Friday, 30 March 2007

Game, Set, Hatch

It's been a while, I know, but I've been busy. One of the things I've been doing is driving cars in France, which I'll tell you about shortly. In the meantime here's a story to substantiate the claim, just in case you think I'm a big morbidly obese liar. If you can't be bothered with the whole thing, skip to paragraph 16 or 17. I'm the young co-driver who didn't think the car was fast enough, although as I recall I believe my actual words were that it didn't "feel" fast enough, and there's a difference. Damn tabloids. Now I know how Britney feels.

I also realise the young co-driver could be anyone, so you're just going to have to take my word for it.

Monday, 19 March 2007

So Nice, He Had To Name It Twice.

I just found out that next month I'll be interviewing the absolute legend featured in the video below:

It's Levi Roots! Or, as his mother calls him, 'Keith'. Sainsburys instantly sold out of Reggae Reggae Sauce after striking a deal with Levi, but I'll keep trying to get hold of a bottle and let you know soon whether he can really justify naming it twice.

So, if you have any questions you'd like me to ask the man, be they sauce, business or reggae related, drop a comment below.

Chelsea Tractor RIP

Our Chancellor will shortly announce a brilliant new way of making us a bit more environmentally friendly - take more money from people with big cars.

Here's the story, which explains how, in a dazzlingly unpredictable piece of carbon-reducing ingenuity, road tax will go up to - wait for it - a bankrupting £400 for 4x4 owners.

And if that doesn't get footballers and drug dealers into Smart cars, I don't know what will. Well done Gordon.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

The Neon Foible

I work for a fine, Guardian Media Award-winning magazine called Degrees North, which, by nature of it being a student publication, gives me license to write whatever the heck I like.

Last week the Editor called me and said "I need you to do a couple of CD reviews quickly because we go to print in a couple of days," so he emailed me a list and I met him the following day to pick up my choices. They were:

Fall Out Boy - Infinity On High
Arcade Fire - The Neon Bible

I chose the first because I love FOB, which equalled unchallenging, quick reviewing and a free CD I'd probably enjoy listening to. Score. The second, however, was a more unknown quantity.

People who know me know that I HATE art indie music because it's boring. But, my mate lostmoya played me a couple of tracks from Arcade Fire's last album, Funeral, and I thought they were ok. Not great, but ok.

So maybe, just maybe, The Neon Bible would open my eyes to something new? Maybe I'd be able to expand the boundaries of my musical tastes which, while relatively broad, don't extend into tuneless, whiney boredom - that's bagpipes and Morrissey out then.

Or maybe I was forgetting myself?

I was. During track six the album nearly actually killed me because I made the mistake of listening to it in my car on a motorway. Fortunately, I was startled as I drifted towards the hard shoulder on the way to the land of Nod, at which point I did the sensible thing and relieved it from the CD player. Then I got home, opened up my laptop, vented my acerbic honesty and pressed 'send'.

"To be honest mate, when I got it I thought 'oh ****' because it's been getting really positive press, but I couldn't be bothered to change it," is what the Editor said to me when I saw him a couple of days later. And he was right, as was brought to my attention the evening prior when I'd seen this in Sainsburys, the latest edition of Q. The cover loudly proclaimed 'YOU HAVE TO HEAR THIS ALBUM' next to a picture of, yes, Arcade Fire. Inside it got worse; they called it a 'modern classic' and gave it five stars. Five stars? Please.

Here's a quote from my review of said modern classic:

'Records like this remind me that being a good music reviewer is one of journalism’s real skills, because you have to consistently subject yourself to this kind of mind-numbing drivel and be constructive about it. I can’t.'

When I saw Q, for a moment I felt a bit stupid and slightly belittled for having clearly preferred the quirky American emo-pop over the supposedly more intelligent, more 'significant' offering from Arcade Fire; an album The Guardian called a 'thrilling enigma'.

But then I felt good. It's nice to have your own opinion, it's nice to be the apparently lone voice of reason amidst a cacophony of praise for blandness, and it's nice upsetting NME readers.

It's also nice to be entertained, but for anyone who disagrees there's a free promo copy of The Neon Bible going. I'm happy to post it.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Me: 1. The System: 0.

Here's a letter I got this morning:

'Dear Mr Super Dope Fly


Following careful consideration of your explanation and further investigation regarding the above offence, it has been decided that no further action will be taken and you may now consider the matter closed.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Yours sincerely,

Unit Manager
Northumbria Police'

And my explanation? I said, 'please show me some evidence that I was speeding.'

Oh, well, erm, here's the thing; how about we just forget about the three points and don't take £60 off you?

Which is a real shame, because I'd be a far less dangerous driver without that money. Far less.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

You Bet

Advertising restrictions on casinos and gambling websites will be relaxed in September, which is great news for people who want a new way of losing all their money but haven't heard of gambling before.

According to this report, the government are ensuring the whole thing stays sensible by banning adverts during shows aimed at under 18s. Well, they don't have much money, do they?

And they're also keen to stop adverts making gamblers appear sexually attractive, which is ridiculous and unrealistic - everybody knows casinos are full of James Bond-a-likes, sipping Martinis and high rolling among a bevy of scantily-clad beauties, which is exactly what you will become if you go into one. Yes, you.

Neither can they depict gambling as a solution to debt. Hmm, so how come Ocean Finance are allowed to advertise? I mean, which is more likely to pay off your Argos bill; a few hours at the poker table or yet another loan at 1,000% interest over 25 years. All you have to do is get 21. How hard can it be? And you've got 25 years to keep trying, because every skilled gambler knows it's that one more go that will finally get you the big bucks.

Here's what Nicola Crewe-Reade from gambling industry funded addiction counselling service GamCare said: "We hope the outcome of these new standards will be to encourage people to see gambling as fun and entertaining rather than as a way of making your fortune."

Or in other words, "it's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts." Right. Sven said that to the England team last year and look what happened to them. Plus they all ended up developing gambling addictions on the coach back home.

Anyway, how do you promote something without glorifying it, lest we end up with, gasp, a nationwide gambling problem? Well, I think all the actors should be clinically obese and over 40, and every chip and card in the casinos should have a skull and crossbones on, like cigarette packets do. Casinos and gambling websites should also be made to sponsor a weekly prime time TV show called 'You Bet Your Life,' a fly on the wall documentary following a chirpy firm of bailiffs as they repossess all the contents of gamblers' homes.

I can't wait to see what these adverts are like.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Elise S: £23,995. Freedom Of Speech: Priceless.

I was recently sent to Lotus's manufacturing plant in Hethel by a newspaper to drive the Elise S, this very one, in fact. It was a slightly strange assignment because the car was released about six months ago, making it prehistoric in review terms, but I'd never driven one and was keen to see the factory too, so I went. Not that I was in a position to refuse, and in any event I knew about a couple of things Lotus were doing that could prove interesting.

The most intriguing thing was their involvement in a car called the Tesla Roadster, a blindingly quick yet environmentally sound electric supercar, funded by the man who set up PayPal, apparently. So given that green is the new black, and that very little is known about the Tesla, I thought I could possibly have a scoop.

I spent the day in Hethel, which is near Norwich if you're interested, in the company of a handful of charming people, one of whom was Lotus's PR Director, who kindly agreed to sit down with me for nearly an hour answering questions. The thing was, I was only able to ask him a few things in that time because, as it turned out, he'd written the book on media management in interview situations. He even said "blue sky thinking" once, and he categorically would not give me anything useful on the Tesla, apart from to confirm they were working on it, which everybody knows.

Immediately after we'd finished I went out for a few laps on the Lotus circuit and, to my glee, on the way to the car I spotted a Tesla test mule parked up and wearing temporary plates. I promptly whipped out my camera and got the scoop, all the while under the nonchalant watch of the engineer who was taking me out to the track. He didn't seem bothered at all, and the thought even crossed my mind that they'd left it there deliberately for me.

When I returned to the newspaper the Features Editor seemed pleased with the photos, and the subsequent story would be focussed on Lotus's work in the environmental field rather than the drive in the Elise. The nice PR man delivered on his promise and hooked me up with an engine development engineer the next day, who called me and spoke at length about Lotus's environmental pioneering and such like. I didn't understand most of it, and my tape recorder only picked up the first two seconds, but it was genuinely fascinating and useful so I remembered enough avoid embarrassment. I wrote the piece, it was published, job done.

About a week later I got a voicemail from Mr PR. He wasn't happy. He was perfectly pleasant, but in an 'I'm just really disappointed with you' sort of way; the most disarming kind of criticism. If someone screams at you, you can scream back, but when they're just disappointed all you can do is apologise. I haven't, though. Yet.

The funny thing was, although my instinct was to instantly call back and ask for forgiveness, I actually began to feel quite proud of myself. See, Mr PR's disappointment had stemmed from the fact that I was invited to do one fairly journalistically redundant thing, drive an Elise, but I got there and found something much more interesting, and wrote about that instead. It seems to me that journalists are supposed to do that sort of thing, otherwise we're in a situation that liberals and punk rockers don't like - censorship. That's right.

So not only did I get my first little motoring scoop, I also won a small victory for global democracy and freedom of speech, and you really can't put a price on that.

Now, I wonder if PR people prefer flowers or chocolates?

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Harder To Breathe

Someone told me that about 90% of a journalist's time is spent re-writing press releases, and judging by my recent stint at a certain respectable national tabloid, I can confirm that the other 10% is shared between bitching and worrying about getting sacked. If you keep that first statistic in mind when reading news stories you'll begin to realise it's probably true, perfectly exemplified by this story, a horrendous piece of recycled non-news telling us yet more ways, surprise surprise, to save our dying planet.

Is anyone else is sick to death of hearing about carbon emissions? And does anyone really believe that inflating their tyres and emptying crisp packets out of their glove box will prevent the imminent ice age?

I've got an idea. Maybe we could all hold our breath for six seconds in every minute. That would reduce our personal CO2 emissions by 10%, which means we could all drive whatever the heck we wanted, and in magnificent squalor too, if we so desired.

I'm a bit worried though, because it won't be too long before some government think-tank (like a fish tank, but with more emissions) realises that it's our selfish need to turn oxygen into carbon dioxide that's making it hot in summer, so the problem will be solved in the only way New Labour knows how: Breathing Tax

Those who choose to breathe air in town and city centres between 07:00 and 18:00 will be charged on a sliding scale dependent upon lung capacity. People living inside the breathing zone will get a small discount, as will those who spend five minutes in the hour breathing into a government-issue paper bag, called the 'carbhilator'.

"Breathing Tax is a way of ensuring the planet will still be here for our children and our children's children," says Gordon Brown, speaking from his newly acquired grace-and-favour yacht in Monaco. "This is not just another way of pilfering more money from people who can afford it, but a genuinely forward-thinking initiative aimed at curbing the selfish conspicuous consumption of our generation," he adds, before setting sail for Canada to do a bit of Lumberjacking.

Recycling: The possibilities are endless.

Saturday, 10 March 2007


Hello and welcome to Super Dope Fly. Not much to say at the moment but all will become clear soon, so keep watching.