The View From 40,000ft

Oh, okay, 38,000. You’re sticklers for accuracy, and that’s why I love you all (except for you, yes you, right at the back. Kindly remove yourself from these premises).

It has begun. It is weird that the only time I ever feel English is when I leave the country, but already my accent has began to sound strange, I’ve been called ‘very polite’ only an hour into the flight (moving to allow a husband and wife to sit together), and I’m hemmed in by Americans on all sides. A typical RDU flight. However, it is the first flight that I’ve had a huge bottle of gin stuffed into my bag.

But! Hark! What is this?! For the first time since I’ve been on this flight (starting in August 2002, so I’ve been doing this for four years now. A little scary, that), they’ve changed the menu! Slightly! For instead of chicken with a mush that once resembled pasta, now it’s chicken with a green mush that resembles pasta with pesto! I was astounded. I just hope that the spongy, springy pizza hasn’t been changed. It sounds horrible, yet somehow it always turns out to be an enjoyable experience.

Manic scenes at Gatwick this morning. The check-in desk was, as usual, almost deserted, but they still haven’t adjusted well to the new security requirements, meaning that the queue for Security Control was so large that they had to have officials going around to pull people out of the queue in order for them to make their flight.

It’s very disconcerting when the lights go off and then come back five seconds later. There should be less of that.

Anyway, the usual wander around the duty-free shops, seeing if Dixons had tax-free Wiis (they didn’t), the sale items at HMV (at which point: Bonnie: they had the Clerks X edition for £5.17 in there — might be worth picking up!), looking in vain at various brands of whisky, and wondering whether other countries concentrate quite so much on alcohol in their duty-free shops (I know America doesn’t). Absinthe with warning labels telling you not to even bother attempting to get it past US Customs, next to huge bottles of vodka and rum in a 2 for £20 deal. We don’t have a problem really.

And now, for the highlights from this month’s SkyMall magazine, Yes, I knew you were waiting for it. First up - the Pet Staircase. Designed to allow your cat to walk up to the top of your sofa before trying to tear it apart, rather than the usual method of having it jump up there. Excellent. A collection audio summaries of business books that you don’t have time to read, but need to know about to stay current in the Exciting World o’ Business! Only $169! Titles include Break From The Pack, The Giants of Sales, Loyalty Myths,, and The Enthusiastic Employee. Fabulous value, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Oh, my they sell adult onesies. That’s just a little freaky.

But I think the prize for this month goes to the Computer-Less Printer. This marvel of 21st century technology (indeed, it is when it all happens) connects to a phone line; every night, it dials out to a special toll-free number, downloads any emails in your messagebox, and helpfully prints them out. I’m sure we can come up with at least five different reasons why this is a particularly silly idea. If nothing else, at $169 plus a $10/month charge for the online service, it’ll probably be cheaper after a year to have gone on bought a computer in the first place. And you know it would only be a matter of time before you came downstairs to be greeted by offers of millions from Africa or Christian dating services. The blurb also says that it takes ‘standard’ ink cartridges, so obviously it works with HP, Epson, Lexmark, and hell, you could empty a Parker pen into it and I’m sure it’ll continue to print. Or perhaps not.

And now, turbulence.

(some time later)

Travelling for twelve hours now. It should be night. The wonders of air travel. Unfortunately, I am at loss of things to do. My fancy new iPod Shuffle has just looped, I have exhausted the SkyMall magazine, read all about Belgium in the American Way, I have got past a point in New Super Mario Brothers where I had given up a few months ago. Only to get stuck again a few levels later. Getting there. I have read, I have slept (for about twenty minutes; I can never seem to sleep well on aeroplanes), I have filled in my Customs forms. About the only thing I havent done is work on my secret project for 2007. Which I should, but I’m not sure whether Ill get anything useful out of my frazzled head at this point in time. Two hours to do. Well, I guess we should get our ‘afternoon snack’ soon…

(even further later)

there then followed an evening of…running around RDU looking for Christa, finding her only to be told horror stories about multiple murders in multi-storey cr parks, being warned that unusual methods would be taken to keep me awake, eating sesame chicken again, yay! Watching most of The Dark Crystal while discovering that birds can, funnily enough, peck quite hard. The usual fun with an exercise ball. Fingers caught in a door. That they’ve been saving New Order up for my return. A flapper hat and a walk in the dark. Then letting me have sweet sweet rest, 22 hours after this tale begins…

currently playing: Circulatory System – Joy

On the subject of Father Christmas...

Many have pointed to the world’s population level and Mr. Christmas’s rather limited means of transportation as a means of casting doubt on the veracity of his feats. In fact, Mr. Claus managed to keep up with the population explosion throughout most of the 19th century, thanks to a Hobo/Yeti alliance in North America. Sadly, in 1894, dismayed by the ever-lengthening railroads and the unseemly behaviour of “Cranks” McShawmack (of the legendary McShawmack clan), the first of the Yeti-Hobo wars began. For a while, it appeared that the hobos had the upper hand in the conflict, although historians now believe that both sides were reduced to fewer than a hundred members by the final battle that raged a few blocks away from President Reagan’s inauguration in 1981.

To resolve his supply issues, Santa first turned to the technology of the day for salvation. The Christmas of 1900 saw the first mass airlift of presents from the North Pole; a fleet of airships taking to the sky, delivering their precious cargo. Sadly, it turned out that elves lacked a certain head for heights, and had a tendency to plunge into the sea at the first opportunity. The children of Luxembourg received no presents that year because of a horrific ten-ship crash in the middle of the English Channel (indeed, it is often thought that the lack of hope and good cheer in the children that year was a direct cause of the Bad Boys And Girls Riot of 1901).

After surveying the burning wreckage of Luxembourg in July 1901, Father Christmas swore off airships; for the next forty years, ninety-eight percent of presents were delivered by the postal services in the countries of the world. An experiment involving flapper girls in 1926 went horribly wrong, leading to salacious pictures of Mr. Christmas being published in the Hearst Press. Mrs. Claus made sure that it never happened again.

In July 1947, Santa saw a shooting star blaze across the sky whilst taking the reindeer out for a brief sojourn. He followed the meteorite to its destination, a small town named Roswell, residing in the state of New Mexico. There, he came face-to-face with Rexatfaloobrious-9 from the Deltaon Star Brigade. Rexatfaloobrious-9 (or Rexatfaloobrioussmelgoodaleeekaxho-9.1434566443 to his friends) saw the goodness within Santa’s heart; knowing that he was dying from wounds sustained from the crash, he gave Santa a Deltaon tool.

Towing the ship back to the North Pole (and thus confounding both the US Military and UFO experts), he granted Rexatfaloobrioussmelgoodaleeekaxho-9.1434566443’s (for Santa was considered a friend) last wish; to be encased in ice and shot out into the expanse of space, so that he may be reborn when the space-god Rotaxes-252 awakes from his Millennia Slumber. Unfortunately, this was something of a mistake; when Rotaxes-252 did awaken in 1962, it was discovered that he was actually a terrible planet-destroyer powered by the soul-energy left behind in Deltoan corpses. An irony not found particularly amusing in the Tau Star Empire, which lost over five thousand planets in the ensuing battle.

It wasn’t until 1955 that Santa perfected the use of the Deltoan artefact. Powered by solar energy and elves on treadmills, the device could rearrange the atomic structure of any substance into anything that the holder imagined. After creating a (purely defensive, of course) set of thermonuclear missiles, Santa began using it to create presents. But he still had to deliver them; with the Baby Boom, this was becoming an impossible task even with outsourcing most of it to the Post Office.

Beren Lightleaf, head elf, came up with the solution. He suggested that Santa create a teleporter that could magically put the presents in every child’s home. Delighted by this idea, Santa made a tragic error, waving the device at Beren as he instructed it to create the machine. Beren was instantly transformed into the teleporter. Although he was saddened by the loss of his friend, the teleporter was a great success, and anyway, Beren had a nasty habit of chewing garlic cloves, a habit that was not altogether possible in his new form.

And that, to this day, is how Santa gets presents into the homes of children across the world. His network of spy robins has, however, recently been commandeered by British and American security services as part of The War Against Terror, so he may have to make some adjustments for 2007 so that he can maintain his lists of those who have been naughty, and those who have been nice. For now, though, let us go to sleep and awake to find what gifts have been molecularly-rearranged for us this year!

Father Christmas Is Stuck!

Snappish 2006: I suck.

Songs that I meant to write about this advent:

  • Cat Power — Could We
  • The Pipettes — Pull Shapes
  • Camera Obscura — Let's Get Out Of This Country
  • Jarvis Cocker — Running The World

I apologise, and promise to do better in 2007.

currently playing: John Hodgman — The 700 Hobo Names

Songs of Advent 7

Neko CaseThe Needle Has Landed

Okay, so given my predilection for female vocals, I was always going to love Neko. And I did. But Fox Confessor Brings The Flood took it further this year (going to see her in Carrboro helped, as well, I think). That voice. Haunting, sultry, playful, damning, joyful; the charms of the South. Sitting on a porch on a humid evening, watching the sun go down. And other such things.

The Needle Has Landed is the final track on the album, and it’s just sublime; a tale of returning back to old haunts, of gossip and why you got the hell out of there in the first place. Complete with a chorus to die for.

currently playing: Pet Shop Boys – Can You Forgive Her?

Songs of Advent 6

CSS — Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above

I’m still a little worried about CSS. They’re so cool, so hip, that I fully expect that one night during a concert Lovefoxx will rip off her head to reveal that she is, in fact, Cliff Richard, and lead the hipster crowd in a performance of The Millennium Prayer. Then, he will devour them, in his Mayor-like plan to become unto a God.

But, until then, Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above. My favourite bit? “run run run” / “kiss, kiss, kiss”. Obviously.

Now, can anybody get me a ticket for their appearance in Oxford early next year? Pretty please?

currently playing: Kylie Minogue – Made Of Glass

It's Christmas!

And we’re watching Die Hard. The finest festive film of the season!

currently playing: Dude, Die Hard!

Crews For Consumismo

Johnny Boy available from Rough Trade very shortly…hurrah!

currently playing: Josef K – Endless Soul

Songs of Advent 5

The Long Blondes — Once And Never Again

What Amp said.

currently playing: J. Xaverre – Making The Most Of A Beautiful Day

Songs of Advent 4

Lucky Soul — Lips Are Unhappy

Observant readers might remember that this song appeared last year.


I’ll put it in again if I want to! It’s my blog, and if you don’t like it, you can go home!

chirping crickets

Oops. Anyway, this gets included in this years list because it’s still as ace as it was last Christmas, but more importantly, it was released as a single back in June. So there. If you wanted to attach them to a scene, then it would be UK indie’s rediscovery of the Spector sound; with the advent of ProTools, Phil’s bag of tricks can be stuffed inside a MacBook (and it leaves the shotgun behind, thankfully enough), thus allowing bands like Lucky Soul to sound spectacular on a smaller budget.

But, enough of the technology! “Shake, shake / shimmy shimmy / shake shake shimmy / Without you!” is one of the lyrics of the year; for all its preposterousness, it strikes to the core of lost love. In a bouncy, bouncy, bouncy type-of-way, of course!

The band release their debut album The Great Unwanted next March, while they have a fabulous new single Ain’t Never Been Cool next month (is that the Be My Baby drum beat being played on the guitar?)!

Tomorrow, an entirely new song! Promise!

currently playing: Lucky Soul – Baby I’m Broke