Tuesday, January 30, 2007

He had twenty-seven children, yet he never had a wife

What is it with this country?

Not to detract from the seriousness of the issue of gay couples adopting, but it has become a massive issue in the UK over the last few days.

But what about more important things, like a little thing called “war”. It amazes me that we can spend column inches upon column inches in the newspapers debating this, that, or the other, but the larger issues remain largely unspoken of as the public has bored of them.

The real reason why this has become an issue is the rise of the fundamentalist Christians in the UK. Copying tactics used in the US by similar groups over there, they have made issues out of Jerry Springer the Opera, abortion and now gay adoption. These are all issues which merit some attention and debate but let’s not go overboard. Let’s just say that they have some very good PR people who are able to create outrage at the drop of the hat.

Some of these organisations are completly insane. As an aside, in America they have an organisation which has decided to list all of the bands which propagate gay issues, so you can choose to not buy their records. Great. Somewhat surprised by the inclusion of Wilco, but hey they do criticise Bush, so it's all the same. Check out the list here. Nice question mark around Morrissey, which did make me laugh.

Anyway back to the issue. I predict that we’ll see a rise in this kind of thing in the UK with the Christian groups stating that we are fundamentally a Christian society (despite the fact that hardly anyone goes to church anymore) and using more and more Americanised PR-tactics to a media which laps it all up. But it’s all a false debate – most of the country don’t really care, and see no problem in gay couples adopting.

I mean Iraq is nearly at civil war, Afghanistan is still a mess, Osama Bin Laden remains at large and we’ve not even touched on North Korea, Iran or Zimbabwe, but the debate on gay adoption goes on and on.

My views on this issue are that gay couples should be allowed to adopt. There are too many orphans who don’t find any home that surely it would be better if they were in a family, however unconventional that you may find that unit. So it could be viewed as a common-sense argument, not a moral one. And I mean no offence to gay people, but seeing as around 6% of the UK is gay, and not all of them in a relationship, how can this dominate the news for days on end? It's all because of a bunch of nutters hell-bent on returning society to a time and place which no longer exists, and one which I think didn’t even exist in the first place.

Rambling, Gambling Willie

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle 'til the moon is blue

WARNING: You must be over 18 to read this blog post.

I received a very nice package from a freind today which had some books in it. One of them is called What's Left? How Liberals lost their Way by Nick Cohen. It looks very interesting about how the left have been apologising for militant Islam. Not sure that i'll agree with everything he says, but I'm sure that it will raise some interesting questions. The other book looks even more interesting however. It is called Ron Jeremy - The hardest (working) Man in Showbiz. It is the autobiography of porn's most famous star, Ron Jeremy.

Many of you won't know much about him, but you'd probably recognise him. He's starred in over 1,750 films (including mainstream film roles) and had sex with over 4,000 women. He was also on the Farm, the shortlived channel 5 programme where celebrities are put onto a farm. If you remember Rebecca Loos had to wank off a pig live on air.

But back to the porno star's book. I can't wait to read this, it looks extremely funny. Here are some quotes from the book that i've randomly selected from the page randomly chosen. I promise that I just opened the book and took a quote from the chosen page.

There are some critics who might question the logic of combining comedy and pornography. Is that really what porn consumers are looking for anyway? Is it possible to laugh and jerk off at the same time? And even if it is would you want to?

I have paid for sex only once in my life, and it was all Charlie Sheen’s fault.

I’ve had sex with more than 4,000 women in my life, but I have been in love with only five of them.

What do three US presidents, two prime ministers and Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama and I have in common? […] We’ve all lectured at Oxford University.

After reading those random quotes, I'm sure that you'll agree that this book could quite possibly be one of the funniest autobiographies of all time. I can't wait to start reading it. It is perhaps not a book to get out on the tube however. Maybe it's one to keep at home. I'll write a review here when I've finished the book.

Wiggle Wiggle

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The hour when the ship comes in

Two news stories have caught my eye today. The first is that a load of people are going mental and are “scavenging” for goods which have washed up ashore a beach in Devon, southern England. The MSC Napoli, which is shipwrecked, has dropped around 200 of its 2,000 containers into the sea. According to the BBC, hundreds are walking up and down the beach taking goods including BMW motorbikes, nappies, engine parts, wine, and airbag parts.

I like the way it has been described as "salvaging" and “scavenging”. It is more than this, it is "greed", pure and simple. It’s like when there are riots and people take the opportunity of smashing in shop windows to steal TVs and Hi-Fis. “Theft” would be a better word to describe what’s going on. Only a few days after Big Brother showed that we are a nation of racist bullies, we are now proving that we’re opportunistic thieves as well.

The other story that caught my eye comes right from the opposite moral spectrum. AbbĂ© Pierre died yesterday aged 94. Most of you won’t know who he was, unless you’re French of course. Think of him as the French equivalent of Mother Theresa. He was a hero of the resistance helping Charles de Gaulle’s brother to escape the Germans and countless Jews escape to Switzerland. He himself escaped Gestapo torture during the war.

But he is famous for more than that. In 1954 he stormed into Radio Luxembourg’s studios and stole the microphone from a bemused presenter. He then issued a plea on behalf of the homeless after a three month old infant died on a bus and a mother died on a Parisian boulevard clutching an eviction notice in her hands. Millions of francs poured in and hundreds of second hand goods (such as furniture) and food were donated. His appeal caught the mood of the country and brought to the forefront the scandal that was homelessness in post-war France. The outcry lead to the French government announcing plans to build 12,000 basic homes for the most poor.

He was immensely popular, winning year after year the title of France’s most popular man. He only stopped winning it when he declared himself out of the race. In many respects he represented the best of the Catholic Church and campaigned against the Church’s stance on homosexuality, contraception and priesthood chastity. He even told Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of far right party the Front National, to “shut up”. In public. Twice. “To be racist is to invest in the wrong kind of anger”, he would later write.

He set up the Emmaus movement which became an international charity. It helped thousands of homeless and poor people across Europe. The first Emmaus house was his own home. He opened up his door to the homeless and let them build make-shift shelters in his garden and sleep in his Parish home’s spare rooms. He was champion of the cause of homelessness and used his fame to highlight the issue for over fifty years.

He believed that the rich should do more for the poor than tokenism, but that the poor needed to help themselves out of poverty. “To fight for my own bread may be materialism. To fight for bread for others is the beginning of spirituality,” he wrote.

I wonder what he would have said at the sight of over 200 British people “salvaging” whatever treasure has washed up on the beach in Devon? It’s quite obviously materialism at its worst and most disgusting.

When the Ship Comes In

Monday, January 22, 2007

With music in my ears

2006 was a great year for music. But 2007 will be better:

In March there’s the new Arcade Fire, Neon Bible. Then there’s the new Arctic Monkeys coming out. In April we’ve got the new Maximo Park album , in May the new Wilco Blue-Sky Blue of which I am very excited.

There’s also The Shins second offering, Radiohead’s new album, the Smashing Pumpkins reunion record and Black Rebel Motorcycle’s fourth album.

Loads to look forward to. Rock on kids.

Went to see the Gypsy

Friday, January 19, 2007

But I did not trust my brother

There is only one story in the UK at the moment: Big Brothergate. It seems as if the entire country has now (finally) turned on Jade (and Danielle and Jo) who have been bullying India's most famous Bollywood star. There has even been a hint of racism, throwing a spanner in the works of the theory that Britain is a tolerant multi-cultural society. Christ it's been front page of the broadsheets and Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have been asked for their opinion on the matter. Even Will got all worked up about the issue.

The massive outcry has lead me to watch the highlights programme with Russell Brand. I previously never appreciated his humour but in the last two episodes he has, without prompting, quoted verbatim from speeches by Churchill and Solzhenitsyn's books, which surprised me. Of course he then spoiled it by following it up with a penis joke, but it leads me to believe that there is more to this guy than a hair style and a history of tabloid romps. He quite obviously is very clever and should host Question Time. Seriously, it would get the kids interested in politics again. Maybe.

Back to the Big Brothergate issue though, if they had followed my mate's suggestion, then it all of this could have been avoided. Still the massive furore will mean millions will vote to evict Jade the racist bully and Channel 4 will make an estimated £2 million profit from the text votes. In many ways Channel 4 is worse than the playground bully who beats up kids for their lunch money.

Afternoon update: BB has announced that all proceeds from the vote will go to charity and that there will be no crowd at the eviction. It seems like Jade will be getting off lightly without a public boo-fest. This is such a shame.

I Am a Lonesome Hobo

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

My age it means less

[Insert sound of trumpet fan fare here]

My blog is one year old. On January 17th 2005 I took the monumental decision to start chronicling my life and talk a load of rubbish over the Internet. This may have been a mistake on my part but it has been a lot of fun. Also it's good to know that my thoughts are now being recorded for posterity's sake thanks to the Internet. Maybe one day thousands of years from now cultural historians will delve into the archive of blogs and choose mine as the perfect example for school kids to understand what a blog was? Perhaps scholars will write long articles about my musings and why I chose to write what I did. Who knows, only time will tell.

All I know is that I've been getting around 150 unique hits a week, which is very nice and makes me feel good. I'm also very glad seeing as I don't have 150 friends in real life, so there are some random Internet acquaintances and people who have happened here by chance reading this tripe.

What follows are my personal blogging highlights, I hope that you enjoy reading or re-reading some of the rubbish I've been spouting here for over a year now. Please note that the formatting on some of the older posts may be askew due to the fact that since then I have changed templates.

It all started with my very first post. Not much has changed since then, although as I don't have a girlfriend anymore, so I can no longer claim that she is one of my passions. Which is sad, but hey that's the way the cookie crumbles.

My favourite post of January was my diatribe against electric peppercorn grinders. I still think that they are completely useless. In February I ranted against the Winter Olympics, which again I still find dull, so very dull. I nearly entered into a coma at the weekend by accidentally catching a few minutes of Ski Sunday on BBC.

In March I went on the holiday of a lifetime to Vietnam and taunted you readers about my trip with some pictures. It was an amazing trip, one which I will never forget. I don't think I've ever been so happy than when I was in Hoi An. I absolutely loved Vietnam and its people, I don't know why I didn't tell you more about it. Maybe I just wanted to keep those thoughts and memories special and close to my heart. They certainly will remain close to my heart for the rest of my life.

In April, David Beckham announced that he had OCD and used the opportunity to plug one of his products that he gets paid to promote. I was disgusted. No doubt we will find out more about his OCD when he is playing in America at LA Galaxy. Staying on the football theme, in May, Sven Goran Ericksson, then England manager, went a bit mental and chose Theo Walcott in the England team for the World Cup. Read what I thought about that. The tournament proved that he was a complete buffoon in his team selection.

In June, I got a bit excited about the new series of the Sopranos coming on our British screens and tried to explain why it is the best drama on television. In July I laughed and laughed when I read this Woody Allen quote. I still laugh when I read it now. In August I wrote about Coca Cola Zero and their brilliant marketing techniques. September was the anniversary of 911 and I tried to write about my experiences of that day and how they related to interpretations of Bob Dylan's album Love & Theft (which was released on September 11 2001).

In October, I wrote a few things but this one stands out. This post was from the saddest week of my life so far. I told you all about the songs I was listening to. I haven't listened to that harmonica solo since that week. I think I'm now ready to listen to 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' again however and hopefully enjoy it once more. I do now know that Bob Marley was wrong when he said, "when music hits you, you feel no pain". In November, I got completely drunk and fumbled my way around a hotel room with hilarious consequences. In December I told you about my favourite films, albums, and TV shows of 2006.

I hope that you enjoyed my first year of blogging. Here's to another year of rants, raves, reviews and generally silliness.

God on Our Side

Monday, January 15, 2007

Somewheres in this universe there's a place that you can call home

Many of you may know that I am half-English, half-French. Ricky Gervais is as well apparently. He claims that this means that he is a bad lover and has bad breath. What being a mongrel breed has done to me is leave me with the feeling that I’m never quite at home in the UK and never quite at home in France.

I’m a Eurobrat, son of a European bureaucrat, with a good education and no-where to call home. Not that I’m complaining, it is just the way it is. I have a few other friends who are all in this situation or have lived through similar circumstances, and I’m sure that they can relate to this feeling as well. I guess that I am a symbol of European integration. One of the first European off-spring.

But this story that has come out today, and it could have changed my life forever. Apparently, France and the UK were considering a union in the 1950s. Guy Mollet (the French Prime Minister) on 10 September 1956 came over to England and discussed the possibility of France and the UK merging, with the Queen becoming head of a new state (‘Brance’, or ‘Fringland’ maybe). Anthony Eden was apprently lukewarm to the idea, and Mollet responded by asking to join the Commonwealth instead. The French later rejected this proposal and turned to the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and a closer union with their continental neighbours. And the rest, as they say, is history.

But what about me? I could have lived in 'Fringland' and felt at home, I would have finally had a real place to call home that reflected who I was. Bloody roast-beef eating frogs! Why couldn’t they have sorted this out? Imagine the football team as well. We would have really kicked arse. And the food combinations would have been interesting. But for a simple twist of fate I could have lived in a country that really represented who I am. Sigh.

We Better Talk this Over

Thursday, January 11, 2007

We want folk singer here

My good friend Will publicly mocked my Dylan fetish on his blog a few days ago. I was relaying a rumour (now almost certainly a false one) that Dylan was releasing an album of new songs in September 2007. So I was angry at him, but he sent me an email back which quoted Simon Cowell (the “music industry guru” – © Heat Magazine and all other trashy publications of that nature) which has redeemed himself slightly in my eyes as he has given me inspiration to write a new blog topic. It was taken from a Cowell interview in Playboy Magazine. And it also proves that Will reads playboy – I wonder if his girlfriend knows and approves? If she does – well done Will, you’ve got yourself a gem worth keeping.

"If I had ten Dylans in the final of American Idol, we would not be getting 30 million viewers a week. I don't believe the Bob Dylans of this world would make American Idol a better show. Do I prefer Kelly Clarkson's music to Bob Dylan's? Yes. I've never bought a Dylan record. A singing poet? It just bores me to tears".

Now Simon Cowell is so wrong here. Music, for me and many others, is art. It makes you cry, laugh, dance and think. It moves you either physically or mentally. Simon Cowell and his Pop idol paps is not music, it is just product.

There are so many of these fantasy reality TV programmes on now that it is hard to keep up – what he has invented is a very profitable glorified karaoke contest. How much does a show like that cost to make, seriously. Rent a studio for 8 weeks and get idiots who want to be famous on TV to “sing” for free and then get the public to text in for winners, making a healthy profit at the same time. Plus you have the thousands of pounds of profit from the hyped up winners CDs which come out the day after the final, which require no marketing at all.

But what Simon forgets is that Kelly Clarkson (and other winners) just disappear after a few years – the industry has to keep producing this pap, and keep it new in order for people to keep buying. Clarkson may well sell millions of CDs, but she won’t be getting a number one when she’s 65. Who can remember these guys: Hear Say, Gareth Gates, David Sneddon, Alex Parks, Will Young or Chico? They have all disappeared from the celebrity radar, yet all won or were thereabouts in reality TV singing shows.

Simon Cowell may be all about the moulah (read $$$ for people who don’t speak Londonish) but art, passion and performance will always be more effective, touching and moving when artists like Bob Dylan grace the stage rather than clone Barbie doll glorified karoke singers. In thousands of years time the records and songs of the Beatles, Stones, Dylan, the Clash, REM, U2 or whoever will be remembered, much as the classical music of Beethoven or Mozart are today. Kelly Clarkson’s music will be forgotten. History has a snag of remembering the true great artists, Simon Cowell’s rent a drones (and himself) will be no more than a footnote in popular musical history.

Sorry had to get that off my chest. I fucking hate Simon Cowell and Poop Idol.

Talkin' New York

Friday, January 05, 2007

You went to the finest school alright

On a nostaligia trip, I looked at my school’s website. For those of you who don’t know me personally, you must know that I went to an International School in the South of France: Le Centre Internationale de Valbonne. I did a normal French education with extra classes in English and then went onto do the International Baccalureat in my final two years which consisted of classes mainly in English.

It was nice, set in the hills of a technological business park called Sophia Antipolis. There was forest all around. It was in the south of France, on the Riveria, near Antibes which had over 300 days a year of sunshine. So I guess I was lucky. Although it is shit to be a teenager, wherever you live.

They have a section on the website detailing the typical day of a border. Now I was a border for a year while my parents moved to Belgium. They felt, and I agreed with them, that changing school in my final year was pointless and would cause me difficulties. So I became a border for my final year at the school.

The typical day as described by the website:

6.45am – Wake-up and breakfast.
8am to 12pm – Lessons.
12pm-1pm – Lunch.
1pm – 5pm – Lessons.
5pm – Gouter (or snack in English).
5.30pm to 6pm – Study hour or activities.
7pm – 8pm – Dinner.
8pm – Study in your room.
9.30pm to 10.30pm – lights out.

Here’s what really happened on our typical day:

7.15am – The guy looking after us comes around once to wake us up by knocking on the door and letting himself in. I roll over and go back to sleep.
7.50am – Wake up, frantically put clothes on and get bag ready.
8.10am – Arrive in class ten minutes late.
11.00am – Class cancelled because of strike and/or absence by teacher (this is the South of France remember).
Shun lunch in the cafeteria which was absolutely foul – not all French cuisine is superb, remember. Go to the local shop and buy a sandwich and crate of beer to share with friends.
14pm – Go back to class, quite often drunk. Sleep in the back of the class and write down one thing – get notes from the spod at the front who is copiously taking down everything the teacher is saying.
16pm – Skive off the last hour because I can’t be bothered. Miss the gouter which consists appetisingly of stale bread left over from breakfast and cheap chocolate.
5.30pm – Say hello to the guy looking after us. Go to mate's room and play computer games.
7pm. – Go to dinner and eat another pile of crap. God it was awful and is making my stomach turn just thinking about it.
8pm. – Sit at desk waiting for guy to come around to check on us, listening to football on the radio and/or music.
9.30pm until 2am – Wait for the guy to come around in the evening. Sneak out and go to mate's room for more booze and computer games.
2am – Sneak back without getting caught by security guards passing by another three people’s rooms to see what they’re up to.

And at the weekend it was even better.
Saturday - Get up. Drink. Visit girls' dorms. Get thrown out. Go to bed.
Sunday – Get up. Drink. Watch football in the bar or visit girls' dorms again. Go to Bed.

But I enjoyed my short time at boarding school. I was old enough to realise that it had its benefits. In many ways it was as if I had been to university a year earlier. It certainly helped me adjust to the student lifestyle very quickly, and I didn’t look as much of a tit when compared to those people who had never been let out of the house on their own and who got hideously drunk after two Smirnoff Ices on Freshers Week.

So the lesson here is parents: never believe what a school tells you. The truth is always going to be far different.

Sam said tell me quick man I got to run

I've written another couple of reviews. A review of Cold War Kids' debut album, Robbers and Cowards which I quite liked and a review of the Killers recent offering, Sam's Town which I liked less.

I've also been involved with doing this month's Rockbeatstone TV programme. Which is cool and has some cool videos from Kasabian, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Badly Drawn Boy and Ryan Adams. So that's worth checking out if you want some music videos to watch.

Highway 61 Revisited

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The game is the same - it's just up on a different level

My housemate went mad and has bought an XBOX 360. He has the game ‘Gears of War’. It is an amazing piece of computer game wizardry, a full frontal assault on the senses. You and a crack team of soldiers are running through a city while vile alien soldiers are coming at you from all angles. The graphics are so absolutely gobsmakingly brilliant and the soundtrack would not feel out of place in a action film. It is so incredibly intense that after you’ve played it for a while it feels as if you’ve been lobotomised.

But it got me thinking about computer games (I hate the term ‘video games’) and my history with them. The first computer I got on which I seriously played games was the Amstrad CPC 6128 (you can see it in all its 80s glory in the photo below).

I had some great games on it including Elite, which was possibly the most complex game at the time. You flew a spaceship across the universe trading goods, but it had complete freedom, you could even decide to become a pirate and shoot people down and steal their cargos. With money you could upgrade your ship with bigger engines, a larger cargo hold or even loads of missiles. I loved that game so much. Funnily enough some nutters have relaunched the game on PC and Mac as Oolite and have improved on it with new ships and stuff and even an online environment.

Another good game was Operation Wolf which came with a ‘gun’. You used the gun to shoot at the screen. Just like in the arcade! That was cool. Think of it as a kind of primitive Nintendo Wii.

I eventually upgraded to a Commodore Amiga 500+, which at the time was such an improvement on the old 8-bit, it was untrue. My favourite game of the Amiga was Sensible Soccer, which to this day remains the greatest footballing game of all time. It was instinctive with a one touch button control style and the soundtrack was Captain Sensible! Eventually they released Sensible World of Soccer which featured more teams from around the world. I used to set up so many leagues with friends and my brothers and play it for days on end. I could still play that one today, and you can even buy it as a direct plug into the TV and as a mobile phone game.

There were thousands of great Amiga games, but another one which stood out was a racing game called Skidmarks which had little cars race around dirt tracks. Amazingly fun and you could play four at the same time, which again produced many fun tournaments among friends.

Then I got bored with the Amiga and bought a Super Nintendo and eventually owned a Megadrive as well. Later on a playstation and a PS2. But everyone knows about those games. I played computer games intensively until I found better things to do like going down to the pub and meeting girls. But I still enjoy the odd gaming session now and again.

The earlier games were simple and playable, and enjoyable among friends. With new technology computer game developers have kind of lost sight of what’s important in a game: having fun. They should be less about full-frontal lobotomies and assults on the senses and more about enjoyment, playability and having simple fun.

Po' Boy

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Upon the beach where hound dogs bay

How my brother celebrated Xmas in Australia. Bastard.

Gates of Eden.

Gonna forget about myself for a while, gonna go out and see what others need

Hello, it is now 2007.

Apart from the most drunken New Year's Eve celebrations in a long time, the highlight of my Xmas/New Year period was definately watching the PDC darts final between Raymond Van Barneveld and Phil Taylor. I wrote an article on Sportingo about the final. Unbelievable darts. So please check that out if you have the time/inclination.

May I wish you all a happy new year. Let's hope that 2007 is far better than 2006. And in case you're wondering what the link in the title to the darts story is, it is that 'Thunder on the Mountain' was used as a song over a darts montage in the final. Bob Dylan really does get everywhere these days. Including bloody adverts for Mitsubishi 4x4 gas-guzzling cars. That made me die inside a little bit, but maybe that's for another blog post.

Thunder on the Mountain

Check me out, if you dare