Tuesday, December 21, 2004

URT REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2004

Everyone else has one, why can't we? Merry Christmas everybody!

BEST ALBUM

NEILL says: White People - Handsome Boy Modelling School. Handsome music for handsome people! Everyone should buy this record, but unfortunately not everyone is good-looking enough. 8.7/10

Runners-up: The College Dropout - Kanye West (8.2/10), The Concretes - The Concretes (8/10)

BEST SINGLE

JAMES says: 'Take Me Out' by Franz Ferdinand. Although it has been out for about a year and I did start to get sick of it around August, when it first came out it was a stomping busting piece of nonsensical greatness. 8.6/10

BEST OTHERWISE GREAT HIP-HOP ALBUM RUINED BY AN ENTIRELY UNNECCESSARY FINAL TRACK WHERE THE RAPPER BANGS ON FOR TWENTY MINUTES ABOUT EVERY BLOODY THING THAT EVER HAPPENED IN THEIR CAREER IN A FRENZY OF GRATUIITOUS SELF-AGGRANDISEMENT

NEILL says: The College Dropout - Kanye West. 8.2/10

Runner-up: Speakerboxx - Outkast (6.6/10)


BEST GIG

NEILL says: An Evening with Jurassic 5, LIVE at the Kentish Town Forum (July)- I don't know when I have ever experienced a moment of such pure and complete happiness as when they launched into 'A Day at the Races'. 9/10

BEST CRISP

NEILL says: Walkers' Sensations Peking Spare Rib flavour. Innovatively, they actually taste like the thing it says on the packet. And that thing is Ribs! 7.2/10

JAMES says: 'Tesco Great British Roast Pork and Apple Sauce flavour crisps'. While all focus is on Walkers, the actual breakthroughs in crisp flavour technology is occurring at the smaller Tesco lab. These crisps are twice as good because they actually taste like two different things, distinctively. 7.7/10

WORST ADVERT

JAMES says: So many to choose from, but I'd have to go for William Shatner's Bran Flakes radio adverts. Partly because they're on at the moment, and annoyance diminishes with time, but mainly because of the way he pronounces 'yoghurty'. I implore all readers to join me in boycotting bran flakes while these adverts continue. 0.3/10

Runner-up: Those ones for Argos or whatever it is with that cunt Richard E Grant. 1/10

BEST YEAR

JAMES says: 2004 was clearly the year of the year. Everyone was talking about 2004 this year. 8.2/10

BEST SATIRE

JAMES says: My satire of end of year reviews, just then. 2.3/10


BEST RESTARAUNT (FISH)

NEILL says: The Seafood Cafe, St Ives. A fiercely contested category, to be sure, but I would have to say this edged out any other Restaraunts (Fish) I have been to this year. 8.6/10

www.seafoodcafe.co.uk


BEST RESTAURANT (MEAT, BIG JUIICY PILES OF MEAT)

JAMES says: Bodean's BBQ, Soho. As previously mentioned, Bodean's is still so the place to go for big juicy piles of meat. Wouldn't you agree, Neill? 8.8/10

NEILL says: Mmmmshrggrrrmmmpphhm.


WORST BEDINGFIELD

JAMES says: Daniel. Fighting off unusually stiff competition, Daniel maintained his worst Bedingfield crown for 2004. How's he gonna get thru this? 0.7/10

WORST HUMAN BEING

NEILL says: My ex-housemate Kate. Evil, psychotic, hateful and just generally not the sort of person one would want to go for pretzels with. Mentally and physically repulsive in equal terms, her stunted social skills and freakish appearance earned her many affectionate nicknames such as 'Grandma Death', 'Skeletor' and 'That Fucking Mental Bitch'. Still, at least she'll die alone and unhappy. Hurrah! 0.1/10

Runners-up: Dick Cheney, Daniel Bedingfield, me...

BEST THING

JAMES says: My iPod, not just this year but ever. By crikey but I love music piracy. In a detached, aesthetic way. 9.4/10

NEILL says: The Portfolio Review session at the London Comics Festival, October 2004. By crikey but I love having my ego massaged. 9.4/10

WORST THING

NEILL says: Same as it ever was: Having a Rubbish Job. 0.2/10


...did we miss anything?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Tain

by The Horslips
(Album)





JAMES says:

Prog Folk Rock band produce concept album based on Irish legend about some people stealing cows from some other people. Oh, you know you want it! I bought this album (or had it bought for me, I can’t remember) as part of my short-lived Glastonbury-inspired Celtic Rock period. Which consisted of two albums. You really can picture them coming up with the idea (or concept) for this album. Head Horslip says to drummer ‘If only there was some way we could combine our twin loves of overblown po-faced rock music and old stories about people fighting.’ Drummer: ‘Maybe there is, pass the spliff’.

Anyway, the only way you can tell this is based on the Tain, apart from the title of the album, is in the helpful sleeve notes which retells the story interspersed with selected quotes from the songs to show you what they’re really talking about. To quote; ‘Maeve’s army moves South with the stolen bull. The Ulster men rally and with Cu Chulainn back in their ranks they give chase. “But before you hit off, let me say this time you bit off more than you can chew.”’
Anyway, this is quite a fun album in an ironic way, which might be the only way I can enjoy anything these days. There’s a great bit where they represent a fight between two champions by an extended fiddle/guitar with far too much reverb duelling banjos style section.

There are also some lyrics that are pompous enough to raise a chuckle, such as ‘Now we’ve got time to kill/kill the shadows on our skin/kill the fear that burns within/killing time my friend.’ And at least it isn’t all shouting about how good it is to kill policemen and disrespect ladies. Proper music.

4.3/10

Walking from London to Brighton

(About 50 Miles)



JAMES says:

Not as quick as taking the train.

7.2/10

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Being too busy to update this site

(Regrettable State of Affairs)



NEILL says:

I would just like to humbly apologise to our loyal, charming and uncommonly attractive reader base for the shocking lack of activity going on around URT manors lately. James is very busy at the moment learning to be an accountant, and I am similarly busy learning to be a comic book artist. Wow, I win that one, huh? All this career-focussed busy-ness is of course very commendable and sensible and all, but the regrettable side-effect is that you poor chaps end up staring at my review of 'Sense and Sensibility' for a full month. And, you know, it's funny, but it's not THAT funny.

Who am I kidding? It really IS that funny. But, um, sorry anyway.

To tide y'all over until things calm down a bit and we can get back 'on project' (likely to be around end of November), why not amuse yourself with some CLASSIC REVIEWS from the archives... scroll down the right hand side of the page, it's all there, every single bit of trivial blithering we ever saw fit to clog up the internet with. Or alternatively, here are a few of my personal favourites, in a little feature I like to call...

URT GOLD!!!

Ahem.

NEILL's favourite reviews by JAMES:



JAMES' favourite Reviews by NEILL:



Look, we promise not to do this again. Um, for a while.

2.5/10

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Neill and James review Neill and James

Neill Cameron
(Person)



NEILL says:

Reviewing oneself; amusing gimmick or soul-crushing excercise in humiliation that could have been lifted from page one of 'Scientology for Beginners'? That may have been a slightly loaded question. I suppose it's really just a question of verbalising what I in fact spend most minutes of most days doing, in one way or another. If there is one source of more misery and human suffering in our society than anything else, I dare say it is the regrettably widespread practise of comparing oneself to others. That or 'Hollyoaks', anyway. Or maybe I'm just comparing myself to the wrong people; I spend a lot of time berating myself for not being a walking combination of Bertrand Russell, Brad Pitt and Oscar Wilde, whereas in fact perhaps I should try to focus more on feeling thankful that I am not a walking combination of Herman Goering and Bernard Matthews. Actually, that was probably a bad example.

The goal of course is to put an end to such comparisons altogether; to eliminate the endless cravings of the unquiet 'I' through genuine self-knowledge and acceptance. The only problem with this plan is that, unfortunately, I'm not actually Buddha. I just look a bit like him.

Neill Cameron: nice guy, quite polite, makes a mean Hawaiian Omelette.

7.4/10



James Cameron
(Person)



JAMES says:

What to say about me that hasn't been said before? I certainly have my good points. I'm reasonably trustworthy and thoughtful. I'm great at accountancy exams. Really, absolutely top notch. I also bow to no man in my table football skills, though only if I'm allowed to play in defence. Actual football is another story, but anyway. I like to think I'm quite a creative person. My major weakness, other than kryptonite, is a complete lack of motivation. If it's a choice between getting off my arse and actually doing something, or watching an episode of the Simpsons I've seen 50 times, 60% of the time it's Simpsons. I'm also vain, as you might come to realise, and yet not overly concerned with my manner of dress. Also, for a number of years in the nineties I had a goatee and played in a metal band. Still, when it comes to thinking of a mark you've really got to consider the rest of humanity. They are by and large ignorant scum. I would certainly put myself in the upper 20%. Therefore my mark is going to have to be a whopping

8/10

URT Mission Statement

We’ve all had the same thoughts – ‘What is better, Norway or Swivel Chairs’, ‘Should I buy the Dolph Lungren box-set or spend the money on fried chicken?’ Well, wonder no more! In this ongoing project (estimated completion date – 2106) Government appointed arbiters of taste Neill and James Cameron, and their descendents, will review everything in the world, and give it a score out of ten.

Thus, we will finally get the answer to the question what is the best thing in the world, ever (it’s swivel chairs).

To aid in the easy dissemination of our findings, we have prepared a handy table of results so far, which throws up such fascinating insights as the fact that Cartesian Dualism is worse than 'Varsity Blues', but they're both better than Julie Burchill. That's a scientific FACT!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Sense and Sensibility

By Jane Austen
(Novel)



NEILL says:

I must confess, I am only two-thirds of the way through this book. Ordinarily I would of course always wait until completing a novel before reviewing it, in order to be able to form a full, complete and balanced opinion, but frankly I have something to say that will not wait.

Jane Austen rocks fucking hard. Seriously, Jane Austen rocks the motherfucking cock. I can’t remember the last time I was so obsessively gripped with a story, let alone one that revolves around two 18th-century girls of good breeding and refinement and their respective attempts to make a good marriage. As we speak, Willoughby’s just turned back up – that godless fuckbastard, Willoughby! – and I’m finding it considerably difficult to cope with the tension until I find out what the black-hearted ill-born cock-smoker could possibly be after now. After what he did to Marianne! Not to mention the unfortunate young lady in Colonel Barton’s care, Eliza. MotherFUCKER!

I’m considering faking sickness so I can get away from work this afternoon and finish the bastard.

Jesus Christ. Jane Austen. Who knew?

8.9/10

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Some Other Sucker's Parade

by Del Amitri



JAMES says:

Hopes were high for Del Amitri with ‘Some Other Sucker’s Parade. Their last album, ‘Twisted’, had been a critical success (well, I liked it), and they seemed about to make the big push into mediocre but well known MOR rock band. Like Crowded House, maybe. But not quite that big. Anyway, the point is, they didn’t, largely because of this album. ‘Some Other Sucker’s Parade’ isn’t bad, and I’m sure it has it’s fans, but it lacks the edge that made ‘Change Everything’ and ‘Waking Hours’ quite good, I suppose. It just seems to reek a bit too much of middle age desperation, not a good reek by anyone’s standards.

It starts off with ‘Not Where it’s At’, where singer Justin Currie wonders why the kids don’t dig him, and instead are off listening to shouty music. Well, not in so many words he doesn’t, but that’s the general vibe. After that there are about 13 songs which kind of blend into each other. ‘High Times’ has a nice high pitched singing bit, and ‘Medicine’ is memorable for having a line dropped from the single version after Princess Diana died (I could never work out which line could possibly cause any offence. Maybe it was ‘Stupid Junkie Whore/I’m glad you’re dead/Princess Diannnnnnnnna’), but apart from that you put on the album, then it finishes, and nothing really happens in between.

It’s a shame, really, because Del Amitri had the talent to produce something more than this. ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ and ‘Driving with the Brakes On’ are as fine heart-breaking songs as you’ll ever find, and their Scottish World Cup Song ‘Just don’t fuck up quite so badly this time, please, please, do it for wee Timmy’ was a refreshing change. They could write also brilliant lyrics like ‘I turned on a T.V. station and/Lip-read with the sound turned down/It was Pro-Celeb mouth-to-mouth resuscitation/With Esther Rantzen/Playing the one who's drowned’ from ‘You’re Gone’. And Justin Currie inspired me to grow my first pair of sideburns all those years ago. I still get the urge to hear their songs, and one of the first things I did when I got back from honeymoon was listen to a Del Amitri album. Not this one though.

This was basically the point when Del Amitri stopped being a band that you could just about like without embarrassment and instead became some weird wannabe country band with song titles like ‘One More Last Hurrah’ and ‘Last Cheap Shot at the Dream’. Now, the only other person I can find who likes Del Amitri is also a big Wet Wet Wet fan.

Sigh.

5.6/10

www.delamitri.com - Still Going!

Monday, October 11, 2004

You Chose Right The First Time

By DGL and Chris Nicholas
(Comic Book)



NEILL says:

If there’s one thing better than comics, it’s necking a couple of E’s and having sex with Eliza ‘Faith from Buffy’ Dukshu whilst jumping from a fast-moving aeroplane. And if there’s one thing better than that, it’s FREE COMICS!! Especially when they don’t suck. You can imagine then my excitement upon receiving, all the way from the grand old state of Texas in the U. S. of A. a package containing the first couple of issues of ‘You Chose Right The First Time’, a comic which was not only FREE (perks of being a reviewer!) but quite strikingly and comprehensively does not suck.

Y.C.R.T.F.T tells the tale of the impressively-named Lem Bivage, who may be just about the least sympathetic protagonist to ever stink up the pages of a comic. A low-life morally repugnant murderous little shitbag with no principles, courage or apparent sense of personal hygiene, Bivage uneasily inhabits the world of Chicago in the late 60’s, a place of civil unrest, police corruption, perverted gangsters and filthy goddamn punk hippies. One of the chief joys of Y.C.R.T.F.T is how convincingly and entertainingly the creators evoke this messed-up setting. You can almost smell the piss and broken teeth. No, that’s a good thing.

The other chief joy is the art. Artist and co-writer Dave Lamplugh ('DGL') has a vivid blocky ‘woodcut-y’ style, and is not afraid of a pot of black ink. There are moments where the perspective and anatomy can be a little graceless, but these are more than made up for by flourishes of superb inventiveness and originality. There is a sequence in issue one where the art uses a kind of spotlight effect to follow the main character as he loses himself in a crowd that is incredibly effective and just plain damn cool. The cumulative effect of this comic is like reading James Ellroy illustrated by an angry bitter drunken genius. And that's got to be worth a look, right?

8.1/10

Want to read this comic but can’t find it in your local W. H. Smiths? No duh! Contact the creators direct on ycrtft@comic.com and I’m sure they’ll be happy to provide you with ordering details etc.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Having To Wear a Fucking Tie

(I mean to say, what the fuck?)



NEILL says:

It is a testament to the near-superhuman stoical dignity of my spirit that I can adjust to many hardships in life. The early onset of male pattern baldness, living in a country where summer lasts for an average duration of an afternoon, Chris Claremont’s second writing stint on X-men in the late 90’s… these brutalities and more have I endured with an unruffled manly perseverance. But these is one thing to which I fear I can never adjust, and that is wearing a fucking tie.

What the fuck is the point of a tie, anyway? What fucking bright spark at what point in human history decided that the sight of shirt-buttons was so heinously offensive that they must forever hide their shame beneath a long pointy and completely bit of redundant flap of cloth, tied around one’s neck like a fucking leash? Which is precisely what it is; a constant visual and physical reminder that you are a dog, your destiny not your own, working your life away to increase the fortunes of distant masters who very likely are utterly worthless human beings themselves; shit-eating half-brained lunatics whose only lust is for money and power but have neither the imagination nor intelligence to do anything worthwhile with those goods on having achieved them. And probably wear braces.

The only other possible point to a tie is that it provides a convenient means by which to hang oneself from the nearest air-conditioning vent when the realisation of the above becomes too painful.

0.1/10

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The London Underground

(Mass Transit System)



GUEST LONDON BASED OFFICE GUY #3 MIKE says:

You've all heard of the London Underground, and some of you may even have been to parties where costumes must be worn named after its stations (e.g.wear a grey mac and scratch your crotch a lot for 'Holburn'). But what is this modern marvel of subterranean transport really like? The London Underground (or 'Tube') was first invented in 1842 as a way of discreetly sending loud/smelly/insane people away from the centre. As numbers of these people grew, they decided to let normal people on too. Although not many, as you can still witness today.

Friends of mine report having seen the following characters on the Underground: Prince, disguisedas a small Jewish man, moving around all the sleeping people on the carriage and making 'Gollum noises' in their ears; a particularly bad magician rehearsing his card tricks, many of which resulted in the spraying of cards all round the carriage; and a dead man. Although this last one may just havebeen the driver.

This leads me to those all important people who are required to aim thatjoystick in a straight line and press "Go!" (tricky after a night out) - the tube train 'drivers'. Unless you travel on the Jubilee line of course, which has no drivers. These space-age trains allow the punter to sit right at the front of the carriage and pretend to be the driver (I'd recommend a'Fischer-Price Kiddie-Go stick on steering wheel', and a bum bag with '£5 per person' written on it to confuse the tourists). The amount of trust put in these driverless trains really is quite odd, taking into account how often a Scalextric car flies off the track in one lap (and yes, I do imagine someone in a control tower squeezing one of those 'gun' things to make the train go round). That said, they are fun and they look cool!

Once you emerge from the Underground and decide to go for a wander, you quickly discover that all the places you've been to previously on the tube,are actually within 5 minutes walk of each other. This is because London is actually 4 miles square (the Underground lines were designed by Erno Rubik, as you can see through the choice of colours used for the different lines). Having made this discovery, you will quickly go off using the tube.

The day they invent a tube that is smaller (less room for weirdos), that can go to any part of London, is positioned on top of land (less stuffy and dark), and has a bell you can push when you want to stop, is the day I'll start using the Underground again. Until that day, I think I'll just walk.

4.3/10

Monday, September 27, 2004

Stealing Office Supplies

(Unofficial 'perk')



Guest Disaffected Office Texan CHRIS (2) says:

This may be the ONLY good thing about working in an office, besides air conditioning and those times that someone brings donuts. And, while none of these things quite make up for the soul-crushing ennui of being forced to do things that you could absolutely care less about for the benefit of people you despise, just so that you may eke out survival bringing back meager table scraps to your freezing hovel, God forbid Tiny Tim needs that operation because the insurance surely wont cover it, and it looks like it’s going to be homemade cards for everyone at Christmas again this year, and that screeching harridan of a mother-in-law looking on all smug, “See! I told you he’d never amount to anything. You should’ve married blah-blah-blah, he’s a doctor now, blah-blah-bladdity-fucking-blah!”

Ahem, as I was saying, petty theft from your employer is in no wise recommended as a substitute for a real life, but it is rather nice to have a good selection of pens at home, and it does feel like some small measure of revenge. Also, since I’m the sap who orders supplies for the office I get to pick out the kind of pens I like, which currently are the Papermate X-Tends retractable. They have a nice rubber grip which doesn’t overly aggravate my “clerk’s claw”.

7.3/10

Friday, September 24, 2004

Minutes

(Writing down what people say)



Guest Office Bod Number Four Debbie says:

Oh for goodness sake. A complete waste of everyone’s time wherebv some poor sod (usually me) has to write down everything people say in a meeting irrespective of whether they are talking a load of tosh, taking their own notes anyway, or don’t care because they only came for the free biscuits…ACTION DH - these should be deluxe biscuits for the next meeting and remember that Mark doesn’t like Jaffa Cakes.

There is a lot of snobbery involved in minute taking a general feeling that there is only one possible way of correctly recording minutes. This simply isn’t the case –at every place you work at you will find different idiosyncrasies. E.g. in my current institution, it doesn’t matter what you write as long as the minutes end up on green paper (mid green mind, not pale). In my last post I was selected above equally competent colleagues for the highly prestigious task of minuting Academic Board. I have an MA and on account of this, they decided that I would be the best person for the job. Apparently however, my highly accurate recording of what people said at this meeting was quite the wrong approach. Apparently what I was supposed to write was a piece of fiction and suddenly I realised that it was not the fact that I had an MA that was important, it was the fact that my course was in scriptwriting.

I am not taking any of that rot again and actively use minute taking as an opportunity to actively practice my scriptwriting. Nowadays I unashamedly write down everything including stage directions. BILL ANGRILY CROSSES DSL TO THE REFRESHEMENT TABLE AND SPILLS COFFEE DOWN HIS TROUSERS, BENDING DOWN TO CLEAN IT UP HE SNEAKS A QUICK PEAK UP VANESSA’S SKIRT.

You may think that such recording of detail is unnecessary but there are times that I wish I kept minutes in my spare time. It would be great to prove that James really did tell my family that he had been to Pinner Fair (even if it was in jest) because the fact that we can all remember the conversation is not enough.

By far, the worst part of writing minutes (apart from Word automatically bullet pointing bits you don’t want it to) is the collection of comments and approvals from attendees. This process always takes a month although quite why since no one actually reads the damn things apart from any mention of their own name, is beyond me. Next time I minute a meeting, I have a good mind to arrange the first three chapters of “The Famous Five go off in a Caravan” in bullet points substituting the names of the children for the attendees of the meeting and I bet that the only comments I will get back are “Looks fine to me but don’t remember drinking ginger beer or speaking to quite so many circus folk!” or “Very accurate Debbie but next time could we have more jaffa cakes”

Minutes? I don’t care, who does.

4/10



JAMES says:

But, why would I have said I had been to Pinner Fair if I hadn't? It makes no sense.

2.7/10

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Trying to stay motivated at work after handing in one's notice

(End of Type of Employment)



Guest Office Bod #2 Kirsty says:

This is perhaps the worst thing ever…especially as I have a 6 week notice period…I probably would have gone mad if it had been 3 months and then I would have really left with a bang!!!! ( I could just see myself being carted away by the men in white coats, people gossiping in the streets “OOhhh I hear Kirsty went mad in her notice period” ”OOhh yes she was dribbling profusely when they took her..”OOhh yes I hear she tried to throw herself off the top of the building”.. etc..etc..)

So anyway back to the topic in hand, it has been a long time coming what with one thing and another but finally the day came when I could hand in said notice……It felt good, really good…..especially as one feels that one is going on to do bigger and much better things…..so its raspberries to you, yes you establishment and hello to lots more money and lots more exciting projects………………..

So what is there for me to do in the next coming weeks?
Well luckily I am going on holiday for a week – so let’s see that will be 5 dull weeks left…..but after that????
The thing is is that when you are leaving no one ever gives you more work because
a) they know you don’t want to do any
b) you probably won’t get it done anyway
and
c) even if you did attempt it you would probably do a really shit job anyway and you wouldn’t even be in the slightest bit bothered anyway…..so what else is there to do apart from poking my eyes out with pencils?

I suppose what springs to mind is doing my own thing independently of the company like re-discovering the internet – sites such as unified theory review, e-bay, pout, popbitch, r-soles, f-magazine, topshop and so on….., followed by updating all e-mail addresses into my personal hotmail e-mail account, taking full advantage of playing really funky music loudly……………….

I mean I could do useful things for the next poor sucker who has to sit in my sorry shoes like writing up some kind of sensible handover notes…well yes I could do that but then what the hell would I do in my last week?

And also I have started throwing things out – you know things I don’t really want…even if they may be slightly important..I just want to cleanse my soul from the demons y’know? No? Oh fine then be like that…..
I have a huge pile of filing on my desk and everyday I look at it and wonder how much trouble I would actually get into it if I just left it there….just sitting there….what a rebel.

So really after mulling over things I am totally out of ideas to stay motivated..I didn’t have any ideas in the first place….I just can’t .. there is no point…..I may as well stick those pencils in my eyes-- it would be fun to see the blood, guts , gore ..there is no hope…..arrggggh………………I have no idea what else to write apart from the fact that I will go to the loo now because that will take at least 5 minutes out of the snoring business of working out one’s notice………………………………………………….

1.7/10

Wasting Time at Work

(We all do it)

JAMES says:

Whether it's playing Freecell, catching up on hot gossip about who's directing the new Howard the Duck movie, playing the fun new trivia game on our messageboard , or even setting up your own website, we all need something to distract ourselves from the tedious monkey work that would otherwise fill our days. Even if it's just for a few minutes/hours, it adds a little bit of enjoyment to the grey sea of monotony that is the working week. My advice is don't feel guilty, just go ahead and loaf (assuming your computer screen doesn't face outwards. URT accepts no responsibilty for any disciplinary action or tickings off). I mean, what else are you going to do? Talk to people in your office? Write a report? Don't make me laugh!

7.2/10

P.S. if anyone at my work is reading this, it's meant ironically.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Working in an Office

(Type of Employment)



Disaffected Office Drone DI says:

Shockingly, most of my friends work in an office. This is shocking because I consider most of them to be intelligent, enlightened, talented people. Not unlike myself. Even more shocking, is that I work in an office too. What the fuck happened?

I hate offices. I hate getting the bus / train / tube / tandem to my place of work, with everyone else, all identically dressed in black, grey or navy blue. No-one speaks, no-one smiles. We are miserable.

When we get off our vehicle of despair, we enter our offices mentally picturing the moment in 8 hours time when we will be leaving them. If the office has a nice receptionist, they will say hello and we are compelled to smile and say hello, when in fact we both want to commit suicide at that particular moment in time.

If we are particularly unlucky, we will work in an open-plan cubical/screen divided grey prison with no natural light or fresh air under flickering yellow strip lights which occasionally interact with the frequency of our computer screens causing the development of epilepsy / bi-polar disorder or the effect of sedation.

We stare at our computer screens, 75cm away from our noses, all day, stopping only to have a wee, make a cup of tea, photocopy some meaningless drivel (followed by a tense few moments un-jamming the photocopier), or horror of ultimate horrors, we may have to go to a meeting. The meeting is a particular division of Hell inexplicably overlooked by Dante. I could go on for hours, but I really only need mention phenomena such as buzzwords, taking the Minutes, Powerpoint presentations and the urge to, again, commit suicide by sticking a sharpened pencil into the nostril and hammering it into the (by now numb) brain.

Lunchtime sees people fleeing madly in all directions from the office, desperately trying to squeeze what they’d normally spend all day doing (i.e. having a life) into an hour, or sometimes only about 20 minutes. Chaos descends as office workers confusedly go jogging, run to the pub, return clothes to shops they only bought from yesterday, make frenzied phone calls to organise a mortgage or frantically book flights to anywhere that isn’t an office. The result is a kind of sad anarchy of the soul, which is the highpoint of the working day.

At 3.30pm precisely it is indisputably the worst moment of each day in the office. We are full and drowsy from lunch and have been back at our desks for two hours. Home time is aeons away, glittering like a mirage in the distance. Here is where the serious clock-watching begins. We check out the BBC website, some travel sites and leave a few messages on a message board. Only 15 minutes passes. Someone comes over with some paper and we feign interest / knowledge / a pulse. Eventually time as we know it becomes meaningless and stops altogether leaving us in a vacuum of dribbling tedium until we’re released at home time, blinking in the sunlight , helpless, clueless and lobotomised.

As I say, it’s shocking that I and my friends do this. What’s really sad is the total waste of talent and humanity: barely anyone I know enjoys their job. And those that say they do, I don’t believe for a moment. I’m leaving my job soon to go and have diarroeah in India. I can only urge you to do the same, before it’s too late.

0.5/10

(The .5 is for free use of internet / photocopier and the bit of paper you get at the end of the month that says they’ve paid you.)

Yes, true believers, it's DISAFFECTED OFFICE DRONE WEEK! Coming up: Rants, bitches and gripes from bored-shitless office workers all over the world! Are YOU clock-watching right now? Of course you are, why else would you be reading this? Why not stop daydreaming about handing in your notice / taking an industrial stapler to your boss's face / getting your leg over with that cutie who sits by the photocopier, and do something constructive instead? Send your very own ranting bitchy gripes to feedback@urtheory.co.uk, or just post them on the messageboard .

Monday, September 13, 2004

Fancy Shiny Grown-Up Watches

(Chronometer)



JAMES says:

As a newly married man, I felt it time to make a token effort at growing up. Nothing drastic like stopping playing computer games or reading Superman or going to McDonalds, but a gesture towards the fact that I was a child no more. I have therefore replaced my old digital watch with a chunky analogue one from H Samuels, at a hefty cost of nearly £50(!). And, to be honest, if this is growing up I want no part of it. Sure, it looks a lot better, and I’ll probably get laughed at less in important meetings, but at what cost?

As far as extra features go, it can just about tell me the date but that’s it. No alarm, no stopwatch, no telling me what time it is in Java. It’s also heavy, and you can’t wear it in bed. And if you drunkenly lose it in a game of dominos it’s actually quite a big deal. But, I suppose I’ll get used to it, in the way I got used to having to wear a suit every day and no longer having 3 months of summer holiday. And it does look cool.
Sigh.

6.8/10

The Day After Tomorrow

(Movie)

JAMES says:

It is already about a month after the day after tomorrow when I originally saw this film, and life so far has been surprisingly free of wolves, giant hail stones and maverick scientists who no-one believes until everything they were talking about actually happens. So the film got the timescale a bit wrong, along with most of the science and the belief that we actually care about whether little Petey the blind boy lives or dies. Still, it kept my mind off the whole getting married the next day (yes, my last night of freedom was spent in an out-of-town Watford leisure park eating Mexican food, shooting zombies and watching a crappy American disaster film. It was great!), it taught us a valuable lesson, and it's nice to see that if there ever was major climate change over 2 weeks, everyone in the third world would be only to happy to have their countries overrun by whiney white people. The wolves were a bit over the top though.

4.8/10

Monday, September 06, 2004

Strangehaven

by Gary Spencer Milldige
(Comic Book)



NEILL says:

Imagine, if you will, a cross between the Archers and Twin Peaks; an everyday tale of normal English village life with healthy lashings of sinister masonic conspiracy, UFO cult strangeness, amazonian indian mysticism and brutal multiple killings. With me so far? Doesn’t it sound fucking ace? Now imagine that this gloriously warped tale is illustrated with some of the most beautiful, stylish and evocative artwork being produced in Britain right now; a combination of bold, blocky line art and layered ink washes that makes the strangeness of the events it depicts all the more unsettling for grounding it in a reality of near-documentary authenticity. Okay, you still with me? God, I’m excited just describing it. Don’t you want to read this comic RIGHT NOW??? Of course you do. Right. Now imagine that you have to wait, on average, an ENTIRE FUCKING YEAR between instalments of this thing.I mean to say, what? If the Archers tried that I don’t think it’d go down too well. And, to be fair, about as much happens in a single issue of Strangehaven as in one 15-minute episode of Radio 4’s longest-running shit-arsed dull yokel soap. (The parallels don’t end there, in fact; for all his vivid imagination and astonishing artistic skill, writer / artist Millidge has a flair for stilted, prosaic dialogue that would be right at home amongst Ambridge’s denizens. Shit, this guy could dialogue for Emmerdale).

I’m torn as to whether I should recommend reading ‘Strangehaven’. On the one hand, it will condemn you to a lifetime of addiction, unfulfilled yearning and waiting… endlessly, endlessly waiting….On the other hand, it seriously is one of the best-looking things I have ever seen. On balance, I think I would have to say everyone should go and buy it so as to support such a rare and individual artist, so he can stop having to get other jobs to support himself and his family, and can get on with the important business of telling his bizarre, engrossing and utterly unique tale.

8/10

www.millidge.com - the website

Having a Quite Common Name

(Whinge)

JAMES CAMERON says:

Do you know how much I'm going to have to do if I'm ever going to be the most famous James Cameron? Or even the 5th most famous James Cameron? A hell of a lot, let me tell you. Not for me the heady thrill of Google searching my own name, even though I have my own website. Not only do I have to put up with people informing me, when I tell them my name, that there is a film director who also has that name, but there's also a reporter, an artist, loads of people. And when I went to the doctor, upon finding out my name, he enquired if I was related to the famous James Cameron as usual, but then went on to reveal he was referring to a Dr James Cameron who pioneered autopsies in this country. And the other day I was looking in the TV listings and I saw there was a program on called 'James Cameron is a Jerk.' It's not pleasant, I tell you.

And even my first name is depressingly common. I am one of 3 James's in the office, which causes much confusion and hilarity on the phone (well, not much if I'm honest). At present it's not too bad as I'm known as 'Young James', but that position is always under threat. I had to turn down some guy who interviewed for the job as he was not only a James, but younger than me and even in the short time he came in to interview had begun to be known as 'Cute James.' It's only a matter of time before my identity becomes 'Middle-Aged James', which can't be good.

So you Quentins, Marmadukes and Neills, enjoy your individuality, and spare a thought for those poor souls destined to spend their lives mired in a sea of James Camerons.

3.8/10

NEILL says:

At least you haven’t had to spend the last twenty-seven years patiently explaining to people why you have an extra ‘L’. Which of course it would be quite hard to squeeze into ‘James’, but you take my point. Is it my fault I have willfully obscure middle-class parents? Of course, this cycle of abuse can only continue, and should I ever have a son I rather fancy I shall name the pitiable bastard Paull.

Having an extra ‘L’ – 4.3/10

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Lou's Homemade Raspberry Crème Brulees

(Pudding)

NEILL says:

I never knew puddings could be this way. The opulent creaminess, delicately counterpoised with the mischievous piquancy of the raspberries, and the whole set off by the sublime golden quality of the, um, burnt bit on top. Fucking belter!

9/10

Curly Wurlies

(Chocolate Bar)



GUEST REVIEWER CHRIS says:

Dr Pangloss had it right, this really is the best of all possible worlds. I mean, nothwithstanding the bad stuff like wars, famine, genocide, rape, hatred, sexual abuse, natural disasters, and Tony Hawks (not Tony Hawkes the skateboarding legend, but Tony Hawks the ‘comedian’ with an annoying voice whose greatest achievement to date has been to take a fridge around Ireland). But this is all balanced out by the presence of Curly Wurlies (apart from maybe Tony hawks).

Superior to your average chocolate bar in so many ways, one of its most endearing features is its sheer simplicity. Chocolate and caramel. That’s all it is. There’s no fannying around with biscuits, wafers, mallows, or nougats. Just chocolate and caramel. Yet Cadbury’s make it taste so goooooood. What’s more, the psychological aspect of buying such a lengthy snack (8 inches at the last count) means not only do you believe you’ve had more bar than you really have, but the experience lasts longer. The braided shape just adds to the eating experience, ensuring that not too much Curly Wurly enters your mouth at any one time, unlike the unpleasant unable-to-chew-for-toffee sensation which may come from the more substantial snack bars (mentioning no names, Biscuit Boost). And as if it could be any better, it’s even tastier in cold weather, when one is forced to snap off sections of the Curly Wurly and allow the melting process in the mouth to soften the caramel. All in all, the Curly Wurly is the reason our mouths were invented.

8.9/10

Friday, August 27, 2004

Jerry Springer - The Opera

(Opera)

CONSTANT GUEST REVIEWER DEBBIE says:

I admit that it's my own stupid fault but I thought the fact that I hate Jerry Springer-style chat shows, Fat people, Americans, fat Americans, Musicals, Opera and crude language would be a positive asset to enjoying this satirical piece of theatre. I also thought it was about time I came off my Drama Graduate/Playwright high horse and saw something other than Chekhov, Wilde or Coward for a change.

The first thing that really annoyed me was that James had found us crap seats up in the Gods. However, it turns out that this wasn't his fault and placated by the pretty toilet paper in the ladies, I settled into the show. After 20 minutes I just wanted it to end. You know, just like that feeling you get when you watch any film starring Nicole Kidman? The show offended and irritated me. I don't mind rude words, so long as they have comic value, for instance "bollocks", but I felt uncomfortable listening to such a pile of filth. My companions however seemed to revel in it which annoyed me even more. I'm an old fashioned girl and I cannot condone coarse behaviour...which might lead some to question why I will be marrying James in a few weeks, but I digress.

My only artistic criticism is that I felt they hadn't gone far enough when creating the guests - the baby fetishist was pretty good but I think they should have hammed it up a bit more. After feeling that the show couldn't get much worse and a nice ice cream in the interval, I was further offended by the blasphemy in Act II - everyone knows that Jesus wasn't a fat man!

The staging was on the whole pretty good and I was impressed by the musicians and performers, apart from the chap playing Jerry himself. I also felt that the performance suffered a real lack of direction in Act II - it was hard to make out what they were getting at.
To conclude, I cannot fault the production itself, it's just no good for a highbrow like me. It is perfectly possible to achieve entertainment for entrainment's sake without being outrageous.

This show achieved everything it set out to achieve and perhaps for this reason I would even go so far as to say I hated it more than Les Miserables. Sorry Stewart Lee, I am a great admirer of your work in general but I think you should go back to working with Richard Herring.
I am also cross that we didn't get badges at the end, my friend Louisa did and she only went a week before us!


Staging and music score 6/10
Personal Enjoyment score- 1.5/10 (this score is solely for the toilet paper)


NEILL says:

Why would you want badges for a show you didn't even like? That's mental.

8.7/10


JAMES says:

I'll probably be sleeping on the sofa for this, but I don't think it's really fair to say you were too highbrow for the show. There were some intelligent themes discussed in there, and it is a frickin' Opera after all. Maybe it would be better to say you're too refined. I don't know, I'll throw it open to the readers. Vote in the comments about whether Debbie is too refined or too high-brow.

7.9/10

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Steve Wright in the Afternoon

(Sleazy Man Blathering on your Radio)

JAMES says:

This one might be a bit of a rant, I’m afraid. I think I used to think that Steve Wright was quite cool, back when he was on Radio 1. Probably something to do with Arnie & the Terminators. Having recently been exposed to his show, this time on ‘adult’ radio 2, I feel ashamed for little 12 year old James, and if I could meet him a la ‘Disney’s the Kid’ I would be forced to shake some sense in to him, as much as it would hurt me. There are few people in the world I admire more than myself, but in this instance I readily admit I was a chump. But nowhere near as much of a chump as Steve Wright.

The radio DJs job is to play records and talk, in varying degrees, and while Steve’s musical taste is about as good as his face is attractive, I would gladly listen to Girls Aloud on constant repeat from 2 til 5 if it would save me from his ramblings. It’s like having the boring tedious person in the office who thinks his opinions are so great that every conversation has to be conducted in as high a voice as possible on the radio, only he’s surrounded by paid sycophants who have to pretend that everything he says is amusing or insightful, thus swelling his already formidable ego. He constantly reads out ‘Factoids’ that half the time are just rubbish gossip ,the other half old urban legends that everyone knows are made up. He thinks having an agony aunt pretending to be Elvis is so funny he should do it every week. He has an old lady on all the time. He does the kind of impressions that people who can’t do impressions do, all the time. He sleazes over his young female guests so much, I have found out for the first time the physical sensation of one’s skin crawling. He even has an astrology section.

All this could be forgiven if it wasn’t for the fact he is unbelievably stupid. His ‘Big Quiz’ is like the Richard and Judy quiz, only easier, and yet he still mispronounces most of it and gets the answers wrong. And when he tries to put one of his opinions across, it is so spectacularly ill-informed and just plain wrong that you want to give the radio a clip round the ear. And no-one does lazy clichés like Steve Wright does lazy clichés. For a couple of weeks his radio station was taken over by Mark Goodier, and it actually got better.

Now you might be wondering why even at this very minute I am listening to his show. It’s not as you might expect being inflicted on me in a work environment. I have the hallowed position of being in control of the radio at the moment. I could just change over. But if I changed over every time there was a DJ I didn’t like then there isn’t a radio station I could stay with all day, and forever changing is too much trouble. Therefore, for the sake of Wogan in the mornings and funny angry old people on Jeremy Vine’s call-in show I put up with Steve Wright. Until he just pushes me too far…

1.7/10

http://www.bbc.co.uk/feedback/ - Let’s get him fired!

Spam E-mail

(Irritating phenomena of modern life)

NEILL says:

Relentlessly sunny optimist that I am, I try to look on the bright side of having my inbox constantly clogged up with endless unsolicited junk e-mails about penis enlargement, dodgy pharmaceuticals and 'shaved teens'. ‘What bright side?’, you may well ask. Well, I sometimes find there is a certain dark poetry to be appreciated in the largely unexamined field of the Spam Subject Line. Here are my all-time top 5 personal favourites, in descending order of grotesque hilarity:

5) Get more Ass than a Toilet Seat
4) Tear Her Shrimp Bed Apart
3) Chess board genitals
2) Is the Mail on Sunday more Planet Dumbass's market?
Ha ha ha! No. Thanks for asking, though. The absolute winner is fantastically, staggeringly minging:
1) Just because they're OLD... doesn't mean they don't need DICK!!!

Okay, so it's not much of a bright side.

2/10


JAMES says:


The amateur housewives were not free, and my penis stayed the same size. I'm starting to wonder if the whole thing might be some kind of scam.

0.4/10

Friday, August 13, 2004

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman



JAMES says:

Fantastic 19th century short story about yellow wallpaper. I think this is going to have to be one of those times where I’m not going to tell you anything more about it so as not to spoil things. Instead I’m just going to say it’s great, go and read it. Look, there’s a link right there. You can read it right now, this minute. For free. Yeah, I thought that’d get you attention. Go on, then.

8.2/10

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/YelWal.shtml

Stagg and Groome

(Mismatched Crimefighting Duo)



NEILL says:

STAGG is a tough, unconventional maverick San Francisco Cop! With antlers! He plays by his own rules but dammit he GETS RESULTS! This is one cop you don't want to BUTT HEADS WITH!

GROOME is a 1950's rural English Groom! With 2 flat caps - one for WEARING and one for HIDING BEHIND!!!

Together, they are the deadliest fighting force the criminal fraternity has ever seen. Together, they are…

STAGG AND GROOME!!!

Their Secret Origin: Stagg and Groome were created over the course of a long afternoon at the UK Web & Mini Comix Thing in Stepney (where I won an AWARD), in the quiet spells between hordes of desparate love-crazed teenage Japanese girls seeking my autograph. Yes, amazingly enough, there were quiet spells. Of course, this was before I won my AWARD. Did I mention I won an AWARD?

The funniest part of the whole thing was people's responses. My day was absolutely made by the deadpan response of a certain independent comics publisher who didn't seem to be laughing uproariously for some reason. Helpfully, we explained it to him. "Yes," he said with a pained expression. "I get it."

Movie rights are available for negotiation! Talk to my people!

9/10

http://www.planetdumbass.co.uk/urt/staggandgroome2.jpg - Stagg and Groome Movie Poster

Friday, July 30, 2004

Everything you like



NEILL says:

Rubbish.

2/10

Everything I like





NEILL says:

Great!

8.5/10

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

European Monetary Punctuation

(System of financial notation)



JAMES says:

I’ve always found the European habit of putting a comma rather than a full stop between the big coins and the little coins rather endearing. It’s one of those little differences that make popping over to the continent more of an adventure, like a greater concentration of old red-faced men eyeing you suspiciously in the street. However, since I’ve started dealing in the world of high finance (ahem) I’ve come across the startling truth. Not only do they have a comma separating the Euros from the centimes, but they have a full stop separating the thousands and the hundreds!! For instance, 12 thousand euros and 23 centimes would be €12.000,23. Now long time readers will know my feelings about bringing nationalistic sentiment into purely economic arguments, but it must be clear to anyone with eyes in their heads that in this case our friends in Bruseels are dead wrong. A full stop marks the end of something and the start of something else, whereas a comma is the continuation of something. They’ve turned reason on its head!

1.1/10

Friday, July 16, 2004

Halls Mentho-Lyptus Extra Strong

(Cough Lozenges)



NEILL says:

Yo, let me holler at y'all a minute. You see this shit? These Halls Mentho-Lyptus Extra Strong? Well let me tell you, this shit is the bomb. This is the real shit, the straight up dope shit. This some hardcore gangsta cough lozenge shit. Knawwhaaamsayin? Better aks somebody.

For real, yo: the menthol vapour action on these motherfuckers will knock yo punk ass out. You know, I can handle mine, knawwhaaamsayin, but check this: I dropped two of these motherfuckers and I was one doped-up smoked-out sorry ass motherfucker. Seriously, yo. Halls Mentho-Lyptus Extra Strong: this shit will fuck yo ass up. Recognise.

Don't be coming here getting all up in my shit with your 'Lockets' shit. Lockets? Bitch please. Lockets be on some silly bitch shit. And don't even start with that Cherry-flavour Tunes shit. Bitch, I pity you. I'm telling you, man, Halls Mentho-Lyptus Extra Strong be the shit. For real.

7/10

The Big Four

by Agatha Christie
(Ripping Yarn)
 
 


JAMES says:

You may think you know what this book will be like before even reading it. Agatha Christie, you think, so vicars, unusual poisons, wills, country houses, Amazonian blow pipes. And awful dialogue. Well, let me throw a few more things into the mix. How about shadowy international Communist conspiracies, death-rays, evil Chinese masterminds, secret mountain bases and a character called ‘the Destroyer’. Not so sure now, are you? Although the dialogue is still a bit ropey. Anyway, this seems to be the book where Christie went a bit mental and decided to just take the piss. While it’s not what anyone would call a great book, it is very interesting to read if you’ve read quite a few Agatha Christies, or if you want to see just how indebted James Bond was to Poirot. The sheer genre-ripping novelty will have you snorting out loud in disbelief. Admittedly there are a few too many ‘But dash it Poirot, how could you possibly have known that?’ moments, but that pretty much comes with the territory.
 
6.1/10

 Buy this book on  Amazon

Monday, July 12, 2004

Waking up

(Transitional state of awareness)

NEILL says:

Increasingly these days I am inclined to think of consciousness as being essentially cyclical in nature. One's thought processes on any given day will generally consist of about five or six topics which will just repeat in cycles of varying frequency, over and over and over again. These five topics can generally be broken down into a fairly small number of major categories: sex, food and work being the biggies, with a couple of spots reserved for one's current cirumstances and major preoccupations of choice. I've drawn a handy diagram to illustrate this, what I would like to call 'Cameron's Theory of Orbital Consciousness'. Pay attention now, you'll probably see this repeated in the next edition of the Oxford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy...



That's just me, anyway. The composition and relative frequency of the cycles will vary in accordance with various factors, notably age, gender, social position and level of drunkenness. The frequency of a cycle is hugely variable: to take one example: on the fateful day that young James got wed, for the roughly one-hour period that I in my Best Man-ly role was actually in possession of the wedding bands, the single thought 'Shit! Have I lost the rings?' increased in frequency till it was cycling at a rate of approximately once every two point five seconds during the final minutes before I got to give them to the vicar and breathe a massive sigh of relief. Once something has been running on such a 'hot cycle' it cannot simply disappear, and for the rest of the day (indeed, the week) I was still having sudden panics and checking my pockets, albeit with increasingly long gaps in between. It's been a couple of weeks now, and I think I'm okay, but I would not in the least be surprised if I find myself years from now, tramping up a mountainside in some far-flung part of Asia, suddenly thinking to myself 'Fuck! Where are the rings?'

Anyway, waking up: the great thing about waking up is that it is a chance to observe this process kicking in: you can take a few moments on waking to to simply lie there and pay attention to the first cycle of the day lazily running its course. By noting the first five things that drift through your slowly activating brain, you will get an exclusive teaser preview of what you are in fact going to be thinking about all day. For example, on my first attempt at this exercise, my first 5 thoughts covered the following subjects:


  • this girl that I like

  • giant robots

  • how to lay out the first two panels of the page I'm working on

  • how 'Quality' by Talib Kweli really is a fantastic album and certainly deserves a better mark than I gave it in my review

  • how consciousness is essentially cyclical in nature and I should really get around to writing something about it some time



That was one day at random, but to be fair, it could have been any day of my life for the last couple of years. Sex, comics, hip-hop and philosophy. You'll notice how my actual JOB doesn't even get a look-in there...

I would invite all our readers to partake of this simple exercise; it's an extremely easy and often highly revealing bit of self-analyis; a kind of quick mental daily diagnostic (although it can be quite hard to remember, as you tend to be a bit sleepy at the time.) I would further invite all our readers to post, here, on the messageboard or via e-mail, their lists of the first five things they think about in the morning. In this way I hope to compile a psychic census of the nation, or at least of our glamorous and bohemian little corner of it. It'll be fun, and when I'm on 'Richard & Judy' selling my best-selling pop-psychological book on the subject I promise to send you all a postcard.

6.2/10

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Sleep

(Unconscious state)
As Requested by Guest Reviewer Debbie



JAMES says:

It takes up more of our life than anything else, unless we’re Yuppies or ‘Beats’, and great recording artists such as Marion, Heavy Stereo and Suggs have been inspired to write songs about it. But how much do we really know about sleep? Sometimes when I was drifting off to sleep, in that odd between time, I used to think that no one ever actually fell asleep, they just lay there unmoving but conscious all night, until we forgot about it each and every morning. But I was wrong, obviously.

There are two types of sleep. Evening Sleep is the big black void of sleep, and it is vitally important to relationships to have similar Evening Sleep patterns. No one likes lying awake in bed while their partner luxuriates in the soft velvety luxury of a deep sleep, but on the other hand no one likes being wakened in the middle of the night to be informed by their significant other that unlike yourself they can’t get to sleep. Surely this news can wait til morning?

Morning Sleep is a different beast, especially when hungover or having a lie in. Here you drift in and out of consciousness, with strange lucid dreams. In fact, most of my best creative ideas come from this period. Or at least ideas which seem great at the time but in the cold light of day unfortunately turn out to be garbled nonsense that would make David Lynch look at you with a mixture of confusion and pity. On the other hand, sometimes you can fall into the most hideous morning sleep traps of all, getting a song trapped in your head, which you only actually know a few lines of. After one particularly heavy session I spent about half an hour in the morning with one verse of ‘Living La Vida Loca’ by Ricky Martin going round and round and round…

Still, sleep is great. When I was a moody teenager I used to think I enjoyed sleep more than anything, and to this day I still try and set aside a good eight and a half hour slot each day for me to catch my z’s within. The effect it can have on your waking life is immense, and the world can seem a simply ripping place with a good stock of nap behind you. On the other hand, as Leonard Nimoy noted in his seminal ‘Spock Thoughts’, ‘do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue.’

Therefore, Hooray for Sleep!

7.8/10

Cream n' Cheesy Flavour Nik-naks

(Snack Product)



NEILL says:

I have no idea why anyone would want to spunk on a Wotsit then leave the results out in the sun for a week; perhaps as part of some bizarre homoerotic public school initiation rite, or as a grotesque revenge on a cheating partner. In any event, that is apparently what the bastards have done, and Lo they have given unto this Horror a name, and that name is Cream n' Cheesy Flavour Nik-Naks.

Just fucking nasty.

2/10

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Jaguars With Wings

(Jaguars with Wings)



JAMES says:

Imagine if such things existed! You wouldn’t be able to go out in the open without constantly watching the skies for death from above, especially if you lived in South America. In the end it wasn’t the hunter’s guns that rid the world of jaguars with wings, but simple physics. A lesson for us all.

0.8/10

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Since We Last Spoke

By RJD2
(Album)



NEILL says:

Okay, so you've made a couple of records of near-perfect downtempo instrumental hip-hop, blending hard-edged breakbeats with melancholy, oddly beautiful soundscapes. But what do you do NEXT? It's a question that has, I am sure, troubled us all at some time or another. All of us, at least, who have produced a couple of records of near-perfect downtempo instrumental hip-hop, blending hard-edged breakbeats with melancholy, oddly beautiful soundscapes. (Myself, personally, I have not. But occasionally I like to pretend that I have in bars to impress girls, so I find it is best to have an answer prepared.) It is, however, an inordinately difficult question, whose answers are many and various, and always strangely unsatisfying. Some, like the UK's Rae & Christian or the Herbaliser, opt for slightly 'lite' attempts at making 'proper' soul / funk music. Other's, like Japan's DJ Krush, spiral off down an interesting if ultimately unfulfilling path of increasingly reductive sonic minimalism. And then there are those, like Luke Vibert / Wagon Christ, who just sort of.... carry on. To my mind only one guy has ever really got this right, the guy in question being 'Legendary San Franciscan Weirdo' DJ Shadow with his magnificent second album 'The Private Press'; a toweringly engaging record which balanced eclectic experimentalism with beat-heavy funk almost perfectly. But not perfectly; there were just enough massively bizarre and annoying failed tracks to make it interesting and, ultimately, loveable.

So, what then for Texas-born producer RJD2, whose previous recorded works to date (2003's excellent 'Deadringer' album and the frankly stunning collection of remixes and rare tracks, 'The Horror') have given him the not-unprofitable claim to fame of sounding more like DJ Shadow than DJ Shadow himself? To his credit, on this his second full-length solo LP, he offers a new and adventurous answer to the question: he goes FUCKING INSANE. Seriously. This is one of the most messed-up records I think I have ever heard. If you ever wondered what the sound of someone losing their very sanity was like, I urge you to buy this record and satisfy your morbid curiosity. It's certainly extremely hard to sum up in words. Bizarre. Uneven. Massively confusing. Surprisingly funky. In places the weird and seemingly arbitrary combination of disparate musical ingredients just fires perfectly, on tracks like the awesomely funky '1976' and the rollicking intercontinental mindfuck 'RingFinger'. But in places it just all gets a bit... unfocussed. And then... oh Jesus Christ, then there are the vocal tracks. It seems young RJ may have lost his heart to a young lady recently, because this record features several songs of love and loss, given voice by a singer of such jaw-dropping unskilled awkward badness that I can only presume it is in fact the writer/producer himself. (I would confirm this by perusing the liner notes, but unfortunately I don't have any. See, music piracy really IS wrong.) The freakish sad-sack wank-melody of 'Making Days Longer' is so embarrassing that at first it is almost impossible to actually listen to it. And then you come to 'Through the Walls', which finds Mr. D2 on a heroically thankless one-man mission to fuse cutting-edge dance music with terrible, terrible 80's pop-rock. Why? Fuck alone knows! And yet the more I listened to this record, and make no mistake, I could not fucking STOP listening to this record, the more these tasteless aural misbirths became my favourite thing on it.

As I think I may have mentioned, it's quite a strange record. But I think I am a little bit in love with it. What can I say, I like 'em mental.

7.4/10

http://definitivejux.net/ - Def Jux home page

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Good Life

(No, not that The Good Life)



JAMES says:

Philosophers, as well as all the abstract stuff about who we are and whether if you dropped a stone it would fall, have been attempting to describe the best way to live your life. By various maxims and lines of reasoning they have presented the method of living that provides most happiness, satisfaction or utility. Now, I’ve never read any of these, but I’m going to present my ideas now and assume they are entirely original and groundbreaking. That’s the kind of guy I am.

First of all, there is no right way to live your life. While some might enjoy never going out and staying in on their own watching Hollyoaks all day, others might prefer Holby City. I cannot therefore tell you how to live. But I can tell you that nothing can be done to make life perfect. Every day will involve some form of struggle, either with other people, your own feelings, or a panda. Whatever path you choose, whatever profession, it’s never going to be easy. The only time when life stops being a struggle is when you’re dead.

The only way round this is to accept that all there is is a constant juggling act, trying to solve one problem before the next one comes along. Appreciate any moment of peace. Remember that noone has the answer to all life’s problems, but most people have the answer to at least one. And if you want any more practical advice, try Leonard Nimoy’s Spock thoughts. It’s all in there.

7.1/10

Monday, June 14, 2004

Van Helsing

(Film)
Dir: Stephen Sommers



NEILL says:

Van Helsing is a true heir to the 'classic' Hammer horror movies of the 1970s in that it is actually completely shit. I consider it a bad sign that I spent long portions of the running time mentally organising my bank account, and even longer seeing how many adverbs I could come up with for the word 'stupid'. I lost count in the end, but my top 3 favourites were: 'heroically', 'monumentally', and of course the classic 'un-fucking-believably'. The whole thing resembled nothing so much as an extended version of the cut-scenes that you get between levels on PS2 games, and had all the depth, intelligence and artistic subtlety that implies. It is a very strange thing to sit through an entire film feeling an overpowering instinct to 'press the start button and skip this shit'. I will share one choice snippet of dialogue with you, and that will tell you all you need to know about the heroic, monumental and quite un-fucking-believable stupidity of this movie. Whilst hunting down a vampire, or possibly a werewolf (I forget - I think I was running through my standing orders at the time), one character asks Van Helsing about his motivation: he has no personal or family connection to the fight against vampires (or possibly werewolves), so why does he do it? What is he looking for? And what does he reply, this nineteenth-century Vatican solider?

"I don't know... maybe some self-realisation."

I mean to say, for fucks sake.

4/10

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Tintin at Sea

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
(Exhibition)



NEILL says:

Ah, Tintin. If there is one sight that makes me happier than anything else in the world, it is.. well, let's be honest, it's a big pie. But if there's anything else that even comes close, it is the back of a Tintin book: miniature versions of the covers of all the other books in the series, arranged in a perfect grid, their bright colours and dramatic scenes promising adventure and intrigue and... you know, all that good stuff. Many happy childhood afternoons were spent staring at these back covers, trying to imagine the grass-is-greener excitement to be found in the volumes our local library didn't have in stock. For example: to this day, I don't think I've ever read 'Flight 714'. But I'll tell you this: it looks DAMN exciting. I would go so far as to venture that the back covers of Tintin books must be one of the most successful cross-promotional marketing ventures in the history of publishing. A quick google tells me that the series has sold over 200 million volumes worldwide to date. Which, to put those figures into perspective, is a little bit better than dumbass comics has been doing lately. Little bit.

So, what is it about these books that has such enduring appeal? Why have readers around the world been gripped for the last 75 years by the globe-trotting adventures of a young boy in plus-fours, his live-in salty seaman pal, and his little alcoholic dog? It seems unlikely, you have to admit. Well, after admiring the superb 'Tintin at sea' exhibition at the Royal Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which displays many of Tintin creator George Remi's original pages of artwork for the series, I think I have the answer: it's because they're really, really great. It's very easy these days to knock Herge for the appalling imperialistic racial stereotypes on display in 'Tintin in the Congo', for the bizarre and disturbing attitude to animal rights which sees Tintin, in same adventure, insert dynamite into a rhinoceros for shits and giggles, or for the fact that he was, indisputably, a Nazi collaborator. And to be fair, no-one likes a Nazi collaborator. But the fact remains, the guy could work a pen like few other mortals. He was a true artist and a true professional, studying the world with an intense and passionate observational eye and transforming it through his graceful linework into a unique, coherent and beautiful body of art. His gift for narrative is all the more breathtaking when you consider that he was basically making up the rules from scratch as he went along: laying the groundwork for an entire medium. The chance to see his original drawings at this well-designed and thoroughly engaging exhibition was by turns humbling, fascinating, genuinely inspiring... you know, all that good stuff.

What can I say, I like Tintin. Also, afterwards I got to have a big pie. Score!

8/10

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Adverts that contain the line ‘There is an easier way to…’

(Adverts)



JAMES says:

You’ve all seen them. Someone does something comically over-the-top, then the voiceover announces ‘There is an easier way to wash your face/win a chocolate bar/commit suicide.’ Is there? Really? Wow, thank you Mr. Advert for pointing that out. I swear if all the ideas produced by the advertising industry were put together, there wouldn’t be enough originality to power a robotic cat.

1.2/10

Friday, May 28, 2004

Heart of Darkness and Other Stories

By Joseph Conrad
(Book)



NEILL says:

A simply incredible piece of writing, possessed of devastatingly powerful insights into human nature, civilisation and morality; executed in prose that is thrilling in its grace and poetry. And two other stories, which are shit.

5.7/10

Monday, May 24, 2004

The smell inside a Macdonalds

(Smell)



GUEST REVIEWER CHRIS says:

Now, the received wisdom among the liberal community of London is that Ronald McDonald is the Antichrist. Ronald is to the left-wing as East European migrants are to Daily Mail readers, polluting our country, destroying our society, and perving about with little kids. Well, even Daily Mail readers might draw the line with the kids reference. But, as a fully paid up member of the London liberati, I’ve got to admit my vice, publicly, here in front of you all, our dear readers. My name is Chris and I enjoy the taste of McFlurrys.

I know it’s wicked and wrong. Trust me, on the rare occasion that I do feel the urge, I flagellate myself for several hours afterwards, and whenever I pass over actual cash for one (Crunchie flavoured naturally), I don my hair shirt beforehand. But I simply can’t help myself. I would prefer it if a jingly-jangly ice cream van tootled past my office window every day and I could sate my cravings with a far superior Mr Whippy (with a flake and raspberry sauce, naturally). But in these days of lack of community and capitalist high street shopping, this simply is no longer the done thing. I need the vegetable fat creaminess of a Mr Whippy substitute and damn it all if under the Golden Arches isn’t the only place to find a quick fix.

Yet there is one thing that even in my more Whippy-crazed moments, when I’m actually convulsing through the cold turkey, that prevents me from buying a McFlurry. And that’s the smell inside of the McDonald’s. It’s like an aromatic slap in the face and a pungent “Pull Yourself Together Man and Look Around You.” As soon as I walk in the door I’m confronted by the rancid smell of indistinguishable meat frying in unmentionable fats, mingled with the overpowering sterility of bleach and cleaning products. My stomach churns and all thoughts of food products vanish from my previously befuddled mind.

In may ways, this should merit an appallingly low mark of, say, 0.4/10. However, for the sheer fact that this has probably saved me, oooooh, several pounds over the years and prevented a mid-20s coronary problem owing to the sheer amount of cholosterol clogging up my arteries, I am grateful. Not too grateful, mind.

1.8/10

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Versus

(Movie)



JAMES says:

This is without a doubt the best Samurai/Horror/Yakuza/King-Fu/Zombie/Sci-Fi movie I have ever seen. And that includes Attack of the Zombie Gangster Samurais from Outer Space with Fists of Fury.Anyway, without giving too much of the plot away, largely because I didn’t understand most of it, I have made the following observations-


  1. Japanese Gangsters are really gay. (Note to any Japanese gangsters, I am basing this entirely on the film, not personal opinion. Just relax, eh?)

  2. This film seems to have quite improbably been the inspiration for both the policeman character in Catterick and Jonathon Ross’s dress sense.

  3. Blair Witch Project would’ve been much better with zombies.

  4. For a self confessed feminist, that guy sure seems to enjoy hitting chicks.

  5. Fully 1/5th of the budget must have gone on fake blood.



Within the first two minutes of this film you know you’ve made the right choice, and from there onwards it’s a magnificently violent, slightly odd, chuckle inducing master piece.

7.8/10

Zoo weekly

(‘Lads Mag’)



JAMES says:

After my recent tirade against women’s magazines, I feel I must redress the balance by saying that men’s magazines are shit as well. Especially this one. Shots of Izzy from Hollyoaks in a bikini does not make up for the pages and pages of artless writing and utter bilge. Still it was only 50p.

1/10

Year 3000

by Busted
(Pop Tune)




JAMES says:

Busted

It’s very trendy these days to knock the logic of this song, pointing out that if the person’s great-great-great granddaughter was still alive and sexually attractive in the year 3000 his family must procreate on average every 200 years. However, what they’re forgetting is that if it’s possible for Busted to travel to the year 3000, by the great-great-great granddaughter’s time the time travel technology would if anything be more effective. Also, have these people never of cryogenics? Anyway, it’s a spunky power pop dystopian vision of a nightmare world that would have PG Wodehouse crying into his cornflakes if he were still alive to hear it.

6.1/10

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Our Readers

(uh, that would be you)



NEILL says:

I happened the other day to look at some statistics on who is using this site, and I was frightened to the very core of my soul. By way of explanation, allow me to share with you the top ten list of search terms that have led people to this our humble pages…

1 byker grove spuggy
2 chart of the aristotle's doctrine of the mean
3 destiny's nightclub watford
4 freud egotist
5 geoff spuggy byker
6 greer grant nelson stories
7 hundred monkey theory
8 sigmund freud egotist
9 spuggy byker
10 spuggy geoff byker sex

The first thing that shocked me upon seeing this list was the idea that there is someone else in the world besides James sad enough to know who the hell 'Greer Grant Nelson' is (don't ask, you don't want to know). However, this soon paled into nothingness besides the frankly horrifying realisation that there are people out there searching the internet for information pertaining to SPUGGY FROM BYKER GROVE. And… I'm reading between the lines here, and the thought is almost too awful to put into words, but… it can't be true, can it… in a…. sexual context? Gah! My whole body shuddered as I typed that sentence! What is wrong with you people? And why the HELL are you ending up at our site? I am stunned and more than a little depressed. Here we are, doing our best for you, trying to provide a public service in a way that is entertaining and informative, but is that enough for you people? No, you don't care about that, you want to read about Geoff from Byker Grove FUCKING SPUGGY. You sick freaks! You monsters! Is this what we have to do to get readers nowadays? Will we see a sudden spike in hits if I start talking about P.J. FISTING DUNCAN??!! I bet we will, too! Jesus Christ.

I thought this was the most disturbing concept my addled brain was capable of grasping; that the internet could be populated by creepy subnormals obsessed with the idea of underage ginger-headed bushpigs performing VILE SEX ACTS with fat moustachioed Geordies. But no, there was worse to come! What if the person hounding Google for such abberant information wasn't simply some spectacularly misguided pervert? What if it was someone with a more personal interest, someone trawling the internet for some evidence of their long-past, all-but-forgotten taste of glory? What if… it was Spuggy?

If you're out there and you're reading this, Spuggy… uh, please go away.

3/10

Dog on Wheels

by Belle & Sebastian
(EP)



JAMES says:

I liked this EP so much, I bought it on CD even though I already had it on tape! It’s one of the few songs that I remember exactly where I was when I first heard it. Not that it’s very exciting, but I remember lying on the sofa thinking, ‘hmmm, that’s a nice tune.’ And thus began my love affair with Belle and Sebastian. Eventually I got a copy on a tape from my brother, complete with ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’ and ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’, though music piracy is wrong, and listened to it many times. Although I think B&S have released better songs since, back then my soul was not fully hardened, like a babies head, and those songs were able to worm their way in. When the Spanish style trumpets kick in I still get that warm joyous feeling.

And they had a work ethic too. Not for them an album track and two remixes, you get 4 all new songs on your EP (well, one was on their first album but noone had that so it didn’t really matter). And they’re all great. Not only is the title track probably my favourite B&S tune, but the second song, ‘String-Bean Jean’, is my second favourite. It also has the honour of being the only song I ever sampled in my 2 week Playstation based DJ career. Only it didn’t work very well. Great songs and a piece of my history. And I’m not a nancy boy.

9/10

NEILL says:

No, you are.

Still 9/10, though.

The Drones Club

(London establishment)



JAMES says:

That this place has the audacity to call itself the Drones beggars belief. There was no bread roll throwing, no Tuppy Glossop, just an average non-descript posh restaurant. But what really gets me is that I feel for it, like a rank amateur. They lured me in with a special voucher in the Evening Standard, only for me to find out it only saved £3 off the very limited ‘special’ menu. And due to this limited menu I ended up having Calves Liver, which Debbie says could only have been human liver at that size, which gave me food poisoning. Add in lack of no-smoking areas, bizarre bench-like side by side seating arrangements, no real atmosphere, immense drinks bill and the uneasiness about etiquette I always get at vaguely posh restaurants and it all adds up to a disappointing evening. PG Wodehouse would be crying into his monocle if he saw it. Poor PG.

2.1/10

Friday, April 23, 2004

Looking into other people's front rooms whilst walking home in the dark

(Prurient Nocturnal Activity)



Guest Reviewer of the Week DEBBIE says:


Well it's an open invitation, isn't it? If someone is happy to eschew net curtains and leave their heavy drapes open while the light is on at night, they can only WANT people to look in. Why then do they look so cross when I pause to contemplate their choice of wall hanging and why do they snap the curtains shut when I press my little face up against the window just to see whether that really is the same IKEA bookcase that everyone on the planet has?

This really is one of my favourite pastimes. You don't have to go out of your way to do it (just walk home from work), it doesn't cost anything (usually) and it doesn't take much time (unless you see something really interesting and invite yourself in to look at it). It is also terrifically exciting - once I thought I saw a fire but sadly it turned out to be someone sitting in a chair below the window smoking a cigarette. When you are outside in the dark, it is fascinating how cosy, welcoming and in every way more appealing other people's lives really look. I have a theory though, that every other room in the house has no furniture and plaster crumbling off the walls. This is the show room where are 5pm the show family gather onstage, waiting for an audience. They sit in their perfect clothes on their perfect sofa while their perfect cat sits prettily on the window sill, whereas mine just sits on the dining table and licks her arse. At the end of the day, however, when there is no longer the excuse of absent mindedness to
leave the curtains open, they close them and start scratching their private parts, arguing over the TV channels and then retire to bed in the coal shed like normal people.

One could argue that this is a somewhat perverse pastime, but to be honest, we all do it whether we mean to or not. It is almost comforting to see little snapshots of suburban life. Yet why is it, that our weirdest neighbour, (you know the one who sticks anti-war posters on his door and sits with his mad guard dog on the garden wall in a tin helmet and open toed sandals) NEVER leaves his curtains open. I dread to think what goes on in his front room....but all the same I'd love to know!

8/10

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Powers

By Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming
(Comic-book)



JAMES says:

If you like shows like NYPD Blue or CSI, realistic takes on the superhero genre, crackling wit, stylish cartoony art, an undertone of sexual tension, dark secrets, satire and fighting, you’ll like this series about cops having to police a world filled with super powered heroes and villains. If you don’t, I don’t know, you might like it, you might not. I’m not a mind reader, you know. Now clear off, I don’t want you hanging round here any more.

8.6/10

The Getaway

(Video Game)



JAMES says:

This excessively violent game involves driving round a realistically rendered London, killing people. Not really much in the way of variety to be honest, but it does have some excellent moments. The first time you drive down Oxford Street and see all the shops in the right places, you feel so happy you stop watching the road and run someone over. You also get a great buzz when you smash through a police line then skilfully drive between triad and yardie cars, making them crash. And you’ve got to love a game that you can pause and look in your A to Z when you get stuck. However, this realism can be a bit disturbing.

The other day, for instance, I spent the morning playing the game, going around Charing Cross stealing buses and causing mayhem, then I went there in the real world in the afternoon, and it made me feel quite uneasy, let me tell you. There are also quite a few problems that would affect anyone, Londoner or no. As I say, it lacks variety, and when it does try to mix things up a little, the results are pretty bad. For instance, there’s a section where you have to sneak through some laser security beams. Unfortunately, your character has obviously been shot in the head at some point, as he is incapable of turning round without also running in that direction. It is also impossible to just pick this up for a quick go. Every level has an opening scene that can last up to 10 minutes, which you can never skip. You also get to the point where you’ve sat through the opening sequence, and the first section of the level, and are getting incredibly bored/pissed off with the bit you’re playing, or need to get to bed/watch TV/pay some attention to your significant other/eat. However, you know that if you stop you’ve got about half an hours solid game play to get back to the point you’re at, so you have to plough on, no matter how unenjoyable you’re finding it. Or give up, I suppose.

Finally, the system dispenses with traditional items such as a map or health register in an attempt to be more realistic. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why most games have these things. Aimlessly driving around London with only a left and right indicator to tell you the way can be incredibly infuriating, and by the time you’ve reached Trafalgar Square for the 5th time you’re ready to kick the TV in. And to avoid having health, you get progressively bloodier the more you get shot, which is quite cool, and you can reverse this by having a little rest, which is just really boring.

To sum up, good fun occasionally, but frequently very tedious.

6.2/10

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Spending Time in Houston

(Spending Time in Houston)



Guest Reviewer OUR SISTER HESTER says:

I should have know that selling my soul to an oil company a few years ago would have ugly consequences; embarrassment when meeting new people and trying to answer the "so what do you do?" question, constantly trying to justify the company's latest decision to drill in a site of outstanding natural beauty to myself in order to sleep at night and so on.

One of the things I stupidly had not foreseen was the ridiculous amount of time I would have to spend in Houston, Texas. "The Lone Star State".

Now, to some people this may not sound so bad; steaks the size of a newborn baby, sunshine, living in a hotel with swimming pool where someone else washes your pants. However, when you get your 2nd confirmation in one month for 12 nights at the Holiday Inn, dreadful images of Alan Partridge float in front of your eyes. Well a very fat and pasty Alan Partridge; the diet of steak, bbq ribs and burritos coupled with a complete lack of sunlight (air conditioned hotel to car to air conditioned office to car...day in day out) is not great for the complexion and figure. For me, personally, it is the TV ads every other minute, complete lack of marmite and tea made with "creamer" that get to me the most.

Also Houston itself is pretty crumby, spread out over an area bigger than London with about 100th of the population. Space is not wasted though: every man, woman and child does own at least one filthy great SUV - vehicles that are bigger than a bungalow and use about as much petrol as concord mile-for-mile.

Still, the people are great and they honestly do wear cowboy boots.

4/10