Monthly Archives: October 2005

Whisky makes you frisky

I have only recovered today from the whisky tasting that occurred on Friday evening. Suffice to say that the next morning I was not really able to think about Whisky without feeling decidedly less frisky than one might hope for.

A whisky tasting is not for the faint of heart because even if you have just a little bit of each then you can run into difficulties. And as it was this was after enough wine with dinner to make my father and I consider that a whisky tasting was a good idea.

So what did we have on offer? We were sampling the

[fill in with details of the other whiskeys]

We finished with the Laphroaig 10 Year old which had the most peat of the whiskeys on offer and is also the easiest to get hold of. Now I must declare my bias here. I have been a fan of Laphoaig for a long time, but haven’t actually had any for around a year largely due to having other whiskeys at home. So this was my first taste of Laphroaig in a while and so it was a rather pleasant kind of experience which may have biased the tasting.

The first thing that you notice about Laphroaig is that it has this incredibly peaty taste. For whiskey drinkers this can be a bit divisive. Some feel that the taste overpowers the actual taste of the whiskey whereas others feel the taste of the peat is so strong as to make this something that is palatable for them. I do know people who don’t like any whisky other than Laphroaig for this very reason.

In fact the current advertising slogan for marmite “you either love it or you hate it” was bought from the Laphroaig distillery. They had previously been using the campaign for their own advertising such is the polarising quality of Laphroaig.

So what’s the conclusion? I ended up having a full glass of Laphroaig in the end which I suppose makes it the winner, but it’s difficult to be sure about this. In fact the most interesting of the whiskeys on tasting was the Springbank refilled which had such a delicate taste. There was no way of going back to the Springbank even after a quick taste of the Laphroaig.

So at this point you may be wondering what happened in that section at the top there. The section which says “fill in with details of other whiskeys”. Well I was planning on getting the names of the other whiskeys. I could remember that there was one which had closed down, and that there were three which were in short blue bottles. So I asked my dad the names of those. And he said, did you remember the names of the other ones then?

I hadn’t even remembered that there were other ones! In total we had had 8 different whiskeys. And the problem I have now is that I can’t even remember what they actually tasted like.

The punchline

You may have noticed, if you’re a regular reader that I like a good joke.* I was on the train the other night after having dinner out in London at the fabulous trattoria on Goodge Street called Signor Grilli. One of its key features is that it has a really great quaffable house red at a good cheap price. Considering where it is (the heart of tourist London) this a real treat, and this alongside it’s great food is what has kept me coming back for six years.

Anyway, I was visiting with a friend the other night, and after I finished I was suitable squiffy. On my way home I found myself sitting opposite a group of people who had been to some kind of religious expo somewhere in London.

There were four of them who were sitting in a line. Three in a row on one side of the isle and one guy opposite me on my side of the isle. They were chatting about how much fun they had had at the expo and how it had been really energising. They seemed like a good bunch. For the purposes of this I’m going to have to give them names so that you can keep track of who they all are.

Sitting furthest from me was, I guess, non-descript guy. The only thing that was descript about him was that he had been unfortunately tied up in work all day so had been unable to make it over to the expo except for after work so although he’d been there for some of the keynote speeches at the end he’d missed all of the hands on action during the day. Sitting next to him in the middle of the threesome was a woman who was wearing a suit and tie. She looked like she had never knowingly engaged with popular culture in her life. I may be wrong about this, and I certainly don’t mean it harshly, I just think that she had been going very much her own way for an awfully long time. The guy who was on the end was, we’ll call him gregarious guy. He was slightly chubby, slightly red of cheek and seemed like he’d be quite fun in a roaring tory kind of a way. And the last guy was, well Sideshow Bob.

Gregarious guy wasn’t really playing to his audience here. He had started talking about how this guy looked quite a lot like Sideshow Bob. Unfortunately non-descript guy was kind of non-descript in his response and Be-suited Woman had never even seen the Simpsons. After some explanation she said, “is that the charming cartoon program that comes on before the news? But I always thought it was for children.”

After some explanation of the situation, and a few rather shocking impressions from Sideshow Bob gregarious man was scouting about for something interesting to carry on with. He decided that as Non-descript man had missed out on the earlier speakers in the day he ought to fill him in on something that had really tickled him. It was, he claimed, “the funniest joke that he had ever heard a vicar tell”.

And this was the point at which I became really interested. I had been casually taking in all of these guys just in case they could be useful later, but once there was a joke in the offing that was really it. I was hooked.

But what with my stop on the train coming up, I literally was on the edge of my seat. So much so, in fact, that Gregarious Man actually stopped telling the joke to say “are you okay”. I was leaning in so much, just willing him to get to the end.

So I said, the only thing I could say really which was the truth, that I was simply wishing that I could hear the punchline before I would have to get off the train. It didn’t matter, I said, because, as I suddenly noticed the train was slowing for my stop. But it did seem to matter to Be-suited Woman. She was concerned about me, clearly. So she said, “if you want to know the punchline I’ll tell you”. All of the others tried to stop her, all wanting this ultimate joke to be properly preserved for the Non-descript man for whom it was intended. But she blurted it out, “the punchline is ‘the vicar had to organise the bowling on Sunday’.”

What? I can hear you all collectively ask. What, on earth, was she talking about? It didn’t make any sense to me either because there really hadn’t been enough of a joke yet. Poor non-descript man probably got the joke retold to him with the punchline in it’s proper place at the end, but that can hardly have been the same as hearing the greatest joke a vicar ever told in front of a packed and willing room.

I of course was in torture. What did it mean? How could it make sense? It didn’t sound very funny. I felt though that I had one saving thing, I had actually had a funnier incident that the Non-descript man because I just couldn’t help thinking about the literalness of a woman who thought when I said that I wanted to hear the punchline that I would – actually – just want to hear the punchline rather than hear the rest of the joke first. It was incredible.

So what’s the joke? I have for my own benefit, and to a lesser extent yours, tracked it down. And it goes something like… Should I tell you?.. Should I? I don’t know?

Oh go on…

A vicar is goes to his bishop to get reprimanded.

Bishop: Now Vicar, I hear you have cancelled several services over the summer with parishioners left wallowing in sin, willy nilly, and you have been simply not showing up to mass. Is this true?
Vicar: Well…
Bishop: Is it?
Vicar: Welllll…
Bishop Look I’ve had reports of people leading their own services in Chipping Norton without any kind of guidance.
Vicar: Is that so bad?
Bishop: They sacrificed a goat!
Vicar: Oh okay. It’s no use. It was because of the cricket.
Bishop The cricket?
Vicar: Yes the cricket, I do so love cricket. And this summer we were doing so very well. And all the good bits were on a Sunday. So what was I to do?
Bishop: You were supposed to attend mass as planned Vicar. That is what you were supposed to do.
Vicar: But it’s sooooo boring.
Bishop: Boring? Boring! I’ve never heard such rot in all my life. The Christ’s immaculate conception boring? Wine into body – boring? Never heard such rot. Never! What have you got to say for yourself?
Vicar: I’m very sorry.
Bishop: Do you repent?
Vicar: I guess…
Bishop: Will you do it again?
Vicar: Well it’s not the ashes again for eighteen months so until then sir…
Bishop: Brian!
Vicar: Sorry you’re worshipfulness. But it seems life is so short these days. I want to enjoy every moment I can since I’m advancing in years. If only there was some way I could know…
Bishop: Know what?
Vicar: If there was cricket in heaven?
The Bishop sat back in his chair, placed his hands together, closed his eyes and prayed silently. After a few seconds he returned to the conversation
Bishop: Well there’s good news and bad news.
Vicar: Really. Well good news first I always say.
Bishop: Well the good news is that there is cricket in heaven. You’re even slated, when you get there, to manage your own team.
Vicar: And the bad news?
Bishop: You’ve got to organise the bowling this Sunday.

Oh God no.

* You may in fact think that I actually like bad jokes**

** Yes jokes and footnotes.

I want it that way

Having seen these guys perform I want all Back Street Boys tracks done that way:

click on the picture to see a very funny video

Does anybody actually use the home button anymore?

I know a lot of people used to use the home button to go to google or whatever but now that browsers tend to have a google search bar in them what’s the point?

Personally I’d like a feature which allowed the home button to be used to be the home of the particular site that you’re on. The website developers could set it themselves in the html. Then if you’re deep in some site you could press home to go there (or some kind of keyboard shortcut). It’s much more often the place that I want to go.

I don’t even actually have a home button set, I just have a blank page. But for those that do actually want their browser to go somewhere when they start they should be able to set a start page too.

Their name starts with a S…

So apparently it started with my friend Nick driving somewhere the other night and listening to BBC Radio 1 when he heard the new White Stripes tune, which then once the singing started turned out not to be the new White Stripes song at all but was much more the new Pavement song, but Pavement are sadly no longer with us and this was surely no Stephen Malmus effort so what was going on, it turned out to be a completely new band called… Well that was the problem, sadly the DJ didn’t announce the name of the band at the end. All Nick could remember was that the song was probably called Mountain.

So what to do about that? Luckily the BBC being a very useful public service broadcaster have complete track listings of every show they broadcast on their website – a very very useful feature. So he was able to find out the name of the band and that was…

…well when I say it started with my friend Nick driving somewhere that wasn’t really true. Well I know, and so do you, I’m sure, that we could happily be going back to Nick’s parent’s first meeting, how Nick’s parent’s parent’s first met and so on, and go into the whole Irish, German not really English thing, but it’s best not to. That leads us back to the big bang or otherwise and that would help no-one. I could claim that there is limited space, but that would violate the infiniteness of the universe that is predicated by Einstein’s general theory of relativity.*

The actual story part of this story starts in an attic in the Mississippi Delta. A young man was looking through his grandfather’s effects and found a number of lyrics written on cracker boxes. He, as you would given half the chance I’m sure, called up as many friends as he could think of at the time – 5 – and got them to come over as soon as possible. They all made excuses to their respective parents, pretended they were going to each others houses while actually going to this attic. They almost got caught out due to one of them making a foul up, but his younger brother who wanted desperately to go along covered for his older brother and then was allowed into the band just to stop him ratting out the entire operation. Eventually they all arrived and decided to set the cracker lyrics to music. The only problem was that none of them had any instruments let alone knew how to play them. Luckily an old gypsy man who was passing nearby was able to show them, all too briefly, a small ladybird book of instruments.

This is how the group looked moments before they realised they were about to be photographed for this picture

The group got to work immediately chopping down trees and carving instruments from the wood and out of the very living rock (and to a lesser extent roll) that was lying about the place. Eventually, after a few peanut butter sandwiches, they were able to play something that resembled music. It was at this point that one of them, history doesn’t record which because it was busy doing something else, said “And what shall we call ourselves” and one of the others said, “Led Zeppelin”**.

After some negotiations they decided that as they were appropriating the lyrics of this old man they should name the band after him. This turned out especially well because this being the guy’s maternal grandfather he wouldn’t share the name with any of the band members. These guys were smart, they knew that naming it after somebody would be a recipe for disaster down the road.

It seems the moment to pause for a second and tell the chilling story of the band Baccara who had the “hit” record “Yes Sir I can boogie”. The band split soon afterwards, but still wanted to cash in on the fame. So one of the women from the group started a group called “New Baccara”. Not wishing to be out-done the other woman started “New Baccara 2”. This really pissed off the first “New Baccara” who changed her group’s name to “Baccara 2000”. “New Baccara 2” woman then went back to being just “Baccara”. And one of the less talked about Y2K effects was to strip off the number 2000 from anything that had 2000 attached to it, and so it was that “Baccara 2000” became “Baccara” as well in 2001. So both of the women are still Boogie-ing as “Baccara” which would be really confusing if anybody really cared.

So yes, I seem to have been sidetracked. The grandfather’s name was Roy Spinto and so they called themselves “The Spinto Band” and I saw them last night at the Dublin Castle, Camden Town. I may have embellished the story about how they came into being a bit but then so did they.

I’ve been to the Dublin Castle about 15 times but this was the first time I’d ever seen that many people there. And they all looked slightly, erm, different than usual. Everyone who was there was from the music industry. All trying to get a look at the next big thing, which if there’s any justice in the world will be, The Spinto Band.

Well that kind of ruins the conclusion of this review. But I’ll be totally blunt now: I really really liked them. You might not whoever you are, but I did. They probably aren’t for everyone. I’m afraid to say that I doubt that they will ever get a number 1 hit track. But they could come close. They are the kind of loveable cult band that should be massive. The kind of band that everyone who actually loves music loves rather than the kind who buy Britney albums love. But another caveat, ask yourselves did you like Pavement. Do you like the Flaming Lips? Some people don’t get this kind of music and then maybe The Spinto Band won’t be for you, or maybe they will. I can’t tell you the answer.

The main thing that you notice about the band straight away is that there an awful lot of them. If you’ve been keeping a running total through this article and have come up with 7 then you’d be wrong largely because I’ve kept a piece of information from you. The deadly secret of the band is that one of the members is missing. He was there on that fateful day in the Mississippi Delta when some crackers were eaten but now he is absent. I pressed one member of the band about this last night and they swore that he was doing the “artwork” for the band. But I could see right through this and decided to do some digging of my own. That’s right they’d buried him out in the Delta. Apparently there was a disagreement about the exact colour to use for some of the album artwork and that was the last he was ever seen.

So the cull has begun. Now there are six, but by the time they make the big time mark my words there will be a few fewer members.

Let’s examine each member in turn and see how they stack up:

Nicholas Krill Guitar / Voice
It was Nicholas’ grandfather who’s name is lent to the band and as he was effectively lead singer he seemed to be the serious core of the band. A bit angry and dangerous, but perhaps that was just because he had sinus trouble. When he asked if anyone knew any good remedy one of the journos shouted back “Crack”.

Thomas Hughes Bass / Voice
The second in command, but slightly more in the captain strange camp. He was very happily playing a kazoo with Jon Eaton in the last number. He is definitely the best dancer in the band.

Jeff Hobson Drums
With five other people going crazy in a very controlled way in front of you the drummer has to be almost the conductor. The band seemed incredibly polished and tight. I think that this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned a drummer in a review, but here goes: I believe he had a lot to do with the tightness.

Joe Hobson Guitar
Joe unfortunately seemed to be the most superfluous of the band. It was hard to tell exactly what he contributed but then there’s always going to be a bit of that in an operation like this. They were going for a complete sound thing and that would be difficult without Joe’s guitar.

Sam Hughes Keyboard
I couldn’t really hear the keyboards from where I was which was interesting. They seemed to be under the mix supporting the stuff on top. So I can’t tell you if Sam Hughes can really play, all I can tell you is that he’s a dynamite reviewer of soft beverages.

Jon Eaton Moustachioed Guitar
When Jon stepped up there at the beginning I thought he looked the most separate from the rest of the band. He was wearing a sweater and had the top button of his shirt done up despite it being on the warm side. At first it seemed like he was trying to be in the band but he wasn’t really cool enough. It wasn’t until he put on a fake moustache for the second track that I suddenly figured out what was going on. Jon is clearly off on his own journey and currently that journey has taken him two feet further to the left than anyone else – that is all.

So yes, I’d like to tell you to catch their next gig, it’s in Philadelphia I think. If you’re geographically challenged by this then why not buy the album. Nick did from the band yesterday, but I couldn’t get organised in time. Instead I’ve bought it from amazon and I encourage you to do the same. Check out a sample first though. To follow The Spinto Bands rise and rise check out their blog: The Spinto Band Crave attention

* Don’t worry about Nick’s family history – it’s all relatives.

** The legend of the Led Zeppelin’s naming goes something like this: The band was about to go out on stage for a tour where they had been booked but they still didn’t have a name. As some of the members were refugees from “The Yardbirds” they decided to call themselves “The New Yardbirds”. Keith Moon who was back stage suggested that the name was so bad that it wouldn’t even just go over like a lead balloon but would be worse, it would go over like a lead zeppelin. They decided that Lead Zeppelin was a much better name so went with that instead. They dropped the “a” in Lead so that people wouldn’t think they were suggesting that there was a whole squadron of Zeppelins but that they were the lead one and would therefore pronounce it differently.

Film of the week

I’m going to try and go to a film every Thursday, please feel free to come and join me. If you’d like to join me then let me know by the end of today so I can book tickets.

Film #1: Godzilla

Director: Ishiro Honda
Year: 1954
Duration: 96m
Location: Clapham Picture House
Time: 21:15

this to the music by C. Hubert H. Parry

And did those birds in modern times,
cough upon England’s mountains green?

tum te tum…

something about a lamb – who might, or might not, have had foot and mouth.

The world’s leading expert on European wasps and the sounds that they make

Brian, the world’s leading expert on European wasps and the sounds that they make, is taking a stroll down his local high street. As he passes by the record shop, a sign catches his eye. “Just Released – New LP – Wasps of the World & the sounds that they make – available now”

Unable to resist the temptation, Brian goes into the shop. “I am the world’s leading expert on European wasps and the sounds that they make. I’d very much like to listen to the new LP you have advertised in the window.”

“Certainly, Sir,” says the young man behind the counter. “If you’d like to step into the booth and put on the headphones, I’ll put the LP on for you.”

Brian, the world’s leading expert on European wasps, goes into the booth and puts on the earphones. Ten minutes later, he comes out of the booth and announces, “I am the world’s leading expert on European wasps and the sounds that they make and yet I recognised none of those.”

“I’m sorry Sir”, says the young assistant.

“If you’d care to step into the booth, I can let you have another 10 minutes.”

Brian, the world’s leading expert on European wasps and the sounds they make, steps back into the booth and replaces the headphones. Ten minutes later, he comes out of the booth shaking his head. “I don’t understand it”, he says, “I am the worlds leading expert on European wasps and the sounds that they make, and yet I still can’t recognise any of those!”

“I really am terribly sorry”, says the young assistant…

“I’ve just realised I was playing you the B side!”

Stating the bleedin’ obvious

Morrissey is a wonderful artist and it really does please me to tell you that his new album “You are the quarry” is brilliant. Really great lyrics, incredibly spare. One of my favorite lines of the album goes “And he stole from the rich and the poor, and the not-very-rich and the very poor”. Only Morrissey could really get away with a line like that. And it’s consistent all the way through the album except in one track. In one track I believe there is a word in a line which is unnecessary: “Drinking tea with the taste of the Thames, Sullenly on a chair on the pavement”. Sullen were you Morrissey, really? I never would have guessed. But it is a great album. Do check it out.

Wooden teeth

There is a rather enduring rumour that George Washington actually had wooden teeth. Of course he didn’t really. His teeth were mostly made from hippopotamus bone which is a very different thing. However the teeth thing must have been something of an issue because he made sure that his six white horses had their teeth brushed every day!

Somehow this, and I know this is much more my problem than his, always makes me think of the idea of having wallpaper for teeth. You can actually get patterned mouth guards but what about patterned teeth? I think it would be a great conversation starter.

To this end I have commissioned a range of tooth wallpaper which is now available in all good dentists. I’ve even been able to get celebrity support in the shape of some of the best grinners in the business, Tony Blair and Richard Branson.