Archive for April, 2004

Tube boobs

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I don’t usually write posts purely to refer people to other sites because:
a) it’s lazy,
b) it’s what everyone else does,
c) it doesn’t feed my ego sufficiently.

But sometimes someone does something enviably well. So, if you want to read overheard conversations on the London Underground try Tube Gossip.

Each weekly entry is sublime. Picking favourites is slightly counter-productive because the joy is in the mix of eccentricity, banality and expressions people don’t quite mean, but here are some just to entice you:

1. Toby is in another shit indie band, doing the toilets of Camden and shagging fat birds.
2. I happen to like dandruff.
3. Can you smell gas?
4. I would like to shoot Mel Gibson’s dad and then deny it ever happened.
5. Georgio Versace? What is that? Cheap shit.
6. Anyway, so he explained how we always live in the moment and how time is an illusion.
7. Guantanamo Bay… it’s like a place from Home and Away.
8. I saw this pregnant woman sunbathing topless on holiday. Her nipples looked like Wagon Wheels.
9. A lot of people mistake Palmer’s Green for Tuscany.
10. I said I liked having fun… that doesn’t mean I just drink Bacardi Breezers and get my tits out all the time.

(originally posted April 27, 2004)

Why fleeces are evil

Sunday, April 18, 2004

I don’t mind you wearing fleeces on mountains or boats. I concede that they might be of practical value to people who get a kick out of battling the elements, and besides, I won’t be able to see you. But what makes people think that they are acceptable for everyday use? Why cover yourself in shapeless man-made fibres when there are acceptable garments made from cotton and wool?

Fleeces are lighter, yes, but at what cost to style? If comfort and practicality were the bottom line in clothing we would all be wearing dungarees and leisure suits.

The fleece is the ultimate triumph of utility over aesthetics. Wearing one is the equivalent of keeping the plastic covering on the seats of a new car to keep it clean. It is as gauche as using address labels in the top right-hand corners of letters.

It is the shell suit of the middle class, the brown tights of the younger generation. It makes the young look middle-aged, and the middle-aged look ugly.

I know you fleece-wearers like to think you have liberated yourselves from the arbitrary values of the fashion industry, but you have gone too far. You have become a fashion Luddite with a nose cut to spite your face. Give up the struggle, comrade. Buy a jumper.

Welcome to dumpsville

Saturday, April 17, 2004

There are few seams as rich in character as the number 25 bus on a Friday night.

Last night’s compelling passengers were a luckless man and his hatchet-faced girlfriend. They were having a tiff, and while the precise origin was unclear it was apparent that a third party had made a comment about her mother. The man was attempting to cheer her up, but failed to understand that she wanted to remain upset. This was her crisis and any attempt to point out that she was needling herself needlessly would be a grave insult.

“I didn’t mean to trivialise it,” he pleaded as the girl ruffled her hair in anguish, folded her arms and showed him her profile. I laughed out loud when she finished him off by reaching into her bag and pulling out Henry James’s Washington Square, a novel so quintessentially the tale of a bitter old maid betrayed by her lover that I wondered whether she kept the book in her handbag for just such occasions.

The words he was looking for were: “Welcome to Dumpsville. Population: you.”

(originally posted April 17, 2004)

An affair to remember

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

So, is David Beckham playing away from home, and do we care?

I would be skipping on the fringes of libel even to speculate, but a tantalising glimpse is offered by David Beckham’s comment on the allegations.

“During the past few months I have become accustomed to reading more and more ludicrous stories about my private life,” he said in a statement. “What appeared this morning is just one further example. The simple truth is that I am very happily married, have a wonderful wife and two very special kids.”

This is not an off-the-cuff remark. He and his handlers will have spent hours discussing the wording and the result is, to quote Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All the President’s Men, a non-denial denial.

In the coming weeks we can expect the Beckhams to eschew aggressive rebuttals and opt instead for a privacy defence. Legally this is perfectly sensible, but it may prove too cautious if they hope to win the media battle.

The tabloids and their readership don’t like it when their heroes get cagey. Stars with a profile like Beckham’s do not recover from a serious allegation until they come clean (or appear to come clean) with the public – either through a detailed alibi or a humbling confession. If the weight of evidence is against you – a point not yet reached with the Beckhams – then your only hope of recovery is a mea culpa.

The “I’m only human” card has worked for stars from Hugh Grant to Shane Ritchie. No-one begrudges George Michael for using public conveniences for his private convenience, and even Pete Townshend is making a comeback after he apologised for paying for child pornography, a crime for which even criminals will throw you off a balcony.

But why should Beckham play that game? Is he not entitled to privacy? The answer is an unequivocal “no”. Tabloid pundits say that if you live by the sword, you must die by the sword. Broadsheet pundits talk about entering a Faustian pact with the media. But in layman’s terms Beckham has to accept that if the public is interested in reading stories as mundane as “Romeo tattoo for Becks” (a story his publicity team happily gave to The Sun) then it will be fascinated by stories in which he is undergoing a real drama.

Celebrities are like magic tricks. We admire a talented conjurer pulling the wool over our eyes, but what we really want to know is how the trick is done. The same is true of people with fairytale lifestyles. We like to see their matching golden thrones at their weddings, but ultimately we want to know that they are as human as we are.

But if you need a moral justification for press intrusion, here it is: Beckham is not just defending David and Victoria, he is protecting a multi-million pound brand.

He is paid more for posing for advertisements than he is for playing football, and the reason he is the ad-man’s Eldorado is not because of his skills on the field, good looks or even his insightful wit. It is because he has built a following through years of carefully-managed self-promotion. The public has bought into that brand and it is entitled to know whether it is tarnished, just as customers of KFC would be entitled to know the truth behind allegations that one of Colonel Sanders’s 11 herbs and spices was dandruff.

(originally posted April 6, 2004)

Top 5 singers who, if they started singing along with the radio in your car, you would tell to shut up

Friday, April 2, 2004

Bob Dylan
Everybody must get stoned, he sang, and how right he was. To sing the way he did and not think you were commiting an act of depravity requires either drugs or hearing impairment. He begins every song sounding as if he’s in incurable pain and by the end I know how he feels.

Leonard Cohen
Another wonderful lyricist, but when it comes to the vocals he’s just a Jewish Chris Rea. Could he not find anyone else to sing for him? Was he a 1960s version of Roger Hargreaves, the author of the Mr Men books, who couldn’t get anyone to illustrate his stories and so did the drawings himself? I should think even Roger Hargreaves sang better than Leonard.

Tom Waits
Some people get evangelical about Tom Waits. I think he’s a poor man’s version of Rowlf, the floppy-eared dog from The Muppet Show. His voice might be enviably gravelly, but I would be a lot happier if his careers advisor had told him to stick to government anti-smoking advertisements and a part-time job as Mr Gravel, a novelty after-dinner performer at conferences for the aggregates industry.

Not so much a singer as a prototype for the voices of the aliens in the film Galaxy Quest.

Mark Knopfler
Just how bad at singing was everyone else in the Dire Straits if they chose Mark Knopfler to be their vocalist? He didn’t sing, he spoke in rhythm. He was like Rex Harrison with a guitar. No matter how uncool Dire Straits become, they will always have a fanbase of middle-aged men who can sing along without worrying they won’t be able to hit any of the notes.