Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Thanks for your great suggestions for tracks NOT to play on hospital radio. Made me chuckle. It also reminded me of one of the most humbling DJ gigs I had ever done which was about 18 months ago or so. I was booked to DJ a retirement party. But found it odd that the retiree was only 30. I was puzzled but to be honest thought nothing of it until I arrived at the gig. I was told that the lady had terminal cancer and wanted one last big party with all her friends, colleagues and family.

Wow, talk about putting the pressure on to perform! But I also started seeing hidden meanings in songs that I wouldn’t normally see. American Pie – the day the music died? Should I play it or is that a bit suggestive.

Luckily the lady in question turned out to be one of the most amazing human beings I have ever met. She showed no fear and partied like I’ve never seen. It was one of the best atmospheres at a party I’d seen in a long time with everyone on the dance floor. She made jokes gave a brilliant speech and got bit tipsy. What did she request as her last song? ‘Bay City Rollers, Bye Bye Baby’. Genius. At the end of the night the crowd did a big group hug in the middle of the dance floor which actually led me to tears.

If I ever have to face death and I’m able to show just a tiny bit of the courage she displayed I’d be a lucky man…

Monday, April 25, 2005

Ill Sounds

For the last few weeks I’ve been doing some voluntary DJ work at Hospital Radio. It’s good fun and to be honest I’m really enjoying it – hopefully it will become a permanent thing for me. But While bored the other day at work I decided to come up with a top 10 of records that, perhaps, I shouldn’t play…

Dead From The Waist Down – Catatonia
Keep Yourself Alive – Queen
Doctor’s Orders – Sunny
Anything by Dead Or Alive, especially ‘My Heart Goes Bang (Get Me To The Doctor)’
Virus – Iron Maiden
Infected - Barthezz
Broken Bones - Love Inc
We Trying To Stay Alive - Wyclef Jean & The Refugee Allstars
Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees
How To Be Dead – Snow Patrol

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Behind The Sofa

The BBC received complaints last week that the new Doctor Who was too scary. What? It’s a dubious claim but perhaps I should try thinking how I’d react to it at the age of 6 or 7.

I'd love to experience horror & scary TV through the eyes of the less 'movie-wise.' Sadly there’s a problem. I'm really interested in filmmaking so I watch horror with the knowledge of 'how it was done' and the fact that there was 20+ crew members the other side of the camera at that time. While I still enjoy the stories told by the films they just don't scare me. What should do the job is a good physiological scare.

This is going to sound so dumb but the one film that did give me a sleepless night was Signs. When I was young I was never scared of ghosts or bogeymen - it was Aliens. Just really freaked me out the thought that we could be invaded at any time. (Statistically very unlikely but never say never!) Signs tapped into those childhood fears perfectly. While the film didn't scare me as such I got home and was thinking what I’d do in that situation. It really started to play on my mind. I even dreamt about the moment the alien walks past the window at the children’s birthday party. Had to wake up and put The Simpsons on just to settle my mind!

I bought the DVD but I've yet to watch it all the way though! It's the last section - the claustrophobia of it. Creepy. But much much better than the supposedly scary slasher, blood and guts films.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Devon Guide - Day Five

So what did we do on our final day in Devon? We had thoroughly enjoyed Plymouth at the start of the week despite a friend saying he hated it. He said Exeter was a far more exciting and interesting place. Well if we enjoyed Plymouth we were bound to enjoy Exeter. We decided to head up and around the M5 to spend a day shopping. We spent quite a while trying to find decent parking then more of a while fumbling for change. When we finally got to the city we were – well, disappointed. For a start there didn’t seem to be a central hub to the city. It just seemed to sprawl endlessly in a long strip. The Guildhall shopping centre was a depressing brick monstrosity that has completely boxed in the far more architecturally interesting St Pancreas Church.

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The saving grace Exeter had to offer was the underground passages. Sadly though due to my girlfriend’s claustrophobia we were advised not to visit them. It may turn out to be a missed opportunity, as these passages will close to the general public on 25th April 2005 at least until late 2007. The Cathedral was impressive to look at but lacking any interest in religion we didn’t really want to spend time there. Finally there was Parliament Street. This street is approximately 1220mm at its widest making it the world's narrowest street. But, because it’s not even sign posted, other than a small brass plaque we missed it!

By the time we left Exeter we decided we should have perhaps spent a second day in Plymouth. The city just didn’t appeal to us. Perhaps if we did more research before we went we could have found things worth looking at – then again shouldn’t a city make an effort to signpost points of interest? One aspect of Exeter we did enjoy was the bowling centre. Yes it was a busman’s visit but I do like a game of 10 Pin Bowling!

The next day we packed up our stuff and travelled home up the M5

A better guide to Exeter than I can offer.

The Complete Devon Guide:
Day 4
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1

Monday, April 11, 2005

Vote Smeg.

With the election looming what would I do if I was leader of a party?

Basically I'd address the balance where it seems to be the chavvy lowlifes that do nothing for the good of the country yet still seem to get all the rewards. To get dole money I would make it compulsory to do community service. Litter picking, cleaning graffiti, repairing vandalism etc. This would, hopefully start to put a stop to the chav society of scrounging of the state. It would also start to clean up Britain’s streets. Chavs would also have to do menial jobs like fruit picking and factory labour to earn their dole - this would mean companies wouldn't have to employ cheap eastern European labour thus easing the immigration 'crisis' we have. People would also be fined for wearing any article of Burberry. 50% more if its a baseball cap and even more if it's fake Burberry. (They’d be arrested if wearing fake bling or caught tucking tracksuit bottoms into white sports socks)

I'd drop education fees - these are people going to uni trying to better themselves, they should be rewarded with tax breaks not years of debt.

To encourage people to be more active I'd subsidise the leisure industry making it cheaper to play sports, visit theme parks etc this would be paid for by adding a tax on fast foods and foods high in fat content. (With the amount of this stuff bought it only would have to be an extra 5p on things.) (This would also help me lose weight and discourage me from eating the crap I currently eat.)

Invest in town centre redevelopment so rather than building thousands more new homes and losing valuable countryside I'd use buildings that are already there but empty and in need of refitting to help ease the housing shortage the UK currently has. These new properties created by converting empty shops and warehouses etc into new flats would be sold off cheaply to first time buyers/young couples helping them onto the ladder. To discourage investors snapping up cheap homes to rent out and also making it harder for first time buyers I would charge 'Investors Duty' - they're gonna be making money out of their property so why not take a bit to help fund this redevelopment scheme.

I’d also make it compulsory that when the BBC signs up promising new talent for certain science fiction shows they would have to be locked in to at least three years, not to quit after one thus spoiling enjoyment for fans….

God help me, I sound like a Daily Mail reader.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Creative Ambitions

I started a novel last year. I’ve always had a creative side trying to get out. I guess it’s the combination of me being both a Pisces and left-handed (sadly this also means statistically I’ll die about 9 years younger than most - curse my writing preference.)

In my teens I wanted to be a cartoonist. I created a whole world for these two cartoon fellows – Ben ‘n’ Bill (NOT Bill & Ben – there’s a difference.) and they had many adventures to amuse a selection of my school friends. They were printed in the local paper and came on the top 200 of the Lloyds Bank Channel 4 Film Challenge. I still doodle them when bored but it’s been a good 10 years since they had a 40-page adventure.

The net has been the main vent for my creativity over the last 10 years. Numerous WebPages on Red Dwarf and the Big Breakfast.

But like Dave Gorman, there’s something inside me that longs to write a novel. Everyone was surprised when I announced it was a contemporary story set at a university. They all expected Science Fiction. I was really enjoying writing the story of Chris and his life at uni. His failed romance, his numerous visits to casualty and a number of drunken mishaps and quarrels. Then my hard drive died. I do have a back up but it’s 7000 words shorter than the lost 40,000 word hard drive version and the knowledge that I have to re-create a number of chapters had doused the flame that was fuelling the story.

I still have ideas for that novel and a number of others zooming around my head. I hope they see the light of day.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Devon Guide - Day Four

On our forth day in Devon we decided to do what we’d hoped to do on that holiday all along. Have a rest. With both of us working in retail/leisure industry and Xmas only weeks away we knew it’d be the last time we could have a lazy day for a few weeks.

In the morning we headed into Exmouth via a long walk down the beach and explored the town. We’d accidentally smashed a bowl in our hotel room so wandered around for a replacement and looked at all the shops. Poppies littered the war memorial in the centre of the town just a few steps away from the lovely “Powder Monkey” Wetherspoons pub. We bought rock, some Xmas presents and a few trinkets for friends back home. It’s weird how sometimes you visit towns that seem to be stuck a decade behind the rest of the country. Cornwall is the guiltiest of this but Exmouth seemed to be one of these places. Local shops outnumbered big brand shops though the redevelopment of Exmouth Marina seemed to be pulling the town into the twentieth century. The houses around the marina were fantastic and if it wasn’t for the town feeling so isolated from society I’d be tempted to live there.

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In the afternoon we spent our time in the Deer Leap seafront pub watching the land lord putting up Christmas decorations and having a tipsy game of pool. The evening was spent back at the Hotel playing Bingo and reading. At this point we both started to grow concerned about the amount of hideous Christmas decorations that were starting to appear throughout the hotel… more on these scary items soon!

See Exmouth Webcams - Live!

Devon Guides:
Day 3
Day 2
Day 1

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Devon Guide – Day Three

This was our busiest day. Following breakfast we headed down the A380 towards Torquay & Paignton once more. Our first stop was Babbacombe Model Village founded by T.F. Dobbins in the mid 60s this village is an idyllic miniature tribute to the English way of life. Everything is depicted from small villages to large city centres. There’s a football stadium and cricket pitch – there’s even a hydroelectric dam. The craftsman ship is wonderful and while it didn’t keep two twentysomethings occupied for long I’d love to revisit this attraction with children and see it through their eyes. We visited on a rainy day but as you can see from the website it seems a sunny day would further enhance the attraction.

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The second visit of the day was to Bygones – a life-size Victorian street. Sadly it was also the most disappointing. First off the street its self is amazing. Hand crafted and constructed in an old cinema it recreates a typical Victorian Street in just about every detail. But apart from this the exhibition doesn’t offer much. It has loads to look at but doesn’t actually tell you much about what you’re looking at. (Even the website offers a history of the museum its self on the second page - before offering visitor info!)

When you leave the street you progress into an exhibition of Railwayana, There’s fantasyland which doesn’t fit in at all with the rest of the museum and is a garish display of UV and kitsch. Finally there’s the WW1 display which was fascinating to look out but again lacked explanation. What was littered throughout Bygones was gushing self-tributes by the museum creators. While I have no doubt a lot of time and effort went into the project that’s not actually what I’m there to see. I wanted info about Victorian life, not how long it took to build the replica. I don’t want to know how wonderfully supportive your wife was throughout. I want to see accounts of real Victorians. Descriptions of what the items I’m look at actually are. When they were made etc…

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Our third visit was just down the road. Kents Cavern in Torquay. I’d never visited underground caves before. Wasn’t quite sure what to expect of wandering around some rocks for an hour. Thankfully I was blown away. The sheer magnitude of this natural exhibition was amazing. Yes there were tributes to the owners – The Powe family but unlike the Bygones Museum this seemed relevant and was balanced with a lot more info about the caves themselves. The caves served to truly awaken you to the insignificance of your time on earth. The fact they have been around for two and a half million years and are still developing is humbling. There was evidence of previous inhabitants both human and otherwise. The guide was enthusiastic yet explained complex theories in an easy to understand way – a gift shared by the best of teachers and Johnny Ball! I was stuck in with a group of Japanese tourists and while I loath blatant stereotyping I have to admit their constant taking of photos very annoying. Afterwards the guide even apologised for it saying he’s sorry but they took so long that he had to miss a bit out. He took time to tell us some extra info to make up for this. Out of our three trips I would recommend the Caverns the most.

After a tiring day we returned to our hotel to take part in a pub quiz hosted by a very miserable bloke who sounded like Joe Pasquale. I am ashamed to say, considering I’m a pub quiz host myself, we didn’t do well… Do’h!

Devon Guides:
Day 2
Day 1

Monday, April 04, 2005

Now That's What I Call Music IV

2000 – Robbie Williams: Sing When You’re Winning

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I hated Robbie Williams. I remember loathing Angels when it was released. Freedom was cack – it was the video that put me off more than anything, that untalented ex-boy band clown mugging down a camera lens. When I saw his albums in the bargain bin I laughed safe in the knowledge he’d soon be out of the public eye. 1998 rolled around and I remember hearing a great song over some football footage. To my horror I discovered who the artist was – Robbie Williams. The song, Let Me Entertain You.

I resisted for a while but I kept hearing the song. I started singing it, it got into my head I had to buy it. I even used it Djing.

Flash forward few months and there’s Millennium. Being a Bond fan I was lured in by the use of John Barry’s You Only Live Twice score. The song was great and followed up with such hummable wonders as No Regrets and the gorgeous Strong. I’d been converted. I started to see Williams for what he really was. He didn’t want to be an artist he wanted to be an Entertainer – which is how it should be. Look at the musical great like Elvis & Queen, they put on a show, wowed the audience. People would say Robbie was a big-headed fool but I saw it as an act.

By 2000 I’d bought both Robbie albums and had the good fortune to see him live at Wembley Stadium at Net Aid where he stole the show in an amazing performance. Then came Rock DJ. To this day it fills the floor when I DJ. I have a feeling it’s a song Robbie himself isn’t keen on but I love it. Sing When Your Winning is possibly my favourite Williams album. Kids, the duet with Kylie is one of my favourite songs and Better Man is a truly gorgeous ballad which I personally rank as far superior to Angels.

It angers me that the music snobs don’t take Robbie seriously. Sure he’s pop but at least he can write his own stuff unlike the kareoke singers like Westlife & Gareth Gates. His music is intelligent and carries far more meaning than the gangsta crap of some of the manufactured hip hop acts. He can vary his act from pop, to swing to ballads and even rock. Most bands find a sound they like and keep churning it out. Franz Ferdinand are great but listen to their album – it all sounds very similar.
Most importantly Robbie can truly entertain. Few artists could captivate an audience like he did at the Albert Hall or Knebworth.

Escapology showed a different sound to Sing, almost rawer. It took me a while to really get into but that just made me like it more. The fact that Robbie wasn’t scared of trying something different – highlighted by last years ‘Radio’.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Captain Picard of Galifrey...

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I Just had to snap this today at memorabilia at the NEC. It's like a fanboy's wet dream! Captain Picard about to set foot in Dr Who's Tardis - while being gaurded by a Dalek?! Considering the role of Doctor Who is currently up for grabs I couldn't think of a more suitable replacement.

"Number One... I mean Rose, set a course for Earth and get me some Tea, Earl Grey...hot.  Make It SO!"

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Who Nose?

Remember when car noses used to grace the nation’s automobiles for months on end after Red Nose Day had passed? Every other car would sport a faded plastic red lump on their car radiator for weeks. Be it the plain one, the one with hands or one with the comic splatting effect. These days car noses seem to have lost popularity. Is it a sign that the UK is losing its good sense of humour or just that image is more important that charity?

Looking around Morrisons car park I was relieved to see one or two of this years air fresheners dangling from peoples rear view mirrors. It’s just a shame that not as many bought these charity-boosting noses as those that bought the awfully tacky St George window flags last summer. Comic Relief would have made a fortune – oh and yes my girlfriend's car (I can’t drive) does sport a red nose – oh and has a spare in the cupboard for when the lovely caramel smell runs out!

P.S. Is the Pope ill or something?