Wednesday, December 29, 2004

longing in the tooth

Today featured the joy of going to the dentist for a filling. Never an event to look forward to, it is made far far worse for me by the fact that I have a sexy dentist.

I mean, if there's someone sexy working in your local record shop you can talk about the music they've put on the stereo. A sexy person at the desk in the cinema obviously likes film; again something interesting, a clue to their taste, an opening of conversation. You can pop in every few days, showing that you share the great passion that employs them.

But with a dentist there is only one possible reason to go more frequently than every six months; you have crap teeth. And if the object of your desire is going to have one pernickety stipulation about any prospective lover then, being a dentist, it's surely going to be that they have nice teeth.

Even if it weren't a big deal for them, how would you get into any kind of real exchange? You get a maximum of two short sentences of talk before you have to lie there with your mouth open making gurgling noises. And even those two sentences are inhibited by the chaperone presence of the dentist's assistant, in front of whom the dentist will want to look very professional and not at all flirty.

Despite all of this my dentist managed to make me feel right in my judgement.

'How are you?' she asked when I walked in.

'Great, survived Christmas. Yourself?' I replied.

'Yeah, I'm cool'.

Cool. A dentist who describes her general state as cool. A dentist who wears trainers to work.

Be still my beating heart.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

so hard to beat

It's surprising how deeply John Peel's death has touched the national psyche, and how it continues to affect people and be a topic of conversation. Seems like we all thought he was a hero but somehow also thought the rest of the world thought of him as an old duffer who played bonkers music, often at the wrong speed.

After so much idle recreational grief at celebs dying, and all that sickening tripe about how Reagan was a good guy (let that make us forewarned and forearmed against anything other than vengeant jubilation when Thatcher goes), and how Diana was 'one of us', the aftermath of Peel's death is so very different.

There's something tremendously heartening to know that what he did and what he stood for meant so much to so many. That people really got it, they loved and respected him out of a real understanding of what he was about. I feel like it's been proven that my compatriots are kinder, more intelligent, more humane and more weird than I gave them credit for.

Even excruciating Radio 1 morning DJ Chris Moyles who is a reliably arrogant and boorish egotist - if you imagine Steve Wright as cocaine then Moyles is ketamine and Special Brew consumed on a heavy dirty comedown - was affected. Receiving a text asking if the mourning shouldn't be lifted after several days he simply told the author, on air, 'go screw yourself'.

Most weeks since Peel's death I've had a DJing gig, and I've made a point of putting Teenage Kicks into the record box. Most times I've played it someone's bounded up euphorically shouting 'JOHN PEEEEEEEL!'. Always celebratory, never maudlin.

At Aspire's superb all-nighter on the 11th I played an extended set in the Radio Savage Houndy Beasty room due to the rest of the Beasty boys misjudging their intake somewhat (one of the team urgently needed to dance and stroke people, the other two just sat there for several hours, wide-eyed and exhaling loudly through pursed lips).

After spinning Teenage Kicks I left a gap before starting the next record and shouted 'let's hear it for John Peel!'. It got the best enthusiastic cheer I've heard since the bit in Paul McCartney's Glastonbury set when he asked for a cheer for another John.

Speaking of which, Glastonbury Festival, the cultural barometer of Britain, has renamed the New Bands stage in Peel's honour. Though it was always a bit of an odd name anyway for the place that put on 'new bands' like John Cale, Spiritualized, Ian McNabb and Patti Smith.

Glastonbury's site is also one of the many places that have a touching personal eulogy.

Radio 1 had a commemoration night on 16th December called Keep It Peel, and the BBC have set up a special Peel page full of links and archive material.

Meanwhile here on the funksome streets of Leeds 6, he is commemorated in several ways.

Within a couple of days of his death, a stencil-spray appeared on walls, pavements and roads around LS6.

The front window of a house in Brudenell Street wishes that the simultaneous Bush and Peel news stories were reversed; PEEL FOR PRESIDENT, BUSH FOR UNTIMELY DEATH

And then at the corner of Hyde Park there's the statue of Robert Peel, godfather of the Conservative Party and inventor of the coppers. He's been sporting rather natty England face paint for several months now, but this week his plinth has been amended to suggest that we commemorate an altogether better class of Peel.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

christmas time (is here again)

I'm really looking forward to A Beatles Christmas, a Radio 2 documentary on the 27th about the Beatles Christmas records. Every year they'd get together and arse about, sending the resulting recording out as a flexidisc to members of their fan club.

It's great because, as with something like REM's drunken cover of King of The Road, a sense of humour removes the image of po-facedness and makes an artist's work more accessible; paradoxically, the daftness makes us take them more seriously.

But more than this is something Nick Hornby pointed out in 31 Songs, the best book of writing about music I've ever read. He said the reason we love these out-takes and B-sides and whatnot from great artists is because we've grown up around all the A-sides and classics, and inevitably something is lost in the overexposure.

Nobody under 45 can tell you when they first heard She Loves You. Everyone from my seven year old niece to your gran can sing along with when When I'm 64 or I Saw Her Standing There, even though these are album tracks that were never issued as singles.

There is no other band like it. It's as if foetal development now includes growing limbs, forming a skelton and knowing all the Beatles tunes.

Yet when we hear something not overly familiar we see them there at their prime, genius soaring, and we find something else too; it's fresh to us, we get a glimpse of what it must've been like to feel the impact of them at the time, of why they earned this untouchable iconic status.

As a festive bonus I've added several Christmas oddities to my little MP3s page. There's the Beatles Christmas Time (Is Here Again) from the 1967 fan club flexidisc, The Greedies A Merry Jingle which is a medley of traditional Christmas songs performed by a bizarre Thin Lizzy/Sex Pistols collaboration in 1978, and then there's A Christmas Blow Job too.

Download away!

Just because I'm going to be gallivanting around the nation quaffing ales and eating implausible quantities of food this festive season, it doesn't mean I shall neglect you, my dear reader. The normal frequent service you've come to know, love, trust, respect, demand and rely upon from your friendly Bristling Badger shall be uninterrupted.

Have a good 'un.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

mobile phones are miniature SUVs

Sorry, but today I find myself once more parting company with the mainstream media in thinking there's more important things to discuss than David Blunkett's dick. Again, it's pipped at the post by thoughts of Africa.

The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo means it's been impossible for any large environmental projects to function. As the precious coltan and other minerals lie directly underneath pristine tropical rainforest, the ecological assault has been enormous.

The war in DRC is now creating a competition to see which will be the first great ape we drive to extinction. The Eastern Lowland Gorilla, of whom there are only about 5,000 left, seemed to be the most likely. Its habitiat is being mined, and the apes themselves killed for meat by the miners. But now it seems like the bonobo may well go soon too.

Evolutionarily speaking, it seems like there was one species of ape that got separated by the massive Congo river. Those on one side became chimps, those on the other bonobos. The two species are our closest animal relatives.

The bonobo - also known as the pygmy chimpanzee even though it's the same size as the other chimp - looks like a chimp but a bit more human (smaller ears, longer legs), and the social structure is amazing. In contrast to chimps' aggression, bonobo society is not male dominated nor violent, but characterised by massive amounts of sexual activity that keeps them all very chilled out.

A new survey puts the bonobo population at about 10,000 - a fifth of what had been guessed, and on the brink of unsustainably small.

Callum Rankine, the UK senior international species officer for the WWF who supported the new study, thinks it might all turn out OK. 'The war has had terrible consequences for the people and wildlife of the Congo basin, but with Congo now trying to rebuild socially and economically, the opportunity is there'.

It's not clear what rebuilding he means. His quote was reported in The Guardian on 9th December. That's the same day that Rwandan-backed militias moved in to fight with DRC army troops near the town of Goma, marking a resurgence of the war.

This war is horrific not only in its scale and intensity but also in the specific atrocities committed some of which I actually cannot bear to repeat to people because of how disturbing they are. It continues because we who have the power to stop it choose not to, instead opting to fund it by buying the minerals it produces.

The war is about far more than the minerals. But the minerals escalate and intensify it, and they are the sole reason for the demolition of astonishing and irreplacable species and ecosystems in tropical Africa.

Whilst we have widespread disgust for SUVs (top marks to the people producing bumper stickers saying 'ASK ME ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING' and guerilla-sticking them), we should be having an equally popular revulsion for consumer electronics.

Monday, December 20, 2004

hosanna in excelsis

When I consider how my use of language has evolved in recent times, between them blogging and Buffy have a lot to answer for. I'm sure my articles used to be strident, serious, forthright and focussed.

I've just published Hosanna In Excelsis, a chatty semi-comic piece full of personal anecdote and reference to earlier writings. If that's not a blog post I don't know what is, yet still I feel that as a warm anti-montheistic piece its natural home is on Julian Cope's site.

It's about how the incomprehensible antiquated terminology used in Christian Christmas stuff like carols is really positive, cos if we don't know what the fuck they're on about we can hardly get converted to their religion.

'Lo he abhors not the virgin's womb'?

'Gloria, hosanna in excelsis'?

What the fuck is any of that about?

Go have a shufty if you're interested.

For another article I wrote about Christmas festivities, go here. Till se en avkorta version om skrift i Svensk, klick här!

Saturday, December 18, 2004


Nobody's ever felt at ease with The Krankies. The fact that this married couple choose to dress up the woman as a prepubescent boy unfailingly gives the shudders to anyone who's ever heard of them.

You can't see a picture of them, such as the cover for their latest album Jimmy's Golden Shower, sorry Golden Mile, without imagining them engaged in sexual congress. In fact, they may actually be doing it in the picture.

This week Wee Jimmy Krankie pulled out of a Glasgow production of Jack & The Beanstalk after being hurt falling from the beanstalk.

This isn't the thing that bothered me. The really creepy thing is the report's casual mention of Krankie's age.


This means that, to keep the maths simple, 20 years ago in 1984 at the height of Krankie saturation of British television she was already 37.

What the fuck had she been doing for the previous 20 years of her adult life? Had she always been an unsettling paedotranny?

Or did it only occur to her once she hit middle age, in some mid-life craving for eternal youth?

If so, is it not the sort of thing that should have been a matter for the relevant authorities or at least a self-help group, rather than poisoning the emotional life of a generation via Crackerjack?

Friday, December 17, 2004

there will be continuity

I'm having a hard time joining in the glee some feel watching David Blunkett's demise.

He is, of course, only gone temporarily. As Cecil Parkinson and Peter Mandelson can tell you, just cos you've been caught doing things you always criticised others for and then denied you'd done until faced with irrefutable proof, it doesn't mean your political career is over.

But more to the point, Blunkett was a paranoid and repressive Home Secretary, no worse than his predecessors and surely no worse than his successor. Indeed, Charles Clarke has said in so many words; There will be continuity between David's approach and mine.

So even though Michael Howard swept in a range of repressive laws curtailing the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, Labour surpassed the 1994 Criminal Justice Act with their anti-terrorist legislation. Even though Howard's successor Jack Straw introduced laws making wearing the wrong T-shirt punishable by 12 months in jail, even though he was followed by Blunkett who, the day after he quit, was found to have acted illegally in allowing indefinite internment without trial, Charles Clarke believes we've still not gone far enough.

Such a vast amount of power placed in anyone's hands is going to make them act against the interests of most of the people they supposedly serve. And for some reason, upon being made Home Secretary a politician suddenly veers into a dark and paranoid netherworld, issuing decrees that people should be imprisoned for thoughtcrime and the only solution to anything is harsher and harsher penalties triggered by earlier and smaller misdeeds.

There will be continuity.

Like I said, finding it hard to share the glee. It's only a change of badge. The interest in it is largely based on the titillation of a celebrity sex scandal, the kind of thing that many of those who've reveled in it criticise others for when it's Jordan and Peter Andre.

Gossip is an essential function of human socialising, but please, let's not pretend that when it's a politician it's somehow something serious. The Blunkett gossip gets passed off as news, despite other things going on that warrant far more attention than whether somebody actually did a favour for someone they fancy.

The UN dithers about whether anything should really be done about the genocide in Darfur. We in the EU ignore or, more accurately, aren't told about the way companies from at least five EU countries - including the UK - have been supplying arms to the conflict even though there's an EU embargo.

Person arriving home from a day at Endeavour Resources UK Ltd...

'Have a nice day at work dear?'

'Yeah, great, tied up the deals for the Brazilian handguns and the Ukranian planes for Sudan. Once they get those planes they'll be able to drop barrel-bombs of shrapnel on villages. Only mud huts, the shrapnel goes straight through as if they weren't there so there's nowhere to hide. One day's work but a lifetime's legacy. What's for tea?'

Across Africa, the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has intensified again, unnoticed by pretty much everyone over here except the reliably excellent George Monbiot. The war in DRC is a continuation of the war in Rwanda ten years ago. It's never really stopped.

The driving force - 'the engine of the war' according to the UN - is the fact that the land stands on two-thirds of the world's reserves of coltan, a rare mineral essential for consumer electronics. Our desire for pretend wars on Playstations means there's a real war, the bloodiest on earth since WW2, going on in Africa.

For all his shoot-yerself-in-the-foot poor choice of platform, I can't express it any better than Bono put it at the Labour Party conference:

Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

Because there's no way we can look at Africa - a continent bursting into flames - and if we're honest conclude that it would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else. Anywhere else.

Certainly not here, in Europe. Or America. Or Australia, or Canada. There's just no chance.

You see, deep down, if we really accepted that Africans were equal to us, we would all do more to put the fire out.

But we don't get to hear about that cos, hell, they're only darkies and we want those DRC-mined electronic gadgets for Christmas, and anyway David Blunkett actually had sex and has had to be replaced so the hydra has a new head, and that's the real news.

There will be continuity.

Monday, December 13, 2004

i feel like a pig shat in my head

Northern radical housing co-ops have apocalyptically large parties. Imagine Waco but with everyone having a really really good time. They generally go on for two days, though the record for me is leaving Equinox Co-op on the Tuesday after a party that started on the Saturday.

Last week it was the turn of Cornerstone. Unfortunately, for the Sunday of the Cornerstone party we played the Withnail & I drinking game. I'm not proud of this, but I think it warrants some kind of documenting, if only to serve as a warning to others.

The theory is that you watch Withnail & I and any time either of the two main characters take a drink, you match it. There is the vexed question of what to drink in place of the lighter fluid. After some discussion on a participants email list - including one person saying 'a replacement for lighter fluid? You bunch of pussies' - we got the strongest alcohol intended for human consumption that you can buy in the UK, a 90% Irish poteen.

For several weeks the email list was a way of drawing a veil of comedic bravado over our unease at the scale of the challenge we faced. We taunted and dared each other shamelessly.

One typical exchange:

I'm betting Mal a pint he doesn't even get as far as the car journey OUT to the countryside without passing out

to which Mal replied:

No, no, no....the car journey out is when my trousers come down, the altercation in the tea-shop - maybe - where I vomit, but I'm going for the end credits on this one.

I just spoke to Sensible Tim - he said not only are you all a bunch of soft-livered Northern poo-hole pirates who couldn't hold a couple of alco-pops without soiling yourselves, he also reckoned most of you feckless cheaters would be trying to substitute your ale for water coloured with tea-bags and trying to pour the remains of pints into plant-pots; and that he'd drink you to hell and back and still be standing to piss on you. His words, mind, not mine.

You see where this was heading don't you; straight into the sort of bloody minded competitiveness in which nobody can be said to really win.

Of course, if you are to attempt a feat of endurance like the Withnail game, you should really get in training and be in robust physical health. As opposed to being a bunch of munters who've been up all night on home made absinthe and then persuaded a pub to open twenty minutes early in order to carry on. Those who partook of the 'warm up drinking' unsurprisingly found it a handicap to their performance in the game.

Incidentally, the game also involves drinking even more than some of the online listings say. The bottle swigged from at Uncle Monty's isn't sherry, it's Haig whisky (the sherry's poured from a decanter). It's the same bottle that Withnail drinks in the car and at the cottage, with the clear implication he nicked it from Monty's. An excellent touch that I'd not spotted in dozens of viewings. In previous viewings I'd been watching the actors rather than the bottles.

What we didn't realise was that it isn't a game in the traditional sense that a group of people compete and some finish. It is in fact a springboard into oblivion.

The only people who were still conscious at the end of the film were people who had cheated (spookily enough Mal's guess at plant pots was entirely accurate, as was the suspicion that he'd pass out around the journey to the countryside). And none of the finishers can remember being the ones who finished.

If we participants go by what we personally remember, we had a really great time. Unfortunately, there were numerous sober onlookers who describe a scene of primal punk-festival scale pointless aggression, like rabid dogs and angry toddlers on crack.

From speaking to everyone, Ben compiled this list of events as we understand them:

Until 3.30, several contestants engage in some 'warm up drinking'. Mal phones up Merrick to jib out, but permission is denied.

3.30 - the game begins. The contestants are: Ben, Nicola, Andy, Merrick, Mal, Jacky, Hayley, Malc, Tabs, Nat and Sasha.

We drink sherry and a bowl of coffee.

After several minutes without a drink there are complaints that the challenge is 'too easy' and a 'push over'.

Withnail drinks lighter fuel. We drink poteen closely followed by a double gin and some cider with ice.

Sacha vomits down her top but is drinking again within seconds.

Several participants stand on one leg to prove that they can.

Mal passes out. No-one notices as he does so sitting up and is slyly wearing shades.

Mal slumps forward. People notice and he is woken up and forced to have another drink.

Mal vomits into a bucket for about fifteen minutes. He passes out again and is buried in bottles, clothes and other debris.

We are about 30 minutes into the film.

Mal's Nottingham compatriots are offered the chance to take over from him with a huge headstart of sobriety. True to the Nottinghamshire blackleg spirit that broke
the miners strike, they all refuse. Notts are out of the game, provoking inordinate taunting including lengthy and lurid allegations of sexual impropriety with Ian McGregor.

Sasha bites Ben and then Andy. Four days later both victims still bear clearly defined teeth marks.

Several people attempt to stand up to prove that they can. Within seconds they all fall on top of Mal.

Sasha repeatedly kicks Mal in the soles of his bare feet with her boots. When told to stop by a sober onlooker she slurs 'it's alright, it's Mal'.

We run out of spirits and Annwen is sent to buy more.

Ben drunkenly boasts that no-one has noticed him cheating, thus defeating the purpose of cheating.

Nat bites Susan's leg and refuses to apologise or move away. An argument ensues. Susan leaves to find some arnica as she is in some pain.

Various arguments break out regarding the film and what we should be drinking. Sober onlookers will later describe the mood as 'dark', 'ugly' and 'aggressive'.

Andy headbutts Yvonna three times, once by accident, twice on purpose. He is later caught by Cath urinating in the sink.

Merrick breaks a glass on the unconscious Mal's leg. Bizarrely neither of them sustains any cuts.

Annwen fastforwards the film for the good of us all. None of us notice.

Merrick accidental hits rewind instead of pause. While he is pouring drinks Annwen points this out to him and is met with a barrage of abuse. When she tells him to fuck off Merrick says 'alright, I will fuck off', picks up as much booze as he can carry and storms out of the room. On the way he spills a full bottle of wine over Tabs who is lying on the floor. He makes it as far as the bottom of the stairs (two metres away) where he passes out.

The game descends into chaos. Several participants pass out. Withnail and I are trying to order cake and fine wine in the Penrith tea rooms.

We carry on drinking haphazardly but no-one really knows what is going on.

The camberwell carrot makes its appearance in the film. We light our pre-rolled one and pass it round. Malc smokes nearly all of it.

Five minutes later Malc looks up and demands to know who has smoked it all as he didn't get any.

The film ends with a victory photograph of those still conscious. They are: Tabs, Jacky, Ben, Nicola and Malc (conscious but horizontal).

Over the next 8 or 9 hours:

Andy re-appears and Hayley wrestles him to the floor, damaging his wrist and ribs in the process. It is four days before Andy finds breathing to be no longer painful.

An ambulance is called for Carlo who has been used as a pot plant and passed drinks throughout the film by Nicola and Malc.

Malc falls head over heels down the stairs.

Christine (a new resident) comes home to find three people having sex in her bed.

Merrick, who is still lying on Andy's bed with vomit in his hair - believed to be his own - growls 'fuck off' to everyone who goes to see if he's alright.

Ben, who is lying on the sofa with Yvonna, tells her that it is 'almost certain' that no-one would notice if they had sex there.

Nat wakes up on the floor and says 'hey, I thought we were meant to be doing the Withnail challenge'.

'Yeah' says Jacky, 'what happened to that?'

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

bland aid

Those of us who remember 1984 feel our age as kids buying the Band Aid 20 single Do They Know It's Christmas tell journalists they don't know who Bob Geldof is.

Then, as now, I think it's a bit weird that we have extremely rich pop stars asking that we use unsustainable consumerism to help people.

Some people have been buying copies then destroying them in novel and amusing ways.

But beyond the short life of the chuckle it produces it is, of course, appallingly wasteful to be destroying resources for a laugh in oder to help those who haven't even got food.

CDs are made of unbiodegradable plastic, they will still be around many millennia from now. That plastic is derived from oil. Oil reserves shrink every day and demand grows. When - as will certainly happen well within two decades, and probably within one - the demand outstrips supply, oil prices will skyrocket and our whole way of life, utterly dependent on oil, will crumble.

Our squandering of it on, say, the twenty five million carrier bags we get through weekly in the UK will suddenly be seen for what it is, an obscene waste. The same will apply to buying multiple copies of a CD just to burn it.

In the shorter term, buying a CD of the single is financially inefficient too - chunks of the money go to the pressing plants, distributors and others, rather than the people we're wanting to help.

I've heard numerous people suggesting that people should donate to a relevant charity without buying the single and cut out the middle man. This does seem far wiser, although it's usually come from people slagging off the whole Band Aid idea, saying that we shouldn't help a cause just cos a pop star wants us to.

I remember that sort of talk abounded at the time of the first Band Aid.

The year after Live Aid Chumbawamba released an album entitled Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records.

It made me want to release an album called Cynical Sneering At Pictures Of Starving Children Selling Records Also Sells Records, Only No Lives Get Saved By That.

The plain fact is that for a lot of us, the publicity thing is what it takes. Even those of us who do cut out the middle man are using Band Aid as a prompt and we'd probably not have thought about it if there hadn't been those preening pop statrs moving the issue up our agenda.

Band Aid and Live Aid were magnificent events, not because of the music (anyone actually want to hear the Thompson Twins doing Revolution ever again?), but for the message they sent out.

Right slap bang in the middle of the supposedly selfish and greed-fuelled 80s they said that celebrity and even music are not the be-all and end-all, that there are things far more important. Furthermore, they said that each of us has the power to make a difference on those things that are important.

Though I always shuddered at the self-congratulation of many of those involved, nonetheless I sided with them and against the bard Morrissey when he slagged it off. In his attack he said that it was ludicrous to say the fate of starving people comes down to an eleven year old girl in Wigan buying a record.

It certainly is ludicrous. It's also true. People are starving to death because of the lack of food that could be bought with the profits made from buying a single.

It called on a deeper humanity in us 80s kids, and we responded. The impact was huge on the psyche of those of us old enough to love pop music but still young enough not to be cynical, and I still see its repercussions now. I know for a fact that it was an inspiration for me to get plugged in and busy in the world. As a starting point, a kick up the arse, something to inspire a thirst for justice in teenagers, it was magnificent.

I hope and expect Band Aid 20 will do the same. I don't see anything else around that puts such motivations in the face of today's adolescents.

And, of course, the impact of the original Band Aid was huge in more quantifiable direct and practical ways. There are people right this second drinking clean water from wells dug with Band Aid money. Anyone who wants to slag it off should go and explain to those people why they shouldn't have their village well.

The pop stars are just doing it for the publicity - yeah, sure; Radiohead, Coldplay, Dido and and Paul McCartney so need the publicity. And for the lesser Pop Idolesque runts, even if they are doing it as a career move, so what? If someone's drowning would you grab the arm of the person about to throw a lifebelt and say 'hang on, I don't think your motives are pure enough'?

As Noah Vale said over at the Head Heritage message board;

Dear starving people,

you'll have to starve some more until we can find some earnest people to raise money to help you. The money we have raised came from Will Young & we know how much you hate him.

Why don't the pop stars give their own money instead? - details do leak out that people like Bono and McCartney are constantly giving on a colossal scale, and it's a fair bet it's true of others too. But if they went round trumpeting it can you imagine how that would look? And what, people are not supposed to encourage others to give cos there's someone richer?

People are just buying it to salve their conscience, thinking that's all they need to do - So there are two types of donor - those who are prompted by big publicity drives and think that's enough, and those who give and then go on to give more and do more than just give money.

Whilst I'd agree that we need more people in the second group, I don't see that something like Band Aid, which gets both groups to donate, can be a bad thing. There would be less activity if it didn't happen, and less people getting interested in the issues and realising that just buying the record isn't enough.

The tune's a pile of cack, though - It's a christmas song, so it being a pile of cack is hardly a surprise. Despite some excellent piano work form Thom Yorke, the Bland Aid nickname is well deserved. But actually, Do They Know It's Christmas is a smaller volume of cack than most; if you don't believe me go back and check Cliff Richard's Millennium Prayer or see if you can get through a single listening of Neil Diamond's Christmas Album - a ripe choice for a gag about 'a christmas turkey' if ever there was one.

That Christmas element is a tad culturally inappropriate - The Christmas reference is uncomfortable for me too. We have a tendency to see western social ideas as universal, or at least better and desirable. There's a sliver of that in the song.

But I think there's also more than a sliver of truth in the argument put to me by Jim Bliss that the song is aimed at us, people who have a christmas tradition, asking that we spread that spirit. It's tapping into the stuff about peace and goodwill, it's saying that we should actually do something on that front. It takes a strange and overly literalist mind to think it's advocating exporting missionaries and tinsel.

It's not going to solve anything long-term, globalisation and western power are at the root of much of it - the project has never claimed to solve it. Indeed, Geldof went with the initially unpopular name Band Aid precisely because it needs to be made crystal clear every time we invoke it that the project is a short-term temporary measure.

The need for long term political solutions has never meant short term charity is pointless.

This time around they're openly assaulting the debt and the trade rules that cause much of the problem, they're using the platform Band Aid provides to stimulate something that will change things long term.

In the meantime, food and clean water are available to those who wouldn't otherwise get it. If I were starving I'd want long-term solutions too; but any food offered now from whatever source would be gratefully received, and I'd despise the well-fed cynics who would withhold it from me because they don't like the donor.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

they're grrrreat when you're bonced

Rather like the built-in failsafe of erroneously buying a 24-inch dildo facemask, I love the way intoxicants have inbuilt cut-offs.

With alcohol, the more drunk you become the less capable you are of walking to the bar or speaking coherently enough to ask for more.

Ecstasy gives erectile dysfunction for up to 24 hours, by which time your judgement is no longer overwhelmed by tactile enthusiasm and you can pre-check if you actually do want to be fucking the old mate/random person you’ve been tongue wrestling all night.

And then cannabis. As Welsh band - and really, you're in a 70s rock band, imagine having the gall to call yourselves this - Man said in one of their many very very long tracks, 'I like marijuana because it gets me stoned'.

You can't fault the explanation and reasoning with that one, can you?

The intrinsic failsafe with cannabis is that the stronger your urge to eat absolutely everything ever, the harder it is to actually get off the sofa and do anything about it.

This effect – cannabinoids fucking about with your body’s mechanisms of appetite – is a scientifically proven fact. Although this is hardly news to those who have used cannabis, nor to the people who’ve made the new adverts for Kellogg's Frosties aimed at adults who find even elementary items like instant noodles too long-winded and fiddly to make.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s independently arrived at the conclusion that cornflakes provide the stoner with the ideal balance of tasting like real food, being around in whatever quantity desired without needing a special expedition to the shop, and being swift and uncomplicated to prepare.

Indeed, I can be certain. Twenty-odd years ago there was a Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch featuring someone single-mindedly troughing cornflakes non-stop for 30 seconds followed by a voiceover, ‘…that was a party political broadcast on behalf of the Legalise Cannabis Campaign’

So it’s no surprise that, as Angus Watson observed in a hilarious and elegantly constructed piece in the Guardian, Frosties aren’t just advertised on Saturday mornings by showing kids eating them, but now there’s the post-watershed ad aimed at adults:
Ever been unemployed, or a student? If so, you'll be familiar with the flood of guilt when the break in the middle of the afternoon film announces that it's sponsored by E-Z Hobble arthritis cream, and all the ads are for incontinence pants or fibre drinks to make you regular (in which a sharp-suited but uncomfortable-looking woman sips something orange at home. Later she sashays through the office, smiling proudly).

The point is, adverts are aimed at the group that should be watching TV at that time. So it used to be that Frosties would advertise their cereal during children's TV. After mentioning that Frosties were grrrrreat, Tony the tiger would do something pertinently impressive, like skateboarding.

But things have changed. There's a new, Tonyless Frosties advert that shows only after 9pm: a young man arrives home, track-suited and muddy. He announces that he's starving and sets about cooking instant noodles. Frustrated by the long preparation time, he eats the television. His flatmate, nonchalantly looking on with a bowl of Frosties in hand, says: "Grab Kellogg's Frosties instead - ready when you are."

In an associated move, Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, usually associated with surreptitious bowlfuls in business hotels, are currently sponsoring The Frank Skinner Show.

Sam Fulton, Kellogg's UK PR manager, says research has shown that people, particularly young men, often eat Frosties in the evening "due to a combination of taste, satisfaction and convenience". Hence the new ads.

Coincidentally, scientists have found that after inhalation of marijuana smoke, molecules called cannabinoids interfere with the operation of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin. That is to say, when you get stoned, it's now scientifically proven that you get "the munchies".

You can cook instant noodles in five minutes, or more quickly by adding boiling water. The munchies is about the only situation when five minutes is too long to wait for food. I have seen stoned people enjoy the "taste, satisfaction and convenience" of half-frozen chips smothered with rancid mayonnaise.

So good on Frosties for pointing out to potheads that Frosties, as well as tasting grrrreat, can be ready pretty much immediately. Compared with what they might otherwise eat, Frosties are a healthy option - one that may stop them needing the uncomfortable-looking woman's drink for a few years yet.