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thecultofnick

Half Decent

8th June

You may remember an earlier posting about my "chav sized" telly*. The one I bought is "HD Ready". I'm still not entirely clear if this means it is or is not HD which I'm watching on the occasions it is available. Right now the BBC HD channel is on and I've got to be honest here, I can't really see much of a difference. There is one but it's very slight.

My mate Ginger Dave got quite riled when I said this to him recently.

"There's definitely a difference, no doubt about it. Or at least there is on my telly."

This has made me a little paranoid that I've got a rubbish version of HD. This has been eased slightly by a caller on my new radio show who assured me that HD is only a significant improvement upon American television signals. They've always had slightly blockier resolution on their tellys.

Meh, I'm just looking at it now. It's a bit sharper but, it's nothing I'd write home about. Perhaps I just have rubbish eyesight these days. If that's true I blame the internets.

NM

* Quite a popular entry, only 3 points off being in the top 5.

"Paaarp - oh 'ave a go on that" S. Cable, rock legend.

7th June

A depressing day.

I went out with my Mum to a coffee shop. My phone had no signal so I was surprised to get a flurry of text messages when we were driving back to inhabited land.

"Heard about Stuart Cable? Didn't you know him?"

"Have you heard the sad news about stuart cable?"

"Bad news about Stuart Cable mate."

As I was driving I didn't know what to expect but it didn't look good.

I met Stuart Cable a few times when he worked at Kerrang. Usually in the context of a night out. He was a larger than life character with a big deep voice. He had a massive grin which would stretch from ear to ear. Above anything else he had a huge laugh and a good sense of humour.

Listeners to the old Kerrang show may remember the noise of him breaking wind which we used to play out at the start of the show occasionally, complete with his casual response: "oops - 'ave a go on that!".

It never failed to get a laugh in the studio.

No one replied to my text messages asking what had happened so I sat down on my laptop and checked the world wide web. I was stunned to read about the death of an ex-collegue on The Times website. I don't think I've ever had an experience like that. Usually people who have died in the news are ones I haven't met.

It made me realise how cold sentences like this are:

"If a post mortem confirms claims by friends that he died in his sleep having choked on his own vomit he will have followed a rock ‘n’ roll tradition laid down by previous wild men of rock including John Bonham, drummer with Led Zepplin, and Keith Moon of The Who. " THE TIMES ONLINE.

When written about someone you've never met that sort of seems like fair comment. To me, in this context, it struck me as inappropriate. I had a little glimpse, right there, of the peculiar tendancy our society has to glorify depressing unecessary deaths. It had never really dawned on me before that people like Jimi Hendrix and Keith Moon have families and friends who will only be devastated by their deaths*. I imagine it takes time to see it as in any way romantic.

NM

*My thoughts for the rest of the day were with his family and friends. Very sad news.

Influences on my mind #3

6th June

Stewart Lee

Stewart Lee was famous the first time round for his part in the overrated double act Lee and Herring. This was during the mid 1990's, they had a few TV shows and (significantly better) radio shows. At the time I thought they were ok but didn't notice once they'd gone. In my mind they sort of melded with The Mary Whitehouse Experience (remember that?) and other average mid 90's comedy.

My re-introduction to him came via a mate of mine* who told me I had to see his new show "Stand up Comedian" which came out around 2002**.

When I watched it for the first time it was at the Glastonbury festival and I could not believe how great it was. It actually blew my mind. It was in a different league to the stuff I remembered from the mid 90's. There was so much going on in his delivery, expressions and turns of phrase that my brain couldn't take it all in. He seemed really angry and yet very passive. He appeared fiercely moral but still clearly decadent. Above all these things he was intelligent and, crucially, not ashamed of his intellect. This last point is important and I'll come back to it.

In short though, I was converted.

I then spent a few years ranting at people telling them about this guy who was really funny. Then the DVD of his stuff came out (I'd seen him a few more times since) and I had my chance to gather more converts! This brought no positive results whatsoever. Click here for my flatmate's reponses and here for another mate's first impression. No one got it.

I now realise that he was simply a few years ahead of his time. The rest of the UK is catching up with him and that's why he's got a second BBC TV series coming out soon.

However, one of the reasons the rest of the UK is catching up with him is because Stewart Lee's ability as a stand up has managed to help change the comedy landscape. He is a significant influence on many major stand up comedians who are more successful that he'll ever be***. Two obvious examples are Russell Brand and Ricky Gervais. The former would not dish out the verbage that he does if he'd not been affected by Lee's lack of shame regarding intelligence. Ricky Gervais's stand up sets would not have worked in quite the same way either. Particularly regarding his awesome piece about The Bible.

Stewart Lee's influence seeps into you without you really noticing. It's not entirely positive, there's a price you pay for being as honest with yourself as he is, but ultimately my world would be poorer had I not been correctly told "you MUST see it Nick, it's genius".

NM

*Tom Binns, famous for his bonkers character Ivan Brackenbury but a brilliant stand up in his own right.

**ish? I think he toured it a lot before it came out on DVD.

*** Possibly by design. He's clearly uncomfortable with fame.

"God is a concept, by which we measure our pain" - J.Lennon

5th June

If everyone in the middle east woke up an atheist tomorrow I think the problems in that area could probably be sorted out within a few weeks. As far as I'm aware that section of the earth is one which various people think God has promised them as a gift. With God on their side people can often become very unreasonable.

"They should sort it out like my Mum used to with cake, one of you divides it in half and the other gets to choose" - Richard Herring.

The annoying thing for me about the problems in the middle east is that we're involved at all. I actually could not care less. If I were the boss of the UK my foreign policy would be real simple. I'd wash my hands and then wish both sides the best of luck.

As regular readers may be aware I don't travel much*. My ill-informed opinion of the rest of the world is thus: all a big horrible messy mud pit with people squirming about on the floor crying and pointing back towards me as they squeal "ahh - I'm in an awful situation thanks to you and your ancestors!".

I voiced this opinion to a mate of mine who is Jewish recently and he assured me that I had it all wrong, "You must come with me to Tel Aviv some time man, it's beautiful". I remember pointing out that the middle east is exactly the sort of place that gives fuel to my prejudices so he laughed and said, "well at least come over to America next year, there's nothing like that there". Err, Native Americans might disagree. "Australia?" - Aborigines?

There really don't seem to be many countries we haven't smacked about in the past at some point or other.

That and the fact I'm lazy tend to get in the way of me travelling about with my English accent.

However, given that this attitude drives my girlfriend up the wall (and over it to freedom if I'm not careful) I'm actually planning to do a little bit of travel this year. I go to Dublin soon for my mate's 30th. Does that count as travel? I'm also going to Amsterdam again soon. Should be fun. I've got a bit of a hazy memory of it from last time round so it'll be a whole new experience for me, again.

NM

Dis stain

Today I suffered at the hands of a manky stain on my shirt cuff. It was white and looked like something bodily and embarrassing from a distance. Up close it looked like what it was, chewing gum. I'm not sure how it got there and by the time I noticed it I was out of the house and unable to change.

Something like that can really damage your mojo. It's tempting when you talk to people to make excuses for it but then you run the risk of highlighting it.

I soldiered on.

NM

Should have just got 'em off Bit Torrent.

3rd June

Me and the lady spent the best part of £100 on CD's today. We were getting albums which we thought we should already own. The sort of stuff you see on telly and think - I should have a copy of that somewhere, but don't.

Jimi Hendrix got a look in, as did Joy Division, Led Zep, AC/DC, Genesis (Peter Gabriel era), Paul McCartney (with Wings, the mistake of the spending spree) Fleetwood Man (Peter Green era), and Beck. The latter purchase was at my girlfriend's insistence.

The best of the bunch so far is easily AC/DC: Back in Black. I'm surprised at how well it works as an album, I usually think of them as being a singles band.

NM

More proof that I'm a waster...

June 2nd

Easter Eggs are little bits of extra stuff hidden on a DVD. Only dull monkees like me know about them and look for them. This website is full of them. I've just sat and watched Sarah Silverman talking about 'assholes'. Not her finest work but this is what you expect to find in an Easter Egg. Pretty rubbish additional material which takes effort to find.

NM

Sim City


I really am quite a tragic case. My friends are off doing important stuff like having kids and following important career paths while I'm still messing about on stupid computer games wondering when I'll suddenly grow up. Like this will happen overnight one day - "aha I'm now a responsible adult who can plan things weeks in advance AND keep his room tidy without his girlfriend moaning at him about it!".

My latest computer game addiction is Sim City. Yep - that old game no one cares about anymore. It's aces. I have managed to build up a mighty city called Nichopolis.

When I started playing on it my girlfriend thought it was Second Life and that I was going to go online and meet new people. She worried that I was going to find a 'red haired fat girl who likes tarot' and run off with them. She vastly over estimates me sometimes. Imagine her relief (?) when she realised that actually I was going to waste loads of time playing a very old computer game.

NM

The scab that is religion...

As an athiest it's always fascinated me that there are some people who believe in a book like The Bible, The Quran or The Torah as, for want of a better word 'gospel' truth. I spend more time than is normal picking at the scab of religion by watching bonkers channels such as God TV, Revelation TV, Peace TV, The Islam Channel, etc. Peace TV is particularly fun because in my opinion it's by far the most agressive and outrageous of them all. One of their preachers is called Zakir Naik. He's a good, charismatic speaker who takes questions from his audience and then responds with quotes and mantras such as "we're more Christian than the Christians". My conversations with taxi drivers and friends of mine who are Islamic lead me to believe he's a pretty big name here in the UK although you may not have heard of him.

I was therefore quite surprised to see him described as a "hate monger" in The Times as well as other news papers. At the end of the article I was amazed that I'd consumed so much 'hate' without even realising. I was also a little skeptical of the article.

To read this coverage you'd think the bloke was some sort of cross eyed loon standing on a street corner ranting "death to the infidel" but the reality is more complex than that. Naik's views are not dramatically wide of those of most people I speak to who believe in the Quran as the word of God. Some of the quotes attributed to Naik in The Times, such as calling for the death penalty for changing your religion, are very unpleasant but they've not been invented by his crazy mind. They're in the book itself.

The difficulty we in this country have is that there's a lack of honesty regarding religion. People like me who don't believe in God seem to spend most of their time pretending they are in a majority (which we're not, by any stretch of the imagination) whereas people who do believe, for the most part, keep their crazier ideas to themselves. There's a sort of silence between us which stops everyone from realising how mad we all appear to each other. This silence is partly enforced by broadcasting laws and guidelines that mean you're always on dangerous ground if you bring it up for discussion in the media.

This silence, for me, is quite a tense one. Religion is becoming an elephant in the room where it should be a talking point. Think about it, if you're an athiest like me doesn't it blow your mind that some people believe this world was made by a super magic man who is invisible? Or, on the flip side, if you believe in God doesn't it amaze you that some people think yuo've swallowed a load of nonsense?

I think, Zakir Naik, may well be a loony tune but I do not think he should be banned from this country. There's no record of him attacking someone or inciting violence. He quotes from the Quran a lot but that's not a crime is it? Pop him on a few daytime TV shows and ask him about his views. His responses are, from what I've seen, always entertaining. His ideas may seem mad, to an unbeliever like me, but they become more exciting if they're banned by the Government. It's always better for people to talk to each other than not. Only by having religious beliefs out in the open will they ever be challenged. Or even thought about.

Meh - Hail Discordia!

NM

The cult of Apple

May 30th

Sat on the tube, minding my own business, two random blokes stumble up to me and spark up a conversation about the new apple iphone / laptop thing. I don't know or care what it is but unfortunately my polite replies are interpreted as signs of interest. I've not yet mastered this art of London travelling which involves ignoring people who talk to you. I also do not understand the dozy twunts who love a computer company in the same way you'd love a minor deity.

Point 1, Apple is the largest computer company in the world. Bigger than microsoft. It's not, and never really has been, the plucky little guy.

Point 2, It's a well managed 'cool' brand. I'm not cool and I don't like cool things. There's never been any doubt that Apple is a computer aimed at people who want to be cool. It hits that market well. I'm not part of that market so have no interest.

Point 3, It's a computer. Not a lifestyle choice, you easily herded fat cattle you.

Obviously these points remained obscured by my "oh, that's nice" reply. It was only towards the end of the conversation when I dropped in the above truth nuggets that the two drunken chaps talking to me got into an argument with each other about whether or not Apple Plc is in fact a dominant multinational or a friendly faced plucky business trying desperately to compete with the big boys.

I left them to it.

NM

Uncivilised countries...

Some countries are uncivilised. Some countries are better than others. As a member of the United Kingdom obviously I happen to think we're closer to the 'pinnacle of civilisation' than one which locks up gay people or another that thinks it's fun to chuck rocks at women who have been unfaithful to their husbands. I'd rank a country which still stones people to death as 'uncivilised'. I'd say the same about one which thinks being gay is a criminal offence.

I'm constantly surprised that people in this country find this point of view objectionable. I'm not an idiot who believes that our nation is perfect but I do think we're clearly better than most.

That said, I find this whole flag waving business that we have to endure during a football game very tiresome.

The frequent justification for it is that "they do it in other countries". That for me is not a compelling argument. In fact it's an integral part of the problem. I grew up in a country where we didn't flag wave now I live in one where we do. It's frankly uncivilised.

I understand why this viewpoint is objectionable. It's because there has been a gradual but consistent European influenced indoctrination programme designed to make people think waving their flag is important in some way.

Why European? Well, the England flag is important because it's internally divisive. The Union Jack however is divisive outside of the UK and grit in the shoe of the EU agenda. The United Kingdom has a realistic chance of retaining a separate identity outside of the EU. England does not.

The same agenda is behind this stupid, why don't we celebrate St George's day in the UK (?), debate. Simple answer, St George's day is a catholic celebration. We're not a catholic country. However, now there are state backed celebrations thanks to this grass roots campaign we've seen over the past few years. In my opinion people have been herded into 'the right direction' and we now all look a little more "European".

As to whether that's a good thing or not, I do not know. I only dislike the EU because it seems so sinister.

NM

MALAWI decides not to lock up two gay people: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10190653
IRAN decides not to kill someone with stones: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7302963.stm

Some more random thoughts...

It has come to my attention that fat people, when in their 20's, often look as though they are in their 30's. They spend both decades in stasis and often manage to get through their 40's and early 50's without really seeming to age until, almost overnight, they're old.

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Magic and art have given birth to both science and religion. Personally speaking, I blame the parents.

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All human relationships can be described as accidents of geography and date of birth. This accounts for alcohol, anger, love and tears.

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Growing older has, for me, been a process of observing the age attributed to celebrities in tabloid newspapers. Initially they were astronomically older than me. Then they were my age and now some of them are younger than I am.

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Being surrounded by the ignorant is the price you pay for your genius.

-

Everyone is unique, there's nothing special about it.

Ashes to ashes ends and I am gutted . . .

I've not gotten involved in a TV series like "Ashes to Ashes" for quite some time. Most people are still yabbering on to me about "Lost" but it never floated my boat really. Me and the lady quite like "Flash Forward" but it's nowhere near as great as "Ashes to Ashes" was.

The ending has left me confused and really shook me up. I keep replaying parts of it in my mind. It reminds me of "Quantum Leap" and the random way in which that drew to a close.

And Blake's 7. That was pretty neat.

I've ended up going through all the great endings to TV series that I've ever witnessed and I think "Ashes to Ashes" is the best... but I might be forgetting one.

There is of course the mythical finial ending of "Bagpuss" which I'm pretty sure is just a myth given the scant evidence for it on the net. For those who don't know, "Bagpuss" was a TV series where a saggy little cloth cat sat in a lost property shop. The fabled last episode involves him being claimed by his real owners. Probably not true but a good idea nontheless.

NM

Incantations can change reality

May 26th

There is a theory which suggests that reality changes to fit our understanding of it and not the other way round as many of us presume. For example, you think you're reading these words on a computer screen because they were there for you to read. You're reacting to them. I'm guessing you don't think you have had any role in making them appear here. This theory which I'm putting forward for you suggests that actually reality sometimes follows our expectations. So, if you could convince the world to think the moon was made of cheese, in the end it would be.

I'm not sure how far I go along with this stuff, I'm just putting it out there for you as an idea. Objective reality is tricky enough at the best of times. However, it amuses me that scientists have now found that Guinness actually is good for you. Their old advertising slogan has turned out to have a slight grain of truth in it, despite initially being based on no evidence whatsoever: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3266819.stm

Big sun, big fun.

It's amazing how much sunshine changes a place. The brighter something is the nicer it usually looks. Flowers, trees, people, cars, pavements, most of them look lovelier in the sun. On a visual level there's no doubt it looks better.

However, the fact it's so hot is not a good thing in my world. It means I'm all sweaty and wheezy.

Overall I am not a fan of this weather and the sooner it goes the better. That said I will admit, it looks nice.

NM

I watch rubbish TV

My television tastes are nothing to be proud of. I've been watching the "Junior Apprentice" series with my lady recently. It's actually been quite good so far. That said I was annoyed by one of the adults using the phrase: "very unique". You either are or are not unique. It's like being quite original. Or quick and fast.

The experience of uttering the above remarks to my long suffering girlfriend added to my sense of getting old as I watched these kids competing to become Sir Adam Sugar's apprentice*. They were all sixteen but to me they looked about 12. I think you only really grow up around the age of about 27. Before then you're a young kid in my book. If that annoys you it's further proof that I am correct. Only young people get annoyed because people think they're young.

NM

*Got it wrong on purpose. Anyone who is a "Sir" deserves to have their name used incorrectly on a regular basis.

Fame, I want to live forever.

May 23rd

Wandering through London in the morning after my radio show when I see a bloke I vaguely recognise. I nod and say hello, he looks at me with a strange sadness in his eyes and said "ello" back. There was no recognition on his face. Perhaps he thinks I'm a nutter, he clearly had no idea who I was. There's no conversation here so I press on with a smile. I can't place him at all, I look back at him and try to work out how I know him and who he is.

Maybe I don't know him. Oh damn, I've turned into London's equivalent that mad woman who walks round Sheffield town centre in a nightie and slippers saying hello to everyone. No - hang on I do know him, he was in Big Brother. I can't remember his name. I can't remember which series he was in. Or even if I liked/disliked him. But that's how I recognise him... which one is he?

I've written here in the past about the mercurial nature of fame in relation to the Big Brother TV show. It's ironic that the final series is to start soon. I will of course be watching it.

NM

Magnum ice creams

22nd May

The ideal way to serve a magnum ice cream is to let it almost totally defrost, then re-freeze it a bit so that when served the ice cream on the inside is almost like a liquid. This means you can break the chocolate on the outside and suck the nice liquid ice cream out, excellent news.

Magnum's can be too cold. This has been proved by scientists. Probably. They did a study on it in Texas or something, I reckon.

NM

Tea time.

21st May

My girlfriend has a huge selection of teas. We've got camomile, fennel, blackberry, dandelion and about a million others. I've decided to start sampling all of them, many of the packets still remain unopended and I'm the one who is braving to open them. Overall I'd say this is proving to be a worthwhile exercise but it frequently reminds me that I mainly have hot drinks because they contain caffine.

My favourite so far has been fennel. Apparently people with stomach problems drink it. I liked the taste.

NM

A bit of an animal

One of the ideas that regularly knocks me for six is that animals and humans are equal and deserve the same level of respect as one another. I’ve had this idea put to me on numerous occasions in the past and I’m sure to hear it again in the future. On one level it’s perfectly reasonable. Humans are animals. We all feel pain, emotions, empathy, fear, joy, consciousness and the list goes on. You can’t put forward any unique human quality that marks us out which has not within the last few years or so been shown to, at least possibly, exist within other creatures. It’s only our post Christian world view which defends the concept of ‘human specialness’ within mainstream thought.

Personally I approach it from an angle which most people find abhorrent. I am human. I have a human perspective on things. To deny this is to deny my own humanity. I eat animals and wear their skins because I can’t see things from their point of view. If I could I’d probably stop but I can’t so I don’t. This isn’t much of an argument but moral philosophy isn’t really humanity’s strong point. It never has been. Just try working your way through Kant one evening and you’ll see what I mean.

The interesting thing about this analysis though is that people who are staunch animal rights activists do often end up compromising their own humanity in the pursuit of a higher moral calling. Keep this blog entry in mind next time an animal rights story pops up in the news.

NM

Rhetoric is the enemy of logic.

Is there anything that Salad Cream does not make a good accompaniment to? I think the answer to that is ‘nope’. As usual with such forthright statements I’ve gone and thought of a load of things it wouldn’t work well with now. Jelly, ice cream, strawberries, bananas, apples, grapes, chocolate, marshmallows... the list seems almost endless.

Salad Cream does not make a good companion to a serving of salad cream either. You can’t have it on its own. The more I think about this the more I realise salad cream is rubbish. I’ve been made a mockery of by its charms. How inconvenient.

NM

Saw someone in the park with a rubbish tattoo...

If you were ugly it would be unlikely that people would point it out to you in your general day to day existence. The same principle applies to a rubbish tattoo only more so. If you have one done and it looks rubbish, which most do, no one is going to point it out to you. Everyone will be polite and feign interest. “Ah, that’s nice, where did you get it done? Did it hurt? How much did it cost?” conversation over.

This means that, once the procedure is over, clients of the tattoo industry are dropped into a reality where they’ve got a cool tattoo. Regardless of the truth, they will display their tacky picture to people with growing pride as others think to themselves and whisper to each other, “good god that looks rubbish”. Like pigeons who think they’re peacocks they’ll strut about unaware everyone else thinks they look scabby. Why would anyone want to give them the truth? What good would it do them? That’s why I always compliment people on their new tattoos.

If you are a personal friend of mine and reading my blog just by way of catching up, I do of course think your tattoo is genuinely nice. My compliments in your case were utterly sincere. It’s just everyone else I’m talking about here.

NM

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