Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Media, Old Boiler

When the Internet was invented, it was all about an Information Super Highway into CyberSpace. Which initially meant Project Gutenberg and a Star Trek episode guide. Shortly afterwards the Internet invented sex and hasn't looked back since (I remember working for a firm where we used to test the speed of a PC's processor by loading up an unintentionally hilarious animated gif on a porn site - if they were banging like hyperactive steam hammers then there was a chance you'd be able to run FrontPage. Ah, innocent days).

In the early days shopping involved emailing someone your credit card details, or buying a cheap DVD from Amazon and then paying £31 import duty. It was exciting, it was cutting edge.

I don't know at what point the internet got boring. Was it just after "other people" found out about Lolcats, or when the gays got grindr on their mobile phones? Or was the moment, just now, when I caught myself shopping on ebay for spare parts for my boiler?

This is a liberation for me. I used to have a sexy plumber. Then I got a really dull Greek one who turned up briefly to try and mend the timer on my boiler 18 months ago. I said I'd like a new timer switch. He brought me a thermostat.

ME: Will this turn on the boiler at 7am?
HIM: Yes. If you wake up. You can turn it on then. From your bedroom. With remote control. Is wireless.
ME: But will it turn on the boiler at 7am if I don't wake up?
HIM: Yes. If you leave boiler on all night.
ME: And will it turn off at 9am after I go out?
HIM: Oh yes. If you use Remote Control. And work nearby. Is wireless.
ME: But is it a Timer Switch?
HIM: (puzzled pause) No, is Thermostat.
ME: I would like a Timer Switch.
HIM: Okay, boss. I get you now. But this... this is wireless.
ME: It is not a Timer Switch.
HIM: No.
ME: Can I have a Timer Switch?
HIM: Yes. If you really do not want this Wireless Thermostat.
ME: Yes please.
HIM: You want it?
ME: No, I want a Timer Switch.
HIM: Ah, okay, I go get you one right away. If I have to come back three dozen times I shall do this for you.

He charged me £100 and I never saw him again. The internet - it may be dull, but it means that I am no longer a slave to my plumber. (Although in the early 2000s the phrase "Slave to my plumber" would have got a lot of hits).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Einstein on the Beach

Some relationships have to survive rows, lies, and infidelity. Ours had to survive Philip Glass. We made it into Einstein On The Beach, and we came out the other side, five hours later, tired and dying for a pee, but still very much together.

Other couples weren't so lucky. Genuinely, a relationship ended three seats away from us - although it took her about four minutes to storm out along the aisle, squeezing past knees, muttering excuse-mes and shooting back the odd venomous glance. She lingered, hoping he'd come after her, but he stayed where he was, watching as a child Einstein swung above the stage, throwing paper aeroplanes.

My favourite ex, Simon, introduced me to Philip Glass in the 90s, along with futons and "It's not you, I'd just rather move to Houston to design a staircase". We'd sit in bed, listening to "Songs From The Trilogy" while I read a book about spaceships and he pored over a Haynes Manual. I liked the music much I went and got the full operas - but Einstein on the Beach always defeated me.

At the time I lived in a flat with really loud upstairs neighbours who'd keep me awake with band practice till 3 every morning. I'd wake up at 7 and, as I left for work, would put on Einstein on the Beach. Loudly. On a loop. All day. After a week, the cat refused to go near my room, so I stopped. Strange when you look back and think "Ummmm.....".

Anyway, that was a long time ago. And, since then I've seen one Glass opera on stage and it was amazing - so perhaps, Einstein would be just as great live.

Well, it was. Kind of. And it was utterly wonderful and baffling and etc. But, you know, could have been over and done with in about two hours flat without anyone missing a bit. Of course, that's not the point - in the programme notes, Glass hints that the mind-numbing repetition is the idea, and the audience reaction is more important than what's going on on stage - or, in other words, sneaking a smug glance at the couple two rows down who fell quickly asleep in each other's arms, or at the recently-single man three seats away, who sat, rapt and grinning for all five hours and then gave the show a standing ovation. He looked, oddly, like a weight had been lifted from him.

And yes, if you ever get a chance to go and see it, do. And, if you're lucky enough to be in a relationship with someone who'll go with you, take them. If to see if you can make it as far as "Two Lovers" at the end.  Here it is in Lego...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Killing (a year after everyone else saw it)

So, I've finally watched The Killing. It was hilarious.

(NO SPOILERS AHEAD)  The thing I most loved about it was Pernille. Not since Sheri Palmer stole 24 has there been a crazier wife on television. The following image doesn't do her mad eyes justice:

You may cry "But wait! She was playing a grieving mother! Do not mock!" but all the same, her eyes rolled around like two magic eight balls falling down a spiral staircase built out of suspicion and lunacy.

A friend bumped into her at BAFTA and complimented her on her acting. "What, this?" she giggled, and did the Crazy Eyes. She was in on it too! If I ever do a tumblr, it will be Pernille Is Worried About Things:

My other favourite thing about The Killing was Sarah Lund. Not for her jumper, but because she's rubbish. If she nipped out to fill up the car, she'd arrest the petrol pump attendant and blow up the gas station, all the while not making eye-contact with broken-hearted suspicion. It's as if Bambi were assigned to the LAPD.

Needless to say, my favourite scene in The Entire Killing is in the last episode when Pernille and Sarah Lund go on a car journey together:

See? Brilliant. If they ran someone over, both of them would pretend very hard it didn't happen ("What was that?" "What was what?" "What? What are you making me say?" "I don't know. What aren't you saying?" etc). The sheer joy of this scene made up for The Worst Thing About The Killing... which is that...

The Murderer Can't Have Done It. Remember the moment in Twin Peaks when you found out who killed Laura Palmer and wept with rage and horror and frustration? The Killing manages to make you go "No, really? Are you certain? Did someone else oversleep that day and miss being the murderer? I mean, if you're absolutely sure they did it, then that's fine, I guess. But, honestly? After 20 hours? This?"

Sadly, The Killing Series II is boringly brilliant from start to finish. Not only is it about Troubled Soldiers Who Pout Even In The Shower, but the plot is so mind-bendingly fiendish that I stayed up till 3 last night just so that I could finish the last four episodes in one giddy "but... but.... but...." gallop.

Monday, May 07, 2012


We've suddenly got a whole load of new facilities in Somerstown. It's as though the Council is going "Ignore the BioMedical Zombie Research Factory we're building - look, a community cafe!" (the Zombie Factory rumbles on - if you want to know how scary it is, Gordon Osborne has called it "the most important building in the world").

One of these new things is that they've given an indoor squash court a makeover. For years our Community Sports Centre was a room that smelt of socks with a grumpy man on reception next to a broken drinks machine. But it now, after months of intense building work, appears to be...  a squash court with a Shiny Granite Front.

Curious to know what they offered (and cos I'm no longer allowed to eye up the sweaty businessmen in my old gym), I popped inside. The grumpy man was still on reception. The drinks machine was still broken.

I asked for a leaflet explaining their services. He pushed something over the desk to me. I read it on the way home. The Activities for Adults section read "Pick up a leaflet from reception". Oh.

Undeterred, I followed the website address printed on the front of the leaflet ("") and got.... Page Not Found. Mysterious.

I wonder if it's actually now an emergency bunker for the Zombie Factory staff to flee to. That smells of socks.