Jet lagged

So once again I find myself a fish out of water in a foreign country. In these situations my naturally occurring social awkwardness becomes weaponized. A darwinian mechanism that pre emptively steers me from embarrassment.
There is a certain idealized Englishness that I muster in these circumstances. The first word I learn in any new language is generally “thank you”. The second of often “sorry”.

Japan is humid. The people are friendly. I arrived jet lagged, the gajin face of tiredness. There was a sign in the airport for “pet hotel”. My ability to parse both language and events, has been somewhat afflicted by the density of memes here.

Not even Icarus dreamt of these wings

Air travel occupies a peculiar space in the venn diagram of our collective unconsciousness. It is the space in the intersection of the circles of sheer terror and consumerism. Here you are, in a place that no human could ever, through sheer biology, alone survive. Hanging miles above the surface of this dirty rock called Earth. It is something thaumatological in nature. Not even Icarus dreamt of these wings, extending outwards from the body of your plane, almost as if it were your body hanging in the sky. Chrome and daubed in the warpaint of British Aerospace or Emirates or Virgin. Think for a second. Beneath your feet are a few meters of storage space, hydraulic systems, landing gear, oil and baggage. Then beneath that nothing for miles.

And then you are offered a fine selection of duty free…

I suspect that duty free was invented purely as a mechanism for dealing with the sheer existential terror of flight – I imagine some Ur Air Traveller in the early days of aviation saying to their spouse “But Honey this is not a naturally tenable position for a human being… oooh look Calvin Klein”.

I’m not entirely sure that’s what Icarus had in mind

I guess what I’m saying is that I have a long haul flight ahead of me and I’m trying to rationalize it as best I can.

Songs for the General Election

It’s been a fairly emotive election run up so far. Regardless of your party of choice (or lack thereof) there have been a number of gaffes, smears and audiotapes. Non UK readers may have missed out on such gems as Bigotgate (incumbent Prime Minister calling someone a bigot behind their back whilst still wearing a sky news microphone that recorded his every word). Or podgy faced robot David Cameron rattling on about the various minorities that he apparently met on the campaign trail (see

Anyway I thought I’d throw together a track listing to see us all through Thursday night. Maybe we could all celebrate with Pie Minister’s fine foods too ( Plug the following into spotify or youtube and get very angry that your candidate of choice didn’t get in.

#1) Know your enemy: Because everyone knows making Rage Against The Machine guitar sounds with your mouth is the coolest for of political protest. [youtube][/youtube] (Ah-wah-wah-chucka-chucka-wah-wah)

#2) Thatcher ****** the kids: Remember Thatcher? “There is no such thing as society” – Frank Turner wrote a definitely Not Safe For Work song about her: [youtube][/youtube]

#3) The times they are changing: Bob Dylan [youtube][/youtube] The line it is drawn / the curse it is cast / the first one now / shall later be last / for the times they are a changing – Well hopefully we might see some election reform. I for one am tired of the two party system…

#4) A century of fakers by Belle and Sebastian. Not that I’m cynical about the public image of politicians or anything [youtube][/youtube]

#5) A Design for Life by The Manic Street Preachers. Only the Manics could write a rock song about the importance of libraries and the working classes [youtube][/youtube]

#6) Anarchy in the UK by The Sex Pistols [youtube][/youtube]
Cliche but it might make you feel better if your team doesn’t come in. Just don’t start a UK version of the Tea Party movement okay?

#7) Electioneering by Radiohead [youtube][/youtube]
“I will stop, I will stop at nothing / Say the right things when I’m electioneering” A simple but angry rock song, written in 1997 around the time that Tony Blair got in.

#8) Don’t Believe the Hype by Public Enemy. Yeah that’s about the sum of the message but it also has a funky beat [youtube][/youtube]

#9) The revolution will not be televised. Gill Scott Heron. [youtube][/youtube]. Okay so it’s actually about Black US civil rights but it is still a good spoken word political statement

I’m sure people can add other suggestions in the comments below

An open letter to the BBC

[Please forgive the mildly self-righteous tone of the below. Messing with the BBC bring out my inner Daily Mail reader]

To whom it may concern,

I grew up in a small town in North Yorkshire and listening to John Peel was one of the ways I could escape the hum-drum nature of my adolescence. Music for me was a window to another place. John always championed the little acts. Small bands with shoe-string budgets. Muscial genres I had never heard of (how many people know what Gabba-Gabba is? Or chip tune?). Every night was different. Imagine if for your entire life you ate only gruel and then someone gave you a banquet. How could you ever go back? Since the death of John Peel, 6 Music is the only aspect of the BBC to ever sustain his legacy. I get the same sense of playful quirkiness, of sheer unadulterated discovery from 6 Music that I did listening to his show. How can I ever go back to the weak gruel of chart music?

At its best the BBC champions risk. For example Jeremy Paxman asks questions that no one elses dares ask. David Attenborough goes in search of dangerous animals that no else dares film… and 6 Music plays music that no else dares to play.

The world is a richer place for the existence of 6 Music. You could cancel it. You could use the budget to create a brand new quiz show about dancing aimed at all the family and hosted by Adrian Chiles and Tess Daly. You could stop taking risks. But there’s already a place for that on ITV. The saddest thing is that you’d be killing a part of yourself – your ability to champion the underdog.

Sore thumbs

I’m currently NDA’d (Non Disclosure Agreement – acronym fans) and therefore unable to disclose too much about the videogame company I’m working for. However nothing in the NDA prevents me from discussing the psycho-social demographics of working in the videogame industry so I will endeavour to encapsulate the twilight realms of the career geek for your reading pleasure.

The first thing you notice about any good tech company is the strong smell of black coffee that assails you as soon as you enter the door. If you dear reader, are in any way shape or form interested in investing your time, effort or money into a technical enterprise, then please be aware that parts per million of caffeine in the blood stream of the average employee will correlate strongly on a graph against stock price. Forget Dragon’s Den, a simple blood test will tell you all you need to know about a company’s third quarter profits. An alert geek is a productive geek. A free cola machine and a permanently boiling coffee pot are also good indicators.

The other thing I have noticed is that the friendliness of staff is inversely proportional to the need to wear suits. Everyone is the same in Gap clothing. As soon as people start wearing suits then the difference between plebian and upper management is highlighted by the quality of tailoring. This can cause tension and resentment. Wearing casual clothes is one step towards creating a meritocracy rather than a plutocracy (for the record I cannot honestly tell the difference at a glance between say Primark and Gap clothing).

I’m a tester (I don’t think I’m breaching anything by revealing that). I sit for long hours with sore thumbs until the joypad begins to twist my hands into claw-like shapes. I’m typing this like a crab, the ends of my pincer/hands tapping away at the keyboard. I’m sure I’ve lost some of the neurons I had this morning. My synapses have been rerouted, distorting and changing the laws of cause and effect in accordance with the cartoon realities I’ve been inhabiting. This is only a temporary thing (I mean the job, I’m hoping the reality shift will prove temporary too but I digress). Anyhow reader I must retire to my chamber as I am feeling somnolent.


So now we are living in the space year 2010AD and I’m currently stuck in my flat. All the buses are cancelled, the roads are icy and in the words of my coworker Neil: “The pavements are more lethal than an angry ninja / velociraptor hybrid on steroids”. Not to be a doom monger but looking out at the deserted streets it does feel somewhat like The End of The World.

It’s a very British apocalypse. The buses have stopped, the snow gritters are running low on salt, I’m beset by encroaching ice and soon I’ll run out of milk for my tea. I’m sure there are people worse off though.

I’m sure this didn’t used to happen when I was in Yorkshire. Maybe I’m being regionalist but I remember being able to get my Christmas shopping done in York during the snow and not nearly falling every other step. I remember the buses kept running too.

Anyway if you are beset by chilly conditions or reanimated zombie polar bears then take care.

I’ve linked to a track by Husky Rescue because they have an awesome name for a band


The end of the decade blues

Ten years ago I still made mixtapes for people. On actual C90 tapes (thats about 128mb of average compression MP3s if you’re younger than me). I guess people of my generation talk about analogue music in the way our parents generation talk about pre-metric monentary terms. My parents occasionally still regale me (read bore me) with tales of ha’pennys and grotes and half crowns and shillings and how somehow they formed a complete ontology of finance with such things. No doubt if I ever have children, I too will bore them with my stories of the golden age of music (1997-2003 if you possess the same pop-cultural touchstones as myself), of rectangular bags in music shops and trying to read the liner notes on rickety bus rides home. I still buy music on vinyl though. There is a particular type of tall thin man, not quite coordinated enough to be actual musicians who will always haunt record shops. Even after the rest of the world has switched to MP3 players or iPhones, they’ll still be there digging through crates in search of white label rarities. When the world ends, they’ll still be there amongst the wreckage, fighting mutants and cockroaches for the last Radiohead B-sides compilation in the world.

Ten years ago today I was in Edinburgh for the Millenium. In spite of the Y2K bug, everyone seemed pretty optimistic about the future. There was a tech boom starting and the internet was extruding its data-tentacles into our minds. I was certain that by now we’d be living in the Matrix (remember that film? I wonder why they never made any sequels? ). In fact maybe we are. Perhaps at some point in the last ten years the internet achieved sentience but no one noticed and now we are living in an artificial reality. I think the Boxing day tsunami actually knocked my optimism about the future more than 9/11 did. Not in the least because more people died but because the planet itself was responsible for that one. You can stop terrorists (sometimes), you can’t stop plate techtonics. And now the sea levels are rising faster than ever ( The next decade is going to look like Water World and that was an awful film.

Ten years ago I played basketball. Now I just rant at the internet whilst acumulating body mass…

Ten years ago I used to actually pick up musical instruments with the intention of learning them. Now my guitar sits in the corner unused and unloved, quietly weeping whilst it’s strings slowly unwind…

Happy new year readers.

Jonathan Sledgefield Private Investigator – A Winter Tale

Jonathan Sledgefield wasn’t like any of the other private investigators you might have heard of. He didn’t have Philip Marlowe’s bravery, or Sherlock Holmes’ deductive powers or Big John Shaft’s attitude. Jonathan Sledgefield was a snowman and he existed for only a few days of every year when the snow fell thick and heavy upon the small village he called home. On that day the bakers son Sebastian would scrape the snow in the field behind the house when the dawn had just broke and the Sun was low in the sky. Sebastian would take a shovel and use it to form a small mound in the snow and then he would roll the mound until he had made a large ball in the snow. This would become Jonathan’s body. Then Sebastian would make smaller ball of snow and use it to make Jonathan’s head. He would put large lumps of coal into it so that Jonathan could see and a scarf so that Jonathan would be warm and a deer stalker hat because all great detectives have hats.

On account of his transient nature, Jonathan only ever had a day or two each year to solve all the village crimes before he melted away again. One year he caught Mrs Macginty stealing mince pies from the bakery and another year he caught a vagrant who was wanted for lewd behaviour in a town five miles away. Sebastian would always aid him in his adventures. Jonathan was largely immobile unless he was carried from place to place so usually he would stand firm and unyielding in the field he called home. A pillar of the community. A pillar also of frozen watery justice. Mentally he always thought of himself as a detective in a film noir (or a “Film Blanche” if you will, ho ho, he would chortle to himself). He would cogitate in wintery silence in the midst of the empty field, listening to the night-time hoots of barn owls as he meditated upon the criminal mindset. “So” He would think “Everyone in the village knows of Mrs Macginty’s terrible obsession with pies, so she certainly has a motive. Everyone else has an alibi. It must be her. It MUST”. No criminal was safer from his unerring logic.

Like most fictional detectives, Jonathan Sledgefield had a terrible secret. Over time he began to detest being scraped and rolled together every year. He began to become tired of the same field and the same barn owl. He began to realise that he would never bask in the summer sun or play volleyball on waikiki beach so he hatched a plan. He turned on his creator and abused his position as the village detective to frame Sebastian on drugs charges thus ensuring that Sebastian could not create him next year. Then one day when winter was drawing to a close, he discharged the last of his duties vis a vis law enforcement and evaporated forever, becoming one with the blue white sky. The last I heard, he was floating as a cloud in the direction of Hawaii…

(The author would like to point out that Sebastian’s conviction was eventually overturned but his brush with the law convinced him to move to the big city where not so many people knew his name and he could lay low).

Twenty five songs for advent #24

Super Furry Animals – The gift that keeps giving. Okay so I guess the little kid killed Santa and stole all his gifts. That’s quite a dark ending to the video actually (and this is the nicer version of the video). Still kudos for lateral thinking.