Sunday, 31 January 2010

Ephemeral Monkey #1 :: Chat Shows Question

I was just curious and I'm trying to source the Twitter crowd but my charisma is wearing a testicle suit. And it might not be the best time.

I was just wondering, what would you say is your all-time favourite chat show moment of all time? If you had to give one example of why all chat shows should not be consigned to the bowels of hell nowforth and forevermore, one moment that renders their existence worthwhile if not essential to the health of mankind, what would it be?

This blog post will self-destruct in less than 24 hours by the way. And if you read this sentence here, all memory of this blog post will evaporate from your mind the moment the post itself is deleted.

You're back in the room.

I'm a bit wrecked. I spent the weekend with my gran and then brought her back down to London today. It was fun. She's funny. She hasn't been to London much. Her foot is good and she was hopping up steps on the tube like a winter chicken. Complaining all the way of course, but she couldn't hide the excitement. It was fucking great actually.

Anyway, answer my question if you would.

I miss you.

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Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Is This Weird?

Or is it just me? You can tell me. I can take it.

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Monday, 25 January 2010

[Comedy] Jerry Sadowitz :: Ha Ha Hate

‘I’m of the opinion that comedy should be all about depression, and should be about life being shit, and bonding in this misery. The uplifting stuff – it’s for kids. Adults don’t want to be uplifted… “You can tickle a gibbon, life’s great!” Pfft. Is it?’

- Jim Jeffries, in conversation with Marsha Shandur

I first heard of Jerry Sadowitz when, aged four, I read a book about the history of alternative comedy called Didn’t You Kill My Mother-in-law? Actually I may have been a little older than four. And it may have been a different book. But Jerry Sadowitz definitely made an impression on me. Apparently, what he did, he went on stage and said, ‘I hate everything.’ Even at that age, whatever age I was, the idea of making comedy from misanthropy appealed to me enormously, because essentially, I hated everything too. I remember thinking, who is this courageous man who dares speak the truth?

As I grew older, Sadowitz would crop up in my peripheries every once in a while and invariably in the same context, invariably with someone asking the question: is this the most offensive man on the planet? So naturally, I’ve always wanted to see him live. Finally, last Thursday night at the Leicester Square Theatre, I did.

Prior to seeing him, I did a little research to prepare myself. One of the most recent online reviews of Sadowitz was published on the comedy website Chortle. It was written by a comedy producer named Bethan Richards, whose Twitter profile begins with the words ‘I love comedy!’ (Already, that exclamation mark is a bit of a giveaway.) Her review was entitled, ‘A tirade of racist, sexist, borderline-psychopathic bile’, but before she got into why she was so easily offended, Richards pointed out: ‘I am not easily offended. I’m not a girly girl who only likes watching My Family and repeats of The Good Life.’ However, Richards did not enjoy Sadowitz. In fact, she seemed genuinely baffled. Clearly, for her a man swearing at the audience and hating everything was not comedy. Where was the adherence to timeworn comedy formula? Where was the comedian’s crucial craving for the audience’s love?

‘I felt sure we were being filmed for a reality show,’ she writes. ‘When was Davina going to pop out and tell us it’s all OK?... Truly and utterly shocking. I wanted to walk out. But I was a bit too scared.’

I must admit, before I actually went to see him for myself, I was a little scared too. I was scared that I’d be disappointed, scared that like Richards, I too would see nought on stage but a bitter old misanthropist with no comedy value.

Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. Rather, for the duration of his 100-minute show, I was captivated.

Jerry Sadowitz is phenomenal. He’s like a Tasmanian Devil, or like a plague of comedy locusts, devouring everything in sight with his all-encompassing disgust.

Unlike most human beings, there is no subject Sadowitz will not make not light of and defile. The Haiti earthquake, for example, was mentioned in the first minute and cropped up a few times throughout the evening. Although he didn’t actually utter the words ‘I hate Haiti’, that, as always, was his gist. ‘They need food. I need a fucking iPod. That’s how it fucking works.’ And who but Jerry Sadowitz would dare open a set with a magic trick involving the persistently elusive Madeleine McCann?

You often hear people say, ‘there are some things you simply cannot make jokes about’. High up on this list are usually rape, paedophilia and natural disasters. Other people argue, however, that the darker and more unacceptable the subject matter, the more reason there is to make jokes. Indeed, it’s almost like we have a responsibility to make jokes, to laugh in the face of the unremitting odiousness of human existence. Laughter is a coping mechanism, and for a lot of people it’s absolutely essential.

Let us not forget, it is a relentlessly dark and distressingly ugly world, packed to the gills with cancer, child abuse, genocide, suicide bombers, mutual assured destruction and Miley Cyrus. These things can be overwhelming. At times they can feel impossible to deal with. Some people accept them grimly, with silence and fearful respect, granting them power in the process. Others laugh in their face and tell them to fuck off.

Comedy is often described as a kind of pressure valve for society. It allows us to let off steam. This is probably more true of Sadowitz than any other comic. He says the things we wouldn’t dare say. If we’re of a dark bent ourselves, we might think them, or if we have friends of an equally dark bent, we might on occasion even voice them, but one thing we would never do is stand up in public and shout them at a room full of strangers.

Stewart Lee said of Jerry Sadowitz: ‘There's a part in every show of his where a little piece of me dies and I think, I wish I'd never heard that.’ The part of this show which had me feeling something similar was his short rant about what he’d like to do to the TV presenter Christine Bleakley. He didn’t even have the decency to pronounce her name correctly.

Sadowitz describes what he does as a ‘cancer of entertainment’, but in its relentless obscenity, it somehow feels like the opposite of that. It feels like the antidote.

Furthermore, just to clear something up, Sadowitz isn't remotely racist. Racism - as Michael Richards proved a couple of years ago - isn’t funny. Racism is stupid, and it comes from a brainless place, from fear and ignorance. What Sadowitz does - even when he’s calling Barack Obama ‘a black cunt’ - is the opposite of racism. It’s comedy.

At one point in the show, Sadowitz is recounting a visit to his GP when he lapses into a Pakistani accent. Then he breaks off for a second to explain: ‘He wasn’t even a Pakistani. I’m just doing that for sheer fucking devilment.’

Devilment is the perfect word for what Sadowitz does. He makes mischief. He pins propriety to the ground and, before your very eyes, he buggers it. And a lot of people don’t care for that.

Speaking of which, Bethan Richards might be pleased to hear that her review of the Sadowitz preview was mentioned in the show proper. Unsurprisingly, Sadowitz didn’t care for it. Mostly what rankled was her description of him as merely borderline psychopathic. ‘Borderline?’ he screamed. ‘What the fuck does a man have to do?’

Relentless, fearless, infantile, ridiculous, repugnant and utterly vile, Jerry Sadowitz is really quite brilliant. And in a world where Michael McIntyre is king and the incessantly pun-heavy and desperately needy tweets of Peter Serafinowicz are widely regarded as some sort of sacred text, it’s clear that we need Sadowitz more than ever before.

The cunt.

Go on, see for yourself. I dare you.

Update Wednesday :: I'm an arse. I forgot the best bit, the surprising bit. The best bit was that he really seemed to be enjoying himself. There was a warmth to the performance. Almost. It was sweet.

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Monday, 18 January 2010

[Web] :: The Ugly Face of Online Dating

‘You find a lot of the other websites, you know, there’s a lot of - to put it nicely - riff-raff. With Beautiful People, I mean, there’s - they’re just, you know, sort of, more people like us.’

- Ashley Peaulac, Beautiful Person

There is something distinctly unsavoury about, and I swear this is not just sour grapes.

I first heard about ‘The sexiest website in the world today’ a week or so ago after they'd apparently kicked out 5,000 fatties after they'd beefed up over Christmas. I wondered if it could possibly be true. So I went along to the site.

Sure enough, it really is a club where only the beautiful may gain admission. Now, like Groucho Marx, and pretty much anyone else with a healthy streak of self-loathing, I find myself automatically suspicious of any club that will have me as a member. At least to a certain extent. However, there is also the flipside to consider, for like many practised self-loathers, I am also, in part, enormously conceited, and the idea of being excluded from a club, from any club – especially on the grounds of something so superficial and arbitrary as my outward appearance – really grates my Johnson. So what I did, I stole the face of a hunky Turkish footballer and set up a fake account. Boom! Eat that, my pretties!

And once I was in, I have to say, I was disappointed. To be fair, there are an awful lot of loltards everywhere on the internet these days, and if you go to any live chat forum on pretty much any dating site, there will be a scarily high number of these excitable fools communicating primarily in punctuation marks. Beautiful People, however, is crawling with the fuckers. In retrospect, I should really have left immediately, but I was determined to give it a fair crack of the whip, so I hung around, an ugly man in a sexy mask, and I made notes.

The first thing I discovered is that is, ironically, a really ugly website. It has a pseudo-slick veneer, for sure, but it handles like a drunken bison. Exotic similes aside, it just doesn’t work very well. It’s like it was built by ham-fisted toddlers who’d never actually used the internet before, but had heard that there might be money in it. Every click opens a new window. New windows sit on top of the old windows like damp firewood on dying embers until - after five minutes, or maybe twenty or so clicks - the site crashes and you’re automatically logged out. The whole thing is buggier than a mattress in a crack-den, and somehow less comfortable.

After a short while, you come to the conclusion that every feature of the site seems deliberately constructed to aid non-communication. None of the admin works consistently. None of the glitches are promptly, if ever, addressed. And to cap it all, the damn thing’s full of fakes! I’m sure I saw a Catherine Zeta Jones on there, and at least two Jonas Brothers. Consequently, trying to get to know people is like trying to make a paper swan out of a baked potato. Whilst blindfolded. And wearing an oven glove.

Of course, the crappiness of the site doesn’t necessarily make it worthless. Some of the greatest clubs in history have convened in the most insalubrious of venues - probably - and a large part of what makes any club great is the collective character of its members. Sadly, after just a couple of hours meandering around the grounds of, my initial impression that the site seemed overwhelmingly populated by dullards was confirmed.

The live chat forum is a dire, hollow experience. Aside from feeling exactly like the internet ten years ago, and aside from recent rumours that the feature is a breeding ground for spam and malicious site redirection, it offers nothing more than a cacophony of inanity. Really. Like monkeys in a tumble drier.

Then there's the personal profiles, which are flimsy flimsy like a chocolate mimsy. There are only half a dozen questions you’re invited to answer – these include ‘do you smoke?’, ‘do you drive?’ and ‘what star sign are you?’ Pointless. If you actually want to get to know someone, you're better off checking out which groups they’ve joined. Groups which make Bebo look like a Chomsky fansite. Groups such as this:

It’s like being in a room full of people who send angry texts into newspapers.

There is one group, however, for those beautiful people who maybe feel they’re being misrepresented by the less cerebrally advanced members who roll backwards and forwards through the site, mainly backwards, like confused but well-groomed tumbleweeds. This group is called Beautiful But Smart. Sadly, it hasn’t really taken off.

To be honest, the whole site is moribund. Reading a few of the threads in a few of the groups, however, it seems that a few years ago, it used to be quite good. Oh, well. Not anymore.

The nastiest part of the site, however, is the rating system. This is how the site works, or rather, doesn't. Basically, once you’re a member yourself, you get to decide who else can join you in your ivory tower.

In the About section of the site, the rating process is succinctly described:

‘Beauty is subjective and BeautifulPeople Network believes that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. The rating module was born from this very principle. By giving the power back to the members to define their ideal of beauty in a democratic way. Essentially, by applying to BeautifulPeople Network applicants are being beholden by thousands.’

The worst part of this process is that the ‘beholden’ can then see just exactly how they’ve been beheld.

It’s not nice. No matter how little you really care, rejection is never a pleasant feeling. Apparently they've had death threats. It’s surely only a matter of time before claims its first rejection-related suicide. I imagine when it happens, the site founders will whoop with joy at the free publicity.

More disconcerting than being rated and rejected by a bunch of strangers, however, is rating people yourself.

Lots of things go through your mind when you start out. The first of which is that you're involved in something not only odious, and somehow iniquitous. I hate to fall foul of Godwin with such alacrity, but is it really that giant a step from deciding whether or not someone can join you in your clique of beautiful people, to sliding shut the iron bolt in the shower door at Dachau? Is it?

Well, OK, maybe it is a bit of a leap, but it’s a slippery slope, this assumption of superiority. One moment you’re laughing at some deluded tone-deaf sap on The X Factor, the next you’re insisting that people with cleft palates be excluded from society.

Or do I exaggerate wildly? There is after all, a dating site for intelligent people. As it happens I couldn’t get into that one either, but somehow that doesn’t rankle quite so much. Am I just jealous? Or is there really something slightly despicable and Brave New World about the whole thing?

The people behind Beautiful People decided, presumably at the off-set, to make the ambiguous morality of the site its selling point. Although he never actually mentions the word eugenics in interviews, managing director Greg Hodge always makes every effort to make his site sound excitingly controversial and morally edgy.

‘The concept and site was founded on one very simple principle of human nature – the fact that people want to be with someone they are attracted to. It may not be politically correct to say so… but it is honest.’

It may be honest, vaguely, but it's not really the point. You can find someone you’re attracted to on any other non-exclusive dating site. And probably, to be honest, a lot more easily.

My initial impression of Mr Hodge, if I'm being honest, was that he was a slick and manipulative charlatan, callously exploiting the infinite vanity, pride and stupidity of a large section of the human race. Also, mostly because of the quality of the site, I figured he probably wasn’t that smart. Because it’s really not a bad idea, from a business perspective, but it would have to be done well, and with intelligence, and with humour, to succeed. Then I read the following words, again on the About page:

‘The site introduces revolutionary web technologies featuring a draggable-windows based navigation. The intuitive, application-like interface allows you to interact with an unlimited number of features and sections of the site simultaneously.’

And then I knew for sure, the man is merely an incorrigible liar.

When launched in Canada, Hodge appeared on Canada AM (where frankly, they’ll talk to any old rubbish). There, as well as once again amusingly misusing the word beholden, he explains a little something about the cleverness of Beautiful People:

‘I think it’s so clever because it plays on a clever combination of four things - that’s Beauty, Love, Sex and Money - and advertisers use those four… you know, desires to sell us pretty much everything, and Beautiful People plays on a clever combination of all that.’

Clunk clunk clunk. Slick certainly, and groomed like a gorilla with OCD, but there's something not quite working there. In fact, it’s almost like Hodge is a fleshly embodiment of his own site.

I decided to speak to him myself to see if there was anything more to this whole nonsense venture than greed and incompetence. Turns out, in my not massively humble, yet fiercely long-winded opinion, there isn’t.

Most of Hodge’s responses to my queries felt like they’d been copied and pasted from press releases and publicity material, then blithely trotted out to create a false impression. Rather like tiny plastic three-legged antelopes swearing blind they’re unicorns, eight foot tall.

Some of his claims, for example, struck me as extremely unlikely. Everyone exaggerates numbers, of course - everyone - so that didn’t bother me so much. (Still, 550,000 members? A likely story. Mind you, Wikipedia has it at 5 million.) What was less easy to swallow were his claims for the vibrancy of the community, which were and remain demonstrably false.

Anyway, give the man a chance.

Greg Hodge :: The Interview

Why should the many beautiful readers of this blog join What’s in it for them?

‘So they have the most beautiful little back book in the world at the tips of their fingers. A community of beautiful individuals, of which many are extremely personable, friendly, ambitious and desirable.’

Speaking as a self-confessed ugly chap, I take solace in the fact that most of the people who have joined your site seem to be vacuous vain idiots. Do I have a point? Or am I just jealous?

‘Assuming that most attractive people are vain and stupid is like saying that most ugly people are incredibly intelligent and interesting. Personally, I don’t think that people truly fall in to either category.’

Nor do I! I never said they did, you slippery bugger! I was talking about your members....

‘Many of our members started out as normal looking people who have become “beautiful” through great grooming and keeping fit, whilst living a healthy lifestyle. It takes intelligence and drive to want to improve yourself on this level. It is lazy and unattractive, or a sign of defeatism, to take no interest in looking your best.’

Speaking of intelligence, do you think the overall IQ level of the members of your site would be any different to the overall IQ level on, say,

‘Statistics have shown that attractive people do better professionally and make more money then their less attractive counterparts. I think the IQ would be the same or higher. We have members from every profession and many are multilingual. Most of the members we have spoken with are upwardly mobile, ambitious professionals and they all tell us that they love the site because from the outset, it appealed to their competitive spirit. When you apply, you have to accept that you may be rejected – so you are going to be fairly thick skinned and determined to put yourself out there. People who are willing to take these risks and who want to be the best tend to succeed in all walks of life.’

If I was thinking about setting up a website for ugly people, what advice would you give me?

‘I like the way you are thinking. Let’s do a revenue share I will link our failed applicants to your site. Sounds like a match made in heaven.’

I feel dirty.

Still, business is business. Apart from the advertising on your site, much of which smells purely reciprocal, what are your other revenue streams?

‘We will soon be offering premium membership services that will give members access to a greater level of communication.’

Well, good luck with that.

Christ, I'm snide. Sorry about that. I probably am just jealous though.

‘I don’t know. You might be jealous, or scared of rejection, or completely disinterested in trying to be part of a beautiful people community. Life is full of groups and cliques and we don’t have to want to be part of everything. If you are happy with yourself already and don’t want to join, then that is totally up to you.’

Fair enough.

‘Remember however, communities need to be exclusive to serve the very purpose of the community.’

Right. Either that or, of course, inclusive.

Thank you, Greg Hodge.

And so, at the end of my little adventure in the land of the Beautiful People, I have to say I feel a little sad. Mostly sad because I just don’t believe any of it. I certainly don’t believe that 5,000 people were kicked out after Christmas. That would take far too much organisation. Rather, I fear it’s all nought but a hopelessly contrived publicity drive. Just like this story that British people are the ugliest in the world. After all, controversy equals press coverage and an influx of new members and before you know it, some silly bugger’s invested a couple of mill.

Bloody internet.

Disappointed, I logged on for one last time and imagined for a moment living in a world where the lovely Maria fancied me even when I wasn’t wearing my Turkish footballer mask.

Then I deleted my account.

I know my place.

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Monday, 11 January 2010

[Food] Masterchef :: The Toasted Sandwich

This week’s post is brought to you by Cookware for, your virtual one-stop shop for all your cast-iron and stainless steel kitchen-based needs.

I reckon, just a few short years ago, when I was housebound and moribund and near catatonic, a Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker would have been just what the doctor ordered. In fact, if I’d had a reasonably-priced and easy-to-use machine with which to prepare quality toasted sandwiches, I honestly don’t think I would have become depressed at all. And I almost certainly wouldn’t have ended up eating cat food. At least not raw cat food. On closer consideration, I think it’s safe to say, the Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker is the ideal gift for your least stable, most mentally dyspeptic friend. You know, the one you never hear from. Everybody has one. At least one.

The last time I had access to a toasted sandwich maker - about ten years ago I think - I'm ashamed to admit that I wasn't particularly adventurous. Cheese. Beans. That was about it. This time around, at least for the sake of this review, I decided I should probably be a little more ambitious where my fillings are concerned. After all, the internet, much like a toasted sandwich, is not worth a fig without decent content.

However, rather than just prepare some outlandish sandwiches in the kitchen by myself, like a saddo, I had a word with my agent. Oh, yes, I have an agent, you know. Turns out he’s a good friend of Gregg Wallace’s cosmetic guy. This is the guy who had to mend Wallace’s face after another, less skilled surgeon tried to knock a couple of years off his cheeks and left him looking permanenently rictal. Like this:

So I got my agent to pull a few strings and before you know it - bish bash bosh - there’s a film crew in my kitchen and Gregg Wallace and John Torode are passing judgement on my toasted sandwiches. I was pretty stoked, I can tell you.

The show itself won’t be screened till the summer, and even though it's already been cut together, I’m contractually obliged to keep a lid on it till after the show’s aired. However, what no one can stop me doing - I don't believe - is sitting here and transcribing some of the best bits for you. So here you go.


Brief collage of STAN painstakingly preparing the ingredients coupled with cute voiceover by Julian Rhind-Tutt.

Round One...

...Cheese & Ham

JOHN ‘TOAD’ TORODE (cutting a square of toastie and forking it delicately into his mouth): Mmmm. Lovely distinct flavours. You’ve got the smoky irreverence of that Red Leicester coming through and the mustard tang of the Tesco honey roast ham just setting it off. It’s good, hearty fare, but I’ve got to wonder if it’s interesting enough for this competition, at this level.

GREGG ‘EGG’ WALLACE (breaks the toastie in half and gazes at the insides, drooling slightly): Oh, yes! Gaze upon my succulence, ye mighty, and feast your eyes. Cheese. And ham. Arguably the combination that put the toastie on the map back in the snack frenzy that was the late eighties. Just look at that. It’s got cheese. It’s got ham. Seriously, what more could you ask for? In a toastie. Not cheese or ham, that’s for sure. Unless, of course, you wanted more creamy soft cheese or more pink meaty ham, both of which the Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker could handle in a heartbeat. But what does it taste like? That’s the question. Let’s find out. [Takes a mouthful] Mmmm. Answer: it tastes good.

Round Two...

...Cheese & Sardine

TOAD: Straightaway you can see, he’s upped the stakes. He may be sticking with the cheese, but he’s thrown in a fish - specifically a sardine - just to stir things up a bit. He’s saying, ‘Don’t go running away with the idea that it’s all about the cheese because it’s not all about the cheese. It’s mostly about the cheese, for sure, I’ll grant you that. But it’s not all about the cheese.’ And when you bite into it... Boom! It works like a treat, and it’s here to stay.

Serving Suggestion

EGG: Absolutely agree. At first you’re wondering what is this abomination doing in your mouth and then you’re thinking, ‘Hold on a minute. This should be wrong, but somehow it’s oh so right.' It’s imaginative, it’s combative, it’s fish and it's cheese and it puts Stan right back in this competition.

Round Three...

...Banana, Nutella & Peanut Butter

TOAD: Rich. Warming. Spiced chocolate with that cinnamon in there. It’s good. But I have to say, it isn’t great.

EGG (salivating like Caligula): It’s like a lovely, luxurious blanket of sugary sweet goodness washing over your tongue, with the occasional shock of firmness. That’s the banana, like a nipple in your mouth. Suddenly. Like a warning. 'Treat her gentle.' That's good. But at the end of the day, I have to agree with Toad. This is Masterchef after all. This is not kindergarten.

TOAD: Stan’s got to really start pulling out the stops here. He’s got to start thinking with his stomach, and eating - if he can, and I know not everyone can - with his brain.

Round Four...

...Asparagus, Peanut Butter & Red Leicester

TOAD (with great humility): I often say this on Masterchef, and it's definitely true, that here we’re privy to some of the greatest unsung heroes of modern culinary theory and technique. Some of the greatest instinctive cooks – the natural-born innovators. They come on here and we nurture them. Eating this toastie here – I have no doubt, this is one of those moments.

EGG: Whoa. It’s like your palate doesn’t know where to look! There’s the oppressive clagginess of the peanut butter, almost threatening to choke you, then there’s the cleansing, purgative freshness of the asparagus, washing that away the clag and leaving just enough room for the cheese to kind of ooze in and make everything all right.

TOAD: Asparagus. Peanut butter. The cheese creeping up behind you like a grandparent, shuffling into your comfort zone and just giving you a little hug. Nothing sinister. This, my fat friend, is a world class toasted sandwich.

EGG: Traditionally, in a time before this quality brushed stainless steel Cuisnart kitchen product, asparagus would have been eaten in the traditional way...

...parboiled spears laid out on a thick layer of peanut butter on a nest of white bread. Nowadays, why stop there?

TOAD: Nowadays, out comes the cheese, transforming a classic snack into a culinary event.

Round Five...

...Carrot Cake

EGG: This is the second sweet course of the competition and it’s a tricky one. You have to ask yourself… is it a cake? Or is it a toastie? And the answer is, it’s neither, and at the same time, it's both. Make no mistake, this is challenging stuff. My only grizzle would be that it’s too dry. It needs something to lubricate it, just juice it up a little.

TOAD: Yes, maybe a creamy Cointreau custard and just a sprinkling of cocoa powder or something. You’re right, it needs something to lift it. Disappointing.

Round Six...

...Marmite & Nutella

TOAD: Now this is interesting. At the heart of this recipe is of course the stark contrast of tastes. You’ve got the lovely, welcome sweetness of the milk chocolate, and the sharp, salty, unmistakable barb of the yeast extract. The latter comes in, through the window almost, or a hole in the roof, like a sex offender. It shouldn’t work, and it doesn’t, but for me, that’s where the triumph lies. Deliciously inedible.

EGG: Well, I’m very disappointed. And I can see Stan going out of this competition. This is the penultimate round, and he has to be blowing us away at this point. He should be unlocking Pandora's Box, Dr Caligari's Cabinet and the bag with the cat in it. If he has one. The spirit of his imagination needs to be set free. At this stage in the game, I want to be shocked! I want to be amazed! I want to be frightened. All we’ve really got here is an adolescent challenge to our basic gustatory instincts. He needs to let go. He needs to be bold. Or else - I'm sorry to say - he’s finished.

Round Seven...

...Double Gloucester Crêpe Souris

EGG: Wow. I’m lost for words.

TOAD: Well, you did ask him to be bold.

EGG: If I’d known then, what I was letting myself in for, would I still have pushed him? I don’t know that I would.

TOAD: I’m in two minds myself.

EGG: At the moment, Toad, I've got as many minds as I’ve got emotions running wild. Part of me can’t help feeling that, with this dish, Stan has arrived at that taut, frangible, fit-to-burst-with-excitement point where kitchen, gallery and philosopher’s glory-hole all collide and explode. We're at the point where Magical Chaos ensues.

TOAD: This is a toasted sandwich that may actually transcend the form, but what it definitely does, without question, is it tramples on our preconceptions. It tells you to take everything you’ve ever learned about heated snacks, put it in a sack marked ‘OBSOLETE’ and be sick in it. Let's just be clear what we're talking about here. We're talking about Double Gloucester cheese and a toasted mouse. A mouse which has been prepared by being left to decay for about three, maybe four weeks, in a bag of purple wool. Outstanding.

EGG: OK, so we’ve established that conceptually, this is a bit special. But we’re not here to give out arts grants. We’re here to eat food. So let’s find out, what does it taste like? [EGG stuffs an entire half-toastie into his gaping maw and crunches and chews like a mannerless child] Well, texturally it is a conundrum. There’s the stringy, chewy stringiness of the cheese and the sharp, crumbling crunch of decaying mouse bones breaking between your teeth. Then there’s the fur that gets stuck in the back of your throat and… is that nutmeg?

TOAD: Definitely nutmeg. But the interesting thing is that the nutmeg forms part of what tastes like a riot, like a controlled riot of flavours, a riot that’s almost choreographed – there’s dill, there’s chilli, there’s vanilla, there’s black pepper and just a hint of Marmite all moving around one another - and then you’ve got the overriding, overpowering smack of decomposing rodent, tying the whole thing together. Heston Blumenthal must be kicking himself.

EGG: I think it’s safe to say, it’s an acquired taste, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say, if this toasted sandwich doesn’t win both the Turner Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for Cooking, then I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

TOAD: Exactly. And whether or not it’s a myth that mice like cheese…

EGG: It is.

TOAD: Well, whether or not that’s true…

EGG: It is.

TOAD: OK, so if mice did like cheese…

EGG: Mice could never like cheese. It's a medical thing. It damages their brains.

TOAD: But what I'm trying to say is, the whole mouse-cheese thing has been turned on its head. This is Masterchef at its most radical and creative. And Kerry Katona is going to have her work cut out in the next round.

EGG: Well done, Stan. Good work.



That was disgusting. And I don’t know why I did it. I felt sick photographing that wretched mouse. I found it in Ben’s knitting bag. His wool is peppered with droppings. I could have just thrown it out but it seemed a shame to waste it.

Please don't tell me I need to get out more. I already know that.

Anyhow, as you can see, the Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker toasts sandwiches very well, no matter what you put in them. So, if you want to experience for yourself the exquisite dark magic of toasted foodstuffs, then why not get yourself along to Cookware by CSN, ask to speak to the sweetly pretty girl who answers the phones and emails there...

...and give her merry hell about why CSN no longer stock the Cuisinart Overstuffed Sandwich Maker.

Alternatively, you could always go somewhere else. It definitely pays to shop around with stuff like this and to be honest, even though it was free and everything, CSN did take ages to deliver.

As for the make and model – although I’m sure they’re all pretty much of a muchness – this one does do the job. Wallop. Nice one. Although to be honest, the light that tells you when stuff is done doesn't really work very well.

So there you go.

Next week there will be something beautiful here.

In the meantime, if you would like me to feature your product on my blog, please write to me at this address here and offer me some kind of bribe.

No animals were harmed, inconvenienced or posthumously disrespected in the preparation of this blog post. Except maybe one.

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Monday, 4 January 2010

In With the New

Hello! Happy New Year to you, each and every one! How are you? Are you well? Are you happy? Looking forward to the next year? I do hope so. I am.

There are going to be some changes around here, however. For various reasons. One reason is that I’m done besmirching the web with this half-baked life. I’ve been cutting back on soaping my smalls in public for some time now, and although at time it’s tough - for the urge is strong - by and large it’s working out. So much so that I’ve decided to go the whole hog. For various reasons. And I’ve been led to believe that this is quite common, that it happens to a lot of people who blog. Sooner or later, they go the whole hog. Well, it’s happened to me.

Also. I’ve got a job. Not writing words of my own that I care about, no, but not writing words of my own that I don’t care about either. Not writing words at all in fact. Merely editing them, and making up some headlines to boot, which is basically just playing. I’m looking forward to it. Very much. I think the routine will do me good, and hopefully I can learn something about concision along the way, which, I think we can all agree, would be no bad – or in any way unduly negative - thing.

I don’t intend to stop blogging altogether, however. Rather I will write something once a week, something slightly removed from my stomach and my groin and my heart, but still connected to my brain. And maybe my spleen. A review of something I’ve watched maybe. Or read. Or something else. I’m not really sure yet, and as I grope around for ideas now, in the dark of a dank new decade, where the future drops a banana skin and darts off, fast as a badger through a time hole in the wainscoting, I realise this might be much more of a challenge than I have hitherto imagined. But that’s no bad thing either. It's good to be mentally challenged.

So there it is. I'll post it on a Monday. This is the bridging post. Between the old and the new. Next week will be better. (Or worse.)

If you think your day would be brighter for sharing my dreams or my anxiety or drunken come-ons, then please feel free to follow me on Twitter. You’ll also be privy to provocative reportage, devastating cultural commentary, refreshing titbits of philosophical fingerfood and lies.

Oh, and one more thing – the party I talked about last summer… I’d like to have it next summer. The paperback of the book comes out around June so that seems like the perfect time to try and get the publishers to pay for a tiny party. Or even a medium-sized one. It really is the least they can do. But even if they choose not to, because they are too mean, they can go hang. We should just meet in a pub somewhere. What do you think? I’m thinking Friday 4th June, somewhere in London. Are you free?

Let me know in the comments and I hope to see you then.

For now, for the most part, for a while, cheerio.


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