Friday, August 25, 2006

Blog of Mobile Funk

I'm a lasagna, sang a salami. In my quest for better health, I have organised a relaxing and recreational trip. Oh how I don't eagerly anticipate dealing with borders and baggage and holiday makers in this time of twitchy paranoia, but it will be a first time for GGF to venture in the direction of this particular destination.

I will blog while I am away, and this will be enabled by The Magical Sony Ericsson K800i Blog Phone. Aside from it's habit of dropping calls rather abruptly - which I hope is a passing phase - I like it, and the K800i and Blogger work passably well together - when Blogger is working...

I particularly like the way the camera resizes the 3.2 megapixel shots just right - and then shows me the webpage - bingo. I can even read your comments on the move.

Watch this space.

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Tea: Drug of Choice

Tea is the first drug for which I ever developed a serious habit. In our home, the kettle and the pot where available to all at any time. The one rule was that if the kettle was filled and boiled, you had to shout out (unless in a perilous late rush) "Does anyone want tea?" Not to do so was rude and insulting and you would almost find yourself left out of tea-drinking in the next family tea round.

Cut to: a wet, English afternoon in winter, sodden coats, hats and boots distributed everywhere from the hall to the bathroom, red noses and cheeks on seven faces, steaming mugs of tea held in wind-bitten fingers, and the taste of the pot-brewed brown liquid lightly scalding your tongue as you talked steam-driven conversation around a fire, tea restoring warmth, lifting the spirits after an afternoon in the rain.

As a child I rapidly became good at the tea-making art. The reason for this was two-fold. Mother was (is) a tea-head. To make a decent cup of tea in the morning was an essential task which went a long way to establishing your "good" credentials. The second was that it meant you got the best cup of tea possible, the first top up of a seriously stewed, tannin- and caffeine-laden brew, more potent than should be available to children under 40 for medical reasons. Sod Pepsi Max - just two or three cups of home-brewed tea would put the buzz of Indian and Ceylon in your veins, get you through your hour-long commute to school - often a combination of car lifts, bus journeys and long walks laden with bags - exercise books, text books, sports bags, musical instruments. It was exhausting and tea was necessary.

Cue to: the dog-end of a blistering teenage row. Cruel words have been said in haste and repented, but a useless combination of pride and spent anger have landed the protaganists in a moral slump. Then tea, the gentle ritual providing a normalising structure of events to follow after the chaos of shouted accusation and wept contrition, boiling and brewing replacing failed language and love.

Tea we are told dehydrates you - it is a diuretic, as my Aunt Judy says brightly "Tea, tea, makes you pee!" Except now, we are told, no it doesn't by Dr Carrie Ruxton, and colleagues at Kings College London.

This scientific advice may be as useless as the advice from tobacco-companies that smoking is not addictive and doesn't kill you, since the funding for this work comes from the Tea Council, but, like anyone who loves tea, my heart is made happy (and probably healthy) by the following:
"Dr Ruxton said: "Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so its got two things going for it."

She said it was an urban myth that tea is dehydrating.

"Studies on caffeine have found very high doses dehydrate and everyone assumes that caffeine-containing beverages dehydrate. But even if you had a really, really strong cup of tea or coffee, which is quite hard to make, you would still have a net gain of fluid.

"Also, a cup of tea contains fluoride, which is good for the teeth," she added.
Some of the findings are remarkable - in older people, tea represents 70% of fluid intake. They also found "clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack."

Cut to: a funeral in south London. It is morning, so heavy drinking is out of the question until after lunch, which is one reason that the interrment was scheduled for 10.30 am. There is the usual procession of black, ill-fitting jackets and shoes, white shirts blanching the faces of the scared and sad. "21 wreaths..." mused a highly-freaked-out friend of the deceased, "and he was 21 years old... " Somehow the coincidence and the observation spooked the assembled mourners.

"Let's go and get a cup of tea for fuck's sake," muttered the budding 17-year-old alcholic, at which all faces lifted with hope, and the spell was broken.

Polyphenol antioxidants are coursing through me as I write this. In fact, in the same way that Phillip K. Dick wrote on amphetamines and Alan Ginsberg wrote on marijuana, Blog of Funk is constructed upon the foundations of a morning walk and the daybreak cuppa.

Cut to: the stage crew room. Studying like a bastard for "O" levels, the dreaded "thou shall not fail" exams we take on this god-forsaken rock aged 16, I would freqently suffer an almighty crash as the huge amount of caffeine ingested at 7am ran out by 11am. So, aged 14, I joined the stage crew, whose tasks were numerous and involved lighting, prop construction, and all things technical and dramatic. Reason? A tiny room to cram into for morning break, with... a kettle! This essential tea injection meant I would last the rest of the morning without fighting desperately closing eyelids as the drug left my system.

The discoverer of tea, according to Chinese lore, was Confucius. Of course, Confucius is attributed to have done everything and said everything that was great and good, so it probably wasn't actually He. Maybe it was his mate, though, or more likely, his Mum. The story is that he was boiling water and leaves from the tea-bush were blown into the pot. There is a marvellous "Confucius" quote about tea, which goes,

"The first sip is ecstasy, the second, enlightenment, the third, madness..."

One of the madness-inspiring aspects of tea is the endless variety of it's forms. In the same way people make lists of favourite films and books, I make lists of my favourite teas.

1. Darjeeling - the "champagne" of teas, whose subtle flavours dance across the tongue
2. Assam - a staple, with a firm, long taste
3. Orange Pekoe - combines a depth of flavour with unparalelled lightness
4. Jasmine - of course! It's heaven after a meal
5. Lapsang Souchong - the smokey redolence matched by a unique taste
6. British Rail - always served strong and extra hot, and full to the lip of the cup to ensure spillage
7. Genmaisha Macchairi - green tea with roasted rice - your tea and your breakfast cereal in one!
8. Gunpowder - little bollocks of tea expand miraculously into unbroken leaves in hot water
9. Kenya - strong as an ox, orange colour, lip-smacking
10. Masala Chai - a spicy blend of cardomom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper and coriander, served sweet with condensed milk for that genuine sub-continental taste.

Note that important, nutritious and tasty herb teas like mint, and Rooibos have been omitted in deference to the mighty Camellia sinensis, which rules the tea-drinking nations of the world.

When I became recently unwell, I was advised to cut down on dehydrating drinks, including caffeine. So, with little more than a few days of withdrawal headaches, out went coffee, now no more than a pleasant smell and a complimentary taste to walnuts in cake. But tea? How could I end this love affair which has been continuing for over 40 years? How can I not stagger up out of bed in the morning and make the first daily journey, not to the bathroom or the sink, but to the kettle? How can I sit and absorb the fact of my re-awakening to face another day without the half-pint of warmth in the belly, a comforting throwback to maternal milk? Now, thank God, I can take this new research into the medics, and we'll sit around discussing the findings over a nice cup of tea.

Although tea drinking is falling, the average Briton still manages to drink 1,000 cups a year - we drink more than any other nation on the planet. I have often considered that in my later life, I shall not be resident within these shores, because I have always had a strong feeling that I shall live my final years in a hot country, and expire happily far away from the land of my birth. The more I consider my relocation options, the more one country calls me over and over again... the great tea-growing nation of India. Then at least, come hell or high water - and I am expecting both to arrive before I depart - I shall at least have my cup of tea.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Does Dark Matter?

There is something delightfully humbling about the edges of our knowledge of everything. The brightest scientists attempt to calculate and re-calculate the boundaries of our knowledge by peering inside even smaller and out ever further.

I read only two days ago that an extraordinarily intelligent Russian mathematician has apparently expressed in faultless mathematical terms the shape of the universe. I can picture his bearded face from the newspaper. I have been searching since then for something on the internet about it and I can find nothing. Was it a dream, like Charley Barley last night, greeting me with hugs and smiles in a green Somerset field?

Now I see that...
"US astronomers say they have found the first direct evidence for the mysterious stuff called dark matter. Dark matter - which does not emit or reflect enough light to be "seen" - is thought to make up 25% of the Universe. By contrast, the ordinary matter we can see is believed to make up no more than about 5% of our Universe.

Until now, astronomers have only been able to infer the existence of this dark material through the gravitational effects it has on ordinary matter. The researchers have discovered what is effectively the gravitational signature of dark matter.

This signature was created by dark matter and ordinary matter being wrenched apart by the immense collision of two large galaxy clusters. "The kinetic energy of this collision is...enough to completely evaporate and pulverise planet Earth ten trillion trillion times over," said team member Maxim Markevitch of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, US. Study leader Doug Clowe, from the University of Arizona, said: "This provides the first direct proof that dark matter must exist and that it must make up the majority of the matter in the Universe."

They assess the breakdown of the components of the universe thus: Our Stuff: 5% Dark Matter: 25% Dark Energy: 70%

I found some gloriously psychedelic (N.B. proper spelling of psychedelic) movies here showing illustrations of strong lensing.

I have little grasp of what I am on about. It doesn't matter because I am only an infinitesmally small part of the 5% of everything and some of us have cornflakes to hatch, legs to oil, sheep to graze. We can't all be spending time wondering where all the other stuff that must be there is. That is for people like Maxim and Doug, and the Russian scientist whose name I think was Gregor. It makes me deliriously happy that very clever people are doing this work. I can dream easy (about Charley, again, maybe - I miss Charley!) knowing that these these brave pioneers of understanding are explaining the universe. Also, that superbly fit journalists like Paul Rincon are following these matters, and that the mighty BBC which covers everything, world without end, Amen, has included this priceless pearl on its website, so that we can feel a part of the endless Prometheus quest.

There is still some confusion about black cabs - it is still not understood how these mysterious entities disappear in the area around Oxford Street at 11pm and re-appear in Chigwell, many miles away, moments later. Scientists looking to increase their understanding of dark matter could do worse than refer to these pillars of transitory wisdom in their search for clues about the way things are.

"Strong lensing? I had him in the back of this cab once. Lovely geezer. Told me that the lensing cross-section is dominated by massive elliptical galaxies at redshifts 0.3 < z < 1 ...."

"Yes. The prospect of discovering a significant number of higher-order catastrophe lenses in the LSST sample is an exciting one."

"What do you reckon - Tottenham to go down?"

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Alice & The Burford Three

I've been away for a few days in North Wiltshire on a Cotswolds Magical Mystery tour, and the kind man we were staying with took us around some lovely places in the damp English weather.

This the unassuming but pleasant-looking Liddell House, which used to belong to a Cambridge mathematics professor, Professor Liddell. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) are set here - it belonged to the parents of the little girl whom the author Lewis Carroll was obsessed with, for whom the stories of Alice were written and upon whom the character was based. Carroll stayed at the house periodically.

Went also to visit Burford Church, famous for being where the three leaders of the Levellers English roundhead rebellion were shot and buried in May 1649. For three days there over three hundred captured rebels were held captive in the church while their fate was decided.

In fact Cromwell showed leniency remarkable for the time by only doing away with the ringleaders and sparing one the turncoat, Denne, who 'played the penitent so convincingly - "howling and weeping like a crocodile" - that he was reprieved'.* This plaque fairly recently fixed to the outside of the church commemorates the men, Thompson, Perkins and Church.

Antony Sedley managed to write his name on the font - nice bit of graffitti by a hungry man who probably imagined he was about to be executed.

Found these suspiciously pagan-looking statues in the wool merchant's chapel, part of Burford Church - look at the leaves lapping up their stone carved bodies in waves.

These are quite unlike the very much more strictly Christian imagery found elsewhere in the church.

As we left, the church people who were setting up for some mystic event involving children and pyramids, were playing Genesis, as sung by Phil Collins, through a small P.A. I couldn't tell if this was meant to be ironic or not. They all seemed very cheerful.

*M.B. from the leaflet sold by Friends of Burford Church, 30p.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006


The ancient Egyptians believed that a person had to earn the right to enter the afterlife. Before an individual could pass into the next realm, nine great gods known collectively as the Ennead had to judge his worthiness.

In Greek mythology, nine goddesses called the Muses were responsible for inspiring the art of musicians, artists, and writers.

In Maya mythology, nine levels existed in the underworld. Metnal, the ninth level, was a place of eternal darkness, cold, and suffering.

I lost nine minutes of recorded speech during the making of this podcast.

Pod of Funk #9 seeks to alleviate your suffering with lashings of hot funk, some soothing beats, and a healthy dose of profanity.

These women photographed earlier are playing the podcast directly into their bustles for a better bass response.

As you can see they are quite excited by the combination of classic, rare and eclectic numbers which form the constituent parts of the podcast.

Thanks to Kate for this picture of Pod of Funk playing in her car stereo.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

The Return Of The Mighty Boosh

Spotted my favourite living comedians Julian Barratt (left) and Noel Fielding (aka The Mighty Boosh) today on the corner of Oxford Street and Rathbone Place, and chatted to them whilst taking this candid cheery picture.

"Look, there are my favourite comedians!" I said brightly to my friend J who was walking with me, and without hesitation I stopped and produced the now-famous Sony Ericsson K800i 3 mega-pixel blog phone. "I've bought everything you've ever done," I said loudly, as I took the picture. "And I promise I won't embarrass you by shouting "Old Greg!" which raised the resigned smile from Julian and the cheeky grin you see in the picture from Noel.

Making comedians laugh for your snaps is, I decided, like recommending floss to your dental hygenist. Or taking in a sandwich in for the local cafe owner. Or calling up a newspaper and reading them news items as if you think they really need to know these things are going on.

Actually, I must do that last one.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

That After Party Feeling Farty

I am slightly crestfallen today after playing a good local gig last night... after-party blues even though there was no party. After we'd played a successful short set, I got a cab back with the gear at 11.45 with the dancing and fooling around drunkenly bit of the club just kicking off, and then went straight to bed, absolutely exhausted, and slept until 12.30 this afternoon, which is something I haven't done in months. that'll be the Thyroid Soothe then, my favourite tipple. Honestly: rock and roll, in my condition..

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Do You Mind If I Smoke?

This seven episode story first appeared in Blog of Funk 19th July 2005.

She asked this in a matter of fact way whilst rummaging in a large bag, making clear that she was going to smoke anyway whether I minded or not, so I mumbled, "No, go right ahead," and left the room to fetch the large glass ashtray.

M this thin, reddish, crazy woman had just turned up on my doorstep unexpectedly one summer's afternoon. I had not seen her for five years. I had met her at my first art school on my foundation course. After bumping into her randomly at some party years later, details swapped, one phone call made, and there she was, rolling up a meagrely thin combination of Golden Virginia and some crumbs of ropey-smelling hashish in my living room.

M was unselfconscious about her looks, it seemed, unaware or maybe simply unashamed of her sexuality; like many middle-class girls, it was no big deal. She was stick-thin, wearing voluminous 80s mannish trousers with some punk / goth additions to the hair and ears. Her breasts were tiny, mostly nipple, and her loose, unfilled tops frequently peeled away from her chest bone, showing what she didn't have whenever the angle was right. She had a strong physical smell, on the edge of unpleasant, sharp, foxy, catty. She had a long, aquiline nose, a heavy-lidded smile which split her impish face, and a rather spectacularly filthy laugh.

She was anxious in a nice way, a pleasantly passionate Cancerian, and I fancied her. She seemed to be making herself at home, and since I was single and constantly horny, I decided that this was no bad idea.

I was working in a pretty good music studio at the time, and I knew that M was interested in me for that reason, but, fair enough, I thought. She got high, and two spots of red either side of the magnificent nose flushed her ivory complexion.

"Can I play you my tape?" she asked, offering me the spliff, indicating the cassette on top of her bag.

"Sure," I said, "Thanks but I don't smoke government drugs."

"Government drugs?" she was visibly confused. I was being clever, this was my moment to preach about deaths from tobacco smoking and government revenues from tax. Instead, I took the tape, wacked it in the player, and turned up the volume on the amp.

It had been years since I had suffered anything so appalling and it was all I could do to maintain the volume for the five and a half minutes of the first song on the tape, which had been recorded on a portastudio in a bedroom with an electric guitar, a chorus pedal, a very bad microphone, and the most clanging, dissonant reverb unit I had ever heard. I didn't mind dissonance, being a fan of Stockhausen, NON and sundry industrial-type art bands; but this was inadvertant. Stuck at the back of the train tunnel, she wailed through dirgy chords stolen from Siouxsie and the Banshees circa 1981. It was angst, but somehow kitch. It was painful, both sonically and emotionally. I fought to keep the displeasure from my face and my hand from the off switch as she beamed at me throughout, glowing with pleasure. I turned the second song down slightly, and asked her about the genesis of the work, in order to distract myself from the music, which was actually getting worse.

M started to explain in great detail the thinking behind the song, and as she did so, leaning forward, I stared down her cotton top at her bright pink nipples. The more animatedly she spoke, the more they hardened, and I found this so arousing and disturbing that I interrupted her flow as track three kicked in. It was slower, less like a nail down a blackboard, more like pulling a tooth.

"Do you play live?" I asked, trying to reconcile my semi-erection with my loathing of this woman's art.

"Yes, but I need some help with engineering, it never sounds as good as this!" she gushed. I realised that her gloriously uncritical nature extended to her music making, and she really did believe that she was blessed with genius. "Will you help?" she asked coquettishly.

Shit, I thought, how can I shag this woman without embarassing myself in the studio? If I take her tape in they will just laugh, perhaps nakedly, cruelly, and despite the bravado I could sense that M's self-esteem perhaps was not on the firmest ground. The wailing in the songs sounded suicidal. I spoke non-committally about seeing whether I could get her some demo time. As I said this, I realised that she was within six inches of me and looking at me with a combination of pleading and ferocity, and the hairs began to rise on my neck.

End part one - Read the rest of the story here...

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Video from Lebanon

GGF (Gorgeous Girl Friend) went to University in Beirut and knows people in Lebanon from that time. This video came via email -
> >From "the besieged Beirut".. who is still creating.. a video.. After you see the video please check the following websites:

Cluster Weapons Report (page 57 has a listing of IMI)

Human Rights Watch

Be warned: this video is difficult to watch if you have any tendency to despair, or weep, or become sad, or rent your sides with sharp nails in masochistic penance for humankind's collective stupidity. This video begs questions. Where are we, now we are needed? Somehow these people are endeavouring to communicate with the world as the missiles rain down upon them.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Railings Redux

All around and about the patch of suburban south London where I grew up, there was evidence of the Victorian obsession with order, classification, heirarchy and status, and also of the tumult of the following century that tore all that certainty apart, and nowhere was this more evident than railings.

A lot of the railings that once surrounded parks and municipal lawns were cut down during one or other of the two world wars, on the pretext that this was for munitions, tanks, aeroplanes, etc., but the vast majority of the metal reclaimed in this way, along with kitchen pots and pans, and Uncle Robert's bathchair, was completely useless for that purpose. How effective a morale-boosting initiative that was: we now have only one pot to piss in, and the park's borders are forever defined by a metal barrier which disappeared more than sixty years ago.

Some of the long lines of railings survived - posher houses, schools, hospitals got to keep their heavy wrought iron, and these were painted and repainted, fine details obliterated by layer upon layer of lead-based green or black gloss paint, or left unpainted to rust and grow thin, becoming ever more fragile and brittle. Certain stretches of railing could be broken by a good kick, but you had to be careful, or the great War God Tet Ah Nhus would come down from metal heaven and bite you in the leg and kill your face.

Cut to a future time, when archaeological visitors to the island of Crystal Palace are handed small sticks and shown to a length of railing which has been set up for the purpose. "Go on, children!" they exhort their bored progeny, "Bang the railings, just like they did in the Twentieth Century, to keep the War God happy!"

There were particularly fine lengths of railings around my primary school, and one of the first things I learned to do was to walk at a steady pace with a stick held horizontally, listening intently as the notes made gongs out of each metal stem - bing-bong-bung-bing-bang-bing-bing-ding-thwock-bing-bing-beng-bong-bing-dong-bung-bing-bang-bing-bing-chug-thwock-bing-ding-beng-bong - wonderful entertainment for the musical ear aged five, and maddeningly distracting for attendant adult with a head full of Premium Bonds and an arse full of piles. Being forbidden made it more special, and soon I had logged all the places in the area that lines of railings lived, and visited them in order to make my processional, Balinese street music at leisure.

Railings kept me in school, and once, aged ten, out of school, when I managed to impale my left hand whilst returning a lunchtime ball which had landed in front of me in the road. Climbing onto the wall, I threw it back, slipped, and for a few grisly seconds, the weight of my body hung from my punctured hand. I pulled myself up and off, jumped down onto the path, spread my fingers and stared at the enormous wound. As I did so, I realised I was looking at the other side of my skin - the wound had not quite gone right through - before it filled with blood.

"Come in, love, and I'll put a plaster on it," said a helpful but entirely misguided dinner lady. I looked at her, and decided that this was a professional clean up and stitch job, so ignoring her well-meaning but ludicrous advice, lifting up my left hand with my right, I jogged gently back up the hill home, and when I got there calmly announced that I would need a visit to hospital. I was descended upon by Mum and siblings with lashings of prompt sympathy, whereupon to my great surprise, I cried. Damn! I had been so determined not to, but the bastards went for the emotional jugular.

In hospital, I got three stitches, which I still have, in a small wooden box, much to the disgust of various girlfriends. This wound was blamed for my depression (nobody ever asked me, "Any recent bereavements?") so a few months later, I was prescribed valium.

Bing-bong-bung-bing-bang-bing-bing-ding-thwock-bing-bing-beng-bong-bing-dong-bung-bing-bang-bing-bing-chug-thwock-bing-ding-beng-bong went my head, but nobody was listening then. I found railings later - I filmed them in Wood Green, when I got to art school, just walking around Woodside park in the sun, with a stick making the notes.

It was a piece I never showed, never finished.

First published 6th October 2005

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Stop The Bloodshed: Ceasefire Now

Dear Blog of Funk Reader,

Right now a tragedy is unfolding in the Middle East. Hundreds of civilians have died in the bombings in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine and the death toll is rising every day.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for an immediate ceasefire and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has joined Annan in calling for the deployment of international troops to the Israel-Lebanon border. This is the best proposal yet to stop the violence, but for it to succeed other global leaders need to get behind it immediately.

I have just signed a petition urging regional and global leaders to speak out and support Kofi Annan's proposal. If people around the world can persuade their governments to unite in demanding a ceasefire, all sides in this conflict will be pressured to stand down. Can you sign the petition too?

The petition will be sent to key regional and global leaders and publicized in major newspapers in the Middle East, US and Europe. With enough signatures we can help pressure our leaders to stop the violence.


Deek Deekster.

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Toblerone (Out On It's Own...)

"Toblerone" went the jingle, "out on it's own.."


I've always thought this was one of the weirder and more misguided ad campaigns ever. It somehow suggested that if you ate the uniquely shaped chocolate bar, you would be cast into psychedelic isolation. The merry song tripped along mentioning triangular people, triangular honey, triangular bees, triangular smells, all set in a colour-saturated saccharine and disturbing triangular cartoon animation hell worthy of the son of the clone of Bob Godfrey. I wish I could find a copy of it.

Toblerone ads have always been bizarre. I get the impression that the only way Ad People are allowed to encourage the company to distinguish and sell this confectionery product is by it's shape.. this is the way it has always been since Mr Tobler had the wonderful, inventive, and typically SWISS IDEA of a non-rectangular choc bar, and any marketing utilising this feature and thus keep the Toblerone profile in place is acceptable, even if it puts you off eating the stuff.

A more recent campaign where models used the triangle to disfugure themselves I found utterly repulsive:

This makes me anticipate the delicious combination of chocolate, honey and nougat ? No. It makes me want to perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre as a preventative measure. And because Toblerone have always traded on the eccentric, they attract freaks from all over the world... not nice, funny, interesting freaks however.. just freaks !

The text reads (translated from German using babelfish):

The Toblerone flog stands one before the judge, can from sport equipment fast a weapon become. Does this danger exist also with a large Schokoriegel? If one has cousin a ball racquet in the car to lie, it can be which one with police control annoyance gets. Is a large Schokoriegel, which policeman to assume which one these used as weapon, how suspicious?

Actually, I do quite like Toblerone. Oops.

Toblerone is by a long way the most read article in Blog of Funk. As you may have noticed, I have studiously avoided writing populist prose about chocolate since that time. You might be interested in reading the comments on the original post though... the German people commented to explain their use of the chocolate as a weapon, as did the man who sang the TV jingle. And I do still like Toberone, especially the dark chocolate ones.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Skip To My Lou

Lost my partner,
What'll I do?
Lost my partner,
What'll I do?
Lost my partner,
What'll I do?
Skip to my lou, my darlin'.

I'll get another one
Prettier than you,
I'll get another one
Prettier than you,
I'll get another one
Prettier than you,
Skip to my Lou, my darlin'

Skip, skip, skip to my Lou,
Skip, skip, skip to my Lou,
Skip, skip, skip to my Lou,
Skip to my Lou, my darlin'

Woke up this morning and skipped to my loo. This was mostly because I went to bed after drinking a precautionary pint of water after meeting up with an old friend after too long an absence; and slightly because my very loose, should-have-been-thrown-out-a-zillion-years-ago, full-of-holes-and-no-elastic, ultra-comfy faded red jogging trousers that I sometimes wear in bed (I know how to dress sexy) were falling down around my ankles, and it was a miracle that I survived the impact with the doorframe and still managed to expertly aim the jet. Women: pay attention. No cleaning up after necessary. Even half awake, bruised, rubbing a sore head, guess what? Zero splash. I'm sure you understand how proud I am of that.

This love-theme writing business is a rich vein of gold and I am still mining it. I have enough now for half a wedding ring. Which means, I can be half-married to someone. I can be standing at the altar, and confidently answering the question, Do You Take This Woman with, Maybe, Kind Of. How About, Every Other Week? So today, I ask myself, and you, and the cup of tea I have just finished, and my faded red trousers:

Marriage: Why?

So you meet someone lovely and you fall in love with them. It's lovely. They are lovely. You feel lovely. That's the nature of love. Then you spend lovely time together and the love continues to deepen and bring you untold joy and sweets. Fine. You go on holiday together and survive. You attempt Christmas and still want to see each other in the New Year. She survives the beer-breath and attempts at considerate behaviour. He survives the PMS and constant need to praise her fashion choices. All your friends keep telling you both that you seem really happy. You're certainly spending a lot of time together. You begin to think there may be a future in this. Your vision is suddenly rosy, distorted, blurred, you see a red carpet of love extending onwards and upwards to eternal couple heaven, then there's a congregation, an officiary, friends, family, people you don't know eating all the food, there's little bits of paper and rice on the floor, a loud clanging like God's Own Dinner Gong, an exotic destination, painkillers, sunburn...

Oh dear. You're married now. You'd better mean it then. Where's the toilet paper? Damn I wish you wouldn't do that!

I don't want to go on and on about marriage. I will become depressed. I will come clean instead. I got engaged to Jane when I was 17 (several hundred years ago) and I bought her a diamond ring, and my heart was broken when we split up. Thank the Almighty God of Funk that we did split up, since she was a depressed and depressing girl from a depressing family in a depressing part of town. We met in a depression. I was depressed seeing her. I felt depressed when she called me, depressed by the way she never stayed the night, depressed by the boring sex we had, and I was depressed when she went off with God. God was the Head Boy. He was blond and middle-class. I punched him in the pub when I found them together one lunchtime and was banned thereafter. Believe me, this was out of character. My self-esteem was low. I do not condone violence as a solution. I was experiencing appalling jealousy. I was 17. I knew nothing. And now I will draw a veil over that depressing episode and move on.

So far in life, I have done the serial monogamy thing. Mostly I have had serious relationships with the women I have been fortunate enough to love. Tortured, damaged, troubled, deranged women. I'm not saying all my choices were good. It's one reason I am taking on Cupid. Nonetheless, I have learned a lot and been shown a lot and there's been a lot of caring. I don't regret any of it even the tough years and the mad moments, and I still wanted to get married someday, until very recently. But then I met Lou.

Lou was pretty, young, romantic, intelligent, and savage, and I firmly believe she was sent by the Almighty God of Funk to put me right. I had the fabulous experience of a love affair that elevated me for 3 months to a height where angels seemed to sing to me from clouds of joy, followed by a solitary journey through the underworld of bitter pain and rejection, which lasted another 3 months.

Emotionally I was back where I started, astonished ay my own gullibility, and none the wiser for my journey. Then one day I was in the bath, thinking about all this, and I had my eureka moment. I just thought to myself, Deek, you are the round peg. Conventional relationships, marriage and all that, that is the square hole. Ergo, don't do it. I pictured myself wearing a tshirt with the words


written on it...

and I burst into laughter, loud and long, amplified by the tiles and shiny bathroom surfaces. Just at that moment, the postman walked by the bathroom window, and my guffaws erupted out of a silence so profound I saw the shadow leap back in shock. Poor postman, my revelation made him jump out of his skin and possibly damaged his life expectancy. Either way, at that moment, I felt the burden of expectation lift from my shoulders. I was still somehow harbouring a mad idea of being in some perfect example of the institution of marriage, even after years of evidence to the contrary, and bless her, in her thoughtless way, Lou completely knocked it out of me. I took off the invisible old heavy overcoat that I had been wearing since I was young, put on my nice new tshirt, and I went forth from that day relieved and unpressured, and prepared to be myself and do things in my own funky way for as long as I live and love.

I may yet backslide and marry, of course, but I promise you it will not be conventional. You are hereby invited to throw rice and paper, pin money on the dress, tie cans to the car, and provide toasters, but not at my wedding. My wedding will take place at dawn in the mountains, far from here, and there will just be me, my blushing beautiful bride, the scent of rosemary, the bees, the crickets, and the goats.

I didn't tell you about the goats, did I?

NB: While I am getting well I am re-publishing some of my better articles. This was first published 26th January 2005, and is one of the most-read pieces I have written.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Logic You Are Mine

Despite my astounding abilities with language, music, art and modesty, I have no great mind for problem-solving in the Sudoku mould. I can do crosswords, I can play Scrabble. I can write well in several sub-genres of popular music. I compose poetry, I produce videos, and I spout prose for breakfast. If I did not do this, there would be no Blog of Funk.

However - and this might be down to laziness - I really do not fare well at IQ-determining-style puzzlers. I find them confusing, I get bored and I wander off to do something more productive. I'm sure that my failures in this area have no bearing on my general problem-solving abilities; but I watch with fascination when other people roll up their mental sleeves and devour algebraic formulae like cornflakes.

So after that prelude of shortcomings, I thought I would just mention that I have this warm weekend been installing pro software on not one but two different Apple machines, and the amount of sweaty brain work that it has entailed has shown me that whilst I will always be accorded an IQ score vastly inferior to my actual intelligence, I can at least install music software simultaneously on quite different systems, and make it work. Only a few phone calls, lots of website trawling and the occasional bit of text advice necessary.

Logic 7.1.1. AND 7.2 (Intel version) - you are mine.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Every British Citizen Will Again Pay For My Sex

I sit behind protective layers.

The small inner-city apartment where I live is safely above street level, four floors up, the entrance tucked away from the main road, protected by an entryphone system and large industrial-strength steel and glass doors. Above me, a plaster ceiling, a slate tile roof. To my left, a wooden front door, to my right, glass window. Behind and in front, brick walls. Below me, wool carpet, vinyl, concrete floor. Around my body, cotton, leather.

This morning, half-awake, on a lazy public holiday morning, I laughed long and loud at the inadvertent comic brilliance of the enterprising Romanian who composed the following:

Britain pays for queen's sex!

The Expenses of British Queen Elizabeth II for the last year increased from 34, 9 billion pound sterling till 77, 3 billions. It is double more in contrast with past year.

Perhaps, the most outrageous item of the expenses considers so-called "escort services", simply sexual amusements of the queen.

"Every British citizen will pay for my sex" - this sensational news has been said some hours before.

Directly to this news

Dear old Queen Liz, a sexual leech. Is this your revenge on the tabloids?

On my lap, my iBook. I use Eudora and this excellent application's built-in spam filter sends most junk email straight into my junk folder. Before it even gets to my Mac, SpamAssassin 2.63 determines its value on the server and flags up likely spam.

From: "BBC News"
To: "xxxxxxxxxxx" < xxxxxxxxxxx >
Subject: Britain pays for queen's sex!
Date: Mon, 30 May 2005 11:21:52 +0000
X-Spam-Flag: YES
X-Spam-Checker-Version: SpamAssassin 2.63 (2004-01-11) on xxxxxxxxxxx
X-Spam-Level: *****
X-Spam-Status: Yes, hits=5.9 required=5.0 tests=DATE_IN_FUTURE_03_06,
RAZOR2_CHECK,TO_ADDRESS_EQ_REAL autolearn=no version=2.63
* 0.0 TO_ADDRESS_EQ_REAL To: repeats address as real name
* 0.0 HTML_MESSAGE BODY: HTML included in message
* 0.5 HTML_20_30 BODY: Message is 20% to 30% HTML
* 1.6 RAZOR2_CF_RANGE_51_100 BODY: Razor2 gives confidence between 51 and 100
* [cf: 100]
* 0.1 MIME_HTML_ONLY BODY: Message only has text/html MIME parts
* 0.9 RAZOR2_CHECK Listed in Razor2 (
* 2.8 DATE_IN_FUTURE_03_06 Date: is 3 to 6 hours after Received: date

I would improve SpamAssassin by adding this single line:

* 2.9 ENTERTAIN_CHECK Listed in FunSpam (

Spammers cloak their identity, of course, for nefarious, sometimes criminal, reasons. Many more of us bloggers choose the anonymity of a nom-de-plume, for reasons of safety, to prevent job loss, out of genuine shyness, to defy closer inspection, a badge to fend off the mundane. A pen-name can set you free to be the person inside, if that person requires release, or it can be a signifier of aspects of yourself. RuKsaK explains his blog name, for example, as an amalgam of the places he has lived.

Two of my favourite artists, one literary, the other visual and conceptual, both had alternative names - Flann O'Brien (right) the Irishman who wrote The Third Policeman, also published under Myles na Gopaleen (Myles of the Small Horses) and Marcel Duchamp (left), the Frenchman who reinvented art used Rose Sélavy as his female counterpart.

The inventive capacity of the human mind in the mistaken belief of its own inevitable victory never ceases to amaze me. The fact that spam now represents as much as 80% of all email says something marvellously scary about human endeavour and lack of judgement. It is somehow analagous to the way that even though we know that the Amazonian rainforest is being destroyed before our very eyes - almost a fifth has now been cleared (read: wiped off the face of the earth never to return) - we type Amazon into a web browser to buy books made of paper.

If we could harness the combined intelligence of spammers, we surely could resist this awful death by drowning that we experience. We might choose to make a religious response to the awful loss, fall on our grateful knees in thanks, and start to love our abusers, desiring to embrace them, cherishing this degradation.

Sometimes, layers of protection must be discarded for us to be happily naked, exposed to the real world, feeling the warm rays of the UV-rich sun on our bodies in blissful disregard of social formula. What can we do, when almost everything is waste and discard, except like Kurt, take the scraps and try to turn them into something wonderful and extraordinary, something we can be proud of and allowed to love.

Now I am going to come clean now about an aspect of my blogging. SURE DOING in SURROUNDED I AM. I sit protected behind an alter-ego, who is called Ribbonfish Hazelwood.

My small, unimportant addition to this marvellous artistic convention is fired by words that are discarded, found in junk email. In the name of Ribbonfish, I dedicate it Rose, to Myles, and most of all, to Kurt Schwitters. It is my wartime house of electronic bus tickets.

First Published 30th May 2005

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ferrari And The Rainless Summer

"If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got" said the fortune cookie at the end of a particularly rich Chinese meal. I was MSG'd with an incipient throbber of a headache and staring across at CJ, a woman I had met online and who had persuaded me to meet her in Chiswick.

CJ was an artist and sometime writer, who messaged me one day at random. We had talked on and off for several weeks. She drove a fabulous red sports car, a slim, low-slung rumbling red Ferrari, in which she met me with a flourish at Turnham Green station as I stood in the warm ending of the summer afternoon, watching the shadows lengthen. I got into the car and she drove to the restaurant, chatting easily.

It was a date, I was single, she was single, and we were having somewhat overpriced fun in this somewhat posh district of west London. CJ told stories in her cute ex-pat German accent with British irony and a throaty laugh, her long red nails waving around her as she punctuated her speech with European emphasis. She wore a long black designer dress in some unnameable rustly fabric from Kensington, which showed off her Rubens bosom and ski-slope cleavage to good effect, funky black sandals, and interesting and expensive perfume. I guessed, something from New York, since she told me she had just returned from there.

The meal ended and it was 10pm, still light at this time of year. Replete and wishing I wasn't, I suggested a walk along the river, which is pleasant that far west, but CJ suggested her place so strongly that I conceded without a fuss. She drove enthusiastically fast down three streets, then spent longer parking than we had journeying. She had a beautiful garden flat situated in a leafy street full of nice family cars less smart than hers. We entered into dark rooms crammed full of intricate objets-d'art, books both contemporary (Houellebecq) and classic (Crowley), and lots of photographs, paintings, relief sculptures, which I quickly realised were hers.

"Let's have tea in the garden," she said, that most British of phrases. She made it sound like that guy who chops up cadavers in public - "Let's heff tea in da garten." The small city plot, strategically lit with candles, oil lamps and hidden electrics, a large table under two mature lime trees, was secluded, almost entirely protected from view. The main surreal feature of the garden was the chaise-longue, half-buried and covered in astro-turf. I sat upon it and wished I hadn't - water soaked straight through my thin cotton Pierre Cardin slacks and I felt embarassed enough to go to the toilet and pat myself drier.

CJ was busy boiling water in an eccentric copper kettle and talking non-stop, saw me go past her, noticed my arse-disaster, and I saw her smirk. She was pouring tea into cups when I came out, and when we went back into the garden carrrying our steaming brew, she indicated a seat which was dry. We chatted, I relaxed, tried to lose my headache and my full belly. She had cats, they came, they were petted. She remarked glowingly that they LIKED me! All animals like me, wild, tame, you name it. They can smell that I am one of them. It was coming up to 10.30pm. She put on some Nick Cage at low volume, leant forward so that the night shadow deepened the crevasse of her ample bust, and spraying pheremones like a garden sprinkler, started to make it very clear that we should spend the night in the garden, perhaps later retiring to her bed.

I liked her, but I knew from moment #1 there would be no physical relationship. She was clearly a. lonely b. neurotic and c. (from her many stories) totally messed up about men, relationships, and sex, not necessarily in that order. Good material for art, bad material for a lover. Also, she was just too damn big for me, so I couldn't even enjoy the one night. I can admire a woman built like that, but my sexual responses require some basic prompts, like decent muscle and skin tone, and although I have occasionally romped with and fondled fuller figures, the dimpled, corpulant excess of a body used to eating, drinking and smoking just does not do it for me. Still, it was a pleasant summer's evening, CJ was witty and intelligent, she obviously found me charming, we got along for a few hours without being bored, and I didn't want to offend her. I explained gently that I was tired, it was late, and I wasn't that kind of boy. That was when I realised she had no intention of letting me go.

Her first tactic (unwise) was to ask me if I was Man enough, or what? This fatal beginning is guaranteed to lose me every time. My simple answer is: No. I am Deek enough for anything, anyone, anytime, but Man, no, sorry, I don't do Man. That took five minutes. Then she changed subject and started talking intensely about Atomised, one of the books on her shelf. Had I read it? No. I really should. Doubtless. (I since have - it's a good book.) It questioned social mores. It was sexy. What sort of sex did I like? My head clanged like a dustbin lid. Why wasn't she non-smoking and slender? I would have knocked back a couple of painkillers and spent the next 5 hours expertly removing all traces of lust. I like all forms of sex, I announced calmly, with the exception of bondage, which bores me. Her eyebrow arched, she slightly narrowed her eyes (unwise) clearly calculating what to offer in order to keep me.

She abruptly rose, and said, "More tea?" and I said, just as promptly, "Well, I have to be going soon, the last train leaves in 15 minutes.." and she stopped on the path to the kitchen and turned, legs planted wide, looking suddenly operatic. "Why do you have to go?" she demanded, petulantly, like a child. "Do you not like me?" "Um, yes," I said, "just don't want to hit the sack with you right now." "Then stay!" she cried.

I knew then that with the train leaving in 7 minutes, I needed to insist on getting out, so I made up a story about having to rise at 6am the next day for an important blah, and speaking at breakneck speed to confuse her, I moved past her into the toilet, locked the door. I breathed, ran the cold, splashed my aching temples. Exiting, she was sat in front of her computer. "You know about these, don't you?" "Yes." "Can you help me with it?" All innocence. "Another time, I have to get to the station now." 4 minutes. "I'll give you a lift." I almost declined, then realised that I didn't know where I was exactly, so with some misgivings I said, "OK, but we'll have to go now or I'll miss it."

She wasted time, changing shoes which she didn't need to do, and we left. She wasted more time getting out of the parking space in a series of fast, miniscule moves which felt rather like the jerks and shudders of an injured not-quite-roadkill. Finally, she set off, turned a few corners, and I had the sinking feeling she was going to drive me anywhere but the station.

As we came to the bridge, I saw that she had artfully organised her route so that we were sitting at a red light on the opposite side of a wide road to the station entrance as the last minute approached. She was sort of crooning now, and I realised that she thought she had done enough to delay and keep me. My head was bang-bang-banging like she wanted me to, and I knew I was vulnerable. "Did you ever try anal sex?" she asked out of nowhere. Jesus, full marks for trying, I thought, but her manipulative neediness was blotting out all considerations apart from escape. "Sure!" I said, suddenly bright with hope. I had seen a gap in the traffic in the rear-view mirror. "Bye!" I kissed her on the cheek, just missing her too-late attempt to plant her red-lipsticked mouth on mine, leaped out of the open-top without bothering to open the door, ran full-pelt across the road narrowly missing an oncoming truck, leapfrogged the ticket barrier, ran down the concrete steps, jumped onto the last carriage of the final train home, and collapsed on a seat as the doors went peep-peep-peep-peep-peep and closed.

My heart was pounding, but as Chiswick receded and Islington neared, I thanked my lucky stars for Ferrari and the rainless summer.

First published 20th May 2005

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