Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Geographically challenged

I've heard some stupid things shouted at football matches, but Saturday capped it all. The triumphant return of Jim Smith to Oxford lit up what would have been a drab end of season meander against Peterborough, that's Peterborough in Cambridgeshire. Half way through the first half the Oxford crowd quietened, allowing the 'borough fans an opportunity to sing out. The bloke behind me shouted...


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Birthing partners

Although I like the idea of community hospitals and community shops; I'm not really a community person. I don't find myself on committees campaigning for new flower beds to be placed in the middle of the road or saving historic wheelbarrows (used by some dead bloke during the war). I guess I'm the kind of person that's destroying communities, I live in my own bubble of friends and family and shop at Tesco. My non-community milieu is probably the reason I have little need for community centres.

The uncomfortable plastic chairs and scuffed magnolia paint job was exactly what I expected, but probably not for the spiritual contemplation that was to be our ante natal class. I wasn't sure what to expect to be honest (which didn't help given that the first session was to write down what we expected). My only reference point was the midwife who made thinly veiled comments about how National Childbirth Trust classes would be more appropriate for people of our, ahem, background. This made me think that we might end up spending hours discussing homeopathic remedies and chi... on a Saturday morning.

The session opened with a bit of getting to know you. Whilst the girls compared twinges, the men made lame jokes about football, pints and pies; posturing whilst sounding each other out.. I can't remember who broke the deadlock of actually admitting we did care and that we weren't there under duress, but when it happened we all loosened up.

Thankfully, it wasn't all beanbags and scented candles, the class was pretty straightforward; we had lots pictures of wombs and foetuses in that 'Joy of Sex' 1970's line drawing style and simply worked through the birthing process. Some people were able to quote the parts of the womb in Latin and support their arguments with a rich supply of statistics and research papers, some (me) looked blankly and cracked jokes.

People I know who have done these classes have talked about the friends they've made through it. Personally I was wary of being enveloped in a little clique of baby bores. It's nothing like that, thankfully, it's a good group that's happy to have a laugh at what is a whole world of goop and poo. Maybe I am a bit of a community person after all.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Word of the wise

Emma’s grandma offered us a plethora of parenting advice yesterday, my favourites were:

‘Of course, you get no joy from your first’ (number of children she had? One)

‘Well, in my day Family Allowance was a Crown a week, nowadays they get POUNDS!’

The latter comment sparked a(nother) diatribe about the state of the social welfare system. Apparently people now get their benefits delivered 'to their door' (these people being all lazy good-for-nothings). When asked if she went to the Post Office to collect her pension she replied “Oh no dear, I get it paid straight into the bank”.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Get rich or lie trying

I like the Money Programme's pop economics editorial policy - analysing the strategies of Tesco rather than meticulously tracking the nuances of futures and derivatives. Their slightly one dimensional analysis of Fifty Cent's 'business empire' was a bit of a let down though. It seemed to have been driven almost exclusively by the fact they'd managed to gain a brief audience with the man himself. For this read; they stood around some palatial hotel room while he absent mindedly played his own PS2 game. The programme basically concluded that Fiddy made a lot of money by putting his name to a lot of merchandise. This was validated by asking a self-confessed Fiddy obsessive, Chanice. They asked whether she would buy a pair of trainers with his name on. The answer was, it seems, yes, which is strange that from an obsessive fan. The conclusion was neither damning, praising or explanatory, the 50 Cent success story was just, y'know, a thing.

Lucien, a brand consultant with a public school education and an American drawl who pronounced leverage as beverage not lever as diva, concluded that Mr Cent had a gangster image, made a lot of money and that the corporations who associated with him may be taking a risk but it may be one that's worth taking. Thank you Lucien. DJ Semtex was equally enlightening when trying to explain why McDonalds had failed to attract a hip hop star to endorse their burgers. His explanation went something like "McDonalds, like, no way, its wack". They failed to mention that Destiny's Child and Justin Timberlake had both been successfully recruited by Maccy D; admittedly they're not very hip hop, but they are very big.

Chanice's mum didn't mind her daughter's obsession with the ex-drug dealing gangster so much (although she doesn't like it when he says "Mother F"). She said that 'he's only reflecting what's happening on the streets'. Really? asked the presenter who they'd deliberately dressed in achingly conservative brogues and Thomas Pink shirts. "Yes", said Chanice's mum, "In Rainham", she qualified with some force. They live in Gillingham, where presumably drive-by shootings are less frequent.

This is a common assertion made by hip hop stars, that their gansta flow is street commentary. But this makes no sense, Fifty Cent isn't reflecting what's happening on the streets. The reason he's hauled moderate talent onto a world stage is because he's been shot nine times. It's a fantastical story upon which an all action vigilante image has been built. He seems like quite a nice guy and understands his business, which helps; but the reason we know he's been shot nine times because most people are not shot nine times in their lifetime. He may be able to mumble humourlessly about his own life, but he's not reflecting what's happening in everyone else's life. If being shot nine times were a reflection of what's typically happening in the world; it would be the equivalent of me leveraging the fact I shop at Tesco in order to foster a multi-million pound music career.

On the otherhand, if Fiddy can rap about Candy Shops, maybe there is something to lever here... "I'm going to the Tesco shop, it has adequately varied stock"

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The geeks come out

E4's Beauty and the Geek is a majestic programme. OK, the geeks aren't quite as geeky as they're portrayed - they're university graduates, but one presents a radio show, another is a comedian and Will managed to end up on the front of the Sun snogging Christine Hamilton. The beauties aren't really that beautiful either; they're mostly second division lad mag standards managing to tick all the right boxes (tall, slim, good fetlocks) but never quite achieving that Keira Knightley natural allure. None the less, both sides play their roles with aplomb; the beauties are shockingly shallow, the geeks awkward and cerebral.

Anyway, like all great reality TV shows, Beauty and the Geek is a straight forward gameshow with a dark brooding undertone. Ably narrated with sneering cynicism by David Mitchell of Peep Show, what starts as a straight forward game where the beauties and geeks pair up for a series of science (for the beauties) and pop/fashion tasks (for the geeks) slowly evolves into a ferocious melodrama depicting the evils of greed over emotion (and we all know what a laugh that can be). Will "My idea of getting ready for a big night out is putting on a slightly stripier shirt" starts to fall for Elissa. Who in turn, realises that "not all geeks are, y'know, bad people" - because she claims that Will's massage (one of the early challenges) was 'like sex'. Will's partner, Alex, has other ideas and when it comes to nominating someone for eviction (the prize for winning a task is to nominate two couples for a survival play-off). Will wants to prolong Elissa's participation, having once brushed her arm or something equally intimate, but Alex views Elissa and partner, Ben, as strong contenders so she wants them off. Will's only opportunity of going out with a 'beauty' slips away, but hilariously, he's incapable of persuading Alex to change her mind. "I have a very strong affection for her" is the best he can do.

When Elissa and Ben survive; Ben, becomes a confidante for the permanently moody (and crying) Sam; whose basic beef is that Ed, her partner, is the gawkiest geek of them all. Ed wasn't very good in the massage challenge, mainly because Sam would let him touch her when they were supposed to be practising. Ben's gentle unrequited romanticism towards Sam ("I just want to envelope you in my arms") is roasted when Elissa wants Ed and Sam out (again, for being a threat to the £40k prize money). This causes Ben, the woosy sap, to burst into tears and run off. Ed, cast as the obtuse social commentator, believes the girls are simply seducing the boys for the purposes of survival - possibly because he's right, possibly because everything all he knows about girls is what he's read in books.

Quixotically, Ed and Sam survive, giving Ben more time to envelope Sam in his arms. Incidentally, that week's challenge was for the geeks to dress the beauties without the benefit of knowing their size etc. When Ed produced a dress Sam liked she burst into tears in relief; "I'm so proud of you, I didn't think you could do it" - she said as though he'd just returned from an unarmed mission deep into Iraq. At this point she crumpled on the bed and sobbed loudly; Ed could only stare, rock from one foot to the other and self consciously take his hands in and out of his pockets. The following week, however, the beauties were charged with giving the geeks a make-over. Jon, Teri's partner, who typically dresses in bright puffer jackets, elaborate hats and vintage sportswear like those jazz funk Svengalis you see bouncing around the back of the stage at a Bent or Young Disciples gig, is made over like a mid-table Premiership fringe player - all fake tan and multi directional hair.

Sam proving that she is not shallow at all, instantaneously announces Jon to be 'hot' and without warning cheers up and, with the power of hypnosis or perhaps drugs, lures Jon to her milieu. This instant switch marginalises Ben even further. Then they're presented with a challenge for the geeks to go to a club and collect telephone numbers. Newly galvanised Jon beats Ben to every girl in the club causing him to retreat to the toilets for a cry. Jon then attempts to progress his relationship with Sam, usually by deliberately dumbing himself down; but when he makes a physical advance she rebukes him, turfs him out of the room they're in and asks Ed to come back - which the dutiful puppy does.

Last week the challenge was to solve a series of puzzles which appeared more complicated than they actually were (neat, because they appeared to be aimed at the geeks, but they were more suited to the beauties). When faced with the challenge of getting a key from a block of ice, whilst Ed cursed himself for not remembering the molecular structure of ice, Sam kept asking why they didn't just "'Frow it against the wall?". She was right. Ed and Sam have a beautiful chemistry, making them my favourite couple for next week's final.

Come on you dozy geek and moody sow.

Monday, March 06, 2006


“Auntie Emma, when you wee will the baby fall out?”

For a three year old to understand the link between giving birth and the hole through which it comes out of is impressive. Apparently my Grandma was unsure moments before she had my uncle because nobody told her what was going to happen. What’s less impressive is that although we know it won’t fall out, we’re not wholly sure why.

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