Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Thursday in three parts

Of course, we're talking about the Thursday that happened two weeks ago, because I don't like to rush these things, as you know.

1) I was quite taken with this arrangement of rubbish outside the Barbican, which I observed on my way to see South Pacific with my pals from choir. My favourite thing about it is that it looks exactly like the wrapped up body of a giant-headed man with no arms or legs.


There are many reasons why a man may have an abnormally large head. Illness, an unfortunate accident of genes... OK, there are two reasons. Or, in fact, three, since I imagine this man's head – the head of a disgraced Barbican employee, I believe – was so gigantic because it was bursting with ideas.

Ideas such as: 'Wouldn't it be an amazing idea to have more ladies' toilets near the Barbican's main theatre auditorium, so that people could do more during the interval than locate the toilets, queue, use them, then sprint, sweaty and flustered, back to their seats just as the curtain goes up again?'

The enterprising Barbican employee's plan must have been rejected because it would interfere with the precious bloody architecture of the building. Presumably people urinated less in the '70s.

Another idea: 'Wouldn't it be good if the dedicated email account for Barbican lost property actually responded to emails regarding lost property*?'

The response was clearly to cut off his arms and legs for insubordination and throw him out with the rubbish.

Arts administration is a cut-throat world. If, by throat, you mean legs. And also arms. Which I do.

2) When I was sitting in Starbucks, killing some time before I went to the Barbican, a woman spent several minutes eyeing me nervously, before walked across the room towards me. 'Are you waiting to interview someone for a job?' she said to me. 'Erm... no,' I said. 'Oh...' she said, 'it's just you look like someone who might be.'

Now I wish I'd said yes. I feel quite confident that I could have conducted a searching 30-minute interrogation without having any idea what the job was. People believe anything when you wear glasses and have a notebook out on the table.

3) When you are sitting in the highest, cheapest seats of the theatre, you have a great view down into the orchestra pit. The massive square in me (most of me is a massive square, apart from the bit that sometimes eats a Marks & Spencer's sandwich in Starbucks) was a little shocked to see the clarinettist flicking through a magazine during the idle moments when she wasn't playing. I wonder what is the most elaborate extra-curricular activity you could get away with doing in an orchestra pit during the performance, while still technically meeting the demands of your job. Yoga? Your ironing? Building a matchstick scale model of the Barbican inside the Barbican?

Pottery would be a good one, of course. Imagine attempting to keep your wheel turning with the foot pedals while simultaneously negotiating the tricky rhythms of Happy Talk.

Metal detecting is a popular hobby, but I would not recommend carrying this out in an orchestra pit during a performance.

*First world problems: I have lost a beautiful blue leopard-print Whistles scarf. First world solutions: It's either in the Barbican, Starbucks or cute cupcake-vending cafe Bea's Of Bloomsbury.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Things That Everyone Else May Know But I Have Only Just Discovered, part 349

The French word for paperclip is trombone.

Isn't language a marvellous thing?

J'adore les Fran├žais et leurs mots fous!

(I didn't even look that up.)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Take your partners...

At the start of another season of Strictly Come Dancing, I should mention that I am once again thankful that it's no longer scheduled against The X Factor. What a wonderful world we live in that fans of manipulative reality TV formats can enjoy a bumper Saturday night of carefully orchestrated plastic emotion with no awkward clashes. And I no longer have to feel like I'm choosing Cliff Richard over Elvis as I tell TV hipsters that I watched Strictly Come Dancing and haven't yet managed to catch up with X Factor. All this is a weight off my mind, I don't mind telling you. Now I can get on with ironing out the finer details of world peace.

So this is me reflecting on the Strictly Come Dancing pair-up show, where the celebrities discover which professional dancer's body odour will soon be as familiar to them as their favourite song. This episode is the essence of showbusiness perfectly distilled, as people mask the crushing disappointment at the identity of their new partner by showing the world the effectiveness of their teeth whitening programme; glowing through the despair, praying for the time when they can go back to their dressing room and drink fake tan and sequin glue until they lose consciousness and the pain is over.

I'm here to run down this year's contestants, but I can't really begin without saying this: Tess Daly used to be a model. She is in great shape. So why she is apparently so hard to dress? A daffodil coloured jumpsuit is a friend to no one, not even the member of Pan's People who last wore Tess's get-up in the 1970s – and whose cupsize was apparently quite different. Top marks for thrift, the Beeb.

The first contestant to meet their new partner is lion-haired Robbie Savage. He lines up opposite the seven female pros, who are all wearing variations on the same dress. It's Seven Brides For Seven Brothers in sequins. I say that. I've never seen Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Anyway, he lucks out by getting Ola. Join me, readers, over the coming weeks as we embark on a quest for Robbie Savage's redeeming features. I'm excited.

Last series, US pro Katya was tasked with animating Gavin Henson. This year, her experiments in human galvanisation continue with a new specimen, Daybreak's Dan Lobb
. Tall and Next-catalogue handsome, can she transform him from lurching, late-thirties Ken doll into rubber-hipped dancefloor dynamo? Will he be Mark Foster or will he be Gethin Jones, is what I'm saying. Judging by the first group dance, it could be Foster, but I like Dan, and he has the grace to look a little sheepish about this whole matchmaking hoopla. I suspect Katya will have called in the acting coach by week 6, if they get that far.

Harry from McFly gets flame-haired choreographic delusionist Aliona. I'm not saying she lost the title for Matt Baker last year but I've heard that Kara Tointon still sends her flowers once a week. Harry won a one-dance Strictly special for Children In Need last year with Ola, and I must assume the BBC have paired him with Aliona to avoid accusations that he has an unfair advantage. Harry seems lukewarm. 'She's such a great dancer,' Bruce says to Harry encouragingly. 'Sure,' says Harry. 'They're all amazing. ESPECIALLY OLA. WHY AREN'T I WITH OLA? SHOW ME MY CONTRACT. I WANT OLA.' He communicates the last bit by telepathy. I am psychically very gifted.

Anita Dobson is possibly the most excited celebrity on the show. She and new partner Robin look so pleased to see each other, for a moment I feel like I'm watching Surprise Surprise. Robin was ever so nice to Patsy Kensit last year, so I'm pleased for Anita. An anxious-looking Brian May is in the audience, one seat for him, one either side for his hair. I hope that Brian is now taking this extremely seriously, and wiping over videos of Queen on Live Aid with tonight's first celebrity group dance, in order to pick apart Anita's competition. Anita is the kind of older lady I can imagine being friends with. Maybe we'd meet at work or at a book group, and then I'd end up going round to the Dobson-Mays' house for home-cooked lasagne and a lengthy explanation of Brian's guitar collection.

Chelsee Healey, from Waterloo Road, is single, although you'd never know as she hardly mentions it at all. From her VT we can surmise that she is A RIGHT LAUGH and A BIT MAD. Also, BUBBLY. She gets new dancer Pasha, who I believe we are meant to get all kinds of excited about, but for me, so far, he is two parts Jeremy Edwards and three parts Chico from The X Factor. At this stage, we applaud the BBC's policy of investing young trainees with genuine responsibility on high-profile shows. The director of photography is clearly a 14-year-old boy who's positioned a camera at precisely the right point on the stairs to capture maximum chest jigglage from the female contestants.

Lulu looks terrified to be paired with Brendan. Well, I think that's what her face is saying. He reacts to this by putting her over his shoulder and carrying her up the stairs. That's the way to win her over, Brendan. Women of a certain age love to be held upside down on television with their underwear exposed to the nation. Luckily, Lulu has the presence of mind to yank her skirt down to cover her modesty. These are the kind of smarts you learn during 40 years in showbiz.

I'm concerned about Jason Donovan. I want him to do well, but when he earnestly reveals one of his mantras - 'Fail to prepare, prepare to fail' - my heart sinks. Please don't let him be 2011's Craig Kelly - which is to say, 'I'm trying so hard to be awesome. Why aren't I awesome?' He's paired with Kristina, who looks ecstatic at drawing someone who a) can move at a greater speed than 'gentle amble' and b) is genuinely held in affection by the GBP. Although, saying that, I tried to persuade some of my oldest friends to join me in a karaoke take on Especially For You recently, and the response was not purely enthusiastic.

Rory Bremner gets Erin Boag – no surprise there. You would reasonably expect Rory to be pulling out impressions of the judges at every opportunity, but when it comes to ludicrous caricatured versions of Len and Bruno, it would be hard to beat their own performance in the last series. Ooh! A little bit of Strictly politics! At this point, I think I would like Rory to do well, but I am fickle.

Having won an Olympic gold medal, Audley Harrison probably thought he knew quite a lot about the will to win – until he met his professional partner Natalie Lowe, who makes Sally Pearson looks like she lacks a little focus. They are paired together on account of their enormo height, so if 6ft 6in Audley fails to find his inner Fred Astaire and is ejected early, perhaps they could fill their days playing basketball together, provided, of course, that Audley lets Natalie win.

Flavia is paired with Russell Grant. If she ends up dating this partner too, I think we can say that her feminine wiles are so phenomenally powerful we should be harnessing them as a natural energy source. Russell is being painted as the loser of the bunch, and also being made to wear a lot of velvet. Inhumanity upon inhumanity. I hope he turns out to be amazing. Come on, Russell!

Alex Jones gets James Jordan. I think I like Alex. She seems like a laugh. Also, she is a Jones, which is awesome, whichever way you slice it.

In a baffling tease that achieves nothing other than to make everyone feel massively uncomfortable, we are led to believe that Edwina Currie might be paired with Artem. Edwina is practically drooling. I'm not sure it's right that Strictly is scheduled before Doctor Who, because some children could be watching this and it's pretty icky.

He actually ends up with Holly Valance, which is all about their physical compatibility for dancing, of course, and not at all some clumsy attempt to create a love triangle between Holly, Artem and Kara Tointon. For Holly, a lot is at stake in this series. By Christmas, if she plays her cards right (ha!), she could be playing a sexy Australian doctor who arrives to shake up the staff of Holby City. Or even Casualty! In the meantime, she should watch out for Edwina haunting the corridors and dressing rooms like Sylvester Sneekley. 'Remember, Valance, Artem was my partner first. I TOUCHED HIM FIRST.'

Nancy Dell'Olio, meanwhile, thinks she's the most famous Italian in the UK, apart from Sophia Loren. Somewhere, over a large plate of pasta, Pavarotti is having a right laugh about that. She gets Anton, but clearly would much prefer Vincent. It's business as usual for Strictly warhorse Anton. New haircut, same old jokes and, I suspect, another early exit.

That leaves my beloved Vincent to dance with Edwina. There are no words. Apart from it looks like he and Flavia may have a tour booked in for November and December.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Strictly returns! Exciting reader interaction returns! Majority of regular readers experience profound sense of dread!

Hello September

How have you been? You bring me some miserable memories these days, but you also bring
Strictly Come Dancing and legitimise the wearing of tights, so I suppose I'll let you stick around. It's a little known fact that I have full control of the months of the year. Depending on how I do with those, They're going to try me out on the seasons next.

I know what you're thinking as we contemplate the passage of the year. Some of you will be brooding on what has become of your life and all the wide-eyed, wonder-struck dreams of your youth. But realistically most of you are thinking, 'There hasn't been a lame reader-interactive Why Miss Jones competition for a while. When, oh when, will I get the chance to compete for some cack-handed homemade prizes?'

Well, my friends, that particular boat has well and truly come in. RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

The all-new WMJ competition relates to
Strictly Come Dancing, which I know is of little interest to a significant proportion of the hardcore WMJ readership, but is of MASSIVE OBSESSIVE interest to a large amount of seasonal WMJ traffic.

The contest is a skilfull deconstruct of
Strictly host Sir Bruce Forsyth's Play Your Cards Right, in that you most definitely do get something for a pair in this game. You must predict which recently announced celebrity contestant will be paired with which pro dancer before the 'big reveal' show on Saturday evening. You may want to consider things like compatibility of height, build, whether the pro deserves a better/worse partner than the donkey/super-dancer they had last year and the pair's showmance potential. Or you may just want to guess.

Using the 'Contact me' link on the left, you need to email me your 14 predicted partnerships. The winner will be the person who correctly guesses the most pairs – I'm essentially a traditionalist, so it's a pretty classic contest in that respect. But that's not all. As a bonus question, and possible tie-breaker (and here I'm making a colossal assumption that more than one person will enter), you must predict which celebrity will be the first to say they are going to give it 'x' per cent, where 'x' is a figure in excess of 100, during Saturday's launch show. You must also guess the value of 'x'.

Now don't bore us, get to the chorus. And by 'chorus', I mean 'prizes'. It/they is/are [a] unique, bespoke, highly collectable piece[s] of
Strictly merchandise, lovingly crafted by me. Money literally can't buy these prizes, not least because they don't exist yet. I might get my friend Miss L to help me. She doesn't know this yet. But we'd all be in safer hands that way because she made this.

Let's recap. Send me:
*14 pairs.
*The name of the first percentage overstater, and the percentage
.
*Your favourite
Strictly professional dancer (this information will relate to your bespoke prize, should you win).


Your entry must reach my inbox by 5pm on Saturday 10 September. You can find a useful list of all the pros and celebs at the bottom of this post.

You may suggest that BBC employees have an unfair advantage. They probably do. But a) I think it's unlikely that any of them are reading this, and b) I know what the prizes are and, with that in mind, I'm not sure an advantage is actually, like, an advantage in this case.

Following the launch show on Saturday, I will post some ill-formed and prematurely judgmental thoughts on the contestants. The hardcore WMJ
Strictly non-tolerators will particularly look forward to this, I know. One of my initial impressions is that there are no EastEnders involved. Probably because last year they witnessed Scott Maslen reduced to a walking cadaver by the demands of the show – or the demands of Natalie – and vowed never to be that hollow-eyed bag of bones. Some people have no sense of adventure.

Helpful list:
CELEBRITIES Men: Harry Judd, Russell Grant, Robbie Savage, Audley Harrison, Rory Bremner, Dan Lobb, Jason Donovan
Women: Lulu, Holly Valance, Nancy Dell'Olio, Edwina Currie, Chelsee Healey, Alex Jones,
Anita Dobson

PROFESSIONALS Men: Brendan Cole, Anton du Beke, James Jordan, Vincent Simone, Robin Windsor, Artem Chigvintsev, Pasha Kovalev (new dancer referred to by Len Goodman on The One Show as 'Pasha the Siberian tiger')
Women: Katya Virshilas, Flavia Cacace, Ola Jordan, Erin Boag, Aliona Vilani, Kristina Rihanoff, Natalie Lowe

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Inanimate-objects-with-faces news (also contains flags)

If this post by Mr John Finnemore doesn't make you smile, you are presumably a robot. A robot whose damaged creator has quite deliberately denied it any capacity to express happiness, a fate his own father had wrought upon him by beating him repeatedly and locking him in a tiny cellar, where he was forced to eat dust and sing nursery rhymes to an audience of earwigs in a bid to remind himself what it is to be alive.

I am
basically stealing paying homage to John's post by drawing attention to something that's caught my eye during the TV coverage of the World Athletics Championships. This little fella, right by the finish line (or the start line, depending on where you're starting):


I think he's a speaker of some kind, enabling the athletes to hear both starter and pistol clearly, ensuring a clean, resolutely non-controversial start to each race.

How's that working out for you, Daegu?

I also think that, in this case, the face is there quite deliberately, although I don't know if the Koreans really go in for
kawaii. It does have quite the perfect expression of OMG, and in these championships, there has been a lot to OMG about.

The first attempt to take a picture of it on my telly resulted in this:


You may think it doesn't show Dai Greene in a particularly flattering pose. To that I say suck it up, Greene. You're world champion now, you need to keep your feet on the ground. Contrary to how it may appear, he was actually
scratching his nose – of course he was, that's what they all say. It was done in such an apparently nonchalant fashion, totally at odds with the tension of the moment (I can quite truthfully say I felt sick with nerves all morning) that I think it was entirely put on as part of his psych-out strategy. 'Yeah, I'm just hanging out, scratching my nose a bit. What, me? Nervous? Pfffft. NO.' That is the mark of a champion. He wasn't even itchy!

If you are a Why Miss Jones early adopter, you may remember the short-lived 'Jones Of The Week' award I once bestowed on Ryan Jones, the Welsh rugby player. I almost feel moved to confer the second only JOTW title upon Greene, in an honorary capacity. This would, however, involve some kind of gross Welsh-based generalisation, so it's probably best that I'm feeling too lazy to fire up the Photoshop and draw one of history's all-time great crowns upon his head with a shaky brush tool.

Both Greene and sweet, sunshiny Hannah England (OK, Iwan Thomas, you've called her 'a lovely girl'enough now, it's getting creepy) found a British flag from the crowd and did the appropriate champion-like things with it. Do you automatically understand what to do in that respect the moment you achieve the status of medallist?

I wondered today if it ever feels a bit weird. Like, 'OK, I've got the flag. Now what? I feel a bit embarrassed. I know, I'll hold it up in the air. Oh no, it's blowing in my face. Eurgh, it tastes funny. Actually, that guy that threw it to me looked weird. Maybe he infused it with steroids so I'll fail my drug test. Maybe I'll just hold it in front of me, but not in my face. Right, I've done that. Now what? Shall I go over there and hold it a bit more? Yes. I'll do that. I'm totally doing that. OK, now I'll run over to this bit. Run over to that other bit. Oh. Actually, no one seems that interested any more. They're all watching the big screen, which is showing two pigeons fighting in the water jump. Should I ditch the flag? I'm a bit bored of holding it now. Seems rude though. Can't just toss it back into the crowd, the Daily Mail will go mental. I'll wrap it around myself like a towel. I've definitely seen people do that. Except... oh, my shoulders are all sweaty and it's sticking to them and making me feel ick.'

I've thought about this quite a lot.

I guess when you're on the kind of high that comes with achieving one of your major life ambitions – I WOULDN'T KNOW – you assume a higher state of consciousness. You've beaten the world's best. What are flags? Nothing.