wicked man from Faerie. I'd guessed the mystery involving him by page 600 and I like books that make me feel clever. Was it obvious to you too? It was certainly RIGHT.

1. Humour

"My chief problem," explained Lord Castlereagh, "is finding men for the Army - a quite impossible task, I assure you. But I have my eye on Lincolnshire; I am told that the pigs in Lincolnshire are particularly fine and by eating them the population becomes stout and strong. Now what would suit me best would be a general spell cast over Lincolnshire so that three or four thousand young men would all at once be filled with a lively desire to become soldiers and fight the French. Would your friend know of such a spell, Sir Walter, do you think?"

On the book's website Neil Gaiman says he thinks it's better than Tolkien. (Check out The Duke Of Wellington Misplaces His Horse too.) Are you reading it yet? Why not? And what should I read next?