Friday, December 31, 2004

Ruffles music top 10 of the year

1. Felix Da Housecat - Devin Dazzling and the Neon Fever
2. Burgess, Tim - I Believe
3. Spinbad, DJ - Frabriclive 14
4. Orbital - Blue Album
5. Armand Van Helden - A New York Mix Odessey
6. Jurassic 5 – Power in Numbers
7. Krafty Kuts and Yousef - Circus Meets Chibuku
8. Basement Jaxx - Kish Kash
9. Kasabian - Kasabian
10. Goldie Lookin' Chain - Greatest Hits

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


My best ever Christmas haul was the year I got a six foot snooker table, it was complemented by a number of other presents including Subbuteo, Lego, portable radio and the Roy of the Rovers annual to make it the best ever. This year, I reckon was the best since then.

Amongst the booty was a juicer, perfect for my attempt to become healthier through the aid of kitchen appliances alone. I got some diddy Altec Lansing speakers for my iPod from Emma. There was a didgeridoo from Kirsty, allowing me to finally fulfil my ambition to play an acoustic version of Aphex Twin’s techno classic, one of my all time favourite tunes. Talking of which, Spanx tracked down a mint and rare as hen’s teeth vinyl copy of Tricks of the Shade by the Goats – a favourite album (3rd in fact, but more of that later).

It was comic strips ahoy as I got a full set of Boondocks books and one of Matt Groening’s Big Book of Hell. If that wasn’t enough, I also got The Snow Patrol mix CD The Trip, with Freelance Hellraiser on the knobs, Hot Fuss by the Killers and Medulla by Bjork.

Along with some cool Christmas knitwear, a t-shirt with a lego version of Mr T on it and a copy of Top Spin, sometimes receiving is better than giving.

Monday, December 27, 2004

If you can't stand the heat

I wouldn’t say that Grandma’s house was hot on Christmas day, but mum did tell dad to put the leftover turkey in the car so that it wouldn’t over cook in the central heating. F'real.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Return to Scuff

One of my biggest regrets is that I don’t see enough of my friends. It’s not that we make it easy for ourselves, Katie and Australia Jo live in Australia, Penny and Mike are in Jersey, Jules has spent the last couple of years shuttling between Nottingham and New Zealand. Everyone is busy, so it usually takes a wedding to get everyone in the same room at the same time.

Worryingly, Scuff 2’s main room was empty for quite a long time. But at least it was occupied by those I most wanted to see. We hadn’t seen Penny, who for the second year running turned up as a surprise, since the 24-hour mercy dash to Russ and Sam’s wedding in July. We hadn’t seen Willy and Leo since their housewarming, and we hadn’t seen Jules since she helped me with my foot at The New Year hideaway in Derbyshire. Nobody had eyeballed Andrew for over a year.

I kept reassuring myself that as we’d managed to get nearly everyone in the same room and that this was the success we were looking for. Penny, suffering from a dose of trapped wind, was able to get down on all fours and rock rhythmically to release the discomfort in the middle of the dancefloor with nobody noticing. The party wasn’t rocking quite how we’d envisaged.

It was kicking off on the ground floor, people were getting stuck in the bar – and damn them – enjoying themselves too much to explore the rest of the venue. Then the evening pitched down a notch as a kerfuffle involving a lost sister driving around London aimlessly unfolded. The whole thing was turning into a nightmare.

But, one thing my How To DJ Properly book talks about is patience, soul destroying though it was we kept cool and cranked the music up slowly from a bit of 60’s funk and disco, to some hip hop, a Spankee deep house set, a Ruffles slightly bigger house set. As the nonsensical breakdown for Felix Da Housecat’s Watching Girls Go By wound its way up, I looked up to see the room had suddenly become pretty full.

Someone came and asked to help us dig out some records – thanks, we said, but there wasn’t enough space. There are some people here “desperate to dance to Hey Yah by Outkast”. We’d play it, we said, he wanted to know when, where, how, why. We were on a role, and back in control of the night, I rebuffed him and he retreated.

Then Spanx called it, the time had come, it was time to make people dance. I pulled out Lose My Breath by Destiny’s Child, a gargantuan tune, a sign to say that we were onto a new level. Clearing the palette with Tipsy by J-Kwon we introduced some floor slaying Beyonce.

Thousands of pounds of investment in music and music playing paraphernalia, hundreds of hours perfecting our laughable mixing skills and it took Beyonce, Wham Rap, Deee Lite and, of course, Outkast to set the party alight. But that doesn’t matter when you’ve got the whole room smiling. People were dancing, standing on chairs, and erm, doing press-ups. We mixed up Wiseguys and Sugarhill Gang, sampled and looped up the opening refrain of House of Pain’s Jump Around so it opened with a 10 second screech of horns. At one point Spanx simply got bored of a tune, stopped it and put on something new. Liberation!

The tunes pitched up to Do Your Thing by Basement Jaxx as the witching hour approached. There was time for one more tune, and it was obvious which it was to be. I sampled up the opening blast of Beyonce, introducing it in time with the final thuds of the Jaxx. There was a whoop of delight from the dancefloor, somebody recognised a tune coming in. The Jaxx closed out and Beyonce, for the second time, went back on and everyone wigged out.

The landlord said we had two more tunes before he’d have to turn us off. But that was it, that was the peak, people may have wanted more, and we could have given them more, but they weren’t getting it.

We won.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Only Londoner in the village

When people ask where I’m from I say Oxford, even though I’ve never lived closer than 15 miles from the city. If pushed, I’ll say I’m from Thame, where I’ve lived longest, even though I’ve lived in Aylesbury for about five years. Most people have heard of Oxford, some of Aylesbury, few of Thame. Oxford is convenient shorthand for the region I’m from.

I find visiting Thame an anxious affair, walking down the High Street (the widest in the world, or something) is a rat run through the past. I find myself staring into the eyes of people my age trying to peel back about 15 years, through the wrinkles, fat and babies, to work out whether I went to school with them or not.

Not that I’ve ever bumped into anyone. What would I say if I did? Do I give bland platitudes? Potted histories? Reminisces? Or is it time to deconstruct shared pasts and really get down to it. I’m more confident, outgoing and, obviously, funnier than I was at school, do I return to the ‘type’ they once knew? I’m reasonably successful in what I do; do I tell these people? If I do, then will they think, as I do, how the bloody hell has he getting away with that, unless they’re proportionally more successful than I am, which they probably are. And what if they read this site… which I know some do.

Christmas, of course, increases the likelihood of an encounter as people return home to their family. Jacques Perretti’s article in The Guardian’s Guide on Saturday promised to empathise with my predicaments as he described what it was like to return home for Christmas. What’s more, Perretti is from Beaconsfield, not that far from where we live.

What started out with me thinking that I could just post the link and tell people that this was how I feel, ended with me wanting to hunt the dog down. Perretti paints an utterly fictitious picture of his home town. He has to give his train ticket to a ticket inspector “BY HAND”, he gets into a Nissan Micra Mini-cab driven by an old school chum (whose life consists of three marriages and a burnt down hotel, allegedly). He makes claims about people driving around in White GTi’s, that Christmas in the Home Counties is stuck in the 50’s and that the in-town entertainment consists of fighting and setting fire to each other. His final claim is that on returning to his local pub, the answer his old school mates give to the question how are things round here is “Alright if it weren’t for the Pakis.” The article was illustrated with a cartoon of three men drinking pints in Ku Klux Klan hoods.

I don’t know which train Perretti caught to get to this version of Beaconsfield but if it departed from platform 9 and three-quarters I wouldn’t be surprised. Beaconsfield is very much like Thame, a beautiful town, affluent, prime commuter belt. Broadly speaking the inhabitants are well travelled, educated, and liberal. These are all luxuries a town’s affluence affords, sadly this doesn’t satisfy Perreti’s jaundice view. There may not be the ethnic mix of, say, Brixton but the reasons are economic, not social. OK, so it hasn’t got a gay fetish Grime Garage club night, but it really isn’t the other world he paints.

Perretti paints a fictitious world – stations have automatic barriers, the mini-cabs outside the station are identical to those that sit outside every London club on a Saturday night. I’ve not seen a white GTi in years, nor a fight or fire. As for overt racism, I’m not naive enough to think that it doesn’t happen, but I live in the region, and don’t see it. He was either unfortunate… or lying.

Presumably this distortion is hiding the subtext that he wants everyone to know that he must be cool because he’s living in London. The kind of person who gets excited by going to work in his jeans, and living next door to black people (they’re so real… and nice…), he’s a Londoner because he can describe the tube map by the name of the line, not its colour on the map. Perreti wants us to believe he’s escaped from some middle class ghetto, forgetting that it’s he’s a product of the town. It seems that home is where the heart is, but not, necessarily, where your brand is.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Christmas carol

The audience in the Creation Theatre Company’s version of A Christmas Carol was resolutely drawn from the Oxford boho elite, and us. The company have carved a neat niche for themselves by placing an ornate mirrored tent in the car park of Cowley’s BMW plant, some kind of post-modern art meeting commerce type statement, perhaps.

The tent is small and intimate; the cast charge around the packed audience. As Ebenezer is lead through his Christmas nightmare rain pounds down on the canvas giving the whole thing a highly atmospheric charge.

Good though it was it did feel like I was watching the DVD of the show, stuck on one of the special additional feature commentaries. At every turn Emma would lean over and whisper in my ear the equivalent movements from the Muppet version of the tale.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Phantom of the Opera

To prefix The Phantom of the Opera with the chillingly exacting qualifier ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber’s’ is not a good start for the ‘lavish film production of the smash hit west end snore’, but it is particularly difficult to articulate the a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e g-a-r-b-a-g-e the film turns out to be.

Of course, I should have known, I’ve seen Starlight Express, but with a clear blue print in Moulin Rouge, it surely isn’t that difficult to produce a modern musical film which is, at least, a decent waste of time.

Minnie Driver’s histrionics as diva Carlotta and Jennifer Ellison’s girly charm aside, the entire cast have been painted grey, unlike La Rouge which is spectacular in pace, rich in colours and bold in characters.

Most unforgivable is the appalling technical production – the dubbing and sounding mixing makes the songs flat and distant. The signature song – The Phantom of the Opera – should be a journey of horror, love, lust and beauty taken by the virginal soprano Christine into the menacing Phantom’s lair. Whilst the rest of the orchestration is classical, this song switches to a vague mid paced electroclash soundtrack which reaches its crescendo with a god awful pomp rock guitar solo. I found myself involuntarily crying ‘Oh God no’ at every agonising turn.

The director can’t decide whether the narrative should be played through song alone or with a mixture of speech included. It switches between the two approaches throughout finally deciding, wrongly, that the whole thing should be done sung. The story gets lost (you can’t hear the lyrics) and the supposedly touching, tender moments are more painful than having your testicles pulled. It makes you prey for double DVD box sets of extended versions of Scooby Doo 2 and Barbed Wire for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Love is...

Getting home from a hard day’s work and serenading your girlfriend with poetry.

OK, so the poet was Jay Z and the verse was “If you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but my bitch ain’t one”.

But you’ve got to say the sentiment is there.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Usted, mi amigo, es un moron

Inexplicably, Oxford have recently appointed ‘The World’s Third Best Coach’ Ramon Diaz as their new manager. Whilst this claim is dubious there is no doubt he’s a big name having managed River Plate, winning the Copa Libertaros and the Argentine league title five times. It wouldn’t be that much of an outlandish claim that he was the South American equivalent of Arsene Wenger… only more successful.

Anyhow, he doesn’t speak English, so Radio Oxford (who now insist on playing Ricky Martin’s Living La Vida Loca every time his name is mentioned) were running the equivalent of a caption competition for him, playing one of his Spanish quotes and asking people, hilariously, to guess what he was saying.

Tony from Kidlington came on, the last caller on the show, he’d had a couple of hours to think up his answer, a wicked play on words, and now his time had come. Tony, the county is listening, you’re on.

“I thought that because Oxford haven’t scored many goals this season that he’s talking about scoring more goals, but it’s being misinterpreted as scoring more own goals, because, like, we scored, you know, an own goal against Rochdale a few weeks ago.”

It was, at best, a work in progress, Tone’s suggestion was conceptually sound, but lacked the clever interplay of words and puns that would have made him a winner. Still, you’ve humiliated yourself, time to get on with your weekend, eh Tone? … Tone?

Tone hadn’t finished, talking over the presenters attempts to move on and finish the show…

“…yeah I think there could be quite a lot of misinterpretation, that’s my main worry, he’s clearly a good coach but…”

The show’s end music began to wash over Tone as he expanded his concept to encapsulate the three strategic pillars of his answer which were underpinned by sound philosophical constructs drawn from the great thinkers of Ancient Greece. He’s probably still talking now.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

This is the BBC

The best quote from BBC Three’s ‘Story of Bohemian Rhapsody’ has to be Bob Geldof’s…

“’Mama, just killed a man’, wow, really I’m there, so what happened?… well nothing happens we just go off and sing a load of rubbish for seven and a half minutes.”

Best bit of BBC One’s ‘Story of Band Aid 20’ was the exchange between Joss Stone, who thought the guru behind the idea was Bob Gandalf, and Justin Hawkins of The Darkness…

JS “So where are you from?”
JH “Lowestoft… Home of rock, what about you?”
JS “Cornwall, home of soul”

And, on Radio Five, did I really hear the spokesman for the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution explain the need for a drastic cut in commercial fishing using references to The Blue Planet and Finding Nemo?

Monday, December 06, 2004

She's a celebrity, get me in there

Nina is the disembowelled spelling dominatrix on Hard Spell, BBC’s new prime time Edutainment show (Christ, I didn’t realise edutainment is actually a word). She is also a news reader on ITN. She is also friends with Vixstah.

Last week whilst having a curry with Gill and George, some old University buddies, the subject of Hard Spell came up. “I know the woman that announces the words” I said in a ‘I’ve been to one more wedding, one more baby naming party and been out to dinner with her one more time than you’, kind of way.

George’s eyes lit up, suddenly he was exalting her radiant beauty, fantasising about dates with her, daydreaming about articles in Hello in their ‘beautiful home’ together, and what it would be like going out for dinner with Ulrika Johnson and her husband.

Such is the seduction of fame, Nina’s new profile which, let’s face it, is not yet on Elton John’s level and our very distant association with her really seems to generate a unnatural reaction in people. A couple of days earlier, Emma was discussing the show with people at work. It’s the talk of the school staff room. Emma threw in that she knew Nina, suddenly whenever the programme is mentioned, rather than questioning the relative merits of humiliating children who can’t spell ‘emollient’ someone will breathily pipe up that Emma has a connection with fame. It’s got to the point where she daren’t explain that the link is tenuous for fear of a lynching.

Just wait until I tell people that my dad is friends with SKY Sports newsreader Dave Bobin, or that I went to school with stand-up comedian and Challenge TV regular panellist Rob Deering.

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