Category Archives: random

Cambridge gets typical mention in the press

…As a home of freaks and weirdos, of course! Grauniad blogger Abby O’Reilly, writing about being accosted by men in the street, gives us a heartwarming story:

Sometimes it’s humorous, not threatening, and the perpetrator elicits a certain amount of pity. Once when sat on a bench in Cambridge a man cycled up next to me, while impressively holding a can of Carling and a cigarette. He sat beside me. “I had to stop darling, you caught my eye.” I felt like I was on the set of some badly-made-for-TV romantic comedy. He then proceeded to tell me how much he liked “big women” and asked if he could take a picture of me using his camera phone. I refused. He had a strong Cambridgeshire accent, and noticing the lilt and intonation of my own Welsh lull continued: “You sound clever for a Welsh girl. People keep telling me I’m a cockney, but I tell ‘em, I’ve never been to Cornwall in my life.”

It’s the riding a bike with a beer can and a cigarette that gets me. Them’s the kind of skills you can only get in my town.

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The new best Christmas song ever?

Amid all the furore about “Fairytale of New York” being censored on Radio 1, it’s worth mentioning that The Pogues’ seasonal classic has long been a decent stand-by for those of us who loathe Wham, can’t stand Slade, and think that Wizzard should function as a warning from history. Yes, for the unseasonal trendy who dislikes Christmas pop songs with a passion, “Fairytale” has been the Christmas song it’s OK to like. Since its release, however, there have been previous few other contenders for the post. But now, The Killers have stepped forward to save the day with their new single, “Don’t Shoot Me Santa.” 

This bizarre but brilliant rock’n’roll number is made even more hilarious with the insane video, which is less It’s A Wonderful Life and more Natural Born Killers. Frontman Brandon Flowers is tied up with tinsel, held hostage by a desert-dwelling, redneck psycho Santa who spends most of the video digging Flowers’ grave. (Maybe the intended execution is punishment for inflicting the turd that was “Sam’s Town” on the listening public.) Add in Arrested Development-style cutaways, terrible Christmas jumpers and puppet theatre, and you have the kind of spectacle that would usually be a nightmare induced by seasonal overindulgence.

Save Christmas from rubbish pop songs and enjoy this inspired lunacy. Also, further satisfy your bad Santa needs and feed your inner miserablist simultaneously with Malcolm Middleton’s “We’re All Going To Die.”

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Useless trivia (an occasional series)

I read a couple of weeks ago that singer-songwriter Jack Peñate (who delivered a stomring performace at Leeds Met last Saturday) is the grandson of author Mervyn Peake, writer of the Gormenghast books. According to Wikipeeja, not always reliable but filled with pop culture-related stuff, it’s true. There is literally nothing to connect the Gothic, surreal prose of Peake and Peñate’s bouncy ska and skiffle-influenced pop, except the fact I rather like them both.

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Big words in newspaper shock

Today I did something I’ve never done before. I found a word in a newspaper I had to look up in the dictionary. (From this, you can obviously tell blogging has hit a low patch.)

David Marquand uses “tergiversations” in a splendid demolition of Anthony Seldon’s shameless grovelling to Blair. Turns out it means “use ambiguous or evasive language” or “change one’s loyalties” – Marquand handily includes the link in his piece. I like to think that he didn’t just randomly pluck it from the thesaurus, but was saving the word for something special, and slipped it in close to Christmas when nobody really reads the papers anyway.

To yet more verbosity, in a piece about blogs from the Wall Street Journal opinion page. While the place is usually a haven for barkingly extreme right-wingers, this article is remarkably even-handed. I did like his assertion that instant response, as a condition of blogging, “is also a coagulant for orthodoxies”. What a splendid put-down. I almost feel like using it here. Which would you prefer: “Moore Than This: A coagulent for orthodoxies” or a line from an Elvis Costello song?

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Badly thought-out headline of the week


Umm, I think the word “myth” might well give you a clue on that one…

I know, I know, I’m pedantic and sarky. But if a I was a sub-editor/layout designer, even for a publication that’s given away free on trains, I’d have a bit more pride in my work.

[N.B. The picture next to the headline is of Jordan, which concerns a (debunked) urban myth about silicone implants exploding at high altidues. Just as well – I didn’t know if I’d be able to fly again with these spectualar new breasts of mine.]

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The Pun That Got Away

In my Renaissance Literature seminar, I was listening to one of my classmates talk about how women were represented in the literature of the time. She mentioned how women who attempted to learn and acquire knowledge for themselves were at that time regarded as unnatural and “hermaphroditic”. I was about to ask if she meant “androgynous”, but then realised I couldn’t open my mouth, because if I did, I’d make some awful joke about “boning up.”

Somehow, I managed not to blurt out anything, and the seminar finished with everyone none the wiser that I am in fact a childish idiot.

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Baggy trousers – not just for Madness

From newly-discovered PingMag (The Tokyo-based magazine about “Design and Making Things”), a piece on Japanese construction worker fashion. During my time in Japan, I would see construction and maintenance crews everywhere, all wearng much the same regalia – hard hats, overalls, very wide, baggy trousers and tabi (Japanese two-toed shoes). I was intruiged by the baggy trousers most of all, as I’d have thought they would get in the way. But this article says otherwise:

There are various theories why the lower part under the knee is pumped up like a balloon. The main reason, however, seems to be a simple one: the baggy pants make it easy to move, easy to bend, stretch and stride.

Other explanations can be, that when working on very narrow scaffoldings high up in the air, it is good to have some kind of sensor: the balloon part of your trousers touches obstacles before your legs do, which acts as kind of a warning system without necessarily having to look down. Besides, they can measure the intensity of the wind and the bagginess prevents the fabric from clinging to your leg even when you are sweating. It also works as a cushion when you drop spiky tools onto your body.

Right below the pumped up part, the trousers become narrow again in order to tighten up your calves. Why? Pressing the calves encourages blood circulation and helps you to work longer and to stand for hours without your feet swelling up.

As soomeone who grew up in Cambridge during the whole baggy skate pants craze, I feel weirdly reassured that the fashion survives somewhere.

(Incidentally, I go back to Leeds on the weekend. Not much to say about that at the moment.)

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