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July 10th 2010
I have returned from Yorkshire & Derbyshire, having been Youth Hostelling with Simon for a week. Other than the many dozens of school parties we encountered, a good time was had by all. We even stopped by Molineux on the way. When my camera has regained its battery, I shall present you with some pictures, most likely.
Before that joyous occasion, let me give you prior warning that my next exam results come out on Thursday. Either I'll be popping the champagne (er... ginger beer), or you'll be needing to hide by belt & shoelaces.
In other news, you'll be pleased to hear that I made 6 mix CDs for our Youth Hostelling trip, and the song listings were as follows:

We Built this City - Starship
Five Years - David Bowie
Crazy - Aerosmith
Don't Stop Believin' - Journey
What Car - Cliff Richard
(Something Inside) So Strong - Labi Siffre
The Boys are Back in Town - Thin Lizzy
Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
Girl You'll be a Woman Soon - Cliff Richard
Real Good Looking Boy - The Who
Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin
For Once in My Life - Stevie Wonder
Brownsville Girl - Bob Dylan
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover - Paul Simon
Up the Junction - Squeeze
Romeo and Juliet - Dire Straits

The World is Not Enough - Garbage
I Can't Help Myself - The Four Tops
Ballad of a Thin Man - Bob Dylan
Apple Scruffs - George Harrison
I Me Mine - The Beatles
Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
Long As I Can See the Light - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Cold as Ice - Foreigner
Jumpin' East of Java - Brian Setzer Orchestra
Vienna - Billy Joel
Dead Ringer for Love - Meat Loaf & Cher
Song 2 - Blur
Hotel California - Eagles
California Girls - The Beach Boys
Motorcycle Emptiness - Manic Street Preachers
Earth Song - Michael Jackson
Livin' on a Prayer - Bon Jovi
A Little Respect - Erasure
I Wish I Were Blind - Bruce Springsteen
Oliver's Army - Elvis Costello

Mr. Jones - Counting Crows
We Will Rock You - Queen
Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits
Maybe I'm Amazed - Paul McCartney
We Don't Talk Anymore - Cliff Richard
Penny Lane - The Beatles
Massachusetts - The Bee Gees
Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da - The Beatles
Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me - Elton John
Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
You're So Vain - Carly Simon
A Man for All Seasons - Robbie Williams
Long Road Out of Eden - Eagles
Breakfast in America - Supertramp
Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
The Passenger - Iggy Pop

Hurricane - Bob Dylan
Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns 'N' Roses
Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty
American Girl - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Somewhere Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World - Cliff Richard
The One - Elton John
Brown Sugar - Rolling Stones
Supermassive Black Hole - Muse
Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams
Just Like Noah's Ark - Elton John
I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) - Meat Loaf
Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
Showdown - Electric Light Orchestra
Where is the Love? - The Black Eyed Peas
Paint It, Black - Rolling Stones

Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
The Day We Caught the Train - Ocean Colour Scene
More Than a Feeling - Boston
Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler
5:15 - The Who
Road to Hell - Chris Rea
Changes - David Bowie
Love, Reign O'er Me - The Who
Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts - Bob Dylan
Glorious - Andreas Johnson
The Boys of Summer - Don Henley
Delirious Love - Neil Diamond
Under Pressure - Queen & David Bowie
Whiskey in the Jar - Thin Lizzy
Gypsy - Fleetwood Mac
Friday I'm in Love - The Cure
Bones - The Killers

Gravity - Embrace
Horse to the Water - George Harrison with Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra
Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day
I Wish it Would Rain Down - Phil Collins
Eclipse - Pink Floyd
I Am the Walrus - The Beatles
Long Tall Sally - The Beatles
Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley
Tomorrow Never Dies - Sheryl Crow
Go Your Own Way - Fleetwood Mac
Nothing Ever Happens - Del Amitri
Amazing - Aerosmith
One of Us - Abba
You Can Call Me Al - Paul Simon
Runaway Train - Soul Asylum
One - U2

July 13th 2010
People occasionally ask me "Why do you like Anthony? Is it because, by comparison, you appear nobler, wiser, cooler and, in all measurable ways, a better all-round chap?" Up until recently, I have made one of two replies: (i) "Yes"; (ii) "If you ever again say that I like Anthony, I will take you down for slander, you cankerous dog." But all that has changed, as now I will tell them that he's the only person I know who can take a tasteless and misspelt joke about suicide, and turn it into an amusing photo gag.
To explain: you remember that yesterday I said you may have to 'hide by [sic] belt and shoelaces'. Then this photo surfaced:


What more can I say?
Well, nothing on that topic. Instead I shall turn to a recent article on the Guardian website, published in response to the introduction of the Times' paywall, suggesting that disappointed Times readers switch instead to the Grauniad. Y'know, that's kinda like saying that the price has gone up on a new car, so why not crawl in the mud instead? Even if people are going to give up on the Times because they have to pay for it (er... like everyone had to for decades - centuries - before the advent of the interweb), they're not going to turn to liberal dross like the Guardian. It comes below the Telegraph, the Independent and even the Express in the ranks of plausible alternatives.
In other news, gimlet-eyed readers will have noticed that I was recently watching Monty Python's Life of Brian, and some of you may have been a little surprised. I'd previously avoided it because, frankly, it sounds horrendously offensive. Anyhow, I thought I should probably stop damning it without seeing it, not least because I know Michael Palin has frequently claimed that no insult was intended to Christ or Christians, and no less a luminary than my friend Andy Giles has recommended it.
Well, I can kinda see the official Monty Python line that Jesus himself - when seen, which is rarely - is played absolutely straight and as respectfully as you might care for. Brian is not Jesus, and it's never suggested that he is (though the point of the film, of course, is that he is mistaken for the Messiah), nor are any actual Biblical characters treated with discourtesy (except Pilate, I guess, and no one's going to worry too much about that). There are also some very funny moments, such as the Roman soldier (John Cleese) correcting Brian's Latin, or the suicide attack where a group of Jews stab themselves with swords.
Despite all that, it is still a fairly offensive film, partly because there's no getting away from the fact that they're treating exceptionally serious things in a light-hearted manner. I mean, a sing-a-long on crucifixes? That's fairly indefensible. And you can be sure that, if the Monty Python crew weren't intentionally offensive, it wasn't because of any crises of conscience - Michael Palin's diaries include reference to the Pythons financially supporting the defendants in a blasphemous slander case that is probably the most offensive thing I have ever heard. And I think it does make a difference that Life of Brian was made by people with a dislike for Christianity, rather than Christians, a little bit like only black people can make jokes about black people. Well, not that much like that, to be honest, but you can (hopefully) see where I'm coming from.
In other news, my phone died this week, so apologies to anyone who's tried to contact me telephonically. Since I'm fairly ignorant of such things, can anyone tell me if moving the Sim card from the broken phone to a new phone will make everything hunky-dory?

July 14th 2010
This Friday sees the last ever Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, as Ross's BBC contract is up and will not be renewed. Reports initially suggested that he'd be heading over to the USA to make (well, increase) his fortune, but last week it was announced that he's going to front an ITV chat show, starting next year. I only just found out, in fact.
This is very good news. It is almost axiomatic that Jonathan Ross is the UK's best chat show host - quite simply, there isn't anyone else who comes close. Since the retirement of Parky (ominously, not long after swapping his BBC gig for ITV), whom I went off after his disgraceful treatment of Meg Ryan in any case, Ross has been our only competent chat show host. Davina McCall, Charlotte Church, Alan Carr etc have all assumed it would be easy, and discovered that in fact you need to have more skills than a winsome smile and a loud laugh to make it as a chat show host - the closest we have to a contender is Jeremy Clarkson's Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment on Top Gear, which isn't saying much (Clarkson himself, of course, hosted a failed chat show some years ago). And no, Simon, Paul O'Grady really isn't in the same league.
But Ross isn't the best simply by default. He's also an excellent host because he is humorous, quick, intelligent and warm, co-operating in hilarious interviews with some of the biggest celebrities in the world (and some of the smallest. No, that's not a Warwick Davis gag). His absence will certainly detract from my Friday night (or Saturday afternoon. Good old V+ box) viewing.
I realise that a lot of people disagree with me, particularly after 'Sachsgate'. I've dealt with that on this page before - a bad mistake, but not cruelly intended and certainly overblown - but it does open up the wider accusation that he makes too many inappropriate jokes. And yes, he does, though much less so since his suspension - it's a weakness, certainly, but those who think it's all he does have clearly only watched heavily edited 'highlights' of the show. The sex gags tended often to come out when an interview wasn't going well, generally because the guest didn't really 'get' the show (cf. Tobey Maguire). When a guest was on the same wavelength as the host (such guests include Gwyneth Paltrow, Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, Ross Noble... the list goes on), Ross was far more comfortable and the show was much funnier.
Another of the criticisms thrown at Ross has been that he tends not to probe his guests too firmly, in a Frost/Nixon kind of way. Perhaps that's because he - unlike his detractors - understands that being the 'host' doesn't just mean that your name goes at the top of the credits. He acts as a host to his guests, and - as mentioned above - his best interviews come when the guest feels comfortable and happy, understanding the tone and nature of the show. When guests aren't on Ross's wavelength (eg Lady Gaga, Aaron Johnson, Kerry Katona) it's been painful, but it's to his credit that he doesn't mock them - well, he sort of did with Jedward, but who couldn't? - because that's not what a good host does.
All in all, we will be left without a decent chat show host until 2011, though we may have a few wannabes to show us that Ross really made it look easier than it is. I hope that ITV doesn't try to make him edgy or wacky, because (minus the jokes which go over the line, and the really unfunny bits he does between interviews to tie in with a recent news story) I like him the way he is. The king of Friday night is dead; long live the king.

July 15th 2010
Yes, I failed again. It's what I do.

July 20th 2010
I promised you pictures of my recent holiday with Simon, and so you shall have them, via this link. Fear not, non-users of Facebook (all three of you, then); you can see the pics even without the sign-in.
I didn't promise you any pictures from Ant's stag do, but since you've been so good you can have this one. Note Ant's rather lovely pink stag t-shirt, a gift from yours truly that I hope he will wear all the time.

Me, Tom, Parker, Rob, Ant, Robin, Rich and Wardy


July 25th 2010
Before we get into the meat of today's entry, there are a few points I would like to make:
1. It says over on your right (unless you're reading the archive) that the last film I watched was High School Musical 2. I would like to make it clear that I only watched, like, 5 minutes. Zac Efron (er... Troy?) was trying to persuade his pals - with the assistance of the black-haired girl whose name may or may not be Gabriella - that working in a kitchen would be a super-cool way to spend the Summer. I wasn't convinced, if I'm honest, but they seemed to be. Even the kid with the afro was fairly enthusiastic once all the singing and dancing was over.
2. I know that I said I failed an exam, but I neglected to mention that I passed the other one. Just in case you were worrying.
3. After Ant's stag do, I not only left behind the customary toothbrush and toothpaste, but I also left behind a pair of trousers. New record. That doesn't have much to do with anything, but Rob and Ant read this, so hopefully one of them will identify the trousers and put them in safe keeping.
So, let's get down to business. When Party of Five began its six year run, I was eight, so not really in a position to enjoy a 'teen drama'. One could argue that now, at the age of 24, I should similarly be unappreciative of teen dramas, but I'm afraid that Party of Five - or PoF, as I expect no one ever called it - is my current show du jour. Littering my narrative with ill-fitting French idioms is my current hobby du jour.
I know that many of my readership are of a similar age to me (one of my readership is of a very, very similar age to me) so you may not know much about Party of Five either, so I shall explain. The titular characters are a group of five siblings who, as the series opens, have recently lost their parents in a car accident. This family is made up of 24 year old Charlie (Matthew Fox), 16 year old Bailey (Scott Wolf), 15 year old Julia (Neve Campbell), 11 year old Claudia (Lacey Chabert) and baby Owen (who really cares who played him?), and they have various exploits that, I'm sure, have taught me much about not taking drugs, pretending to be older in order to get men, and hitting my children. That makes it sound a bit too much like Saved By the Bell, which doesn't really give the right impression - the storylines are captivating and the characters well drawn. OK, it's not Shakespeare (it's funnier, for a start), and I realise that being a 'teen drama' puts it in the same bracket as Dawson's Creek, but I'm very much enjoying it at the moment. Literally 'at the moment', in fact.
The main reason that I bought the show in the first place was, if I'm honest, Neve Campbell. I mean, I saw a few ads for it on abc1 back when it was showing Scrubs several times a day, and it looked pretty good, but I would be lying if I said Neve Campbell (star of, let us not forget, the wonderful Three to Tango) didn't play a big part in enticing me. Anyways, it sat on my shelf for a long time, and eventually I decided to give it a go.
Well, Neve Campbell doesn't disappoint - though making her a 15 year old was an odd decision, since she was 20 at the time and you'd have trouble believing she was any younger than 18, tops - and, for those of an alternative bent, there is Matthew Fox, quite possibly the best-looking guy on TV (you might know him from TV's Lost). Scott Wolf's character is fairly unpleasant at first, but gets better - and he looks, throughout, like a highly-ranked competitor in a Michael J. Fox lookalike competition - and Lacey Chabert is possibly the least annoying child actor I've ever seen. Also in the main cast of the first series is Paula Devicq, Owen's nanny and later Charlie's girlfriend, who fits well into the dynamic, and also Scott Grimes, who has barely appeared so far, so I'm not sure why he's made the permanent cast list.
Well, I probably shouldn't bore you any more about a TV show that peaked in popularity over a decade ago, and is so unloved over here that only the first two series appear to have been released on Region 2 DVD. So goodnight.

July 26th 2010
0 friends like Accountants. Zing!First of all, you might like some conclusive proof (courtesy of Facebook) that actuaries are more popular than Star Wars, so I've provided it for you.
In other news, this series of Top Gear kicked off with several celebrities competing in the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment, including such luminaries as 'Peta, 23, from Essex'. Bill Bailey put his name down as 'Angelina Jolie', a joke both about his rather-less-than-movie-star looks and the fact that Top Gear is never going to pull in any of the world's big names. Hugh Grant, many years after his peak, was something of a highlight. But then... last night, incredibly, the Stars in the Reasonably Priced Car were none other than Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, genuinely two of the biggest stars in the world. Just seeing them there made me smile a lot - Cruise, though he receives a lot of bad press and is a member of a very peculiar 'religion', always strikes me as one of the nicest guys around, and clearly he and Cameron get on very well.
Since you were wondering, she came out on top of the leader board (beating Rupert Grint)... but then Cruise beat her time by a whole second, setting a record which may stick for a while. So now, when stars look at the board, they won't just be looking at names like Nick Robinson and Peter Jones, they'll see Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz right at the top. Well done, Top Gear.

July 28th 2010
This is going to be a complainy one, kids, so buckle up.
A few months ago, in church house-group, we were praying for each other and Olly said that the word 'patience' was coming to mind when praying about me. What he didn't - and, indeed, probably still doesn't - know was that it had been a week or two since I first saw a doctor, about something which I'm not going to detail for you, which is (i) reasonably unpleasant; and (ii) not remotely life-threatening.
Anyways, that's not the point. The point is that 'patience' is an understatement. Two and a half months after my last appointment, after which they told me they would schedule a follow-up soon, I finally checked why nothing had happened. Hey presto, my next appointment was two days later (aka today), so along I mosied. The doctor's considered opinion was that - and I quote - he should do nothing. After arguing with him for a while, he was persuaded that perhaps, given the symptoms I've been displaying for nine months, 'nothing' wasn't the way forward. I don't want to kick up a fuss, or anything, but surely it shouldn't have to be the job of the patient to tell the doctor what to do. With apologies to my several friends who work for it, the NHS is bloody (pun intended) useless.
It's not just this. My experience of the NHS has been punctuated by disappointment. When I broke my arm for the first time, at the age of 10 or 11, the doctor in hospital manipulated my arm, with the phrase "We like to hurt people here" (I don't actually remember this myself, but Mum tells me that my young self didn't react well to it). When I cracked my head open at Uni, I sat in the hospital for over an hour while the doctor waited for a nurse to administer a tetanus shot, before realising that he could actually do it himself. He then tried to wash the blood off my head, but managed only to pour bloody water over my trousers. Then there was another operation I had while at Uni, which got postponed at least three times, and after it finally happened I was told that I'd be all done within 6-8 weeks. About 20 months later I finally stopped having check-ups, after a dramatic improvement that the Yeovil surgeon ignored when I tried to explain to him. Just like the doctor who, when I told him it hurt 'here', murmured in agreement without bothering to look in my direction.
Anyways, don't feel too sorry for me. I've come across some very competent - as well as friendly and caring - NHS staff in my medical journey, not least the doctor in Merseyside who became a family friend, or the nurses at Uni whom I wrote to with thanks when my recovery was finally complete following the aforementioned operation.
In other news, after a failed attempt to watch Inception last week (Matt and I turned up, but it was sold out), I should be seeing it tonight with Steve. This will make me almost the last person in the world to have seen it, judging by my circle of friends. Even Simon's seen it, and, in his words, he doesn't like explosiony films.

July 31st 2010
I'm confident that you're all awaiting an update on everybody's favourite UK/US couple. If you don't count Chris Martin & Gwyneth Paltrow. Or Hugh Grant & Julia Roberts in Notting Hill. Or Laurel & Hardy.
Anyhow, everyone's fourth favourite UK/US couple have done the paperwork (I'm not going to pretend to understand it) and, officially at least, are man and wife. The big day is still a week away, but it's down on paper. To mark the occasion, here's a photo from the talented folk at Hatch photography. And I shall be leaving you for a week and a half at least, as I'm needed to groomsman the hell out of the ceremony.


In other news, it's all been a bit crazy for me technologically this week, as I've got a new mobile phone and a new laptop. Nothing too top of the range (and certainly not Apple, since I really don't like 'em), but it's nice to have things that work. Maybe someday soon I'll buy trainers without holes in the sole.

what was I listening to?
Only by the Night - Kings of Leon
what was I reading?
Miss Hargreaves - Frank Baker
what was I watching?
Monty Python's Life of Brian
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