23 June 2008

I guess I'm neck deep in it, I'm starting to drown...Along with all the wannabes in swinging London Town...

There are certain constants in life - birth, death, taxes, Harpies - but I'd like to add one more to the list: university bars. The way they look and smell (dark and dingy, respectively), the almost uniform the dress code, the casual hang at the back attitude, the over-priced beer in plastic cups. Stepping through the doors of the University of London Union was exactly the same as stepping through the door of the ANU. It's like the uni bar is a singularity at the centre of a vast inter-dimensional network where any door you step through brings you to exactly the same place regardless of where you are. So here's another one you can add to your list: if you go to a Melt Banana show you're gonna get your brain scrambled, your eardrums destroyed and your friggin head blown off. Holy fuken shit! Those guys absolutely go off in the noisyest, rockin'est and insanest way imaginable.

The support act, DJ Scotch Egg, is this crazy Fu Manchu lookin' dude with numerous Game Boys hooked up to a sampler and drum machine and cheap-arse keyboard. He looks like a cross between Sandy the water god from Monkey and an alcoholic Shoalin warrior who escaped from rehab. But his music...jeepers creepers! Imagine what it would sound like if Mike Patton was a Pokemon on meth being sexually abused by a bear who is also on meth. It's all trippy distorted riffs of plunky-dooby 8-bit video game music punctuated by aural assaults of brain shaking drum machines and ear-splitting screams, with this mad sweaty human pinball clambering all over his gear and capering madly through the crowd. It's Pacman meets the Exorcist, and didn't the kids just love it!

Quite a fitting intro, then, to Melt Banana, who are unlike anything I've ever seen or heard. They're this amazing mix of harcore power and syrupy Jap-pop sweetness...like a controlled explosion in a candy factory or a sledgehammer coated in sugar. It's as if Japanese scientists built Ramonebots but gifted them with 10 extra chords, doubled the volume and quadrupled the speed, and stuck this slender cutesy vixen upfront with enough power in her squeaky screechy vocals to shatter glass and drive the shards into your brain. There's something deeply unsettling about a guitarist with a surgical mask and a steel slide but holy frijoles could that guy strangle some weird-arse noise out of that thing. For a young band they're unbelievably tight - they did 7 songs in 45 seconds with barely a pause between to say "Sank you. Next one is called...", before launching in to the next one. And the noise! These guys put the noise back in noisecore and when they hit their groove your whole body trembles with fremitus. Some dood took pics and put them on his flikr site: http://flickr.com/photos/fuse/sets/72157605661958863/

I'm off to Boston on Wednesday and am really excited. This'll be my first time off since Xmas and my first holiday with American Girflen. She's going to be working during the day which gives me time to explore the joint but we'll have the nights, as the Bible says, "Because the night/Belongs to luverrrs" and next weekend to goof off and screw around (ooh err, missus!). In doing my research on Boston I figured out that both Walter Burley Griffin and Hemmingway were both from Chicago, which tells me I really need to focus more on what I'm doing...

Dr Phil threw a tubular 80's party 2 weekends back, which was super radical. It was fancy dress and I was both proud and ashamed of the fact that all I had to do to find my costume was look in my wardrobe. Staci lifted her dressing-up sanctions for one magical night and looked absolutely smoking in her Madonna-esque black lacy frilly A-line skirt, fluro green socks, pearls, and white singlet with a white business shirt knotted in the front. Phwoar! As one of only a handful of people who were born prior to 1985, I felt compelled to downloaded a shizzload of tunes to show the youngen's what music was really all about back then. As well as the standard bog roll of predictable hits (Wham, Howard Jones, Bananarama et al) I totally blew their minds with some Killing Joke, Smiths and Falco. Some of those songs I hadn't heard for almost 20 years and I fully got goosebumps. Plus I taught Staci how to pash dance to "Died in Your Arms (Tonight)" by Cutting Crew, so she's practically naturalised as a grouse Aussie shiela now. I think I might have pashed danced with Dr Phil at some point as well but things got a little hazy after our elaborate choreographed backing dancer routine to Spandau Ballet's "Gold".

Staci's left for Boston last Friday which left me at a loose end on the weekend. Luckily Dr Phil was there with another bike ride, this time in the South Downs. The weather was looking extremely dreary as we made our way to Victoria station and we were very close to packing it in to play Xbox all afternoon, mainly because we were both tired and hungover. But good on us for sticking it out as by early afternoon things improved and the sun even came out. We deviated slightly from our route and ended up at the coast at Seven Sisters where I got to see my first English beach. I use the term "beach" but for any of you who've been to the English seaside you'll know that what I actually mean by that is "quarry". They don't have sand...they have rocks. That's right, a tiny strip of big black ugly rocks butting up against chalk cliffs. You've got to admire the soicism of the Brits, though, there were people putting out deck chairs and having picnics right there next to the flat lifeless grey-green ocean, braving the wind and the drizzle, only venturing up the stairs to purchase a flaccid cornetto from the near comoatose staff running the alarmingly over-priced kiosk at the top. Not nearly as much mud as the last ride but loads more hill climbs. Not a lot of fun in those but the pay off was plenty of 50mph sphincter-clenching downhill runs and long meandering pedals through really lovely countryside and awesome views. Check out the pics on my blog and keep your eyes peeled for The Shocker...heh heh.

16 June 2008

When Good Laws Go Bad...

There are many laws in our society – some good, some not so. There are laws that protect and punish; laws that deter and encourage in equal measure; there are those that stand as stalwart pillars of civilisation, and there are those that beckon seductively to be broken.

And then there are laws that are just plain fucking stupid.

In Arkansas, it is illegal to carry an ice cream cone on your pocket at any time. In England, topless women may not work in a retail store unless it sells tropical fish.

Whatever the motivation was for these laws to be added to the statutes of their respective nations, I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that despite what you may think, an ice cream cone if wielded proficiently can be, if not a deadly, then certainly a very painful weapon. And purchasing a chain of discount tropical fish superstores is a very elaborate and expensive way to get a look at some boobies. Both these lessons I learned the hard way.

But it doesn’t always have to be that way. There are people who have successfully taken advantage of wacky laws for their own benefit or amusement. One such example is of an Australian university student who discovered that an archaic and overlooked by-law of his particular alma mater stipulated that the university union was obliged to feed and water a student’s horse at the union’s expense. Our plucky young trouble-maker proceeded to obtain a horse which he then studiously (meaning everyday) rode on to the campus and the union was obliged to feed and water the beast while the student attended classes. No doubt this proved to be a frustrating and embarrassing and costly exercise for the school, and a source of great amusement and bon homie amongst the student population.

But the last laugh was yet to be had. No one is more familiar with university by-laws than the university itself, so imagine the dismay and chagrin our plucky hero must have felt when, having completed his degree, he was informed that he had failed the entire course for failing to wear a dress sword to the final exam.

9 June 2008

Who yer gonna meet, Bill...Have yer bought the street, Bill?...Laugh! I thought I should've died...Knocked 'em in the Old Kent Road...

Ok, let's clear something up right here right now once and for all. It's not called 'Monkey Magic' it's just called 'Monkey', ok? The chorus of the theme song goes "Monkey magic...etc" but the show is just...called...Monkey. Got it? Now we can move on...

I've been thinking about TV a lot recently, mostly how shit it is. As a child, TV was a surrogate parent for me and it nurtured me and suckled me on it's cathode ray teat with a cornucopia of entertainment and stimulation. My fave shows were:
  • Lost in Space (I can still hum BOTH theme songs...yes, there were two)
  • Land of the Giants (kind of a LiS ripoff but still awesome thanks to the hilarious enormous props and that damned fat sweaty Fitzhugh trying to ruin everything...damn you, Fitzhugh!)
  • Project Bluebook (kind of a protozoic X-Files with these two airforce doodz running around investigating UFO sightings)
  • Battlestar Gallactica (the original and best with the cylons who talk like the dood at the start of Boney M's 'Nightflight to Venus' album and the wicked "pew, pew, pew" laser sounds)
  • Buck Rodgers (forget Tweeky with his retarded "dee-be dee-be dee-bee" talk, Erin Gray as Col. Wilma Deering who, along with Linda Carter from Wonder Woman, fuelled the vast bulk of my adolescent masturbatory fantasies...PHWOAR!)
  • Chips (two words: Frank Poncharello)
  • The Fall Guy (I can still sing the theme song: "Well I'm not the kind to kiss and tell/But I've been seen with Farrar..."
  • The Six Million Dollar Man (and to a lesser degree the Bionic Woman, espesh the episode where Lee Majors guest starred when Jamie's bionics went bad and they totally made out at the end...ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch)
  • Doctor Who (two words: Tom Baker).
Despairing of the paucity of passable programs these days, I decided to write my own, which I plan to pitch to the first TV exec who survives the audition process (ie. chloroformed and bundled into the boot of my car). Being a child of the 70's and 80's I've come up with two ideas for sitcoms based in each of those awesome TV eras: first up is the 70's with 'My Favourite Honky' starring me, of course, as a lovable fish out of water poor white guy trying to grow up with a rich black family in Detroit. It's kind of a reverse 'Diff'rent Strokes' and features gratuitous use of my catch phrase - "you jive turkey!" - and the word "honky" (or the "H word"), which I'm trying to de-stigmatize and take back for all my bros. Then we head to the 80's with Raisin' Hell, a light-hearted take on the trials and tribulations of a suburban family trying to raise their young son, Pinhead, the quintessential L'il Hellraiser. Here's a sample of the cracking dialog you can expect every week:

Raisin’ Hell - Pilot episode
by Chris Holmes

Scenario: Set in the home of the Hellraisers, chronicling the day to day lives of an ordinary family bringing up a very extra-ordinary son…Pinhead.

Mr Hellraiser (Dad), works in an office, wears a cardigan, smokes a pipe, likes to read the newspaper;
Mrs Hellraiser (Mum), housewife, wears an apron, bakes a lot;
Pinhead Hellraiser (Son), Cenobyte, precocious young tyke always getting into mischief with his Cenobyte buddies, destined to one day be a Hierophant, a Theologian of the Order of the Gash, a Keeper of the Order of Hell, Dark Prince of Pain, Angel of Suffering, Leviathan's Lord of the Damned, The Black Pope.

1. Int. Hellraiser House. Sunday Afternoon.
Mum: Pinhead Hellraiser! You get in here and clean up your room right now!
Pinhead: Aww, mom! Do I have to?
Mum: Yes you do, young man.
Pinhead: But why?
Mum: Because if you don’t…I’LL TEAR YOUR SOUL APART!
(Cue laughter)

Foxy Amy came over from Chicago with her boyfriend recently for a visit. After her return, she wrote to me asking about the mysterious grey boogers they both suffered whilst here but which cleared up when they left. I was all like, "Did you ride the Tube?" and she was all like, "Heck yes! We rode the heck out of that thing!". As a result, she was afflicted with a gross condition that most Londoner's take for granted: the dreaded "Tube Nose!" Duhn-duhn DUHNNNNN! What happens is, there's all this black dust in the underground tunnels which gets flung up by the trains and you're constantly breathing it in so it encourages the growth of boogers and colours them grey. It's really disgusting and quite alarming the first time it happens but it's remarkable how quickly you become resigned to that kind of thing in this big old 'glass half-empty' city.

I cooked my first batch of recipes for the food mag readers' panel last week, which was a lot of fun. I had four and the recipes themselves were pretty easy but the end results were a mixed bag. The super healthy salmon salad was steamed fish with a couscous salady thing which was Bland City. The roasted squash with spicy chilli was delicious with great contrasting flavours, but the top of the pile was definitely the roasted chicken breast wrapped with spicy chorizo slices and chilli sweet potato wedges. Yummo, stick it up your bummo! In hindsight it wasn't wise to make all three in one go but the original email request from the coordinator got bounced so I only had one day left to meet the deadline. I made the plum kulfis on Sunday night and they were pretty good but not something I'd whip out to impress anyone. It's weird having to be completely objective about what you're cooking. Normally when you prepare food for others you pick something you hope they'll like and desperately want it to be special for them, so even if stuff doesn't turn out or is a bit so-so you're more inclined to big it up a little in your post-meal assessment (kind if a reverse Tetalenche syndrome). But when you're merely reviewing it, taking it for a test run as it were, you tend to be more critical and down-play. I imagine I'll be singing a different tune when I get to cook lobster with truffles but for now I'm happy to play the critic whilst paying my cooking dues.

I went for my first real ride on Sweaty Betty on Saturday, a proper outdoors cross-country affair. I hooked up with Dr Phil "Chuck Slavakia" Well'Ard and his bike, Scarlett, at Euston Station and we took a train to Bletchley, about 45 minutes North West near Milton Keynes. It was awesome fun, a truly great ride. All up we covered close to 40 miles in about 4 hours with a good mix of hills and flats, trails and road, sand and puddles and plenty of mud, even got to ride along a stream at one point and saw the biggest ugliest turkey I've ever seen (no, not Phil...an actual turkey), plenty of stacks which landed me in on my arse in the mud, thoroughly sullying the clean cool lines of my fancy Gore Bikewear which they were letting us try out for free, I looked (and felt) like a Star Trek officer and the padded crotch went someways to protecting my gooch but was no match for the corduroy-like furrowing left by tractor wheels in the dried mud (a section of trail otherwise known as The Gooch Smasher). Sweaty Betty performed brilliantly and was an absolute dream to ride. For the trainspotters, she's a Specialized Rockhopper Pro '08 hardtail (cos that's how I like it: hard and in the tail) with disc brakes and 30 gears of freaky monkey sex bike action. It's a weird feeling to drop down into first gear when ascending a near vertical slope and still be making headway with little or no effort...almost defying gravity. Of course, the gear ratio that low down is, like, 1:1 so it's like riding a unicycle. Every newton of force from your legs is transferred directly to the back wheel thus making the front wheel lift up unless you put all your weight forward, which means zero traction on anything other than tarmac. My only criticism was that because she's so light things get a bit hairy when pelting down a hill at 40 mph on loose shale, suddenly she feels remarkably insubstantial. Then when you hit the huge mud puddle at the bottom the lack of weight sends your tyres in two separate and opposing directions and you end up on your arse in the stinging nettles. I was absolutely dead by the end of it and could barely muster the strength to breathe let alone ride the 5 miles from Euston to Staci's house. I still haven't fully recovered from it as my calves are still aching and no matter how much I eat I'm still constantly hungry. And as for my gooch, let me just say that Dr Phil and I have decided release to release our own line of designer padded crotch bike wear under the label 'Goochi'. I've put some photos up (not of my gooch...eeewww!) and a Google Earth image of the route we took so, as Dr Phil would say, "Czech it out!"

On Sunday Staci and I went to see Aussie composer Michael Nyman play at Cadogen Hall which was really something special. When Staci and I first met I mentioned in passing that I'd love to go see him so she got us awesome tickets four rows from the front right in the centre. Isn't she a gem? The hall was lovely, very classy and tasteful and subdued. The stage was quite small and as it was just the N-Man and his grand piano under a single spot light it felt like we were the only ones in the room with him. I've never been to a piano recital before so I wasn't sure of the protocol on clapping. Apparently you keep schtum for four of five songs until the pianist (tee hee!) stands and takes a bow. Ok, fine, but no one bothered to tell me the signal for when to shout out " Wooo! Prestissimo! Yeah!", let alone for Staci to flash her boobs (which was just as well cos we forgot to bring a texta so how was he going to sign them?). He played loads of songs from his various films and other projects and it was all very moving and lovely and made one feel rather sophisticated as fuck! But for me the highlight was when he played 'The Heart Asks Pleasure First', the theme from 'The Piano' and one of my favourite pieces of music ever. Live music is always a hit and miss affair for me; I find my enjoyment of music is maximised when it's a private and solitary thing. It's hard to feel isolated from the world and alone with your thoughts at the best of times, but particularly so if you're packed in to a room full of sweaty shouting drunk people. But sitting there in the dark with no other sound, enveloped by the music and so close to the person who wrote one of your favourite songs - a song which summons up so many powerful emotions and memories with only a few notes, which squeezes your heart and makes you cry every time you hear it - is a truly sublime experience and one I shall never forget.

Contrast that with next Monday night when I go to see piercing screamy Japanese pop-punk gonzo kooksters Melt Banana at the Uni of London. Hey Paul! Jealous much? Yeah, you are...you totally are!

3 June 2008

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, That I love London so...Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, That I think of her wherever I go...

Who's got the rockin-est girlfriend in town? ME, that's who! Staci bought a Wii on the wiikend (heh heh, console joke), and what was the first game she bought? Only Guitar Hero 3! Oh that's right...we rocked...extensively. And not only that, but when Rock Band comes out on Wii in the next couple of months it'll have extra songs including 'Little Sister' by Queens of the Stoneage. So I'll be thinking of Grant and Jimbo while I'm rocking out...but not when I'm doing it with my groupie (then I'll be thinking about their mommas!)

On the weekend we went to a BBQ at the home of one of the senior doodz at Staci's work. I made my super sexy summer salad which never fails to impress, and I even kicked it up a notch by combining the figs with a triumverate of tomatoes (red, orange and yellow) which totally blew everyone's minds. Which is just as well given the calibre of the digs. I've never in my life seen a house as fancy-schmancy as this place was, let alone been inside it with the owners' permission. I'm not saying it was big but let me just say that it had 13 bathrooms. That's right, 13 BATHrooms...not bedrooms or toilets...bathrooms. I don't know how many bedrooms there were because, frankly, I was a bit drunk and lost count when it got into double digits, and nearly fell into the indoor pool. But each bedroom had its own bathroom plus a whole bunch of other bathrooms scattered about the place for good measure just in case all those foie grois smoothies mess with your impulse control and you really couldn't be arsed leaving the room to poop. The place was frickin' enormous! It was part of a gated community in St George's Hill near Surrey comprising 400 other equally massive mansions, most of which are owned by rich Russians. Suppposedly Putin's daughter lives there, Elton John once lived there as did Ringo Starr and George Harrison. You can almost smell the money...mainly because there's blue-collar eastern European dudes raking it up into huge piles on the lawns to be burnt. You know you're rich when you have a fusball table that no one is allowed to use...especially not the drunken Australian dude whose name no one remembers and is constantly mistaken for the maid's husband.

I went for my first proper ride on Sweaty Betty through the marshlands up north of Clapton. Don't be fooled by the name, there was nothing particularly marshy about the lands and most of the paths were paved and well-trod. But that was cool as the sun was shining and I made it all the way to Cheshunt (about 12 miles) before the bruising to my gooch reached the point where I could no longer sit down. Unfortunately by that point my legs were so tired that I couldn't stand up either so I crouched down whilst drinking coffee and reading my book in the sun. My second ride was through the streets of London to Staci's place, which was both exhilarating and terrifying. It's remarkably easy to get around London on a bike if you've got nothing to live for. I learned an important lesson which is that you have to be a complete psycho-list to ride a bike on London streets, particularly along Oxford Street and Knightsbridge. Taxis and buses have little enough regard for pedestrian life as it is, let alone pedestrians on bikes. I think the manslaughter law only applies if you run over someone whose feet are touching the ground at the point of impact. But she's a sweet ride and despite the fact my gooch has been tenderised into veal I'm looking forward to taking her over some sweet jumps out in the wilderness. I'm heading out to Milton Keynes with Dr Phil 'Chuck Slavakia' Well'Ard on Saturday for a 25 mile ride through the mud which will be slightly more radical than rad but slightly less radical than super rad. Plus, if the weather is as crap as it promises to be, it will be another chance to indulge in some Holmes' Pun Wisdom. Oh, I do say!

Did you know there's no naturally-occurring blue food? (I know what you're thinking and neither blueberries nor blue smarties count...I looked it up). As a result of this, human vision evolved to see red and green much better than blue. In the eye there are 3 types of cones which perceive each of the 3 primary colours: red, green and blue. 32% of the cones detect red, 64% detect green but only 2% detect blue. Apparently, as seeing the colour blue didn't help cavemen find food (and smarties hadn't yet been invented) evolution focussed more on red and green. Imagine the damage you could wreak if you went back in time and gave cavemen blue smarties...they'd lose their friggin minds! You'd be all like, "Hey, Flintstone! Check this shit out!" And he'd be all like, "What? I can't see nuttin." Then you'd laugh derisively and have sex with his hot cartoon wife while he wept in the corner like the fat working-class cuckold he is.

Add another chapter to The Book of Things That Are Sightly Different Over Here, and title it Father's Day. For some bizarre reason they have it in June, which means I now miss out on Father's Day twice each year. Maybe they'll let me have two birthdays as well so I can UH! Double-Up UH! UH! the disappointment. Siiiigh...

On Sunday Staci and I got up before noon (I know!) and took a guided walk through Central London to listen to some med school drop out prattle on about London's medical history. It wasn't as nearly as gruesome as I'd hoped but interesting nonetheless. The closest we got to true nausea was the of Samuel Pepys drunk on brandy and tied to his dining room table, having his bladder stone removed with blacksmith's tongs via his perforated gooch. Oooh, thinks that make you go WINCE!