Sunset Crane

Sunset Crane

It’s about time that I brought Listen To Musak back to life. So, I have decided to do some work around here and see what stays and what goes. It could be a lot of fun going back through all the posts that I have had here over the years. I probably won’t delete anything but I am going to review everything and see what it’s all about.

On this day…

2004: Aliens Eat London Commuters
2003: Shifted Media

Eurovision Is Not A Serious Song Contest

Semifinal 1 EUROVISION 2008
Originally uploaded by proteusbcn

Dear Sir Terry

This weekend was the Eurovision Song Contest; the annual spectacle of music, strange traditional consumes & dubious musical interpretation of songs (and, as you might say, that’s just the interval acts). It was as it has ever been: a pile of unconnected international pop pap presented as a serious content. The most important thing, you must agree, is to remember your sense of humour. Over the years, you have urged us not to take it too seriously.

I wasn’t around for the 60s Brit-winners such as Sandy Shaw or Lulu. I don’t really remember the song contests of the mid-70s when classics from Abba and the Brotherhood of Man were born. I do remember Johnny Logan, Bucks Fizz and Bobbysocks in all their 1980s glory. When Ireland went on a winning streak in the mid-90s we were holding Eurovision parties in our University flats. It was fun and an excuse – if one was really needed – to get very drunk and laugh at rubbish songs. Which we did with an international feel.

So, what happened this year? Why are you so frustrated? Why are we suddenly upset about the bias? Simply because we did not do well? That’s a little childish, isn’t it?

The Scandinavians always voted for each other (as they did this year). For goodness sake, we always expect Ireland to vote for the UK and vice versa (and we hope Malta does too) while we know the French won’t. Call it political, call it similar musical tastes but that’s how it’s always been. It’s not going to change. But that doesn’t stop it being wonderfully silly entertainment in the best sense.

The last 10 contests have been won by Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, Serbia and Russia. If we take the 90s as the point when Eastern Europe started to enter the content then that makes it five wins to the new countries (Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Serbia & Russia) and 5 wins to the older entrants (Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, Greece & Finland).

Seems pretty fair to me. So, why have you started to loose your sense of humour?


Update on the voting from popbitch: “If only traditional Western European countries had voted this year the UK would have been third from bottom, rather than one of three with the lowest points”.

On this day…

No other posts on this day.

Not Looking Rubbish

Mitch Hewer

The phrase ‘free hair extensions’ is, apparently, a very popular way to find this site via a well-known search engine. Don’t ask me why as I have no hair on which to hang the extensions, free or otherwise. I can’t work it out but, suffice to say, I don’t know where you can get free hair extensions and, really, they look rubbish so why would you want to?

Which brings us neatly onto the act of ‘looking rubbish’. This is something I am currently excelling at. In fact, I really should take out a keyword campaign on a popular search engine but I am struggling to find a way to charge for a service for which the main goal would be to ‘make you look as bad as we can’ ™.

You may recall that, a few years ago, you were my gym buddy. I know you’ve eaten a lot of toast and jam since then but it was a time when we bonded and I discovered what a treadmill was. I quite liked it and enjoyed being fitter and having more energy. However, somewhere along the road I let you lead me back to the kebab house and things went downhill from there. Thanks very much.

And so, we’re going to resurrect our gym trips. Yes, you and me. We’re going to start again, this time, we’re not going to stop. We’re going to end up with a body like Mitch (that’s the picture). You’d better be there tomorrow evening – and no excuses. And as a result, hopefully, ‘looking rubbish’ will be what other people do and not something I specialise in. And those people searching for ‘semi naked men’ (yes, people really do use that to get here) may get a picture of me one day!

However, if I were to ever end up looking like Mitch then I would most definitely need some of those hair extensions. So, extension lady, how many do you have?

On this day…

2003: Small Screens Look Good

Is Echo Beach In The Right Place?


ITV’s Friday night soap, Echo Beach, is not doing too well, according to The Guardian. This is a shame really as I don’t think it’s the worst programme on television by far and, given some time, could be a ratings winner. It does suffer from two problems: it’s in the wrong slot and the behind-the-scenes ‘Moving Wallpaper’ doesn’t do it any favours.

The Guardian reckons ITV Viewers want something different on Friday nights, “They like cars and explosions, and shows they know. With Echo Beach they got Hollyoaks by the sea. You can’t replace dark, edgy dramas with surfer teens and expect the audience not to flinch.” This maybe true but I think the Moving Wallpaper factor is just as relevant.

Moving Wallpaper (MW) is the comedy-drama of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that airs immediately before the soap. Yet the soap is supposed to be able to stand alone. If, however, you watch an episode of MW then you can’t help but look for the references: the skimpy bikini, the surf board, the picture in the shop – whatever it is – and that devalues the soap itself. It’s a great idea and MW is funny and, as it stands, MW is the better programme because of the way it is viewed. Separate them and they might both work with different audiences; after all, a drama about hot young things by the sea (where the need to remove clothes) is usually a ratings hit!

On this day…

2003: Book of the Year

When Will I See The Ghosts Again

ghost whisperer is a cbs tv show

You could be mistaken from yesterday’s post but television isn’t really that important. It does make for something to write about which doesn’t relate to the cold outside. Still, the wonders of the web never cease and it appears that DigiGuide – if you pay an account – might be able to do something close to my TV alert system that I hoped for. In this multi channel world, with increasing competition, channel controllers will find it harder to make their shows stand out and need to get the word out about a new series via more mediums than a promotion on their – or a sister – channel.

I have another example. Ghost Whisperer is, according to Wikipedia, “one of several fantasy television programs about young women with gifts for supernatural communication”. I think that makes it sound less ridiculous than it is but it’s immensely enjoyable. In the last episode of Series 2, “Melinda has a terrifying experience that reveals some information about her family” which is all well and good but does leave us wanting the next series. Now, who knows when that will air? If you find out, let me know.

On this day…

2003: In Need of Exposure? Visit A Salon!

Boston Legal Series 4 Starts Thursday (but you wouldn’t know it)


2008. Go on say it, 2008. How did we get here? Not only 2008 but, basically, February 2008. I really want to go and shout it from the rooftops: February 2008. If you expressed each year as a percentage of your life to date then each one is worth less than the the one before. Back in 2000, each year represented about 3.3% of my life; this year that number will be 2.6% of my life. So, I guess, each year appears to pass quicker because it represents less of the time you have spent wandering the earth.

That reads a little gloomily really. I didn’t intend that, it’s just such a while since I was here yet it feels like such a short time.

January is the time of nostalgia where we review the highs and lows of the previous years. I discovered this year that there were only thirteen episodes of Mr Benn. Honestly, only thirteen yet it seemed like a thousand. See, I can count my life in trivial TV facts. Can it really be 18 (or maybe 19) years since Michael Cashman played Colin in EastEnders? Is it really six years since Gary Lucy last appeared in Hollyoaks? The actor who used to play Adric in Doctor Who now lives in Connecticut. Yes, these are the great televisual questions than we grapple with through the years.

We all love television programmes in some way. So, why then, in this multi channel age is it almost impossible to know when a new series of your favourite television show is on. Boston Legal, one of the best TV shows on today, starts a brand new fourth series on Thursday on Living TV. But you wouldn’t know because it’s not been promoted well. They have been showing ‘coming soon’ promotions for a few weeks but I’ve only just seen the date. I could easily have missed it. Pop along to the living TV web site and it’s mentioned but I am not checking every day. Perhaps I should, ‘Extreme Skinny Celeb Mums’ must be post in itself .

Where is the TV episode alert system? Somebody should do it. Get a simple email notifying you when the next series of your favourite shows start. Prison Break back on Sky One? Just a little note to let you know.

I don’t want to know when every episode is aired. I can find that out once I know the series is starting but I can’t watch all the channels all the time and would like a little reminder.

And a reminder when Phil is back on TV never hurt anybody. The calendar for 2008 is Phil Olivier.

On this day…

2006: Free Hair Extensions
2004: Integrity in Public Life
2004: Favourite Photography

Sshh. Don’t Mention It.

They used to joke that you shouldn’t mention The War (at least not in the same breath as the English World Cup victory of 1966). Maybe they still joke about it, I am not sure.

Then again, perhaps it wasn’t a joke. Maybe people were serious about that and, in polite company, you shouldn’t mention The War. I thought it was a joke because Basil Fawlty first taught me that mentioning The War was not good: although spilling soup is not good and he didn’t seem overly concerned about pouring hot tomato down the front of your trousers. So, I may be wise not to cite Basil Fawlty as a mentor (and wiser to steer clear of such conversation topics).

Still, it’s fair to say that The War has been replaced in recent months with Heathrow Airport. It may seem odd that a stretch of land to the west of London can be compared to one of the most terrible events of the 20th Century and I am obviously not comparing the great evil which attempted to take Western Europe to a mass of concrete and jet noises in any way as being being on a similar scale but take it from me you don’t want to be talking about either.

You see, right now, people will work themselves into a purple-faced rant about how terrible Heathrow is in a way that makes me wary of mentioning it. You should not make the mistake of saying the words ‘flying to Oslo’ and ‘terminal three’ in front of anybody who has been out to, what was, the Great Western Aerodrome for you will be subjected to an outpouring of such rage that you will wish you’d said something all together different (I wanted to use a comparison there to something truly awful but decided against it lest people think I was serious about the previous paragraph).

Heathrow has become the chattering class’ villain du jour (and you know it’s serious when you invoke a du jour). Nobody likes it. Ken Livingstone doesn’t like it. Kitty Ussher (City minister, did you know we had one?) isn’t keen and former Chancellor Lord Lamont labelled the airport a “national disgrace”. Really, Heathrow is not winning a popularity contest right now.

The problem? Well, that depends on who you ask. To some the airport looks shabby and not a giant gleaming temple to London’s greatness that some think it should be. To others it the baggage (or lack of) that seems to cause consternation. While others think the queues are to blame. All of which is nonsense. Regular readers (well, the regular reader) will know I travel regularly on business and I often go from Heathrow. And I have been laughing in the face of these naysayers for months. My mantra was ‘read the rules and ye will have a speedy voyage’.

On recent trips I have been astounded by people who were passing through. The large signage reads ‘only one cabin bag allowed’ yet there is a lady with three and she’s getting frustrated that she’s having to go the back and check the others in. Then it says ‘No bottle over 100ml’ and yet, lo, here’s some chap with a bottle of aftershave containing enough liquid to give us wave power for twenty years. Put your metal objects in your hand bag before you go through screening? Well, it must be written in invisible ink given the number of times the alarms go off. We’d actually given these people passports.

I am a Heathrow fan and these people, as my mother would say, were just showing themselves up. Give yourself time, pack properly and all will be well. At least, that’s what I had argued until Monday when I headed for Oslo from LHR T3 where I was greeted by an enormous security queue and a, probably very pleasant, young man. You know the sort, his power simply oozed from his fluorescent yellow jacket.

I present to you, gentle reader, the man whose job it was to ensure the right people got through the queue at the right time. So, only people whose plane was leaving within the next two hours could join the line of passengers waiting to be scanned. The rest of us had to wait patiently until our time was called. A sound and reliable plan (and the lack of seating for the waiting crowds was not his fault).

“Not time yet sir. Only planes leaving before half past,” he would say.

“Please come back two hours before your flight. We’re only letting people through then” he added in a reassuring ‘you won’t miss your flight’ way.

All in all, a very sound and sensible approach to the growing crowds and the lack of resources to screen everybody quickly. No earlier than two hours. Please don’t cheat the queue. Get yourselves a Pret while you wait. Except for one little problem. The man charged with filtering stressed passengers and tasked with keeping the calm and encouraging the nervous flyers to wait until they still had two hours to get to the plane didn’t have a watch. Not only that he didn’t have a clock. He had no clue about the time. You can imagine the rest.

On this day…

2004: Book Eating

Green Before Her Time

I’ve been a little frivolous recently. Listen To Musak’s been a bit frothy of late. Pot snacks, presentation tips, Bifidus Digestivum and the like. Yet here at Listen Towers we really have a serious side. It’s not all reboot your train and Sir Terry here. I do care about important things and some events that are worth mentioning don’t want to be made light of. When something is worth noting it can appear a little disingenuous amongst the nonsense that is written here but you mustn’t take it that way.

I missed the news that was announced while I was travelling yesterday: Dame Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop and campaigner for a more ethical way to trade, had died, suddenly, of a brain haemorrhage. I was listening to Dame Anita on the radio a couple of weeks ago talking about ways in which people can start their own business and describing – with great passion – how she had started The Body Shop. I recall thinking how, more than 30 years after she started, her enthusiasm still shone through.

I have always found it a little strange how, at a moment like this, you can feel so moved about somebody you had never met. Although my only connection was as a purchaser of little bottles of blue liquid to wash with I do feel sad that somebody so passionate should have passed on. My thoughts are with her family.

On this day…

2006: Red Bull part company with Klien
2005: A New Beginning
2004: Fish For Me
2002: Still The Same Bart
2002: A JavaScript Moment
2002: One Year On

A Mastery Of Technology

I am writing this episode of Listen on one side of the screen while watching an episode of Queer As Folk (US version) on the other side of the screen. I’m playing it from my computer’s built-in DVD. I am doing this as I am sat in a hotel room in Oslo. See, the relentless march of technology allows me to multi-task in ways I would never have imagined a few years ago.

You could almost say I am stunned. But I am not. I am just bored in a hotel room.

Having said that, it would be great if all that technology stomping around the world managed to get a coffee machine or kettle in this hotel room. As it is I had to take the lift and fetch a cup of over strong coffee from the reception area. Really, Scandinavia is supposed to be so much more advanced. All this wood, heated bathroom flooring and sweet herring is all well and good but I want a good old fashioned cup of Costa Coffee and there isn’t one to be had.

Sorry, back to that relentless technology marching. I am seeing sleek back and silver gadgets marching in perfect unison through Red Square; USB cables tightly rolled and ready to attack at the first sight of an invasion. General Mac and Air Marshall Windows quietly surveying their battalions with stern pride and swelling chests full of medals. But this is modern tech. It would fail. It would let you down. The connector would be the wrong size or the driver would be missing. The intruders would conquer and a few bits of bare wire and broken hard drives would litter the streets.

See, I am well aware that technology is not fool-proof. How many times have you sent that email to somebody who should not have been on the cc list? How many times have you wasted half the paper in the printer because you forgot to check how that document would print? How many times did your Sat Nav take you the wrong way down a one-way street? How many times have you called somebody on your mobile that you didn’t mean to call? How many times have to had to reboot your train?

Yes, honestly, my train was rebooted this morning. I was heading to the airport and sat in my train seat waiting to leave the station. I had a nice cup of morning coffee in my hands (I was still in England, it’s civilised like that). I was thinking ‘which terminal?’ and wondering if those people on the platform were going to be charged excess baggage for the small van-load of cases they were taking. Then the train driver announced a small problem they were working on. A few minutes passed. We were late. The driver came on the tannoy again: now the power would be turned off and back on again. We weren’t to panic as we were plunged into darkness and the doors locked themselves. So we sat there in darkness with all the power gone. And then somebody switched us on again and – as with all turn it off and on agains – we were good to go. So we did. Go, that is.

Seriously, they turned my train off and then on again to fix it.

And it was at that moment I knew that technology had gotten the better of us. Machines now rule and we are relegated to the bit parts (every pun intended).

On this day…

2006: Schumacher to quit at end of year
2005: Staying For Breakfast
2004: Where’s Matt’s Tongue?
2003: A Video Moment
2002: Around The World

The Slag Of All Updates

I truly believe the YouTube model may become the model for all television. A couple of weeks ago I spent many happy hours watching old clips of British Breakfast telly. The Breakfast Time title sequence was a particular fave when it got to about two o’clock in the morning (Frank and Selina were always my favourites). That shows that it’s as easy to get a YouTube habit – and I may need to seek help any moment now – as it was to think faux leather sofas were the most sophisticated thing you could have in your living room in 1982.

I don’t remember what I started searching YouTube for when I first got there but by the time all the drunks had got safely home to bed and the street outside was silent I had a full play list of old television idents and clips. Really, a computer generated Central Television sun (or was it moon?) from 1989 or a Granada TV Continuity announcement about a School Fire isn’t really scaling the heights of art and culture is it (I wonder if the moon/sun won any awards at the time)? So what on earth was I doing spending the night searching out these TV gems? Maybe it says a great deal about what was on broadcast television that night but I wouldn’t want to say as I was so addicted to the swirling letters L, W and T (if you live in London you’ve probably gone all misty-eyed at the very mention of those letters) that I forgot to look at the real super high definition million inch orbiting sound box that tries to hide in the corner of the room.

The YouTube model works so well that all content will be served like this in the future. I mean why would I watch what some bloke in ripped jeans and a t-shirt with a witty slogan scrawled on the front wants me to watch in the early hours when I can watch Mary Beth being taken hostage in a clip from Cagney & Lacey? Why would I ITV Play when I can Supermarket Sweep with Dale? Seriously, this is a much better way to be a couch potato.

My inner couch potato would have been very happy today as YouTube grabbed me again. I was reading some old items from Listen To Musak (the world’s greatest blog) when I came across an entry from August 2002 on the irrationality of complaints about a television commercial for a snack food pot. You know that’s just a poncy way of saying that I mentioned that an army of people had found time to complain about Pot Noodle’s Slag of All Snacks ads. Seriously, the complainers have almost as much time on their hands as I must have to write this nonsense.

Now listen up kids, back in 2002 there really wasn’t a YouTube (really, all the Internet was in black & white back then). And if there was a YouTube (which there wasn’t) we were all using a telephone dial-up line access the Internet so there’s no way we’d have been watching. Can you imagine? So back in 2002 I wouldn’t have been able to link to the ad. Which I can now. Here’s the link: See, the ad is really funny and cleverly plays on the British attitudes to sex (I say that but so does the New Statesman so I must be right, mustn’t I?) and it shouldn’t have been banned.

So now, thanks to YouTube, you can write to your MP about the fact that the Slag Of All Snacks is on the net now and try to get it removed. Really, YouTube’s given you a whole new way to complain. Told you it was the future for television.

And so, to those who read on here is a spinning computer-generated moon and some whizzing letters for you to enjoy. Who says I don’t entertain?

On this day…

2006: Hello From Here
2005: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
2002: The Art of the Blog