Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The reporter on NPR, some weird-named Ivy-League type, yesterday put forward a theory about Jeff Buckley that he predicted his own death through drowning in a lyric to So Real

" ... And I couldn't awake from the nightmare
That sucked me in and pulled me under
Pulled me under

A preposterous suggestion, of course.

Here is a list of other water and death imagery in his lyrics that clearly show Jeff had no idea what would happen...

Mojo Pin
"Don't wanna weep for you, I don't want to know
I'm blind and tortured, the white horses flow"

"Precious, precious silver and gold and pearls in oyster's flesh
Drop down we two to serve and pray to love"

" There's the moon asking to stay
Long enough for the clouds to fly me away
Well it's my time coming, I'm not afraid to die"

Oh drink a bit of wine we both might go tomorrow"

And the rain is falling
And I believe my time has come
It reminds me of the pain I might leave behind..."

And I feel them drown my name"

Lover you should have come over
" Looking out the door
I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners
Parading in a wake of sad relations
As their shoes fill up with water
And maybe I'm too young"

Eternal Life
" Eternal Life is now on my trail
Got my red glitter coffin, man, just need one last nail"

Dream Brother
"Asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over..."

The Sky is a Landfill
" Circle around the park
Joining hands in silence
Watch the evil black the sky

The storm has ripped the shelter
Of illusion from our brow"

We cast our funeral rose inside
And bury the need to prove"

Everybody here wants you
" I know the tears we cried
Have dried on yesterday
The sea of fools has parted for us"

Opened Once
"Just like the fiction
Rushing in your riverbed"

Just like the ocean
Always in love with the moon
It’s overflowing now
Inside you"

Nightmares by the Sea
" I’ve loved so many times and I’ve drowned them all
From their coral graves, they rise up when darkness falls
With their bones they’ll scratch the window, I hear them call"

Stay with me under these waves, tonight
Be free for once in your life tonight"

Witches Rave
" I float just like a bubble
Heading for a spike"

New Year's Prayer
Stand absolved behind your electric chair, dancing"

Leave your office
Run past your funeral"

Morning Theft
" Your eyes and body brighten
Silent waters, deep"

A heart that beats as
Both siphon and reservoir"

"Now, smell the rain of London it still insists
That we beg for our purity
As if we are pure in the rain of our contentment
As if I can think of this no more."

You and I
" You and I
Ah, the calm below that poisoned the river wild
You and I
Tears that dry on a rude awakened child"

If we had only known
In a way
We’d never reach this ground"

I rest my case


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ten years ago today he died and it feels like yesterday

I first heard Jeff Buckley in New York, busking in the pissing rain somewhere downtown (near Macy's? I forget) in the summer of 1991. I'd been obsessed with Hendrix for several years and was drawn to any musician who jammed on an electric guitar in the same way. It's that funky, gritty, swooping sound that pricked my ears as I first turned a corner in the rushour, looking for my Dad who I was meeting, and saw this young, good-looking guy with short, spiky hair and wearing a long grey trenchcoat. He was playing (if i remember rightly) a black guitar through a very loud portable amp and smiling broadly at the world going on in front of him. I stood and listened from across the street for a couple of minutes, absolutely transfixed by this guy who was really playing what he saw in front of him: The insane bustling humid downtown Manhattan people colony running through a furious torrent of weather. It had been a boiling summer and now was the moment where some serious steam was being let off

So I go up to him, chuck some coins into his hat and ask for a simple request:

"Can you play some Hendrix?"

And without missing a beat, he played the opening chords to The Wind Cries Mary. He grinned as he played the three famous chords and I smiled back, utterly disappointed he'd picked a soppy ballad when i'd really wanted to hear what he could do with Voodoo Chile or Machine Gun.
But in retrospect, I'm so glad he did because if he hadn't, I'd never have known i'd seen Jeff Buckley busking. You see, I didn't talk to him, never even asked him his name and 5 minutes later my Dad arrived and I was gone.

The first clue was that the first time I remembered this incident was when I bought Live at Sin-E a few years later and heard that guitar on The Way Young Lovers Do. And saw the front cover pic of the spiky haired gent on the front cover. But I didn't think it was actually him, just very familiar.

It wasn't until he died and I read the biography Dream Brother that I understood two key facts:

1. He was busking in New York in 1991
2. His favourite Hendrix song was 'The Wind Cried Mary' (his mum's name)

Hardly conclusive, but I know what I feel - and of course it doesn't really matter because I have his music and that's enough. Oh, and I saw him play for an hour at Glastonbury in 1995, one of the great musical experiences of my life (I only wish I'd got there earlier for Everything But The Girl, who brought him on as a special guest for a few songs. "Even greater" said my brother, later).

It's ironic, too, that when I was in New York, I'd just recently discovered his dad's music, having borrowed Dream Letter: Live in London from my local library, which had been blowing me away all summer. Every play drew me deeper into a world that at the time was deeply attractive to me: psychedelic folk; 12-string acoustic riffs; meandering soft electric solos counterpointing the vocals; deep, slinking jazz bass and stoned vibes but above all, the richest, tenderest, most exultant singing I'd ever heard. These songs were in the tradition of Dylan, Neil Young, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Pentangle, The Incredible String Band, CSN, Joni Mitchell et al but they grabbed me much, much more.

And if i'd have got his name, i'd have doubtless told him how much I loved his dad's music and that would have been the end of that. He was not a fan of his dad and nor would I be if he'd abandoned me at birth and spent the sum total of 6 weeks with me later in life before dying of a heroin overdose.

But that's my Jeff Buckley story and I'm sticking to it.

Here's a brilliant and bizarre recording of him covering Dylan on live radio, down the phone

I Shall Be Released

and, after many years of having it, I finally have got round to listening to this. It's Jeff and his then girlfriend Liz Fraser from the Cocteau Twins. It's been well worth the wait.

All Flowers in Time


Friday, May 25, 2007

Telling stories about your standup is like telling people about the erotic dream you had last night: it’s boastful, it’s personal, it’s unsolicited and always always always far more interesting to the teller than the listener. So listen up, bitches

Monday night I’m playing Top Toronto Comedy Club Number 1. There’s a brilliant couple of MC’s, a Rising Star, a couple of excellent young standups, a lot of average-to-shit ones (I see no difference, personally) and me. It’s a good night. The first time I’ve let friends and family come to see me. The pressure’s on and im cacking myself, but it goes well enough. I even drop two purposefully awful jokes to show my confidence and test myself – a foolish tactic since they bomb like the motherfuckers they are because, as im later quite emphatically told, ‘Canadians don’t like puns’. Perhaps if I hadn’t prefaced the second one with ‘if you didn’t like the last joke…’?

The Rising Star headlines and is clearly a cut above the rest. It’s all run of the mill, predictable stuff, but with a real strong delivery. His tales of fragility and anguish are quite loveable and his personality and ease on stage shines through.

Tuesday night I’m playing Top Toronto Comedy Club Number 2. I don’t have a gig but I’m prepared to lie to get one. Getting what you want in this country is, for me, simply a matter of being extremely English and absolutely expecting to succeed. Happily, the MC/Promoter is a nice guy and takes to me, so I get a spot without too much effort. My Jewdi mind tricks are strong tonight. And oh look, Mr Rising Star is on the bill again. He does a completely different set and is just as great. I’m envious.

But I have also never seen anything like this before. The MC turns into a total bastard on stage and genuinely slags off the acts he doesn’t like. The first guy up we’re told was ‘so good last week, we asked him back to do it again’

Except he’s rubbish. And if there was any doubt about it, the MC sets us straight afterwards…

“ Not sure why I asked him back now. You’re getting a real $3 show tonight. Fuckin’-A”

Then a truly unfunny young man gets up and performs to howls of derisive laughter at his every non-joke, before walking off stage to polite applause for at least having had a go. It doesn’t help that he''s dressed in a vast comfort-blanket of a winter coat, stands 4 feet away from the mic and mumbles every word. And then he sits down to hear this from the stage

“There you go ladies and gentleman. The worst act I’ve ever seen. Don’t applaud.”

A lively, very sexy woman gets up next, having been hyped up all night as The Future of Comedy by this guy, only to do 5 minutes of material about being Colombian to complete, bewildering silence. It’s her first ever gig and she’s not put off, because she rightly feels like she’s achieved something in just doing it and is admirably ecstatic as she returns to her seat. And the first words out of the MC’s mouth upon retaking the stage?

“Well, THAT was shit”

I get up and have a blast, finally getting back that feeling of having fun on stage. I'm very happy, especially when he asks me back next week. And I shall prepare for his public disdain

After the gig, as im standing on the subway platform for my train home, the truly terrible youngster appears with two embarrassed friends and I tell him, quite untruthfully, that I’ve had worse gigs than his performance tonight.

But he doesn’t want to hear it.

“Im not saying my material is all funny, but I think most people just don’t get it”

Try talking into the mic. People couldn’t hear you.


Try. Talking. Into. The. Microphone.

And he is CRUSHED.

Wednesday night, I walk into Top Toronto Comedy Club Number 3 (of 3). A guy and a girl are sitting on tables idly bitching about something in their lives. I ask for the promoter, explaining I’m a travelling comedian after an open spot and the guy asks me to tell him more.

But before I get a chance, the girl pipes up:

“oh, hey! I saw you two nights ago!”


I’m lying. She must’ve hated me. Too late now. What the hell, I know it’s a risk, but…

-Was I any good?

And instead of answering me, never a good sign when you’re asking someone a direct question, she turns to the promoter guy and says something that I heard the previous night – and the night before (and every night before that)

“He does intellectual comedy”

I doubt she meant to convey the absolute contempt with which it came across and for sure her accent didn’t help but I quickly realised that I wasn’t going to get a gig tonight. For some reason, in this city of socially, politically and environmentally aware, highly educated people, dick jokes are the order of the day. A la carte and prix fixe, chef’s special and all you can eat. Dicks dicks dicks. Jokes that ask you to actually think are not welcome. No, Professor, you can save your fancy cordon bleu gaggery for special occasions, like the non-existent Intellectuals of Comedy tour.

But when I return later, he's put me on the bill anyway.

And the thing is that I don’t really do such intellectual stuff. I’m not even close. I do clever dick jokes, at best. Maybe in Ireland I approached properly intellectual stuff because I came to know my audience, but then I left at the very moment I had truly found my feet on stage, becoming just another struggling newbie who didn’t know how to connect with their audience. I also stopped writing jokes because nothing much struck me as that funny anymore. Partly that is down to being in a new society again where I wasn’t yet able to see the chinks in the wall of self-image that this country so successfully projects. And partly it was because I’d had the emotional shit kicked out of me and then bagged up to take with me on the plane. I’ve been dipping my fingers in for a sentimental lick ever since.

So my gigs last year were tough and any success I had I failed to capitalise on at the time. I just didn’t get the same buzz from it anymore. It’s got to matter. I’m wasn’t sure why I was getting up there – it certainly wasn’t because I needed to entertain people - so I stopped

A true example: Do you know how Catherine The Great of Russia died? She was crushed to death by a two-ton urban myth.* Perhaps not the best example cos it’s not really funny is it? More clever or, oh I dunno, intellectual? Well my message to the audience is this: fuck you. I have read far less books than any of you people, failed more school exams and slept through more university lectures than any of you. I’ve got the memory of a ZX81 and the processing power of a ZX80. And I make metaphors like a mushroom makes war. But seriously, you have to stop treating live comedy like it’s on tv – we** are not there to spoon feed you your entertainment. Live comedy takes some collaboration, so turn your brains back on and accept it. It’s more fun if you join in, anyway, because you get little cerebral rewards of pleasure every time you get the joke.

So I go up and do my thing and it’s really tough. Im not nervous enough and the room half empty and effectively dead. I’ve forgotten how to grab a dying audience and shake them up. None of us do well, except for the MC’s, who are the same amazing dudes in the first club.

As a headliner, out comes Mr Rising Star. And he throws away any pretence of doing material in favour of chatting with the audience. Of course, the thing is that the front row is entirely filled by 4 ancient ladies that remind us of the Golden Girls. One has a Chinese toyboy, by which I mean he looks to be in his mid-50's. And while these overly bouffanted and heavily rouged dames are not above being charmed by some funny young men, they are tired and surely a bit disappointed with how shit the night’s been. So when he latches onto them and they prove unresponsive, he only pushes harder to get some kind of reaction out of them. It’s all good natured and the questions he asks aren’t that intrusive, but still they won’t give him anything. So he talks directly to the oldest one, sitting next to her boytoy, who is particularly poker faced throughout the whole thing. There might just be the upward curl of a lip on her face, perhaps he’s getting through?

So he carries on. “Perhaps you’re just tired? Perhaps it’s past your bedtime and you’re just waiting to go home?”.

He pushes a little further. “You clearly don’t find me funny. And that’s ok. Im not feeling it either.”

Still nothing. “Why else would you give me that stony expression? I think it wouldn’t take much to respond if you really tried. No? ”.

And then he pushes too far.

“Perhaps if you tried not being such A GIGANTIC BITCH"

And as the first synchronised gasps fade into the dead acoustics of the room, she gets up, gathers her coat, handbag and young man. Then she dodders, shell-shocked, slowly out.
And as she’s leaving, I swear you can almost hear the ssssSSSSS
SSSUCK as all the oxygen in the room goes with her.

It is, in some sense, the ultimate heckle. For how do you respond to someone you’ve A: genuinely hurt for no good reason? And B: isn’t there anymore?

We are then treated to 15 minutes of him trying to deal with what he’s done. It takes him a good 14 before anyone starts laughing again, at least from something funny. He tries to make friends with the rest of the audience but they’re all a bit too shocked to do it either. He tries to do his material, the winning stuff I heard the previous two nights and it’s so bad he doesn’t finish any of it. I think my feelings towards him at this moment are much the same as everyone else’s in the room: I hate him, he’s a rude cunt who’s shown the world his ugly side and not really noticed. And of course, I massively admire him for sticking to the stage instead of running into the busy Toronto traffic looking for a messy, instant death. It’s what I would’ve done and im sure what she would’ve wanted.

As I walk out of the club with the last of the audience gone, I pass the old ladies, their mantoy and a very stressed looking promoter. It’s weird, it’s like a standoff. They’re all standing in a circle and nobody seems to be saying a word. Either they’re battling psychically or they’re just too fucking shocked to actually speak.

5 minutes later, having taken the wrong direction, I walk back past the club and, looking through the window into the lobby, I see the same people in the same positions. Still not moving. Except this time the promoter, hands held out in the international signal of contrition, shoots me an exasperated look that screams: Please. Kill. Me

*I presume this is a myth. I can only assume it stemmed from a game of Chinese Whispers that got out of hand. It started out as a sore throat, turned into her feeling a little hoarse, and ended up with her having had an Arabian Stallion strapped into a fuck-harness and lowered down onto/into her

**or ‘I’, anyway


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A sliver and slice
Of all things nice
A slice and a sliver
Of all things liver

A slap and tickle
Of Branston's Pickle
A tickle and a slap
Of pickle in a bap

A nip and tuck
Of well-roasted duck
A tuck and a nip
Of a walnut whip

A kiss and tell
Of Os a Moëlle
A tell and a kiss
Of fresh physalis

A spit and swallow
Of spaghetti al pollo
A swallow and a spit
Of hot pommes frites

A duck and dive
Of oyster and chive
A dive and a duck
Of the oyster you shuck

A nod and wink
Of sweetened squid ink
A wink and a nod
Of a deep-fried cod

to be continued...


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Overheard in a bookshop…

"This book’s in Spanish"


"Does it come with subtitles?"

I swear, you couldn’t make it up!

And yet I did!


Friday, May 18, 2007

Marc Ribot and Apostle of Hustle tonight
The impossible to google !!! tomorrow night
Me! And then, straight after, the incredible Mice Parade monday night

Slap me!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

You know it's going to be a random day when the first thought you wake up with is "I wonder if Gennady, that Belarussian boy I had a Barmitzvah for back when The Soviet Union wouldn't let him have one of his own is now a successful Russian Oligarch? I should track him down to see. He owes me"

And the second thought is "I could blog that"


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

8am. My alarm goes off and I reach down to stop it. But it's not where it should be, so I'm forced to open my sticky, prickly eyes and grab around with my numb fingers. Turns out it's sitting next to a writing pad, on which I've written this single line.

"That's odd", said God

Well put, the Lord.

It is odd. My unconscious life has always had a soft edge of near-realism to it, ever since I can remember - which would be when I was three and woke to find myself out of bed, taking a piss into the waste-paper basket in my bedroom. On the plus side, I didn't need a poo. I've done my fair share of walking as a child and talking as an adult, usually complete gibberish (as I say, always had a touch of the nearly real) which is all very well and good and normal. Apart from an occasional lucid dream or the infrequent, inexplicable, massive scratches over my face or body nothing that noteworthy has taken place in a while. Certainly I don't expect to be taking notes in the physical world whilst im doing things like wallowing in my muddy hippocampus.

But I sleep with a pen and paper by my bed, just in case I wake and actually have something to write that's worth... um...y'know.

Not that it happens too often when I'm awake and inspired. So imagine my surprise and delight and shock and surprise again at waking up this morning to discover this message. Of course, I have no idea what the dream was about, if indeed the message was accompanied by one. I'd love to know though

It's the third time this month, in fact. Normally if something comes to me in a dream and it's powerful enough to be written down in my sleep, it's a gag or some kind of jokey thing that i've somehow heard and found amusing, yet when I wake the next morning, regardless of the context of the dream it came in, it's normally of the order of

"Cheese bananas"

Which, unless you're in the dream at the time, is not by any objective standards actually that funny. Though I suspect that's where many of a comedian's shittest jokes come from, held onto by the steadfast and gloriously misguided belief that if it worked on the dream audience, it'll work on a real one. Eventually.

But a few weeks ago I dreamed I was IM'ing the daughter of a friend of mine (don't even...) but in the dream we didn't actually have computers so were writing to each other using pens and paper and our messages were coming up on each others pads like automatic writing. Sounds spooky but it wasn't. Now I don't remember the conversation but I did wake up to find i'd written this:

"R we on R beneficial tip"

And then last week, I awoke to discover this elaborate, food-related 'joke' that must've had them bursting their gall bladders with laughter in my dream:

"I just feel like cabbage has a way of ruining my sex life, y'know?"

-What sex life?



Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"What do you want from England?" asked a friend who came to stay recently. "oh, that's easy, I really miss th...uh...hmm". Because you see, Canada has ample supplies of Marmite, Fish and Chips, British Beer and The Queen on the money. So what else is there I actually miss? Oh, loads, I think..

Twiglets: Wholemeal and yeast, dusted in milk powder and maltodextrin - like fossilised poos from the Marmite monster - I love them, miss them, will be writing to Jacobs in a feeble attempt to get them to send me some. These guys know what it's all about... http://www.awholelotofcrunch.com/

Whelks: Grey, seaside, rubbery rock-pool jewels doused in white pepper and vinegar. Tastes of childhood. Add winkles and potted shrimp and you have true, fishy love.

Immigration Officials: "British Passport? White? In you come, pal."

Good neighbours: If you get pissed off with your country, you can always move to France. The next nearest place to Canada that's worth living in is.... also France.

Paedophiles as the root of all evil: How I miss the British press and its loyal, evolved readership

People that look like me, sound like me, dress like me and like the same things as me but are, for some inexplicable reason, complete cunts and fuckers: And why do I miss that? This isn't a rhetorical question - literally, why the fuck do i miss that? I think.. actually... maybe I don't.


Proving once again that paedophiles are more cunning than their non-child-abusing, human counterparts, the new trend in Portugal i believe is to have your face surgically removed thus avoiding detection or scaring kiddies with your evil caddy-faddling features.

The other real story here...

Two so-far unrelated stories from the BBC:

Condoms 'too big' for Indian men
By Damian Grammaticus
BBC News, Delhi

Condom factory
There is a "lack of awareness" over condom sizes
A survey of more than 1,000 men in India has concluded that condoms made according to international sizes are too large for a majority of Indian men.

The study found that more than half of the men measured had penises that were shorter than international standards for condoms.

It has led to a call for condoms of mixed sizes to be made more widely available in India.

The two-year study was carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
India hits the billion mark
Crowded train
India has 16% of the world's population but just 2.5% of its land
India's population has passed the one billion mark, according to the country's census commission.

However, experts see little cause for cheer because of diminishing natural resources and increasing poverty, illiteracy and unemployment.

News that the one-billionth baby had been born was officially announced in Delhi at 1232 local time (0702 GMT).

and for dessert, this little nugget of gelt

Large condoms for S African men
Condom factory
South African men might enjoy buying extra large condoms
A range of extra-large condoms has been launched in South Africa, to cater for "well-endowed" men.

"A large number of South African men are bigger and complain about condoms being uncomfortable and too small," said Durex manager Stuart Roberts.



Wednesday, May 02, 2007

From the BBC...

Wife put excrement in man's curry
Jill Martin, Paisley News and Features
Jill Martin pleaded guilty to culpable and reckless conduct
A disgruntled wife has admitted feeding her estranged husband a curry containing dog excrement after their relationship broke down.

Jill Martin, 47, pleaded guilty at Paisley Sheriff Court to culpable and reckless conduct against husband Donald Martin.

During the hearing, defence solicitor Terry Gallanagh likened the case to "an episode of Desperate Housewives".

Sheriff G.W.Sinclair deferred sentence on Martin until 1 November.

Depute Fiscal Margaret Dunnipace told the court that on 13 March, after placing the dinner in front of her husband Donald and watching him start to eat it, Martin had burst out laughing.

You can see in the photo above just how ashamed she is. I think we'd all like to see a picture of her husband, the man who ate a shit. No matter what else he's done in life, i'm afraid that's it for him. Reputation sealed. He could save the world from a nuclear holocaust, cure AIDS and become President of Earth but to me, and you, he'll always be known as "the man who ate a shit".

Jill, should you ever release a cookbook, here's my contribution:

2 Eggplants
Big handful of Okra
Fresh Coconut
Fresh Dogshit
Dried Dogshit
Green Chili
Fresh Tomato
Curry Powder
Fenugreek seeds

Slice onion, garlic, ginger and chili thinly and fry with the fenugreek seeds in sunflower oil til soft and turning brown. Cut the tops off the okra and slice the eggplant into small cubes, then add to the pan.

In a separate pan, dry-fry the coconut, having carefully separated it from the shell . When it starts to smoke, remove it from the pan and grate into thick shreds. Now add cumin seeds to the pan and do the same. Remove before they burn and grind in a pestle and mortar to a rough consistency. Turn the heat up on the pan and add a big lump of ghee. As soon as it starts to bubble, add the fresh dogshit and turn regularly to sear, thus sealing in the juices and keeping it from turning to mush.

When the vegetables soften sufficiently, transfer the fresh dogshit into the pan. Break it up into lumps first. I prefer bite-size but don't copy me. You know how you like them. When the shit has started to take on a golden brown (for this reason, I recommend not using Retriever, Setter or Lab turds as they are naturally this colour - and besides, they are too nutty for this dish anyway), add the freshly ground cumin and an equivalent quantity of curry powder. The flavours should really start to take off at this point, so it's best to dip a finger in and taste before adding salt. When things start to dry up, add the fresh tomato. Again, I prefer it whizzed into frothy oblivion before introducing it to the curry. You may prefer it chopped roughly or mushed up first. Whatever way you like it, remember to remove the bitter stalk at the top of the pith first or it will ruin the taste of the curry.

5 minutes before serving, add the flaked toasted coconut and the dried dogshit onto the surface of the curry. I suggest a freeze-dried, vacuum packed turd from your local deli, though if you're in a hurry a common-or-garden-or-pavement air-dried turd will do. Avoid fur, which is a sign of early fermentation. If you can get it, Old White Crumbly is the white truffle of dogshits.

Serve with basmati rice or nan. A strong, fruity, young Alsatian wine would go with this, rather fittingly, or maybe a glass of fresh fizzy cat's piss if you don't drink alcohol.


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