How to Not Get Murdered

Posted 18 August, 2007 by hartsonsdog
Categories: Uncategorized

You may have noticed that every time someone is murdered, particularly someone young, you always see them described as follows:

“She was such a happy, popular girl”
“He had so much to live for”
“She lived life to the full”
“He really loved life”
“He always had time for other people”

Do you notice a pattern here? It seems that if you are a happy, popular, optimistic person, you’re statistically more likely to be killed by some psycho than less cheerful types. You never see murder victims described as follows:

“He was a miserable bastard”
“He hated life to the full”
“She was extremely unpopular”
“He spent his life eating junk food and masturbating”

The only possible conclusion to be drawn from this is that if you don’t want to be murdered, you should be a miserable, misanthropic bastard who hates, and is hated by, everybody. If you don’t live life to the full, chances are you’ll be able to waste your life well into old age.

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10 Biggest Cocks in Advertising

Posted 18 August, 2007 by hartsonsdog
Categories: Humour

A quite magnificent rant from Charlie Brooker, the man behind TV Go Home

Winning at Barnsley is like Making Love to a Beautiful Woman

Posted 13 August, 2007 by hartsonsdog
Categories: Football, Humour

Another football season is now upon us and on Saturday my team, Coventry City, stormed out of the blocks with a 4-1 win away to Barnsley. Cause, surely, for celebration in all Sky Blue corners of the world?

Well, not quite. We Cov fans bear the scars of too many false dawns, and for everyone extrapolating instant promotion from this result, there are three people moaning and saying “It won’t last”.

Me? I’m reminded of a time back in 1998 when I was having an affair with a married work colleague. A real stunner to boot – Polish, tall, slim, blonde, beautiful, and possessing a repertoire of sexual techniques that are probably illegal in 99% of the nations of the world.

Now such women tend not to take much of an interest in your truly, unless they happen to be anthropologists or medical students, and so my initial delight at her unprecedented desire to bed me swiftly turned into terrified paranoia. It is of course very hard to make sweet lurrrve to a foxy wench when you’re looking over your shoulder for Jeremy Beadle to burst in, and there are few things more likely to put you off your stroke than Beadle’s bearded visage or withered hand appearing in your imagination.

Not that our brief dalliance was unenjoyable (I could write a book, but it would make ‘The Story of the Eye’ look like Enid Blyton and would probably be banned from all good bookshops), but my constant fear that it would all end in tears at any moment – which it did, on the steps of Sacre Coeur in Paris (which admittedly is one of the best places in the world for things to end in tears) – meant that I didn’t get as much out of it as I could.

In the unlikely event of the lady in question reading this I apologise for comparing her to an away win at Barnsley, but at the same time I would advise my more cynical fellow Sky Blues supporters to do what I should have done: don’t think about tomorrow, and simply revel in the moment for what it probably is – a glorious, one-off aberration. No doubt by the end of August we will all be metaphorically standing on those Sacre Coeur steps, fighting back the tears, but for now, let’s metaphorically get our brains shagged out.

 FOOTNOTE
In researching this piece (ie looking up Jeremy Beadle on Wikipedia while drinking beer) I discovered that the condition that causes Beadle’s withered hand is…Poland Syndrome!!! Cosmic. Even better, if you click on the link you’ll see that Wikipedia have chosen to illustrate this unfortunate affliction with a picture of a woman with one tit bigger than the other.

The London bombs also belong to the new Prime Minister

Posted 8 July, 2007 by hartsonsdog
Categories: Politics

Typically brilliant article by John Pilger on the recent UK terrorist attacks:

 In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger breaks the taboo of the latest ‘potential’ bombs found in London. They are prime minister Gordon Brown’s bomb, too, the ‘inevitable consequence of the lawless invasion of Iraq’ which Brown backed and whose death toll now equals that of the Rwanda genocide.
 
Just as the London bombs in the summer of 2005 were Blair’s bombs, the inevitable consequence of his government’s lawless attack on Iraq, so the potential bombs in the summer of 2007 are Brown’s bombs.

Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor as prime minister, has been an unerring supporter of the unprovoked bloodbath whose victims now equal those of the Rwandan genocide, according to the American scientist who led the 2006 Johns Hopkins School of Public Health survey of civilian dead in Iraq. While Tony Blair sought to discredit this study, British government scientists secretly praised it as “tried and tested” and an “underestimation of mortality”. The “underestimation” was 655,000 men, women and children. That is now approaching a million. It is the crime of the century.

In his first day’s address outside 10 Downing Street and subsequently to Parliament, Brown paid not even lip service to those who would be alive today had his government – and it was his government as much as Blair’s – not joined Bush in a slaughter justified with demonstrable lies. He said nothing, not a word.

He said nothing about the added thousands of Iraqi children whose deaths from preventable disease have doubled since the invasion, caused by the wilful destruction of sanitation and water purification plants. He said nothing about hospital patients who die every day for want of equipment as basic as a syringe. He said nothing about the greatest refugee flight since the Palestinians’ Naqba. He said nothing about his government’s defeat in Afghanistan, and how the British army and its Nato allies are killing civilians, including whole families. Typically, on 29 June, British forces called in air strikes on a village, reportedly bombing to death 45 innocent people – almost as many as the number bombed to death in London in July 2005. Compare the reaction, or rather the silence. They were only Muslims. And Muslims are the world’s most numerous victims of a terrorism whose main sources are Washington, Tel Aviv and London.

And he said nothing about his government’s role in Afghanistan’s restoration as the world’s biggest source of opium, a direct result of the invasion of 2001. Any dealer on the streets of Glasgow will have the stuff, straight from warlords paid off by the CIA and in whose name British soldiers are killing and dying pointlessly.

He said nothing about stopping any of this. Not a word. Not a hint.

Do the dead laugh? In the new Prime Minister’s little list of priorities was “extend[ing] the British way of life”.

The paymaster of the greatest British foreign policy disaster of the modern era, Brown could not even speak its name, let alone meet the military families that waited to speak to him. Three British soldiers were killed on his first day.

Has there been anything like the tsunami of unction that has engulfed the departure of Blair and the elevation of Brown? Yes, there has. Think back a decade. Blair, wrote Hugo Young of the Guardian, “wants to create a world none of us has known, where the laws of political gravity are overturned”, one where “ideology has surrendered entirely to ‘values’”. The new chancellor, effused the Observer, would “announce the most radical welfare Budget since the Second World war”.

The “values” were fake and so was the new deal. One media-managed stunt followed another as Brown delighted the stock market and comforted the very rich and celebrated the empire, and ignored the longing of the British electorate for a restoration of public services so badly damaged by Margaret Thatcher. One of
the first decisions by Harriet Harman, Blair’s first social security secretary and a declared feminist, was to abolish the single parents’ welfare premium and benefit, in spite of her pledge to the House of Commons that Labour opposed these impoverishing Tory-inspired cuts. Today, Harman is Brown’s deputy party leader and, like all of the “new faces” around the cabinet table with “plans to heal old wounds” (the Guardian), she voted for an invasion that has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of women.

Some feminism.

And when Blair finally left, those MPs who stood and gave him a standing ovation finally certified parliament as a place of minimal consequence to British democracy. The courtiers who reported this disgrace with Richard Dimbleby royal-occasion reverence are flecked with the blood spilled by the second-rate actor and first-rate criminal. They now scramble for the latest police press release. That the profane absurdity of the going of Blair and the silence and compliance of Brown – political twins regardless of their schoolboy spats – may well have provoked the attacks on London and Glasgow is of no interest. While the crime of the century endures, there almost certainly will be others.

Shame.

Satire Dies Again

Posted 26 June, 2007 by hartsonsdog
Categories: Politics

In 1973, when US war criminal Henry Kissinger was laughably awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, satirist Tom Lehrer announced his retirement, claiming that “Satire is dead”.

Well, if it wasn’t dead then it certainly is now, as I’ve just read the following headline:

BLAIR HANDED MIDDLE-EAST PEACE ENVOY ROLE

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, and I assume the millions of Iraqi bereaved, homeless, displaced and maimed feel the same way. Really, I am absolutely lost for words.

The Most Depressing Songs of All Time

Posted 24 June, 2007 by hartsonsdog
Categories: Music

In Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby’s perceptive novel on men & music, the protagonist asks himself “Was I depressed because I listened to music, or did I listen to music because I was depressed?” A question I’ve pondered on many occasions. I spent  a few years grappling with the Black Dog and on those nights when sleep was out of the question as it would mean having to get up the next morning, music was a regular companion – when you’re down, it’s good to know someone, somwhere has felt the same, or worse.

 On the other hand, I have to say that spending my formative musical years listening to the likes of The Smiths, Joy Division, The Cure, Nick Cave and other such cheery souls, can’t have helped my mental state much, particularly as they left me with the dangerous notion that being suicidal was not only cool, it also made you more attractive to women. Ha ha. Little did I realise that it was the rock star bit that was attractive to women, and I wasn’t a rock star, just a miserable, black-clad drunk.

 Anyway, for those of you who want some terpsichorean therapy, or those who want to get depressed so you can click with the chicks, I present my Top 10 Most Depressing Songs of All Time. Wallow away…

(NB where available, I’ve added a YouTube clip for each song)

1. Jacques Brel – Ne Me Quitte Pas

Brussels-born Belgian balladeer Brel is the master of the chanson, renowned for the poetry of his lyrics and the astonishing intensity of his performances, and Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me) is his finest hour. Four minutes of desperate self-abasement, the song is a plea to a departing lover, Brel making ever-more hysterical, unfeasible promises before finally collapsing into exhausted despair (“Let me be the shadow of your shadow, the shadow of your hand, the shadow of your dog…but don’t leave me“), Brel so racked with sobs he can hardly choke out the last few words. Click below to see an absolutely extraordinary performance of the song on YouTube.

2. Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers – Hospital

When you get out of the hospital, let me back into your life” – was there ever a bleaker opening line? And it doesn’t get any better, as Richman, fully aware that his obsession with her is a bad thing (“I can’t stand what you do, sometimes I can’t stand you…but I’m in love with your eyes“) begs for her to take him back. “I go to bakeries all day long – there’s a lack of sweetness in my life“. Awww Jesus, pass the razorblades…

3. Scott Walker – Clara

Walker has plenty of previous in this area but he surpasses himself on this knees-up from his stunning 2006 album The Drift. A 13-minute musing on the lynching of Mussolini’s lover Clara Petacci, it features savage slashes of strings, a slab of pork used as percussion to simulate the sound of a body being kicked by an angry mob, and disturbing lyrical images (“A man came up towards the body and poked it with a stick/It rocked swiftly and twisted around at the end of the rope“). It’s gruelling, harrowing stuff, rather like being forced to watch the fire extinguisher scene from Irreversible over & over again, yet it’s also exhilarating and inspiring that some of the most exciting and original music of our time is being made by a reclusive bloke in his early 60s.

 4. Tom Waits – Martha

 A heartbreaking ballad of regret, in which an old man tries to contact a lost love from his youth, Martha is particularly remarkable in that Waits was in his early 20s when he recorded it. Impossibly moving, just the opening lines (“Operator, number please, it’s been so many years/Will she remember my old voice, while I fight the tears?” are enough to get this listener’s tear ducts working, and by the time Waits reaches the final “I remember quiet evenings, trembling close to you” only the stoniest of hearts remains unmoved. A stunning work of characterisation and a song that deserves true classic status.

5. The Replacements – Here Comes a Regular

If any band can sing about drinking, it’s The Replacements, whose early albums are chock full of boozing anthems. Here Comes a Regular, however, documents the other side of being a barfly – the sadness, the shame, the tedium of drinking in the same bar with the same deadbeats day after day after day. The bar is full of drinkers, all with their own plans that they’ll never even begin to put into action. “Am I the only one who feels ashamed?” sings Westerberg, backed by poignant mandolin and piano, on one of the first songs to suggest that they weren’t just a dumb, raucous bar band. Terrific stuff from someone who knows.

6.Tindersticks – A Night In 

Such is the ‘Sticks repertoire of wrist-slashers they could fill up this whole list themselves, but A Night In is bleak even by their standards. “I had shoes full of holes when you first took me in” mumbles singer Stuart Staples, over tomblike strings, as a tale of romance destroyed by poverty unfolds. “Well I know you’re hurting, but I can’t be there for you.” The definitive version can be found on the Live at the Bloomsbury album.

7. The Smiths – Meat is Murder

The song that converted more people to vegetarianism than even Bernard Matthews. “Heifer whines could be human cries, closer comes the screaming knife, this beautiful creature must die…it’s sizzling blood and the unholy stench of MURDER!”, wails Morrissey, ramming home the point with mooing cows, bleating sheep and slaughterhouse sounds. Hartson’s Dog once had a girlfriend who became vegetarian after hearing this track. Yeah, thanks Mozza for condemning me to two years of Quorn & tofu. Why couldn’t you record an album called Lose Weight & Give More Blowjobs intead? She LISTENED to you man!

8. The Cure – Disintegration

This, the title track from, in my opinion, the greatest album ever made, is musically jaunty by the Cure’s standards, but lyrically it positively wallows in bitterness and contempt. It appears to be a confession of infidelity (“The stench of a love for a younger meat“) and marital desertal (“I never said I would stay ’til the end, I knew I would leave you with babies and everything“), and packs the direct emotional punch that makes this album their most affecting. Tears the roof off when they play it live as well.

9. Nick Drake – Magic

Read an interview with anyone who knew Drake and they’ll always say “He was too fragile & sensitive for this world”, and Magic is ample proof of that. Drake sets himself up as a visionary, a dreamer, and idealist, only to realise he’s alone in his dreams and his ideals. “I was made to love magic, all its wonders to know” he sings on an initially joyful chorus, only for major to switch suddenly to minor and those joyous chords to become ominous and threatening as he howls accusingly “But you all lost that magic, many years ago!” Given the singer’s tragic end, this is terrifying stuff indeed.

10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – People Ain’t No Good

No list of depressing songs would be complete without the mighty Cave, and this piece of misanthropic brilliance from his stark, soul-bearing 1997 album The Boatman’s Call is one of his best. People are shit, says Cave, and don’t let them try to convince you otherwise. “‘It ain’t in their hearts they’re bad! They’d stand by you if they could!’/Ah, that’s just bullshit baby – people just ain’t no good.” One day people will realise what a truly great songwriter Cave is, and this song will become one of the standards. But don’t hold your breath.

 OK OK, so I’ve left out 100s of songs here and I could’ve gone on for hours, but I’ve got a crying baby and a disgruntled wife upstairs. If I’ve missed out your own favourite masterpieces of misery, leave me a message.

The Most Overrated Albums of All Time

Posted 16 June, 2007 by hartsonsdog
Categories: Music

Yesterday’s Guardian had an excellent feature on “Hot Albums that Leave You Cold“, basically the opposite of my Great Lost Albums series. So I was inspired to put together my 10 Most Overrated Albums of All Time…

1. The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

To be honest, so astronomically overrated are the Drab Four that I could’ve picked an album from any of their three phases (twee, irritating pop, dated, unconvincing psychedelia, or the invention of the lighter-waving power ballad) but Sergeant Pepper gets it, as the disparity between the esteem in which is held and the horrific reality of actually listening to the fucker is Atlantic-huge. Horrible, naff children’s music (When I’m 64, With a Little Help…), ooh-look-at-how-stoned-we-are psychedelia (Lucy in the Sky…), and THAT embarrassingly awful title track. A Day in the Life isn’t bad admittedly, but The Fall do it better. Like all the band’s work, it sounds pathetically dated now. Just because you’re first doesn’t make you the best.

2. Nirvana – Nevermind

Steal ideas from a couple of vastly superior bands (The Replacements & Pixies), throw in some vaguely angsty lyrics, and polish it all with a radio-friendly production gloss, and hey presto, both critics and public are fooled. I enjoyed it at the time, as I often guiltily enjoy commercial, catchy rock (Chili Peppers & Killers for example), but I haven’t listened to it in over 10 years and its continued place in the pantheon of classic albums baffles me.

3. The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks

When the western media cover the Middle East, they always show footage of the yelling, ranting, extremist minority who throw rocks & wave AK47s, ignoring the peaceful, educated masses who stay at home. And in a similar vein, when the media talk about punk, they always show these manufactured pub rockers instead of the genuinely creative bands like the Buzzcocks, Wire or Joy Division who forged new musical paths instead of just spitting at people and saying rude words. Bollocks is an awful album – dull, plodding, hamfisted music by competent session musicians, as artificial as the Monkees or Westlife. Take away the hair gel & the safety pins and you’ve got a very average pub rock band.

4. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

So incredibly boring I can’t even be bothered to write about it.

5. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Critics routinely praise What’s Going On whilst overlooking Gaye’s lascivious, awesome masterpiece Let’s Get it On, an album that has loosened more bra straps than any other. What’s Going On is frequently so twee as to be unlistenable, and when it’s not twee it’s simply dull.

6. The White Stripes – Elephant

Jesus don’t get me started on these fuckers. I quite enjoyed the previous album, White Blood Cells – as soulless musical pastiche projects go it was more listenable than Blur, say – but Elephant is simply horrible, designed solely to push the right buttons with 40-something rock hacks. Not a single original note in its entire running time, its nadir is the horrendous mauling of Bacharach’s I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself, a novelty cover completely lacking the grace, poise and emotional punch of Dusty Springfield’s version. I think I was the only person in the world not to be surprised when these wankers did a Coke ad.

7. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

Fair enough, we all have our favourite dope albums, but at least mine still sound good when I’m not stoned.

8. Antony & the Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now

Mercury Prize? For this? First time I heard it I struggled to get past the Kermit-on-helium voice, and the second time I realised that, once you accept the voice and get used to it, there’s nothing else to hear.

9. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

Not a bad album by any means, but not in the same league as Funeral. A sad case of a band reading their own press and trying to make a classic American rock album (check out the horrible Springsteen influence on several tracks), and thus forgetting what made them great to begin with. Will doubtless clean up in the end-of-year reviews, whilst superior albums by the likes of Battles, Ulrich Schnauss and The Field are ignored.

10. Blur – Parklife

How can anyone still listen to this? Back in 1994 it was a bit of fun and the soundtrack to many a good night out in Camden, but it dated virtually overnight and now sounds truly horrible. Though I guess I’m biased, having read John Harris’s excellent Britpop book The Last Party, which reveals Damon Albarn to be a truly unpleasant little cunt. As does the film Live Forever. As does anything else featuring Damon Albarn, come to think of it.