How Bad is British Coffee?

Thursday 4 August 2005

Filler by Proxy XXII: Backstroke of the West

Monday 1 August 2005

A couple of years ago a friend of mine arrived home from China with a suitcase full of dodgy pirated DVDs. The prize specimen was a bootleg of The Fellowship of the Ring, with the artwork on the front cover doctored to persuade punters that the famous Tolkein adaptation starred Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – all wielding swords. The back cover featured screen grabs from a hardcore porno video, with a plot synopsis in gibberish (“Much confusion but enjoy the mutilation.”) and the credits for Black Hawk Down. The actual movie turned out to be some softcore French film from the 1970s, without dubbing or subtitles.
Thanks to the interweb you can savour the ineffable charm of East Asian counterfeiting without travelling all the way to the car boot sale taking place two blocks down. Flickr hosts a growing gallery of screen shots.
The hot ticket among cheap-arse VCD buyers these days is, of course, the new Star Wars movie. In particular, the Chinese edition with remarkably creative subtitles. Screen shots are collected for your enjoyment here and here.

You will be treated to dialogue that manages to improve upon George Lucas’ original script, learn of the Jedi Knights’ obsession with elephants, and gasp at the theological bombshell that Darth Vader is a Presbyterian. The wish power are together with you.

Thank god the train was late, or it would have been too close to fascist Italy for comfort

Sunday 31 July 2005

Someone called Roshan Doug gets to write in The Guardian about “what a train journey to Birmingham can tell us about Britain in the midst of terror”. Basically, it tells us that Britain doesn’t like Roshan Doug very much. Everyone avoids him for the entire journey.
Doug reckons it’s because he’s Asian (and a young man, and travelling alone, and carrying a bloody great rucksack). You may find this shocking, until you get to the end and find out that he’s also a poet in residence at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, so he’s probably the type of person you go out of your way to avoid sitting near on a train regardless of the circumstances. Particularly because he’s a poet whose contact is a Hotmail address called ‘erospoetica’.
The article ends with this profound insight:
As I looked back I saw armed officers with sniffer dogs and railway guards questioning mainly young Asian men about the validity of their journey and their identification. And I know it might seem naive to say this, but I couldn’t help likening that scene with something from Nazi Germany.
Other things that can be likened with something from Nazi Germany:
  • The customs desk in an airport international terminal.
  • Freeway construction.
  • Police evacuating your building when someone leaves a bag outside.
  • Bert Newton in The Producers.
  • Volkswagens.
  • Basil Fawlty goosestepping while holding a finger under his nose.
  • The decline of modern cabaret.
  • The nice Iranian lady next door whose first name gets transliterated as ‘Nazi’ by the gas company when they send her a bill.

Going Through the Motions: London Bombing Update

Saturday 30 July 2005

Everyone is getting fed up. Yesterday we had to stay in the building because someone left a bag lying around the railway station. The day before we were evacuated from the building because someone left a bag lying around the railway station. A friend of mine asked a policeman what everyone was doing standing around outside and he all but yelled at her, “Because someone left a bloody bag lying around the railway station!”
The police are getting really good at getting lots of people in and out of buildings. The bomb squad’s methods are state-of-the-art too: they told me yesterday they suspected the discarded bag was a bomb because “it felt heavy when we picked it up.”
So they’ve taken away what few bins they’d put back (for “bins”, read “transparent plastic bags”) in around the station a few years ago, “for security reasons.” I thought we were dealing with suicide bombers so I’m guessing MI5 has information that Al’Qaida Al-Qaeda the terrorists have recruited Oscar the Grouch, or else that this move is for show.
Despite all this, everyone’s still happy to leave black bin liners full of crap lying around on the pavements for days on end.
Around Euston I spotted another gaggle of police armed with clipboards accosting pedestrians. My heart sank as I assumed things had gotten so desperate that the Metropolitan Police had resorted to the tactics of the Socialist Alliance and were asking concerned citizens to Stop The Bombs – Sign The Petition, but it turned out they were asking if we had been out on the street “about this time last week.” I hadn’t, but luckily I didn’t panic and sprint into a Tube station like some people are prone to do.
Spare a thought for the bombings’ silent victims: the terrorists’ landlords. How do you let the houses whose previous tenants blew themselves up on public transport? Once the police have finished with them, that is.
“For an organisations [sic] that struggles to get any local press coverage, we have suddenly been approached by just about every national newspaper,” he added.

One positive side effect: if it weren’t for the bombs I would never have known that the Australian prime minister was in town, dominating the world stage in his usual inimtable manner.
1413: Prime Minister Tony Blair postpones a vist to a school in east London and a photo call with visiting Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, a spokesman says.

Can anyone tell me if he pretended to have a real reason to be here this time around, other than watch cricket?

Finally, I was going to make fun of the failed bomber who was photographed making his getaway waiting for a train at a Tube station, a few minutes after he’s brought the entire transport system to a standstill. But then they arrested him in Rome, when his mates didn’t make it further than Notting Hill, so I guess some suicide bombers put more thought into their escape plans than I’d credited.

The Henry Moore/Jeffrey Smart Container

Wednesday 27 July 2005


The cool kids have been doing it, but since Laura’s found some real work to get on with I am stepping forward to partly fill the gap.
Sadly, I don’t have time to write it up just now, so in the meantime enjoy a few choice photos of Henry Moore’s bronze Locking Piece (1968), on Millbank, just outside what is now Tate Britain. Remember, this is the site where Jeremy Bentham’s Millbank Prison once stood. Somewhere behind that wall is where prisoners boarded ships for transportation to Australia.
Across the river is Vauxhall, with the MI6 Building and St George’s Wharf on the riverfront.
Thanks to Marwood Shipping Container Hire, the scene resembled a Jeffrey Smart painting.

Well, at least it might stop them reading Dan Brown

Monday 25 July 2005

NOT THE FACE!! Another photo lifted from Annie Mole’s Tube blog: the first commuter on the London Underground spotted reading the new Harry Potter novel. Not a kid, of course. Sad bastard.
I really have to update my links over there 444 to add some stuff about London.

Twenty Views of the Gherkin

Sunday 24 July 2005

At last, I’ve got the Flickr account happening. It’s a small start, but for your enjoyment here are twenty views of London’s Swiss Re Tower.

“Dylan & Sleater Kinney & the Beach Boys & Jimmy Cliff & Sam Cooke & Bobby Bland & Joe Strummer; pretty much the whole history of recorded music.”

Sunday 24 July 2005

Are you ready to have your world turned upside-down? Nick Hornby likes Bruce Springsteen. So does Tony Blair. In fact, so do a whole bunch of middle-aged white guys. Don’t say you never learn anything from this blog.

If this expos√© isn’t mind-boggling enough, Springsteen has discovered Britpop, so in a few months don’t be surprised if your dad is suddenly only ten years behind the times. Thus spoiling your enjoyment of your favourite bands.

Also of note, Hornby’s taken to citing his own woozy opinions as an authoritative source in footnotes to back up his arguments, such as they are.

>I can’t wait until David Bowie releases another album so Hornby can write a column trying to convince himself it doesn’t suck. Then start arguing over it with his reflection in a bathroom mirror.

Never watched the show, but still…

Saturday 23 July 2005


I thought they just made this place up. Well, thought up an original name, anyway. Next thing someone’ll tell me St Trinian’s is real, too.
Great, now I’ve got that stupid bloody theme tune going through my head. The things I put myself through for this site.
UPDATE: The stupid bloody theme tune is actually titled “Chicken Man.” Which would explain why I always knew it as the “Birdwood Mill TV ad” music.

Russell Crowe, please get your band back together

Friday 22 July 2005

The Apocalypse approaches. Steven Seagal, renaissance man, has released his first CD, titled (I am not making this up) “Songs From The Crystal Cave”.
The set, which features guest appearances by Stevie Wonder, Lt. Stitchie*, and Lady Saw*, is already available in France and will be sold in Asia come September. The martial-arts master culls from a wide swath of musical influences on “Cave,” including blues, rock, pop, Jamaican dancehall and traditional Indian music.

All you music-lovers out there can curb your cravings until your very expensive imported disc arrives in the post by downloading MP3s from his website. You can also enjoy more photos of him playing a guitar than you can shake your dharma beads at.

You can buy the CD online though his website, along with his “Essential oils and his very own Energy Bar !” What, no pudding?

If you want an unbiased analysis of the Stevemeister’s warblings, head on over to his unofficial fansite, where you can also enjoy debates on “What Do You Think Is Seagal’s Best Direct-to-Video So Far?” and “YOUR selection for Steven Seagal’s best acting performance ( not fighting!)” with nominations such as this:
Seagal displayed pretty decent acting talents, particularly in the scene where he smashed things up in the science lab.

According to the Billboard article, a propos of apparently nothing:
Seagal has pledged $100,000 in order to diffuse a “high risk” Russian nuclear weapon.
I think he means ‘defuse’. Presumably by high risk it means that he has to cut the red wire with a pen knife seconds before it goes off, but not before having to punch out Morris Chestnut.
* No, me neither.

Yes, my parents are very disappointed in me. Thanks for asking.

Thursday 21 July 2005

This is what happens when you’re stuck on a tube train with a discarded copy of the freebie morning newspaper. You end up reading articles like “No one has emptied our bins for 15 years”, with quotes such as:
A couple have created a towering heap of 15 years’ rubbish next to their picturesque cottage – because the dustman will not come to collect it.
Council bosses refused to send lorries up the rough track to the Cale’s [sic] moorland home in the Yorkshire dales.
Mrs Cale, 65, who lives with her husband John [said]… “I am entitled to a back door service.”
“I’ve been complaining to the council that I haven’t had a man up my back passage for years. They keep telling me it’s a tight squeeze down there but with a bit of care and patience they’d be amazed what will fit in. When I was younger it was very different – I’d just stick out my can when the night man came around and he’d give it a proper seeing to. I would be a happy woman if I were getting it once a week, or even once a fortnight. But after 15 years without any action from the council I’m worried that if they do find someone who can get it up, he’ll be turned off by the smell.”

What’s with all this “we” stuff? (A poor excuse for a thinkpiece, but mercifully shorter.)

Thursday 21 July 2005

Two weeks ago we were getting bombed in London. One week ago we were asked for two minutes’ silence to remember, in case momentous events from the previous week had slipped our minds. Today someone did the reminding for us. I don’t know if we were lucky to have avoided death and destruction today, or unlucky to have copped it on the 7th.
I’ve been asked if the possibility of attacks like this happening had crossed my mind when I decided to move to London. In fact, I had considered the risk of coming to grief on London public transport, but my fears were based on self-inflicted mayhem rather than terrorists.
People keep talking about the meticulous planning that went into the bomb attacks earlier this month, but I’ve only heard one pundit on the radio so far asking what I’ve been wondering: just how organised do you have to be to turn up at a railway station with three of your mates at the same time? All travelling down together from Leeds in the same car doesn’t exactly sound like a logistical nightmare.
In other words, contrary to what we may sometimes think, these are not criminal masterminds directed by a nehru-jacketed evil genius listening to classical music in his well-appointed underground lair.
Apparently, American hacks with deadlines have been banging on about the “preternatural calm and a long-considered certainty” evinced by Londoners, in contrast to New Yorkers in the World Trade Centre attacks; although I don’t remember seeing any Manhattanites on TV running around in circles waving their hands in the air. On the other hand, no-one has seemed to notice that, unlike the Americans, British TV did not respond to tragedy by showing lots of waving flags and playing patriotic music.
There has also been a notable absence of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings accompanying TV news montages, which is refreshing.

Filler by Proxy XXI: Utilitarians in the News

Tuesday 19 July 2005

A legitimate news source speculates on the burgeoning corrections industry, takes time out to bait Jeremy Bentham.

“Death we expect, but all we get is life.”

Monday 18 July 2005

Perhaps finally, after 15 years of bitter argument, Pixies fans around the world can unite in agreement about which album they hate the most.

Pausing for reflection… zzzz…

Friday 15 July 2005

Living conditions in the bunker have been spartan, but are slowly improving. I am not sure this is entirely a good thing. The monastic lifestyle has allowed me to focus my life on more spiritual matters, but moreover it helps to deter kibitzing houseguests. The instant you get digs in London, every unexpatriated Australian – and even some particularly shameless New Zealanders – will suddenly claim an eternal bond of Mateship. Before you know it, your peaceful sanctuary starts to resemble throwing out time at the Walkabout Pub.
The last visitors to the bunker were a couple of girls from Guernsey. I had entertained notions of showing them around the Tate Modern or the stuffed corpse of Jeremy Bentham, but it turned out that their idea of a hot time in London was going to Pizza Hut and then riding the escalators at the tube station – all the big city things they can’t get at home. Worse still, they’d look to me to bail them out when shopkeepers refused to accept their dinky little local ¬£1 notes with cows and pictures of Bergerac on them.
On the up side, I have been able to take advantage of other people’s hospitality on weekend trips out of London. I’ve been meaning to share with you all some of the highlights, but my internet service has been spotty lately and won’t be sorted out until sometime next week. So you’ll have to wait until then, when I’m back from my jaunt to Bristol and I get my interminable series of holiday snaps uploaded onto Flickr.
This seems a good time to mention that this blog is one year old. Sure, the first post is dated sometime in August, but I actually set it up in July last year and then couldn’t be arsed posting anything to it for a few weeks; and so the tone was set for the twelve months’ since of haltingly updated posts about mundane trivialities.
Coming soon: I’ll finally get around to catching up on that played-out music meme. Maybe I’ll also update the links section so you’ll have something good to read.