Friday, August 31, 2007

Michael Jackson dead

From The Morning Advertiser

Top beer expert Michael Jackson died this morning.

Jackson dedicated more than three decades to the pursuit and documentation of the world’s finest beers, and wrote many books on the subject.

He became known as the most widely-published and influential author on beer. He developed a cult television series known as “The Beer Hunter”, and contributed articles to countless magazines and newspapers.

Jackson was especially well-known for his particular passion for the specialty brews of Belgium, and his bestseller The Great Beers of Belgium.

Morning Advertiser beer writer Roger Protz said: “I’m in Germany at a beer conference and when I announced he was dead people were totally shocked - he was just so well-known.

“He was the best - and always will be the best. His knowledge of beer is unsurpassable. His genius was to to be able to write simply and beautifully about beer.

“He was a very private person but I enjoyed his company - he always had a really amusing story to tell about his travels.”

Hoodoo Gurus - A rave review from The Guardian

The first live band I ever saw, The Hoodoo Gurus (the gig was at Wrest Point, 1987, supported by The Cockroaches, compliments of Pat Townshend's 92FM DJ freebie) are back on the road, and played what sounds like a storming gig in Manchester a couple of nights back. Looks like they won't be hitting London, but I'm sure they'd fill a hall if they did (hint)!

Anyway, here's the review:


Hoodoo Gurus

4 stars Academy 3, Manchester

Dave Simpson
Friday August 31, 2007


"The last time we were in this area was 13 years ago - but the urge was too strong," quips Dave Faulkner, addressing the Australian band's unexpected comeback. In the decade since they split up, pop has moved a long way from their style of paisley shirts and fast-paced pop-rock, laden with more hooks than a fisherman's weekend and laced with plenty of punk-rock edge. However, the Hoodoo Gurus' songs - and shirts - have remained the same.

Initially, they sound like an anachronism. After a couple of creaky openers, however, they hit their stride, and the thrills they once generated seem to have survived the difficult journey in the time machine. In fact, the Gurus' earliest - and spikiest - material sounds the best. From their debut, Stoneage Romeos, the wonderful Arthur cheekily remodels David Bowie's Jean Genie riff. Turbocharged by Mark Kingsmill's powerhouse drumming, songs such as 1987's What's My Scene are strong enough to retain timeless appeal.

When the audience start shouting requests (mainly in Australian accents), Faulkner responds that playing the same favourites every night would drive them "crazy." He almost shreds his larynx tearing through Where Nowhere Is, a head-rushing blend of MC5 and Buzzcocks. However, they give in to an enormous clamour for 1984's classic single I Want You Back, which sums up the audience's sentiments in four deliciously honeyed, high-octane minutes.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The 200th post - We're engaged!

Hi all,

Katie and I went to New York last week as cohabiting partners. Upon our return, we're cohabiting FIANCEES! Yes that's right, I popped the question up on the eighty sixth floor of the Empire State Building. Luckily she said yes, as I'm sure I wouldn't have looked too pretty on the pavement had the answer been the other way. Obviously we're both wrapt, and looking forward to the next big day, whenever that may be. Watch this space!!

In other (not insubstantial) news, we're packing our bags and heading back to Hobart in early November. It's gonna be a big change in life, but obviously Australia and Tasmania offer things that you just can't get in London. Anyway, change is in the air in the great south land, and it seems that one of my major reasons for leaving in the fist place (John Howard and his flunkies) will be swept away for history to judge in the not so distant future. Anyway, big party at Pyrland Road on Oct 27. Mark it down now!

Anyway, there's some news, eh?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

'Mateship' and the Australian way of life

'Mateship' and the Australian way of life Patrick Barkham
Tuesday August 28, 2007


Poor old Poms. Record numbers of us are desperate to emigrate to Australia but now John Howard, the prime minister, has slammed the door shut on a tantalising life of beach barbecues and cold beer. The country's new citizenship test requires that migrants hoping to move Down Under must understand "mateship".

We may have a hazy idea that being a "mate" is sharing a slab of stubbies (bottled beers to you) with burly Australians as they throw another prawn on the barbie but, in reality, almost none of the 71,000 Britons who emigrated there in 2004 and 2005 has the foggiest idea about this scary, manly-sounding concept.

Two days after I moved to Sydney for a couple of years, the telecoms engineer came to fix my phone. He soon realised I was new in town. "Do you like clubbing?" he asked. "Here's my mobile number - come out with me and my mates." Er, thanks, I replied, my mind spinning. Was this a date? Was he a drug dealer? What was his ulterior motive?

The next day, I went jogging. My neighbour, a bloke about 10 years older than me, was going on a run too. "G'day mate. I'll take you on a route to the park," he said. During our 30-minute run, I mainly pondered the question: what's his agenda?

A week later I called a photographer I'd never met to ask if he could take a portrait for a story. Halfway through our professional exchange he asked: "How old are you, mate?" He was a year older. "How about we go for a picnic next Sunday?" Baffled, I accepted his invitation and Adam became my best friend in Australia.

Mateship can be ridiculed as a cliquey, stereotypical tradition of Australianness only available to white men. But it's exactly the opposite: it is rooted in ordinary Australians' still strong sense of fair play and warm welcoming of newcomers, whatever their background.

Poms who don't whinge, don't take themselves too seriously and don't seek out the comfort of other Poms can master mateship in Australia. But mostly, it's about discarding distrust and accepting that while its government may not like most immigrants, Australia's citizens are usually far more welcoming.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

How would you like your Zebu cooked sir?

21/08/2007 09:55

Written by: Tamara Sender of M&C Report

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Several British pubs have been found to be serving poor quality zebu meat, instead of British beef in their steaks.

A programme to be aired on ITV tonight revealed that JD Wetherspoons pubs and Greene King’s Hungry Horse chain were selling steaks with DNA from a zebu, which is a humped oxon-like animal living in Africa and Brazil that is often cross-bred with European cattle.

As part of “Undercover Mum”, a former undercover policewoman visited 15 pubs belonging to the two pub groups, which were randomly selected, and sent samples of the meat she orders for laboratory analysis.

The results revealed that steaks ordered at four out of six JD Wetherspoons pubs and at three out of nine Hungry Horse outlets all contained zebu meat, despite staff saying that the meat was either British or they did not know its origin.

While eating zebu is legal, the meat from the animal and its cross-breeds was removed from a British quality scheme and the meat is described by the English Beef and Lamb Executive as of overall poorer eating quality and variability than meat from British or European breeds.

JD Wetherspoons responded to the accusations saying that “zebu is taxonomically identical to any other breed such as Charolais, Limosin or Hereford”, while Greene King denied the claims.

Caught on the blog

Me, Katie, Hanesy, Carl, Beth-Anne and Aidan had a bit of a session yesterday at The Bricklayers' Arms in Putney, the only pub in London to stock the whole Tim Taylor's range of ales. What a fantastic pub! Home cooked roast, Shove Ha'penny, Bar Skittles, Neil Young and excellent beer. Met up by chance (in a great pub, whowouldathought) yesterday with Stonch, author of Stonch's Beer Blog, and a couple of his mates. His report of proceedings is right here.

The 'Arms is having a fest over the weekend of 14-16 September, with a session addressed by Roger Protz on the Friday night. grow your beards and get your chunky jumpers on now!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

On the couch at John and Janette's

On the couch at John and Janette's

Danny Katz

July 26, 2007

Ha ha Peter Costello you didn't get invited round to John Howard's place for a private dinner and just about EVERYBODY'S been invited round to John Howard's place for a private dinner: Tony Abbott and his wife, Bronwyn Bishop and his wife, Andrew Peacock and his wives, Mel and Kochie, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, Wolfmother, ol' Sprocko from the mail room ...

Even I've been invited round to John Howard's place for a private dinner AND I DON'T EVEN KNOW THE GUY - he just called out of the blue a couple of weeks back, said "Hey, whatya doing Friday night?" and I said, "Well Mr Prime Minister, we were hoping to stay in, watch Ghost Rider on DVD, see if Nicholas Cage is still keeping his hair." John Howard said "Nah, come round for dinner with your wife, I'll be on drinks duty, and Janette'll whip up a batch of her tangy beetroot dip. It'll be fun!" So we wound up going, because John's pushy like that - he even promised to pull the troops out of Iraq for me, and deport Catriona Rowntree.

We showed up at 6, and John answered the door in his green and gold tracksuit, with a pair of Grosby shoes in pastel-grey, for that smooth-slammin' hustler-boi look. And Janette was beside him in a very smart skirt and jacket ensemble, made of quality terry-towelling with low-piling properties. They led us into the house: nice place but the walls are all covered in furry '70s wallpaper - you rub against it, you stick like Velcro.

We sat in the living room: John dimmed the lights, put on some Getz/Gilberto - a laid-back Latin version of On the Road to Gundagai. Then Janette offered us pre-dinner nibbles: chicken chickadees. My wife said "Wow, I haven't had these since I was a little kid. Are they in the shops again?" and Janette said "No, this is just an old packet I found in the pantry." Meantime, John had popped behind his fake bamboo tiki lounge in the corner; "What's your poison, patrons?" he yelled, "We've got a 4-litre cask of Lindeman's Moselle, or pink Spumante." We all went for the moselle and started chatting: John told a funny story about Dr Mahathir at an APEC party covering the toilet seats with clingwrap. And Janette got quite emotional over the plight of black infants in modern Australia, specifically the ones in the Allens Jellybabies - they were always left uneaten and unloved, and it made her feel angry and hopeless.

John jumped up and said, "It's chow-o'clock!" so we sat in front of the TV, with little Albert Namatjira TV-trays on our laps - I think they might've been real Namatjiras. And we ate dinner while we watched Big Brother Friday Night Games, it's Janette's favourite, though she said she can't stand Bodie. We dined on cheesy pineapple bake, pineapple salmon log and Hawaiian ham steaks, and right in the middle of the meal, John leaned across to me and said, "Tell me, why do you think I'm so out of touch with Australian voters?" and I said "It's a real mystery John - hey pass another ham-steak, with extra pineapple, please!" John sighed, shook his head, told me how much he hated Kevin Rudd: "Never trust a man who smiles when he talks," he said, "just like that Adam Hills and Liberace."

After a dessert of custard trifle (with pineapple pieces), John was looking a little tipsy: he'd moved onto Sambucas with flaming coffee beans, and had to drink it from the side of his mouth so he didn't singe his eyebrows. He yelled "Party games!", then we sat in a circle and played political charades (Janette won with her impression of Joe Hockey climbing out of a spa-bath). We also gathered around the piano and sang ribald songs (John did a hilarious improvised verse of The Good Ship Venus about a first mate named Costello, an eggplant and a labradoodle). And we finished with a bit of Clinker-divination; you ask the Clinker a question, then bite into it, and if you get a green one, the answer is yes, pink no, yellow maybe. John went first: he said, "Am I an outdated remnant of a faded Australia who's time as Prime Minister has come to an end?" then he bit into the Clinker and I don't know what he got but he went a little quiet after that, lost interest in the dinner party and disappeared into the computer room to update his MySpace page. Janette just plonked herself on the Jason Recliner and watched Big Brother Up Late and we made our own way out.

So Peter, you're not missing anything, believe me. You'd be better off at home, enjoying some Vietnamese takeaway, and a DVD of Howards End.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An incident with the AA

Had a little bit of a run in with an AA driving instructor on my cycle to work this morning. Here's the email I sent to (and responses from, below) the HQ of one of the largest and most well respected driving schools in the UK:

From: Scott Plimpton
Sent: 16 August 2007 11:11
To: AA Head Office
Subject: Incident with AA Driving School vehicle/driver

Dear Jane,

This morning at approximately 9.30am I was riding to work, and came up against a red light where I cross Pentonville Road from Penton Street into Amwell Street, N1. As I approached the lights, I noticed an AA Driving School vehicle (Ford Focus, registration xxxxx ) was stopped in the green "cycles only" zone at the front of the traffic pack. Expecting to see a pupil at the wheel, I was quite surprised to see the car was only occupied by the driver.

As I pulled alongside the driver's window, I mentioned that he was stoppped a full car length in front of the vehicle line for those lights. The driver (male, about thirty, dark hair, Arsenal shirt) mentioned to me that I should "get a life", and that "the lights changed suddenly". I then pointed out that he was in a driving school vehicle, and shouldn't he know better than to stop so far forward, and shouldn't he really be driving in a manner in which you wouldn't be caught by changing traffic lights (which in my experience, change at reasonably regular and expected intervals, never suddenly) to which he mouthed something at me through the windscreen that I could not understand.

I turned away from the driver, and kept my position immediately in front of the AA vehicle, at which point the driver started racing the car's engine. I turned around, and shouted at him "what IS your job mate?", and pulled out of the way of the vehicle. When the lights changed, the car took off at some speed. I made a hand gesture at the driver, who then proceeded to pull over diagonal to the kerb at the beginning of Amwell Street. I pulled up, as he had blocked my path. He then took off again at speed and turned left on either Cruikshank Street or Percy Street.

I would appreciate the AA's feedback regarding this incident.

The AA's response so far:

----- Original message -----
From: "xxxx, Jane"
To: "Scott Plimpton"
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 12:00:40 +0100
Subject: RE: Incident with AA Driving School vehicle/driver

Dear Mr Primson

Thank you for bringing this incident to our attention. I believe that we have identified the driver of the vehicle and we will deal with this matter internally.

I apologise on behalf of the AA for any distress caused to you.

Yours sincerely

Jane xxxxx


Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 3:05 PM
From: "Scott Plimpton"
To: "xxxx Jane"

Subject: RE: Incident with AA Driving School vehicle/driver

Dear Jane,

Thank you for your reply. I do agree that this morning's incident caused much distress. I do feel that the driver's reaction constituted threatening words and behaviour which is a criminal offence in
the UK.

I feel that this was further aggravated by the driver positioning and revving the car in a manner which led me to believe that he intended to use the car as a weapon against me. I have sought legal advice and have been informed that I have both criminal and civil routes to pursue in relation to this incident becoming resolved.

Can the AA please state their position on this matter and offer a solution in relation to the distress caused and as direct reparation for having been treated in such a manner?

I await your swift reply.

Regards, Scott Plimpton

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Snowbug headlines Camden Town

Snowbug, The band wot Jo is currently with played their first gig with a headline show at Tommy Flynn's pub in Camden Town last night. Quite impressive, considering they were sans bass. The My Bloody Valentine-esque opening number was fantastic, quite taking the crowd by surprise. Guitarist Kim played his first and last gig with the band, as his Visa's expired and he's back to Korea quicksmart.
Pretty cool for a debut, keep an ear out for Jo and the boys.

Kevin Andrews Must Resign

Kevin Andrews must resign

Kevin Andrews

Kevin Andrews, Australia's minister of immigration, has defamed an innocent man and tarnished Australia's reputation as a country of fair dealing. He must resign. You can also demand he does.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ingrid's Edinburgh Show

My mate Ingrid is taking her show "The Pharmacist" all the way from Hobart to Edinburgh for the 2007 Fringe. If you're heading north at all during August, make sure you go and see the show:

The Pharmacist – a cure for all ills?

“Splendidly performed…numerous well differentiated roles...” – The Mercury

"..a richness and density of observation on Jane Russell's part..." The Mercury

"The Pharmacist honestly charts people's struggles to overcome pain with great wit, sharp observation and terrific performance from one of Australia's great upcoming talents." - Is Theatre Ltd


Venue: Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 18) City 2

Times / Dates: 4.30 PM 13 - 27 August

Duration: 50 mins

Prices: £7.50/£6.50

Booking details (Online / Phone): 0870 2410136

Everyone experiences pain. Everyone’s pain is different. How do people deal with pain of the body and pain of the mind? And does one cause the other?

The Pharmacist, written and performed by Jane Russell and directed by Ingrid Ganley, tells the story of a week in the life of a pharmacist and many of the people who come into her chemist.

Customers range from hypochondriacs and addicts to more pragmatic customers and alternate ‘self-healers’. These visits are punctuated by a call from the ubiquitous drug company representative and flashbacks to her university pharmacy professor.

Jane Russell plays all nine remarkable characters in this 50-minute tour-de-force.

Based on Jane’s own personal experience working in Melbourne and Hobart Pharmacies the characters are inspired by the people Jane met seeking relief. It highlights society’s “quick fix” mentality and the idea of finding happiness in a bottle…