Archive for January, 2007

Superstition, black cats and voodoo dolls

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca poses many questions. What colouring pencils did Martin have as a child, for instance. Were his childhood daubs peppered with girls with “devil red” lips and bodies drawn in the colour mocha? But I am preoccupied by one line in particular:

“She’ll make you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain”

Two scenarios present themselves:

a) You’re in the living room, and the woman suggests you take off your clothes. Fantastic, you think, I had my suspicions from the colour of her lips that she would be up for a bit of rumpty-tumpty. “Right,” she says. “Now go outside and dance.” Well, look, I’d rather not. It’s raining. Are you coming as well? “No. Now move it, pendejo, or there will be no sex for a month.”

b) You’re in the bedroom, and the evening is going well. “Take off your clothes,” she says. Here we go, here we go, you think. “I’m going out now,” she says. “See you later.” What? Why? “To dance. In the rain. Adios.”

I’m struck by the thought that there are two types of people in this world: those who believe that she makes you take your clothes off and makes you go dancing in the rain, and those who prefer that she makes you take your clothes off and goes dancing in the rain herself. Which are you?

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Deconstructed horoscopes

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Post-modernism seems to have ignored the subject of horoscopes. No longer. What does your deconstructed future hold for you? The mystic chicken interprets your future…

Aries: You have aspirations and responsibilities, and will be confronted by opportunities and dangers.

Taurus: An astral event suggests a looming danger or opportunity in your health, finance, relationships or two of the above.

Gemini: There will be an opportunity on Friday relating to your aspirations that should be seized with vigour.

Cancer: Activity in the heavens that actually took place a long time ago but is only now observable means that Friday will bring danger. Exercise caution.

Leo: Universally applicable and complimentary traits will serve you well in realising your aspirations this week.

Virgo: Apparently negative traits that can actually be seen as virtues (such as an impulsive nature or an inability to suffer fools) will need to be kept in check to avert dangers.

Pisces: Something unexpected will happen, which is ironic, given that this horoscope should have anticipated it and warned you about it.

Aquarius: You will receive advice that is either more reliable than this horoscope and should be heeded, or less so, and ignored.

Capricorn: You will be required to make a decision about something that will have a bearing on your well-being or the well-being of others, thus reassuring you that your actions have meaning.

Saggitarius: Someone will do something that will appear to have a hidden motive if you look hard enough.

Scorpio: Although your fate is pre-determined by mighty forces we are fit never to comprehend but only to interpret, you are somehow able to exercise agency.

Libra: Your horoscope is very similar to another star sign’s, because making up 12 of these things is quite a challenge week after week.

Tsar tsar Channel 4

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Andrew VeitchTsar Nicholas II

Orthodox historians frequently spin out the yarn of how Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was killed – at 2.33am on July 17, 1918 – in a basement in Yekaterinburg. The precision of the timing makes it sound authoritative, but consider for a moment this alternative scenario: he escaped Russia with nothing more than the beard on his face, and renamed himself Andrew Veitch. Some 80 years later he went on to become a reporter for for Channel 4 News. Look at the pictures. Who are you going to believe?

Can you tell what it is yet?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rolf Harris portrait of the QueenGnasher

It has been more than a year since Rolf Harris tied his metaphorical kangaroo down and unveiled his portrait of the Queen. The monarch, he said, appeared to enjoy the sittings, spending hours at a time completely motionless. It is my duty to reveal that Rolf, who turned up at Buckingham Palace that day without his glasses, did not actually paint the Queen at all, but a small porcelain model of Gnasher from The Beano. It’s obvious now I mention it, isn’t it?

Spot the difference

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Poster showing The ReefFinding Nemo

Warner Bros is preparing to bring out its first feature-length computer-generated animation in Britain under the title The Reef (poster pictured on the left). The film, which is known in the US as Shark Bait, is about an orange-coloured fish who loses his family, finds a companion, and is threatened by a heavy-browed great white shark. I can’t quite put my finger on where I’ve heard this before. Perhaps someone at Disney, which distributed Pixar’s Finding Nemo (pictured, right) in 2003, will be able to help.

Of course, Warner Bros would never want to confuse filmgoers into thinking that its new film has anything to do with Nemo, which made $700 million in cinemas worldwide. Any resemblance, as they are wont to say in Hollywood, is coincidental.

The gift of love

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Oh, fantastic, a goat. But wait. This is just a piece of paper. The goat is in Africa, you say? Are you getting it delivered? It’s not for me? Where is my present, then?

It hasn’t happened to me yet, but one day someone is going to give me a gift certificate as a present. A goat in Malawi, a donkey in Angola, that kind of thing. Manners dictate that I thank her (let’s assume it’s a woman) for it, but it shall be through gritted teeth. I understand the intention: I have effectively given my present to someone more deserving. But I haven’t, because I had no agency in the transaction. The giver has given my present to someone more deserving. She has effectively given my present – a sense of well-being – to herself. A gift certificate is not, in fact, a gift at all, but an ostentatious act of piety.

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A homily

Friday, January 12, 2007

In the land of euphemisms for male anatomy, the one-eyed man is king.

Toilet reading

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

When people are asked what book most changed their life they usually identify a work of fiction that inspired them, in some abstract way, to re-examine themselves. A poll for Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme in 2004 revealed that the most influential book was… Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which is probably the least surprising result since Josef Stalin won his 30th consecutive gold medal at the 1952 Supreme Soviet Moustache Olympiad.

Pride and Prejudice has won every book poll in Britain for which it has been eligible since book polls began, unless the sample has excluded women (in which case the winner is Albert Camus’s The Outsider) or adults (arise, Harry Potter).

But I digress. The point is this: unless readers were spurred to become literature academics specialising in simpering 19th century froth, it probably didn’t change their lives at all. My favourite book is Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, but any impact it has had on my life or career is immeasurably small.

The book that had the most impact upon my life was The Lonely Planet Guide to India – although not in the “I went to India and found myself” way you might be thinking. Useful as it was for finding very, very cheap accommodation, it was a book that nearly killed me.

Among its recommendations were a fruit juice stall in Kerala and a restaurant in Jaisalmer that served “excellent lassis”. Very tasty they were too, but with a caveat. They were mixed with unfiltered water containing nasties that resulted in one bout of dysentery and another of suspected giardia. Neither killed me, as it turned out, but I was dehydrated to the point of requiring a drip on the first occasion, and an emergency prescription on the second.

Pride and Prejudice may be a classic of English literature, but I doubt if it had that effect even on listeners to Woman’s Hour.

Is this the way to Amarillo?

Saturday, January 6, 2007

There are two types of people on city streets: people who get approached for drugs and people who get asked for directions.

I’m the second. Very much the second. I get asked directions, on average, twice a week, and not just in London. Within half an hour of arriving in New York City a few weeks ago, a woman asked me if I could tell her the way to Pennsylvania Station. I had never been to New York before, but by chance I had recently arrived at the station myself, so I was able to tell her.

I have never been asked for drugs, which is just as well, since I’m not a dealer – but it is interesting how people judge you by how purposeful you look. If there is a lesson in this, it is that aspiring drug dealers should look aimless and would-be tour guides must practise looking focused. Hey, this career advisor stuff is easy.

Ask the chicken: how do I buy real clay poker chips in Britain?

Friday, January 5, 2007

It’s more elusive than Paris Hilton’s integrity or Justin Bieber’s parting, but it is possible to get hold of a real clay poker chip in Britain. (more…)