I do not understand what you wants to, formulates you gladly on something else ways.

Wednesday 1 June 2005

I’m listening to a Dutch Classic Cock station on a tinny AM radio and running a sweep with my imaginary friend on how soon until they play “We Built This City” so my judgement may be slightly impaired at the moment but, contrary to some people, I love Ikea.
Not as in “I love Big Brother“, or even “I love Big Brother“, but truly, honestly, genuinely love it: from its cheap, unobtrusive shelves for my books and records, to the $2.50 breakfast that makes the resident chef cry when he’s overrun with pikey students and backpackers. I know some people get the collywobbles and bitch about about the place, but they always end up coming back for more.
Now, my love for Ikea has a face, and a name: Anna. We’ve had some great conversations:

If your Swedish is not up to scratch, she speaks English too, but only on the American Ikea website. I don’t know why she doesn’t appear on the Australian website: perhaps that’s a reflection on the respective qualities of service you can expect in each country. Better still, American Anna has been given a box with extra headroom to live in, which gives the tantalising suggestion that if you ask the right question she will start jumping up and down.
I started searching Ikea homepages for other countries in hope of meeting exotic Annas around the world, particularly to see if the Saudia Arabian incarnation was wearing a burqa, but no luck.
But then, I was going to introduce my new best friend Anna to a colleague in London, and got a disturbing surprise:

What the hell happened to the real Anna? British Ikea gives you advice about life, love, and chipboard furniture through an Essex girl. Luckily, original flavour Anna is alive and well in Sweden and/or the States, but why this different look just for Britain? Are they trying to test us with some sort of Paula Wilcox/Sally Thomsett judgement-of-Paris dilemma? Contrary to appearances, British Anna is as reluctant to give out her phone number as Swedish Anna.

The first London pilgrimage: Ezra Pound

Tuesday 31 May 2005


This is Christine. She lives in Ezra Pound’s house. Well, it wasn’t his house exactly but he did live there for five years, on the first floor, according to Christine. She happened to be popping down to the shops at the time I was photographing her house and asked if I was a Pound fan.
I don’t care much about biography, particularly when it comes to “understanding” or learning more about writers or composers I’m interested in. It’s always the work I want to find out more about, not how the person who made it was living at the time. The one exception I’ve made is for Ezra Pound, my favourite poet. Yes, I know he was a mad, fascist anti-Semite, but he’s also a revolutionary, beautiful and fascinating writer (although some of that fascination comes from the writing’s frequent difficulty and wildly variable quality), and just about everyone writing over the past century has been influenced by him to some extent, whether they like it or not.
I was compelled to read Pound biographies because appreciating his work becomes inextricable from understanding his political and economic opinions, bizarre and repugnant as they often are. Untangling the issues of what he did or did not do, and how and why he did them, becomes essential when arguing with people who think he’s an unintelligible Nazi loony.
I remembered from one biography that Pound spent many of his years in London at 10 Kensington Church Walk, hanging out with an esoteric bunch: T.S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, Hilda Doolittle, Rabindranath Tagore, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Ford Madox Ford, Robert Frost, and D.H. Lawrence (the last sleeping on his floor from time to time). One sunny afternoon I went over to Kensington to find the spot. This has been made easier because just last year a blue plaque was unveiled to commemorate his residence. The lingering controversy about him can be seen in the amount of time it took to get this official recognition – English Heritage has refused previous applications.
During his life and for the 33 years since, Pound has had the additional unfortunate tendency to be a crank magnet, so I was worried the plaque may be defaced or surrounded by graffiti about social credit. But no, just a quiet courtyard off a quiet walk behind the church (whose bells Pound complained about to the vicar, in an angry letter written in Latin).
Christine very kindly postponed her shopping to invite me in for a cup of tea and to look through the photographs of the unveiling ceremony. She said she had people stopping by every now and then, and were no bother: she rather enjoyed the attention. The committee from English Heritage gave her a bouquet, in case you’re wondering what’s in it for you if your house scores a plaque. We then turned to photographs of her cat, and her family living in the USA and Sydney.
Now I’ll have to get hold of a copy of Julian Rios’ novel Poundemonium, and go on a homage to a homage.
If you want to know what I’ve been reading, Humphrey Carpenter’s A Serious Character is the most detailed and dispassionate Pound biography currently available. The other books commonly found suffer from being written while Pound was alive and the author having an axe to grind, for or against the subject. Even Carpenter’s book is badly flawed by his evident dislike for Pound, and his inability or unwillingness to explain what his life amounted to. The Wikipedia entry is a pretty good summary but I’m getting worked up again now so I’m tempted to send in corrections on some small but niggling points.

Adventures Close To Home

Friday 27 May 2005

Another item I can cross off my list of things I never thought I’d ever do: jumping onto the back of a double-decker bus between stops. They were designed for this, but conductors these days don’t seem to be happy when you actually do it. In all likelihood they’re never happy but I don’t intend to stand around them for long to find out.
Most of these buses are gone now, replaced by boring new buses with lower insurance premiums and no conductors: the few remaining ones will be gone in the next few months. I intend to ride them as much as possible, even though they go only to horrible, out-of-the-way places like Hackney.
The photo below is taken from the front top window of one of the old Routemaster buses, showing another old Routemaster bus; proving the rule that you wait and wait and two old buses come along at once. For your convenience, a guide to this complicated piece of machinery is attached.

1. All the travel guides agree: the best way to see London is through a filthy, filthy bus window.
2. Ad for crappy musical you’ve already been taken to see against your will, with the same cast of nonentities as in the provincial touring production you once endured. (It’s this or We Will Rock You.)
3. Conductor in a fluorescent netball vest who yells at you when you get on between stops.
4. Male virility snake-oil ad, sadly not endorsed by a C-list celebrity so I cannot calibrate the British equivalent of Ian Turpie, Tim Webster, or Ugly Dave Gray.
5. The legendary open platform at the rear. If it doesn’t kill you, the conductor lurking inside will.

Don’t forget Paradise Alley: he starred in, wrote, directed, and sang the theme song for that one

Wednesday 25 May 2005

Movie fans, literature fans, it’s time to get Big Kev excited: shooting starts in September for a film biography of Edgar Allan Poe, written and directed by Sylvester Stallone.
The Guardian gives a fair and impartial report:
Unfortunately for posterity, Stallone will not play Poe.

“Today I had earplugs in, and the sound was wonderful!” Eurovision wrap, part 2

Monday 23 May 2005

The rest of Eurovision 2005: click here for part one. Quotes, including the fine example above from the Belgian contestant after rehearsal, are from the performers themselves, taken from the official website. Surprisingly, Belgium didn’t make it to the final.
Serbia & Montenegro
“We have spent the last six months preparing for this. It feels great to be here. Vote for us. We are the best!”

More drums! A boy band! With six boys. Being at war with all their neighbours throughout the nineties made them take their eye off the ball when it comes to churning out identikit pop music. Two sets of drums, big ugly brown tympani which one guy is left pounding away on up the back for most of the song. The surplus boy is evidently the autistic brother of one of the band members, or else the token Montenegran. This is appalling, but I can’t help admire their thriftiness in buying one suit each and then swapping around pants and jackets to look like they have a whole wardrobe of mix’n’match.
Denmark
“Everyone can be a singer. Obviously some people are better than others, but the main thing is to enjoy it – it doesn’t really matter if you make a good sound. It helps if you have a good bathroom though.”

Scarily enthusiastic redhead chap who looks like he’s either joined one of the more disturbing cults or is about to address an Amway convention; he has what can only be described as a shit-sucking smirk plastered over his gob from start to finish. Surprisingly, we’re told he wanted to teach music in a primary school but they wouldn’t let him. The mind boggles. For his backing group he has the world’s oldest boy band dressed like El Lissitsky’s idea of what gay cowboys look like. Hey, more black and red!
Sweden
“How can you sing about a town that you’ve never been to? So I went. But I didn’t see Céline Dion.”

A man dressed like George Michael dressed like Fonzie sings a song I cannot remember but seemed to think wasn’t too bad at the time, considering, while backed by the four surviving Solid Gold Dancers who are all members of the Kill Bill Fan Club. Of course everyone was hoping they’d whip out the samurai swords and do a number on him at the end but instead they handed him a stick, which he then leaned on because he was getting a bit fagged. Or they’d forgotten to bring out the oil drum he was going to hit it with. You may have noticed I’m not saying much about the songs themselves, because by this stage I was very much the worse for drink.
FormerYugoslavRepublicofMacedonia(ExceptinMtGambierCheckLocalGuides)
“Eurovision is very big in the former Yugoslavia. There is competition among the countries but they support each other. It’s not a conspiracy, though.”

Now this I remember. Australian readers: next summer all the bogan girls will be dressed like the chicks dancing around in this one. All the cheapo shops in London are pushing this flouncy peasanty print crap for summer. The other highlight in this one was the blokes in the background, especially the one on the right. Seriously, that was Senator Bob Brown up there. And he was showing all the dynamism and vivacity as we’ve come to expect from him. The guys are dressed like two bogans at Jooce on a Friday night, and dancing like it: chambray shirts and shuffling to and fro. While guy on the left is pumping his fist in the air Senator Bob lets his hand hang limply in mid air: he does so not want to be here! Some half-arsed and apologetic zorba-ing ensues. And of course there’s a guy banging on drums, some big ugly brown tympani they stole off the autistic Montenegran backstage. Seriously, they were exactly the same drums.
Ukraine
“People in Europe who don’t know Ukrainian still enjoying the song because it has a simple rhythm and melody. People enjoy its wholesome energy.”

Mlle Fifi: This is like that song off that Beastie Boys album.
Me: Which one?
Mlle Fifi: The one that sucked.
Everyone’s been betting that Ukraine won’t try to win again because they can’t afford to host the contest two years running. They play up to the home crowd by bunging on the theme song of the Orange Revolution, complete with Attila the Stockbroker rapping over some beats and guitar. You feel slightly ashamed when you say that as nu-metal hip-hop goes it’s not bad for a bunch of Ukranians, but at least you don’t have to sit through it with an embarrassed, fixed grin like Prince William having to spend his birthday listening to the Poet Laureate attempting to freestyle. So, I’m conflicted: was it a worthy gesture combined with a cynical attempt to blow the contest, or did they really think the rest of Europe really does give slightly more than a rat’s arse about what happens in Kiev? Hey, it’s Green Jelly!
Germany
“Although I hurt myself a bit, I’ll keep on jumping around.”

Speaking of not being able to afford hosting next year, it helps to understand Germany’s entry by remembering that they’re already hosting the World Cup finals next year. Take the self-styled ‘rock chick’ from your local breed of Pop Idol, put her in a bikini, have her sing a song almost identical to 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up” (which is itself almost identical to “Don’t Worry Be Happy”), then have her denote emotion through tuneless bellowing, and voila: no need to trouble yourself planning a Eurovison in your country until at least 2007!
Croatia
“He’s escaped from a mental hospital. They don’t even know that he’s here. We just keep giving him his medication.”

AAAAAAAAGGHHH RUN FOR THE HILLS, IT’S CHRIS DE BURGH!! He’s working the stage like Denis Walter on the Midday Show hoping to pull some hot granny action when they’re off-air. And because Eurovision is a fever dream from which I shall never wake, there is a mad drummer who does his own choreography: namely, at the end of the song he stands on his head. Because tonight he’s playing wingman to granny-pulling Chris De Burgh. Expect him and that Moldovan crone to be all over New Idea real soon.
Greece
“I think I’m a woman now; not a girl.”

Safe and strong, the sort of thing that steamrolls the competition at Eurovision. At least they actually hired a choreographer so they didn’t shamble around on stage at random like all the others; no Norman Gunston ‘expressive’ hand gestures here! (There were two singers who did the fingers-down-the-cheek move when they sang about crying. I forget who, but I pegging Albania and Israel.) Better still, they zorba like they mean it dammit, and they pull out two of the best Euro-batshit manoeuvres of the night: a Busby Berkeley-style aerial-view number ‘1’, and (in the best appropriation of Turkish entrants yet) the chick standing on a guy’s back while pulling some strings out of his arse and playing them like a cello. Best of all, she makes that last move look almost normal! The singer chick manages to look much hotter than she probably really is, and more or less keeps it together for the whole song, which is more than many of the acts have managed tonight. Winner: all that’s missing is the Bucks Fizz move.
Russia
“‘America’ just rhymes with ‘little Erica’, so it’s just a lyric.”

Complete with cheap wig and plastic mac with nothing underneath, one of Russia’s crackwhores is rescued from working the streets in Rotterdam and given a second chance at life. If she wins Eurovision glory for the mother country she will get back her passport and see the people-smuggler who tricked her into indentured servitude brought to justice. But there are many obstacles in her way: an inability to sing and a tuneless dirge of a song which, despite being one of the few tonight written in english by someone who actually speaks the language, consists mostly of the words “Nobody hurt no-one” droned over and over. If she can just sing a little louder maybe, just maybe she can triumph! Louder still now, and hold your hand up to your ear to make sure your wig doesn’t slip off when you tilt your head back for that high note…
Bosnia & Herzegovina
“My father owns a vineyard, and if we win my father will make a special wine for you all to enjoy when you come to Bosnia & Herzegovina next year!”

Fake Abba, mostly Waterloo (another Eurovision winner, are you starting to see a pattern here?) Everyone picks it as fake Abba. Newborn babies turn their heads towards the telly and sniff, “Hmmph, they’re doing fake Abba.” It’s so blatantly, shamelessly fake Abba soliciting your approval that no-one will want to vote for it; everyone’s just gonna bust out their old Abba records one more time. So no Bosnian plonk for you! I hate Abba. Never liked them. If you liked Abba at my school you were a girl.
Switzerland
‘Cool Vibes’ is a song about a tiger.

The canny Swiss have pulled a Fine Cotton and hired mercenary Estonians Vanilla Ninja in a naked attempt to harvest some votes from the plethora of newly-minted, busted-arse Baltic states. Vanilla Ninja are four hot-enough chicks, brave enough to wear white after last year’s snowblinding fiasco, who rock as hard as their name i.e. slightly. They’re a ‘rock’ act who doubtlessly list Redd Kross and Josie and the Pussycats as their big influences. Despite being a band none of them play drums, which on any other night would seem like a cop-out but tonight is a refreshing twist. So it’s a good thing.
Latvia
“We think some performances can be a bit ridiculous.”

Two blond kids who didn’t get the memo that white suits are so 2004. They sit up on stools strumming their little guitars like that chick in Vanilla Ninja, desperately trying to imitate those two Danish blokes who won in 2000 with their anthem to Australian beach volleyball champs Kerry Pottharst and Natalie Cook, only with added teen appeal and without the tune. Because they’re the only Baltic country left in the comp they know they have a lock on the votes from the myriad of tinpot ex-soviets strewn around their borders, so they get cocky and do a dance routine they choreographed all by themselves. Namely, they stand up and walk towards the crowd, doing Norman Gunston-style hand gestures to go with the lyrics. This is a bad idea, if only because it shows that the Latvian on the left is really, really short. Like, that singing duo from Popstars Live last year, which you probably never watched.
France
“In France, we want every country to be made to sing in its native language. It makes it more interesting. Last year, we had 24 countries in a row singing in English, and so songs in French have no chance.”

A typically French attitude, that competition results can be legislated. This is a wonderfully nutzoid idea, considering that the UK is about the only country which could legitimately enter a song sung in English and they come near-last year after year. Besides, the Latvians could come out with their hands stuck in their armpits and make fart noises for three minutes and still nearly carry it off with 12 points each from every 20-acre backwater east of the Dnieper. If you really want a fighting chance of winning Eurovision, have a civil war so you break up into lots of little countries that all vote for each other, duh!
What the French really meant to say was, “We want every country to suck as hard as we do.” Which is: hard. This was the country that last year entered a midget in a white tuxedo timidly serenading a mime on stilts. I honestly doubt you can pin the failure of that one on language. And this year we had another fiasco: sleeveless chanteuse and backup boys giving us the San Remo moves in spades. The stage is awash with flashing armpits as everyone tries to make up their own dance moves on the spot without breaking up their clusterfuck. The song is atrocious and by the end the singer is going armpit-happy and is visibly struggling. It’s not because you sing in French that no-one ever votes for you, it’s because you make a deal out of refusing to sing in anything else, and want to tell everyone else what language to sing in. And because your music sucks.
The voting
Special mention must go to the Amazing Klitschko Brothers, special celebrity guests who lit up the stage with all the flair, panache, and media savvy of a couple of footballers brought onto the set of Hey Hey It’s Saturday in the 1970s. The sight of Ruslana attempting conversation with a Klitschko by unsuccessfully reading cue-cards spelled phonetically while holding a large golden horseshoe aloft was trainwreck television to live in the memory forever.
Of course everyone votes for their neighbours unless the neighbours are French. The only high points were the Ukranian announcer going the full Sandra Sully and having to start over the voting results twice – she must have been previously employed as a Russian electoral scrutineer or a sporting official – and the observation that the women from Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria etc were all ferociously blonde, while the Swedes and Danes were proudly brunette.
The best thing is seeing the performers getting really excited about it, like Cyprus honestly can’t believe they got 12 points from Greece like they do every year. It’s like they actually think it’s because they were any good. They suffer a strong lack of insight, which I expect is a prerequisite for entering this thing anyway. Can I stop now?

She Bangs the Drums: Eurovision review (part 1)

Sunday 22 May 2005

Thanks to the Eurovision drinking game I was too hung over on Sunday to write anything meaningful about the event until now. Other, more complete analyses can be found here, here, here and here. For what it’s worth, the cloudy impressions of the night from the bunker were as follows. Quotes are from the performers themselves, taken from the official website.
Hungary
“Unfortunately, musical education in Hungary isn’t as important as it should be.”

They wear black and some red: I’m predicting we’ll see lots of dark colours after last year’s Night Of The Long White Suits. Let’s see, it’s a fake Turkish sounding song, with lots of banging on drums like the winning Ukranian song last year. In the middle they zorba around for a while and try to make it look a bit like Riverdance too. Tonight’s theme will be cultural appropriation, specifically of imitating recent winners. Are we seeing the end of the Eurovision we know and love, with batshit-insane ideas coming at us left right and centre? We might be entering an era of bland homogeneity: this song is neither good nor bad, in either a good way or a bad way, and I fear we have seen the future of Eurovision.
UK
“Obviously after ‘Popstars: The Rivals’ I was gutted”

Wow, red outfits and fake Turkish gyrating: there’s thinking outside the box! Three minutes later and Laplanders huddled round their candle-powered TV are thinking “Geez, that Holly Valance thing is so over!”
Malta
“The rehearsal went alright. We tested the stage and we tested the shoes and both were fine.”

The first ballad of the night, sung by the Maltese answer to Casey Donovan; and of course the ballad means we’re in for the first Dramatic Key Change of the night. For the DKC she gets excited enough to throw her arms out and slowly wobble from side to side. My god, she has seriously scary talons! Luckily, the ballad was more of an old-school Jennifer Rush dirge than the Celine Dion psychic torture.
Romania
“I must admit that we are very disappointed.”

A bi-curious lady wearing high heels for the first time in her life totters unsteadily around the shiny glass stage-floor with her Iron Curtain boob job almost falling out of her silver bodice. She is joined by the Carpathian touring production of Stomp banging on oil drums. The song descends into a tuneless mess, not helped by the struggling singer, who spends the last minute or so with her back to the audience pretending to bang on an oil drum. It’s hard to sound convincingly passionate when you’re standing next to a guy with hubcaps strapped to his feet.
Norway
“It’s been five days since we last played a gig. Normally we do two a day. We usually have enough explosive equipment for a couple of armies which we use to blow up the stage.” If they could invite any other country to join the Eurovision Song Contest, it would be Australia. “Then AC/DC could come over.”

Sheer genius: who’d have thought Norwegians had both a dead-on grip of pop culture and a sense of the ridiculous? Every guilty-pleasure rock cliche thrown piled on top of each other, it almost makes up for David Lee Roth leaving Van Halen. The best thing to happen to Eurovision since Alf Poier pogoing around yapping about bunny rabbits and his website in 2003. Should win, but probably won’t because rock never does so well at Eurovision. Much better than The Darkness. Of course there is a DKC, and don’t you want to pump your fist in the air and shout along?
Turkey
“It’s a Turkish drum and it’s my favourite instrument. I love all forms of percussion – it’s like a heartbeat.” She and her band gave a demonstration of their drumming.

We’re told this is the third Turkish Eurovision entry written by this guy and as They Might Be Giants once sang, he’s got two songs in him. Still, let’s have them banging drums too, that’ll make ‘em stand out from the crowd! The performers are left twirling around aimlessly in traditional-looking clothes singing “Rimi Limi Ley” or something over and over again ad nauseam, and by the end it sounds like even they’re getting jack of it. Anyone willing to bet there’ll be a single fake Turkish song next year?
Moldova
“She’s now a big star in Moldova,” said Roman. So what are Grandma Boonika’s favourite memories of Eurovision? “We don’t really watch television in our village,” she said.

More chicks banging drums, dammit! Is Sheila E. a superstar in Eastern Europe and if so, has she just died? For a change, this Eurochick is about 110 years old and spends most of the song happily sitting in a rocking chair to one side of the stage, like Yoko Ono on Top of the Pops. Given all the drumming going on tonight it’s a bit of a disappointment that she actually stands up at the end and pretends to start banging while looking very pleased with herself, like those Bulgarian singers in the 1980s around the time their fifteen minutes were up. Everyone agrees the band looks like the Red Hot Chili Peppers after a night of exquisitely expensive drugs, and for novelty value they will rob votes from Norway’s righteous rock cheese gods, but they will forever be referred to as That Band With The Granny.
Albania
“We thought it was important to sing in English because we want people to understand it.”

More @&*#$ drumming! At least it’s a bloke this time: he hops around in cricles tapping his drum, then every now and then he puts it down, jumps in the air, stops to catch his breath for a bit then picks up the drum and starts over. That’s his big dance routine. Is there a Eurovision rule that everyone has to do their own choreography? Everyone zorbas around unconvincingly for a bit in the middle, then goes back to waving their fake violins. This is the first song of the night to use scarves, which worked so well for Turkey in 2003. Here, they do not. Stretching out and spinning multicoloured scarves around the stage is impressive; wrapping yourself up in one at the end is not.
Cyprus
“I’m sure we’ll surprise a few people.”

First Ricky Martin wannabe of the night. And the first white outfits of the night. At first you think you’re safe, until you notice some oil drums sitting up the back of the set. But you reassure yourself it’s OK because there’s nothing they can hit them with. Then they produce these big white stick things from nowhere and suddenly it’s clobbering time again! No wonder this sounds like “She Bangs” run through Babelfish. And they fake-zorba for a while, just to add an extra layer of varnish to this turd. At least Eurovision can still present wildly uncoordinated backing dancers.
Spain
Son de Sol are three sisters: Lola, Espe and Sole. They think that Lola is the most responsible one.

Three mad chicks from a TV spinoff of an Almodovar movie gyrate around singing their bosoms out. This unshakeably reminds me of the Globos and I keep expecting to see Bob Downe prance onstage shaking maracas. Or banging a drum. Instead their bouncer ambles up and grunts a few lines, then wanders around cluelessly for the rest of the song. It was all OK but not enough oomph to go off the way it should have. The best I can say is that despite wearing sleeveless dresses there was no San Remo moment.
Israel
“I have to admit, I am impressed with the professional behaviour of the director and the crew because they were really straight.”

This is the traditional boring-as-shit song they stick somewhere in the middle so you can go stock up on more booze. Apparently she was the runner up on last year’s Jewish Pop Idol, so no surprise it’s underwhelming. I’ll go out on a limb and guess there was a DKC.
I need another drink…

News Flash! (Of interest to low-level druggies only)

Friday 20 May 2005

I was so distracted by Basil Brush’s Boom-Booms the other day that I didn’t notice something very important: British supermarkets stock Sudafed on the shelves! Wheeeeeeeee! Why don’t the Lonely Planet guides mention this?
This has brightened my whole day. I was about to post a rant about the difficulties of opening a bank account in the UK: basically, you need to present your passport, birth certificate, parent’s birth certificates, a personal letter of introduction from your local MP or Peer, a photograph of yourself shaking hands with a player in a premiership league football team, evidence of your income, and evidence that you are a customer of good standing at another bank – which you must then renounce by burning all your other passbooks and bank cards in a bonfire verified by three independent witnesses. On the other hand, considering that these are the same requirements demanded by jumped-up shampoo salesmen in Australian pharmacies when you try to buy Sudafed, it’s a swings-and-roundabouts kind of deal.

Not quite narcissistic enough yet

Thursday 19 May 2005

Six months since its inception, a freshly updated and expanded list of People Or Things I Have Been Mistaken For, Or Allegedly Physically Resemble, In Increasing Order Of Ridiculousness.

More about British cooking, deduced from the smells and sounds from next door

Wednesday 18 May 2005

“Kids! Dinner’s burned! Come and get it!”
“I’ve burnt your favourite tonight, love.”
“Mmmmm, burned to perfection!”
“Honey, I’m afraid I’ll be late home from work tonight.”
“Yes dear, I’ll leave dinner burning in the oven for you.”
“Ah, nothing like coming home and putting your feet up in front of a nice, cosy fire blazing away in the saucepan.”
“That was a beautifully burned dinner, dear. Now I’m going to spend the next hour playing Towers of Hammurabi with all the pots and pans.”

The centres of tradition

Tuesday 17 May 2005


After arriving in London, it didn’t sink in that I was living in another country until I visited the Tate Gallery. It wasn’t the vast collection of art that did it, or even the view of St Paul’s from across the Thames. It was the cafe, which prominently offered up a bain-marie of baked beans for the punters to dine on. Moreover, I was surrounded by tablesful of punters actually noshing down on beans, all making yum-yum noises. Clearly, I was not in an Australian art gallery.
It’s not that I have a problem with British food: any place where tea is plentiful and they like putting bacon on top of everything is OK with me. However, I suspect that some of their eating habits have a lot to do with the Royal Family, and I’m not talking about the “by appointment” insignia on bottles of HP Sauce. I’m talking about tradition for the hell of it. In the same way that you can be wandering down the street minding your own business only to find yourself barrelling into the arse of a Royal Life Guard in full uniform, ceremonial sword extended, so too can you wander into the local supermarket and find oldies that haven’t been seen in a Coles New World for decades and were long decreed inedible. Mutton – yes! Gammon – yes! And while I was fondling the pickled pork I overheard a couple saying “Must get some kippers for breakfast tomorrow.”
The down side is occasionally finding a product like this:

But back to the Tate: I was going to talk about the actual art they had hanging on the walls, but every time I stepped up to admire a picture Matthew Bloody Collings sprung out of nowhere, with lighting, camera and soundman in tow. He’s that bloke who presented This Is Modern Art on the telly a while back:

He was filming some new TV program with the working title Every Single Frickin’ Picture in the Tate that Ben.H Specifically Wants to See in his inimitable style, namely by standing squarely in front of the work and blathering on about the baked beans he’d just eaten in the cafe.

Le Royaume-Uni: Nul Points

Monday 16 May 2005

One of the things I was looking forward to on the plane to London was that I could finally watch the Eurovision Song Contest the way God intended it: with Terry Wogan snarking over the top and futilely barracking for the UK. More to the point, the show would not be nearly ruined by some idiot at SBS interrupting with lame jokes, fake wogs and drag queens in some ill-starred attempt to add “local content”. It was all more or less worth passing up the chance to hear the MSO play Feldman’s Coptic Light.
Now I hear from The Supermercado Project that SBS has (once again) repented for its affront to European culture and is showing the BBC broadcast straight! I go halfway round the world to avoid that idiot they had blabbing over the top of everything last time – all for nothing!
The Eurovision forum on SBS’s website is mostly taken up with discussion about the TV feed*, with the majority expressing relief that no-one from SBS will be involved.
Supermercado has excellent wraps of the superb 2003 event, and the decidedly average 2004 contest. Let’s hope this year is another corker of international atrociousness.
At short notice I’ve pulled a few people together into the Bunker for Saturday night’s Eurovision Drinking Game:

Phase One: The Performances

The Key Change. Whenever the singers dramatically change key during the final chorus. Additional drink for every successive key change in the same song.
The Buck’s Fizz. Whenever a performer sheds a piece of clothing. Finish your drink if the clothing loss is obviously unintentional.
Is That English? Whenever someone notices that the singers have switched from their native language into English in an attempt to win more votes. Two drinks if they try to dodge the language issue by *intentionally* singing gibberish.
The San Remo. Any occurence of visible armpits and/or pointing.
The Fine Cotton. Any appearance by mercenary singers flown in to represent a foreign country. Two drinks if they’re Irish.
The Tatu. Finish your drink if the audience boos (on telly, not in the living room.)
Don’t Mention The War. Each time the German entrant sings something about everyone being happy.
Phase Two: The Voting
The Wardrobe Change. If the female host is wearing a different frock after the songs have finished. Two drinks if the male host has changed his suit.
The Hurry-Up. Every time the hosts have to talk over the announcer from each voting country to ask “Can we have your votes please?” (i.e. shut the fuck up already). Finish your drink if the announcer tries to deliver a personal message to a relative watching at home in Murmansk.
The Gimme. When Greece gives twelve points to Cyprus.
The Old Europe. When the UK gets null points from France.
The New Europe. When the Baltic states all vote for each other.
The Sympathy Vote. When anything sung in French gets a point and/or the last country without any points finally gets off the mark. A special toast to any country left with zero points at the end.
The Sandra Sully. Each time an announcer fucks up the voting results. Finish your drink if they get so confused they have to start over.
The Master of Suspense. Any time an announcer realises that the pause for suspense only works if they announce the twelve points and then the country that has won them, not the other way around. (This may not happen.)
The “Viktor, You Very Unattractive Fellow.” Two drinks if the hosts speak in rhyme and/or pretend to flirt with each other. Finish your drink if the flirting is serious.
The wildcards
The first person who asks why Israel is in it, or why Italy isn’t, finishes their drink.
A toast to the first person who expresses dismay when they realise how long the voting is going to take.
A toast to the person who gets so drunk you have to secretly call a cab and persuade them they ordered it when it arrives.
* UPDATE: SBS has taken the forum down, even though there’s still a link to it on their Eurovision page. They still have last year’s forum, which is almost entirely filled with dozens of posts protesting against SBS adding their own useless talent, amongst hundreds of posts by bickering Greeks and Macedonians. Guys, it’s a web page, not a soccer match.

Filler by Proxy XVII: a labour-saving device we should all get behind

Monday 16 May 2005

At last, someone’s putting in the effort to piss away their intellect on obsessively dissecting Nick Hornby’s egregious failures in cultural fortitude. Of course, many have done this before, but not on a regular basis: the London News Review presents a recurring column, urgently titled Stop Lying Hornby!
This is a new feature dedicated to telling Nick Hornby that he has to stop lying. It’s possible that he’s just accidentally wrong, but it seems improbable that anyone could persist in making so many egregiously false statements in that matey, trust-me manner just by chance.

Three columns so far and counting. How wonderful: someone to hate him so I don’t have to!

The London Review of Books personal ad of the month, May 2005

Saturday 14 May 2005

Has been withheld. Perhaps because it’s now all too close to home (figuratively and literally). Perhaps because this month’s crop isn’t that great. Or perhaps I don’t want youse rootrats muscling in on all the sweet, wealthy, menopausal action to be had in this town.

Let’s get this over with

Saturday 14 May 2005

I hope you have all enjoyed my month’s holiday as much as I have. Just joking! Of course, I don’t take holidays. Ever. In fact, I’ve been hard at work parlaying my modest investments into some serious capital, so I cd spin this thriving internet concern into one those hateful yet lucrative insta-bookoids that clog up the shelves by the cash registers at Dymocks. The perfect gift for an infrequently-visited relative or workmate you have no real connection with. A show on Foxtel, too, was not out of the question.
Unfortunately, I had a “misunderstanding” with my “business partners” over some supposedly “misappropriated” funds in “brown paper bags” and a “racehorse”. Like any bold, forward-looking Australian entrepreneur I have fled the country and moved to London. To be precise, a cosy and modestly-priced bunker in the small, sleepy suburb of Robson Green, NW2.

Within these walls my empire shall rise from the ashes.
Bookworms: the Penguin on my night-table is Milne’s Mr Pim Passes By. The bookmark is a small, creased photograph of Julie Dawn Kemp.

We Are All Winners

Thursday 14 April 2005

This is a great day. Boring Like a Drill is now the Number One Google result for the terms “Austrian Flame” and “Julie Dawn Kemp.” To celebrate this momentous occasion, I have awarded myself several prestigious internet awards for web excellence.
Thanks to NetGuide, Excite and Magellan for the 4-star ratings, and especially to Point for listing me amongst the top 5% of all web sites – what an honour! Without your poorly-conceived business models sending you tits-up during the dot-com boom I would have had to make up my own meaningless awards graphics.
But most of all, I’d like to thank you. Not ‘you’ the readers; firstly because, in all frankness, without you I still would have conquered this search engine summit; and secondly because I seriously doubt I have any readers, and suspect that comments left here were actually written by me when drunk. Rather, I mean the people who set up and run the Google bots and Blogger, because otherwise I’d have to communicate this important information in the old-fashioned way: by pissing it in large, crudely-formed block letters against a wall or other similarly flat surface.
Which reminds me: BLAD is also the Number One Google result for “Peter Phelps is Fat.”