Thursday, March 29, 2007

Return of The Candy Man

I made an appeal a short while ago for suggestions for albums I could listen to whilst at work - the reason being that I've been working in an audio management office which is stuffed to the gills with every CD imaginable.

Well, the response was quite phenomenal. I was showered, nay, bombarded, with just one suggestion for an album (The Figurines - which, of course, was possibly the only album NOT in the CD library). You lazy lot.

Still, it's all of no consequence now, since I have been rediscovering the delights of radio - yes, irony of ironies, in the midst of the Babel of audio albums I've been listening to BBC London on my mobile phone. Why BBC London you ask? Simple: it's the only station I can pick up in the nest of electronic interference that is the audio department of Inflight Productions - which surely says something for the Samson-like strength of the BBC London radio signal, which I believe is actually hurled by the mighty arm of Zeus himself from BBC headquarters.

Anyway, because of all this I've been delighted to discover the joys of Danny Baker's afternoon radio show, which is a true revelation - definitely the best radio show I've heard since the heady days of Ricky Gervais on Xfm, or even the halcyon nights of Mark and Lard's evening show on Radio 1. The best thing about it is that it's available on demand, so if you can't listen to the radio between 3 and 5pm, you can go here to catch up with the last week's shows.

Even better, Danny's just starting doing something he calls the All Day Breakfast Show - an internet-only podcast which is a sort of spin-off from the afternoon show. I was listening to it on the tube this morning, and it's priceless - particularly the story about the gay hamster. I urge you to download it with all speed - it's available on iTunes and Wippit. And best of all, it's free!

2000AD anyone?

I've just heard the British government have created a new "Ministry of Justice".

Next week: Lord Falconer is granted permission to dispatch "instant justice" on the streets, whilst Parliament calls for Britain to be formally renamed "Brit-Cit".

Hey, it could happen.

Judge Reid, Yesterday

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Toilets of Champions

Nothing spoils my evening more than inadequate toilet facilities. Imagine the scene: you're having a pleasant time, drinking and chatting in a newly discovered hostelry somewhere in Soho, when, inevitably, nature calls you away to water the porcelain. The only trouble is, the painfully hip and funky decor covering the rest of the bar hasn't been carried through to the WC, which looks as though it was abandoned sometime in the Victorian era, and doubtless hasn't seen a loo brush since. After completing your business you return to your table a little shellshocked, worried that by simply entering the lavatory you have probably contracted something terribly nasty, which right now you may be unintentionally spreading to your friends. The evening is ruined.

Thank heavens then for the pub I visited last night - The Angelic - an establishment which could rightfully lay claim to having some of the best toilet facilities in all of London. "Palatial" is probably the best word to describe them - descending via the floodlit spiral staircase you first pass a fountain, followed by a sizable Greek statue, before being sucked into a world of velveteen red walls and sumptious lighting. To top it all off, podcasts of the Xfm Ricky Gervais show were being pumped through speakers above the urinals, so you could catch up on the latest Monkey News whilst relieving yourself. The toilets were so good I actually felt like staying in them and just listening to Ricky Gervais all evening, but people tend to get the wrong idea when you start loitering around in public lavatories.

Check out The Angelic at 57 Liverpool Road, London, N1 0RJ. Huzzah for classy loos!

The Job of Champions

So I suppose I'd better give you a quick update on what's been going on these past few weeks. As you probably don't know, I've moved to Tufnell Park in North London, which is two stops from Camden and therefore the kind of place I've wanted to live since I was about 15 (when I first discovered the joys of travelling into London to watch unwashed indie bands perform in grotty basements under dingy pubs). Furthermore, there's a very good Sainsbury's in Camden (you can tell I've aged can't you?).

I've also managed to get myself a job at a company called Inflight Productions, a company which, unsurprisingly, specialises in in-flight entertainment. They do movies and radio and all sorts, but I'm working on uploading CDs for the classical section, which is about as boring as it sounds. Not that I've got anything against classical music (in fact I particularly like listening to it on planes) it's just that entering the track names can be somewhat repetitive...

"Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in A minor, Op. 51...Prelude & Fugue No. 2 in B major, Op. 52...Prelude & Fugue No. 3 in F major, Op. 53...Prelude & Fugue No. 4 in C minor, Op. 54...I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) in F major, Op. 55..." etc. etc.

However, the big draw about the job is this: every single wall is covered in double-row shelving stacked with thousands upon thousands of CDs from every conceivable genre, and I can listen to any of them while I work. How cool is that? Last week I got through most of Bowie's early work, the new We Are Scientists album, a smattering of Super Furry Animals, some late era Beatles and many, many others... It's been awesome.

The only trouble is, I'm running out of ideas.

I'm only here for another couple of weeks, and this is such a golden opportunity to expand my listening that I don't want to pass it up, yet I can't think of ant more albums I want to listen to... If you've got any suggestions for great albums that are likely to have passed me by, please let me know!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Internet Dives

easyInternetcafe: Rubbish

I’ve had a bit of trouble with the internet recently, hence the lack of posts for the past couple of weeks. Our contract with AOL has expired, and we’ve been phoning around trying to get a better deal with other companies, but all of them reckon it’ll take at least 10 days to get connected again, and in the meantime I’m stuck with internet cafes to get connected. Which is where the problem lies…

I had no idea internet cafes in London were so bad. Admittedly I was spoilt with some truly luxurious internet places in Japan (places where you could order free ice cream whilst getting a back massage – see my Japan blog), but getting connected in London is a truly abysmal experience. Even the internet cafes in Bolivia were better – they were cheaper for one thing, and the PCs were a much higher spec, despite the slow download speeds.

My first port of call was the easyInternetcafé on Oxford Street (the obvious place to go really, you can’t miss the garish orange signs and flocks of young foreigners hanging around outside) but of course their connection happened to be down that day. I then spent the best part of an hour traipsing round Soho looking for another café, only to end up in a run-down little place with the slowest, most dilapidated PCs I’ve ever seen. I spent a fruitless 20 minutes trying to connect to Gmail, and still got charged a quid even though I never actually got to check my emails. Is this really the best London has to offer?

Over the past week I’ve ventured out to a few more cafes around London, but it’s pretty much the same story wherever you go: most "cafes" are just a few old PCs tucked into the back of a newsagents, and offer little more than (very) basic web surfing. A lot of places didn’t even have computers with CD drives, and most PCs were only running Windows 98, which meant I couldn’t even access some websites. The easyInternetcafé by Trafalgar Square was probably the biggest disappointment, especially since it charges 2 pounds an hour, compared with 1 pound an hour pretty much everywhere else. I was expecting something a little better for my money, but it was actually a bit more basic than most newsagent "cafes".

Even getting onto a computer at easyInternet presented a challenge. I didn’t have 2 pounds in change for the credit machine, and of course it didn’t accept notes, so I asked the assistant for help.

"We don’t have any change," he said, "You’ll have to buy something from Subway."

"But I don’t want to buy anything from Subway," I replied, having recently eaten breakfast.

"Well it’s the only way to get change," he shrugged (a trifle louchely I thought).

"I see. Thanks a lot for your help", I said. He wavered for a second, wondering whether my thanks was genuine, or whether it was barely-disguised sarcasm pulled taut over a cauldron of rage. He seemed to think it was the former. It wasn’t.

So please, if you know of any decent internet cafes in London, preferably ones that don’t force you to buy fast food to get online, then let me know.