Friday, April 29, 2005

doctors appointments

Interesting to note that Blair was amazed, on last night's question time, that it's incredibly difficult to book a doctor's appointment in some surgeries these days. A woman in the audience told how she was not allowed to make an appointment more than 48 hours in advance (so that the surgery made their targets) and he was clearly baffled. How could he not know this was a problem for a lot of people? At my doctor's surgery no advance bookings are allowed at all - one can only get an appointment on the day one wishes to see the doctor. So I could no more make an appointment today to be seen tomorrow than I could to be seen next week. So here's what I have to do if I want a doctor's appointment.

I have to ring them at 8am to ask if I can have an appointment that day. Because I work in a different city to the one in which I live, it's always more convenient to have an appointment first thing in the morning, so I can go straight in to work afterwards. Otherwise, I can't do appointments in the daytime and getting a late afternoon one means leaving work at half three, which my boss is rarely happy about. So I ring at 8 asking for an appointment at 9, 9.30am etc. Except that I have to be on my train to work at 7.50. So what happens is I board my train to work, start ringing from my mobile at 8.01 and usually get through at some point in the next fifteen to twenty minutes. If I get through and they can see me that morning, I have to get off the train at Worthing and return to Brighton in order to see the doctor. Then go back to the station and resume my journey to work, or rather start it all over again. If I can't get through 'til after 8.30 then all the appointments for the day are gone and - unless my leg is hanging off by a thread - I just have to start the process all over again the next morning.

Utterly ridiculous - but I don't point this out as a complaint, or as evidence that there is something incredibly wrong with the whole system. I could change my doctor's surgery, for a start, which might solve the problem. I just tell it because it strikes me as absurd, topical and thus slightly comical.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

butane and plastic bags

The links run down;

I've been off-colour and not-blogging, apologies; here's a bunch of TV things quickly that bear further investigation.

- courtesy of Adam Bowie's weblog, news that Adam Curtis's peerless The Power of Nightmares is being edited into a two and a half hour film to be shown at Cannes. The idea that this might lead to showings in cinemas across the US is very welcome.

- There must have been a few sighs of relief at the BBC when Michael Palin revealed that - contrary to rumours - he's not stepping down in his role of chief traveller for the BBC, and will be doing another trip once he's had a year of putting his feet up, which is I think quite reasonable given all the strolling about in the service of good telly he's done previously.

Palin's news, then, might come as a slight blow to Simon Reeve, whose programme, 'Holidays in the Danger Zone' - his pitch for the Palin role - looks pretty ace. There's an interesting article about it in the Guardian, which you can read here:

The Guardian: Welcome to Nowhere.

So this means that it's just David Attenborough that needs replacing, then. I thought last week's candidate, Steve Leonard, who was the dashing and rather manic host of the new 'Journey of Life', was a million times better than Alan Titchmarsh, although he was infuriatingly keen to fill every frame with some exciting movement of his own - a natural history presenter emerging from the sea, dashing in a swimsuit? Whatever next? Hard to imagine the beeb getting Attenborough to produce his own Ursula Andress moment

- While we're on the subject of cult TV - I enjoyed 'Dr Who' a lot this week. Apart from the first ten minutes of the first episode, I think it's been crap so far (although I never watched the show the first however-many-times round).

Anyway, last week's episode, which told of alien space-weapons ready to be 'deployed in 45 seconds', was ace. Not sure I think much of Christopher Ecclestone though - it seems to me that you've got a continuity problem if you have a Doctor who is gung-go and excitable in the face of annhilation, blithe in his dismissal of humanity as 'just getting started' and relatively without fear - and yet is asked to make a sudden emotional speech about his fears of losing Rose. This was the first time Ecclestone has really had to act since the first episode and - although capably executed - was confusing when you compare it to his portrayal the rest of the time. Too much inane grinning kind of undermines the serious moments. Still - a very funny episode, farting gags excepted.

- last thing - tonight; do I watch Question Time with those two tory blokes and Charles Kennedy, or Supersize Me??? Advice appreciated.

Enough TV. Just had an email from funnyman and labour campaigner John O'Farrell, entitled 'Vote Labour or the hamster gets it'. Fucking idiot - it'll take a bit more than that to convince me. A bit more than this, even, although it's fairly persuasive:

Polly Toynbee's Guardian column from yesterday - worth reading.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

blair on tv last night

I watched Tony Blair being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on TV last night - I thought Blair seemed a little more defensive than I would expect him to be at this stage of a campaign which is broadly going well, and up against a Paxman who asked tough questions but held back from offering up a mauling. Tested on David Kelly and asylum seekers the PM faltered where I thought he might seem more convincing, but he generally equipped himself OK - although the feeling lingers that, believing himself a 'pretty straight kinda guy', he still feels slightly indignant that people persist in questioning his trustworthiness.

The only bit that really interested me, actually, was the sign off, where the credits rolled and Paxman - who had actually been quite chummy with Blair - began to talk to the PM in the standard end-of-show credits manner. But just for a second Blair looked completely disengaged, staring at the middle distance with a nervous look upon his face, as if he couldn't hear Paxman.

Blair is often talked about as being the person in the Labour project most insistent that the Tories continue to offer an electoral threat. Was that was he was thinking? Or was he just exhausted?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

dinosaur vs. the pixies

News here that Dinosaur Jr are going to re-release their immense 'Freak Scene' this summer (what price it being a hit? nah, me neither) in the wake of their reforming. The link is of most interest for the little debate in the comments in the bottom, where people are arguing over who was the better band, The Pixies or Dinosaur. Absolutely no contest, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

an asbo for slimzee

just seen this over on Chantelle Fiddy's blog:

"A pirate DJ who ran an illegal radio station from the top of a tower block has been banned from every roof across an entire borough. Dean Fullman, 23, otherwise known as DJ Slimzee, has received what is thought to be the first antisocial behaviour order of its kind for his Rinse FM broadcasts. The garage station, among the most popular in the pirate scene, helped launch the career of Mercury Prizewinner Dizzee Rascal. But council officers and the broadcasting authorities say such stations steal electricity, damage buildings and interfere with other radio signals - including those of emergency services. After a year-long hunt by Ofcom and Tower Hamlets officers, Fullman was caught by surveillance cameras at Shearsmith House in Stepney. Fullman, of Gernon Road, Bow, received a three-year conditional discharge at Thames Magistrates Court after admitting operating a pirate radio station and causing £10,000 of damage by erecting broadcast equipment. The court agreed to Tower Hamlets council's request for an Asbo prohibiting him for five years from entering any roof of any building over four storeys without permission."

bloc party

Now that I've got an iPod I'm getting the opportunity to listen to records which previously I could never get it together to burn onto a CD or just remember to stick in my bag or my discman in the morning. Amongst other things, I've had a proper chance to listen to the recent album by Bloc Party - 'Silent Alarm'. After a couple of listens, I'm pretty sure that it's the closest thing I've heard in a good while to the perfect LP. The production is impossibly shiny, it's a perfect length, every song is bright, poppy, articulate and tuneful.

Additionally, it's the most boring album I've heard in ages.

The first comparison that springs to mind is with last year Futureheads album, which is another where practically every track is perfectly executed, where almost every song would make a smashing single. If anything, Bloc Party have even more strings to their bow, for they replicate the F'heads devotion to Wire, XTC and the Gang of Four but go further, referencing New Order, Fun Boy Three, Pil and the Happy Mondays along the way. The lyrics veer between poetic symbolism and naked political urgency. There's even a track ('So Here We Are') which is a kind of indie version of 'Blinded By The Lights' or 'Dreamy Days' - an E song. In other words, this is the most tasteful, modern (and nostalgic) record you'll hear in 2005.

If you buy it (or download it) you don't need to bother with getting hold of new stuff by the Killers, Interpol, Maximo Park, the Editors, Kaiser Chiefs or New Order - it does everything those records do. And almost every song is brilliant. But put together I'm aching to hear some mistakes, an unwise reggae song, a moment where - momentarily - the rhythm section aren't metronomically of a single mind. Doesn't even one of Bloc Party own a record made by a band without asymmetrical haircuts? The problem with an album where everything is perfect, immaculately mastered and segued is that there are no standout tracks, no big surprises. They frequently sound like Great Escape-era Blur, but there's no odd, sudden 'He Thought of Cars', 'The Universal' or 'Yuko and Hiro', and certainly no cheesy, throw away errors of judgement. It's just relentless, consistent, great music.

What a disappointment!

Monday, April 18, 2005

more photo doctoring / right to reply

A really interesting post over on Hove Labour, where the local election campaign is turning into a bit of a ding-dong. The latest development is summarised below:

"Tory candidate, Nicholas Boles has published a doctored photograph of the proposed site for the Frank Gehry designed building in order to stir controversy surrounding the development. Instead of using one of the publicly available design images issued by the developers, the Tory candidate chose to superimpose an image of unknown origin. This was clearly chosen to deceive the reader into thinking that a substandard design was being considered for the site."

To read more, and see the doctored pictures used in his election leaflet, click here.

And, in more (kind of related) politics stuff, take a look at Silent Words Speak Loudest, which features a week long debate on the election by a bunch of interesting bloggers, including Mike from Troubled Diva, Ben SWSL himself, JonnyB, and Phill from Danger! High Postage - oh, and me.

There'll be a post a day, starting with today's, on Campaigning.

Friday, April 15, 2005


I've just had my 30,000th hit on the blog. Thank you, friends, random surfers and people typing 'world of hair Eastbourne' into Google.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

factcheck / electionwatch

A very interesting feature on the Channel 4 website today - a 'factcheck' look at the Labour manifesto:

"Crime has fallen by 30 per cent overall, with almost five million fewer crimes a year than in 1997" Labour Party Manifesto, April 2005

It depends which statistics you believe. The claim is true according to the British Crime Survey, but not according to Recorded Crime Statistics. And it's the latter set of statistics that Labour uses to criticise the Tory record in the same manifesto document.

Elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats have just launched their manifesto. Not had a chance to look at it yet, but you can do so here. And according to this article in the Guardian today, "Mr Howard's hardline stance on asylum and immigration is putting off more voters than it is attracting. The Conservative lead on the issue has fallen from 13 points to 10 over the last week."

Finally, Blair says he's seeing out a full third term, but I don't believe it. You know something's up when you read about a 'relaxed' Gordon Brown in the PM's company.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

photo fun

A mini gallery of doctored Ed Matts photos here, courtesy of the Guardian. Good stuff.

one of the better efforts, by James Smith


Labour just launched their manifesto; you can read it here.

There's a tantalising section entitled 'See our personal promises to you' on the manifesto site, where you can enter your age, status and postcode and find Labour's personal promise to you! How interactive. Of course, they want your email address too, or they won't tell you what's in store (don't do it, you'll get bombarded with emails from Tony Blair - frightening). But a quick run through with the address got me some pretty vague and unspecific pledges, starting with the lovely 'prosperity for you'. Hmmm. Well, OK then, I'll put you in touch with my HR department, Tone.

More detail in the manifesto, and worth a read, actually - it's generally pretty positive, if cautious, stuff.

i dunno

I just completed the questionairre at Who Should I Vote For, and came up with the not altogether surprising conclusion that I no longer fit the bill of a natural Labour voter (or at least, not a natural New Labour voter), although I think a few big questions (like support of the war or of house arrest) inevitably weighed the results away from our beloved party of government.

So here's how I stand:

Labour -4
Conservative -59
Liberal Democrat 80
UK Independence Party -13
Green 29

You should vote: Liberal Democrat


Take the test at Who Should You Vote For.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

shenanigans in dorset south

It's kind of interesting this story about Ed Matts, the tory candidate who has doctored some photographs of himself and Anne Widdicombe campaigning for the rights of an immigrant family threatened with deportation, in order to promote the party line on immigration - which is rather more severe. If I wasn't feeling a bit sleepy I'd probably get worked up about it and say he should be sacked. Instead, I keep looking at the two photographs and trying to work out what else - apart from the changed placards - bothers me about it.


He's done something to his face, hasn't he? Somehow in the new photo he looks more serious and steely, somewhat less goofy. And his hair is somehow thicker, more lustrous. It all combines and before long you can't help thinking goddamn it I have to vote for this man!! What a shame I don't live in Dorset South.

some thoughts on portland, oregon

Portland feels like a pretty hip, creative city - on Sunday I jumped on one of the free trams to go to the convention centre where I was working for the week, and got only a few blocks before I spotted the Saturday market, which was worth stopping for. It was a small, vibrant market reminiscent of the one at Camden Lock - all incense burning, carved wooden toys and stalls selling vegetarian food.


I spotted someone wearing a t-shirt which read 'Keep Portland Weird'. The city is full of home-brew bars, too; I had a couple of excellent drinks in a place named 'Rock Bottom'. Whenever they do those 'most liveable city' lists, Portland is invariably near the top.

But elsewhere I saw someone with a cardboard sign which read 'unable to work, too nervous to steal'. Quite a lot of people begging, actually, but then Oregon - for all Portland's progressive tendencies - has had the highest unemployment rate in the US practically every month for the last three years, although things have improved in the last few months - in January 2004 there were 158,841 Oregonians without jobs. A year on the number was down to 131,805, which is better without being inspiring. Little wonder that the Republicans didn't get a look in in the election last year.

I don't really suffer from wanderlust, but when I'm in a new place I want to find out everything I can about a place; I spent a few hours skimming through books on the area in Borders but I didn't find anything that really appealed, although there's a book by Chuck Palahniuk (who wrote Fight Club), entitled 'Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk Through Portland, Oregon', which sets out to focus on Portland's capacity for supporting an alternative lifestyle; in fact it just seemed to chronicle his various experiences with sex-workers and strippers. Wooo.

Back on the tram, the heavily accented announcements, saying 'Please provide seats for seniors and riders with disabilities' comes out, every time, as 'please provide seats for seniors and writers with disabilities'.

Like I said, it's an arty city.

Monday, April 11, 2005

saccharine sanctimony

American TV is a sight to behold, but I didn't see as much of it as I might while I was over in the US because half of the TV channels seemingly shut down their output to concentrate on the death of the Pope (and, absurdly, the marriage of Charles and Camilla - which I watched on my return and thought was, radical republican that I am, rather nice).

The Americans love the fact that the British public are in two minds about Camilla, but watching American TV you'd never guess that people have have mixed feelings about the Pope, too. Judging by what Vic tells me, there was a similarly one eyed outlook in the british media too, which can be largely summed up thus: the pope was a great bloke he was very religious he helped bring down communism with reagan who is great too we now realise and the pope was firm on morals whereas the rest of us just shilly-shallied around with stupid ideas like being gay or listening to women or condemning child-abusers. Great.

So let's ignore all the fucked-up rubbish he talked on contraception, abortion, women, homosexuals and modenity. Polly Toynbee wrote, while I was away:

"He was a good, caring man nevertheless, they say, as if it were a minor aberration. But genuflecting before this corpse is scarcely different to parading past Lenin: they both put extreme ideology before human life and happiness, at unimaginable human cost. How dare our prime minister go there in our name to give the Vatican our approval for this? Will he think of Africa when on his knees today? I trust history will some day express astonishment at moral outrage wasted on sexual trivia while papal celebrity and charisma cloaked this great Vatican crime."

Now, let's be clear. I have no problem with the world mourning the loss of a world-figure who affected many (we'll leave aside the Africans who were infected with HIV because of his teaching), nor with Blair attending his funeral. Doubtless if I were a Catholic (and there are plenty of moderate, liberal ones about) I too would be upset at the death of a figure I would have grown up listening to (if not obeying), and I see no reason why those people should not be represented by their Prime Minister (especially as he's practically a Catholic himself these days).
But I do have a real problem with the conflating of the Pope's death with the notion that his kind of extreme conservatism was palatable by virtue of his profound religiosity. I have a great deal of respect for people from the Church community, but that doesn't mean I'm prepared to tolerate rampant bigotry and backwardness - both things which should be lastingly associated with the deceased Pope's reign. Toynbee finishes:

"Today's saccharine sanctimony will try to whiten the sepulchre of yet another Pope whose obscurantist faith has caused pointless suffering; it is no defence that he was only obeying higher orders."

back / autechre

I spent the last week in Portland, Oregon, so have been unable to blog; sorry if you stopped by and found things ground to a sudden halt. Back now, and will get back to posting ASAP. In the meantime, you can listen to the new Autechre album here.

Friday, April 01, 2005

open season

There's a new British Sea Power album out, in case you didn't notice, and I've been listening to it all week; I think it's pretty good. Like 'The Decline and Fall...' it's a grower, I think. It starts very well indeed - 'It Ended On an Oily Stage', which includes the lines "He found God / In a parking lot / And you did not" and "Be Gone" are excellent examples of BSP at their best. The latter's chorus goes "Oh Gloria! Oh Guillotine! I love your irridescent sheen", which reminds me of Pavement's "One of us is a cigar stand / and one of us is a lovely blue incandescent guillotine", which was pretty much lonely in a league of it's own 'til now. As an opening salvo, the two songs lack the raw, alarming power of the opening songs on the first album, which dazzled me when I first heard them.

Here, after two great pop songs, the album dips alarmingly for a few songs after that, but gathers pace again with 'Victorian Ice', which - quite apart from a moment where the song stops still for Yan to sing 'totally wicked, and equally ace' - features a couple of magnificent and delicate guitar flourishes and suddenly turns into Simon and Garfunkel's 'Mrs Robinson' for five seconds on a couple of occasions.

Even better, 'Oh Larson B', their paean to the melting Antarctic coastal shelf, is just wonderful - BSP's best tune since 'Remember Me' - the first half built around a really great Motown bassline and crisp, confident guitar and the second even going a bit Sonic Youth. It's one of only one or two tracks on the album which are really excellent songs; elsewhere their engaging style and lyrical elan gets them out of scrapes where songs are only really half-songs. And there's nothing as irrestistable as 'Apologies to Insect Life'.

But it's a decent, no, a good second album. Well produced, spirited, confident and articulate.

Sorry, that was a very rushed album review. And after all that, a link.

There's an interview with the band in the Independent today. Read it.

sad bastards

According to an article in the Independent today, titled Men consider lap dancing to be 'normal fun':

"Men view a trip to a lap-dancing club as a normal and acceptable form of entertainment and the industry is now so mainstream that many refuse to believe that the women who dance are being exploited, or that there is anything wrong in paying for their services."

I don't know anyone who considers going to a lap-dancing club normal. What the article goes on to reveal is that the survey is of men who already frequent lap-dancing clubs, rather than men in general. A bit misleading, then - it should really be titled "Men who pay money for lap dancing consider lap dancing to be 'normal fun".

my fool resolution

Here's my plan for the day. I'm not going to blog a single news article, no matter where I read it or how realistic it seems, for the simple reason that I do not believe that I am sharp-witted enough to spot an April Fool's Day prank coming. So today I believe nothing. I glance at the paper. "Two Sunday Telegraph journalists have been arrested in Zimbabwe while covering elections and are likely to be deported", I read. HAH! Surely they don't expect me to believe that!