December 14, 2004

Dan’s Review of the Year

Well, that was 2004. Okay, there are a couple more weeks to go but face it; the world’s just going to be pissed/hibernating/in Mexico for the rest of the year. So I hereby present my Review of the Year, in which I look back at all the great things that have gone down. Except me – I’m guessing you don’t want to hear about my sex life.

Music
For the Top 40 singles of the year, look no further than here. Here are the five greatest albums of the year:

  1. The Libertines – The Libertines
  2. The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free
  3. Dogs Die In Hot Cars – Please Describe Yourself
  4. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
  5. Razorlight – Up All Night

I suggest you buy them all. That said, there was a hell of a lot of other great stuff produced this year from the Killers, the Zutons, the Ordinary Boys, Morrissey, Graham Coxon, Goldie Lookin’ Chain, N*E*R*D and Jimmy Eat World. And some new acts emerged to watch out for next year like Babyshambles, Bloc Party, the Futureheads and the Kaiser Chiefs.

Craziest of all, there was some really good non-indie – i.e. pop – music out this year. Scissor Sisters, Maroon 5, Kelis and the Black Eyed Peas are so annoyingly catchy, despite my attempts to dismiss them.

Film
There were plenty of half-decent films out but few truly great ones. A glut of comedies, from the Stiller-Ferrell complex, which is currently dominating Hollywood, dominated the releases. This is my top five:

  1. The Incredibles
  2. The Motorcycle Diaries
  3. Starsky & Hutch
  4. School Of Rock
  5. Lost In Translation

TV
Obviously, by TV I mean comedy shows – to be fair, British comedy shows. My top five:

  1. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace
  2. Peep Show
  3. Black Books
  4. Little Britain
  5. The Green Wing

Books
Are you kidding? I’ve not read anything from this year – fictional, at least. Might read Da Da Vinci Code before the end of December though. I’ll let you know what that’s like.

Obituaries
Okay, it’s not all great: here are some of the people I respected who all kicked the bucket this year…

  • John Peel
  • Marlon Brando
  • Ray Charles
  • Peter Ustinov
  • Brian Clough
  • Johnny Ramone
  • Ol’ Dirty Bastard
  • Alistair Cooke
  • The university’s very own Lord Scarman

I guess this’ll be the last blog I’ll write before jetting off to Mexico for Christmas. Perhaps I’ll be able to write while I’m out there, but I ain’t promising owt. So dear reader (shit, that's another dead one: Derrida!), have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


My Spiritual Pyramid Scheme Theory

Okay, it’s about time I had a rant about organised religion proper. This one concerns Christians – at least Christians who try to convert people. Evangelicals, I suppose.

I think the classic example in terms of denominations is the Jehovah’s Witnesses (“but in the Latin alphabet, Jehovah beginsh with an ‘I’!”), who we get a lot of up here in Newcastle, and I’m guessing elsewhere. The last time they came around all they did was ask casually about my religious beliefs then gave me a pamphlet, which went on about the Kingdom of God (which, for those of you who don’t know, contains many rainbows, and giraffes) without saying anything about who these religious nutjobs were until you got to the last page, where it said: “If you want to learn more about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, come along to…”

“Why do they bother?” you – at any rate I – ask. Well, to get to Heaven, not only do you have to subscribe to the one true religion, which according to Jehovah’s Witlesses/generic American born-again Christians is – surprise – their own one, you’ve got to convert a bunch of non-believers to your faith. This is because there’s only something like 144,000 places in Heaven and to get into that lucky few come the Apocalypse, the more conversions under your belt the better your chances. To convert heathens to one’s puritanical ways is a tough job, especially if you’re a Witness, not being allowed to have blood transfusions, celebrate Christmas, etc. – hey, if I were God I’d let them in on the basis of merely making those sacrifices – who’d give ‘em Hell after such a shitty life as that*?

What’s worse is the fact you’ve got to convince your converts that to get to Heaven they’ve got to convert as many heathens as you, and convince those heathens to do the same. Why, that’s gonna create a fuckload of people who’ve just given up their enjoyable lifestyle for one of chastity, etc., so that they can enjoy all the stuff they’ve missed on Earth in the eternal afterlife (they do fornicate in Heaven, right? If not, then what’s the point? I’d sure get sick of giraffes and rainbows), which far outweighs the 144,000 places that are up for grabs. Sorry, but a lot of pious, God-fearing people are gonna be disappointed at the end of the day (i.e. world).

You know what this reminds me of? In the eighties, I believe it was, there was a fad for these so-called Pyramid Schemes. Say a bloke comes up to you and says he’s got a sure-fire way of making a shedload of cash. All you had to do was hand over your lifesavings (or a fraction of) and then you had to get a bunch of your mates to do the same. You’d get a commission of what you’d collected and then make a veritable packet once you recruited enough people. Too good to be true, no? Correct: only the people who started up the Scheme would get rich; down at the bottom of the ‘Pyramid’, new members of the Scheme would run out of gullible people to ‘sell’ to, they’d lose their life savings and get rather screwed over. Do you see the parallels with Evangelism now? Do ya?

I call it my Spiritual Pyramid Scheme Theory. Or possibly Theorem. And it’s just one of many Evils of Organised Religion. And isn’t it funny how both are associated with the United States?

*If only they didn’t go around annoying people.


The Ordinary Boys – Over the Counter Culture

“Originality is so passé”, sings Sam "Preston" Preston on The List Goes On – Track 2 on the Sussex-based band’s debut LP – giving him licence to liberally rip off such musical luminaries as The Jam and Morrissey throughout the rest of the album. Once we have the boy’s acknowledgment of his debt to the greats, the listener can enjoy his tunes at face value. And they’re cracking – the title track is storming, urgent guitars building up to a blistering mute trumpet solo. The rest of the songs can’t top it, brilliant as they are (mostly).

Then you listen to the lyrics and that’s where the problem with the Ordinary Boys begins. For one thing, Preston’s trying too hard to produce witty, oh so British lyrics, in the vein of Mozzer, Davies and Dammers that it just doesn’t really work. Each song takes issue with an aspect of contemporary British life, creating a strong theme to the work, which is quite commendable but just leads to the Boys’ output being really samey. They don’t seem to have much of a message except that “Modern Life Is Rubbish”, and we all knew that after Blur told us a decade ago. Week In, Week Out attacks consumerism; Seaside and Weekend Revolution scoff at the drudgery of the British workplace. A solution seems simple: why don’t we just become carefree individualists? Because if you’d paid attention at the start of the album, 007, it seems we can’t: “Now it’s in to be out”, he sings in what I perceive to be a rather derogatory tone. So what’s it to be, Preston? Are you just taking pot shots at any lifestyle choice going so you can build up your Angry Young Man image in the eyes of the NME? Or are you just being ironic? If so, the Mozfather does it better.

Listen to OTCC for the tunes but skip Track 5, a cover of The Specials’ Little Bitch which has no place on the album – by all means play it at Glastonbury with special guest fat man, Phill Jupitus, but it’s too rubbish for anything more.


December 10, 2004

Dan returns to Newcastle

So I got back to the ancestral seat yesterday. I won't bore you with the details of the train journey except to mention my getting locked in the toilet for about five minutes. Fuckin' Virgin Trains and their futuristic doors. Oh, I travelled first-class again – wasn't as exciting as last time. Still, if thetrainline insists on selling first-class tickets so cheap I'm gonna keep buying 'em.

Looky! There's my house!

So upon my return to Newcastle after almost three months away, I set about catching up, intending to restore my Geordieness as my time away has caused me to fall victim to soft Southern shandy-drinking ways. So far I have:

  • taken Shearer, my faithful whippet, out for a walk
  • raced my pigeons with Ross Noble
  • swung by the 'Grove – apparently Jeff's dead!
  • had a Broon Ale or ten with Oz, Dennis, Nev and the rest of the lads
  • tried, with 'hilarious' consequences, to raise money for a season ticket
  • and burgled a few houses (only kidding – that's what they do in Sunderland!)

After a few shifts doon the pit, I think I'll have settled back in nicely.

Then it'll be off to Mexico!


December 08, 2004

The Mighty Boosh

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/tv/mightyboosh/

Finally saw this fine piece of programming this evening upon my return from Brum, where I made a right-royal pear-shaped pig's ear of my Diplomatic Service Fast Stream supervised e-tray assessment*. I had seen it before, twice: once when tired and once when I'd been smoking a certain decriminalised substance. The first time I wasn't impressed; the second time I was very impressed. You can probably guess what kind of show it is. This was back in the summer when the Mighty Boosh was on late evening BBC3 - it started on early evening BBC2 a few Wednesday ago, and doing Spanish/skiving Spanish to go drinking around that time, I always missed it.

Now I've seen an episode in relatively sound mind I feel I can pass judgement. Oh, you want some background? Well, the series, the Mighty Boosh, concerns two zookeepers called Howard Moon and Vince Noir and the crazy adventures they get up to in their 'Zoo-niverse' with its array of weird n wunnerful characters. The episode I saw today was the one with the Spirit Of Jazz. Jake WC got me 'into' the series originally and has been going on about this character for ages.

If you liked Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, you'll probably like this (and that's not just because they share actors). It takes a while to 'get' but once you do, you can't put it down, like you would a book. It, however, ain't as good as GM's DP, or Peep Show. It does have some laugh out loud moments, but even the Spirit Of Jazz was kinda disappointing – a poor man's Papa Lazarou mereckons.

The issue I took while watching it this time (I knew this post had a point!) was the time. It's on at 7pm on Wednesdays. Why? If I'm anything to go by, its core audience is at Spanish class then. I'd've thought its surreal brand of comedy suits it more to the 11.30 slot. The most conspicuous evidence for this view comes in the form of them bleeping out pretty much a word a sentence. I sat there, trying to enjoy the programme – which would have been enjoyable, trust me – and the BBC suits go all censorship-happy on Vince's "Fuck the animals" speech. It was so annoying. New time please, BBC2 Controller.

Sorry, for some reason I feel the urge to add this:
"Yeah, give me a second series, y'shit."

*For those of you yet to take the FSSETA: relax – it's fine. I merely made a couple of schoolboy errors. 'Course don't know the results yet so it might be fine. One thing's for sure, I ain't giving you the answers, seeing how you're kinda competing against me.


December 03, 2004

Single of the Year 2004

Writing about Single of the Year 2004 from Hub of Creativity...

Presenting [drum roll]... the RaW Single of the Year 2004, as broadcast yesterday (Thursday) 4–7pm, with yours truly at the helm for much of the show. In reverse order…

40) Busted – Air Hostess
39) Dizzee Rascal – Dream
38) REM - Leaving New York
37) Dogs Die In Hot Cars – I Love You 'Cause I Have To (my no. 5)
36) The Strokes – Reptilia
35) Britney Spears – Toxic
34) Goldfrapp – Strict Machine
33) Kanye West ft. Syleena Johnson – All Falls Down
32) Shapeshifters – Lola's Theme
31) Basement Jaxx – Good Luck

30) D12 - My Band
29) Anastacia – Left Outside Alone
28) The Darkness – Love Is Only A Feeling
27) Snow Patrol – Spitting Games
26) Jay Z – 99 Problems
25) Muse – Sing For Absolution
24) Goldie Lookin Chain – Guns Don't Kill People Rappers Do
23) Modest Mouse – Float On
22) Jimmy Eat World – Pain (my no. 1)
21) N*E*R*D – She Wants To Move

20) Lostprophets – Last Train Home
19) Graham Coxon – Freakin Out
18) Eric Prydz – Call On Me
17) Futureheads – Meantime
16) U2 - Vertigo
15) Estelle – 1980
14) Morrissey – First of the Gang to Die
13) Razorlight – Stumble and Fall
12) Embrace – Gravity
11) The Zutons – You Will You Wont

10) Scissor Sisters – Laura (my sweepstake)
9) Maroon 5 – This Love
8) Damien Rice – Cannonball
7) Keane – Somewhere Only We Know
6) The Streets – Dry Your Eyes
5) Wolfman ft. Pete Doherty – For Lovers (my no. 4)
4) Green Day – American Idiot
3) The Libertines – Can't Stand Me Now
2) The Killers – Mr Brightside (my no. 2)
1) Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out (my no. 3)

[cue much debate]


November 26, 2004

Dan's Guide to Voting in the Union

Writing about web page http://www.sunion.warwick.ac.uk/portal/voting/

I voted in the union elections and referenda yesterday. Don't believe them when they tell you that it's sexy. It's not. It's not even fun…unless you turn it into a little game, like what I did.

My approach to voting was based upon a number of factors: my democratic principles, pragmatism and superficiality.

First of all, I had to read the terms and conditions. Or, at least, I had to tick a box saying I agreed to them. The fun part to this was that there were a couple of other boxes that you could tick if you want to define yourself as a female and black. Needless to say, as I type this, I am, in the Union's democratic eyes, a black woman. You can call it making a mockery of the system; I call it upholding my democratic principles – I'm just exercising my rights albeit for the sake of a cheap laugh.

Next came the referenda. There are two motions: the one about reforming democracy, and another about banning racists and fascists. To be honest, I couldn't give a flying monkey's about either one, but as they want to be quorate I thought I'd be nice and vote in them. Without any personal preference, I was going to base my judgement on the strength of the two cases for each. There was a problem in that no one opposing the motion had submitted a case against. Obviously, to vote based on the strength of the cases, my vote should have gone for the motions, but surely I needed to make an informed decision? What were the cons of the motion? I felt betrayed as a voter by the Union. So I expressed my 'boo's to the Union in the form of Abstain.

Lastly were the elections. My strategy here was simple: first, I wouldn't vote for anyone without a manifesto. Second, I would vote for anyone who was running alone (no matter if they're a psycho – surely it would be way more fun if they were?). Third, I would vote for people I knew and vaguely liked. Fourth, for the postions I was still stuck on, I voted for the candidate who conveyed some sense of humour in their manifesto.

There you go: my guide to voting. Perhaps a little politics-geeky for some tastes, I admit. Now go and vote! Vote like the wind!

A message to Union hacks: if this contravenes your democratic code of conduct, let me know in the form of a comment and I'll take it off. Only to put it back on after voting has ended. Ta!


November 22, 2004

Prof. Brad Jockowitz's Guide to Limey Love

"Howdy there, London! Many thanks to my good buddy Daniel for letting me post on his blog! Who am I, you ask? Well, here's my full title:

Professor Brad Jockowitz (disgraced), Department of Relationship Studies, Jesse Helms Memorial Girls' Dorm, Duke University, NC.

That's right folks, the good old US of A! Now, I've gotten you lucky Limeys a sneak peek at my new paper, to be published in Relationships Quarterly next month (also syndicated to GQ and New Woman). It's entitled "A Definitive Guide to the Approaches of British Men and Women to the Opposite Sex". And here it is (abridged)...

After months and months of extensive research, these are my findings: basically, everybody has four different attitudes towards members of the opposite sex.

How men see women
'Fancy' = in love with.
'Would' = wouldn't say 'no', after a few, like.
'Like' = a cool girl – to have a pint with – you know. No chance.
'Who?' = lacks looks and personality, ergo he will never talk to her.

How women see men
'Like' = in love with.
'Fancy' = wouldn't say 'no', after a few, like.
'Sweet' = harmless. No chance.
'Psycho' = scares her.

Well, that's how it seems to me (and Daniel concurs). As you can see, there is potential for enormous amounts of confusion – often with hilarious consequences! But usually without.

Now, you may be wondering why I, a superior and insular American, can be fagged to study this type of behaviour over in England? Well, to be honest, the behaviour on our side of the Pond is damned boring. You've seen shows like the O.C., right? Well, by watching that you'll know that Americans are all too hot to consider anything but fucking everyone else, excepting family of course. Although…

'Til next time, brush those teeth!
Brad xx"

[editor's note: apologies – I can't sleep.]


November 20, 2004

The Student Radio Awards!

So, about thirty RaW types, past and present, made it down to Shepherd's Bush last night for the 2004 SRA Awards. We were up for three - I say we: Chris Carter was up for Best Specialist Show, the Sports Team was up for Best, erm, Sports, and we were all up for Best Station (having won it last year).

Sport got Bronze in their category, which was a bit gutting as there were only three nominations; Chris got Silver; and RaW as a whole got nowt. Which was fair enough as we swept the board last year. Shame that we can't say we're the UK's Best Student Radio Station any more.

But that's not important, for after the awards were given out, came the Lig-O-Rama. I made the most of the free Bud (shit as it is) and went and schmoozed with as many Radio 1 types as I could find. So, I met:

  • Colin Murray, who I asked "What age are you?" His answer: 27. I also got my photo taken with him (see below) and he recorded a ident for RaW. What a legend.
  • Steve Lamacq, who was trashed, shook my hand and adjusted my tie because it wasn't "rakish" enough.
  • Nemone, who I took the piss out of for doing the graveyard shift on R1, which I then realised was quite a harsh thing to do. So I'm actually going to listen at some point.
  • Comedy Dave who, let's just say, was more "Dave" than "Comedy".
  • James King, who's back at Warwick doing a PhD, and – you heard it here first – will be on RaW in January/February with his own show!

A fun night was had by all, especially young Adam Westbrook who ought to blog all the mucky details before I do. ;)


November 17, 2004

My turn for a Stagecoach rant

Bald Stagecoach bus driver, if you're out there…

Is it too much to ask that before you pull away from the Railway bridge, you check your wing mirror to see if any hapless students are sprinting to get the bus, and that you don't make an issue of their hitting of the bus's window in a last act of desperation to make you let them on?

Ta.


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