Friday, March 30, 2007

attention indoor cheese racers

....think about what you're doing! Racing of cheese in a confined indoor space can have serious and messy consequences. Just look at this:

Word to the wise: do it outside.

Actually these aren't post-cheese-slice-explosion photos: no, this is yer actual art. They are part of a series (entitled, would you believe, "Cheese") of everyday household objects (of varying sizes up to and including, as pictured here, pretty much the entire household) covered in stringy cheese. Looks like mozzarella to me, but it's hard to be sure. And I've no idea how the artist got it to melt so evenly - one of those hot-air paint-removing guns, perhaps? Anyway, his name is Cosimo Cavallaro, and he's in the news at the moment for making a giant naked chocolate Jesus, to all-too-predictable gibbering howls of outrage from middle America. Quite why they're so offended is hard to work out - the image doesn't appear to mock or caricature in any way, so it must either be the nudity or the medium (i.e. the chocolate). Then again if the idea of a representation of Christ in edible form is so offensive, someone's evidently not been paying attention during the Holy Communion I guess it is the big chocolate cock that's the problem, after all. Anyway, his website has some pictures of the sculpture in question, as well as more melted cheesy pics, and a couple of slightly more worrying categories called "shit" and "death" which I haven't felt a need to investigate, but, hey, knock yourselves out. The ones depicting several pounds of ham on a bed are slightly disturbing, as well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

albums of the day

Fly Like An Eagle and Book Of Dreams by The Steve Miller Band.

Most people in this country probably know Steve Miller best for being one of the long line of people who had a number 1 single with a tune used in a Levis jeans advert (1973's The Joker, in 1990). However, they were a seriously big deal in the USA in the late 1970's, to the extent of co-headlining a major stadium tour with The Eagles in 1977. That's co-headlining, not supporting, and consider that The Eagles were coming off the back of Hotel California at the time. History and critical hindsight perhaps hasn't been as kind to these two albums as to Hotel California, and possibly rightly so, but nonetheless they mark the band's commercial zenith, and, dammit, probably their artistic one as well, for all that the early psychedelic blues stuff around the time of Sailor in the late 1960's was interesting (and if Pink Floyd hadn't listened to Song For Our Ancestors before writing and recording Echoes and, in particular, Shine On You Crazy Diamond, I'll eat my hat).

Neither album is perfect, their common faults being mainly a bit of a penchant for swirly synthesizer instrumentals (Space Intro, Blue Odyssey, Threshold) and an occasional tooth-rotting tweeness (Wish Upon A Star, Babes In The Wood, Wild Mountain Honey). But it's all redeemed by Miller's fabulously languid and treacly vocal style and some great songs: you could make a pretty faultless single album out of the highlights of these two, specifically: Fly Like An Eagle, Serenade, Mercury Blues, Take The Money And Run, Rock'n Me, Jet Airliner, Winter Time, Swingtown, Jungle Love, Sacrifice, The Stake. Two other minor criticisms: Miller completists will notice that he's nicked the central guitar riff for Fly Like An Eagle straight out of his own earlier tune My Dark Hour, and secondly the slightly ill-judged voice-over to the otherwise excellent cover of Sam Cooke's You Send Me ("come on, baby, come on, no, come on, don't be nervous") makes the whole thing sound just a little bit rapey.

More importantly, these two albums, and Book Of Dreams in particular, were among the small collection of albums that formed the soundtrack to my childhood. My parents weren't fanatical album-buyers, and we lived abroad for a significant chunk of the 1970's, so it was a fairly small collection of stuff, each of which of necessity got listened to quite frequently. Off the top of my head this collection comprised:
  • Abraxas by Santana
  • The Best Of Cream
  • Simon And Garfunkel's Greatest Hits
  • The Best Of John Denver
  • Led Zeppelin I
  • Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass) by The Rolling Stones
  • a pirate Greatest Hits compilation by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • A Day At The Races by Queen
No doubt there were others. Funny how that sort of exposure at an early age makes it difficult to be objective about these particular albums' merits now - to put it another way I own all of these (possibly in a slightly different format in the case of the compilations) on CD now. Then again they were hardly obscure niche-market experimental Icelandic jazz ear-flute explorations, so maybe it's just that they're good albums. I guess we'll never know.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

only a game?

I was thinking of doing a Cricket World Cup preview/story so far blog post at some stage this week, but events have overtaken me, specifically the shocking developments following the tragic death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer.

Strangely enough the end of Woolmer's playing career at Test level marked the start of my Test cricket watching career (and subsequent lifelong obsession). It was 1981, I was 11, and England were playing Australia in what would become (thanks largely to Ian Botham) the most famous Ashes series of all time, until 2005 anyway. Sadly for him, Woolmer wasn't involved in the 3rd, 4th and 5th Tests on which the series' claim to historic status rests; he played in the first Test at Trent Bridge (in which he made a pair, and England lost - the image on the left shows him being caught at slip by Graeme Wood off Dennis Lillee in the first innings) and the second Test at Lord's (which was drawn) in which he made 21 and 9. These were the last two of his 19 Test appearances, as he went on Graham Gooch's rebel tour to South Africa that winter and received a 3-year ban (as did all the other rebels).

It looks as if the World Cup will continue in parallel with the police investigation. There are all sorts of the show must go on, it's what Bob would have wanted, etc., arguments to be put forward in support of this, though it's undeniably true that it's what the providers of the £millions worth of sponsorship and the TV companies would want as well. I hope Malcolm Speed doesn't end up being as reviled for that decision as Avery Brundage was for decreeing that the 1972 Munich Olympics should continue after the massacre of the 11 Israeli athletes.

Time will tell. A more directly cricket-related post will follow, probably once the preliminary round is completed and we know who's in the Super Eight. In the meantime, here's Herschelle Gibbs making one-day cricket history by hitting six sixes in an over off Dan van Bunge of the Netherlands.

the last book I read

The Truth About Lorin Jones by Alison Lurie.
Polly Alter used to like men, but she didn't trust them any more, or have very much to do with them.
That's the opening line of the book, and it sets the tone, in a way, for what follows. To expand slightly: ex-painter, museum curator and writer Polly Alter acquires a commission to write a biography of dead female painter Lorin Jones, and sets out to interview everyone who knew her, either personally or professionally. Her recent painful divorce and her frienship with her lesbian best friend Jeanne colour her preconceptions of Lorin Jones' life - the fragile misunderstood genius, beaten down and exploited by a series of men, lovers, agents, art collectors, etc., but as she meets all these people it becomes clear that things are less, well, clear.

Good points: the minute details of social and sexual interaction is all very acutely observed; this really is how people behave.

Bad points: only very minor criticisms, really, but: the character of Jeanne, Polly's best friend, occasional housemate and even more occasional lover, and her shadowy friends Cathy and Ida and the rest of their "women's group" seem mainly only to be there as a straw man, a group of clearly irrational and manipulative man-haters for Polly to rebel against as she re-asserts her relationship with her teenage son Stevie and subsequently gets involved with Lorin Jones' ex-lover Hugh Cameron ("Mac") towards the end of the book. The Mac character himself also seems a little too implausibly perfect.

Of course this is all viewed through the prism of my own preconceptions, a different viewpoint might have it that Jeanne and the sisterhood are trying to save Polly from plunging back into a cycle of exploitation by men, ultimately unsuccessfully.

Lorin Jones' life and death have a series of superficial resemblances to that of photographer Diane Arbus, and by a strange coincidence she is the subject of a new film: Fur, starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey, Jr. Never let it be said that I don't surf the Zeitgeist.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

some more photos

Some more photo antics captured in the gallery, including:
  • Some photos from up at my parents' place in Herefordshire back in February. As you'll see this is the weekend when we had all that snow - about a foot of it up on the Welsh border, which was just begging to be made into a snowman. So we did. Also - the original plan was to clear out Dad's pond of all the accumulated weed and gunk and dead cats that had ended up in it; the snow made this impossible, but I felt it would be churlish not to model the full-length pair of waders that had been hired for the occasion. Just a touch of the Wallace & Gromit Wrong Trousers about the whole thing, I think - see what you reckon.
  • A few from my friends Hayley and James's wedding, also in February. You'll notice these photos are in two sections: some professional-looking black and white ones, which were taken by an actual professional (i.e. Hazel), and some drunkenly amateurish colour ones, which were taken by a drunken amateur (i.e. me).
  • A few from when Hazel and I went down to Bournemouth to do a preliminary photo-shoot in advance of Hazel photographing her friends Hannah and Mark's wedding in May.
  • Some from last weekend's Six Nations rugby showdown, including Wales' glorious 27-18 win over England. Most of these were taken in the Poets' Corner pub in Roath, Cardiff, except of course the ones which were clearly taken at the seaside; these were taken in Penarth the following day. The one on the right is the first in a sequence of (from left to right) Doug, Anna and me doing (badly) the Morecambe & Wise end-of-show going-off-stage dance. Click here for an amusing animated GIF version.

Monday, March 19, 2007

onanistic capsicofascism - no, really....

My local Sainsbury's sells all manner of delicious nibbly things in jars, for instance the Tabasco olives I mentioned in a previous post, delicious Sun-Blush tomatoes, marinated wild mushroom antipasti, larks' tongues in aspic, that sort of thing. A recent addition to the range is the tangy pickled miniature peppers sold under the trademarked name PEPPADEW. And very delicious they are too; they come in two strengths, mild and tangy, though to be honest I haven't noticed a great deal of difference between the two.

Couple of observations though: firstly if you browse around their website they are slightly scarily monomaniacally prescriptive, and indeed proscriptive, about what you should call the product. I think a middle ground of people referring to them as "Peppadew peppers" is probably the best they can hope for. In any case once I've paid for the jar I reserve the right to call them whatever I deem appropriate, including Brenda.

Secondly, this is a close-up of the back of the jar I bought today. Have a look at the suggestion in the red section. Well.....why not toss into a fresh green salad? Well, there is the hygiene issue, though on the other hand it's high in zinc and protein. You could always claim it was some kind of Caesar dressing, I suppose.

On a completely unrelated topic, if you saw the Peter Kay & Matt Lucas wheelchair duet on Comic Relief night, you might have noticed the showbiz legend that is Terry Nutkins in the audience. Strangely, during the 20-odd years since his slightly irritating long-haired seal-wrangling antics on Animal Magic and The Really Wild Show he seems to have turned into David Carradine in Kill Bill. How did that happen?

Friday, March 16, 2007

check out the amphibious archetypes on that

I am now a published author. Yes, it's true, I am - under my paparrazzi-avoiding pseudonymic nom de blog Gregory J. Wolfenbacher I have produced a Computer Science research paper which I could, if I felt inclined to do so, hawk around various conferences in luxurious locations in the hope of getting an invite. Well, I say I produced it - actually it was automatically generated for me by the clever plausible-at-first-glance-but-actually-utter-gibberish paper generator written by the clever people here. I particularly like the nice meaningless blobby diagrams with random arrows not referenced anywhere in the text. For all the nice meaningless phrases like "game-theoretic modalities" and "simulated annealing" that the generator pops into the text, the best bit is just seeing the ridiculous contributing author names you've just made up attached to an official-looking document. Here's another one with some slightly stupider names.

Alternatively, if sneaking some gibberish under the radar isn't really what you're after, and you just want to make a point, this does it quite nicely.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

the last book I read

Juggling by Barbara Trapido.

I listed Barbara Trapido's earlier book Brother Of The More Famous Jack as one of my recommended comic novels at the end of the Tibor Fischer review a couple of weeks ago, and then I found myself thinking: is this really a comic novel? I don't remember laughing out loud all that often....then I thought, well, the same applies to The World According To Garp, among others, and I would consider that a comic novel. Tricky, isn't it? And the Irving comparison is an apposite one for other reasons as well, stylistically speaking, probably more for this book than for BOTMFJ, as I like to call it. Massive picaresque extended family epics spanning a number of years, a mild obsession with rape and abortion (though she seems not to share Irving's other obsessions with bears and wrestling, which may be just as well), hugely engaging characters, and, in general, things working out OK in the end, at least for those you want it to work out OK for.

It turns out that this is a sequel to an earlier book, Temples Of Delight, but I am living proof (as I haven't read it) that there's no necessity to have read the earlier book to enjoy this one thoroughly.

The only thing that bugged me, and it's a small thing, is that one of the minor plot strands revolves around one of the more minor characters being able to levitate - this struck an incongruously self-conscious and unnecessary magic realist note, to me, which just jarred very slightly with the bizarre and outlandish but essentially plausible events in the rest of the book. Then again that whole magic realism thing bothers me - there's a levitation episode in Gabriel García Márquez's One Hundred Years Of Solitude, in all other respects one of my favourite books, which annoyed me as well. It's the whole jarring interruption of plausible suspension of disbelief thing, like musicals. How are we meant to engage with the generalities of the plot if every so often the cast break into implausibly perfect and incongruously musically backed song at the drop of a hat? I mean, who does that in real life? Not me - at least, not often, anyway.

ambient keyboard odyssey, anyone? please yourselves.....

I forget exactly by what sequence of random clicking I came across this the other day, but I remember thinking it was unlikely there'd be two people with the same name, and sure enough I was right. Get to the point, you say? Well, OK, then. Robert de Fresnes is a respected modern keyboardist and composer who released a couple of albums of what would these days be called something like "ambient electronica" in the late 1990s, and more recently has been getting involved with the more dance chart-oriented end of things - well, you've got to pay the bills, haven't you?

The point, and the reason I mention all this, is that I was at school with this bloke for a year back in the early 1980s - specifically school year 1981-82 - at The Becket Comprehensive in Nottingham, and I remember him very well. Tall, very bright, perfectly pleasant, slightly effeminate and squishy and unathletic and may as well have had BULLY ME HARD tattooed across his forehead. Which is (or was; I'm sure he's over it now) all very tragic for him, but actually quite handy for equally bright and unathletic but considerably less lanky and conspicuous types like me (my growth spurt and late-developing interest in contact sport, not to mention beer and girls, was a few years off yet) as we could slink off round the corner to play cricket and leave him to the wolves. Ah, the unthinking atrocities kids inflict on each other on a daily basis.

Other name-dropping while I'm here: I was at Bristol University at the same time as the following people:
  • Kyran Bracken
  • Emily Watson
  • Derren Brown
  • Dominik Diamond
  • Simon Pegg
  • David Walliams
  • Samantha Cameron (wife Of Conservative Party leader and probable seven-foot blood-sucking lizard in human form David Cameron)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

the last book I read

Mr. Phillips by John Lanchester.

If you've read John Lanchester's first novel, The Debt To Pleasure, then it's quite hard not to view this, his second novel, through the prism of the first one. That one has an absurdly over-the-top and unreliable narrator, a hugely flowery and descriptive prose style, and ultimately (if the narrator's arch hints are to be believed, anyway) somewhat grotesque and macabre subject matter. Highly recommended, though, especially if you like food (and who doesn't?) - an appropriately foody amuse-bouche, if you will, is available here.

Mr. Phillips, by contrast, has a much more mundane and everyday central character (it's also written in the third person as opposed to the first person, which limits the scope for florid internal monologues) who has a series of much more mundane and everyday encounters, almost as if to provide a deliberate contrast with the first book. It's a great tribute to the author's talents, then, that this is still effortlessly readable, even when Mr. Phillips is just sitting on a bus musing about inconsequential things, or the accountancy job he's just been made redundant from (which provides the jumping-off point for his day of mini-adventures, such as they are). It's shot through with some very sly humour as well, which those who favour the more clunking-fist-to-the-jaw approach (see the previous TLBIR post) would do well to take note of.

The lesson here, I suppose, is that if you can write as well as this you can make any subject matter interesting. Further evidence of this can be found in Lanchester's regular-ish columns for the London Review Of Books; articles on everything from Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter books to a psycho-economic profile of Rupert Murdoch to a techno-cultural analysis of the Google phenomenon , and much more.

Friday, March 09, 2007

bite-size thoughts for the day

1) From seeing her on Loose Women yesterday (I know, I know. I was at home, the TV was on, what can I tell you?) I say: Regina Spektor is the new Tori Amos. Lazy comparison perhaps, but I choose to make it anyway. Redhead, piano-basher, and my kookyometer went off the scale. Case closed.

2) I find myself not entirely sympathetic to the woman in the Sheffield nightclub/police violence case. One might suggest at this point that if you don't want to get manhandled into the back of a police van, don't drink your own body weight in brandy and start vandalising cars. I do worry when I find myself thinking like this - is it then a short road to thinking like the respondents to this online survey? I like to think I would still have to perform some sort of impromptu home lobotomy with a rusty garden implement to end up there.

3) More daytime TV: The Jeremy Kyle Show. Well, where do you start? Maybe by looking at the banner at the bottom of the screen when it's on and trying to pick the one that most perfectly encapsulates the mind-warping lowest-common-denominator freak-show dreadfulness of it all. I respectfully submit today's for your consideration: "My brother murdered a prostitute". Can anyone do better?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

where in the world

Here's a fun thing: create your own coloured-in map of the world based on where you've been and where you haven't.

Here's mine:

I've had to apply some stringent rules; basically I have to have actually stood on the soil of the country in question (airport tarmac will do), and national boundary shifting after I did my soil-standing activities doesn't count. So, for instance:
  • I get Japan because I hung out at Tokyo airport (Haneda, I should think, as it handles traffic to Seoul, which is where we were going, and also the current main international hub, Narita, wasn't open when I was there in 1975) for a couple of hours, during which time I managed to fit in eating a bizarre lukewarm Oriental approximation of Spaghetti bolognese in an airport restaurant and being violently sick. Well, I was only five at the time. Nowadays I'd have been steaming into the sushi and Sapporo. And being violently sick.
  • I don't get China because, although I've been to Hong Kong, it was before it reverted to being under Chinese sovereignty (1976 against 1997, so it wasn't even close).
  • I don't get either Russia or India because, although I've landed there (Moscow and Bombay - as it was then - respectively) for a stopover on the way somewhere else, I never got off the plane.
Give it a try; then start filling in the blanks. I'm off to Kyrgyzstan on Monday.

the last book I read

The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer.

Comic writing is difficult for a number of reasons. Probably most difficult is that it's got to look effortless; if the reader can see the writer's little webbed feet thrashing away under the surface of the pond, or gets deafened by the roar of approaching jokes as they lumber down the runway, then the illusion is spoilt. Black comedy is even more difficult as you've got to combine the light comic touch with actual bad and painful things happening to people, without making the latter so real that it puts the reader off or stops him/her from laughing. There are very few people who can do it really well, Kingsley Amis for one, and Tom Sharpe for another (in a broader and coarser sort of way).

Which sounds like I'm building up to slag this off in a big way, but I'm not, not really. It's just that I wasn't totally convinced by it, which sounds silly, as it's a comic novel and not therefore intended to be grittily realistic; maybe it's just that it all seemed to be trying a bit hard.

Very briefly it's the story of Eddie Coffin, a failed philosopher and university academic, who meets up with a one-armed, one-legged, one-eyed ex-jailbird while hanging around in the south of France and goes (with his new mate) on an increasingly high-profile bank-robbing spree while periodically musing on his past life.

There's a running joke about the central character having once been imprisoned by an irate publisher with only the second half of an encyclopaedia for company; consequently he has an unnatural attachment to words beginning with Z - but don't worry, there's a glossary at the back. Whether by way of authorial showing-off or in-character philosophical showing-off there are a lot of other highly scrabblicious* words dotted around the book as well, including a few I was previously unfamiliar with, such as:
  • auscultating - the act of listening, either directly or through a stethoscope or other instrument, to sounds within the body as a method of diagnosis
  • monostich - a poem or epigram consisting of a single metrical line
  • hebetude - dullness of mind; mental lethargy
  • alalia - paralysis of the vocal cords resulting in an inability to speak
All of which is very interesting, and I'm all for improving and expanding my vocabulary, but fundamentally it didn't make it any easier to engage with what was going on, or care enough about the central characters. I read Fischer's earlier book Under The Frog, and I thought that was a lot better, probably because being set against the backdrop of real historical events (the Hungarian uprising of 1956) anchored the story a bit more in the face of the authorial smart-arsery.

I had a similar "so what" reaction to the couple of books (They Came From SW19 and The Wimbledon Poisoner) I read by Nigel Williams, another celebrated modern comic writer. Which just goes to show either how difficult striking the right tone is, or that I'm too nit-pickingly fussy for my own good.

Anyway, if you insist on book reviews having a verdict attached, here it is: I couldn't in all honesty recommend this with any great enthusiasm. If you haven't read all of them already and you want a comic novel (of varying degrees of blackness) try one of these:
  • Lucky Jim or The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis
  • What A Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe
  • Dirty Tricks by Michael Dibdin
  • The World According To Garp by John Irving
  • The Buddha Of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi
  • Changing Places by David Lodge
  • Riotous Assembly by Tom Sharpe
  • Brother Of The More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido
[* I just made that up. Good, isn't it?]

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

things that annoy me today

Those artfully rustic crooked J.P. Chenet Merlot bottles.

Nothing wrong with the wine contained therein (in fact I'm sipping a glass of it now) despite what they say in Sideways. But.....the first time you see one, on its own, you think, well, that's charmingly rustically imperfect, as if produced in some rustic shed out the back of some rustic French chalet by some rustic horny-handed toothless garlicky Frenchman with grape stems lodged between his toes. The slightly off-vertical bottle-neck, the slight dimple in one side of the bottle as if accidentally pressed in by a thumb. You can just imagine kicking back in an olive-grove somewhere in the Languedoc munching on warm baguettes and horse salami and washing it down with this stuff. Possibly out of the bottle.

Then you see a whole shelf of them in an off-licence or a supermarket, and you think, hold on a second, these are ALL THE SAME! Every bottle-neck tweaked off vertical by a minutely calibrated 8.3 degrees, every dimple applied with the Chenet patented pouce-o-matiqueTM to a pressure of 22 psi for 4.2 seconds, and all very probably carried out in what you thought was nothing more sinister than a massive nuclear missile silo on the outskirts of Montpellier. Ah, how the scales fall from my eyes (halibut scales, naturally). This is all some big cynical marketing ploy, like pre-faded jeans or "distressed" furniture. Oh, I feel so used and dirty.

Friday, March 02, 2007

album of the day

American Stars'N'Bars by Neil Young.

This is by no means the greatest album Neil Young has ever released (and there have been a lot, and they're still coming), being as it is a sort of cast-offs and odds and sods collection bunged together (in 1977) while he was compiling the Decade compilation. So it does have a bit of a fragmented feel to it, but it does have a particular kind of ramshackle charm as a result; in any case most songwriters would give their guitar arm for songs as good as these cast-offs.

The first half of the album consists mainly of some medium-paced country-rock numbers, with some prominent steel guitar and backing vocals from Nicolette Larson and Linda Ronstadt, mixed with a couple of throwaway rock numbers in Saddle Up The Palomino and Bite The Bullet. The second half of the album fatures a couple of contrasting longer songs, the wonderfully addled Will To Love, where Young strums blearily at a guitar in front of a crackling log fire (after taking a phenomenal quantity of drugs, one has to assume) and wonders what it would be like to be a fish, and the epic Like A Hurricane, a staple of his live shows with Crazy Horse to this day. Another brief rocky blast, Homegrown, finishes things off.

Like I say, not the greatest album he's ever done (After The Goldrush, On The Beach, Rust Never Sleeps or Ragged Glory might be better places to start), but one I have a bit of a soft spot for. Only £4.97 on Amazon, as well.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

shock revelation of the day

Tim Lovejoy is a twat. There, I've said it. Hardly a major revelation, you might retort, and you'd probably be right. People probably come to this conclusion in different ways, either from watching Soccer AM on Sky Sports (where, come to think of it, even the programme title is irritating - it's a British show with British presenters about British football, so why the American-style title? Why not Football AM? Twats.), or from watching Fifth Gear on Channel 5, or from watching, as I did, Something For The Weekend on BBC2 on Sunday mornings.

Evidence for the prosecution #1: general

This particular brand of twattery is by no means restricted to Tim Lovejoy, in fact it's quite widespread, but he does embody it in a particularly irritating way. It's a general smug anti-intellectualism, a sort of revelling in your own boneheaded ignorance about anything beyond sausages, lager and football; a general attitude that being intelligent, well-read, actually knowing stuff, is a bit effete and embarrassing. Apparently being a numbskull is OK as long as you've got a bit of cockney gift-of-the-gab charm and a fashionable haircut. [The Freudian subtext here, which I'm sure someone will be kind enough to point out to me if I don't mention it is: you're just jealous because women probably fancy Tim Lovejoy more than you. This is almost certainly true; fortunately that in itself doesn't invalidate my point.]

There are far more serious repercussions of a pervasive and pernicious anti-intellectualism, 70% of 11-year olds not being able to read (I'm aware that's probably not the right figure, I'm just making a point here. I can't be bothered to go and look it up), and fundamentalist Christians in the White House to name but two. Homeopathy and other assorted pseudoscientific charlatanism and quackery demanding equal billing with proper medicine would be another. Other assorted ramblings on this subject can be found here, here and here. I won't personally ramble on about it any further as we're in danger of straying from the point, which is, just to recap, that Tim Lovejoy is a twat.

Evidence for the prosecution #2: specific

One of the guests on last Sunday's (Feb 25th) show was Jamelia, who has a new single out - a song whose backing is essentially Golden Brown by The Stranglers. Apart from a general old fogeyish desire that people would write their own bleedin' songs I have no particular problem with this, though I won't be rushing out to buy it. Tim Lovejoy then went on to say that Golden Brown is unusual because it's in waltz time, that that accounted for you not being able to dance to it, and that furthermore it's the only single in waltz time ever to make the UK top ten.
The last claim I have neither the time nor the inclination to try and verify, but it seems a bit on the unlikely side to me. If anyone can prove or disprove it let me know.

As for not being able to dance to songs in waltz time, well, there is this little-known dance called THE WALTZ that I believe you can do, if you try really really hard.

As for Golden Brown: well, the reason you can't dance to it is nothing to do with it being in waltz time, it's because every so often they throw an extra beat in, so after every three bars of 3/4 you get a bar of 4/4 - or after every bar of 6/8 you get a bar of 7/8 - or the whole thing's in 13/8, depending on how you look at it. Have a listen and you'll see (well, hear). More fascinating time-signature trainspottery can be found here.

Just to recap then: twat.