Chicken Curry Rules

I believe Shipla Shetty winning Big Brother wasn't a fix because I predicted the order of finalists three through six and wavered on the top two all night. But the live audience didn't consult me and heckled the result. There were no Brits in the top three. Dirk placed third.

Shilpa broke her trademark calm by proclaiming how much she loved chicken curry as she walked from the house to the studio. But before I could vote this the Surreal Moment Of The Year So Far I realised she was reading a fan sign held by an out-of-shot member of the public. Now I want Chicken Curry Rules on a t-shirt.

Davina McCall opened the live final with "it's only a game show" direct-to-camera, in response to the media furore over this series. She went on to milk the subject dry anyway. The racists were conspicuously absent from the after-show press conferences and parties. Their publicists went into Damage Control Mode and issued typical statements of non-culpability instead. One agent sadly died of a heart attack. Danielle Lloyd's Wikipedia page is closed for editing following what the site calls "vandalism" to her article: when I read it last week her full name was cited as Danielle Slutty Lloyd.

It's been a circus, and circuses are fun. But Ford will not be watching or writing about the next series. Trust me on this.


Satan's Cheeseboard

I was eating my £4.95 corporate bagel when I glanced down at the paper it was wrapped in, which was covered in bold red type. But instead of the usual

way Subway Subway Subway Subway Subway Sub
Subway Subway Subway Subway Subway Subway
ay Subway Subway Subway Subway Subway Subw
ubway Subway Subway Subway Subway Subway S
I got

ette Flaming Nosebag Christ On A Bike Fish Mittens Je
sus Wept Cor Blimey Satan's Cheeseboard Y-Fronts Merk
in Chipfat Chalfont-St-Giles Jesus Wept Merlin's Shag
pile Jean De Florette Flaming Nosebag Christ On A Bik
Apparently you can't make bagels all day without burning your fingertips a few times and the folks at Oi! Bagel don't like to "real swear" in front of their customers. Well, a double dumb-ass on me!


Don't Suffer In Silence

Greetings from London Toy Fair! Next week I'm off to Nuremberg for more of the same in a different language. Right now I want to tell you about when I ventured into London proper for a beer with Shig last night.

I was trying to read The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier And Clay by Michael Chabon on the train but some young punk decided to play music on his phone. People were bothered but no-one said a word. I was this close to bragging how my phone came with free headphones but I wondered if other men died for less and that's why nobody was speaking up. Apparently this happens all this time in the capital.

That night there was banging in the hotel corridor. I tried the old pillow-on-the-head but it didn't help. A guy had somehow locked himself out of his room in only his underwear and was trying to wake his drunk friend inside rather than go and get a key. I called the receptionist to come upstairs instead. But, in order to hide my own nakedness, I'd poked my head out around the door frame and caught it between a high shelf and the door itself on the way. It ricocheted as I pulled back from each knock and knocked my head again on the opposite surface. If it had happened to someone else and I'd been watching, it would have been funny.


On All Fours

Big Brother is big business. Channel 4 has a highlights show daily, three discussion shows based on developments in the house and also Diary Room Uncut. Digital cousin E4 repeats many of the Channel 4 shows plus fills gaps in its own programming with "live" "action" as it happens (though they cut away or mute the sound if it gets too interesting so you have to watch the main show to get anything coherent). Factor in the surrounding advertising, sponsorship and premium rate call lines and its little wonder they started paying celebrities to take part when they ran out of has-beens who were willing to do it solely for the exposure.

I confess I've been watching far too much of Celebrity Big Brother 5. This is very unlike me! It started innocently enough with a cup of tea round Phil's on the opening night. We talked shit about the contestants as they entered the house because reality television is crap and the people who go on it are morons who deserve everything they get. Right? Then they revealed the final contestant and my interest was sealed: Dirk Benedict from The A-Team and the original Battlestar Galactica!

(If you're overseas or don't own a television or have been living underwater all month then this would be a good time to skim the show's Wikipedia page for the lowdown on who's in it and the whole racism controversy.)

Donny entered the house drunk out of his tiny mind and, upon meeting Face Man, exclaimed, "It's Dirk fucking Benedict!"

Dirk replied, "I seldom use my middle name." He's since shown himself to be above the inanity of the younger housemates yet no humourless old sow either. He was the bookie's favourite to win at first but that seems unlikely now he's had a couple of strops.

There will be mighty suspicion of result fixing if Shilpa Shetty wins because, in the outside world, the pressure is on Channel 4 to make amends for broadcasting alleged racist behaviour and not intervening. For my money, Jade Goody (a.k.a. The Accused) is insecure, uncultured, unhinged, intolerant and ill-mannered but she's far too ignorant to be what the meeja have made her out to be. She says "racial" when she means "racist", for goodness' sake! I don't think she intends anything. In all seriousness, there are two Americans, a Brazilian, an Indian and a Welshy on the show and Jade only fought with one of them - the beautiful, intelligent, dignified one - which leads me to conclude it was more about jealousy than anything else.

Jo and Danielle spouted far worse "racialisms" only Shilpa didn't hear them. Life IS far from normal on Big Brother but you don't suddenly turn into a close-minded bitch if you weren't one to begin with. They too deserve a career funeral like the one Jade got on Friday when they re-enter polite society. (The irony of somebody who made their name on a game show ruining their reputation on the same show has escaped nobody.)

I like the live show on when I work from home, for the background noise. There's noise in the office but it's often someone asking me to do something and I'm not allowed to ignore them.

For the record, either Shilpa or Jermaine Jackson will be victorious.


The Sound Of Silents

Bristol played host to its third silent comedy festival this weekend and I thought it would be a nice treat to take my father to a show. Paul Merton compèred three old American films and a composer called Neil Brand played new scores for each of them.

Harold Lloyd does little for me but there's a great sequence in Get Out And Get Under where he drives over a bump in the road and his case falls out of the car. He gets out to retrieve it and then has to catch up with the driver-less still-moving vehicle before it crashes! I watched a lot of Laurel and Hardy when I was younger so there was nostalgia value in this for me as well as for Pops. Apparently a third of their catalogue is silent, and they lasted all the way to colour.

I'd never seen Buster Keaton's work before, however, so I viewed Steamboat Bill Jr. with fresh eyes. The jokes stood up well after 79 years, especially the one where he clumsily knocks a life preserver over the side of a boat... and it sinks out of sight. He's fearlessly physical and his deadpan face kills me. No sound, no colour, no tits, no explosions: with luck, his films will be cheap as chips on eBay.


Welcome To The O.C.

Time once again to display my obsessive compulsive tendencies with a musical compilation. Help yourself to Part I and Part II in mp3 fomat.

Choosing twenty of the best recent tracks is easy. Agonizing over the running order, as if there was one - and only one - completely correct way for this particular bunch of songs to sequence together, is the time-consuming part for me. Par example, the first few have little in common on the face of it but I decided that they shared some prominent percussion and a kind of Western feel, so they segue. Beck's Black Tambourine gets things shaking next and we head off into silly chart territory for a while before three contemporary songstresses bring the mood back down again. Et cetera! I am not making this up.

Sometimes a track is so over-the-top as to be impossible to follow. Those go last. This time it's Mr Blue Sky - which, incidentally, would have broken the Top 40 singles chart after being featured in Doctor Who last summer if downloads were included then as they are now.


The doctor gave me some medicine and it's working damned well but one of the side effects is bruxism. (Another side effect is learning new words.)

I was grinding my teeth and not even realizing when I read that. I must have been grinding in my sleep too because, when I looked in the mirror this morning, my tongue was dented around the edges like a 20-sided coin. As side effects go, it's hardly debilitating. But I don't want strangers to think I'm on amphetamines.

In my early thirties my bathroom cabinet contains paracetamol, vitamin C, St. John's Wort, ginkgo biloba and citalopram. I rattle when I run! Last week I almost wrote about the thing in my left nostril that wouldn't come out. But I decided it was gross and no-one would want to read about it.



"That's all from Newsnight tonight. It's all available again on the website along with our editor's pathetic pleas for you to send us your bits of home movies and the like so we can become the B.B.C.'s version of Animals Do The Funniest Things. Good night."

- Presenter Jeremy Paxman in a no-nonsense mood on Newsnight (2006). A compilation of his grouchiest weather reports lives here.


Bloody New Year

Rather than dump six new articles here on 2007-1-17, a day so wholly unremarkable that I actually found time to blog, I'll spread them over the first weeks of the year. Like diary entries from when these things happened. Ooh, am I posting from the future now? No, I'm just a big fat charlatan.

New Year's Eve is so over-rated: the pressure is on to have the best time of your life (and you'll never have the best time of your life if you're waiting for it to happen). Alice and I, no longer dating, decided to celebrate together anyway. We went to a pub in her neighbourhood and ignored the karaoke in the corner. Friends joined us. London topped Sydney at fireworks on the telly. It was "beer and skittles" all round... until midnight.

The less said about what happened next the better. Alice hurt my feelings and made me feel unwelcome at the after-pub party (at which, adding insult to injury, the only booze available was what I'd brought with me). It wasn't the first time alcohol and Irish rage have mixed to leave me wondering what the hell is going on, but I struggle to recall having a worse time at a time when I was supposed to be having a good time. Poor me!

But I didn't come out of retirement to bitch and moan - far from it. Like a bad dress rehearsal followed by a great opening night, Alice and I are getting along better now than we did before. Does that seem strange? It's so easy to walk away from a messy situation and I was secretly impressed at her for doing quite the opposite in the days that followed. On Friday we had a good ol' fashioned heart-to-heart of the kind we somehow never had when I was her boyfriend. Then, on Saturday, we re-celebrated New Year on a bar crawl, roping in two bemused couples from the next table in Baroque to toast with us at midnight.

So in the end I had a fantastic night and nobody needs to open a can of spam-bots on my ex-girlfriend's website after all. She'd only thank me for the extra traffic anyway, although traffic ain't been a problem since USA Today linked it last week. (Click "shocked and upset" in the last paragraph and prepare for some disturbing subject matter.)