Friday, January 29, 2010

The Unkindest Cut

I have accidentally shaved off my sideburns.

To be strictly accurate, I only accidentally shaved off one sideburn - to accidentally do both would have been either particularly careless or astonishingly ambidextrous - but when you are looking in horror at your unfamiliar, unsymmetrical reflection in the mirror, turning your face slowly from side to side, mumbling "sideburn... no sideburn... sideburn... no sideburn", the second sideburn's fate is pretty much sealed, and no amount of thinking that you can glue the first sideburn back on with Pritt stick is going to help it. The second sideburn has the life expectancy of a mayfly that has recently taken up smoking, and has also just wandered into a pub full of Millwall supporters wearing a T-shirt that states "I dislike Millwall supporters". It had to go.

The initial mistake was a simple mix-up with the clippers. My sideburns, which I have had since 1991, had been getting a bit bushy since my last haircut was before Christmas, so I decided to do what I usually do and use the clippers to trim them a bit closer so I could postpone getting a haircut and thus save myself £6. I made one big swoop with the clippers right up my right cheek, and as I looked at the unusually large amount of hair that the clippers now seemed to be covered in, my first thought was "That is an unusually large amount of hair - my sideburns must have been a bit longer than I realised", followed quickly by a second thought of "OH MY GOD WHERE IS THE BLACK PLASTIC COMBY PRONGY THING THAT IS USUALLY ATTACHED TO THE CLIPPERS TO REGULATE THE HAIR CUTTING LENGTH IT MUST HAVE FALLEN OFF IN THE WARDROBE!!!"

So I now have one of those haircuts that boys had in the 1940s where the hair is longish on top, and shaved down to skin at the sides.

What is worse is that nobody, not even my girlfriend (whose regular and expensive haircuts I take great care to remember about and comment on), has noticed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Da Vinci Highway Code

Dan Brown gets the book sales charts completely sewn up...

(Also available on b3ta.)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

An Ice Surprise

Bus shelter glaziers have two options: glass, which vandals smash. Or perspex, which vandals scratch graffiti on to. It must be quite a depressing job being a bus shelter glazier, continually seeing your Sisyphean efforts spoiled, forever repairing these memento mori, a task which will only end with the sweet release of death, or the invention of personal jet-packs (whichever comes first).

But as I walked past my local bus stop the past couple of mornings I noticed that the cold weather has turned the loutish scrawlings into a winter wonderland. The depth of the graffiti groove combined with the orientation of the perspex panels means that the "tags" (as I believe they are called on "the street") are the ideal place for large, intricate ice crystals to form, making the whole bus shelter look like it has been decorated with real fake spray snow.

The close-up pictures aren't great (the woman waiting for the bus was looking at me a bit strangely), but what would ordinarily just make me tut and consider switching to the Daily Mail instead put me in a much more postivive mood. Is there a name for the phenomenon where something ordinarily ugly is temporarily beatified beautified? And can anyone think of any more examples?

Monday, January 04, 2010

An Apple a Day

I’ve been reading a lot of books to my Lovely Son. A recent favourite is Das Bäumchen, which came from a friend who remembers it from her childhood in East Germany.

It’s told entirely in pictures and is about a man and a little girl (presumably father and daughter) who plant a tree. The girl swings on one of the branches, breaking it, but they look after the tree and it eventually grows apples for everyone.

It’s a charming tale, but given its origins I can’t help looking for communist messages within its pages. With widespread censorship and propaganda in the DDR, a children’s book would be the ideal place to promote socialist ideals.

For instance, is it significant that it is the right-hand branch which breaks, whilst the left remains strong and bears fruit? Does this represent a break with the Nazi past? Or a proof of the innate superiority of the left?

The taping up of the broken bit of tree and then just carrying on – is this a refusal to acknowledge the obvious shortages in the five-year plans, where everyone just lied about how productive they were being?

And who are the other children who also eat the apples at the end? They don’t look related to the little girl – is this simply a sweet moral about sharing, or is it promoting the collectivisation of agriculture?

The children also queue very obediently for their hand-outs, which must be good preparation for a life of empty shops.

And what about the fact that there are exactly enough apples to go around at the end – a message that the state will always provide?

Whatever the subtext, it must have been difficult creating art or literature under a totalitarian regime. I will try to remember this the next time I disagree with the myriad BBC execs’ notes – at least I’m not getting direction from the Stasi on top of this (though I think they had a hand in [insert name of unpopular TV show here]). But I am going to have another look at that clause that says the BBC can shoot me for trying to escape to The Other Side (ITV). That looks a bit worrying.