October 2004 Archives - wibbler.com

Hoppy Bifday To Me

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“Are you woken at 6.30am to open presents? Do you have a general feeling of fun and frivolity? It must be your birthday!”
UPDATE: 3 double chocolate muffins, 3 chocolate brownies, 6 cream cakes, 4 iced buns, 2 Wallace and Gromit-shaped shortbreads biscuits and a box of chocolate Heroes duly delivered to the office. Currently feeling ill.

The Daily Show – A Seminal Moment

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Political apathy is evident everywhere nowadays. There’s discussion on the cause, but most agree that the media are guilty of marginalising the power of the vote. I just thought it was this country – but The Daily Show, hosted by the razor-witted, sharp-tongued, Emmy award winning Jon Stewart, shows that it’s alive and kicking in America too.
The Daily Show started as a comedic look at the days’ political events in America. Now, it’s the only show which gives it to you straight, in a humourous way that really sticks in your mind. Jon Stewart, in my opinion, is the funniest political comedian I have ever seen, and his show appears to outclass all other “news” shows in America.
So, why am I telling you this now? Well, Jon was invited yesterday onto “Crossfire”, a popular political show on CNN, to discuss his new book. But, instead of promoting, he accused the mainstream media – and his hosts in particular – of being soft and failing to do their duty as journalists to keep politicians and the political process honest.
It was one of the most powerful televised exchanges in recent history. Instead of pushing the tome, Stewart used his time to verbally slap the network and the media for being “dishonest” and “doing a disservice” to the American public. After co-host Tucker Carlson suggested that Stewart went easy on Senator John Kerry when the candidate was a guest on “The Daily Show,” Stewart unloaded on “Crossfire,” calling hosts Carlson and Paul Begala “partisan hacks” and chiding them for not raising the level of discourse on their show beyond sloganeering.
“What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery,” Stewart said. “You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably. I watch your show every day, and it kills me. It’s so painful to watch.”
It takes balls of steel to do something this large. As one of the commenters on Metafilter put it, “Not only is our most honest news program not really a news program, but the only guy on TV who wants to be serious about living up to journalistic responsibility isn’t even a journalist.”
Good luck in the elections, America…
LINKS (because you really have to watch this):
More on the event: Jon Stewart Bitchslaps CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ Show – MTV
Clips from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show: herehere
The Crossfire showdown: BitTorrentQuicktime videoAnother Quicktime videoWindows Media Player (WMP) videoAnother WMP videoTranscript and videos
Comments/articles on the broadcast: MetafilterMTVSalon.com

A Week in Gran Canaria

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Fridges must have a very hard time in Gran Canaria.

By the second day of our trip to the sunny Canary Isle, as the heat climbed up the the early 30 degrees and I dripped like a wet towel, my concern for our fridge was paramount. The poor thing was commended to freeze our drinks in temperatures that were climbing into the 30s by 11am. It was a tall order.

But still, let me start at the beginning. The very early beginning.

It was 4am. Even the bloody birds were asleep. But for the second time that week, I was up, busily preparing for a trip abroad. Michelle was being her usual organised self, reading off a prepared list of things to take, whilst I laid back and left everything until the last possible moment. Michelle’s mother has drawn the short straw, and drove us through wind and rain to Gatwick airport. The take off in this weather would be fun, I surmised.

After we’d managed to queue-barge a long line of travellers at the check-in desk and braved their glares, we shopped a little, worried at the weather a little, ate a little, and headed for the gate. The howling gales outside made the grey, unremitting interior of the airport look almost inviting. We were happy to be indoors.
20 minutes later, we were decided unhappy. Trudging up to the plane, across the wind and rain, we cursed our luck that the plane hadn’t been allocated a berth. After several minutes of buffeting, and a particularly loud cabin crew announcement, we were flying into the grey, overcast sky, the turbulence causing small children to scream. I was brave – I merely whimpered.

The flight over was uneventful, save for the excellent choice of in-flight movie – Shrek 2. How I laughed – how I annoyed the person next to me with my chortling shoulders. And then, 4 hours later, the volcanic isle of Gran Canaria hove into view. As we descended through the clouds, the perfectly flat sea gave way to land, and as we touched down I could sense the heat.

It wasn’t long before we arrived at the hotel, on the seafront of a large town called San Augustin. We’d read in the brochure that there was a “nudist sun terrace”. I eagerly began scanning the ground for hints of genitalia, so that I could recoil in disgust. There were none forthcoming, and I slumped back in my seat, waiting for the cue to alight.
We alighted with 2 other couples of dubious age. Probably around sixty-five to seventy years old, I reckon. This was the first hint that this hotel may not have a carnival atmosphere, but on a few minutes reflection we decided this was a good thing. Now we’re cracking on a bit (24 and 25 years old repectively), Michelle and I were pleased that our holiday was not going to be ruined by raucous folk. The thought of the nudist sun terrace, however, was distinctly less appealing.

This being her 6th trip to the island, Michelle was eager to show me the highlights. “Shall we go for a short walk down the coast to a place I know? Mum says it’s only a few minutes away.” One and a half hours later, my feet were like stumps, and asthma was beginning to grab hold of my lungs. But despite the length of the journey, it allowed me to take in the sights and sounds of the Canary Islands. And it wasn’t half bad. The sea was flat and calm; the sun was starting to set over the horizon, and people were wandering carefree along the sand, playing in the dunes and rocks near the water. Life seemed very peaceful, and I’d warmed to the place already.
Warm was as good a word as any to describe the weather too. It was past 5pm when we found a seaside bar, before taking in a nicely limed-up lemonade or two. We’d found the Playa del Ingles, the mystical destination Michelle and I had trekked to. The one and a half hour walk back was completed in three and half minutes by a handy taxi, costing 3 euros. We decided, belatedly, that taxis were the way forward. Our feet were immensely relieved.

The rest of the holiday was a mix of sunbathing (unfairly, I’ve no tan to report), getting the in-room and aforementioned fridge to work, and visiting the nooks and crannies of the local towns. There were an unbelievable number of shops, mainly centred around the Kasbar and the Yumbo Center, all with eager shopkeepers trying extremely hard to make us a bargain. I eagerly wanted to purchase several bargains, but at the end of the week managed to buy only a baseball cap. On the second night, we went to a few bars, one of which Michelle has known for years – the barman remembered her, bless him – and another which is a spitting image of Chinawhite’s nightclub in London. It’s even called Chinawhites.

We went on 2 excursions and we chose well. One was a musical, where the singers and dancers came and served us dinner when they weren’t singing and dancing. The quality of the production was astounding, and the idea really should be brought over here. The second excursion was a trip around the island on a catamaran. This required no effort at all, and from 9am to 3pm we mostly laid down on the deck, sunning ourselves while the boat took us past the villages and beaches of the island. There were water caves to explore, and snorkling to indulge in. And I still didn’t get a tan.

So, come Monday, we were sad to leave. The airless coach took us to the airport and deposited us at the entrance. We queued, shopped, queued and boarded the plane, horrified at the thought of trudging back to work the following morning. Still, our objective had been successful – we were fully refreshed after a couple of months of hectic action, and ready for the days ahead.

I never did find the nudist sun terrace.

A nightclub invite

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Tony Ho comes and goes like a thief in the night. One minute he’s hosting the mother of all parties (you may remember my multiple visits to Cafe de Paris with Tony at the tail end of last year), the next he’s disappeared, his mobile phone goes dead and we all hope he’s still alive.
He chose the middle of my course in Switzerland to reappear again, inviting me to an opening party in the centre of Mayfair, at a nightclub he was promoting. So, not at all fresh from the flight from Switzerland, I jumped straight into my car at the airport and sped off to London, shaver in one hand, steering wheel (luckily) in the other. 11pm on a Wednesday, I thought, the roads should be fine. I hadn’t banked on the M4 being closed though and 45 minutes later than I should have been, I arrived at the “Capiche” nightclub. Slap bang opposite The Ritz, it was a location to die for, and Tony doled out free drinks for a couple of hours until my senses told me I may have overdone it. I bade Tony (and a slightly drunken Simon B) goodbye, and drove home. Thanks for the drinks Tony – if only I hadn’t had to have been at work 8am the next morning…!

Switzerland – Cheese, Chocolate and “Services”

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What’s Switzerland famous for? Cheese, you might say. Chocolate, certainly. Milk churns, cow bells and milk maids, most certainly. But as I found out this week, one thing you’ll see more than anything else, more than all the cheese, chocolate and milk maids you can think of, is brothels.
It was with a heavy heart that I glanced over the itinerary for my latest two day trip overseas. Zurich was the destination, and I fancied a quick pootle round the area, taking in a few of the delights of the Swiss capital. But the plane flights betrayed my plans. I was to fly out at 6.30am on Tuesday, and fly back in at 10pm the following night. I was going to be knackered.
But at least I had a colleague with me to pass the time. Jonathan has been with the company two years, and was used to the constant to-ing and fro-ing. He’d even had the forethought to bring a portable DVD player, and as the time ticked away from our early arrival at the gate, we sat down to watch a few minutes of Anger Management.
I’ve flown many times in my short life, but as we were bussed to the plane a few minutes later, I was taken aback. The world’s smallest passenger plane had plainly been scheduled to take us, somehow, 300 miles across Europe. Clambering up the rickety stairs into the cabin, I struggled to see how the thing would stay airborne. Swissair did their best to keep everyone calm as the abnormal creakings from the fuselage put all of us on edge. The engines roared, the cabin shook and we pelted down the runway, cowering in the “brace” position that the crew had urgently warned us about minutes earlier.
As it turned out, the plane held together. In our shock, and due to poor language skills, we managed to order first class tickets on the train from the airport. This was an excellent move, as it turned out. We sunk pleasingly into luxury seats and waited to leave for Basel, a town about an hour away.
It’s a common theme in all the countries I’ve visited so far on business. – that without exception, public transport is many times better than our own. The Swiss train glided silently out of the platform, clad not in sticky, spilt coffee and chewing gum, but in freshly-cleaned carpet and leather-clad seats. Hills, mountains and businessmen passed the window as we slipped by, and the scenery was every bit as stunning as all those Dairylea adverts promised. Eight thirty in the morning, however, is not the time to be all romantic about trees and hills, and we slumped drearily back, catching forty five winks.
We arrived as about 11am, not very bright and definitely not bushy tailed. An account of our visit to offices would bore you senseless, and frankly the rest of the trip was a drudge of meetings, courses and frantic scooting back to the airport, just in time to catch our flight. However, before I go, I should mention, again, the brothels. On our trip to a restaurant on the first night, we discovered neon signs offering “massages” and “services”. These weren’t discreet – there were bold as brass, and the 20 mile trip uncovered at least 15 of these places. Turns out they are completely legal, and accepted as a way of life. And, for better or for worse (I’m sure the Swiss Tourist Board will be up in arms) that is what I shall remember Switzerland for.