The summer's been really boring, news-wise. There's not been much to keep us going between America and the UN warring over Iraq, snipers in the US, a few kids being kidnapped in the UK, and yet another referendum here in Ireland. Thank goodness we have celebrities.
Yes, celebrities. People who take their jobs - entertainment - so seriously, that in the absence of actual news, they will take it upon themselves to make sudden shock revelations about themselves and each other in an effort to gather a few column inches. If they're lucky they might get a front page - small comfort as their careers slouch towards oblivion. And the media loves this. I've used the phrase 'bottom-feeders' too much lately, so I'll stop.
I have a concern about this. It's a real concern. Honest.
In the last couple of weeks, there have been revelations about a couple of television presenters, mainly concerning the usual suspects - sex, drugs and rock and roll. This has led to their suspension and sacking respectively. Yay for the moral voice of society that says that this sort of behaviour is shocking and unacceptable for those in the public eye.
Except that's not the message that this sends. These men were both succesful, and their exploits were widely-known 'secrets' in the media world. They're hardly alone. And their lifestyles didn't seem to affect their popularity or success. No wonder they live their lives as they do - they could get away with it. Doubtless dozens, if not hundreds of other celebrities do the same thing. But these two were caught. And then 'crucified' by their accomplices.
That's the message that this sends. Don't get caught.
Syria is Wonder Woman. But not just any Wonder Woman. She's Wonder Woman as portrayed by Linda Carter, which is pretty much the standard interpretation these days. And she's bored.
Why is she bored? Well, principally it's because her better half, Superman, is out saving the world all the time, and she is stuck at home doing the hoovering, which is pretty easy when you can lift the sofa in one hand and vacuum clean beneath it with the other. She dreams of rolling on the beach with him, but the most exciting thing that she does in real life is lassoing a couple of bag snatchers with that magical lasso of honesty thing she used to have. Sad.
But a great video. A catchy song. Almost as good as the original version of Las Ketchup.
He's got a car bomb. He puts the key in the ignition and turns it - the car blows up. He gets out. He opens the hood and makes a cursory inspection. He closes the hood and gets back in. He turns the key in the ignition. The car blows up. He gets out and slams the door shut disgustedly. He kicks the tire. He takes off his jacket and shimmies under the chassis. He pokes around. He slides back out and wipes the grease off on his shirt. He puts his jacket back on. He gets in. He turns the key in the ignition. The car blows up, sending debris into the air and shattering windows for blocks. He gets out and says, Damn it! He calls a tow truck. He gives them his AAA membership number. They tow the car to an Exxon station. The mechanic gets in and turns the key in the ignition. The car explodes, demolishing the gas pumps, the red-and-blue Exxon logo high atop its pole bursting like a balloon on a string. The mechanic steps out. You got a car bomb, he says. The man rolls his eyes. I know that, he says.
Last week, I didn't care that Ulrika Jonsson was publishing her autobiography. Now I do, and I wish that I still didn't. Once more, the media has bottom-fed from itself, and has given us a story to rival even the passionate affair of John Major and Edwina Currie.
There's a reason that people in the public eye have private lives. It's to keep them sane. It's to give them space to be themselves in. Someone should have told Ulrika this. She should really have known.
So we're in a situation now where she's given up all rights to her own privacy. Despite not making any direct accusations herself, the man involved has been named, putting him in a position that she must have been able to predict. It's pure soap opera.
I can't help wondering how their reputations will be affected in the long term. It really doesn't seem to be doing hers any good. And she's been doing so well, career-wise. She's got a prime time Saturday Night game show, and a regular dating show. That's more than I have. She doesn't need the publicity. She shouldn't need the money.
By opening this wound now, she flags herself as dangerous. She makes herself no longer the victim, but the oppressor. If she'd done something about it at the time, it would be different. But by bringing the issue of her alleged date rape out now, and by deliberately not naming the man involved (although she must have known it would come out), she's exercising power, and using her celebrity to strike back. She damages the cause of those men and women who suffer date rape, by trivialising and sensationalising it.
And the worst thing is that I've just wasted five minutes waffling about her.
In 1986, the movie to love was 37.2 Le Matin, known in the English speaking world as Betty Blue for no clearly obvious reason. Mr Twinky and I watched it at the weekend, after the shelf building, but before setting fire to all and sundry. For Mr Twinky it was the first time, for me it was the umpteenth, but the first time with the extended edition.
I was suprised at how well I remembered the film. I was surprised at how unexceptional I found it. Looking back, I remember it being ground breaking. I guess that now that ground has been broken, and well and truly trodden. It, like Betty, is no longer virginal.
One of the ground-breakers was the opening scene - a scene affectionately known as 'Betty Bonk'. It features carnal intercourse between the two major characters in the film, and was allegedly performed without the use of stunt doubles, safety nets, or any other form of protection. It's not erotic, it's not titillating at all, and it's not particularly voyeuristic. It's just there. That sets the scene for the rest of the film. Betty and her boyfriend, the mysteriously named Zorg are often seen wandering around naked - mainly at times when they would be wandering around naked if this was real life, and not an unreal film.
Betty and her boyfriend, the mysteriously named Zorg, then paint some shacks. 'Betty Blue and Pink'. This is nice. Zorg falls asleep and Betty kisses him in an intimate way. Again, no safety net, and an odd thing to see in a film. Shortly after this, Betty decides to set fire to things. Betty Burn. And they run off to Paris.
In Paris, Betty becomes a typist - Betty Book - typing up Zorg's novel, and they live a Betty Bohemian lifestyle. Then the action moved six hundred miles away to a piano store in a small town. Betty decides that she's pregnant - Betty Baby - and when it turns out that she's not, she goes seriously off the rails, eventually descending into being Betty Binkybonk shortly before the end of the film.
After sixteen years, this may not be groundbreaking any more. But it's still entertaining, although there are some moments where disbelief has to be suspended. And the look of the film hasn't dated at all. Still enjoyable.
Mr Twinky explains:
I like to cook on Sundays. I try out different things, things that will teach me new skills in the kitchen. I came across some ox tail at the butchers recently, an item I had not cooked before and decided to make a casserole with it.
The recipe called for the meat to be flambéed in brandy at one point. I can tell that you know what is coming next. But I was in control when I lit the warmed brandy in the saucepan, I was in control when I poured it over the meat into the casserole dish. I was not in control when the alcohol hit the fat and the flames rose 3-4 feet into the air engulfing the extractor fan, setting alight the filters and melting parts of the machinery. I am sure it lasted shorter than I remember but it did enough damage to destroy our sexy stainless-steel-high-tech extractor fan and set off the building's fire alarm.
Sundays are days of rest and that includes our Caretaker who is the only person who knows how to switch off the fire alarm. Within 15 minutes of the alarm sounding we managed to clear the car park as most of our neighbours headed off to the pub while we waited for Gary the Caretaker. Another soggy 15 minutes later Gary arrived half-cut (he is Irish, of course) and all was made calm.
I have still to get in touch with our insurance company as I do not know if our policy covers pyrotechnic idiots. And I am still working out what new skills I learned last Sunday. Answers on a postcard, please.
The casserole was saved, by the way, and it turned out lovely.
Today, my boss has mentioned the fatal word of death for the first time in forever. "Firefighting".
Firefighting is the word that directors use when they're getting shat upon from a great height as an excuse for the fact that they're running around either achieving nothing, or making impractical decisions that cause more problems than they solve.
And of course I let myself get sucked into a big sucky vortex of suckiness, never pausing for breath, but trying to escalate the problems, taking infinite action points and making interminable lists of people to call, none of whom are available. And none of it works.
You see, you can't fight fire with fire.
I've known this for ages. For years, even. I've put it in to practice in my personal life, and to an extent at work. You fight fire with calm. That can be bloody infuriating for people around you who are panicking, and see the issues getting dealt with one at a time in good order. It can veer over into ignoring problems and hoping they go away if you're not careful. But pouring fire on fire is never going to work. Ever.
Talking of fire, the fire alarm went off in our building on Sunday.
Alexander Graham Bell, and John Logie Baird. Two Scotsmen whose names will be linked forever with the telephone and the television.
I've written about Bell before. He was born in Scotland, moved to Canada and took Canadian citizenship and was in the US when the telephone was invented. Bell didn't invent the telephone, though. The telephone was invented by Antonio Meucci.
John Logie Baird invented the first television. It was a mechanical device. Marconi invented the electronic system, largely independently. Following trials in the 1930s, Baird's television system was dropped in 1937.
But Scots can nonetheless be proud of these men. Baird may not have invented television well, but he did it first. And Bell may not have invented the telephone, and may not even have considered himself Scottish at the time that he didn't invent it, but he made his name out of marketing it.
Last time I was in Bombay, the city was plastered with adverts for Clinic All Clear. This was the shampoo that promises you Zero dandruff flakes.
Indian hair is thick, dark, and generally very full. It's prone to dandruff. And so black's pretty much out as a fashion choice. The traditional Indian wardrobe is white for men, and a huge range of fantastic colours for women. All of which hide dandruff much better than black.
Of course, it's great to have the option of wearing black. An extra fashion option is always nice.
Dare to wear black. It's sexy. It's new. It's completely impractical in the heat.
Here, we believe in nothing as much as diversity. Yesterday we gave you Latin. Today, we give you the interpretation of dreams.
I say that I'm not affected on a personal level by the bombs in Bali at the weekend. After all, I only went to Bali twice when I lived in Asia, and I never went to the areas targetted. Also, as far as I know, nobody I know was there at the time. But I guess it still counts as a near miss. Something somewhere should be ringing bells inside me saying 'be grateful for your life, for there but for the grace of god et cetera'. But it's not.
A little over a year ago, I faced the biggest fear that I have to face on a regular basis: heights. It's not all heights. I lived at the top of a tower block for two years with fantastic views that just emphasised the height. But certain heights, in certain conditions make me feel queasy. And looking down from the top of the World Trade Center in August 2001 made me queasy. Within a month -
Well, within a month I was kind of glad that I'd done that, while I had the chance. It was far closer to a near miss than, say, Bali, but I'm just as dissociated from it.
I've been closer to danger, and closer to revolution. I've been in buildings evacuated by bomb scares and civil unrest and Anthrax scares. The scariest thing in the world (at the moment) for me is the sniper in Virginia, purely because he or she seems to be completely random. Hell, as I said. And handbaskets.
So last night, in a dream, I got off a plane, and it was April 1999 again. The worst thing that the civilised world lost sleep over was the impending Millennium. I tried to change things. I changed nothing. I made the same choices, at the same times.
I'm sorry. I'm thinking about this too much. I'm thinking about the relationship between terrorism and organised religion. Between oil and the Crusades. Between personal responsibility, governmental structures and the consensus morality.
And - almost - it makes very little sense.
Benedic, Domine, nobis et donis tuis quae ex largitate tua sumus sumpturi; et concede ut, ab iis salubriter enutriti, tibi debitum obsequium praestare valeamus, per Jesum Christum dominum nostrum; mensae caelestis nos participes facias, Rex aeternae gloriae.
Remember, boys and girls. Trinny is Skinny.
Last night, in the vacuum that is Wednesday night television, Mr Twinky and I stumbled into the camp nonsense that is What Not To Wear. Gripped by the sheer awfulness of the presenters (in their lovely offices, largely decked out in Habitat furniture), and what they would do to Matthew, an innocent victim of 'going to the wrong shops'.
Matthew, you see, is a large chap. Particularly about the waist. Now, rather than going to a gym, he has learned how to disguise it. Which is great. I was sitting there glued to the screen, taking notes.
So, my checklist of tips I picked up from Skinny Trinny:
1. Get a goatee. Done.
2. Never buy double breasted suits. There already
3. Don't tuck your shirts in if you can avoid it
4. Shop at Marks and Spencer, because they make clothes that aren't cut so tight that they only look good if you're a skinny freak.
Well, did I learn anything new there?
1. To have faith that there is a god, who created heaven and earth and all that lies between.
2. To believe that this loving god would wish his followers to band together, in order to spread his word, rather than simply making the word of god manifest in every detail of creation
3. To believe that this god would be happy with religious genocide, because after all, if the heathens have never heard of him, it's our duty to save them - to force them to believe. Isn't it?
4. To believe that this god is a loving god.
In which Doctor Oddverse shows off his complete ignorance of Irish politics, and in particular the Nice vote.
If all of the posters are to be believed, there will be a nice referendum in Ireland this weekend. This is about whether or not the Irish people want to be nice.
Contrary to some of the posters, it is a different vote from last time. It only deals with one issue rather than two. This is an important distrinction.
Gone is the issue of signing-up to providing armed forces. That probably wouldn't be a nice thing. It wouldn't be popular in a country that has a stated policy of neutrality. So that's gone.
All that remains is the issue of whether or not Ireland will sign up to a reduced importance in an enlarged EU.
One side reckons that it would be nice to do this. After all, Ireland has an over-inflated importance at the moment, and is generally doing well out of it. It's only fair to share the wealth, and to help other countries, the way Ireland has been helped. More trading partners are good.
On the other hand, it's not a very nice thing to do to Ireland as a recession takes hold - yank out the funding from beneath the country. The nice thing to do is to stand firm, to fight for the status quo, and to protest the government that tries to force ratification of treaties through by presenting them again and again until they get the answer they want.
The whole issue is muddied by the advertising campaign. "For Jobs - Vote Yes" vs "For Jobs - Vote No". It's a tricky choice.
Me, I'd vote for fewer referenda.
Prejudice. Protection. It's an odd one.
For example, 160 people complained about a kissing scene in "The Bill", that aired before 9pm. The ITC threw it out, because their code concerning such things isn't gender-specific. Good for them.
I wanted to contrast this with a story I heard at dinner last night, about an Irish paedophile getting a life sentence for his offences against five under-age boys. I can't find anything about this on the web to back this up, but allegedly if the offences had been committed against girls, the sentence would have been much lighter.
There's something horribly unequal about that. And I'm not suggesting that in this case the sentence was too light.
Another day, another day closer to the armageddon that I thought was inevitable growing up during the cold war, had convinced myself that we'd moved beyond, and is now facing us every day. Although I still believe that we can get through this. Unlike a small child, cowering under the covers awaiting the mushroom cloud that never came, I cling to hope.
Saturday afternoon. We caught some of an interview with one of the IRA bombers who attacked Brighton during the Tory party conference some years ago. Paraphrasing: "We took every precaution to ensure that civilians weren't injured" - a suitable precaution might have been not to plant the bomb in the first place. Attacking Brighton was an act of self defence.
At the time, I thought of the parallels between using that justification for attacking Brighton, and using that justification for, say, attacking Iraq. I wasn't thinking about Bali at all. Or maybe Virginia.
The casting for the Magic Roundabout movie has been announced. And it's not live action, it's animated - which is nice.
Others may eulogise about the casting of Robbie Williams, as Dougal or Kylie Minogue as Florence, some may say that Joanna Lumley is entirely wrong as Ermintrude, the spacey cow.
However, for me, the casting of Tom Baker as the villain of the piece is classic. And even more inspired is the name of his character. After all, the name of the baddie should always be ZeeBadee
I've figured out the purpose of evil corner desk units. It's insidious. Absolutely insidious.
At first I thought it was merely a cunning plan to get more people into a smaller space, and to give them the impression of having everything easily to hand, while at the same time forcing them to take up 40% of their desk space with a computer. That would have been bad enough, oh yes.
The main thing, though, is that it limits your view. You can see your computer, and if you're lucky you can see two out of the three people you work with. It's not the ideal position to run a team from, as the lines of communication are automatically blocked.
The really insidious part, though, is that by facing everyone away from the flow of human traffic, anyone who wants to speak to you has to come at you from behind (as it were, ooh err, thank you, I'm here all week). So, in any conversation you are instantly at a disadvantage.
Of course, now I have sussed this, I can use it. I will be aware of my powerful role when I go to talk to others of my colleagues. And I will turn my chair round so that I am sitting with my back to my computer.
Now, if you're like me, you're probably wondering about St. Agatha - why all the fuss?
Agatha was a famous beauty from a noble family, who was chased after by the doubtless villainous Senator Quintianus. I like to picture him with a twirling moustache, as he vows his love and tries to enveigle his way into her knickers.
She's a good Catholic lass, though, and turns him down flat, so he arranged for her to be taken care of by an evil woman. No change.
So, he had her tortured. In particular, he had her breasts cut off - one of the most disturbing images that we saw on our trip to Tuscany. Anyway, she got better, thanks to a vision of Saint Peter.
Eventually, however, she died. The End
It's hard for a forty-something housewife in London, particularly if you have two small children to bring up, and for some reason the media have decided that you're newsworthy.
Is it any wonder that sometimes you feel the need to strike out, to get some relief from your tensions?
The video for 'Die Another Day' is imminent.
I know exactly how she feels right now. Work is getting all over me, and not in a good way. And I've got a filthy hangover. And my plan to track everything that I spent money on this month has kind of gone completely wrong. Oh well.
85 episodes. No story development. G Force fights Spectra. That's it.
Anyway, it's a classic. Mark and Jason had a whole rivalry thing going on about who was the 'bigger man', despite the fact that they looked virtually identifiable. It was like a cartoon version of Blakes Seven, that way.
7 Zark 7 sat in his underwater cell, moaning about not being able to join in, oblivious to the fact that he was just an extra character added in to give the show padding. Ironically named Tiny. Princess, permanently prepubescent, whose idea of fashion is 'a big 3 motif'. Keyop, whose mother was on serious non-prescription medication throughout pregnancy.
And Zoltar. Not until anyone cried 'make my monster big' would there be as an ambiguous a villain... almost enough to put you off your choco pops.
Well, here are the punch lines. Make up your own jokes.
"Sorry, Norma. I was eating Currie earlier."
"Because three inches is a major disappointment."