Rubbish, piffle, tommyrot, drivel and utter bilge

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Every Day I'm Puzzlin'

So it is time for another fab groovy and hip edition of The Musical Puzzler, the only place where you can learn stuff you never knew you didn't really need to know but were forced to find out against your will anyway.

Last time I asked you about Phil Collins, a man whose name when mentioned can provoke sighs, groans, moans, or extreme violence. I happen to rather like the guy, but more for his work with Genesis and his first album, and also his acting, than for the great bulk of his solo work. It should not be forgotten that he is also a pretty damn kick-ass drummer, and for that I can forgive him all manner of things. however, the question concerned his acting career, or rather the early part of it when he was nobbut a lad. The question was what movie did he appear in as an extra at the tender age of thirteen? The answer was A Hard Day's Night.  Don't believe me? Here's a still from said flick.

It's really him!
So, new question:

Which Beatle is the only one without a star on Hollywood's Walk Of Fame?

Friday, November 25, 2011


Today marks the 46th anniversary of my mother being anaesthetised and having a C-section, resulting in yours truly. To say the least my start in life was somewhat inauspicious, and I nearly did not make it. The doctor that performed the emergency Caesarian was somewhat inexperienced in the technique, but he was the only doctor available and it was now or never, so he just had to get her opened up and me out. As a result there is a scar on my scalp that grows ever more visible due to my receding hairline. In a few years I will be able to seriously freak people out by showing it to them.

They do say that with age comes experience, and hence wisdom. So, what can I say that I have learned over the last 46 years that classifies as wisdom? What pearls of essential knowledge am I able to pass on to future generations? Well, I am not sure - I haven't written that bit yet. But I'm about to try. Here goes:

  • Liquor to beer - in the clear. Beer to liquor, never sicker. Unless you happen to be drinking snakebite, or Pernod. In either of those scenarios, all bets are off.
  • Sometimes, nothing beats a good hot shower.
  • Nouvelle cuisine is just a fancy way of saying 'tiny portions of pretentious food'. Do not eat it.
  • The best birthday cards are the ones that are funny - and have money in them.
  • A sink is always better without dishes piled up in it.
  • At some point you will look back on your life and be able to pinpoint key moments when you made the wrong decision. Try not to dwell on these moments, and try not to repeat those same mistakes.
  • When you are feeling down, watch a Mel Brooks movie. Nothing beats a damn good belly laugh.
  • Be what you is, cause if you be what you ain't, then you ain't what you is.
  • Always remember to stop and eat the toast.
  • Never trust anyone that does not like toast. Or Mel Brooks movies.
  • You do not have to be hungry to eat cake, dessert, chocolate or cookies.
  • Few things in life can make you feel sexier than a well-tailored suit. 
  • Never, ever wear UGG boots.
  • Go buy box candy at the dollar store, stash it in the bottom of your handbag or purse underneath your other stuff, and then go to the movies. You'll thank me later. 
  • Never get a tattoo with words in it. 
  • Sing out loud in the grocery store. You'll enjoy it, and people will either join in or leave you alone. Either way, it's fun.
  • The joys of a good single malt cannot be underestimated.
  • No matter how cool it may seem to smoke a big cigar, it will make your mouth feel like the bottom of an ashtray. 
  • Guns don't kill people - people with guns kill people. Melt the guns.
  • If you ever start to feel bad about yourself or your family, watch an episode of Maury or  The Jeremy Kyle Show. You'll start to feel better.
  • A hot toddy is by far the most pleasurable way to treat a cold.
  • Nothing beats getting in between crisp cold sheets and warming them up.
  • Go see a real mountain at least once in your life.
  • If you cannot afford to eat at your favourite restaurant, do NOT go there and do dumb stuff like splitting a salad or asking for a glass of water with extra slices of lemon and Splenda so you can make your own 'lemonade' just to save money. The waiters will hate you. Stay home and eat beans on toast. 
  • Never be ashamed to shop in a thrift store, flea market, jumble sale, charity shop or boot fair. Life is too short for snobbery.
  • They say you should dance like nobody's watching. I say you should too, but make sure you do it in front of a crowd for maximum effect. 
  • Stay away from carbonated beverages, unless there is alcohol in them.
So there you are. Some gems from the ol' Hickmott brain. I hope you can find them useful. And as my birthday is exactly one month before Christmas, I decree that it is now OK to sing Christmas songs in public. I like to sing them from about July onwards, but once you get to Nov. 25th, you need not worry that people will look at you in a funny way. Unless, of course, that was your ultimate aim to begin with.

This is the 401st post on The World Of Jeff! Here's to another year of nonsense.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's In A Name

People are strange. This we know. I'll give you an example. I was walking home from town today and as I was walking, this little girl, who could not have been more than five or six, was scooting along the pavement on her scooter, as kids are apt to do. She was being pursued by her mother (at least, I assume it was her mother - could have been her aunt or even her grandma, I suppose) who was struggling slowly under the weight of a shopping bag (she was quite thin and wearing heels, so one shopping bag was about her limit), trying hard to catch up to the girl or make her stop before she reached the end of the path. The mother was yelling the girl's name at the top of her lungs, "DEIRDRE!!! DEIRDRE, COME BACK HERE!!! STOP!!" and of course, as kids are also apt to do, little Deirdre was completely ignoring Mum's/Auntie's/Granny's cries and scooting away merrily with a little smirk on her face.

As I passed the flustered parent/grandparent/relative I turned my head to see her catch up to the girl.
"How many times have I told you blah blah why do you always do that blah blah when will you ever blah blah that's dangerous blah..." her voice tailed off and I thought to myself, "I'll tell you why your kid doesn't listen to you, missus. It's because you named her Deirdre. And now she is punishing you for your idiocy."

Why do people do such thoughtless things when naming their kids? It is 2011, not 1965. Deirdre never was a very cool name and now it's even less cool. One hears the word uttered (and for those of you on the other side of the Atlantic, I don't mean the American pronunciation Dee-drah, which is now almost exclusively an African-American name - I mean the English pronunciation Deer - dree) and the only thing I can think of is that miserable woman with the huge ugly glasses from Coronation Street. Deirdre frickin' Barlow.

I don't have an answer to this one, folks, but why have folks recently taken to naming their kids very uncool names? Answers, suggestions etc. in the box below.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I'm A Mince Pie

When I was younger my mum had (probably still has, actually) some big colourful weighty tomes about health and the like. Lots of explanations about the human body's inner workings with loads of pictures to help the big words along. I remember one section of one of these books that talked about body shapes, and the big words for the shapes such as ecto-mesomorph and endomorph.  According to one website, Ectomorphs  are those people that are relatively thin, lean, fragile looking, and flat chested if they are female. Skinny about covers it.
Endomorphs are the big folks that only have to look at a slice of cake in order to gain a pound or two.
And Mesomorphs are those bastards that have no trouble building muscle and losing weight whenever they feel like it. Of course, these descriptions are rather oversimplified, but you get the idea. But apparently even this is way too complicated for the average man in the street (or in the kitchen, come to that) to understand. We're all pretty thick, really, aren't we? At least according to The Daily Mirror (chhhptooey!) we are, or that's the conclusion I am drawn to by reading an article in their rag today. The article is charmingly titled Blokes are shaped like parsnips, puddings, Yule logs or candles  and apparently we chaps have four main body types. I quote:
While girls are curved like pears or apples, blokes are now classed with the less ­complimentary categories of yule log, Christmas pudding, candle or parsnip.
And the best of the lot is the parsnip – with broad shoulders and tapered waists. But only 10% of men are shaped like David Beckham and TOWIE’s Mark Wright.
The research by high street clothes chain High and Mighty found almost half of blokes are a Yule log shape, including X Factor presenter Dermot O’Leary and talk show host Jonathan Ross, with shoulders and waists that are similar widths.
Almost a quarter fit into the Christmas pudding category, with comedian James Corden and Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles. And a fifth are candles like Doctor Who star Matt Smith and footballer Peter Crouch. 
High and Mighty’s Gill Politis said: “When it comes to body shapes, it is men who struggle the most to find clothes that fit them in all the right places. They need to take their time more when shopping and make sure they try things on.”
Parsnips look good in jeans and well-made shirts but Yule logs’ clothes can be too tight or too loose, while candles can end up with baggy-looking tops and trousers too short.
 Well, all I can say is, I'm a bit like the Yule Log AND the Xmas pudding - so basically I am a festive dessert.

Sounds about right.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wash The Matter?

Our shower is not working properly.

I realise that that in itself is not necessarily the most stunning sentence I have ever uttered, but it did occur to me today that because I have friends on both sides of the Atlantic, not to mention other points on the globe, it can mean different things to different people.  For example, if an American person reads the above sentence they might perhaps assume that it's leaking, or that there's no water at all, or the drain is clogged.

However, here in Britain, it can be translated as "there's no hot water" which might put an expression of deep puzzlement on your average American's visage. Let me explain a little.

In America, where I lived for 18 years and so feel that I am somewhat qualified to talk about these things, showers are commonplace. I certainly cannot think of a single house I lived in (and I lived in a lot - apartments, duplexes, condos, big fancy three-storey houses, trailers, townhouses) that did not come with a shower. Even the poxiest little tin box-trailer that I lived in for a month or so had a shower, despite the fact that it had no air-conditioning (this was in midsummer in Georgia), the bedrooms were barely big enough to fit a human sized bed in, they'd let you have a washing machine but not a dryer, was in a seedy trailer park in a terrible area of town, all the neighbours gave you that "say-hello-and-I'll-kill-you-in-your-sleep" look and the landlord's agent frequently answered the door in his bathrobe.

All of them had a shower, and that is because installing a shower when building a house in the States is easy, because all the houses are fairly new in the grand scheme of things, and they are built on a wooden frame, which means that the interior walls are just wood and gaps. Even installing a shower where there previously was none is easy because you just have to know where to knock a hole in the drywall to get at the pipes and run a T-joint and a pipe where you want it. The showers are plumbed in to the main water supply just like your sinks and taps. So if your shower is not working properly, and it's not clogged or leaking, then there is a problem related to the entire household water supply.

Here in the U of K, Merrie Olde England, things are a little different. Showers are a relatively new concept. Sure, we've known about them for a long time. We've watched American TV shows for decades. We remember Pam waking up and finding Bobby in the shower. But because a lot of our houses are a lot older, and they're mostly made of solid brick, anytime you wanted to have a shower put in you'd have to do an awful lot of knocking things about, which could get expensive. The cost of doing it was prohibitive, so we contented ourselves with baths. The first house I ever lived in with a shower installed was a house I rented after I got married for the first time in 1990. However, after I moved out of there I did not see another shower installed in a house until I moved to the States over a year later.

When I was at school some of my mates had houses with showers, because I seemed to have friends who were a bit more posh than myself (and I'm not using any kind of reverse-snobbery here, it's just a fact), but that was purely because the school system was different back then. Back then you just went to the nearest school to where you lived, unless your parents had enough money to send you to a private school or even a boarding school. You had no choice until you were in your second year of secondary school (age 12 or 13). These days if you want to go to the school just down the street from you, there's a whole system of applications and interviews involved, and even then you might not get in, which is why you see kids going to school on the commuter trains more and more. This totally blows my mind. How screwy is that? But I digress. As I often do.

Okay, I was talking about showers. I love showers, I am a shower guy. Don't get me wrong, baths have their place, in fact sometimes if one has had a hard day at work or whatever, a nice hot tub can be very relaxing. But you are not washing yourself in a nice relaxing bath. You are not scrubbing yourself, using the pumice stone or using the loofah. You are just soaking. But if you come home from a tiring day and you have plans to go out for the evening that require getting changed into a fresh set of duds, you are not going to have a bath, are you? You aren't going to waste precious time running the water and getting the temp right (testing it with your elbow) just for a quick dip. No, you are going to turn on the shower and hop in and be done in five minutes flat. Plus, you really can't sing in the bath the same way you can sing in the shower.

 Also, showers use less water than baths, so I am a bit biased, being a bit of an eco-lefty-commie-pinko-greenie bugger. But beyond that, I like showers better because they just feel better, I feel like I'm getting cleaner in the shower because of the constant scrubby-rinsey sensation of the water (and if the shower has the 'needle' and 'pulsate' settings, so much the better. And 'needle+pulsate', pure heaven.) whereas sitting in the tub, you scrub, you rinse, congratulations, you are now sitting in a hot puddle of your own grot. Eww.

I view taking a bath the same way I view visiting a swimming pool. Don't expect me to take any exercise or use sudden movements. I hate swimming because why would anyone in full possession of their faculties want to get into some nice warm water and then be expected NOT to relax? Which is why you will not find me in a pool, but you might find me in a jacuzzi if there is one available.

So what we are left with in the UK now that showers are more and more commonplace is the electric shower, one where a little box is fitted onto the wall of your bathtub, attached via the wall to your cold water pipe, and a little electric heater inside the box does all the water heaty-uppy business. That's what we have. And that little water-heaty-uppy device inside our little shower-box-on-the-wall is, to put it bluntly, knackered. No matter how much you turn the dial on the box, the water never gets above tepid. Which is fine in the summer, when the last thing you might want is a hot shower. But now it is November and we have taken the proverbial plunge and acquired a new shower. We just have to have it installed. Which then puts us in the strange-sounding position of having to have a shower installed by an electrician.

Monday, November 14, 2011

100 Records That Shook The World, #34

Autobahn (LP)


In 1970, Florian Schneider and friend and fellow musician Ralf Hütter formed Kraftwerk (which means Power Station, in case anyone was wondering). The pair had met as students and had played together in a band named Organisation who released one album on RCA entitled Tone Float.

Kraftwerk's first three LPs were mainly experimental art-rock, very free-form and without any catchy hooks. Strictly muso stuff. Then in 1974 came a record that not only changed the way Kraftwerk sounded, but changed music forever.

At this stage in their career Kraftwerk were still using traditional instruments as well as the newer MiniMoog and the ARP Odyssey. Florian was, after all, a flautist and violinist, and the previous three LPs had seen them use these extensively, treating them with effects and creating an electronic flute also.

The 22-minute "Autobahn" on side 1 was different to say the least. The record company edited it down to a 3-minute single and it reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. Kraftwerk had arrived, and electronic music, which up until that point had been just a novelty, was here to stay. It is widely acknowledged that Kraftwerk's music has directly influenced many popular artists from many diverse genres of music.
Their musical style and image can be heard and seen in later electronic music by such modern legends as Gary Numan, Ultravox, John Foxx, OMD, Human League, Depeche Mode, Visage, and Soft Cell, to name a few. Kraftwerk also influenced other forms of music such as hip hop, house, and drum and bass, and they are also regarded as pioneers of the electro genre. Most notably, "Trans Europe Express" and "Numbers" were interpolated into "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force, one of the earliest hip-hop/electro hits.
Joy Division and New Order were heavily influenced by Kraftwerk. Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis was a fan of Kraftwerk, and showed his colleagues records that would influence both groups. New Order's song "Your Silent Face" has some similarities with the track "Europe Endless", and had a working title of KW1, or Kraftwerk 1. New Order also recorded a song called "Krafty" that appeared as a single and on the album Waiting for the Sirens' Call. New Order also sampled "Uranium" in their 1983 songs "Blue Monday" and "The Beach".
David Bowie's "V-2 Schneider", which was released as the B-side to the "Heroes" single, and also features on the album "Heroes", is a tribute to Florian Schneider.

Here's the Fab Four.

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