Monday, September 25, 2006

Di-ly Express

Today's edition of crusading pamphlet of bile/bigotry the Daily Express carries yet another Princess Diana related story on its front page. It really is quite amazing how much milk they continue to squeeze from those great udders of death. Whether it's a brand new conspiracy theory surrounding the circumstances of her Paris smash or just a simple restatement of the fact that yep, she's still dead, the paper has pursued at least one story a week on the subject since her fateful crash in 1997.

Here's a sample from over the years:

The last one posted there is today's front page. It's not even as if it's a particularly interesting new slant on the story... aren't simple body-mix-ups ten a penny these days? Regardless, the Express seems quite intent on rooting out every misdemeanour and bit of underhand business that they insist will surely have taken place. Especially by those sneaky French authorities. Practically every paragraph of the article today states repeatedly, just incase you might forget, that 'we're dealing with the Frogs here, afterall.' It's quite hilarious, and I'll watch with interest to see how many Di-related stories they can pull out of the hat before something else of note happens in the world. Because afterall, it's been very quiet on the news front for the last nine years hasn't it.

I'll bid farewell with a sneak preview of tomorrow's Express.

Dear blog,

I know you didn't deserve this kind of treatment. Once again I've allowed you to fall into a state of neglect while I live my life selfishly with no consideration for the needs and desires of others. Running around like some prolific socialite, man about town, Jack The Lad, taking Cream Soda intravenously and snorting vast quantities of balsa wood shavings. It won't happen again, from now on blog updates will be regular and reliable for the reader (singular) to devour.

By way of apology please accept this video for the brand new single from magician Patrick Wolf, Accident and Emergency.

Yours magnificently,

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Long Weekend

Where possible, it's good to kill a few birds with one stone. And so, a jaunt to London over the weekend afforded me the opportunity to (a) see some family members, (b) see Boro make the much-dreaded annual trip to Arsenal, and (c) visit the site of my eventual and inevitable rise to the corridors of power.

Last season it was 'Arsenal 7 (SEVEN) - Middlesbrough 0' as Boro's combination of vulnerable youngsters and lackadaisical veterans turned in a performance with less guts than Ghandi after stomach liposuction. Thankfully I wasn't there then, but I was this time for the visit to their new digs, the Emirates Stadium. Emirates-Schmemirates... it's got obscenely big seats, wide enough for your average spherical football fan I suppose. All well and good, but I felt a bit lost in mine. Further problems arose when I expected to be able to pull my seat down without needing to look round, only to find myself fumbling about without success because the seats were so big they went above my hips. Anyway, enough of the seats.

We got a very creditable 1-1 draw, and weren't far off holding out for a heroic one-nil until Captain Boateng was red carded for being a fool. Jonathan Woodgate was immense on his debut as he guided the back four through the game. A picture of composure. He was like a lollipop man outside a primary school, helping all the rabid little children get from A to B unscathed. He'll be amazing for us this season if he can stay fit.

I also took this picture while I was down there. It explores our capital city's bumper-to-bumper culture but, rather than focussing on the vehicles themselves, it hones in on the spaces that seperate them. I consider it a triumph. If anyone can suggest a title for this piece via the comments link below, I'd be most appreciative. For when it's displayed, you see.

On Monday I went on a tour of the Houses Of Parliament. I'd already done the tour once as an 11 year old on a school trip, but I was far too young to take it all in back then so I wanted to do it again. It's very interesting, in fact I'd recommend it. And I don't recommend things very often, I prefer to scoff, so take note. It was particularly enjoyable to follow the tour 'in character', as if I was an established frequenter of the various rooms we visited. In the Queen's robing room, I waved a bit and imagined being helped into my corset and stockings by Prince Philip. I postured at the despatch box in the House Of Commons as if delivering a keynote speech, before popping up the back benches to launch a party rebellion. I gave press interviews in the Central Lobby. I even fell asleep in the Lords. OK, that is a lie... I scrutinised legistation and suggested amendments to the elected Members back in the Commons. Obviously.

All in all an enjoyable trip. Wouldn't want to live there though... after every time I go down there I arrive home and take a good, sharp sniff of the salubrious Teesside air. The sweet, bouncy aroma of freshness. The open space, and being able to do that thing where you spin with your arms outstreched like a helicopter. You could swing a tiger up here. Wouldn't want to though.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Six new career options for Tony Blair

1. Rock star
This was always Blair's true vocation in life anyway. He's got the look, the attitude, the 'two-fingers-to-you' approach to life, and he's down with the kids. Plus he's always been a great performer. Let's not forget this is the man whose well-oiled New Labour machine has taken performance politics to new levels. He can put on quite a stageshow.

2. News Corp.
The most vaunted career for Tony when he leaves Number 10 (I mean 11) is to take up a job with the massive media git Rupert Murdoch. Only last month, Blair was over in California to put himself forward before News Corp executives, who were presumably instantly wooed as he demonstrated his insatiable British charm by standing up and salivating. To rapturous applause. Anyway, Murdoch will give him a job because he loves winners. And who could be a bigger winner than a man who's just been forced from government by an intra-party rebellion that might leave the Labour party on its knees? Nice one Murdoch.

3. US lecture circuit
If he doesn't fancy a proper job there's always the option of prancing about various places and sharing his wisdom with people. He could do it in America, because they just love him over there. Seemingly for the same reasons he's disliked back here. That slimy presidential demeanour; the perfect, gleaming and overly eager smile. The way he can sound extremely eloquent and rational without actually saying anything. The sheer lack of substance to the man, most Americans love that... "such statesmanship!" Alright enough already.

4. Eastenders
Blair would fit in well in Albert Square. He's already got the estuary English pinned down afterall. It's always funny whenever he appears on ITV and adopts that cockerknee voice. All those dropped 'h's and glottal stops on GMTV weren't for nothing Tony... now you can carve yourself a career in soapland. In the launderette: "Ee Powleen, ah farncy a nice 'oliday sarmewhere exci'in'."

5. Adverts for HP Sauce
He'd be the perfect face for the product. I'm told he's worked in the Houses Of Parliament a fair bit. And of course, all of this fuss about his departure date initially came from (Gordon) Brown sauces. Geddit? Sources... sauces? Brown sources? Good.

6. Sign for Newcastle United
Tony is a big Newcastle United fan, you'll always see him there on the terraces at 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon waving his arms about like a twat. But more importantly, the Geordies are still desperate to find a high-profile replacement for their striking sensation Alan Sheerah. So desperate they've signed Antoine Sibierski. Blair could be the answer to Geordie prayers (sorry, "preeahs"). He's a predator, and rarely misses the target. Just ask anyone in Baghdad. Plus, he'll be a legend because I'm always reading how 'they love their strikers up in Newcastle'. Unlike the rest of us of course, who can take or leave a prolific goalscorer and prefer to idolise our workmanlike right-backs or dogged midfield ball-winners. But I digress.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Devendra Banhart

Last night I went to see the superb Devendra Banhart at Newcastle University. I've been enjoying, appreciating, relishing, savouring, and lauding his 'Rejoicing In The Hands' album for the last six months or so. He's certainly extraordinarily talented, and has that ability to captivate a room in a similar way to someone like Jeff Buckley. That's not to say he's that similar to Buckley musically, but he has the same aura. The feeling that you're in the presence of someone who is the master of their domain, and you feel a bit priveliged to be there. It's what I can only imagine it must be like to be in the kitchen while I'm making a cup of tea. The tender squeeze of the Yorkshire Tea bag against the inside of the cup, the carefully-timed splash of milk, and seductive insertion of sugar before stirring and tapping the spoon on the rim.

The only downside to last night's gig was that Devendra didn't do more of the set alone. He was eventually joined by his outrageously facially-haired bandmates (Hairy Fairy), and from that point quite a few of his songs became like country-western renditions, and thus some magic was lost. When he's on his own with his guitar and his fragile voice, it's special. Soul cleansing. I'd like to see him do a whole gig on his own.

I filmed him last night singing one of my favourite songs of his, 'The Body Breaks', and you good people can watch. It's beautiful.

And if you like that, you'll like this. Another song of his, 'A Ribbon', which has a lovely video. Beautiful. Beautiful.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Death sanitised through Credit

Credit cards are evil things. I hardly ever use mine, but was recently forced to by an unfortunate necessity. I was pushed and hustled into a corner by a hooded and cloaked figure, forcing me to sign away all of my freedoms by falling into 'credit'. Big mistake.

I only owed them £5.10, but due to my hectic lifestyle and packed social schedule I missed the deadline by a couple of days. Thus, the next bill carried extra charges of £6 interest (120%) and a £12 late fee, totalling an unneccessary £18 owed because I forgot to pay off a £5.10 debt. You'd think that would be the full extent of the shameful wallet rape, but no... after clearing all required debts the next bill turned up with a brand new interest charge of £11. Interest that seems to be owed on nothing. Nothing! A bit like walking into the Co-Op, perusing the floury baps, moving onto the cereal aisle but nothing really taking your fancy, and then leaving but still being told to pay at the checkout. Isn't it?

I know it was very naive of me, foolish even. I knew the evils of working with these people, and had even been regaled with specific horror tales of the company in question (MBNA), but I still fell for oldest trick in the book. The whole credit system preys upon vulnerable types like me though. I remember walking into uni during Fresher's Week and having Barclaycards thrust before my eyes by grinning, sinister beings. "Go on, we'll give you a free camera if you sign up", they called. There I was, at my most vulnerable, an awestruck fresher in just my first few days of independent living... and already they were sharpening the swords of debt. MBNA, specifically, prey upon the vain and needy with their co-branded 'novelty' cards, making the lure of the plastic too strong to resist for football fans etc. That's how the bastards operate. They appeal to humankind's lowest common denominator to lock us all into their culture as soon as possible.

Don't let them get you. Reject the cycle of debt that so many submit themselves to from an early age. Once you're in the red, all freedoms are sacrificed, you're truly under control. Never again will you skip through a meadow on a spring day without a care in the world. I hope to never have to use a credit card again, anyway. And I'll fight them tooth and nail over that £11.