April, 2004

Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a silly, trashy, and fun US series that I’ve been watching via the net. I enjoy it. Sky One has just started showing it, but it’s shorn of Elvis’ Little Less Conversation theme tune, with some feeble replacement. Someone screwed up on the international rights there. Or else Sky are too cheap to pay the PPL for Elvis.

Barenaked Ladies

My Canadian music week continued earlier this evening with the brilliant Barenaked Ladies. They are quite simply one of the most fun groups around. And don’t think they’re not talented either; from drummer to bass to keyboards/accordian, they’re exceptional musicians.
The one track that just about everyone knows is the radio friendly “One Week”, but guess what? They have loads more really fun stuff like that. And they put on a show. Not in the U2/Michael Jackson mode with vast set pieces. The stage at the Hammersmith Apollo was basically just the band and their instruments. But the guys are just brimming with excitement. If anyone in that audience was the slightest bit down when they got there, it’d have taken them about 30 seconds to brighten up as soon Steven Page or Ed Robertson started performing mocking guitar “thrusts”. There’s plenty of banter and general mucking about. Basically, they take the piss.
A huge North American contingent were out – most audibly for me in the guise of a woman behind me who was quite fanatically happy, and couldn’t help screaming the entire evening whilst jumping up and down. She also regularly hit the back of my head, but I forgave her because she was so enthusiastic (about the band, not hitting the back of my head).
I couldn’t help but notice that the Barenaked fanbase is quite possibly the shortest known to man. Is it something in the genetic make-up that makes people of a certain “less lanky” height love the music? I don’t know about that, but I do know I was a full head taller than anyone else even vaguely in front of me, and that there were initially issues with a woman behind me about our party, and in particular me, blocking her view. After I’d explained that me standing 20 feet off to one side would make me come across as being a little unsociable towards by companions, a reordering of who stood where became a compromise. So great was the size difference, that I began to suspect that the floor of the Hammersmith Apollo was akin to that of a swimming pool, with a sudden drop as you get towards the deep end. Look, I’m only 6’2″ and I do sympathise with short people who stand at concerts. I do whatever I can to avoid causing problems. When I go to the cinema, I always try to sit in front of an empty seat so that anyone who comes along afterwards and sits behind me should have been fully aware that they were going to sit behind a tall person. And even then, if I can “sense” that they’re suffering from a restricted view, I slouch down into my seat, even though I feel sure that I’m only storing up future back problems. I try, I really do.
Anyway, the latest album, Everything to Everyone, is just out in the UK and I heartily recommend it (Likewise, I’ve now heard the new Cowboy Junkies album, One Soul Now, and it’s essential that everyone gets the early release that includes the bonus EP).
The support act were really good too. A band I’d never heard of before (not difficult) called The Honeymoon. Their lead singer, Thorunn, is Icelandic, and has a great voice, and a stage persona that seems to be ever so slightly modelled on Marilyn Monroe. I shall hunt out their recently released debut EP, Passive Aggressive, in a spare lunchtime.
What a great week for music!
On the way home, I think I may have spotted the only person in the universe to complete the NME Crossword.

Cowboy Junkies

The Cowboy Junkies have a new album out at the end of next month, and are on a brief tour in the UK and Europe before heading back off to North America for a larger tour. I’m a massive Junkies fan, and one thing I was always sure of. A band like that would never show up at Virgin Radio.
How wrong was I? I was idly looking to book a room the other week when I noticed that they were booked to come into the station for Captain America.
So guess where I was at 11am this morning. Not at my desk that’s for sure.
Siblings Margo and Michael Timmins were in. Michael playing guitar, and Margot simply singing. I just sat there quietly and watched, not even getting one or more of my many Junkies CDs out for signing. They performed two songs in the Virgin zoo, The Slide and My Wild Child, both of them off their forthcoming album One Soul Now (looking forward to tracking down a pre-release copy).
I’m not sure when the session is going out, but, well, when you work for a radio station… They’re not just visiting us; yesterday they were recording for Stuart Maconie (I’m not too sure whether this is for Radio 2 or 6 Music). I suspect that they’ll be going to other places too – watch this page of the website.
Sometimes my job’s great!

Aardvarks

I do get more than my fare share of strange mobile phone calls. It’s not because I’m being targeted by a stalker (at least I don’t think I am). It’s because my name begins with “A”, and so who do you think is top in mobile phonebooks? It just takes a loose mobile in a pocket without the key-lock enabled, and I’m getting random calls. You can usually hear the train or car that they’re in.
Once I’ve tried bellowing down the line. I usually call them back. The other Saturday morning, someone’s caller id really wasn’t working and I had to switch my phone off to save battery since it was calling back every minute!
Of course with more flip-top phones, I get fewer phone calls now, but text messages continue to rise in popularity, and it only takes a slip of the finger to send your loved one’s message to the person at the top of the list. This seems to happen more later at night. Fortunately I’m certainly a heavy enough sleeper to ensure that a trivial “new text” noise isn’t going to wake me.
The moral of this discourse? Key-locks! (Menu – # on Nokias).

Sportka “Non” Viral Email

Hmm. One week a viral email appears for the Ford Sportka in which a cat is seemingly beheaded. Bad taste from some European division of Ford. Er, no, because there’s a link to this site (doesn’t work at time of writing).
Today’s Mediaguardian carries this piece (free registration required) in which the Chief Executive of Ogilivy, the creative company, explains that it was all a terrible mistake and not an attempt to spread a campaign via viral email. They’re terribly sorry about offending anyone and wouldn’t have wanted to, that’s why they never ran it.
Slightly disingenuous? They got as far as making the ad. This wasn’t a storyboard. A production team filmed the car on location, then a cgi house animated the cat. This all costs real money. Are they really saying that they got as far as making the commercial before realising that it might bring the Ford name into disrepute?
And then today, I get sent a second clip (also here) in which a pigeon suffers a similar car-related fate. So they produced a campaign did they?
Don’t kid a kidder. Who did they think that they were fooling with this piece in Mediaguardian?

ID Cards Trial

Blunkett continues to push for these stupid ID cards, and now has a trial underway with 10,000 volunteers. Exactly what a trial with volunteers is going to prove I don’t know? I daresay that there won’t be too many terrorists or illegal immigrants rushing to queue up for this.
So what can we expect? Well the cost of passports and driving licences are going to rise rapidly. This page on the Home Office website suggests costs of around £77 for a combined passport/ID card, and £73 for a combined driving licence/ID card.
But it’ll combat terrorism. Well ID cards did the trick in Spain didn’t they? OK, so Spanish ones don’t carry biometric data. Well so what? How would it have stopped them. And there’s the small point that we won’t be scanning everyone who enters the country, particularly our friends in the EU (very shortly to include lots more people from lots more countries). Or our American cousins from across the water who will most certainly be scanning all of us.
But it’s not just terrorism. Oh no. It’s to stop health tourism. And in particualr all those illegal workers doing the jobs that no-one with the legal right to work wants to do. Of course, whenever I’ve started a new job, I’ve been asked for my National Insurance number, and one would think that this might be the way to go for illegal working. Still, I expect that once all the cards have been introduced, those dodgy employers who are paying below-subsistence levels of wages to illegal workers will immediately clean up their acts.
Incidentally, some seem to think that it’s not terrorism that the introduction is mainly being sold on. Just go back and read Blunkett’s comments on that Home Office press release. What does it say to you?
This also sounds like it’ll be an enormous government IT contracts to be put out to tender. Which IT company will win it? EDS perhaps? You feel certain that the whole thing will be completed on time and under budget.
Keep up to speed at Stand and Liberty.

The British Museum Isn’t Falling Down

Random conversations heard on trains recently:
#1 A family are travelling into London. The mother’s French, the father English, and the kids seem bilingual. However, the family seems to live in France, and hence they’re doing the touristy thing with some English relatives, and are taking the kids to the British Museum. The mother is reading from a book, and explains to the kids that “the British Museum is full of things that the British have stolen from all over the world and filled the museum with.” Even though I was supposedly listening to my personal stereo at that moment, I couldn’t help but raise a smile. There was a bit of a family discussion that followed, debating whether or not this was an entirely accurate description of how the British Museum acquired the majority of its antiquities.
#2 A man is on his mobile on the train just behind me. One side of the conversation goes something like this:
“Hello Mr Smith. This is John. You may remember that you kindly agreed to make a donation in Sutton High Street yesterday. Unfortunately when I put the card number through, it didn’t work. Can you just read back the number for me?”
“Thank you. And can I check the expiry date?”
“And that was what? Visa?”
Now it could all been above board, but in general I personally wouldn’t recommend giving out my card details to people on mobile phones calling from trains. What’s that expression? “Social engineering?”