Friday, February 22, 2008

BBC World Service

How cool is this?

This is a map which shows all the BBC Correspondents as little dots and triangles on a world map.

Clicking on them reveals their latest stories.

One for news-anoraks everywhere, and my thanks to Adrian Monck for finding it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Still on Facebook?

Many of us joined Facebook last year, and I still like it for the photos, Scrabble (although the lawyers are manoevering to stop it) and now Chess. I don't really need to know most of the updates, and I've always ignored those applications that turn you into a zombie or something stupid. And I've noticed that my friends on it are boiling down into a hardcore set of facebook-refuseniks. Last summer a lot of people came on, posted their profile and went back a couple of times. But then they drifted away.

Facebook is fun, but I think people make a mistake if they reckon that it's 'important' in some society-changing sense. The Atomic Bomb was 'important' and Galileo, and Penicillin, but not Facebook. I think there's a problem for Facebook which is remarkably similar to the problem other more conventional businesses face as they deal with the web; it's dashed difficult to get people to pay money for anything beyond books and airline tickets.

Stripped of its various allures, what Facebook is about is the surrender of your details for marketing purposes, in return for a sheen of techy-sociability. This is why, until very recently, it's been impossible to delete yourself from Facebook. We're all they have.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Gordon Goofs

I should say at the start that Gordon Ramsay has changed my life. I used to think culinary adventure lay in the Indian takeaway around the corner. That was until I met Miss T and we, or rather I, started to spend serious cash in restaurants from time to time, one of them belonging to Mr Ramsay. His cookbooks are on the shelves at Hendo towers, and are well thumbed.

The place of his we like is on the Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea, where we've been twice for lunch. I think it has three Michelin Stars. On each occasion I was made to feel like Frank Sinatra, and Miss T was basically romanced by the French Maitre D who is like Charles Aznavour, but with considerably more charm. The food was the best I've ever had anywhere. It is lovely.

Apparently the staff from this place used to to stagger next door after a long shift into another restaurant with considerably fewer awards, one Foxtrot Oscar. Gordon R has now bought this gaff, and naturally we were keen to go. Miss T was all for booking. But she went cold after she saw the Times (whose reviewer AA Gill he famously chucked out of one of his places), the Telegraph and Time Out.

Whither Ramsay? I am getting fed up of him now, because it seems to me that for all his cooking skill, he can't see when his image is being overcooked and popping up in too many places. The American TV show plays fast and loose with the footage and looks fixed. His places are becoming ubiquitous - Terminal 5 at Heathrow is on the cards, apparently. It seems for Ramsay, a line in the sand has been crossed. His very personal style of management we see in the telly shows can only extend so far. And if you're paying £200 for a dinner, you want something special and not a 'brand' that everyone's got access to. When spending serious money on his beloved a wise man throws democracy out of the window.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Time Out Walk: Number 21 from Book 1.
Place: Tonbridge, Kent
Weather: Pristine
Pub: The White Rock
Beer: Harveys (well kept) and a local brew I can't remember. Funny that.

It's pointless now to pretend that something weird hasn't happened to the climate. Ms T and I roused ourselves from our bed, trekked to Victoria Station and entrained for Kent - to discover that spring has arrived before mid February. The sun beat down; I'd brought my fleece but as the mist burned off I had to remove it and stow it in my rucksack. Gloves went unused.

I often wonder about living in the country. We couldn't afford it where we were walking because the houses are a million quid each, but when I'm listening to the 43rd police siren of the day, I wonder if it might not be nicer to live somewhere a bit more peaceful. Though Miss T says I'd be going up the wall with tedium sickness after four days, and she might well have a point.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Catz 4 Obama

This could be the final straw for Hillary. The internet Catz have declared for Obama.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Man Utd 1 Man City 2

Can't let today pass without blogging about Citeh who did the blue half of my home town proud this afternoon, comprehensively outplaying Fergie's glamour men in their own front garden.
They were lost without the Roon and Tevez couldn't get past Dunne and Micah Richards. But now I'm a fan of Joe Hart, who distinguished himself between the sticks.

It was a beautiful day and everyone behaved immaculately, remembering an awful tragedy on a runway in the snow fifty years ago. I met Sir Matt Busby once; it was about my third day, as a twenty year old student on work experience at Radio Manchester, and the great man was lovely to me as I clownishly attempted to interview him. That kind of generosity from someone of his stature made a lasting impression on me, and later served to make rudeness from smaller people less understandable.

The Glory of the Floyd

Listening to Pink Floyd is like unfolding a map of my life, showing the route between fifteen and eighteen, involving the discovery of a region of music and narrowly avoiding hanging myself due to spots and excessive virginity.

So I was thrilled to find this superb web advert which plays you bits of all the albums and parades the sleeves in front of your eyes...

Suddenly I was back in Cheadle.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Just returned from watching 'Cloverfield' which is a movie done by those clever yankees at 'Bad Robot' - you know, the firm that produced 'Lost' and other things you may well have seen on the telly. Have to say I was on the edge of my seat; it's like 'Blair Witch' meets 'Godzilla'; a really original take on the monster movie genre, and brilliantly done. To say more would risk spoiling it, so go if you dare.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Facebook: The Awful Truth

The fantastic Julie Burchill once wrote that she'd deduced the prevailing philosophy of the Daily Mail. It apparently runs: "Someone somewhere is having a better time than we are, and it should be stopped as soon as possible." I'm fairly positive she wrote for them at one point, so she should know.

I'm recalled to mind of this when reading their diatribe about Facebook this morning, which ultimately is a little thing on the web you can use to message people and swap pictures. And despite the column inches consumed since we in the meeja discovered it and joined in our hundreds, it really is no more threatening to world peace than, well, my cat.

But the Mail sees it as a problem. People are spending hours on the thing, worries their writer. Girls check out boys on it, and vice versa! The paper tracks down a busy mum who writes and messages her friends on it, sometimes till two in the morning!!

Then in an honest admission, buried deep in the article, we find the real reason for the Mail's upsetness:

"...while these sites are often portrayed as having been created for altruistic reasons - to break down geographical barriers, to connect the world - the reality is that they are rapidly morphing into the most sophisticated forum for advertising ever known to mankind."

We can look forward to other 'Facebook led to drug addiction and suicide' type stories from Associated Newspapers in the near future.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Night Terrors

I am sure that I don't cope with nightshifts as well as I did when I was ten years younger. The concept of needing less sleep as one gets towards ones dotage is surely not right. I'm sat here between nights, unable to sleep, apparently incapable of getting it together to go running, whingeing electronically, just for the sake of it. Night shifts create a kind of moral grey area; I'm not sure what I shold be doing if I've been up all night. So that's carte blanche to do nothing at all.

Then there's the dulling of the appetite and great grey Gobi like deserts that form under my eyes. My head feels (more) full of cotton wool and I get grumpy with objects in the house. My conversational powers decay, and all I can do is put my head down and get to the end.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The French Resistance à Brixtonne

I've often wondered what it might have been like to have been in the French Resistance. To make one's way in the world by stealth. To fear the knock on the door or the crash of Gestapo as they came up the street.

Perhaps that's overstating the subversive presence of 'Upstairs' surrounded as it is by the kebab shops and other possibly even less savoury eateries of Brixton's Acre Lane. But as one buzzes the bell, is inspected by the camera and then is admitted up the spiral stairs into the cozy bar, one does have a sense of the covert and unexpected.

And indeed it is unusual to find a restaurant with ambition like this one in a place like Brixton; 'Upstairs' really is aiming for something a cut above and in a French kind of way, to boot. But does it achieve that? I think it nearly does, and doesn't miss by a margin that makes the trip unrepeatable.

Tonight we ordered the three course dinner. I had herring on a potato salad with a horseradish cream for starts - as delicious as it sounds. Ms T went for the potted duck liver and says it was 'OK rather than outstanding'. It didn't deliver in the flavour department, she says, and the picallili she claims to have been a bit insipid. But I nicked a bit, and considered it flavoursome. Chacun a son gout.

No matter; we studied the serial numbers on the bus roofs from our top floor eyrie and waited for the main course. And here we showed our amateur credentials as restaurant reviewers by each ordering the same thing - a porky cassoulet - meat accompanied by beans and slices of chorizo sausage together with what looked and tasted like crisps! Ms T announced it was good, but not technically Cassoulet. She should know; she speaks French y'know. Anglo-me, I liked it, and found the winey sauce delicious, indeed I had to have more bread to mop it up, showing me Northern roots.

There was space for dessert and so I indulged with a choclatey something which was lovely. Ms T says her roasted pineapple with coriander and chili was also 'rather nice'.

The entire affair was accompanied by a rather delectable red originating from the Rhone area, priced at £17. And I must defend the quality of the service, which was friendly and attentive.

Look, I grant you, this is 'Special Treat' eating, rather than an every week affair. You're looking at £70 for the two of you if you're doing the dessert thing, a bit less if you aren't. But since they won a 'Bib Gourmand' from Michelin people 'Upstairs' hasn't been short of applicants for its tables - there was a real buzz in the place this evening even though it was a Wednesday. We're agreed, the two of us, that we're lucky to have the French Resistance here, and we'll be back.