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Archive for August, 2005

Miami pt.4: addendum

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It’s kinda silly saying I went to Miami. I was in Miami, but all I saw was the inside of two hotels (Mark’s and mine), the penthouse where the parties were, and the inside of lots of taxis. All of those hotels were on one street. I didn’t even see Ocean Drive, which, I’m told, is the famous street with lots of stuff on it. Maybe I should just watch my Miami Vice DVD again and pretend I saw more than I did.

I went onto the beach once. At night. When it was really windy. Mark and I just walked around for a bit with cans of Heineken then went back to the hotel bar.

Talking of hotels, I love how they added an 18% “replenishment charge” to anything you take from the minibar. You pay them to replace the beer you’ve just paid for! Now I see why Paris Hilton’s so rich. It’s all those little things like that. Note to self: buy a hotel.

The flight home was pretty uneventful, anyway. Aside from the handsome French lad sat next to me (the kinda boy you’d see in one of those black and white Pet Shop Boys videos) who had really bad breath and seemed to want an elbow war for the middle arm rest; could’ve done without all of that.

The celeb spotting didn’t stop, though. That American band My Chemical Romance were on the flight, looking like a rock band. And top MTV Germany VJ Markus Kavka, too. He was a friendly fellow. At Heathrow, waiting for the plane to Berlin, we were both in the smoking area, and I was wracking my brain for the name of the band on our flight and figured he should know, so I made my apologies for disturbing him and asked if he knew who it was cos it was driving me insane; one of those tip-of-the-tongue things.

To round of the excitement, as I was getting off the plane at Tegel, there were two policemen waiting at the door, and they promptly arrested the young chap in front of me. They were like, “Are you blah-blah?” The boy nodded. Out came the handcuffs and off he was whisked.

And you know what? The whole time I was there, I never did listen to the Miami Vice theme on my iPod…

Written by Craig

August 31st, 2005 at 7:27 pm

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Miami pt.3: the celebs

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So, there were plenty of people you and I have heard songs by, seen on TV or in the cinema, or playing sports of one kind or another at these parties.
Here’s a quick list of who was there and who prompted me to stop and think, “Ooh, that’s whatsisname” : Good Charlotte, Bam Margera, Tony Hawks (UPDATE 04/09/05: I’ve only just found out that his name is Hawk, not Hawks. I’m not a skateboarder or anything, so, really, all I know of him is that their’s a computer game with his name on it. I didn’t realise it was Tony Hawk’s Computer Game, I thought it was Tony Hawks’ Computer Game), Amanda Lepore, Paulina Rubio, Luke Wilson, Eddie Irvine, Johnny Knoxville (stalking me, I tell you!), Jeremy Piven, Eva Longoria, and a good few handfuls of people that I, as a Brit who watches very little TV or pays little attention to hip hop, didn’t recognise.

On the Friday night, I was waiting to use the lav. Suddenly Quincy Jones breezed past. Quincy Jones. Quincy. Jones. That was a good moment. An actual legend. Not just someone who’s famous. A real true legend. Right there. Quincy friggin’ Jones!

Some dude called Rocco did some cooking on Sunday. Apparently he’s a TV chef in the US, and he was jolly friendly; walking over and introducing himself and bringing us drinks. La de da.
Other friendly folk: That Bokeem Woodbine fella, the guy who played Massive Genius in The Sopranos, he was in Ray too; he was nice and chatty.
And there was an American football player who I obviously didn’t know, but he used to play for San Francisco 49ers if that means anything to you. Had a good chinwag with him.

You wanna see some photos?
Here’s Jessica Simpson’s hair, back, arse and legs.
Below that, another photo of her from the side with a very big man behind her.

Here’s Paris Hilton. Ooooooh!

She and her sister turned up to several of the parties as it happens. Loads of security. But she brushed past me. Her very rich elbow skin grazed my plebby forearm. Thank you, m’lady, thank you very much.
As it goes, she looked very pretty. Prettier than I’d imagined, actually.

And here are two very blurry photos of Pharrell Williams.

He hosted one of the parties, so he was there for a decent amount of time. I shook his hand. He acknowledged the presence of a Minipop of him in the room. Earlier in the day on Saturday, he was doing a photoshoot in one of the bedrooms with a bunch of scantily-clad ladies. It looked like hard work.
It was a nice contrast, though, when I later saw his Neptunes/N*E*R*D* partner Chad Hugo sat by the pool on his own. I was out there smoking a fag, and was too shy to say hello. Had I known what I later found out, I would’ve. One of the Yahoo! chaps told me that Hugo knew Minipops and, sigh, already owned the book! Aaah! take me off now! One of the Neptunes/N*E*R*D* bought my book! Me happy.

Sunday afternoon was a good one. The before-the-VMAs Sunday Brunch party. And everyone was excited cos two people were likely to show up. When they turned up and went out to the terrace, for some reason, Mark (one of the guys I worked with in New York) and I stopped talking rubbish on a sofa and oh-so-casually sauntered outside. And there they were.
He in a fetching polo shirt, looking tall and quite dashing; and his girlfriend in a, breathe Craig breathe, gold bikini.
Oh Lordy.
We tried to play it cool, casually walking by, going to the bar and sitting down, but all the time we were sneaking glances. She’s there.
In. A. Gold. Bikini.
“Did you see that?” said Mark. “She just put sun lotion on herself!”
“Mark! Mark!” said I. “She just adjusted her bikini top!”
She was divine. She glistened and glowed. She was without question the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in the flesh.
And there she was, some 20 feet across the terrace, chatting away and smiling.
Beyoncé.
Mmmm.
(And later on, apparently, they both took the framed prints of themselves that were on the walls. Me happy again.)

Which brings us to the VMA show itself. It was a celeb-free zone at that point; just Yahoo! people mainly. It was kinda nice, like watching it at home with some mates, just with high-end catering.
And the reason why we were all there: ta-da! Two of the adverts were on during the broadcast of the event. They showed the Missy Elliott commercial during the pre-show, and fortuitously, the Green Day one just after they’d won one of their awards.
We all happy, and ready for the last party of the weekend in the penthouse, this one hosted by Missy Elliott, another multiple Moonman winner. Yay for the billionth time.

Jessica Alba, Alicia Keys, Kanye West all turned up for that. Joss Stone too. I got introduced to her. I went a bit weak at the knees; she a pretty lady. The Hiltons turned up agaaaaain.

One would think my weekend was complete now: seeing Beyonce in a bikini, and shaking the hand of, and saying hello to Joss Stone.

But, no!

A Yahoo! dude comes up to me, leans to my ear and asks me to follow him. I do so. I follow him to an area of the penthouse which is velvet roped-off. A brief whisper with a chap on the other side of the rope is had. Then the rope is opened. We move swiftly into the special area. Another brief chat with a manager. Suddeny, there I am being introduced as the artist who drew the stuff for the TV advert to Missy Elliott herself. I shake her hand, offer my congratulations on her award winning evening. She says she likes the Minipop. A few more sentences, some smiling, another shake of hands, and as efficiently as I was whisked in there, I was whisked out.
In my head, a mantra over and over again: I just met Missy. I just met Missy. I just met Missy.

I met Missy.
I really do wonder how much better my life can possibly get.
I’m so fucking lucky. It totally freaks me out. You do some silly little pictures of pop stars to amuse yourself on your new iMac, and five years later those silly little drawings are getting you behind the velvet rope meeting one of the best artists around.
Fucking hell.
I met Missy!

Written by Craig

August 30th, 2005 at 11:03 pm

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Miami pt.2: setting the scene

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Everything I went to took place at the Setai Hotel’s penthouse. Yahoo! rented it for the weekend and staged five parties there. One every evening, and afternoon jobs on Saturday and Sunday.

These wristbands were my most important possessions of the weekend, allowing me to be in the same rooms as, oooh, Jamie Foxx, Carmen Electra, Gwen Stefani, Lindsey Lohan… (Not that I saw any of those people, but damn it, they were there!)

I think I would be quite happy to live in that penthouse. It was massive. Windows all around, nice decor, a pool, a huge terrace, and a pretty spectacular view. Yep, I think I could handle that.

So, the place was decked out with some Y! Music logos and loads of Minipops from various aspects of the campaign. Big TVs showed the animations constantly. Woo.

There were well-stocked bars full of every imaginable drink one might want, very tasty food, cigars, and a troupe of handsome buff blokes and hot chicks employed, it seems, to be handsome and hot. Woo again.
Of course, these people were quite intimidatingly beautiful at first, but as the weekend wore on the ones I spoke to were all cool, interesting and dead friendly people.
Anyway, I’m not even gonna pretend I was taking a photo of anything other than hot women in bikinis in this next photo, cos that’s exactly what I was doing.

The whole setting was amazing. To walk around and see these Minipops that I sat here clicking away at on my grubby desk, sipping luke warm coffee, letting Billy lick my free hand at the same time: these Minipops were now printed beautifully in frames, they were cut-out Perspex statuettes, they were all over the place. I was a proud boy when I saw all that. I soaked up every moment, cos I don’t want to forget anything.

I know what you want me to write about here, and I promise I’ll get to the celebs in the next post!

Written by Craig

August 30th, 2005 at 8:09 pm

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Miami pt.1: Katrina, Orlando and Johnny

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I’ve been awake for a zillion hours now, only had about four hours sleep since waking up on Sunday morning, but after nearly falling asleep while the plane was landing at Berlin Tegel airport, I’ve got a bit of a second (third, fourth, probably fifth) wind.
How the hell do I write all this down in a form that isn’t just a splurge of adjectives?
Well, I’ll have to try it out. Maybe I’ll do it in two or three sections…

So, as I said, I went to Miami because Yahoo! Music Unlimited were launching their campaign of TV ads that feature Minipops during the VMAs. But we’ll come back to that later.

First up was the flight. And Hurricane Katrina.
All was going well. The captain had told us it might be a bit bumpy coming into Miami, but we should be fine.
As we got close to Miami, the clouds looked like this:

At this point, I took a photo just because the clouds were über-pretty, like the mozarella on a well-made pizza.
As we got close, it got bumpier. but then it chilled out a bit. Later, I found out that the chilled bit was the actual official EYE OF THE HURRICANE!
Ain’t it grand? I tooks me a goshdarned photo. You can see the ocean there. The bit which is a paler, more tropical green colour is the bit of the sea right next to Miami Beach.

On the other side of the eye, it got bumpier still. Left, right, up, down, forwards, backwards. We were all over the place.
I don’t like flying in general, but I was surprisingly calm during it all. I didn’t think I was gonna die or anything. It was weird. Maybe my fear of flying is on its way out the door. Yay! Having said that. When the hurricane pushed from the front of the plane, and suddenly we lurch backwards and it feels like the plane had completely stopped mid-air, it was a bit hairy. Like, oh fuck, we’re not moving. Not moving = falling out of the sky. (Insert Homer-style tongue waggling scream here.)
After about five minutes of that, the plane began to rise out of the clouds, and the pilot told us we couldn’t land (No? Really!?) and we’d be going to Orlando to reassess the situation.
Reassessment done: you lot are staying in Orlando tonight.

So, my time in Orlando was covered in the previous post (But maybe you’d like to see this fella’s shorts. This was outside the mall, where we tough kids smoke).

Fast forward to Orlando to Miami flight. Went like a dream. And who should be on the plane in first class? Well, it’s Johnny Knoxville. Yay. Wearing the exact same sunglasses he wore at the VMAs and at a party on Friday night. Also wearing a belt with his name on it just in case. I was near the front of the plane so I kinda ended up right behind him as we were all going to get our luggage. It’s amazing watching people when you’re walking behind someone famous. Half looks, double takes, outright staring. All while I’m trying to not be a stalker, but also try and get a sneaky photo. The one below is the best I could muster as I stomped along behind him. Sorry.
As your celeb reporter, I can tell you he seemed like a nice guy from what I saw; he smiled, said hello, and signed stuff for people who approached him.

Bag picked up, in a cab, and Miami looked fucked. Trees all over the place. Coconuts on roads, bashed cars on the side of roads, advertising hoardings hanging off. General debris mayhem. Looking back, having seen what Katrina did to New Orleans, Miami got off really really lightly. The wind was still pretty strong, by my normal life standards. Enough to give me a fright when a gust nearly blew the cab into the central reservation.

Finally, I get to the Loews Hotel, have a shower, get changed, have a quick fag on the windy balcony, and gear up for my Miami odyssey. Which, like any good soap opera fan knows, you’ll find out about in the next installment.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the view from the balcony.
I think I’ll have a good ol’ sleep now.

Written by Craig

August 30th, 2005 at 4:47 pm

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Stuck in Orlando

with 13 comments

So, the one thing I didn’t mention was that I’d be going to Miami to hang around while Yahoo! Music Unlimited promotes the hell out of itself, thus my Minipops will be, I’m told, quite visible.

Any of you that have been following the weather, though, will know about Hurricane Katrina, which hit Miami just as my flight was coming in to land. Mein Gott! Is it scary being in a plane during a hurricane!

The pilot tried to land, but we were being buffeted all around, all over the place, able to see nothing out of the windows, and then we rose, and the pilot told us we were flying to Orlando to land there.

And you know what my first thought was? Not ‘Thank God I’m not gonna die in a hurricane’, but, ‘Fuck, when am I ever gonna get to smoke a fucking cigarette?’

Immigration was a pain in the arse in Orlando. The slowest man in the world asking about every single stamp in my passport (‘Why did you go to Turkey?’ ‘Champions League final, dude, Liverpool won on penalties, it was fucking brilliant!’ Okay, I only said the first three words of that sentence, but I sent the rest telepathically).

Bumming around in the airport for, like, EVER; eventually we all get carted off in a bus around some highways/freeways/whatever and after nearly 20 hours of travelling, I’m dropped off in front of the Florida Mall Hotel. The name says it all. It was a hotel in a mall. Nice view of, err, huge carparks from the window. But incredibly friendly staff. The room was a bit crappy too (clock had the wrong time on it, the desk was dusty, the minibar was empty and turned off).

So I spent a couple of hours zoned out in front of ESPN, fell asleep, had fitful sleep, had rubbish breakfast, walked around the mall, got a cab, and now I’m in a tiny cube in the Hyatt Hotel’s business centre (ie a dingy room with an ancient PC, a dusty plant and wicker chairs) at Orlando airport, waiting for my flight, finally, to Miami.

I have photos of the hurricane from the plane, but no way to put them online right now. I’ll do that when I’m back in Germany.

But I do have Jan Hammer’s Miami Vice Theme ready to rock the iPod when I finally land.

Okay, better go and check in again and do the whole security thing.

Written by Craig

August 26th, 2005 at 12:43 pm

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What I’ve been doing

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I’ve been deliberately secretive about what I was working on in New York. Fact is, I’ve been working on this a lot longer than just those two weeks; I’ve been working on this particular project in spurts for a long while now. But this coming weekend, all that work is gonna be put out there for all to see.

It’s the biggest project I’ve ever worked on. Not work-load wise, but in terms of exposure: more people will see this than anything I’ve ever done before. That is quite a daunting, but great thought.

What I’ve been doing is designing and drawing characters and backgrounds and all the other stuff that will happen in three TV commercials. The first of these commercials will be shown in the US this Sunday night during one of the ad breaks of MTV’s VMAs, and they’ll be on a few of the hipper TV channels for about three weeks. Me excitey!

There’ll also be posters that’ll be going up on walls around New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
So, the ads were sorted out, copywritten, art and creative directed by some splendid chaps at Ogilvy, the animations were produced by Nexus (who also did the Observer Music Magazine adverts I worked on) and directed by Smith and Foulkes, the geniuses behind the utterly delicious Honda adverts with all the car engines flying around and rabbits and lovely stuff, and, well, I did the drawings and cigarette smoking.

I can’t show you anything now, but once they’ve officially launched, I’ll show you.
And what are the ads for, you may well be asking?
Yahoo! Music Unlimited.
If you’re interested, here’s a press release.

Written by Craig

August 24th, 2005 at 11:19 am

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Six feet behind

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I’m screening my Internet use at the moment. Not visiting sites that I’d normally visit daily, just in case. Just in case I happen to catch glimpse of what happens in the finale of Six Feet Under.

This situation is one of the downsides of the Internet (while I’m here, why should Internet have a capital ‘I’? Whenever I see it written in newspapers it’s capitalised, why is that?). Information about things we in Europe or elsewhere would like to be a part of, but can’t be because we’ll have to wait months and months to get to the same point.

There is, of course, a way around that. Downloading. But this is illegal, and The Man don’t want us doing such things. I can see why downloading would effect CD sales or cinema receipts/DVD sales, but with TV shows? Okay, there’ll probably be fewer DVDs sold of the exceedingly expensive season box sets, and downloading affords us the opportunity to not watch the commercials; but surely their main reason for not wanting us to do this is control. I have a problem when big companies spend so much money on advertising, making us aware of the Six Feet Under finale, and then complain when those of us are tempted to download torrents because we use exactly the same nation-non-specific Internet that they are using to promote the show, and we damn well wanna see what happens!

Why can’t these TV channels take a leaf out of MLB’s book? Forty dollars to watch as many live baseball games as you want for the whole season. That means, if you were so inclined, you could watch about 900 hours of baseball for $40. Which is amazingly good value (especially compared with the ¬£45 I pay every season to listen to fairly ropey audio commentaries of Liverpool FC matches).

This is especially pertinent, I think, for BBC stuff, where commercial breaks aren’t an issue. I can’t see where I’m doing any harm by trying to download episodes of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s new series, Extras.
1. If Extras gets shown on German TV, it’ll be dubbed into German. I’m not gonna watch that. Ever.
2. I am curious about Extras. If I like it, I’ll probably end up buying the DVD anyway. If not, I’ve not wasted twenty quid on a DVD I don’t want; ie. I’m using the Internet like a common or garden television.
3. And if I didn’t download it, I’d just ask my mum to tape it and send it to me (of course, this’d probably mean The Man would come down, all helicopters blazing, onto my mum’s lawn and drag her off to prison for taping it for me).

I can see the point of protecting copyright. But to label EVERYONE who downloads anything a thief is such a fucking insult. Especially when there’s no option, like, for example, a subscription service for those outside the country of origin who would pay an applicable amount of money to view something they like.

If someone’s taking the trouble to download, say, the 16th series of The Simpsons, they’re probably the sort of person who’s spending their money on the box sets of DVD releases anyway, *big neon arrow pointing at a smiling Craig*, and will, come Season 16′s DVD release, be buying that too.

Sometimes it just gets me down when these companies do everything they can to promote stuff, and leave some of us with no option but to do something illegal.
Grrr.

As it is, I quite enjoyed the first episode of Extras which I somehow managed to watch last night.

Written by Craig

August 23rd, 2005 at 12:40 pm

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A very important question

with 8 comments

Any Mario 64 geeks, errr, I mean experts, out there?
I’ll tell you why I ask: I lost Mario’s hat when I was blown off the big snowman in Snowman’s Land. And, as luck most definitely wouldn’t have it, the hat blow into the big, blocky, ice thing where you get the In The Deep Freeze star. So, I can’t get the hat, cos when I try to do so, I automatically fall directly onto the star and exit the level, leaving Mario hatless, the poor little bugger.
Anyone know a cunning trick that can get me out of this icy jam?

Written by Craig

August 22nd, 2005 at 1:33 pm

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Let’s go, Challengers!

with 4 comments

I know, I know, I only wrote something about baseball a couple of days ago, but it just so happens I’m gonna write about it again now… beacaaaaaaause I went to see a game this afternoon. It was a 2. Bundesliga Nord game between Berlin Challengers and Wuppertal Stingrays (and yes, it does seem that all German baseball teams have English names; my favourite, chuckles-wise, is Hamburg Oysters. Grrr, tough!).

Compare and contrast what it’s like going to a New York Yankees game…

…and what it’s like at a Berlin Challengers game:

50-ish thousand in Yankee Stadium, 30-ish people in a field somewhere in deepest west Berlin. But it was a nice relaxing Sunday afternoon: pretty hot, the odd beer, and a chance to sit down with my American pal and ask all those irritating questions you have about a sport you’re new to.

And, as often seems to happen to, I’m sure, all of us: a man (his t-shirt declared him Baseball Dad) with a mouth and opinions but nobody to talk to found a couple of English speakers to drone on at about this, that, and everything in-between. He didn’t do himself any favours when, after I’d told him I had a cocker spaniel, he just blurted out, “They’re stoopid dogs!”
(I’m not sure what he was doing in the photo, cos I was trying to be sneaky and get a snap of him. Maybe he’s demonstrating how to make love to a porpoise…)

Of course, the level of play was lower than that of MLB teams, but… well, actually, how the hell do I know? The pitchers did okay, the batters did okay, the only thing for certain that was nowhere near as good was the throwing of the fielding players, which at times was woeful.

Anyway, one thing I didn’t see at Yankee Stadium, I did see today: one of the players having a piss in the bushes.

Written by Craig

August 21st, 2005 at 11:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Drive my car

with 16 comments

I’m not a driver. I’ve got a licence, I passed my test when I was 17; but I never drove much. Never had a car until this year. And since I’ve had my licence, I’ve only ever driven with no passenger for a few minutes. Until today.

This morning I got the inclination to do it, though. I umm-ed and aah-ed for a couple of hours, but then I chucked some stuff in a bag, got Billy’s lead and decided to go to the seaside. I was testing myself more than anything. The seaside was just a place to touch the wall, like a swimmer does when he’s doing lengths, then come back home knowing I’d done it: I’d gone on a long-ish journey on my own.

First the good news. Billy and I got home in one piece, as these words on your screen testify. And I kinda enjoyed it at times. I was lucky-ish with the traffic (not too many cars to bug me) and the route (a bit of city driving, a bit of autobahn, some minor decent roads, some country roads). I managed to light my cigarettes without veering into the oncoming traffic, too.

Sadly, the bad news section of this post is gonna be a lot longer. I’m rubbish at starting the car at traffic lights. I’m fine changing gears, but from the red light, I’ll stall the car at least 20% of the time. This only happens when there’s a car behind me. I’m positive it’s psychological. The more I do it, the more stressed I get each time there’s a suit-jacket-hanging-in-the-back-window BMW type dude behind me. But, I was okay at it today. Still managed it a couple of times, but on the whole, I was better. I even managed a swift 3-point turn in the middle of a street when I missed an exit without any errors at all.

Talking of which, my first big mistake was missing my exit on the autobahn. Rather than going north, I was on my way east to Poland on a road that must’ve been laid in the early days of the DDR cos it was prefab slabs of concrete with a rubbish grouting between each slab which makes for a bumpy ride.

My second big mistake was looking at the petrol gauge as I passed a petrol station rather than before I passed it. Eek, it’s nearly on the red… Better find somewhere. 10km later, still no stations, so I take the next exit, figuring that in one of the surrounding towns there’d be one. Three villages later: nothing. So I stop and ask directions in shit German (“Ich sucht Benzin. Wo, bitte?”). I follow what I thought were the correct directions and ended up on the countriest country road. Imagine a load of vaguely flat rocks randomly thrown on a wonky dirt track. For 7 fucking kilometers. Billy’s wondering what the hell’s going on, the car keeps slipping out of gear cos of the bumpiness, and the needle is getting closer and closer to the bottom of the red bit. Eventually, just as my teeth were about to fall out, the road goes Tarmac and I’m in another village. I ask another local and am directed down the main street. I follow this street. No petrol station, but I am heading back towards the autobahn I need to go north. And then, just to make sure, I pull over to check the map. That red line is the one I need…onto the next page…out the top of that one, onto page, flick flick flick, page 23…yep, I’m going the right way. Now, Craig, let’s git some GAS, dude! Turn key. Nothing. Turn key. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck. Fuck. Ing. Hell. Resigned to the situation, calls are made, and an hour later a man from the ADAC (the German version of the RAC or AA: the people who help you out when your car’s buggered) comes along and fills her up. And all it costs is six euros for the petrol. I love this man.

The rest of the journey is okay. Apart from a few tractors on the narrow roads that create a bit of a delay. But, y’know, there was one point when I managed to get past two of them without coming out of third gear. I, err, just forgot to change gear. I do this a lot. I also managed to drive for a couple of minutes with the handbrake on. Oh, yeh: Mario Andretti, me…

Due to all the faffing around, time was ticking on, so I didn’t go to the place I wanted to go to, I just found the nearest piece of beach, parked up in a nice big mostly-empty car park, and Billy and I chucked-and-fetched a stick for an hour or so until it was nearly dark.

Back at the car, Billy and I had our tea (he dog food, me gummi bears) and we hit the road, Jack. I enjoyed the trip back for quite a long time. The sky was pretty, the moon was huge and full, and the local radio station was playing the top 100 hits of 1993 so I was singing along to, err, shit records (hello M People, hello Spin Doctors).

One thing I realised is that it’s so tough to keep your concentration when driving. I’m so used to being a passenger, being the map reader, the commentator; and you can’t do any narrating for yourself when your driving, no looking at those cows, no pointing out a creaky old man on a creaky old bike. But my mind was drifting, and it was getting a bit monotonous, and I neglected to notice the speed limit had changed until saw a bright orange flash of light from above, where a speed camera was. Really, Craig, what were you doing? Running out of petrol and getting caught speeding. Idiot.

The kilometres to Berlin clicked down, getting closer, can’t wait to be home, frankly. Losing reception on that 1993 hits station. Nope, nope, Radio GaGa, I’ll listen to that, change again, nope, nope, oooh, a bunch of country songs on this station, I’m having that. Head nodding, and then I begin to see buildings that I recognise on the outskirts of Berlin. Nearly home.

Soon enough, I’m in my neighbourhood. Going slow, looking for a parking space. None on my street. Take a right into a narrow street with cars parked along both sides. One side’s got cars parallel parked, the other side has cars coming out at right angles to the pavement. A space! A space! I see a space! I try once. Back up. Try again. Back up. Getting closer. Taxi pulls up behind. He’ll have to bloody wait. Try again. Nope. Two more cars are waiting from the other direction. Taxi driver’s getting impatient. Beep! beep! Fail again. Okay, I give up. So I drive off. And the same taxi driver pulls up along side me as we’re driving along a two lane street and he just hovers next to me as we’re going along. I look over and he’s laughing at me. Finger. He winds down his window and shouts stuff at me. I wind window up not wanting to get myself in trouble. But I’ve still gotta park this damn car. So I drive and drive, and eventually find a nice easy big-enough-for-two-cars space about a ten minutes walk from the flat.

It was an adventure, I guess. At least I had an ice cream at the seaside, but, oh brother, am I glad to be back at home sat in front of a machine I know how to use.

Written by Craig

August 19th, 2005 at 2:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Stars in Lincoln

with 10 comments

Who’dda thunk it? Tom Hanks! Audrey Tautou! Sir Ian MacKellen! Forrest Gump, Amelie, and the white-haired fella out of Lord Of The Rings: all in Lincoln!

Even though I’m not in my home town, even though I’ve not been there for a couple of years in fact, I’m still a bit excited and star-struck that they are filming some of the The Da Vinci Code there. (Not that I’ve read or have any interest in reading the book or seeing the subsequent film, but, y’know…)

God, I can only imagine how fizzing with excitement the local newspaper and radio stations must me. Actually, this article from the Lincolnshire Echo helps me more than imagine. Look! Tom Hanks ate in the Wig and Mitre! I used to go there all the time! (It’s a nice place, as it goes. If you’re ever in Lincoln it’s well worth a visit.)

What makes me happiest, though, is that Lincoln Cathedral is gonna be featured in a major Hollywood film, even if they do seem to be making it look like Westminster Abbey. Lincoln Cathedral is so very beautiful. It’s something that, growing up there, you don’t really notice. It’s only since I’ve left Lincoln that I’ve come to appreciate exactly how wonderful it is, and why visitors like it so much.

It’s the approach that does it. Especially at night, cos Lincoln’s surrounding area is really really flat. Flat like that cruel Degrassi Junior High joke about the walls being jealous. So on the A46 from Newark, all you see are fields, the odd small village, and there in the distance: the cathedral is on top of a hill, illuminated with huge lights, like a big fancy lemon-flavoured jelly.

Tom Hanks! In Lincoln… wow, that’s like the most exciting thing that’s happened there since Jon Pertwee opened the Supa Co-op.

Written by Craig

August 18th, 2005 at 11:56 am

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A new sport

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A few weeks ago when I was in New York, I went to see a baseball game: New York Yankees vs Minnesota Twins. Since then, I’ve come to enjoy the sport quite a lot. I’m starting to think this must be what it’s like to be a born-again Christian or something. I’ve seen the light.

Years of scoffing at American sport (“waaaahh, too commercial, made for TV, never have drawn matches, hey, you nicked our name “football” and gave it to some sort of rugby sumo game”) washed away in one evening.

Since I found that for a small amount of money I can get live Windows Media Player coverage of all the games for the rest of the season on MLB.com, and since I’m not really sleeping that well at the moment either; it seemed a pretty good idea to sign up and watch some baseball in the early hours of the European morning.

My mate John was saying how enjoyable it is getting into new sports, and he’s right. There’s two weeks of every four years that I’m interested in random sports, and after the Olympics is over, I couldn’t care less if archery were happening in the next door flat. But for those two weeks, I love it all.

But, y’know, finding a new sport is a difficult thing when you get older. You get stuck in your ways. For me, it was and always will be football. There’s something so divine about watching good players combine to do something that makes your face light up with delight. Football football football.

I tried watching golf… s’okay. I’ll pay attention to tennis when it’s Wimbledon. Never liked cricket or rugby that much, mainly cos I was rubbish at both at school.

I spent a few years worth of Sundays watching Formula One. “Just loads of fast cars chasing Schumacher in vain” was kinda how I viewed it for a long time, but after a while I started to enjoy the monotony, and revel in the pit stops. My interest tailed off recently, what with Schumacher being so dominant, but it’s not his fault he’s tons better than everyone else, is it? And this season’s been a bit better, so maybe I’ll be back enjoying it again soon.

No sport, though, has affected me like baseball has since I was seven years old watching TV and seeing Kenny Dalglish playing for Liverpool. Baseball is great. Evenings when I should’ve been out and about enjoying New York’s nightlife, I was lying on the bed in my hotel room watching baseball (or Law and Order or Monk or repeats of Seinfeld. Maybe TV is my new sport…). It’s so user-friendly as a TV sport. Nip out of the room for a piss during a football match, and you will undoubtedly miss a goal. Nip out during baseball, and you’ll just miss the pitcher getting ready to chuck the ball again.

And the geek in me loves how many stats there are. Six different league divisions to follow; games won, lost, percentages, games behind. Stats broken down to home and away wins and loses, and even further broken down to results against teams from each division. Wild card stats. It’s nerd heaven!

I also like that I’m watching people my own age playing sport. People who shave. Not just boys nearly half my age. Last night, there was Yankees pitching fella who’s 42 years old! Forty two! That’s fantastic!

So, yep, I’m becoming a Yankees fan. I know, I know, it’s like supporting Chelsea combined with Man Utd: the big money team who can afford to buy anyone who’ve won loads of trophies lately; but they were the team I went to watch… And it was a Yankees fan that took me… And it’s not as if they’re doing great right now… (I think I’m just trying to convince myself here, huh?)

I’m still not up to speed with a lot of the terminology; but I know what RBI means, I know about Designated Hitters and the problems it causes with interleague play, and, most importantly, I know how the innings work which was something that always used to confuse me.

But still there are mysterious elements in baseball, like how the hell they work out the season schedule? 162 games, 30 teams… that doesn’t go. How many times are they playing each team?

And, something that furrows my brow every time I watch a Yankees game: what does Gary Sheffield have in his mouth?

Written by Craig

August 17th, 2005 at 8:56 pm

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The Dilly Dally Hut

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The fourth Witham and Woodhall thing is online. Like the others, it’s a bit silly. Unlike the others, it’s not a museum. It’s a business, a procrastination service. I hope you enjoy Witham and Woodhall’s Dilly Dally Hut.

Written by Craig

August 17th, 2005 at 3:34 am

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Next to Godliness

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As I type, there are two Russian females in the flat. A mother and a daughter. We are paying them money to clean up the mess we leave behind.

Oh man, it’s a weird feeling. It’s nice to have the floors suddenly sparkle without having to lift a finger, though. It’s great to see the bath miraculously not have the scum rings on it anymore. All that and more, just for opening my wallet and giving these ladies a couple of notes.

I always used to wonder how a person, and this seems far more alive a concept for British people, how a person changed class. It seems there are certain walls that can’t be broken down: working or middle class folk can never be upper class and the toffs can never come down to our level. But that working-to-middle class barrier is fairly easily hurdled.
I always thought of myself as working class cos my Dad was a miner… no, he wasn’t, that’s a lie. My dad began his career as a carpenter. My mum has done various jobs, none of which required an office. My father’s parents were a bus driver and a factory worker. All this is pretty archetypal working class, I’d say. But my dad was a bit fancy, did some schoolin’ and book learnin’ and became an architectural technician. But, in attitude and lifestyle we were still watching the pennies and eating egg and chips.

Then I come along, with my fancy pencils and cartridge paper, thinking I’m some kinda artist. And I go off to art college and university and end up being a self-employed illustrator with fancy clients all over the world, who’s left his native country and is living in one of Europe’s coolest cities.

I’m guessing that means I’m getting close to being middle class. Well, getting close, maybe, until there’s two Russians cleaning your toilet; then I think I’ve got to being middle class. And maybe all this is what they call middle class guilt.

I wonder if I’ll start reading the Daily Mail and hating the gays and the immigrants soon? I already peak through the curtains and my scary neighbour across the street…

Written by Craig

August 16th, 2005 at 11:05 am

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The tale of Princess Fiona

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Once upon a time there was a hoary old King who lived in a castle with his daughter. The Princess was a beautiful talented young lady, but the King had grown tired of her.
“The Princess doesn’t thrill me as she used to,” said the King, flicking leisurely through a porn mag.
But the people of the land still adored the Princess even though they had not seen her for several years.

Then one day, a brave local snuck into the castle and climbed the tower and looked through the Princess’ window and saw that she was more beautiful than ever.
When he returned to the people he told many tales of his brief glimpse of her beauty. The people gathered around and ooh-ed and aah-ed. They went off and told other people, and soon the whole land knew that the Princess was only getting lovelier with age.
Other intrepid serfs climbed the tower, and with each one’s return, another angle of the Princess’ beauty became known.
One day, the King heard tale of the intruders.

“How dare they!?” boomed the King, as he flicked through the channels on his TV.
The King went into a big strop and kicked over a few chairs and slapped a jester for being too smiley.
The rumours didn’t stop reaching the King, though. All the news he heard was that the Princess was one of the most beautiful creatures in all of the land.

Reluctantly, the King looked at his daughter with fresh eyes. He still didn’t quite see it, but knowing it was a chance for him to boost his ratings in the polls, decided that on the 16 August, he would allow the Princess out onto the Royal balcony for all to see. (Plus, he was pissing away money when he could quite clearly charge the commoners to come and see his divine treasure of a daughter.)

So he got his PR girl – a perky young lass called Davina that he secretly had his regal eye on – to draft a press release. It read as follows:

“Princess’ Long Awaited Re-appearance In Society
Acclaimed beauty Princess Fiona is due to make her highly anticipated re-emergence into society on October 4, 2005.
Today she launches her new official website at www.princess-fiona.com unveiling photographs and fashion tips. Fans visiting the site will be the first to see two high definition photos of her in luscious royal gowns. In addition to the launch of the site, there will be an online promotion allowing fans to enter to win a photo and a chance to see Princess Fiona playing the harpsichord live in concert in the castle banquet hall.”

The King was happy with the statement. He slapped Davina’s arse, then stomped off feeling better and less embarrassed about his short-sightedness regarding the beautiful Princess Fiona.
But the people of the land knew the King had thwarted previous attempts for the Princess’ appearance in public, and still thought that he was a money-grabbing, old, wrinkly bastard. Even so, they reluctantly handed over their money for a chance to see their darling Fiona. (Although some snuck in for free around the back, as is often the case.)

The End.

Hope you like my little story. On a completely, totally un-related topic (one that if you were to even try and draw any comparisons, you would be a considered a Communist sympathiser), it seems, having looked at this on Stereogum, that Fiona Apple‘s jaw-droppingly beautiful album, Extraordinary Machine, long afloat on the open seas of the Internet, is finally being released by Sony Music. But as I say, please don’t think that the story and this piece of entertainment news are related.

Written by Craig

August 15th, 2005 at 9:53 pm

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From Barcelona to Poland via Paris

with 6 comments

I fancied doing some more, so I did. Ten new Minipops. I seem to be getting as diverse as possible at the moment. Usually I’d do, for example, an indie band, and then I’d see another indie band whilst looking for reference images and keep going down that road. But at the moment, I’ll do someone like Paris Hilton, then try and find someone who’s the complete opposite rather than just another worthless bint flaunting her wealth in a rather odious manner. Like someone with some talent; Ronaldinho, for example. Or someone who’s tried to change society for the better; like Lech Walesa.

So, yep: ten new ones. The three mentioned above, Coldplay, The Magic Numbers, Condoleezza Rice, the Dulux dog (those of you outside the UK probably won’t get that one), Frank Sidebottom (ditto; in fact, a lot of you inside the UK won’t get that either), famous-for-a-few-moments-in-1989 indie band Birdland, and His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia.

Hope you like.

Written by Craig

August 15th, 2005 at 4:46 pm

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Wahl 05

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In about a month’s time, there’ll be a general election here in Germany. A fruitful time for Germans who want to get their opinions onto the placards of the various candidates tied to lamp-posts. Not seen one yet, but somewhere in this city, there’ll be a Hitler moustache marker-penned onto a right wing candidate’s face. I did see this, though. Two different posters for the same candidate, Wolfgang Something-or-other, ripped in such a way to make his forehead look huuuuuuuuuuge.

As for the big job, Gerhard Schröder seems to be on his way out, and it looks like there’ll be a female chancellor for the first time in German history. That woman will be Angela Merkel, leader of the CDU (the more right wing, conservative party), and someone who always reminds me of Peter Kay’s Keith Lard character.

Written by Craig

August 15th, 2005 at 2:55 pm

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Music

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(This post began as a small observation about certain lyrics of a certain song. It ended up being a massive self-indulgent trip down memory lane. It’s a pretty lengthy post even considering I skimmed over periods of time at the end. And I didn’t even go into The Beach Boys: I’ll save that for another day, I guess. So, yeh, it’s self-indulgent in the extreme, but if you can’t be self-indulgent on your own dang blog, then what’s the point? Spelling mistakes and bad grammar are virtually guaranteed. Anyway…)

I’ve come to realise lately that my music habits have changed. I don’t really recognise how I used to be, other than that I listen to music a lot then, and I listen to music a lot now.

Music has always been there. Ever since I was given pocket money by my parents, I’ve spent more money on music that anything else (although I guess the daily shelling out for cigarettes is probably a bit more than that spent on records and CDs by now). That first pound I was given by my Mum was spent on Madness’ Baggy Trousers single. It cost 90p. I probably spent the rest on sweets. After that, I was hooked. I quickly added a few Adam and The Ants singles, a couple by The Police, an XTC one; and after a few months, I got into albums. The first two Adam And The Ants albums were the first two I got I think.

I really vividly remember deciding I needed to read about music too, so one Sunday in 1982, in a newsagents at The Forum shopping centre in Lincoln, I stood there looking at two possibilities: Smash Hits or the New Musical Express.
Smash Hits had ABC on the cover who were kinda hot at the time. NME… I’m not sure who was on the cover. That made my decision for me: I was a pop boy. Had I been a braver kid, I’d have bought the NME and gone down musical roads that I discovered when back-tracking later in life. As it is, I bought pop records, listened to Radio 1, and read Smash Hits.
And it was a glorious time. Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys wrote for Smash Hits at the time; Mark Ellen and David Hepworth, too. These days I rarely remember the names of any journalists, but those two names are engrained. Between the three of them and their colleagues, they turned an interest into an obsession.

I’d listen to the Top 40 on Radio One every week. When they used to do the rundown on a Monday lunchtime, I’d go home cos I lived really close to the school, write it down, then return in the afternoon with the list for everyone to see.
My favourite book was the Guiness Book Of Hit Singles: a handy geeky list of the chart data for every single that had ever graced the top 75. I had my favourites: I was a big Duran Duran fan, I liked Human League, Nik Kershaw and Howard Jones. I liked the Pet Shop Boys. Generally, I liked a huge chunk of what was in the Top 40. My mother would trot out the Mother’s Handbook cliche: If you spent as much time on your homework… etc.

Then as my sister started to get into music I, almost overnight, changed tack. Not completely, cos I still bought Duran and Pet Shop Boys records, but Simples Minds, U2, Dire Straits and Bruce Springsteen started to take over. I became a bit pompous, too. As seems common with teenagers, I got a bit teeny political. I stopped liking Queen cos they’d played at Sun City. I agreed with what Greenpeace were doing, and cos Jim Kerr and Bono said so, I investigated what amnesty International were doing. When, after Live Aid, they did that Run The World thingy where everyone was supposed to jog for a mile or something, my family was on holiday driving down a country road listening to proceedings on the radio. My earnest suggestion that we get out the car and jog for a bit was met with steady, unchanging foot pressure on the accelerator by my Dad.

A couple of years later, around the time I stopeed buying Smash Hits and migrated to the NME, I went to my first concert. This, as I’ve mentioned before, was U2 at Elland Road stadium in Leeds. One of the most important things that happened that day was seeing the support bands. Suddenly, U2 didn’t seem like the coolest thing anymore. The Fall were the opening band, and Mark E Smith spent a large portion of their set with his back to the crowd. That was cool. Then The Mission came on, and I’m slightly embarrassed to say, that was the beginnings of flirting with goth-y type music. I didn’t go the whole hog, but I did dye my hair black and grow it longer than I’d ever done before.

Luckily the lack of any “cool” music on Radio 1 in the daytime pushed me to begin listening to John Peel. Pixies, Sonic Youth, Happy Mondays all came along and pretty much set the template for what the majority of my current record collection comprises of.
But also, out of nowhere, came Kylie. She was just a little Aussie soap star who’d put out a few throwaway pop songs (always the best kind, I’ve come to realise). But for some reason, and it wasn’t entirely for reasons below the waist, I kinda liked her records. It was my dirty secret.

Art college came to nurture the indie snobbishness, but when I lucked into a job DJing at a local nite club (I use that spelling of night so you know what type of place it was), the snobby attitude was both heightened and diminished. It was heightened cos I was there deciding what 700+ of my peers could listen to at any given moment between 9pm and 2am every Tuesday night. But one particularly jolly evening, feeling a bit light-headed, I played a Kylie song. (Now, while not trying that I-was-there-first thing; I can genuinely say that this was way before Kylie became sexy and likeable without a smirk amongst the non-gay). So I played one of her songs. And people were drunk enough to not care that their friends found out that they liked Kylie too. For a few months it felt like we all had a guilty secret, but in the room on a Tuesday night, no-one cared: they could dance to Kylie like giddy children.

Since then, I kinda recovered from the indie-ness. It still played a major part in my life, but hip hop and house and this reborn love of pop music also existed through my few dismal years at Derby University.

And just as the snob was reaching panda-like stages of extinction, I got a job in an independent record shop. Oh! the power! You get some free records, lots of promos, even the records you pay for are at dealer price. Plus you can scoff at those buying records you don’t like, and be extra nice to those with good taste.

The free records thing reached it’s peak when I moved to London and began working for a record distributor. At first it was brilliant: a subsidised hobby. Then slowly, I came to realise the income of records was so high, I never listened to any of them. At that point, a really good record, was something I would listen to more than two or three times. Music had become my job. And that was a bit depressing.

(Although one joyous thing about London was finding a second hand stall at a Sunday market in Crystal Palace that stocked loads of really cheap rock records: I learned to love Aerosmith and Lynryd Skynyrd.)

So it was great moving to Berlin. Finding record shops (places that in London were just there for me to sell unwanted records), flicking through the racks and paying for one or two albums and listening to them a lot. I’d also stopped reading weekly music press. NME had sunk to new depths of shitness (although looking at it now, it’s sunk even further), and all I really wanted from music magazines was a bunch of reviews of albums and 56 page articles about Paul McCartney’s dog’s solo albums. Hello Mojo!

Which brings us up to date. I’ll listen to any old crap. Alizee, Aerosmith, Aphex Twin, Arcade Fire. All good.
But, and this was my original point before I drifted off into a rather autobiographical essay, I’ve no idea about what’s going on. I’m never on the ball anymore. I have no idea what most of the bands I see lis
ted on the cover of NME sound like. I only know The Killers’ music from when it’s used as a music bed on TV sports shows.

And I assume that Gwen Stefani’s Hollaback Girl was a massive hit everywhere, but I don’t know this for sure. I’m guessing it was probably a number one or two single in the UK, US and Germany. But for me, it’s a great song that’s on my iPod. It’s a song containing a phrase I never ever ever ever thought I’d hear on a record, and if for no other reason, it’s pretty much my favourite song of the year so far: This shit is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Written by Craig

August 12th, 2005 at 3:21 pm

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FFF did NYC

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I wanted to do this one as quickly as possible. But there’s still loads of work to be done job-wise, so I don’t really have time to do a full-blown FFF Does thing for New York. Also, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to.

This is the first FFF Does that I’ve done since I’ve been doing this blog, (okay, there’s Istanbul; but I didn’t do much blogging from there), and I really would’ve been replicating a lot of the stuff that you’ll have already read or seen here. I wanted to do something that was appropriate for New York, too. So I made a little film. Well, it’s not so little: it’s nine minutes long.

Again it’s a Quicktime, so apologies to those few PC users who have problems with such things.

It’s available in three sizes: extra large (40.2MB), medium (12MB), and small (6.1MB).

Hope you enjoy it, and thanks for all your nice comments and stuff lately.

Written by Craig

August 11th, 2005 at 2:04 am

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On the bus

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Rather annoyingly, I left a tiny thing behind in New York: a mini DVI to DVI adapter. This is the thing that I need to attach my PowerBook to a monitor. Up until about two years ago, I didn’t use an external monitor, just hunching myself over the PowerBook and making do. But after two days without the use of a monitor, I was starting to get ever-so-slightly irritated. Especially as I went to a Apple supplier to get one yesterday and they didn’t have one in stock. I had to go back today and get it. This store is just a bit too far away to be an okay distance, and it involves a long, arduous bus journey; a bus journey that, if you can get in and out of the shop within ten minutes isn’t so bad cos you can get the return bus fairly swiftly. If not, which is more often the case, it’s a twenty-odd minute wait.

So I’m on the bus, and it’s one of those buses with seats that face both forwards and backwards. From my seat, I can see a girl, maybe early 20s at most, and she’s listening to music on headphones. She’s a good-looking girl, not my cup of tea, but if you saw her, you’d say she was good-looking. She was good-looking in that shower-gel-model kinda way. I’m sure she’ll have lovely wedding photos one day.

(I do wonder why it is we all have different tastes when it comes to the looks of other people. And why some people, like the girl on the bus, can be attractive yet not stir any emotions at all. Heidi Klum, for example. Most men would be drooling, but she’s just not for me.)

Anyway, she’s nodding away and she’s also silently singing along with a smile on her face, in the way Janet Jackson would’ve been looking in one of her earlier videos. This made me stop in my tracks (well, it would’ve if I’d have been on tracks) and made me realise that what I was doing to the music in my headphones was rhythmically dragging my tongue along the back of my lower set of teeth. Whereas she came out looking a bit like a white Janet Jackson, I ended up looking like a bearded Stephen Hawking. I have a tendency towards this sort of behaviour; being lost in my own world whilst to everyone around, I’m just a gurning fool or vacant-eyed loon. Must try and stop that.

Anyway, I got my DVI thingy; I’m now looking at this text on my nice big monitor, and I’m about to grab some toast before I go out for a beer cos I’m really quite hungry. Anyone else noticed, by the way, the effect perfume has on you when you’re stomach-rottingly hungry? I ask cos I passed a woman on the street just outside my flat, and she was drenched in something expensive-smelling. Am I alone, or does it feel like acid is scrunching your stomach up, the way Peter Parker’s boss in Spiderman would scrunch up a sheet of A4 paper with his fist?

Written by Craig

August 9th, 2005 at 8:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized