Comment spam is getting interesting again. I’ve been receiving some lovely comments from, among others, Bob Dylan, Stewart Granger, Harry Houdini and Erich Weiss (hm…), Charles Dodgson and Eric Clapton, all of whom seem to have developed a late interest in MP3 files. My favourite must be this from a novelist who knew all about publishing under assumed names, George Eliot:
I used to use a program called Cool Edit to do this kind of work as well as other audio editing things. I’m not even sure if it’s around anymore. This was a long time ago.
If Our George was using it, it surely must have been a venerable piece of software.
Andy thinks the good news about his play has been trumped.
It’s a great anecdote, but it’s a false premise. The poster looks fabulous and I just know the play will live up to it. I’m looking forward both to the reviews and to its UK premiere.
More than superficially busy partially on account of heading off next week to the North York moors for eight days on top of the world.
In passing, however, you should know that I got the “Emile Heskey award for balance in front of goal”. In other words, lack of. Far more pleased with runner-up in the goal of the season category, probably earning votes on scarcity value.
This Sunday’s game was marred by a complex territorial dispute where a horde of gaelic footballers claimed our usual space on the common. It transpired that the council had convinced them that they need to pay £100 to use the part of the common marked out as a rugby pitch. We ceded to them, but disputed with the busybody who suggested that what we really wanted to do was apply to the council for the right to pay them £1000 for a year-long licence and the ability to play against stroppy strangers.
I felt particularly sorry for the gaelic footballers having to shell out for the use of public ground. Historically inclined readers can draw their own sad conclusions about which trends this continues.
Father and son time in the park yesterday was enlivened by the overwhelming amount of play going on everywhere. Every twenty yards a little kickabout was going on, underneath a sky bright with frisbees and tennis balls. A raucous scratch game of rounders (Peckham rules, which is to say very few that I could make out) descended into fits of laughter every couple of minutes as someone slipped, dropped or ran in circles.
Most notably, from where we were sitting, I could see half a dozen small groups playing cricket, an obvious carryover from last year’s Ashes. A group of under tens played the unpredictable bounce with steely concentration. A dad bowled endless long hops to his straight-driving son. If we had been looking to fill out all the stereotypes, there would have been an asian father slowly unveiling the mysteries of spin to his sons. They were, in fact, off to my right, under a chestnut tree.
The only thing I couldn’t spot was a Flintoff Flame. The bats and balls were all cheap and cheerful, and I’m very glad.
Sometimes you read or hear or see of something, and you just know.
A month or so ago I caught, halfway through, some peculiar-looking girl doing a live performance on a late night music show. Something wide-eyed about her delivery made me realise I’d be listening to her a lot in the near future.
I heard the song on the radio a couple of weeks later while fetching cat food. I waited in the car until the end so that I could learn who it was.
Of course, when I learnt that Lily Allen was daughter of TV hack Keith, I was put off mightily. But underneath, I knew I’d be buying the album.
That’s another tenner splashed on the basis of an easy way with a tune and a glottal stop the size of a bus.
Sometimes you just know.
It’s not just the Weiszs, Johanssons and Lauries of the world that are getting excited about the prospect of reaping a few awards this week. This weekend is the third annual awards for my football (it isn’t a club, not really a team either, so it’s just “the football”).
This means my first evening out since the household increased in size about five months ago, to a local pub and then a meal. Weekly subs of one pound sterling mean that, after the costs of buying a new ball and pump every six months, bibs and corner flags (a bridge too far, some thought), we have enough in the kitty to stand everyone an annual slap up meal.
It would be unfair to suggest that a free meal is anyone’s prime incentive for playing, but it is noticeable that a couple of almost-forgotten players have crept out of the woodwork since Christmas, just in time for inclusion. Generously, we feign to believe that this is their New Year’s health kick in action, and not the siren call of a hot and heavily subsidised biryani.
One charming tradition of the awards themselves is that, in the tradition of kindly schools everywhere, there is a prize for everyone. The entertainment comes in constructing categories for achieving this. In the past, we’ve had the honest appraisal (”Most Improved Player”), the corporate vagueness special (”Best All-round contribution”), the award for Effort (”Most Appearances” and “Most likely to be on time”). The year I (jointly) won “Most likely to pick balanced teams” was a personal high-point.
More fruitful, in general, are the slightly (or significantly) sarcastic categories (”Most likely to be late”, “Most entertaining goalkeeper”), sliding towards the downright pointed (”Most likely to cause an injury”, “Most likely to cry on the pitch”, “Most likely to cause an argument”, “Biggest risk to own defence”).
I’ve written most of this year’s awards, and it seemed like a good idea to use the shining examples of our modern day professional footballers to give the categories an extra incentive. Some examples:
The Rio Ferdinand award for forgetfulness
The Emile Heskey award for balance in front of goal
The Little Mickey Owen award for goalhanging
The Alan Smith award for leg-nibbling
The Craig Bellamy award for on-pitch gobbiness
The Teddy Sheringham veteran’s award (although none of the current players are quite of Mr Sheringham’s vintage)
Normally I’d be aiming for the “Best Winger” award, on the basis that I can occasionally cross the ball left-footed, which my colleagues regard as some kind of voodoo, but I understand is due to my actually being left-footed. Unfortunately, I forgot to put in a winger category, so my hopes this year rest mainly in the Emile Heskey and the Steven Gerrard (for defence-splitting passes, of which I helpfully unveiled a couple for the benefit of the voting constituency last week). I’m only grateful that there’s no Lawrence Dallaglio award for “best use of rugby-style handoffs”, for which I retain an unfortunate and confused aptitude. Wish me luck!
This week’s spam news is entertainingly recursive:
AOL to dig up Spam Nazi’s gold
Warning: playing with sand, fire, water, oil, plants and slugs eats time which I don’t have, so I’m foisting it onto you. Don’t accept the gift.
Enough, temporarily, of sea shanties. I know that what you really want to know is how to yodel. Use your new powers wisely, child.
Finally, looking to start your own country, but all of the good land is gone? Easy: build one, out of pop bottles.
Pandora is a terrific application. You give it the name of a song or a music artist, and it creates a radio station based on music like that. I recall way back there was a web service called Firefly that did slightly the same thing, but purely linking music together from people’s favourites. I have a feeling that’s what Amazon’s preference based bits and bobs are based on. And, of course, Pandora is a hundred different radio stations. You get to tweak each one you create as you go along, more’s the pleasure. My first five created were:
A Hawk and a Handsaw
My Bloody Valentine
Shame you can’t combine them all into one super-station of all the music in the world you love, if only you knew it.
Some miniature delights.
The author of the hoax Betjeman letter mentioned below has identified himself, and to nobody’s great surprise, it was rival biographer Bevis Hillier. A literary banker if ever there was.
Football, which I don’t talk about much, but do follow, rarely offers up memorable lines. Savour then this from France manager Raymond Domenech on the increasingly irritating Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho:
He is the best coach in the world, he said so himself.
Finally, from Jared Diamond’s enthralling Guns, Germs and Steel, which for 378 pages has been patiently scientific and relentlessly prosaic, this moment of inadvertantly Carollian verse:
Most [plants domesticated in the Sohel zone of northern Africa] are still grown mainly just in Ethiopia and remain unknown to Amercians - including Ethiopia’s narcotic chat, its banana-like ensete, its oily noog
The oily noog goes right on the list of things that I must see.
Some people carry an impregnable nostalgia for the hymns and carols of their youth. I am not particularly one of them, but even I, over the Christmas season, find myself succumbing to the occassional heave of welling emotion in the middle of some familiar verse.
Given my youth by the water, the single line most likely to smart a tear from my eye is always “for those in peril on the sea”. Even more the slightly archaic fun of the sea shanties, this immediately brings up a great swell of the deep-running fear of the sea suffered by anyone who lives by it. The line is the sung equivalent of the nervous glance exchanged by all when the lifeboat maroons go up: the shared dread that this time it is for one of yours.
Most of the Christmassy associations, however, are lighter and more jubilatory. This year we spent a silly amount of time listening to Michael Praetorius’ utterly bombastic In dulci jubilo (link to clip), which you know even if you don’t think you do. I particularly enjoyed its manic macaronic, starting:
In dulci jubilo
Nun singet und seid froh:
Unsers Herzens Wonne
(”In sweet jubilation / now sing and rejoice: / our heart’s delight”)
And I was positively belting out:
Ubi sunt gaudia
Nirgends mehr denn da
Lo and behold, when I went to fetch the Wikipedia entry for macaronic, it gives In dulci jubilo as its example. I wonder if these were genuinely instances of the vernacular borrowing a little liturgical Latin, or whether the author was dumbing down for the audience.
I’ve never had a problem mixing fiction and reality. Fiction is made-up, reality is mostly true, and everything in between is what-you-will. What, I ask you, could be easier?
The only points of confusion I ever knowingly encounter are where I find myself looking at something I know to be real only to be overwhelmed by the sensation that it belongs to a fiction somewhere. This is the Ffordian phenomenon of pagerunners with which the Deep North has so much fun, only relating to things not characters.
Today I’ve been experiencing the confusion with the universally derided launch of the “British FBI” SOCA, a crimebusting initiative that looks and feels exactly like the launch of a new primetime drama.
Everything from the foolishly jaunty acronym to the ersatz governmental logo shouts that this is an exercise in trying to look like a cool version of a government agency, probably involving lots of mod coats, moodily lit corridors and cod jargon. Which, I suppose, it is. A real agency that is trying to look as exciting as fictional versions of real governmental agencies.
This is government policy based on watching too much Spooks.
I blame my increasing confusion on the BBC’s enthusiastic adoption of fake websites as teasers for upcoming series (such as Doctor Who). I did scroll to the bottom of the SOCA website looking for the tell-tale disclaimer, and when I couldn’t find it concluded that Auntie was just upping the ante.
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