Sunday, January 29, 2006


English Nephew Benedict has learned to whistle. He can whistle 'Rule Brittania' and other stuff that he makes up as he wanders about the house. He wasn't prepared to whistle down the phone to me as he was busy watching 'Finding Nemo'.

Went to a house party yesterday. The basement apartment was all our friends and aquaintances, the middle one was grown ups and the loft at the top was young women and babies. The actual proper basement was home to a drum kit and a Belgian guy on bass guitar.

Played touch football with Listmaker and some cronies in Prospect Park on Saturday. Much fun was had, Frau Random Doubt has recovered from my swinging '(my)hand-(her)eye' connection.
Frau Random Doubt has asked that I point out that she's quite the football player.

Today I am going to the movies 'blind'. Frau random Doubt has been on about a movie for a while. I have heard nothing about it. I thought it might be fun to avoid all press and commentary and just 'go and see'. The hour is at hand.
And no, it's not Brokeback Mountain.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Book learning # 3 (OK, super quick).

The curious incident of the dog in the nightime.

So it's a bestseller. So I'm a massive book snob (unless it's a book about LBJ and then I sleep with it under my pillow) and I hate reading bestsellers. Except this was a great bestseller and I read it in less than three days.
The kid is autistic and he goes on a crazy adventure.
I like this book because he's autistic yet real, ie: quite annoying. And we all have to deal with that. Sometimes, people with special needs can be annoying.
He spends a large part of the book in Swindon which his father describes as an "arsehole".
This is true, Swindon is arguably one of the least pleasant places in the whole of Europe (this is a continent with towns such as Dresden, Leipzig and Stafford, stiff competition).
I also hate Swindon. The only good thing about Swindon is that it's buses look like Starsky and Hutch cars (red with a white zag).
Therefore, my advice is this, buy this book and try it.
BTW, 2006 will consist of more than just book reviews but when you read a book in less than three days that review is gonna come around real quick.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Book learning #2

Experience by Martin Amis.

The background: I was given this by my mother for Christmas 2002. It sat on the shelf for three years, Martin Amis? didn't he write The Rachel Papers, wasn't that the movie with Dexter Fletcher? Isnt his dad Kingsley Amis?
Have I ever had any thought towards reading anything he has ever written? There's a very short answer coming up.

Thus, in a fit of mild Janus-inspired ennui I pick it up, flick through (it has two photo sections) and I get the vague sense that it's a biography, or an autobiography, a work about someone who has long been on the periphary of my experience, friends would read Martin Amis in high school, Nick Hornby drops his name in 'Fever Pitch' ("What are you thinking about?" she asks. At this point I lie. I wasn't thinking about Martin Amis or Gerard Depardieu or the Labour Party at all.) as the epitome of modern urbanity.

And so I picked it up, and so for the next two weeks I kept picking it up, it moved at a nice pace, not quite unputdownable but certainly something you would need nearby when watching TV or contemplating a trip on the subway.
The book itself is a collection of essay style pieces, some reprinted old letters (these became quite tiresome as the vast majority of them were written when the author was either at school or university, mostly directed to his father or stepmother and filled with the minutae of money and academic progress). As well as the letters we are witness to Amis's prose style, his ability to make the most macabre themes actually rather readable.

Three themes, two of them quite deadly and disturbing, dominate the rest of the book. The murder of his cousin in December 1973. Paedophilia and abuse in a variety of contexts and (rather lighter) his relationship with his dad, The Author Kingsley Amis. He also covers his friendships and relationships. The first two themes tend to overshadow the rest of the book, especially Lucy Partington's fate at the hands of the serial killer Frederick West. Like a bad horror movie, you keep replaying ideas inside your head about the events. It's really disturbing stuff.

Likewise the paedophile stuff which is linked to Lucy's fate. Amis discusses incidents in his own experience as a small child, incidents of touching and molestation although, like so many other victims he dismisses much of this and the nature of the acts only occurs to him as an adult, as a parent.
I found it hard to concentrate on his Hamptons weekends with Saul Bellow or his friendly arguments with Christopher Hitchens whilst wondering if the next page would return me to the events of December 1973 or some misjudged fumble in a locker room at school.

Amis seems to have had as complicated a relationship with his father as any of us, by turns advisory, confrontational, drunk, but, it seems, rarely competitve (perhaps unusual for two writers).
Dealing with loss is another aspect of the book, the loss of a loved one in mystyfying circumstances (Lucy's remains were undiscovered for 21 years), the loss of a father (through divorce and then, inevitably, death) and a host of other characters, his daughter's mother commits suicide, his brother in law succumbs to AIDS.

And so I mention Lucy again and again in this review, Amis does the same in the book, the horror so vivid that one cannot quite shake it out of one's mind, the wondering, for 21 years, about where the hell she went and what the hell happened to her. Then the awful truth.

It should be remembered that much of this book is witty and engaging and it's tempted me towards some of his other works, but it should also be remembered that a tremendous and powerful shadow lingers over the text. Ironically, it's the darkness that keeps you turning the pages. Reading this book forces you to think about some of your worst nightmares, not as easy a read as you might at first think.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What the hell?, it's just outright theft.

Do you ever get the urge to visit your neighbor's home and steal all their booze?
I kinda feel the same right now.
Straight from the kitchen table of Wisdom Weasel, here's my latest blogging effort.

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

What were you doing 10 years ago?
January 1996: About to embark on a very difficult final teaching practise. My teacher was an arse who did little but interupt me during lessons and belittle me in public. I owe him the fact that despite his best efforts I went on and became an OK sort of teacher anyway.

What were you doing 1 year ago?
January 2005
Almost certainly much the same, blogging in front of a roaring fire.

Five snacks you enjoy:
Cheese and Branston Pickle sandwiches.
Cheese straws.
A good BLT sandwich.
McDonalds cheeseburgers
Hot Dogs with 'chup and mustard.

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics:
Almost all of Billy Bragg's catalogue from 1983 up to 1988. Does that Count? No? OK,
'It's a grand old flag'.
'On the ball city'.
'The kind' Steve Earle.
The Theta club shanty ("I'll sing you one-oh! pull, pull the jib in")

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
Firstly I would buy my wife a fantastic semi derelict space with a harbor view and give her the time and resources to create a secret garden.
Then I'd buy real estate in England and Brooklyn.
Then, right, I'd set up a sailing club in Red Hook in order for real, normal people who just want to sail. New York harbor is one of the most amazing bits of water in the world yet you have to be a rich twat to ever sail on it.
Then an Audi TT roadster.
Plus an ocean worthy sailboat (at least 50ft please)

Five bad habits:
I am of German descent. (That's got to be worth at least five?)

Five things you like doing:
Drinking beer. Practising the guitar. Reading. Walking and running. Sailing

Five things you would never wear, buy or get new again:
That big black leather coat with the furry collar that made me look like Alec Guiness in Dr Zchivago. Running shoes a size too small. Really expensive beer simply because it was brewed in 1973, seemed like a bad idea at the time, turned out worse.
Anything written by Jeremy Clarkson. The Daily Mail.

Thanks Unwellness, M!key and of course, Weasel.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Fantasy Football. A Mondale -Weasel co production.

(This post was delayed due to internet narliness. I have not read Weasel's yet. The bulk of this was written Tuesday night).

This came up in a conversation with Weasel this evening. We both decided to blog it and publish at the same time, Midday on Wednesday.
This is an old game/conversation piece we used to do with friends in the pub, classroom, on the bus, where ever. It can be applied to any sport.

The rules are thus, you have a fifteen year career in the top (ish) flight of professional football. Where would you play?, What would you win? You have to play for five different teams (not including an international career, not mandatory but I've never known anyone turn it down).

I would start out at Norwich City as a budding midfielder in the young Steve McManaman mode, perhaps, on a good day with a dash of the Cruyff. I would spend 5 years as a Barclay end favourite and would leave the club after winning the FA Cup at Wembley, beating Arsenal 2-0.

After 4 years with Norwich I'm spotted by the England manager. I make my international debut against Wales in a 2-2 draw.

After the FA Cup victory I sign for Fulham. I know, it's not an obvious choice but I like being by the river and they were my mum's team back in the early 60's. I also enjoy having a drink with Mr Fayed and listening to his crazy theories about the Duke of Edinburgh.

I score a last minute winner in a European Championship qualifier. This thrusts me somewhat unexpectedly into the global spotlight, a bit like Mark Hughes's goal against Spain in 1985.

I spend a year at Fulham before foreigners start sniffing about. I sign for Barcelona without so much as a backward glance. London always was full of wankers.

Lose the European Championship final against Spain. Oh the Irony.

The defeat makes me stronger as a person and the wife simply loves the Spanish lifestyle, all that tapas. I enjoy playing for Barca and spend the next 6 years with them.
The fans love me, they love me because I play quite well and I read George Orwell before big games. Then the mood changes, new management and can you beleieve it? I'm on my way out the door.
In the meantime the team win 2 European Cups and 2 Spanish league championships.

A world cup semi final defeat against the Germans makes me a national hero as I get all Churchillian at the final whistle, a TV career looks certain.

After the Spanish adventure and the bullshit Churhill stuff I return to England where I put in a year at West Ham. I think they think I'm some sort of nationalist mascot. I'm not. I soon remember why I left Fulham, Cockney wankers.

My England career ends with a hat trick against the Germans at Wembley. REVENGE!!

I spend my final playing days at Bristol Rovers helping them gain promotion in two years. I play my final professional game against Swindon Town and score a hatrick, thus snatching the prized second automatic promotion spot into the Championship. I have always hated Swindon and this gives me and the fans tremendous pleasure.
The Mayor of Bristol (a personal friend) publicly congratulates me which I thought was a very nice touch, he didn't need to do that but he did, just shows that he's a big hearted man who is able to rise above partisan matters.

But what to do now? I love the West of England and seriously consider an offer to present 'West Match Plus' on ITV on sunday afternoons. My dream TV career is looking like becoming a reality!

So, there you have it. My fantasy football career. At the end of the day, It all boils down to hard work and a Ford dealership in Mangotsfield.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


We've arrived!
Everyone here at Fritz Towers is celebrating tonight as we have made it to Google's page one of 'Walter Mondale'.
Surely the measure of any blogging success.
Hangovers all round.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Yet another 90 minute cup run.

OK, out of the cup in the third round again. let's concentrate on that place off spot.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Indoor running verses outdoor running (Winter, it's a right double edged sword).

Whilst there are certainly no marathons in my future I do like a good run.
Handwashings tipped me me off to the amazing Manhattan/Brooklyn bridges combo which is now one of my staples and most favourite things to do.
The trouble is that the winter is here and the light has gone. I am no longer able to get a good outdoor run after work.
I have to hope for the weekend.
This means running at the gym. Gym running,compared to outdoor running, absolutely sucks.

Outdoor running gets you out of the apartment (sounds obvious but it's a big part of the attraction).
Outdoor running takes you somewhere, whether it's over an amazing bridge or through a park or even just down some interesting streets. It takes you places you don't need to go except by virtue of running about.
Outdoor running allows you to motivate yourself by singing, cursing and clapping your hands like a loony. My favourite is yelling "motherf**ker!!!" at the subway trains on the Manhattan bridge as they rumble past about 6 feet to my right.
Outdoor running makes me smile and laugh as I do it. I also enjoy getting out in foul weather (as long as it's not icy) and finding motivation in the pure desire of getting back home.
Outdoor running motivates merely by having to complete a course, to get back home. In the gym you can stop at any time and you won't be any further away from that delicious hot shower than if you had not stopped. You are going nowhere fast. You are runing on the spot.
In a gym you can watch TV (I can watch TV at home, sitting on my arse).
In a gym no one applauds you as you run past them on New Year's day in the rain. Likewise no one calls you a fucking nutjob either but at least they made me laugh.
In a gym you are controlled by the man who runs the gym and controls all.
In a gym you can't spit and it is always 70 degrees with no chance of rain or wind or dogshit or puddles.
In a gym you have nothing of the vague camraderie of running outdoors, the casual smile from another runner, the quick wave as you slog through DUMBO.

Right, the rant is over, I'll be over them bridges in the morning. Here's to an ice free winter.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Book learning.

I've decided to add short reviews of all the books I read in 2006. This will not only serve as a mild form of public service for you, the Random Doubt audience but will also enable me to look back upon stuff I have read.
As many will know I undertook a successful New Year's resolution at the beginning of 2004. I was determined to read one book at a time and end my years of book adultery. This has led to two marvellous years of wholesome reading, hanging out with books I actually got to know and like. I also got to remember some of their names.

So here we go, first up for 2006 is 'Vive Le Revolution' by the revolutionary socialist stand up comic/writer/cricket lover Mark Steel (I wonder, does he get bored being introduced like that?)
I've long admired Mr Steel's work, on the TV, radio and in stand up form (although I've not seen him live but I have seen him on the TV, or listened on the radio).

'VLR' is a chronologically straight history of the French Revolution. There, nothing you wouldn't get from a good history teacher right? Steel brings comparisions, analogies, and a whole bunch of jokes. Not crass irrelevant jokes but humour based upon years of historical and philosphical thought, struggle and action.
He brings the events into a wider perspective within the context of enlightenment ideas, other revolutions and the eventual corruption of the dreams of the 'Sans Culottes' by folk such as Napoleon.

A thoroughly enjoyable read and one not to be mistaken for a pithy take on history, Steel knows his stuff and is funny to boot.
(not published in the US, either travel to the UK or visit