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Book him

19th April

I'm getting stuck into a couple of new books which are worth noting here. One of them is by Malcom Gladwell, writer of 'Tipping Point'. It's called 'Outliers' and it's about people who are extraordinarily sucessful. Like me for example. Did you spot my funny joke? On the success scale an 'Outlier' would place me into a pretty depressing sense of perspective. So much so that they'd actually be in orbit they'd be that far away. An outlier is someone like John Lennon or Bill Gates. Real astronomical success. This book looks at what common qualities these people have. It's very good.

On the other side of my brainium I'm reading yet another book on the occult. I've noticed this is a topic that tends to polarise my readership somewhat. I think some people see it as a sign that I'm losing the plot a bit and/or "trying to fill a god sized hole" in my life. I think they are both fair criticisms from an outside perspective but I've got an addiction so am unlikely to see sense. The book is called SSOTMBE and it's brilliant.

The Chris Morris book I mentioned earlier has had but a few pages pushed so far. This means I have around four or five books currently on the go. Oh dear.

Dreaming my life away

18th April

I woke up this morning with an entirely original melody in my head this morning after dreaming that I'd gone to an exclusive Neil Young concert. He'd sang one of his new songs and I awoke with the tune still ringing in my ears. If I was a songwriter I'd have captured it and perhaps gone on to record it or something. Like Paul McCartney did with "Yesterday". However, I'm not, so I didn't.

Looking back over this expansive blog I found a very odd entry about a dream I no longer fully remember where my girlfriend caught VD off obscure historical figure Benjamin Disraeli.

Some dreams stick in your head for years afterward, others not so much. I do recall once dreaming that my bedroom was haunted by a ghost which liked twirling my swivel chair. That sounds like a euphamism but it really isn't.

I also once dreamed I was being strangled by a deformed midget version of a close family member once. That was a bit intense.


Unimpressed by Mr Brown

17th April

I went to see Derren Brown's new tour recently. I'm kind of bored of his stuff now. The things he does seem more like conjuring tricks than they used to and the absence of a decent explanation of what he's actually done is galling. I'm still miffed about the various TV shows of his where I ended up feeling slightly conned.

For example:

The one where he reckoned he'd predicted the lottery numbers.

The one where he reckoned that he could tell how fast a car was going just by listening to it.

The one where he was supposed to be shooting himself in the head, with a gun, that wasn't loaded.

There's many more but the problem is best summed up by an episode where he reckoned he'd hypnotised some bloke to end up inside an arcade machine fighting zombies. At first me and a mate were taken in by this hook line and sinker. But on closer analysis it's obvious that you can't hypnotise someone by flashing a screen in their eyes a couple of times, so there was clearly something that happened there which we (as viewers) weren't being told. This was the start of my Derren Brown love affair coming apart. I hear he's going to be doing some new TV shows where he looks into psychics and so forth. Hopefully that'll be better than what he does usually.


How to have conversations with strangers...

I was asked a question by a fellow blogger recently in the comments section of one of my recent "Talking to strangers" entries*.

"How can you just strike up good conversation with strangers? I mean, I just want to be able to do it with the people I know that I don't speak to as frequently. What makes good conversation? What makes a good interlocutor?"

Good question. A really good answer would be book sized and beyond my abilities so here's a few ideas I use when talking to people both face to face and in my job as a talkshow host. All these things are worth googling.

Mirroring (physical)

People spend most of their lives in conversation with themselves. People are more comfortable talking to someone who looks like them than someone who doesn't. This is where the body language skill of mirroring comes into play. The basic idea is that you slightly copy the posture of the person to whom you are attempting to converse with. This tricks their mind into thinking that you're 'on the same wavelength'.

Although it's slightly more complex than that broadly mirroring is by far one of the most effective techniques I use when striking up conversations with strangers.

Making people inclined to think you're 'on their wavelength' is useful in all sorts of social circumstances and mirroring is something most people do naturally. Being aware of it is useful but be wary of using it inappropriately. For example, mirroring your boss can have very negative consequences. They think they are your superior so if you copy their actions they might see it as a threat.

Mirroring (verbal)

There are three thought methods, according to practicioners of neuro linguistic programming: visual, audio and kinetic. People can use all three but usually have a preference. Most people (around 50% in the UK) "see" things first, or are visual. A smaller proportion of us prefer to "hear" things and an even smaller chunk (around 15%) prefer to "feel" their thoughts.

This is a large area of thought (much of it unproven) which people can get quite overexcited about. However, I've found it is worthwhile to wait for the clues people give off in their phrasing, as to their prefered thought type, and then mimick it.

For example, I will re-write the previous sentence in a manner that demonstrates the three different thought types.

However, I've found it is worthwhile to look for the clues people display in their phrasing, as to their prefered thought type, and then mimick it.

However, I've found it is worthwhile to listen to the clues people give off in their phrasing, as to their prefered thought type, and then mimick it.

However, I've found it is worthwhile to pick up on the clues people use in their phrasing, as to their prefered thought type, and then mimick it.

Notice that a visual thinker will use expressions such as "I want to see the bigger picture" or "can you see what I'm talking about" etc. Just as an audio will in turn say "I want to hear as many different ideas as I can" or "do you hear what I'm saying" etc. And a kinetic, "I want to get to grips with the wider issue" and "can you get a handle on what I'm talking about" etc.

There's a whole lot more to this, I was given a book on it once by someone who is very high up in a big company and it blew my mind. The book itself was written in house and I had to return it once I'd absorbed it all. My suggestion is to google it but don't get too sucked into the cult of NLP, a lot of it is unproven.

Let them lead

All my conversations with strangers are led by the stranger. I never take much of a lead outside of a few brief thoughts and a smile. I'm very cautious not to get drawn into a situation with a potential nutter and try to start more conversations than I manage by a ratio of at least 3-1. With that in mind I don't want to end up being the nutter in the equation either so if they don't bite I just leave it.

The point of the exercise for me is to see what people react to. It's useful in my job and has turned out to be good fun.

Any readers got any other suggestions? Pop em in the comments section.


* Talking to strangers #3 is here.

The questioner, The Blazing Snow, has a blog and wrote a post about this subject here.

The database state is starting to make me feel like a bit of a Cnut

The creeping reach of the database state has, in my mind, taken on an almost inevitable shade. These days I feel expressing concerns about privacy marks me out as a figure who like, King Cnut, tries to hold back the tide of progress. I was talking to a friend recently who is all set on voting for the Tories because she thinks it'll begin the process of turning back this tide of surveilence that we've seen brought in by 'The New Labour Project'. Perhaps I'm just jaded but I can't imagine it'll help much.

Largely this is because I think it is only partially driven by sinister political will and the advance of technology. The element which most people who are worried about Big Brother miss is 'the show off factor' that is so deeply embedded in most human beings. People like to tell you what they think. Do they then have a right to turn around and cry, "hey you read my thoughts"?

In our lifetime I predict the following. You'll be about 50 or 60 and you'll hear about some wacky funster somewhere who has rigged their mind up to the internet via a mind reading device (for arguments sake lets call it a helmet) which they plan to wear at all times. It'll be a big news story and older people, like you, will be horrified. All their thoughts will be turned into content, perhaps as part of a TV show (if we still have telly) of some kind. Soon, once the mind reading technology becomes cheaper, everyone will be hooking themselves up until it becomes the norm and those who have not bought into it will be viewed with suspicion. A little like those people who don't use email in this era.

There will be a little debate about if it's ok to invade someone's mind and read their thoughts but ultimately humanity will press onward driven, at first, by a desire to show off and then to fit in.

Those that don't will sit on the sidelines feeling like a bit of a Cnut.


Supporting stories:

Library of congress aquires entire twitter archive
Facebook's new features and your privacy

Dr new

This new Doctor in Dr Who just keeps getting better. He's nailed the part 100%. One of my favourites, on the same level as Tom Baker. There's a nice level of comedy to the show at the moment and I think the whole series has recieved the kick up the particulars it needed.

My fears were unfounded and my hope that he was as good as the trailers suggested are being vindicated. Let there be rejoicing in the street.

Judging from the response this opinion has had on twitter I think it's safe to say that most people are now being won round as well.

I guess I empathise with actors who take on that role as it's not unlike the position I've found myself in sometimes. At LBC and Kerrang before it I was filling some big boots and you've no way of knowing if anyone will like your take on things. It'd be a pretty poor show if you didn't get people who hankered for the old so you accept a bit of that, it's just hoping that people will let the past go and invest in what you're doing as they did with your predecessor. I think it takes a bit of time but you usually have a good idea after a few months.

As for this Matt Smith bloke, he's hit the ground running. I was bored of Tennant anyways.


Excuses and mumblings?

Experts say hay fever symptoms may affect 30 million people within next twenty years – apparently more of us moving towards cities will increase the number of people who suffer from it. How that works I don't know. It's just another thing that I used to feel made me special but now seems to be the norm. Dyslexia was unusual when I had it at primary school. Seems everyone's got it these days. Using a left hand to write with was another little quirk that no longer seems so quirky. Even my name, Nick, seems to have suddenly come into vogue.

Anyway, as with all these things, I’ve been 'afflicted' with them since before it was fashionable and hay fever is by far the worst. No one has yet made a case for hay fever sufferers being gifted in other areas like they have with dyslexia. A snotty nose doesn't put you closer to ambidexterity, like being left handed is supposed to.

Hayfever is just funking spit.

The compounded effects are huge. I’m not into sports because sports day came during the summer when I felt like death. I like night more than day because that's when relief came. I prefer winter to summer. I don't like long hot days. I don't picture myself blissed out running barefoot through a field.

Mother nature isn't someone I get along with.

Hayfever ends up defining large parts of your character without you even realising it.

If this assertion that more people are going to get it is true time will tell. But if it is I suspect we're going to get fatter lazier and more introverted over the next 50 years. Bring it on!


The price of success

Ricky Gervais's recent film Cemetary Road is quite good. He's not made a film that has knocked me out yet and The Office is starting to look like his best work but even so I'm not really enamoured by this weird trend in society to kick someone for the sake of it.

There's a surreal interview in The Times with him that perfectly crystalises what I mean here. The journalist in question seems to want to make the interview about something other than comedy. They're busy trying to write a "the day I met Ricky Gervais" piece and he's trying to talk about his work.

The comments underneath the interview make for depressing reading.


Here's a video a listener sent me, correctly guessing I'd love it:

The heir to Carl

Sometime ago I blogged about the fantastic Carl Sagan who made an awesome TV show called Cosmos. Turns out he has a spiritual heir - Professor Brian Cox. His series "Wonders of The Solar System" was amazing. My big "chav sized" telly really did it justice.

Don't let the fact he used to be a member of D:ream put you off. Track this series down and watch it if you can.

And, if you already have, this video might make you laugh with recognition...

Warning contains rude words !!

I've managed to offend myself by not being offended

April 10th

It struck me recently that I rarely get offended by anything. In fact I don't think I've ever really been offended by anything ever.

A quick search through the huge archive that is this blog has revealed that I've only once used the word in relation to me and it's to assert that I've never been offended by anything.

Other than that it's in reference to someone else getting offended:


HERE and

It's quite strange to me whenever I see someone getting all flustered and offended by something. It's confusing and amusing in equal measure. I used to think people who did get offended by things were sort of pretending. They were playing a sort of game. Nowadays I'm not sure this is the case but I often wonder if you choose to be offended, I think people do. Offence is taken, not given. Perhaps this explains the success of Frankie Boyle, who I find a bit dull.

When I mentioned this to a mate of mine he laughed and asked if that means I don't care about anything. I don't think that's true, I just don't quite care enough to get flustered yet.


Train stations

I recently noticed that there often seems to be a lot of deaf people at train stations. I remember noticing this phenomena a few years back. I have no idea why it should be the case but next time you are at any major city's train station you'll notice some deaf people doing sign language to each other at some point.

The above is halfway towards observational comedy. It's just missing the funny. There's nothing amusing about the observation. Even worse, it's an observation that might not carry. I have noticed the above to be the case but I doubt anyone else has. There's probably a really prosaic reason that it's the case but even so it's still not particularly funny.

One day I will observe something common to us all and then reinterpret it in an amusing fashion. When this happens I'll turn it into a blog entry and you can tick the funny box rather than the boring one.

There also seems to be an abnormally high proportion of attractive people as well, at train stations, wandering about their business. Still nothing I can think of that is amusing or unusual about that. Just another observational observation without any comedy.

There's a lot of trains also, isn't there? Eh? Trains. What's that all about?


Starsuckers a film about our celebrity obsessed culture for people who are interested in it...

8th April

Sometimes I'll watch something on telly that I find interesting. The film "Starsuckers" is a recent example. During the interesting bits I forget that it could also be seen as quite depressing. Starsuckers is a film about our celebrity obsessed culture which in part added to the problem it was describing. It's not a great film but parts of it are. I suggested my girlfriend watch it. She did and found it depressing.

If you've got a boring expanse of time you wish to fill Starsuckers is one way to do it. Be warned though, you might just end up feeling a bit depressed.

Talking to strangers #3

Talking to strangers... 3

My new hobby, talking to strangers, is going rather well. Notable successes include a young woman who was going to University to learn about sports science, or something along those lines. She was really interesting, particularly in the advice she gave me re: my weight loss battle. If you’re reading this I hope it all goes well for you.

Later in the same week I spoke to a woman who had just moved house. We chatted for a while about anti-social behaviour and how aggressive some people are getting these days. In the end got onto the war in Iraq and the election. It’s interesting hearing the unfiltered opinions of people, something I’ve always liked about phone in shows on the radio.

Then I had a first in my little campaign to talk to people I don’t know. A woman sat at the table opposite struck up conversation with me following on from the previous one I mentioned above. She’d just been to an annual school re-union where a few of her friends had hooked up and was a nice, energetic senior citizen who had a few choice words to share about politicians in general. She was interested in my plans to spoil my ballot paper.

I’m still being very cautious to avoid conversations with potential nutters and have managed very well so far. I’m also avoiding mentioning my profession, if possible, as it can tend the conversation away from interesting areas and seems to make some people clam up a little.


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