Sunday, 31 May 2009

On 'the Best Film Ever Made'

Bit unlikely, isn't it, 'Citizen' Kane having an incinerator right there in his antiques warehouse?

You'd think the insurers'd have a couple of questions...

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Best On-line Ad, 2009

Homosexuality Forgiven
God Welcomes the Gays With His New Bible
Word for word. It is not, so far as I can tell, a spoof.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Why I love the Lonely Planet (Egypt)

On Mt. Sinai:

If you decide to try a camel,* it's easier on the anatomy (especially if you're male) to ride up the mountain, rather than down.
On the Libyan border-crossing:

The border crossing point at Amsaad, just north of Halfaya Pass, is open 24 hours (sometimes even in a row).
* Shame on you...

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Vagina Textologues

My fellow amnesiac, who is currently on his way to Egypt "to hunt Almazsy", sent me the following text this morning:
"Dawg, Indie p29, Deborah Orr on 'Antichrist'. Fucking spectacular. Am woman: must refer to vagina..."
Suitably intrigued, I pulled the Indy up on my laptop, and was quickly slapped in the face by the following paras:
Our girded vaginas, valued sexually for their tightness, used to the enjoyment of penetration, widen without the bidding of our minds to expel our babies in a physical experience that is a reversal of sexual intercourse.

Our erogenous breasts become nurturing mammaries when we feed our babies, and the dual function can feel deeply confusing. Male genitals, whether fertilising or not, perform the same sexual functions, relay the same physical sensations, whether they create children or they don't. It's pointless to suggest that women's deepest notions of the division between sex and procreation are not far less tidy than men's.
Spectacular indeed, not least in the use of the word 'girded'. I was also taken by Orr's ("What a name!") neat description of Lars von Trier: "The guy is probably a jerk. But since I don't have breakfast with him every morning, I don't care."

Click here to munch on the full taco.

Entering a world of Paine

Nice article on the man of rights, from History Today.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Laziness personified

I have just eaten cold egg-on-toast because the bin was too full for me to throw it away.

"I learned a new word today, Basie...." - 10

So as to ensure that our Bank Holiday Weekend wasn't a wholly unproductive blowout, some friends and I decided to do our bit for humanity by adding to the urban lexicon. Je m'appelle Dom Todger.


Bone China

Mary Poppins (Ours is currently definition 7, so scroll down)

(Thanks to RN, KB and DD)

Remuneration UPDATE

Cyrano: When I have made a line that sings itself
So that I love the sound of it--I pay
Myself a hundred times.
- Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac [trans. Brian Hooker]

(Thanks to Mrs. Dee Dee Cusack)

Holey cast-iron shapes, Batman!

Did you know that manhole covers are circular (or triangular-ish, if you live in 'Frisco) so that clumsy sanitation workers can't drop them on their colleagues?

It's true.

The reason is that the square has the annoying property that the diameter from one corner to the other is bigger than the diameter halfway along an edge. This means that if you put the square manhole [cover] on its side, it is very easy to drop the square cover down the manhole.
[Thanks to Marcus du Sautoy, The Times.]

Festival essential

Shit Box

(Thanks to WC, who might buy one for Glasto)

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Demi Moore

wears designer sunglasses in the dentist's chair.

(Thanks to RN)

Hang on

Does it matter that she was "pretty"?

UPDATE: Hmmm... I see Yahoo News removed the word "pretty" from the opening sentence of their story, perhaps thanks to this blog's world famous Quality Journalism tag? We do what we can, when we can be bothered.

Thought for the day

In the [American] colonies, prisoners were fed lobster. They got so tired of lobster all the time there were riots in the prisons.

(Thanks to Deedee)

"What can we learn from Ancient Egypt?"

One of many questions put to interview candidates from 2005-8, according to recent data published by Oxbridge Applications.

Sample answers should include: "How to get an Egyptology degree (Oxon.)."

NB There are, of course, limits to the usefulness of some subjects.

Sound (advice) of the summer

4. If you have a party, invite as many people as possible: bodies generally absorb more sound than they manage to make.
- Wired

Certainly worth putting to the test!


Asterisking awesome!

Sports Journalism Awards 2009

"In a small part of the North-East of this country, half the people are in tears and the other half rejoicing as though Mafeking [sic.] had just been relieved, and all because someone steered a pig's bladder through some upright sticks over the weekend."
- my father, on football.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Saturday, 23 May 2009

That's me told

After a particularly petty debate at the Royal Geographical Society I mentioned to my mother that I was considering writing a 5000-word humdinger on 'Risk-takers vs. Risk-assessors', perhaps for The New Yorker.

The only problem, I admitted, was that it would require me to reject, publicly, the Chairman's declaration of Chatham House Rules.

"Careful," she said. "You don't want to get a reputation."


Wikipedia in Xhosa. Seriously.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Headline of the week so far

They Can't Shoot Sausage, Can They?

You know it's the worst day ever when

thanks to your evil sister, you've got the Blossom theme tune stuck in your head.


My mother is genuinely convinced that my book collection is on the verge of causing major structural damage to the house.

So, today, she has me tidying my room.

I am 27.

A successful days' writing

is when you've cunningly sneaked a reference to Porkins into your novel.

Thought for the day

Hindsight is Twenty20, and I much prefer a good Test.

Thought for the night

"Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the sort of person who invents the dimmer-switch."

Last night

my sister hit on McLovin in Waterats.

That is all.

UPDATE: No it isn't. I can't help noticing that McLovin's Wiki entry includes a reference to teabagging. Clearly I'm not doing my job as an older brother.

If there's one thing that this blog offers

(and that is hugely debatable) it's really good music with the very best lyrics:

(Thanks to WC)

Dial away

Volume 6 of Five Dials hits the e-shelves in a laptop near you.

Pick up your copy here, gratis.

"I learned a new word today, Basie...." - 9

legerdemain, n. sleight of hand

milquetoast, n. a feeble person, or push-over. From a character in HT Webster's The Timid Soul comic-strip, Caspar Milquetoast.


[Jimmy] Wales' first wife, Pam, was quoted in a September 2008 W magazine article as saying that Wales discouraged her from pursuing a nursing degree when they were married, out of a belief that altruism was evil.
- from the Wikipedia founder's own Wikipedia entry.


Some thoughts from Daniel Soar, in The London Review of Books.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Thought for a bad day

If art is the tip of the iceberg
I'm the part sinking below.
- Lou Reed/John Cale, Smalltown

Ian Martin

... has a job as a swearing coach.



"Why is everyone so fucking dumb in this part of the country?! It's shocking how many people are regressing to the ape... and that's doing the ape an injustice."
- KJW, location unknown.

This week's weird publicity e-mail

Ralph Gibson, Nude

Best of British

Pensioner climbs Everest.

Pearls before swine flu

From a friend of a friend who found himself cruelly stigmatised by his employer after a chance meeting with 'the wrong sort' of people (verbatim - I make no apology for shit spelling, random application of capital letters, or any other literary solecisms):

Sent: 01 May 2009 12:05
To: -----
Subject: Advice on Swine Flu
Importance: High

Dear All

As most of you know Donn has told you that on Wednesday he was in the company of the housemates of the Person from Newcastle who has contracted Swine Flu.

I have taken advice from my GP and also the NHS Direct helpline. They have advised the following :

There is no immediate risk to anyone in the Company as Donn is not presenting any of the symptoms – (I will list what to look for below).


Everyone at the minute should be practicing excellent hygiene basics. Use tissues when sneezing and coughing – dispose of tissues immediately, then wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.

The virus is spread through droplets from a cough or sneeze. The germs can live on a
hard surface for up to 24 hours.

These basic rules will help prevent the spread of the virus.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU PRESENT ANY OF THE FOLLOWING SYMPTOMS (if you think that you may have been in contact with someone who has swine flu)

Aching muscles
Runny nose, sneezing, coughing
Sore throat
Vomiting and/or diahhorea
Any kind of flu like symptoms


Isolate yourself from other people (ie stay at home)

Contact your GP or NHS Direct (do NOT go to the surgery or walk in Clinic). They will arrange for you to have blood tests if they think it possible that you may have contracted the virus and will give you the appropriate dosage of Tami Flu

If you have been in contact with anyone with Swine Flu it may take up to 7 days for you to present with any of the symptoms.

If anyone has any queries please do not hesitate to contact me. I have been advised that the best web site with the up to date information is


[Thanks to KJW]

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


Blogs like this one are bad enough, but Facebook has made every self-obsessed oik think that all their shit (not to mention their shit-covered dirty laundry) is worth washing in public.

In some cases, literally. I woke up this morning to discover that someone I used to know in America has the runs.

I've been racking my brains, but I cannot think of one good reason why I'd want to know this. I also can't think of one good reason why she would think I would want to know this. Although, I promise, if there are any other squit-related status updates, I will post them here. My money's on, " still shooting out of both ends. Her shitter is blocked to the brim and she's now squitting into her boyfriend's baseball glove."

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

As soon as I get $20

I'm going to invest it wisely.

BS generator of the day so far

And amazingly, it's not my fellow amnesiac.

The Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator
My (Art School attending) bird typed in her birthdate (hint: it's the mid-80s! Oh, yeah!) and got this response:
"I find this work menacing/playful because of the way the sublime beauty of the sexy fish spatially undermines the inherent overspecificity. "
She now plans to drop the line into her thesis on Penis Envy in Florentine Sculpture.

Writing-related quote of the day so far

"He has a most bewitching pencil."
- Joseph Holden Pott, "An Essay on Landscape Painting," circa 1782, in reference to one PJ de Loutherbourg (really).

(Thanks to Deedee)

Nephew of Sam: essential reading

Best of Frontline magazine.
Top stuff from my (dad's) literary mate, Seffrican commentator and owner of some of the Rainbow Nation's most rainbow shirts, Denis Beckett.

Also a couple of free short books: The Road Stops At Nowhere and White Man Walking.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Observation of the day

The handbrake on a Porsche 911 sounds like a fart when Rob Lowe pulls on it.

If you don't believe me, skip forward 8 mins 30 secs into this clip:

Death to editors*

My literary day so far:

1) Conversation with a travel editor.

"I wondered if you would be interested in a piece on the alternative, non-Tutakhamun side of travel in Egypt."

"Very interested. But I can't pay you a penny."
2) A newspaper for whom I have written some fifty times on matters of security and conflict won't take a piece warning that Colombo may soon be the focus of increasing terrorist attacks unless I can find 'an expert' who'll say that I'm right.

3) The editor of a paper for whom I write regularly on arts matters won't make a ruling on a feature - for the main pages - while his arts editor is away. By the time the arts editor returns, needless to say, the story will be dead.

Death to editors!

* This was going to be one of my Titles Gone Begging; but now I've decided to save it for a volume of collected journalism instead.

Dr Mark Ritchie

When I was 9, my best mate's dad was an entomologist.

This didn't do anything to ignite a passion for insects.

But it did kick off a life-long interest in the origins of words.

Swine flu goes fabulous

The big bad wolf said "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down."

And the little pig said "Fuck off, or I will sneeze on you."
- Philip Michael Smedmor.


Has anyone else noticed how, now that everyone in the House of Commons has been caught fiddling the expenses, we're no longer on the brink of a swine flu apocalypse?

Quintessential reading

Suzanne Menghraj, on Pierre Bayard, in Guernica.

Me, on Pierre Bayard, in The Oxford Times.

Sunday, 17 May 2009


Today I received an e-mail entitled

push back?
I wasn't sure how to take it.

(Worse, it wasn't even spam.)

Constant Re-Frayn

My positively final appearance - in a championship bout - against Michael Frayn.

Paul Crouch: never confused (never outgunned)

[Thanks to KJW]


I didn't need to hear about Penetrating Wagner's Ring so much as twice before I knew I'd one day lay my hands on it.

Friday, 15 May 2009


Studies show that readers may need to hear or read about a book as many as seven times before deciding to purchase it.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Last weekend


Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Amnesiac Texts IV

Dom: So, did you pass out twice?

ASH: Nah. I was looking for an excuse to avoide some skanky club (not to mention getting stuck in town at 3am), so when my girlfriend got knocked off her bike I saw my chance and went home.

The silence of the lambswool

Dealing with knitwear is a dangerous pastime.

This morning, I nearly put my (beringed) left hand through Caffe Nero's plate-glass; I punch the lightshade in my bedroom at least once a month (this is more to do with the randomness of where I happen to be standing than anything else); and in Sri Lanka, once, I nearly lost a finger when I reached through my sleeve and put my right hand into the ceiling fan.

It is worth remembering that Agamemnon's irrascible wife gave him a sewn-up shirt (literally: she stitched him up) and then hacked his head off with an axe.

Lunch with FitzHigham

"Soho is kind of the office. There's no point going into town and going to a
strip club. That's what we do when we're at work."
- Tim FitzHigham, discussing plans for his stag night.

Lost and found out

Circular from the offices of a London architecture firm:

Condoms and lubricant (Unused) found in IT. Collect if they belong to you.

You can pick them up in the strictest of confidence. (promise)


Pretty much the best way to spend five minutes I can think of

(outside of the bedroom, or the shoe closet, or the backseat, or the loos on an airplane, or wherever):

Tidbit: I was eleven years-old when I first saw this (after bunking school). Since that day, I have never looked forward.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Congratulations to my fellow amnesiac

And by way of a gift, I present the following quote, from F. Scott Fitzgerald's story, The Offshore Pirate (part of the Flappers and Philosophers series - ahem):
After all, he was merely playing the role of the eternal monkey, a sort of sublimated chorus man.
In the immortal words of Sister Souljah: Good luck brother. Show 'em what you got.*

Peace for 2010, baby.

*Actually, come to think of it, you've probably already shown them what you've got - in the showers.

(With thanks to Deedee for forcing the Fitz story on me.)

Question of the day

HOW is this possible?
Dylan unnoticed on Beatles tour

(Spectacularly fine) Thought for the day

"Unfortunately, there's a fine line between fiction and nonfiction and I think I snorted it in 1979."
- Kinky Friedman

The world of work

and why we avoid it:
Minimum wage to rise by 7p an hour


[Thanks to PC]

Quote of the day

"Too much drinking goes on in this country. Too many people are not happy unless they have had a drink."
- Harry Redknapp (!?!)

Irony swinory

I woke up this morning to find the NHS information leaflet on swine flu awaiting my urgent attention.

I went to pick it up, but hesitated, not wanting to touch it, just in case.

I eventually picked it up with an oven glove, after retrieving my bacon-stuffed croissant from the oven.

Passing Out

My parade boots

... look nothing like this.

Bank statement

NatWest are a bunch of *u***.

Monday, 11 May 2009

My fellow amnesiac

is passing out tomorrow.

Twice, I expect.

From the bowels of the British Library

I receive the following message:
...there is a man here that, no joke, looks just like Daniel Day Lewis' character from "There Will Be Blood." I appreciate that you did not see it [this is true - SHAME], but just google image it and you will get the idea. He has the beard, the hair, the CLOTHES--where do you get clothes that reveal an interest in early pioneering? Do you think you can google "frontier threads"? Not sure what books he is reading but he appears to have come in here "for fun", as he has no notebooks or writing implements. I have stacked my books (11 today) so that I can sneak peeks without seeming too intrusive...

There are some real loonies in here. Including the blonde girl who appears to be eating her own hair...
(Thanks to RN. And get the hell outta there, girl!)

Thought for the day

I'm dying for some action
I'm sick of sitting round here trying to write this book
I need a love reaction
Come on now baby give me just one look.
- Bruce Springsteen, Dancing in the Dark

(Thanks to Jack. Great minds think alike. And so do ours.)

Saturday, 9 May 2009

One day

... I will spend too long looking at my stacks of unread books, and kill myself.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The limits of satire

Love reading?

Good man, yerself!

Ian Brown

... not as stupid as he looks.

"People like that you've got to listen to. Not people who scream and shout from fifteen to twenty-two and then stop...

You've got to find people with similar attitudes, and you've got to stick with them and watch each other's backs. There's so much shit being put out, lowest common denominator garbage on all levels, that I do believe people can only take so much."
- from Simon Reynolds' Bring The Noise

Flatteries, flatteries...

"I actually like that you're not a particularly nice person."
- Herself

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Do yourself a favour...

and come to the St. John's Church gig on the 28th. I saw Will and Dylan perform their Stravinsky duo last night at Cafe Oto and it blew my unstable mind (before another drummer ("The musical equivalent of a muscle mag") blew my sensitive eardrums apart before he spontaneously combusted):

'Genuine' ('Irish'?) ('Linen'?)


"There's something deeply unsound about sleeping with someone who thinks you're great."
- Jarvis Cocker, wrong again.

R.I.P. Suleiman Omondi

At least you didn't have to suffer the second-half.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

"One time I put conditioner in my hair and forgot to wash it out. I was trying to dry my hair and I thought 'that feels weird' and I had to put my head under the sink and wash it out."
- Dumpy girl, to other dumpy girl, Central line, 1.5.09

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Titles gone begging - 4

salve, Reginald

Spam of the day

Sex Annd Your Intellect

The Picture of Dorian FitzHigham

In which our hero goes underground...


"Truth is just a perspective that pleases more than one person in the room."
- Tim FitzHigham, Bt., FRGS, on the phone to me just now.


... is the art of making someone feel at home, when you wish they were."
- Anon.

[Thanks to Canongate]

Alles in ordnung (isch)

Michael Frayn's Alphabetical Order, reviewed at Hampstead Theatre.

Truth or dare?

"Think how much writing you'd get done if you didn't read so much."
- My significant other.

Why Arsenal lost (an alternative theory)

As according to Tony Cascarino (really):
"Kieran Gibbs is only a kid, he shouldn't take all the blame, but was he wearing blades instead of old-fashioned screw-in studs? I see it so often - players who fall over because their trendy boots are useless. They may look great, but they don't help you stay on your feet."

Kid pro quote

I wish I had a corking comebacker for this, but I can't think of a damn thing to say in defence of The Arsenal last night. I don't like to kick my team when they're down, obviously, but it was (actually) embarrassing last night, and even in the cold light of day, Evra ain't wrong:
“It was 11 men against 11 boys. They’re just too young to compete. Chelsea and Barcelona are on another level compared to Arsenal. The difference wasn’t just experience, it was quality, too. It’s not just about playing pretty. We’re pretty too, but we also score goals and we also defend well.”

- Patrice Evra

Best chapter heading of all time

Many encounters, too many sheep
- George Rodger, Village of the Nubas

(It is possible, I suppose, that something is lost in the translation.)

Note to barmen

The customer may not always be right.

But he is always 'Sir'.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Quote of the day

"You only ever hear about the mad writers, not about the people who went mad trying to write."
- My bird.

"Who says the French can't do rock 'n' roll?"

my sister asked, before sending me this:


Family Guy's Quagmire, on vasectomies:

"You take the venom out of a cobra and what've you got? You've got... you've got... a belt!"


"If trust is the fuel of our co-operation, reputation is the currency with which we buy it."
- Mark Pagel, in Prospect


When are we going to start deporting all the undesirables?


How can this man not be on this list?

Booze Good For Creativity


In the name of science, I hereby grant that my body may be exhumed.

Re: Coooolll!!

Sorry, mate, I've spent too many evenings with you considering such questions as did Euripides write two versions of his play Medea? How do modern methods of image-making work to recover an unknown classical text? And how much can a personal letter reveal of the world about the writer?

I'm getting drunk and watching the baseball instead.


Anyone free on June 24th?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Crime takes a comfort day

From the Coös Country Democrat (Lancaster, New Hampshire):

On Oct. 12, State Police responded to a report of a theft of three quilts from a motel in Jefferson. The quilts were later found to have been folded and in the closet by the tourists.

How not to write

Is there a composer who blends shadow and substance as unforgettably as Chopin? The music invades our soul [sic.] but also stands apart with an aristocratic reserve; the melodies quiver with sensitivity but arise from an intricate web of counterpoint that emulates Bach. And we will never get enough of it, as a new batch of recordings proves.

...intimacy... roulade... columnar tone... jump-cut transitions... bizarre motivic gestures... subtly modulating flow...
Granted, arts criticism brings out the worst in any writer (howsoever young and handsome); but you really don't expect this kind of nonsense in The New Yorker.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

The limitations of thought experiments

Sometimes I try my own thought experiment, which goes as follows: what if everyone is actually right? Aristotle and Plato; David and Goliath; Hobbes and Locke; Hitler and Ghandi; Tom and Jerry. Could that ever make sense? And then I think about my mother and I think that no, not everyone is right.
- Scarlett Thomas, The End of Mr. Y

South of the river



“All writing, if it’s any good, needs to be based on personal truth. In these days of the internet you can get all the information you want on that family in Darfur which sends out its youngest member to fetch the daily water because she’s the one least likely to be raped. It’s an incredibly moving story, a tempting story to write, but it’s not my own. If I write it, it’s only journalism. For it to be art, it has to be written by someone from within.”
- Edna O'Brien, Montage

Geoff Dyer


And I want it back.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Swine flu - Best In Show

"I learned a new word today, Basie" - 8

procrasturbate, v. To screw oneself (figuratively) by not doing work when one should be. (Also, many more literal meanings).

[Thanks to AS]

Patrolling our Borders

I was browsing, yesterday, in Borders.

A Constable of the Metropolitan Police Service came and looked over my shoulder.

I tried hard to pretend we're not living in C.21st Britain.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson

These humdingers, from Wednesday's Newsnight:

"While there's stimulus on the front side, there's haemorrhaging on the back side."

"It's going to take some time to bring light into a dark economy."

Thought for the day

The white south of England middle-class Englishman and woman is the most rootless creature on earth; we would rather belong to any other community in the world.
- Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch