Monday, November 27, 2006

Door Knocker Homogenisation

Whilst door knocker shopping earlier I became increasingly disenchanted with the range on offer. I visited no less than three major home-DIY retailers but all of them only stocked the same, boring design of knocker with a demeaning simple brass finish and absolutely no personality whatsoever. But with time at a premium and my options limited - to one option - I was forced to back down from my door knocker high ground and purchase a generic brass knocker like this one:

It is just another nail in the coffin for societal diversity when everyone is pushed towards buying generic knockers for their front doors. We've already had to deal with them homogenising high streets nationwide, not to mention our milk (the bastards), but our door knockers is taking it too far. It's time to stand up and be counted; to reject huge retailers like B&Q and Focus DIY and go independent for our knockers. I remember seeing this shop in London called Knobs and Knockers once, that's what we want (see website)! First impressions count.

I've had my knockers in my time, and these are my most recommended.

1) Lion's Head: Commands respect from the knocker-at-door. In my years as a paperboy I always made sure the weekend supplements didn't get chewed up in the letterbox if they had a lion's head.

2) Horse's Head: Lovely stuff. Classy, elegant, and best of all, a horse.

3) Buddha: Enough said.

4) Ball in Hand: Possibly a bit disturbing at first, but bound to provide hours of fun if locked out of home with a bit of time to kill on the doorstep.

5) Gargoyle: Petrifying. One for the gothics here. But I can't decide whether the eyes are meant to be like that or if it's just a bit of amateurish red-eye photography.

6) Elephantitis: More knockers like this on our streets will have a positive educational effect for our youngsters about this shocking disease. Plus it must be a right laugh banging those big heavy balls against a mahogany door.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Ultimate Rebellion

Last night I ate hot toast in the bath, without a plate.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Muse in a hanger

Last night I was granted an intimate audience with Muse at Newcastle Arena along with 11,249 other Muse enthusiasts. As always, they were explosive, incendiary, charged, ebullient, frenzied, fulminant, rampant, vehement and wild (I'll close the Thesaurus now). Anyway, very good.

But returning to the arena gig experience left alot to be desired. It's quite a while since I had to go to one, I think it must've been the Manics at Nottingham Arena in 2004. As good as Muse were last night I just found it difficult to be immersed in what was going on. Gone are the days when the sheer enthusiasm that comes with seeing a loved band, for perhaps only the first or second time, could carry you through. As I towered majestically above the dozens of rabid mid-teens surrounding me, all high-fiving each other as they recognised the opening bars of Stockholm Syndrome, I felt a bit out of place. A veritable gig veteran in some ways.

It was very enjoyable, not mindblowing - but it should've been. I think I'll have to stop going to arena gigs altogether unless it's something very special. Perhaps a Jeff Buckley comeback gig preceded by a Richey Edwards poetry reading once Bill Hicks has run through some of his latest material. That should do the trick.

Friday, November 10, 2006

From Gloucestershire with love

It's always a delight to receive photos and stuff (and fluff) from the reader (singular). So I must thank my Gloucestershire correspondent Rachael 'Stretch' Armstrong for taking this marvellous photo while out and about in her shire, and subsequently transmitting it to my pocket-sized telephonic device via the wonders of SMS.

I'd like to comment on it in some way, but I'm at a loss for thoughts.

Whatever can it mean?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Rum Deal

That'll do nicely. The rampaging elephant beast isn't quite dead, but it's been stunned with a taser, kicked in the ribs a bit, showered in daisies and called allsorts of names under the sun.

And this has all culminated in us seeing the back of crazed cretin Donald Rumsfeld - it was always going to be a pleasure. What a lovely belated birthday present it is. But I just can't help but think there would've been some rocky days ahead for Rummy if he'd stayed in office, and potentially some very public Iraq-related recriminations for him. That would've further damaged the Republican party as a whole. Oh well, we'll get the bastard on his own.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

America Votes

As I write this Americans are bustling at the polls voting in the midterm elections. The outcome of which will help drive the US political agenda for alot longer than just the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency.

If we place any importance on the expert predictions, and with a bit of luck, by tomorrow the Democrats will have taken control of at least one of the Houses Of Congress. Most likely the House Of Representatives, but possibly the Senate too. Just taking one of them will mean it'll be the first time since his election that George Bush has had to operate without a Republican stranglehold on both.

And this is important. It would temper the Republican elephant beast's march onwards, the march which had looked like it was set to shape several decades of US policy. Bush will finally be faced with the hinderance of Democratic oversight of policy matters for his last two years, and stripped of some of the power that has enabled senior Republicans pulling his strings to strive towards leaving such a lasting imprint on the political landscape. The Democrats will be able to influence domestic matters such as reversing Bush's tax cuts and opposing his ridiculous healthcare cuts. Perhaps best of all, they'll be allowed to set up investigative comittees to examine and hold to account the last six years of Republican rule. Inquiries into the use of pre-Iraq intelligence and the like. If that provides enough dirt then the Republicans could be sufficiently damaged that 2008 would deliver a Democratic White House.

Of course, nothing the Democrats do will dramatically alter anything. This is US politics afterall. But a win in either house tonight would be a real boon to democracy because it's never healthy for any one party to dominate proceedings without a formidable opposition. We know that ourselves just by looking closer to home in the last ten years.

The most fascinating aspect of these elections has probably been the campaigning. Amid the (eventual!) domestic shiftiness about what's happening in Iraq, the Republicans have ditched their previously successful electoral focus on war and security. It's of no use to them now. Instead they've had to revert to just their old conservative values of being anti abortion, anti gay marriage, anti 'illegal aliens' (a hilarious phrase), and portraying Democrats as soft pussies. Then there's been all the smear campaign TV adverts, where both sides have managed to be as bad as each other in shameless opportunism. One of my favourites is a Republican advert that shows a Democrat congressman (played by an actor) out "partying with frat boys" (students?) when he should be, erm, I don't know... reading a book? In the bath? It's basically a nothing story, but anything either side can get on the other - however tiny it may be - is used against them. It makes you cherish how comparitively civilised British politics is anyway. You really can't go amiss with a bit of decorum every now and again.

But my very favourite election TV advert this year has to be the one below. Vernon Robinson is a Republican running for Congress in North Carolina, and this is his rally against the state of America as he sees it. Don't laugh - it really is real, and really has been shown on US television over the last few months.

Go Democrats!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Well, me got channels on CCTV

And so, with a shrug of the shoulders and a dramatic flick of the neck, Britain strides on towards a police state. We officially live in the most-watched nation in Europe. Surveillance is our destiny.

But forget about all that. I just wish these cameras had a bit more of a personal touch. With 4.2 million CCTV cameras on our streets, some maths boff-twat somewhere has switched on a calculator and worked out that's one for roughly every 14 of us.

That's quite staggering, but leads me to the worrying conclusion that it's actually pretty unlikely someone is watching me while I walk into Superdrug, then leave and head for HMV, where I suspiciously fiddle a bit in my coat pocket before stopping to tie my shoelace on the way to Boyes to stock up on cut-price Haribo Starmix. We started with one camera for every 14 people, but then you have to exlude yourself, leaving 13 possible voyeurs. When you remove all those likely to be in jobs other than CCTV monitoring, and also remove those below the working age, and invalids, you're statistically left with less than one person who could be watching you at a given moment.

Can there be a worse thought, after all the efforts we put in to make ourselves look sharp and presentable for the cameras, than that nobody is actually watching? The only likelihood that someone will ever view you is retrospectively as part of a crime investigation. Thus we are forced to petty crimes in the street in order to merely make ourselves seen. Each of us wrestling with our anonymity, hoping to banish it and somehow get the attention we crave. Of course, this all means the crime figures rise and then we need even more cameras. Mad world.

The authorities in Middlesbrough have got the right idea. A couple of months ago it became the first place to have talking CCTV cameras in the town centre. If you're misbehaving or generally look ragged and untidy, a real person sitting somewhere in front of a screen can shout at you over the loudspeaker. This is a marvellous idea... a bit of interaction in our surveillance is what we want. Some people just want somebody to talk to. And that's really why I sometimes stop and pretend to tie my shoelace in the street... it's a cry for chat.