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December 31 2006

Happy New Year.

December 23 2006

Happy Christmas.

December 12 2006

So my "I'm only going away for about a month" turned out to be wrong. I'm back though. I had a lot of fun. And a bit of not-fun. Now I have a lot of work to do as I begin to pick my way through the events and try to work out the best way of explaining what I've been up to and where I've been. Well, where-I've-been is easy... I've been in the States, but I mean more than that.

I'm sure some unrelated stuff has happened while I've been away. Oh yeah... the BBC released the first series of Genius on CD. That's nice.

October 17 2006

I've done all the things you're supposed to do before going away for a while. You know: sell your car, move an Australian couple into your home... that kind of thing.

Actually, I'm only going to be away from home for about a month. Maybe less. Maybe more. Obviously this doesn't warrant the selling of a car but the fact that my car has been driven so rarely in the last year - make that two - does. It's a pointless extravagance and I'd rather cycle around London and manage when I need to get out of London. In a few days time I will buy another car which will be mine for the duration of this new project but after that I will return to my non-car owning status. It feels good not owning a car. It probably feels good just owning less.

Australian house-sitters are a great idea. Bonzer, even. When Australians are in the UK they are so grateful that they don't have to check their shoes for poisonous spiders every morning that they're more than happy to lavish care and attention on the home in which they're living. Hurrah for that.

My passport was meant to be returned to me yesterday. Before 10am. It wasn't. I called the courier company whose phone line offered me three numerical options. None of which were 'press X if we have failed to deliver your passport.' This is a brilliant tactic on their part... offering a customer service line that refuses to acknowledge your company ever fails and so denying customers the right to complain. I tried all 3 options. The first two went through to recorded messages. The third option went through to a recorded message that told me that this line could not be used for any other purpose before connecting me to a real person.

"Hi... I was expecting my passport to be delivered this morning. I paid extra to have it before 10am..." I said.
"Can I have your invoice number?" said she.
I gave her the number.
"Mmm... that should have been delivered today," she said.
"I know... that's why I'm calling you."
"What happened is they made the delivery order but the van had already left."
"Right... only, I'm paying for the service can you..."
"You'll get it tomorrow."
"Before 10?" I asked. If you don't pay extra to receive it before 10 am they can only promise you some time between 9am and 5pm, a situation fraught with its own difficulties. Not the least of which being that if they screw it up you don't know about it until it's far too late to do anything.
"uhhh.... uhhmmm... yeah," she said with so little conviction that I was left far from convinced.

So I went about my day. Doing some laundry, buying that bag I needed and so on. At 6.47 my mobile phone beeped to tell me a text message had arrived. It was from the couriers.
A secure delivery is set up on 17/10/2006 between 9am-5pm

They somehow managed to send this text without there being a number I could reply to. I called the office I'd called earlier to hear a message telling me that the office was now closed. I wasn't very confident that things would go to plan this morning. In actual fact my passport arrived at 6.40 am. Remarkable. I will be on a flight tomorrow.

Oh... to clarify things: the reason I'm not telling you what I'm up to isn't because I want to keep you in the dark or build up any intrigue. I'm not on some top secret mission... it's purely because I don't want to be bombarded by opinions before the thing has actually unfolded. Peoples' opinions on what I've done are interesting to me while opinions on what I should do next are not. I just don't think interesting work is produced by committee. This point is best made by looking up the artists Komar and Melamid and their People's Choice/Most Wanted series of paintings. Regardless of making that point you should look them up. Fascinating and funny people.

I'll be back soon and one day I'll tell you all about it... but in the meantime, you can expect some website silence.

October 15 2006

I'm about to start work on a new project. For reasons previously discussed on this page I don't find it helpful to explain what it will be because I want it to remain personal and not be affected by the opinions of many. Unlike the Googlewhack Adventure at least it is something I am undertaking deliberately and so it won't have the capacity to undo me emotionally in the way that experience did.

I'm packing my bags and tidying up my house and doing the things you do when you're about to go away for a while. In a right and proper world I'd be on a flight tomorrow but a lawyer didn't quite do his/her job in a timely fashion and so I wasn't able to get my visa in time and so instead I'm going to be on a flight on Wednesday. It's only a small delay and in a way it gives me a bit more time to get those final things done but even so I find it enormously frustrating. You get into a state of readiness before a new project begins and now that my head is there I don't want to be sitting at home fretting about it I want to be out there doing it. Heigh ho.

Before I can cook I need a tidy kitchen and the same is true of packing. I need to sort out the mess my home has become before I can sensibly pack those things I'll be taking. I've also arranged for a couple of house-sitters to look after the place and so politeness makes me want to leave the place in good order.

There are lots of bits of paper on my desk. A lot of it can be filed in the (recycling) bin but some of it has to be filed away properly and so I'm giving everything a cursory glance at least. One piece of paper has intrigued me. It has been torn from a ringbound notebook and then folded over twice. It's small and scrappy and I was pretty sure that it was going to be bin-bound but I opened it just in case it had the phone number of a girl who would one day be my wife on it. (I don't remember meeting anyone who fits that description recently but maybe this piece of paper would jog my memory. You never know.)

It didn't. It does however contain some odd and intriguing text. I don't recognise the handwriting. It has bullet points. It reads as follows:
* Get cape wear cape fly
* Jamie T
* Klaxons
* Bromheads Jacket

What could it possibly mean and how has it come to be on my desk? There haven't been a load of people in my office (that's what I grandly call the bit of my house where the computer lives) recently and I have no recollection of anyone passing me any notes. The first line is the beginning of a fantastic (in every sense of the word) to-do list but the rest of it fails to live up to this early promise. What am I supposed to think? Surely this was meant to mean something to me at some point? To the bin it goes.

If you bother to read this page regularly you might well have noticed I've been getting tardier when it comes to recommending a book each month. When I add it, I cheat and slide it in at the start of the month but it's been happening later and later each month and feeling like a bit of a hassle to get it done during what has been an exceptionally busy time. Not only do I not have time to build the links properly but I don't have time to do the reading I normally do and so it's all been a bit of an effort. So - especially as I'm going to be going away and want to be able to retreat into my own thoughts for a while I'm going to let it slide. Maybe I'll read the odd book that will prompt an impromptu recommendation from time to time but to force myself to do it on a timetable seems foolhardy these days. I've enjoyed Snake Oil by John Diamond this last week and I'm devouring an entertaining biography of the poker player Stu Ungar right now but there really isn't time to find the graphics and do what I normally do. Reading is good. You should read. That was the point of starting the monthly recommendation. I think the point's been made.

I went to the production company who are making the Are You Dave Gorman DVD recently and watched the graphics and things that hold it all together. It was exciting. I think it looks lovely. There's been a slight delay in manufacturing it because they need to get it certificated by the BBFC and apparently that's taking longer than it normally does. Seeing as the series has been waiting for 5 years or so already I don't think another 2 or 3 weeks will hurt any.

A DVD extra that seems almost standard is a commentary but I can't see the point on a narrative show like mine. The same was true with the Googlewhack DVD. I do however love the songs that are there instead. Helen Love did a great song for the Googlewhack Adventure and trust me, Misty's Big Adventure have done an amazing job with this one. It makes me ridiculously happy to live in a world in which bands I love will do this sort of thing. Misty's Big Adventure have a new single out. The video is on Youtube. I highly recommend it. Noddy Holder's in it. It's here.

October 5 2006

I had an e-mail today from The Daily Show telling me that the last Poll Smoking segment I recorded was broadcast in tonight's show. Which means that it will be part of tomorrow (Friday) night's show here in the UK.

September 30 2006

I'm back in London having had a great time in NYC. I really am a fan of the show so it's an incredible pleasure to be a part of it in anyway. It's a great show to witness the making of and I'm sure I come away learning a great deal. Professional courtesy prevents me from providing you with a story about the differences between UK and US satire. Hmmm.

On Thursday I pre-taped another Poll Smoking segment that will be used in a future show. If I find out when, I'll let you know.

September 27 2006

I'm having a ridiculously enjoyable time in New York - but without a great deal of free time which is why I've not really updated this page in a while. There have been an incredible run of guests on the show while I've been here. Bill Clinton was on during the first week and I thought I was witnessing some pretty highly intense security at the time but yesterday General Musharraf, the President of Pakistan was the guest and I've never seen anything like it. Snipers on roofs, big men in flak jackets wandering corridors and much, much more. It was the first time the show has had a sitting world-leader as a guest and it was pretty stunning. It was definitely a thing to see.

I recorded a piece for the show just as soon as the bullet-proof shield had been removed from in front of the desk and I think they'll be playing it in tonight and so it'll be in the Thursday show in the UK. (If I'm wrong, it'll probably be in the show tomorrow and Friday) It's the happiest I've been with my performance on the show so far (although I haven't watched it back yet so it's impossible to really know.)

September 22 2006

I'm having a fabulous time in NYC but then I always do. There hasn't been any down time so I haven't even had a chance to stop and consider what I'm doing which is good because I also haven't had a chance to stop and consider how tired/jet-lagged I am.

Life is creating the illusion for me that I'm some well-connected New York socialite but it is just a ridiculous series of coincidences. I keep finding myself socialising with London-based English friends who I normally fail to see in London. In fact it started in international airspace when I bumped into an old pal on the plane which helped the hours to pass.

In my car from the airport to the hotel I then received a text message from an English friend who was having some party that was quite coincidentally in the venue immediately next door to my hotel. Then yesterday an English photographer I've known for years and years got in touch to tell me he was in a hotel 5 or 6 blocks from mine.

There's no way of describing it without appearing all swanky and jetset but honestly it's all much more unlikely and odd than that. Of course I haven't come here to meet English friends, I'm here to do some more work on The Daily Show.

My first on screen contribution for this trip came last night with a new debate style segment with me and fellow Englishman, John Oliver. It seemed to go over well in the studio. It was broadcast last night (Thursday) on Comedy Central here in the States and so will go out later today (Friday) in the UK on More 4. Things are set up well to tape another couple of pieces next week.

September 17 2006

I'm flying to New York today. I'll be there for the best part of a couple of weeks.

September 14 2006

If you're in showbiz - and I hear an unconfirmed rumour that I am - you're supposed to have lunch at The Ivy I don't feel very showbiz. I've had lunch at The Ivy on two or three occasions - each time because I was being a judge in the Guardian Student Media Awards and they hold their judging dinner there. It's very jolly. I was a judge again this year and so had my third (or maybe fourth, I can't remember) Ivy meal on the Guardian's tab.

The last time I was a judge it was for the best wesbsite category which was a right old pain. By the time I came to look at the sites half of them were out of commission and how many pages do you need to read before you feel like you've given them a fair crack of the whip. Myself and the other judge spent the whole time hunched over a laptop while everyone else was having hapy discourse over their fine food. You have to give every entry proper consideration because the awards are quite important and there are some serious prizes on offer.

This time I was judging the Travel Writing category. I was a judge in this category once before and it was incredibly easy because there was one stand-out piece. There were three judges and before the first course had come we'd all realised that we'd all read and hugely enjoyed that one article so much more than the others that there was no need for any debate. We sat around feeling smug and enjoying a very convivial meal while people in more hotly contested categories broke into a sweat and began to negotiate with one another.

Maybe it's something to do with the travel category because pretty much the same thing happend today. Before we'd even sat down, Victoria Mather (who amongst other things is the Travel Editor for Vanity Fair) mentioned how much she'd enjoyed a particular piece and the Guardian's Travel Editor, Andy Pietrasik confirmed that he thought it was the best one too. I (nobody's Travel Editor) reached into the envelope containing all the articles and pulled out the one they were talking about to reveal that I'd been so delighted by it at the time that I'd scrawled At last! across the top of it and a big number one to boot. No debate necessary. Nice lunch.

Unfortunately I couldn't dwell there any longer than strictly necessary as I've had a busy day. On Sunday I am flying to New York for 10 to 12 days and there are things to write and organise before I fly.

I also had some organising to do here at the site. The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed a few links popping up advertising the imminent release of Are You Dave Gorman? on DVD. I have to keep reminding myself that the series was actually called The Dave Gorman Collection but if I ever refer to it as that, somebody inevitably says, "Oh... I've not heard of that one... what's that then?" Weird that people seem to remember the show in such alarming detail but misremember the title. Anyway the series is released on October 30 but can be preordered now, just be clicking the banner at the top of this page or visiting the shop.

As with the Googlewhack Adventure DVD I found myself thinking a bit about what kind of extras to include. There isn't any extra footage lying around. A commentary hardly makes any sense because the show is a story... if I tried to add a commentary I'd just be repeating the story a second after the younger version of me had explained it in a funnier way and that wouldn't add much in the way of value. I still thought about it though ... just because the notion of one extremely long non-joke that not one person would see through to the end amused me ever so slightly. Not enough though.

I am however very excited because I've somehow managed to persuade another one of my favourite bands to contribute a special song. I love Misty's Big Adventure anyway, but I love them even more now. I've heard the song and I think it's fab. I've made a video for it because it deserves one. It probably deserves one better than the one I made but y'know, I did my best.

September 13 2006

So I mentioned cryptic crosswords yesterday and I'm going to mention them again today. I promise it won't become a habit. It's just that in today's Guardian there's a clue that sums up why I like them. Actually, there are a couple. It's set by Orlando who I like generally but who was on sparkling form today.

18 Down is worthy of mention because Cast, cast or cast (6) is just ridiculously elegant and concise. The answer is Actors. It's probably a classic that occurs from time to time, but maybe I'm doing Orlando a disservice. I don't know enough to say for sure but in any case, it's smart.

But it was 11 Across that I thought was so special today.
Top man, by not retiring, starts to lack authority, increasing resentments. (4,5)
So... Top man is the whole thing, if this was a regular crossword, that's all you'd get.
By not retiring means that the letters in 'by not' are retiring... or reversed, so B,Y,N,O and T, becomes T-O-N-Y-B.
Starts to tells you to take the starts - or first letters - from the next words. So Lack Authority Increasing Resentment gives L-A-I-R.
Run the letters together and you get Tony Blair who is, for now at least, the country's top man.

Every word is there for a reason. It builds up to make a fair cryptic crossword answer but also makes sense as a whole in a way that it doesn't have to because yes, by not retiring, Tony Blair is losing his authority and resentments are increasing. That's the thing with cryptic crosswords... it's a little bit of poetry hiding in the corner of your newspaper.

September 12 2006

Genius seems to have got off to a good start with some good press and some nice feedback. Apparently the show was on Pick of the Week although I didn't hear it. If you missed the first show with Johnny Vegas as guest, you have until the next one goes out on Thursday to catch it on the Listen Again page over at BBC Towers.

In my last post I mentioned a Guardian photoshoot. It was for a feature on comedy in which several comics recreated famous images. Along with Lee Mack, Laura Solon, Tim Vine and Jason Byrne, I was part of a recreation of the Trainspotting poster. You can see it - and all the others images, here. It's only really ruined by my beard. And the faint hint of a belly in that tight tee. Not very heroine chic of me. They obviously didn't like my answers to the questionaire very much... but then I don't really have an ability to be concise on things like that. Or anything pretty much. That's why I generally don't do those Talking Heads shows... I don't do pithy. I convolute.

It was back in February that I realised I had become a man with hobbies. Cycling, photography, poker and rock-balancing being they. The problem with my work is that it can be all-consuming time-wise and for periods I am robbed of the free time I'd like to have to indulge in such things. I'm aware that I'm about to have all of my time eaten up - the process is already happening - which might be why I've been trying to get some of these things done in odd spare moments of late. No rock-balancing I'm afraid... I just haven't seen any rocks to balance. But I have played poker. It was a home game at a friends. 8 of us. £5 each and winner takes all. I came second in the first game, winning nothing but salvaging some pride after a poor start. I won the second, pocketing £40 and then was dreadful (and drunk) for the third and went out early. That's £25 profit. Minus a bottle of wine.

I had dinner with some lovely friends in Chelsea the other night. I ought to mention that one of them was Geoff because as you know, he likes it when I mention him here. I cheerfully cycled over to Chelsea for the dinner. A while ago that would have been an intimidating journey, from the East of London to the West but these days I find myself wanting to do it far more than I want to sit on the tube. Knowing that I would be cycling home late and that I would be in the unfamiliar environs of west London, I put my camera in my bag thinking that if I was wide awake I would steal the opportunity for a bit of night-time photography on the return journey. I like night time photpgraphy most of all, I think because the photographer wields more influence over the final image - choosing the exposure time and so on. Golly I'm interesting.

On my way home I was scooting down Chelsea Embankment and into Grosvenor Road and I thought the disused Battersea Power Station was looking pretty spectacular against a clear night sky and so I decided to stop and have a crack at getting a decent shot or two. Bike parked up, tripod out, camera on... away I go. (Here's one of the photos I took.) I'd been there a little while when a police car pulled up on the street behind me. Two officers got out. One male, one female.

They told me that they were stopping me under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and asked what I was doing.
"Taking photos," said I.
"What of?" asked she
"Battersea Power Station," I said. "Would you like to see some?"
"Yes, if you don't mind," she said.
I showed her a picture.
"Can I see some more?"
I showed her 6 or 7.
"They're very good," she said. "Have you go any ID?"
"Yeah," I said, handing her my driver's licence... "what do you need that for?" "If we stop anyone under the Prevention of Terrorism Act we have to fill in some paperwork. Do you have any possessions?"
I pointed at my bike with a bag on the panier.
"Just that," I said.
"Okay... well, even looking through your camera constitues a search so we have to fill in the form."
She started filling in Form 5090: Stops and Searches.
"It's a beautiful building," said her colleague. "The thing is, we're in Central London and we have to be really careful these days. I like your shots though... very nice. What do you do with them?"
"Nothing really," I said. "I'll probably put a couple of them on a website."
"Right. What website is that then?"
"Flickr"
"Oh flickr!" said the WPC, stopping her form-filling for a moment. "I've got photos on there. Photos of my wedding from 7 weeks ago."
"Really?" I asked. "It's good isn't it? Oh... and congratulations on 7 weeks ago."
"Thanks," she said with a smile. "So... have you ever been arrested?"
"Err.... no"
She picked up her walkie talkie and contacted someone else, asking them to run a check on my name. There was no awkward break in the conversation though as her colleague picked up the slack.
"So, is digital the same as a film camera at night?" he asked.
"How do you mean?"
"Y'know, exposure time and all that... with the poor light," he explained.
"Yeah, I guess so," I said. "That's why I like night time photography. But I've never been any good with film."
The walkie-talkie crackled into life to tell them there was no match with my details.
"Do you mind if I write down that website?" asked PC Chap.
"It's flickr.com" said PC Lady.
"There are thousands of people posting photos there." I explained.
"How do I find yours?" he asked.
"flickr.com, slash photos, slash dgbalancesrocks," I said. "Don't ask."
"Here's your copy of the form," she said, handing it to me. "Nice chatting to you. You can carry on if you like." "Thanks," I said. "Have a good evening."
"Thanks," said he.
"Thanks," said she.
And they drove off into the night. It was all surprisingly jolly. A novel good cop/good cop routine.

I've got the form here.
Stop Code: B = To check personal details/documents. Search Code: J = Terrorism 44(2) Outcome Code: 1 = No further action. Search started 12.55am. Search ended 12.57. Grounds for Search or Reason for Stop: Male seen taking photos of powerstation. Vicinity of bridges, within government security zone. Stopped under terrorism act.

They were both lovely and chatty. It was a surprisingly friendly and untroubled exchange. I'd go so far as to say that I enjoyed meeting them.

A little while ago I was chatting with a stranger - a normal one, not a police officer who had stopped me under the Prevention of Terrorism Act - and they said, "Your comedy is very studenty isn't it?" I find that odd. In this instance they meant it as a sort of compliment although the word can be used to mean both good and bad... and for that matter indifferent things.

People often assume that if they get something it means that other people don't. In Manchester one day after a gig I spoke to a father and daughter who had both come along without the other knowing. It turns out that when my first TV show was on she'd watched it upstairs in her bedroom thinking 'Dad wouldn't get this... he's too square' (because that's how young people speak) and her Dad had been watching it in the living room thinking, 'She wouldn't get this... she's too young to follow it' (or something like that.) It was only when they set eyes on each other in the theatre bar that they realised they both got it. It's true that when I last toured a large part of the audience were students but a large part were grey-haired also.

On stage I don't do any of the things that I would label as studenty comedy - I don't celebrate drink or drugs, I don't discuss sex and I'm not remotely ladsy. (Am I? I swear a bit in the Googlewhack Adventure show but only because the real life story pushed me into a place where normal language fails me.) There's no sexual content and no sexism at work - not even of the postmodern, ironic variety. Essentially I just tell a story - albeit it one augmented with evidence provided via a powerpoint presentation - but still, what could be more old-fashioned as a form of entertainment than a story-telling show?

The more I analyse what I do, the more old-fashioned it seems to me. I like that. I think Genius is quite an old-fashioned format. It's really just an excuse for a silly conversation.

Having hobbies seems old-fashioned too. I cycle around London at night with a tripod and a camera in my bag in case I happen upon something I want to photograph. It's hardly the life of the young and fashionable is it? No. Good. At the front of my last book in the 'about the author' blurb at the front the last sentence says, 'His ambition is to one day become a team captain on Call My Bluff.' I've met a couple of people who thought I was joking. I wasn't. I love Call My Bluff. I think it's a far superior show to the testosterone fuelled nonsense of, say, Never Mind The Buzzcocks and it's ilk. Nothing against that show in particular, just that it doesn't seem to be about enjoying each other's company.

With this in mind, you can imagine how happy I was to be asked this week to write a foreword to an Observer book of Cryptic Crosswords. Heavenly. I am the old fuddy duddy I've always wanted to be.

I bought this because I loved Daren King's Jim Giraffe. I didn't realise that it was a prequel to his critically acclaimed debut Boxy An Star. Not that it mattered. This is mannered and otherworldly and some people will doubtless hate it. I loved it. It's narrated in the voice of an inarticulate child so words are invented and or mistaken and repeated and repeated. I think you need to read this book in long stretches because after a while the repetitive rhythms become hypnotic and you just become absorbed in a world that isn't completely real yet is real enough to make you care. It's amoral and dark and yet moving and funny too. I like Daren King a lot.

Me goin out it is dark goin out in dark. Goin to find my Uncle Dustman. Goin down the road an down nother one an a other one, Findin a police station it is shut.

Tom Boler 

cover

Back to the top of the news page. See all the books I've recommended so far here.

August 30 2006

I've had an odd few days after the brief illusion of time-off finally evaporated. I've attended the wedding of a stranger, watched some people go through a ballet lesson and learn to rap. I've had my jacket stolen by a Shoreditch twink, written a chapter of something that might or might not one day be and been soaked to the skin in a pair of tight jeans and a t-shirt for a Guardian photoshoot which will inevitably make me wish I was thinner.

I also recorded several trails for the new series of Genius which is very encouraging as it seems Radio 4 is really going to get behind it. I had a message today telling me that there was a preview of the series in the new edition of the Radio Times. Ah... I may have missed out on the Edinburgh Fringe but I still got to walk to a newsagents, worrying about what a journalist had made of my show so I guess I sampled a tiny fraction of the paranoia that seeps into performer's veins during the festival. I'm glad to say it's very nice.

It's been a long time since I laughed until I hurt listening to a radio comedy but the return of Dave Gorman's brilliant series is painfully funny.
For those who missed it first time round the premise is simple: Gorman invites Radio 4 listeners to submit ideas that he and his special guest will deem to be genius or not.
This week he is joined by Johnny Vegas whose surreal tangential humour is fed by the listeners' ideas to such a level of inspiration that they might as well have plunged him into a vat of his greatest love, Guinness.
The first suggestion, for example, is that to avoid the embarrassment and pleasure of metal detecting, one should strap the detector to the belly of a dog and then wire headphones through the its lead. This sends Vegas off into a world where pets can be used to disguise other moments of human awkwardness and he imagines getting polar bears to place our ageing mothers into old people's homes in the future. Fast, fresh and formidably funny - don't miss this, it's genius.

Team Genius have got to be happy with that. I know I am. What's more it's illustrated with a picture of me from 5 or 6 years ago. When I was thinner. It starts a week tomorrow. 6.30pm. Radio 4.

By the way... poor Anna Ford. That it should come to this.

August 22 2006

It's always odd not being in Edinburgh during the festival. At the same time I'm kind of glad to be outside the madness of it this year. I started going to the festival as a teenager, once appearing in a terrible children's musical (written by a man who later tried to take photographs of some of teenage girls in the cast. Ugh) but mainly going to see a load of shows and absorb as much culture as I could. I attended in one capacity or another for nearly 20 consecutive years. I couldn't go last year because of the American tour and this year... well I'm not sure why I didn't go early on but now I am too busy with lots of time being spent staring at a screen.

I did see a few preview shows down in London before the festival and I can highly recommend (in no particular order) Adam Hills, Robin Ince (both solo and in his guise as Book Club head honcho), Charlie Pickering, Simon Brodkin, Talk Radio and The Runaway Lovers. I've heard nothing but good about Klang, Richard Herring, DJ Danny and Phil Nicol and I would dearly love to see Toby Hadoke's show Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf - even though I don't have a sci-fi lovin' bone in my body (deal with it geeks.)

As well as missing Edinburgh this year I've completely missed out on the last series of Big Brother. I have gathered by osmosis the names of two contestants; Pete and Nikki, but no one else has been on my radar at all. I caught two bits of it, both of which appeared to be the Nikki girl being evicted though how she ended up back in, in order to be evicted a second time I honestly don't know. What I do know is that on both occasions, on watching her face contorted with rage and fear and witnessing her complete inability to function I felt like I was watching some form of abuse and had to turn over. It honestly troubled me.

Maybe if I'd seen more of the shows up to that point I would have had some context to explain what looked like a bunch of yobs booing someone with the mind (and frame) of a seven year old girl. Odd. I normally enjoy appearing on BBLB (I pronounce it bubbalub, how about you?) but I had to pass on it this year as I just haven't been able to understand the main show and would have had no opinions to offer. Was it that bad or did I miss something?

I went into Currys today. This is always a mistake. After forty minutes of walking round the store I managed to find someone in a uniform. I said, "Hi, can you help me, I'm thinking about buying a vacuum cleaner and a microwave."
It's a bold, no-nonsense start to a dialogue I'm sure you'll agree.
"Certainly Sir," said he, "let's start with the vacuum cleaners, is there a model you're interested in?"
I liked the cut of this young man's gib.
"Yes," I said, leading him to the model I was interested in.
It was all going quite well wasn't it?
"Okay... sorry," he said as if suddenly realising that he worked in Currys and so hadn't yet displayed the requisite lack of knowledge and/or manners, "I need to disappear for five minutes, I'll be back ASAP."
He disappeared. Fifteen minutes later he hadn't returned and so I left. I'd rather have dirty carpets and within five minutes of leaving I'd decided that I actually like not having a microwave. Don't buy things just because they're shiny. That's my advice. As I left the shop, an hour wasted and no cash spent, he was chatting with his mates at the till. What (and I believe this is the phrase that a comedian is supposed to employ in this situation) is that all about?

Two bits of newsy news by the way. Number one, I believe that the new series of Genius now has its place in the Radio 4 schedules. It will be going out at 6.30 on Thursdays and starts on September 7th. Secondly - and this is an odd one - it seems that later this year there is a goodly chance of The Dave Gorman Collection (or as most people, myself included misremember it, Are You Dave Gorman? being released on DVD. If I knew more, I'd tell you. When I do know more, I will. That's how that works.

August 15 2006

One of the things that I find odd about my work is that when I do a show in which I demonstrate my lack of expertise in a field, people then start to treat me like an expert. I still regularly receive e-mails from strangers that ask me if I can help them track down a long-lost friend or similar because Are You Dave Gorman? has convinced them that I'm some kind of brilliant person-hunter. I would have thought that anyone who'd watched the show or read the book would understand that I was no expert.

Similarly, when my Important Astrology Experiment was on air I started getting asked questions about star-signs that were entirely irrelevant. I distnctly remember one journalist asking me to tell her what Librans were supposed to be like and when I told her I didn't have the first idea she basically said, "Well why on earth do you think you can present a series about astrolgy then?" It wasn't really worth explaining that I wasn't presenting-a-series-about-astrology but instead telling-a-story-about-something-I'd-experienced. Se'd been sent a tape of the show.

Since my Googlewhack Adventure has taken over as thing-I-get-asked-about-most-often I seem to have been filed away on some kind of TV research database as man-who-knows-about-the-internet. I don't especially and again, anyone who'd seen the show or read the book would understand that there's nothing about it that makes a claim to any expertise.

But that doesn't stop the phone from ringing every time there's an internet-related news story someone wants to discuss on TV. If Google's shares suddenly shoot up (or down) in price the phone rings and someone is inviting me to appear on a news programme to discuss it. I always refuse these invites because I don't really have an opinion and even if I did I don't really see how it would be a) more informed than anyone else's or b) relevant to the story.

For this reason I was a little sceptical when my agent rang to ask me if I was interested in taking part in a discussion about blogging and almost said an automatic 'no' in reply. I'm not an expert in the field, (I don't really think that this is a blog - this is my sometimes-bloggy-news-page which is different and not as bloggy as a blog) and I know nothing about the technology either.

But then two magic words were used. Richard and Judy. They are such genuinely lovely company that there is little I won't do for R&J. More to the point, a sensible question was asked. Instead of assuming I'm some kind of expert, the simple query, 'Do you read any blogs?' was made to which the reply is 'Yes.' This was followed up by the simple follow up question, 'Would you like to talk about them?' Another 'Yes' was forthcoming. I do read a couple of blogs and I am able to string a sentence together so why not talk to Richard and Judy about it?

In the end the discussion was fun and lively and involved Emily Bell (editor of Guardian Unlimited) and Catherine who is better known to blog-aficionados as Petite Anglaise. Catherine's blog is largely about her life as an ex-pat living in France and recently she's made the news because her employers discovered her blog (in which they weren't identified) and promptly sacked her.

So, for what it's worth, the blogs I regularly read are Emma Kennedy, Richard Herring and Paul Daniels all of which make me laugh - some more deliberately than others. They referred to the blogs of Kennedy.E and Daniels.P on the show and I seemed to induce some panic behind the cameras when I referred to this particular entry on Paul's old blog (from before he moved it over to his shiny new website) although why anyone should be panicking when it's in the public domain is beyond me.

I probably emerged looking a bit obsessed with Paul Daniels because another blog that I mentioned - and which is something of a favourite - is Paul Daniels' Ebay Transactions in which someone blogs every minute details of every transaction the magician makes on ebay. (He buys and sells and has a penchant for horror films that as far as I can see he makes no mention of on his blog.)

August 12 2006

"I see your blogging has died a death," said my old friend Geoff over lunch a couple of days ago.
"What do you mean?" asked I.
"Well, you haven't put anything on your news page for nearly a month," said Geoff.
"That's because there's been no news," said I. "I haven't done anything. For the first time in years I've had a bit of time off."
"Yes... but I looked at the site this morning," said Geoff, pushing his food around the plate, looking sheepish. "I was hoping it would say, 'I'm really excited because I'm having lunch with my lovely friend Geoff later' ... but it didn't.
"No," I said. "It didn't."

I have a job which means there are lots of strangers out there who know stuff about me. One of the things that happens when strangers know stuff about you is that they sometimes assume that the stuff they know is all there is. So I get a lot of e-mails from people that start with "I saw your first stage show, 'Are You Dave Gorman' and..." or things like, "I was in the audience the first time you came to Brighton..." and so on. Even though I know they generally mean well it always seems strangely dismissive and arrogant of them... I mean... how could I possibly have existed before they'd heard of me? Maybe I do the same thing when I talk about musicians or actors or whatever and I'm only aware of how odd it is when it's about me. I hope I don't.

Now I don't expect people to follow my every move... in fact I'd be really scared if anyone did... but one symptom of this is that someone who lives in, say, Reading, sees the Googlewhack Adventure tour in 2003 and then doesn't see me touring again and assumes that because-they-don't-know-about-it-I-must-be-doing-nothing. So while I was touring Australia, America and Canada I used to get the occasional e-mail from people accusing me of being lazy and unproductive and asking when I was planning on bothering to do another show.

Now... I don't really do stand-up; I don't write jokes. I tell true stories for a living. In order to have a story to tell, I need to live life and do stuff. I figure that if something happens that I think is worth telling I'll do something about it and if it isn't worth telling I won't. That seems wholly better than deciding to do a show because it's-about-time-I-did-another-show.

The Googlewhack Adventure basically ended up taking up my whole life for the best part of three years and when it finally came to an end at the end of 2005 I was in no position to just start again on a new project. For a start, the only thing I could have talked about was touring the Googlewhack Adventure and I think a show about touring a show would have been the definition of disappearing up my own fundament. Besides, Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure Adventures would only have prolonged the madness of life on the road and I was really very keen on reacquainting myself with my home. My bed. My friends. I get excited when I know I'm going to be able to have lunch with my friend Geoff. You can't do that when you're on a four month tour of America. I'm not complaining about my lot in life - far from it - but if you were unable to see your friends or family (or bed, or front door, or whatever) for 8 or 9 months a year for 3 years running you'd probably want to spend quite a lot of time doing just that when it became possible.

So when I came home from that final tour I was pretty determined that I would take a few months off and do nothing except enjoy life for a while. Partly because I thought I deserved it and partly because I figured that without taking time off and living some life there would never be a story I wanted to tell people and there wouldn't be a new project anyway.

To begin with I wasn't very good at doing nothing. A quick flick through the entries I made in the first three months of this year shows that I was readily accepting loads of invitations to guest on shows. Some of them I did because they were old favourites that I've always enjoyed and others I did because, 'well, if I'm going to do that old favourite show and that means I'm not really taking time off I might as well do that thing on Thursday as well' but in truth I probably did a lot of them because having been away from the UK for what felt like ages I was worried that the phone would have stopped ringing and I was stupid and shallow enough to be delighted that it was. Silly me.

Then I was offered the part in Annually Retentive, then the opportunity to make a second series of Genius came up and then I was invited to go to New York to write and record some bits for The Daily Show and as far I'm concerned all of these definitely fall into the too-good-to-miss-can't-say-no category. So I didn't say 'no.' I said 'yes.' And I'm very glad that I did because all three were a joy to do.

And so recently... months after the Googlewhack Adventure came to an end, I've finally been taking that time off that I was craving. And I've been loving it. And it means there's been nothing to report. And it means that my head has started to think again. Which means that I've had an idea - or rather that a memory and a thought and an emotion have crystallised into an idea - and the seed of my next project has been planted. Which just goes to show... if you want me to do something new, don't hassle me about it... give me time off, let me get rid of the old stuff that's crowding out my head, let stuff happen to me and then I'll come back and tell you about it later.

Now I'm worried about posting this because I don't want to suddenly get a load of e-mails from people asking me what it's going to be about or speculating on what it might be. I don't understand how that is remotely helpful. The point of the kind of work I do is for me to try to explain the how and the why and the what of a series of events; my thoughts, my emotions and my take on the whole thing. If hundreds of people start telling me what they think of it, it ends up making less sense rather than more.

For example... if the Googlewhack Adventure had been a deliberately planned show (which it wasn't) and I'd have put an announcement on here saying that my next show is going to be about googlewhacking how would that have helped? The moment people knew what the show was about I started getting hundreds of e-mails from people telling me about the googlewhacks they'd found. I know why people wanted to send them to me and I don't really mind them doing so (although there is nothing I can say in return) but had I been in the middle of creating the show when those e-mails were received would it have been helpful? Not in the slightest. Relevant to the story? No. Filling up my inbox and making it harder to see the wood for the trees? Probably.

Which reminds me... about once or twice a month I get an e-mail from someone (a different person each time) saying pretty much the same thing. They write saying, "Hi Dave... I've had this idea for a book/show/TV show/etc and I'm not sure if it's a good idea and if it is a good idea, I'm not sure how to go about getting it off the ground. Have you got any advice?" My honest advice is that there's no such thing as a good idea. Things that sound terrible on paper can be great in reality. Things that sound promising on paper are very often disappointing because they create expectation that can never be surpassed. It's not really about what-it-is, it's about how-you-carry-it-out. Which I suppose means, It might be a good idea if you're interested in it... but my opinion is irrelevant. (Seriously, Father Ted, just as a random example, was a brilliant sit-com because it was brilliantly written, performed and directed. It wasn't a brilliant sit-com because it was about three priests on an island. It's not a good idea. It's a good sit com.)

As to how to get the thing off the ground... I don't even really understand the question. Just go and do something. Write something. Perform something. Show people something. It isn't the kind of job you get given... it's the kind of work you create.

So anyway... just as I don't think there is any advantage in them asking for my opinion I see no advantage in me soliciting stranger's opinions either. So don't bother asking me what it's about because as always, if it's about anything, it's about what's going on in my head. I'll tell you all about it when there's something I think you'll be interested in. It's not as if it'll exist any time soon anyway. It's going to take time. So you're probably best ignoring this and carrying on as if I'm lazily doing nothing. It'll probably be a book one day. It might be something else too but I doubt it will be a stage show. It won't be a novel.

Even if I don't love a book, I normally persist and make sure I finish it. Maybe I have become less tolerant of late or maybe I have just been easily distracted with my mind elsewhere (or maybe I just chosen bad books to read) but 3 books have been started and discarded part way through this month and those I have finished haven't exactly thrilled me. So instead I've perused my shelves to find a recommendation from way back when and come up with this.
It's written by Peter Farrelly - one half of the Farrelly Brothers (that's if you're talking about the Farrelly Brothers as movie-makers, if you're Mr. & Mrs Farrelly, Peter is only one fifth of the Farrelly brothers and one ninth of the Farrelly children) - and while it is set on the fringes of the entertainmnet industry, it isn't a book written for those in the know. It's the story of a well-meaning guy from Boston who moves to LA to pursue a career as a writer and how his life gets turned upside down by a strange girl he encounters. Don't be put off by the title, it isn't about zinging one-liners - it does have laughs but it's about the story and it's full of heart.

The Comedy Writer 

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July 11 2006

Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive, the series we taped earlier this year starts its run on BBC 3 this evening and runs for 6 weeks.

I've written many times before about how much I enjoy the photo-sharing website flickr. Well now, thanks to flickr, I've ended up taking part in my first exhibition. There are around a dozen artists exhibiting a variety of work in the exhibition which is at St Matthews, Tarring Road, Worthing on Friday evening and from 10-5 on Saturday and as ridiculous as it might seem, some of my photographs (all of doorbells as it happens) will be amongst them. It's part of the Artists and Makers festival. If I can get away for a day I intend to pop down and see what's going on. Maybe I should cycle. No. Maybe not.

July 4 2006

I am now a Doctor. Ridiculous. Lovely.

July 3 2006

Tomorrow I will become a doctor. This is a quite ridiculous state of affairs but a delightful one all the same. Many years ago I was a maths student at Manchester University. I dropped out because I'd started performing comedy and knew that it was what I wanted to do with my life. If my sums are correct (and who knows if they are, I did drop out after all) that was back in 1990. Then in January of this year I received a letter from Staffordshire University telling me that the Acadenmic Board of the University wishes to bestow upon me the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University. The letter explains that the nomination is in recognition of my contribution to mathematics through my professional work which I would have thought was approximately nought. (Again - don't trust my calculations, I'm a drop-out.)

Obviously I was very happy to accept and my Mum was very quick to ask about whether she needed to wear a hat. Back in March when a Brazilian magazine asked if they could publish some of my photographs I thought about getting some new business cards printed saying, Dave Gorman: International Photographer. I didn't bother. Now I think Dr David Gorman; International Photographer might be worth it. It sounds like a character in an Agatha Christie novel... which is probably not a bad thing to be. Apart from the increased chance of being murdered.

The Rob Brydon series, Annually Retentive, which we recorded earlier this year starts soon on BBC3. The first episode goes out on July 11 at 10.30pm

I get sent a fair few books from publishers asking if I will read them and give them a quote for the cover. They are almost always books that the publishers think are a bit like mine and that I think are a-bit-like-people-who-haven't-read-mine-imagine-them-to-be in which a young man takes on a self-consciously wacky journey for no reason other than to write a book about it. The end result is that you end up with a book that may have a few good jokes and set pieces but with no real story to keep you turning the pages.

I only mention this because this book has a quote from me on the cover and so now you know this book isn't one of those. It's also worth pointing out that a publisher didn't send me a book asking for a quote - I read this quite independently after it was first published in Australia.

So... so far I've only told you what the book isn't, I ought to tell you something about what it is. David Smiedt is a South African who moved to Australia as a young boy. Before he left his father took him on a tour of the country. 30 years later he returns to his homeland and retraces those steps. The writing is wonderfully evocative in describing the country, the changes that it's made and those it is still struggling to make and the book is teeming with emotion, both for his country and his family - new and old.

It's the emotion that makes the humour work and there's lots of it. That's why the quote on the front says, 'Touchingly funny and what's more, it's funnily touching too.' I loved it.

Are We There Yet?

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June 24 2006

The fake me that I mentioned yesterday is no longer on Myspace. I'm really not sure that I want (or need) to be there myself but I reckon that by establishing a page and making sure that it's obvious it is me it should help to prevent other weird impostors in future. So I have. The obvious domain name had gone (in that instance, perfectly innocently) so I'm at myspace.com/ADaveGorman instead. I don't know what I'll do with it. Probably not a lot.

June 23 2006

I popped into 6Music to be a guest on the Round Table section of Steve Lamacq's show earlier. It's always a friendly place to be. The other guests were Ed Larrikin and the legendary broadcaster, Paul Gambaccini. A real pleasure. I was in the pub afterwards with Steve and his producer, Lovely Jude (that's her real name) and a few others when the subject of myspace and its phenomenal success came up. "I haven't got a myspace page," said I. "Oh yes you have," said LJ. "No, I haven't," I stated, "after all, I'm sure I'd have remembered." "Oh," said Jude, "then there's someone out there pretending to be you... he's using your photo and talking about your books and... well, pretending to be you."

She's as right as she is lovely. There is. He's here. That's my face. That's a bad description of my books. A lot of the details are right. I am 35. I am a pisces. I don't smoke but I do drink. But I'm not a swinger. Or a proud parent. I'm not any kind of parent. Nor am I a post grad. I am however a bit pissed off with discovering someone out there pretending to be me... after all he has 'friends' who, from their comments, clearly think they've befriended me. Whatever he's said to them... they will think I said. He could have said anything. Hmmm. Maybe this is why myspace has become so successful? Maybe everyone ends up joining myspace in order to prevent other people from stealing their identity? I've written to myspace to let them know about this situation. I wonder if they'll remove his page or not?

June 19 2006

Maybe I'm fitter than I thought I was. Either that or cycling is easy. I really enjoyed yesterday's bike ride from London to Brighton and find myself surprisingly able to walk today. I'd originally applied for a 6am start because I wanted to avoid the midday sun if possible but the organisers had asked me to do an interview at 7.30 and obviously I was very happy to oblige. It did mean that they would provide transport for me and my bike down to Clapham Common and that seemed like a very good deal to me. As it was whoever I was meant to chat to ended up stuck on a tube and so I ended up not doing an interview and setting off at around 8am. (The official photographer did take a few photos though, including this one of me as I set off.)

With 27,000 people taking part it's a massive thing to organise and they really do make a spectacular job of it. There must have been nearly 200 marshal points along the way and every major junction was well managed and controlled. The journey ended up taking me around 5 hours all in but I reckon if I'd started earlier it would have been nearer to 4. The ride started and ended in gridlock and at one point, maybe a third of the way in, we ended up stationary in a lane for a good 10 - 20 minutes while something was cleared up ahead of us. I spoke to a few people who'd left before 7 and they all said that their ride was uninterrupted.

There are small crowds that gather along the way to offer encouragement which really helps to keep you going and the young kids with water-pistols offer a welcome dash of cool water in the heat which is, I think, their intention. And of course there's the encouragement of sponsors who have all chipped in too. They're the ones who actually raised the money - I just had the fun of the ride. And the sunburn.

I really thought I'd cross the line and collapse - or worse still, fail to cross the line, but I'm pretty sure I could have carried on for a good while longer. I stayed in Brighton for a couple of hours for a cup of tea (it does cool you down and anyone who says it doesn't is a liar) and a sandwich and a bit of pebble-balancing on the notoriously stoney beach.

For many years a lot of people have travelled back to London on the train but last year the train companies banned bikes on the day of the event and so now the organisers arrange for a fleet of coaches to ferry cyclists back while the bikes go on lorries. I could see the pained looks on the faces of those who owned expensive bikes as their bikes left Brighton on a separate vehicle to themselves but it was a pretty efficient system and our bikes turned up in Clapham about 5 minutes after us. At which point I cycled home. Not a twinge of pain I tells ye, not a twinge.

My favourite images from the day: the youngster on a BMX bike who was speeding up one of the early slopes, throwing some amazing jumps off the back of the speed bumps and the lady of a certain age who was puffing along on an old clogger of a bike with nothing in her basket except the Mail on Sunday.

Incidentally, I recently mentioned taking part in a photo shoot alongside Brian Dowling and others and I'm reliably informed that it appeared in yesterday's Sunday Mirror magazine. It's laughingly titled Sexy British Male Celebs: The Entertainers (so there's two words that make me squirm (no, not entertainers, I have some pride in my job)) and as well as Dowling.B and myself it features Alan Carr, Alex Zane, Dave Berry and Richard Bacon. I'm the oldest man there by a clear 5 years although surely Bacon.R is lying when he says he's only 30. Surely. Isn't he? If anyone who was reading that thinking, Sexy? Him? could have seen me at 12 o'clock, red in the face with both sunburn and effort as I slowly scaled Ditchling Beacon they would have known for sure how wide of the mark it really was.

The ride is done but you can still donate... and let's be honest, it's all really just an excuse to donate money to something that you should support anyway... www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/davegorman.

June 17 2006

Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive was fun but I have to say I'm sure it would have been a bit more focussed if it hadn't been recorded on the day of the England game. It meant that we spent the hours before the show thinking of something else and the audience turned up a little more drunk, hot and bothered than they would have done on a normal day also. But then, y'know, two-nil.

I enjoyed my week on The Wright Stuff again... the only bad thing being that other things have been keeping me up late and I've had to survive the week on 4 hours sleep each night. Full credit to the make-up department if they managed to hide the bags under my eyes. I almost always end up doing the show with Janet Ellis and she has the same attitude to the show so the two of us just spend a lot of the time giggling while Matthew selects topics that will allow him to get some personal therapy in.

The final part of the show doesn't involve the panel, it's just Matthew and a guest and a phone in. Sometimes the guest is an agony aunt, sometimes they're a a doctor and so on. While we're not on the show with these people we often end up sharing a chat and a cuppa in the green room with them before the show. On one of the shows this week the guest was Derek Ogilvie, a man who claims to be able to read the minds of babies. This is the kind of thing that winds me up no end but inevitably I find myself shaking his hand and nodding as if I understand when he tells us how horrible it is that there are so many skeptics in the world. Hmmm.

On the Monday the guest was Rosemary Leonard, a GP who appears on the show quite regularly. It turns out that she is also taking part in the cycle from London to Brighton tomorrow and I think she's the person who persuaded Matthew Wright to take part. On top of that, Amol Rajan - the guy who wields the microphone amongst the studio audience should they wish to join in any discussion - is also taking part in the ride so amongst the 27,000 cyclists there should be four people who were all on last week's The Wright Stuff.

The ride was mentioned quite a lot through the week of shows but more was said off-air with both myself and Matthew getting slightly nervous because of the lack of training we've done. 54 miles is a long way to go. What I have done is bought some very padded cycling shorts and a tub of vaseline - both of which have been recommended to me by several people. Last night, as my interest in the Mexico-Angola game waned I decided it would be wise to remind my posterior what a saddle was like in advance of big journey so I set off on a random night-time ride. I really like cycling in London at night. I set off with no particular goal in mind and headed off on a route I know well towards the Isle of Dogs. On a few occasions I've cycled down this way and used the Greenwich foot tunnel under the River Thames to cycle up towards the Millennium Dome and the Thames Barrier but this time I decided to stay on the North side of the Thames and continue around the Isle of Dog's perimeter to see what I would see.

I ended up taking a few dead ends into derelict industrial estates and then ending up on dangerously busy roads as I found myself in Canning Town, Royal Victoria Dock and then North Woolwich where there is another foot tunnel under the Thames. It's similar to the Greenwich tunnel but in a worse state of repair and smelling distinctly of piss. Which is a shame. I lugged my bike down the stairs and scooted through, then cycled along the south bank of the Thames to the Greenwich tunnel which put me back in familair territory and my cycling comfort zone. I reckon by the time I got back I'd done a 20 mile round trip. It took a while - but then there were those strange dead ends and the carrying of a bike up and down four flights of stairs and I did stop at the Royal Victoria Docks to take some photos so I don't really know how much of a guide this is to tomorrow's trip. It was only about a third of the distance to Brighton but it didn't hurt and I can walk perfectly well today so it bodes well and gives me a little confidence at least.

With 27,000 cyclists they inevitably stagger the starts for people to spread things out. Aware of the sun I'd applied for a very early start and was scheduled to go at 6am. But the British Heart Foundation (who organise the whole shebang) have asked me to do an interview on the morning and so I've had my start put back to 7.30. People are suggesting that it takes between 4 and 7 hours for inexperienced cyclists like me - which involves a huge margin of error. I expect I'll be nearer the 7 hour mark. It's not a race and I don't think it could be with those kind of numbers involved and I will be taking my camera with me and stopping for an ice-cream or two along the way. Wish me luck.

I now know a little more about the technical problems that were plaguing my sponsorship page. As ridiculous as it seems, the problem was caused by too many people visiting the page and sponsoring me... which meant that at busy times people were struggling to load the page and getting an error message instead. They've made a temporary fix by taking out the first few hundred sponsors from the page (but not from their records) and adding up their sponsorship which shows up on the page as 'money raised off-line'. In doing this, the page then doesn't cound the Gift Aid that will be added by the government to the amount raised 'off-line' but when these figures are totted up at the end of things it will all be sorted out. Assuming that most of the online donations will be from UK tax-payers and that Gift Aid will apply there will be an extra 800 odd quid to add on to the total which would tally well with my running total before the fix happened.

In any case - it's not me raising the money, it's people like you that are raising it and it's all appreciated. If you'd like to donate to the British Heart Foundation, and help to encourage me up the 813 feet climb that is Ditchling Beacon tomorrow then please pop along to www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/davegorman.

June 13 2006

We recorded the last episode of Genius last night and I'll be sorry not to be working on it any more. It's been a tremendously fun few weeks spent thinking about some very stupid ideas. Armando Iannucci was a brilliant guest and so right from the start it stopped feeling like a job-of-work to me and just became a fun night out. I will remember the audience all screaming Tetris-based advice for a long time to come. It floated through my head earlier today for no reason in particular and made me chuckle to myself while I was sitting on the tube. I expect the series will be broadcast in September but obviously when I know more I'll let you know.

It would have been great to have a proper last-night drink after the recording but because I've started another week on The Wright Stuff it wasn't possible. I felt like I was leaving my own party when I left the theatre relatively early. It still hurt getting up on Tuesday morning in time for my 7am car. I didn't think I'd be very compos mentis during this morning's show but it seemed like a lively one when it happened and as usual it whizzed past. Matthew Wright is also taking part in the London to Brighton bike ride on Sunday and we've both spent some time panicking about our lack of training. Oh dear.

On Thursday I'm a guest on Professor Iannucci's Radio 4 show, Charm Offensive. I agreed the date some time ago and was more than a bit miffed at myself when I realised that it clashed with England's second World Cup game. The game is at 5 and I was assuming that the recording started at 6.30 because that seems to be standard for these kind of R4 things. I confessed this to Armando but to my relief the recording doesn't start til later than I thought and there'll be no need to miss the game at all. Disaster over.

Something odd has been going on on my sponsorship page for the London to Brighton ride. I started to get a lot of e-mails from people telling me that they were failing to open the page and getting an error message instead. I got in touch with the British Heart Foundation because it's their website and this was obviously going to cost them money if people were unable to load the page in order to donate.

Apparently the problem was that there were too many sponsors and too many people trying to access the page. They reckon it will take a few days to fix it properly so in the mean time they've deleted some of the names of sponsors - but only as a temporary measure. They told me they'd made adjustments so that the total amount was still correct but I know that's not true because the total raised has gone down and that can't be possible. When last I was here it said it was £8682.99. More people have sponsored me since then, but the total is currently given as £8315.75. Whatever it really is, I hope they can sort it out and that they don't end up short changing themselves due to a technical error. I'm sure they will get it sorted. And of course, whatever it is, you can always make it more by visiting www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/davegorman.

June 9 2006

Brian Sewell made for an excellent and eccentric guest at last night's recording of Genius. He really does play the role of Brian Sewell better than anyone else. The recordings are coming thick and fast right now - the moment a show is done, it's time to focus on the next show. The final recording is on Monday when my guest will be the brilliant Armando Iannucci.

I'll be seeing Armando again on the 15th when I'm a guest on his Radio 4 show, Charm Offensive which is, I believe, broadcast the next day. We have no such frenzied edits on Genius... it will be a few months before the series goes to air. We're recording it now because it was about the only chunk of time in my diary when it could be squeezed in and done properly.

I think when Genius was first conceived we imagined it would be a two-way conversation between myself and the guest each week. Instead it's definitely become a three-way conversation between the two of us and the individual who's pitching each idea and it's their input that makes the show so much fun for me. They all turn up with such different attitudes and given that they're unlikely to be accustomed to speaking in public they can be quite nervous.

But I don't think we've ever had anyone come to take part in the show and not enjoy it and they all leave at the end of the day with a real spring in their step. I wish we'd started a guestbook back at the start of series one because I'm sure if they could read the comments from previous guests in advance of the recording they'd all relax a bit sooner.

We've tried to set the show up so that they're under as little pressure as possible and we try our hardest to make sure they have a fun time. Every night, as they read their idea out, there is always a moment where the audience cheers or laughs or makes some other kind of noise-of-approval and I can see them visibly relax as they realise the audience are on their side and it's going to be fun. From that moment on they seem to have a ball.

Understandably a few people get cold feet and I mentioned recently how one chap called us on the day to say he couldn't come but was persuaded and had a great time. Well recently someone took the not-turning-up thing to a new level. When we start making the series we look through thousands of ideas and we get in touch with lots of people whose ideas we enjoyed. Then slowly as people's availability becomes clear we start to put ideas together that we think will blend well in the same episode.

This time round we had a couple of ideas come from people across the Atlantic. We got in touch with them but didn't really expect anyone to come from Canada or America in order to be on the show. This is Radio 4 so naturally we don't have the kind of budget than can afford to fly people over or anything silly like that. To our surprise and delight a couple of people - one from Canada and one from America - said they wanted to come over and were prepared to fly themselves.

The Canadian chap was scheduled to take part in the show with Carol Vorderman and an American lady (or Americaness as I believe they're called) was scheduled to appear in the show with Sid Waddell. The Canadian chap, Chris, (I'll leave his surname out to spare his blushes) was particularly keen and went to great lengths in his e-mails to explain how he was prepared to fly over at 72 hours notice if required. Then shortly before the show we found that he was no longer replying to our e-mails. Occasionally people have to pull out and as incovenient as it is we understand that there are reasons and we do what we can to accommodate people. If Chris had e-mailed us to say that on reflection he really couldn't afford a trip to London to take part in a show we would have been fine with that and we could have started work on finding an idea to replace his. But instead we just received no replies.

Then, onlya day or two before the show, we received an e-mail from his address but signed by 'Maria.' The e-mail started with the words, 'Sadly, Chris is no longer with us.' Hmmm... we weren't sure if this was someone at his work telling us that he was no longer employed there or someone from the world saying he was no longer a part of it. The e-mail went on to say that he would be dearly missed and that as he had often talked excitedly about the show that it would be a wonderful tribute to him if we were to still include his idea in the show.

It was a very odd e-mail. It was clearly implying that he was dead but at no point did it actually use the word. We were all pretty convinced that it wasn't quite right in some way but of course when the subject is as serious as that it isn't really easy to question it in case it turns out to be true and you appear to be incredibly insensitive.

There was no way we were going to include the idea in the show without someone there to pitch it because the show just doesn't work like that and so we replaced it and got down to work on the show and didn't really give it much thought. The show passed and then the next show came along and this time our transatlantic guest stayed in touch, showed up, pitched her idea and had fun. All was well.

Then a couple of days ago for some reason Chris floated back through my head. I was trying to write an intro for Brian Sewell and was distracted by thoughts of a potentially-dead-but-probably-not Canadian. So I picked up the phone and gave him a call. It went through to his voicemail. I didn't leave a message and returned to thinking about Mr Sewell. Then five minutes later my phone went. I picked it up.
"Hello," said a Canadian voice, "It's Chris, I missed your call."
"Oh," said I. "Hi Chris."
"Who's that?" asked Chris who I have to say was sounding very much alive to me.
"It's Dave Gorman."
"Oh. Hi Dave."
"Hi Chris. How are you?"
"I'm good," said Chris. There was a pause. And then the phone went down. He was definitely alive but, I imagine, rather embarrassed.

How odd? Imagine being so concerned about what some-strangers-you'll-never-meet will think of you that you would rather fake your own death than be honest about letting them down? How very, very odd.

Nine days to go before I cycle to Brighton. Not many opportunitues for training rides between now and then. Gulp. I'm really impressed by how much people have donated though. Total sponsorship so far: £8682.99. You can make it even more here.

June 7 2006

Genius continues to be a hugely enjoyable series to make. It's remarkably unfraught. Maybe that's just how radio is. Or maybe it's to do with the particular people involved - Team Genius (four bearded men and a Dutch lady - there's a film title) are a very affable bunch. Or maybe it's the fact that every show is so different. I really like the way in which the members of the public who are pitching their ideas all get involved and of course the guests all bring their tone to the show also. So it's impossible to rehearse and the show remains a fresh and fun night out for me as much as anyone else.

We've recorded two shows since I last wrote and they've been very different affairs. I was dead chuffed that Carol Vorderman agreed to be a guest and she was a brilliant sport on the night who completely entered into the spirit of the show. Sid Waddell was as wonderfully eccentric and Waddellish as anyone could hope for and again, I had a really fun night. I'm not sure everyone there understood him, mind.

The recordings are coming thick and fast now with one tomorrow and another on Monday so there's no time to sit back after a recording and we go straight into thinking about the next one. As well as the final show on Monday, I also start a week on The Wright Stuff. I'm going to be on with Janet Ellis again which is always fun. Don't get me wrong, I once enjoyed a week on the show in the company of Anne Widdecombe but I've done the show with Janet more than anyone else (well, apart from Matthew Wright... he's always on it... I think he knows someone) and whenever I've agreed to do the show there's a part of me thinking, 'oo... I hope it's a Janet Ellis week'.

Incidentally, Janet is involved in organising a benefit gig at the Lyric in Hammersmith on Sunday night. If I wasn't so busy with the Radio 4 show I'd certainly be going to it and if you're free you should think of doing so as it's a top line-up. There are details here.

Not so long ago I wrote about the evil ITV show, The Mint after I turned up as an answer. I really do think it's a horrible show while still admiring the skill of some of the presenters who can talk about nothing for hours on end. It's like QVC only instead of selling tacky jewellery they sell hopes and dreams. I mention this because last week I found myself in a photographic studio with Mint presenter Brian Dowling. I was wearing a vaguely Miami Vice outfit and holding a toy golf club while he was licking a cornetto. Did I confront him with the fact that I think his job is evil? Of course not, I shook his hand and said, "Nice to meet you" because I've been brough up properly and he's a nice man. A nice man who gets paid to persuade people to spend money they can't afford entering stupid competitions that offer them only the tiniest chance of riches maybe, but a nice man all the same.

A friend bought this for me after I confessed to my shocking lack of familiarity with Vonnegut's writing. This is described as a memoir but really it's slighter than that - more like a fireside chat with an old guy, albeit a particularly witty and wise old guy with a passion for life that has been undimmed by his years. I will definitely be reading some of his novels after this.

Such suppression of religion was supposedly justified by Karl Marx's statement that "religion is the opium of the people." Marx said that back in 1844, when opium and opium derivatives were the only effective painkillers anyone could take. Marx had taken them. He was grateful for the temporary relief they had given him. He was simply noticing, and surely not condemning, the fact that religion could also be comforting to those in economic or social distress, It was a casual truism, not a dictum.
When Marx wrote those words, by the way, we hadn't even freed our slaves yet. Who do you imagine was more pleasing in the eyes of a merciful God back then, Karl Marx or the United States of America?

Kurt Vonnegut: A Man Without A Country 

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May 26 2006

The second Genius recording was a somewhat less exhausting affair. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time in the excellent company of guest, Chris Addison.

There was still oddness... one of the people who was pitching a potentially genius idea on the show called at about 5.30 to say that he wasn't going to come. This is very late notice on the day of the recording and quite an inconvenience... after all, we plan the show around the ideas and with an idea missing, some of those plans are wasted. He claimed to be too busy but I suspect it was really nerves brought on by the prospect of speaking in public.

He was persuaded to turn up eventually and he wasn't too busy to hang around for quite some time at the end of the night. He definitely enjoyed it and was happy to have done the show - so far I'm pretty sure that everyone who's taken part in the show has done. It's one of the things that I enjoy most about the recordings.

The pitchers turn up and are inevitably a little nervous... but the audience are always completely on their side and part way through reading the idea out they give them a laugh or a round of applause and you can see the pitcher's shoulders relax and their confidence grow. They always walk away from it confident and buzzing.

Odder still was the weather... and the way it entered the theatre. The day was marked by huge downpours and there wasn't a problem during any of the time we spent setting the show up so there was no way of predicting it would happen. Part way through the recording rain started to drip down into the venue. To begin with it was a couple of drops but by the end of the evening it was no longer dripping, it was pouring in. It was a little distracting but we were lucky it fell where it did as it all fell at the front of the stage between our desks and the audience ... and more importantly, away from the electrics.

We're back at The Cochrane for another recording later in the run. I hope they fix it before then. Or that it's a dry day. The next recording is back at The Shaw theatre on Tuesday.

London to Brighton by bike. Total sponsorship so far: £7307.17.

May 20 2006

We recorded the first in the new series of Genius yesterday with Johnny Vegas as my guest. This morning the show's producer (Simon Genius) called me and said, "I can't wait to see what you say about last night's show on your website." There was mischief in his voice when he said it. He was saying it because he knows that the show was... well, more unusual than normal. It lasted two and a half hours for a start. At some point it has to be cut down to 30 minutes... hopefully in a way that keeps the unusual nature of it intact.

I don't think I can adequately describe what it was like to host the show last night. If it was easy to describe I suppose Simon wouldn't be telling me that he can't wait to see what I say about it. Which I suppose is the best way of illustrating how odd it was. It was so odd that people who were there are mischievously anticipating reading this description of it.

London to Brighton by bike. Total sponsorship so far: £7185.37.

May 8 2006

The ebay auction I mentioned on May 1st that was raising money for Amnesty International ended today. I'm delighted to say that someone was prepared to shell out £310 for the photo of me. I think this has more to do with the skilful craft of top comedy snapper, Rich Hardcastle than it does me, but however it was raised, Amnesty is a great cause and you've got to be happy that they now have an extra few quid. Unless you're running an authoritarian regime and were fancying some human-rights-abuses in which case it might be a bit annoying.

I also mentioned in my last entry that I had recorded three segments for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart when I was last in New York and that one of them had been held back for use in a future show. Well, I received an e-mail earlier to tell me that it's in tonight's show. Of course, the tonight they were talking about was the American tonight. The show is broadcast the next day here in the UK. So, if you're in the US, my segment is in the show tonight (8th) on Comedy Central and if you're in the UK I'm on the show tomorrow night (9th) on More4.

If you live elsewhere I'm sure the clip will pretty soon be online alongside the other two here.

London to Brighton by bike. Total sponsorship so far: £6430.84.

May 1 2006

I don't think I've ever come closer to missing a flight. I had a car booked for 6.30am. I had an alarm call scheduled for 6am. My bags were packed. Surely nothing could go wrong.

Cut to 7am when the phone goes and the hotel receptionist tells me that there's a driver waiting for me. Why I didn't get an alarm at 6 (okay, it's possible that I did and didn't hear it... but only in an alternative universe where I'm an unusually heavy sleeper prone to half hour periods of hearing loss) and why nobody called me at 6.30 when the car arrived I don't know. What I do know is that my flight was meant to be boarding at 7.45 and being in a Manhattan hotel room 45 minutes before you're meant to be strolling on to a plane at JFK isn't a very good idea.

I leapt out of bed, dressed hurriedly, brushed my teeth (why?) and then ran. I offered the driver another $50 if I got there in time. He earned his tip.

On the way into the airport there are signs telling you which terminal you need. I was flying on American Airlines. I'd told the driver this information and that it was an international flight. The signs tell you that AA fly out of Terminals 8 and 9. 8 is for international flights (except flights to London). 9 is for domestic flights (and flights to London). I spotted this tricksy detail on the way in and the driver duly delivered me to Terminal 9. Where I was told that my flight was leaving from Terminal 8.

"But the sign says 'domestic flights and flights to London'", I said, more interested in getting on to a flight than into a fight.
"Oh yeah," said the genuinely helpful member of staff. "But the morning flight goes from 8. Sorry about that. You need to go downstairs, take a right and run."

They took my bag amongst a lot of confusing, "Will his case make it? Ask them? They're not answering? Just send it" talk and I turned and ran. Through security - shoes off, laptop out, laptop in, shoes on - run and then to the gate. At precisely 7.45. We didn't board until 8. Even so, a close call.

I was mighty relieved at Heathrow to see my case trundling out on the conveyor belt too.

Given the work schedule required to make The Daily Show it's amazing that the journey home provided the most frantic part of my week. It was an amazing and hugely enjoyable week. I hope I'll be going back. I recorded three segments in total - two based on the idea of statistical analysis which is the real reason I'm contributing to the show and one that only really happened because I was there with my English accent on the Queen's birthday. Two were broadcast at the time and one is in the bank for use in a future show. You can see video clips of the two broadcast segments on the Comedy Central website here.

Now... housekeeping: tickets for the Genius recordings are now available. We're recording shows on the 19th, 24th and 30th of May and the 5th, 8th and 12th of June. You can get free tickets for the shows here. Of course, had you been on my mailing list you'd already have known that.

Now, a return to a theme of recent postings on this increasingly bloggy news page of mine; ebay naughtiness. It's been brought to my attention that someone has been selling tickets to see Genius on ebay. They're free tickets but someone has managed to sell a pair for £8.49. Looking through the seller's ID and it becomes clear that they've made a fair few quid recently selling free tickets to TV and radio recordings. I expect it's entirely legal - but that doesn't change the fact that the world would be a happier, friendlier place without it happening. I'd certainly be happier if the people who were bidding for these items just worked out how to get the free tickets in the first place.

Talking of ebay... there are a series of large and unique prints of comedians for sale on ebay at the moment raising money for Amnesty International. The photos were all taken by Rich Hardcastle who has a deserved reputation for being the best portrait photographer in comedyland. They're big, printed on lovely arty paper and signed by the comedians in question. Oh... and they're unique. Anyway... my portrait is amongs them... it's the picture that I've barbarised for the top of this page. Only big. And unique. On great paper. And signed. It's for Amnesty. It's here.

Talking of charitable deeds. The bike ride is getting closer. Total raised so far: a staggering £6140.10. Go on... make it even more staggering.

What's this? Two books about American politics in a row? Yup. I think last year I spent more time in America than I did the UK so I suppose it's only natural that I find myself interested in the politics of the place.

In America this was published under the name What's The Matter With Kansas? but I guess someone from the UK publishers thought that wouldn't sell as well over here. But both titles make sense because while Frank is writing about Kansas he's using it as a paradigm for America on the whole. This book is Frank's attempt to explain how those on the Republican side of US politics use a moral agenda (that they fail to deliver) to persuade blue-collar Americans to vote against their own financial interests. The suggestion being that poor, working class Americans vote for a party that serves the interests of the rich and the powerful because of arguments about faith, abortion, gay marriage and the perceived attack on good old fashioned family values. My attempt to precis what it's about does it a disservice so I'll stop now. I guess your opinion on this book will depend on your political views to some extent but it's well written and passionate and I enjoyed it a great deal.

What's The Matter With America? (The Resistible Rise of the American Right) by Thomas Franks

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April 28 2006

I'm heading back to London tomorrow.

April 27 2006

I'm a very happy man. I'm having a very good day. So far today has been the best day of a very good week. I recorded two more pieces for The Daily Show this evening. One of the pieces will air tonight in the US and on Friday night in the UK and the other will go into another show some time in the future. I was excited to step up to the plate and record a correspondent piece for them on Monday but the pieces I did tonight are much more defined as my own so now it really feels like I'm a part of the show. The show that just happens to be one of my favourite shows in the world.

The guest on tonight's show was Robin Williams. As he was shown through to the back of the set before his interview I was weighing up whether it would be uncool to introduce myself. Well, not so much whether it would be uncool because it obviously would... but how uncool and whether or not it would be worth it. I didn't. He did his interview and was then whisked away. They then taped the rest of the show and then when that was done I went on to do my second piece at the desk with Jon. You can imagine I was pretty surprised to come off set to find that Robin Williams had hung around especially so that he could say hello and pass on his kind words about my two segments. You see what I mean about a good day?

April 25 2006

New York is a very exciting city. Yesterday was a very exciting day. I'm here partly to discuss a few ideas with The Daily Show which is, amongst other things, one of my favourite TV shows in the world. I was expecting to film a short piece with them that might air on Wednesday night and there was a possibility of doing a couple of other bits later in the week also.

Then yesterday morning they decided to do something about the Queen's birthday on that day's show and asked if I'd be in that bit also. I guess they looked around the office wondering who could do the best English accent and I came out on top. (Which is fair enough really as I've been working on it for a long time.)

So that's what happened... and tonight I appeared as a correspondent who was supposed to be in London. Which is where I had been two days before. In the UK the show is broadcast on More4 a day later so it'll be on tonight and if the original piece I was expecting to film on Wednesday goes ahead that'll be on in the UK on Thursday.

April 22 2006

I'm going to New York today.

April 18 2006

The documentary I presented about Top Of The Form was shown last night along with a few related programmes... a sort of Top Of The Form night for BBC4 with me as the host. I wrote about the filming of this in a freezing cold Neasden warehouse one day back in February.

The first time I saw the footage we'd shot was a few days later when I recorded the voice over, this time in a cosy studio. I remember at the time being struck by how red my nose was in most of it... real proof that the warehouse was indeed freezing. In fact, at the time I wrote "If you watch the show when it goes out you'll notice that I have a very red nose in most of it."

I was right. You did notice. Everyone seemed to notice. I got to work today (at the BBC where a band of bearded men are merrily working on the news series of Genius) and one of my colleagues instantly told me that he'd spent part of the night before staring at my red nose. Just as we started work a friend called me. His first words were, "My wife wants to know if you had a cold?" I've even heard reports hat Ken Bruce was talking about the redness of my nose on Radio 2 this morning.

If Ken Bruce is talking about something on his show surely that makes it a national talking point. Imagine your nose being a national talking point. It's hard to imagine isn't it? Even for you big nose. Crikey.

Total sponsorship so far: £5659.59.

April 11 2006

Yesterday I put a new innertube on my front wheel. My bike's front wheel that is, I have only legs. As I was doing it I realised that this was the first time I had ever performed such a task. That's odd seeing as I'm 35 and have owned a bike for most of my life. Well, several bikes; if I was still riding my first bike I'd look silly.

As a kid when my bike had a puncture I would always pester my Dad into fixing it. He would always do it in an I-don't-know-why-you-don't-do-this-yourself-you're-perfectly-capable kind of way and I suppose he was right. I think I never thought I'd have to learn how to do it properly because as a kid I assumed I would no longer be riding a bike when I was an adult. And besides he's a man who likes to get oily and fiddle with machines so really I was indulging him by letting him do it.

I don't think I've had a puncture (on my bike) since I was around 12. I suppose that while I've continued to cycle (albeit very infrequently for most of the last 20 years) I've been much less likely to be cycling on rough wasteground and near broken glass and things. Or maybe I've just been lucky. Anyway, I did it and this morning the tyre was still inflated so I think it was a successful operation. Now if I ever have a child I will be better equipped to fix his/her punctures in the same slightly-weary-I-shouldn't-really-oh-go-on-then fashion.

I'm working from home today and struggling to concentrate (which explains why I'm writing this right now) but my spirits have been lifted by listening to the wonderful Lily Allen. It's wonderful when a new piece of music makes you feel genuinely excited. The track LDN is quite, quite brilliant. Gritty lyrics and happy summery tune. It explains why I love living in London. Hurrah.

Total sponsorship so far: £5451.51.

April 6 2006

If I'd known how busy I was going to be this week I'd probably have done the sensible thing and turned down The Wright Stuff. Not because I don't enjoy it - it's always a fun week - but because I like sleep. Each day after the show I've headed into town to work on Genius and each evening I've been working at home on another writing project. I've been getting to bed at 2am and waking at 6.30. I'm knackered.

A couple of night's ago when I was heading to bed in the early hours I had the TV on in the background. A show called Mint was on ITV. This is one of a new breed of evil telly that seems to be increasingly popular. The commercial stations have found it harder and harder to make money out of advertising of late - especially in the wee hours and so they've come up with programmes that pay their own way instead. They have big cash prizes on these shows and rather than quizzes they have what amounts to a guessing game. Every call makes them money even if you just get through to a recoded voice telling you that you've been unlucky. I suspect they're making a fortune.

Even though the shows are evil and exploitative (for every "don't make too many calls, please set yourself a limit" there are fifty "just think... you could be thinking of the right answer... if you don't call you can't win... how will you feel if someone else gets through with your answer and wins ten thousand pounds? What could ten thousand do for you? Think about it. I could be sending you ten thousand pounds just for making a phone call... you don't want to miss out on that do you?") I have to admit to a grudging amount of respect for the presenters.

The best of them have that QVC kind of ability to talk about nothing for ages while they wait for a call to come through. Incidentally, they might be waiting but it isn't because nobody is calling... they're waiting because there's presumably a system that works out when they've made enough money to start giving some away. A friend of mine tried calling one of these shows on a cable channel the other week. He called two hundred times. At 60p a call. He was very embarrassed when he told me about this. As he should be. You see what I mean by evil... but that doesn't mean that there is no skill in keeping the show afloat while there is nothing to talk about and I sometimes find myself staring in fascination at them partly wondering how they manage to keep talking and partly wondering how they sleep at night knowing that they talked hundreds of strangers who can ill-aford it to waste hundreds of pounds entering a lucky dip.

Anyway... when I turned on the TV the other night I had no intention of watching it because I knew I had to be up at 6.30 in the morning but I wanted something on in the background. So, Mint was on and one of the not-very-good-presenters was talking to Mick Miller. Mick Miller is an old-school comedian from the trad circuit, but one I admire for his delivery and craft. He was the guest on the show and people were phoning in to guess comedian's names. If they guessed the right name they would win a cash prize. When I turned on the more obvious names (Steve Coogan, Peter Kay, Jimmy Carr) had been guessed winning people smaller sums of money and a few of the more obscure answers (like Jethro - euch) had been guessed winning people larger sums of money.

Then someone won ten thousand pounds for guessing Dudley Moore. I suppose he was deemed obscure because he's dead. And possibly people had been steered towards currently working comics. That left one answer still to go. It was worth five thousand pounds. A few wrong guesses started coming in and they started increasing the prize money with an extra hundred quid each time. A small part of me was thinking, "Well, I know a lot of comedians... maybe I should call in... I mean, I know I won't get through because I know the story my mate told me about his 200 calls... but y'know, if I did... I might be able to think of an obscure comedian that no-one's thought of yet..." and then I snapped to my senses, turned the box off and put my head down.

The next day I had an e-mail from someone telling me that I had been the correct answer. Apparently I went for 7 thousand pounds. By the sounds of it by the time they gave it away the presenters were giving huge clues, telling people all sorts of information about me and all but giving them my name. I'm amused by the idea that the Great British Public cannot guess my name when asked to think of a comedian. I think I should probably be slightly offended that I am clearly the most obscure comedian in the land... but somehow that seems more like an accolade to me. Hurrah for obscurity.

Obviously, this would have been a far better story if I'd called up, guessed my own name and won 7 grand. But sometimes the not-quite-so-good-story is what happens. My Mum once won a prize on a local radio station for recognising my voice in a who's-the-mystery-voice competition. She told them she was my Mum which may be the reason they never sent her a mug.

I would have told you the name of the e-mail correspondent who passed on this exciting punter-wins-7k-for-saying-my-name info but I can't right now because the e-mail is on my laptop and I'm now back to using my desktop which has returned from the computer hospital and seems to be fit and well. After I wrote something about my computer problems many of you got in touch to offer techy advice - all of which is very gratefully received. Ta.

One more day of The Wright Stuff to go this week and then some proper sleep comes my way.

Total sponsorship so far: £5135.87. I'm impressed and grateful... but somehow it seems a bit dissatisfying next to a story about someone winning £7000 for saying my name. Please do keep it coming.

April 2 2006

Someone offered to steal my camera from me today. I declined. I wrote more about it here.

Why do Time Team only have three days to do their digs?

Total sponsorship so far: £4588.37! Please do keep it coming.

April 1 2006

It seems the mail-out to my mailing list has worked wonders. I was letting them know about some upcoming stuff - like next week's The Wright Stuff - but also asked them to sponsor me for the London to Brighton bike ride on June 18. Many of them have done and the total raised has risen dramatically as a result. Which makes it all the more embarrassing that I am going to have to drop out of the event.

Ha ha ha. Not really. It is April 1st. If you believed that I was going to drop out of the bike ride you are an April Fool. Unless you were reading this after mid-day on April 1st in which case I believe it is me who is the fool. There, I think it is traditional that everyone who writes on April 1st must contain in their writing a blatant lie to try to fool people. I like to get mine out of the way early on.

This next bit will sound like a carefully constructed lie but is in fact true. I am now a 'published photographer.' Oh yes. What Digital Camera magazine (who bill themselves as The UK's original and best digital photography magazine) have a few of my shots in the April issue in what they call Best Shot Selector... Reader Gallery. The truth is, I can't honestly claim to be a reader. I mean, I do read... just not WDC. Still, I don't want to sound ungrateful because I'm not. I'm a hobbyist photographer and I was very flattered when they asked if they could run the photos and genuinely delighted to see them in print. Apparently I've won am Epson Stylus R800 printer for my trouble as well. That's nice.

The Times newspaper have a feature on comedy in today's paper. They're running with an April Fool's Day/Fools theme you see. They've assembled fifty names (I'm one of them, phew) and then broken that fifty down into ten sets of five.

So they have the five best character acts with Al Murray quite rightly picked at the top of that particular tree and then the five best grumpy acts with Daniel Kitson incorrectly sitting atop that list. (I say incorrectly not because I don't like Daniel Kitson, I do, I just don't think of him as grumpy. Brilliant certainly but joyful too. What do I know.)

There's a list for 'novelty acts' too. 'Novelty Act' is a term normally applied (with derision) to people who juggle fish or who can eat 35 eggs so I was slightly alarmed to see myself in that list. They provide their own definition of 'novelty act' as being anyone who doesn't fit into any other categories, presents high-concept shows and/or uses laptops on stage and obviously I accept that this has me covered. But it still seems odd. Maybe I'll start referring to myself as "one of Britain's best novelty acts" ... it would be interesting to see who would come to see such a thing. I think Bernie Clifton should be at the top of that list and he doesn't even get a mention.

Total sponsorship so far: a staggering £4177.99! Keep it coming.

The book describes itself as being a collection of "Observations and denunciations from a founding member of Monty Python" which means that unlike many books this one can be judged by its cover.

This is a collection of essays and columns from newspapers broadly about the war on terror. It's also wonderfully funny because while there's some anger at work here it has a kind of befuddled tone to it. The thing is the situation must be hard to describe when it's so hard to believe... but with wild analogies he makes a fantastic job of it and makes something we're in danger of becoming numb to seem every bit as ridiculous as it is.

Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror

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Back to the top of the news page. See all the books I've recommended so far here.

March 31 2006

I did cycle to the poker game on Wednesday. I lost money. Not a serious amount of money - less than you might spend on a night out - and then cycled home in the rain. I was happy doing this. I'm not sure why.

The people who make Genius (or Team Genius as we like to call ourselves) had our first proper meet up yesterday to start work on the new series. The process starts by going through the ideas we've been sent looking to see if they spark conversation between us. There was a very hight strike rate and we didn't get anywhere near to getting through everything that has been submitted. (Feel free to send more though - we enjoy reading them) Team Genius had four beards yesterday. I am very happy sitting in a room with three other bearded men working on a Radio 4 show... I feel sure that this is life as it should be lived.

I have a week of early mornings starting on Monday when I'll be a panellist on a week's worth of The Wright Stuff. I will spend my mornings talking about what's in the news and my afternoons discussing potentially genius ideas with bearded men. And my evenings thinking about opera. I'm looking forward.

My London to Brighton bicycle ride, British Heart Foundation sponsorship took a huge stride today... largely because of an e-mail sent to my mailing list last night. Total so far: £3081.77

March 29 2006

I have been cycling quite a lot recently. I have, in the past, been very much a fair-weather cyclist... using my bike for relatively short journeys and only when the day was kind of jolly and I knew cycling would be a pleasurable experience. But something has changed. I've had a change of attitude and I fear I might have become (pause, dramatic chords)... a cyclist.

On Friday last week and on Monday and Tuesday of this I've been working in Ladbroke Grove (working on an opera as it goes (don't ask)) and I have cycled each day from Bethnal Green to the office where this work takes place. On Sunday night I went to watch the recording of a Radio 4 show in Hampstead. I cycled there too. It was raining. I put on waterproof trousers.

This is clearly quite a radical shift in attitude. This makes me one of those people who brushes aside hardship and does things simply because they are "good for you" or worse still, the kind of person who enjoys discomfort. I've never trusted the people who claim to enjoy a 5am swim in a freezing ocean on the grounds that it is "bracing" and while I don't think cycling to Hampstead is quite in that league - I did after all want to go to Hampstead - it does make me worry about myself. I'm probably becoming quite annoying company too because a small part of me is really quite proud of having cycled somewhere. I'm a little holier than thou about things... not quite reaching the heights of piety achieved by reformed smokers but quite possibly heading in that direction. Oh dear.

One of the reasons is, of course, my decision to take part in the London to Brighton bicycle ride on June 18th. I don't have any time for training as such and so I have decided to use my bike as and when the journey is do-able. Even if it involves getting wet and there are more sensible options available.

A friend of mine told me that he had entered the ride one year. This is an extremely fit friend of mine. He's run the London marathon before now. He didn't finish the London to Brighton ride and not long after he and his companions decided to call it quits one of them threw their bike in a hedge in frustration. They were, apparently, coming last. I'm not sure why he told me this story. It isn't very motivational. It certainly hasn't filled me with confidence.

What do you mean you haven't sponsored me yet? Go on. You know you want to.

I was made all the more aware of my changing attitude towards cycling by today's events which have seen me gadding about town quite a bit ... but not in the saddle. For the first time in a long time I have been on the underground. Now that I am a proper cyclist (and yes, a week's activity is enough to qualify) whose lungs are used to breathing in fresh air (and petrol fumes) I find the tube unpleasant and crowded. I look at my fellow travellers and think, you fools, travelling in this cramped and unpleasant fashion, you are nothing but drones, cogs in the machine... you should experience life from the saddle of your bike, we cyclists know a joy that you will never experience. You see - holier than thou. I told you.

I was travelling on the tube because my day began with having to carry something too large and heavy for transportation by bike. It has been really quite traumatic. My computer is dying. I don't know quite what the problem is but every now and then - and with increasing frequency - the picture freezes. There are lots of warning shots where the graphics go all crazy. For a second or two the picture freezes and the graphics jump. It is hard to describe but if you imagine the screen to be a woven fabric well, for a split second it appears as if it has been badly stitched together. All of the threads are there, but they are not aligned with each other in the intended way. This will happen a few times and each time it snaps out of it until finally it gives up the ghost and just freezes.

To begin with I have a reluctance to try and deal with things like this. For a while I kid myself that it is a temporary glitch and that it will soon sort itself out. I do this because the idea of losing all of the information on the computer is just too much to bear. It contains so much stuff that carries so much importance. Stuff that I've written, photos from way back when, music... stuff that helps to define me. And stuff that helps to pay my mortgage. I can't afford to lose some of this stuff (or at least I feel like I can't) and so I put off doing anything about if for a while.

But today I decided enough was enough. I did what I could to transfer as much information from the desktop computer to my laptop computer and I struggled to teach my laptop how to connect to the internet using my normal desktop set-up. (Hence, I am able to update my website and this entry exists.) Then I boxed up my big computer and got a cab into town to the shop where I bought it from.

"Is it still under warranty?" asked the young man on the counter.
"I don't know," said I, "can you look up the serial number and check for me."
"Well, how long have you had it?" he asked.
"Isn't that the same question?" I said, a little peeved. I was about to entrust my life (in digital form) to this man and I wasn't in the happiest ofmoods. If I was to walk away from the shop leaving my computer in his care it would have been nice to do so with some degree of confidence and stupid questions from him weren't helping.
"What do you mean... 'isn't that the same question?'?" he asked.
"Well, you just asked me if it was under warranty and I said that I didn't know. Then you asked me how long I'd had it... surely if I knew that I'd know if it was still under warranty," I explained.
"Right," he said, "have you got the serial number and I'll look it up."

The computer is still under warranty. This is good because obviously it will be repaired for free but bad because it means their products aren't very reliable and prone to break down with very little use. Given how much time I've spent away from home in the last year the computer can't have had more than 2 or 3 months worth of use during the time that I've owned it. I expect more from Apple. Oh dear.

I've saved what I can from the computer just in case but I haven't been able to transfer my e-mail correspondence. If the problem is with my hard drive (he wrote, as if he knew what he was on about) all of that will be lost. Gulp.

After dropping the computer off I then had to head to Kentish Town for a meeting. This is a journey that I would have wanted to make by bike under more-reliable-computer circumstances but seeing as I was already in town I hopped on the tube. Ugh. Tonight I am playing poker. I will cycle there.

Total sponsorship raised so far for the British Heart Foundation: £1441.87.

March 22 2006

I spent the last two days finishing my commitment to Annually Retentive which has continued to be fun. Almost everyone involved in the show is playing themself, or a slightly more grotesque version of themself and I suppose the show as a whole is mocking a certain kind of panel show. Which made today all the more ridiculous as I had to leave the filming at 1pm in order to go and film a panel show.

The show I was guesting on was called Never Mind The Full Stops which is already strange because the title is a play on Never Mind The Buzzcocks which itself is a play on Never Mind The Bollocks... Obviously I was appearing on it as a form of field research that would allow me to bring something more real to my behind-the-scenes scenes on Annually Retentive.Well, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

As you might guess from the title, the show is about grammar, punctuation and the English language. It's for BBC4 and it should start going out later this year. Oddly it's hosted by Julian Fellowes in a stern schoolmasterly fashion. I say oddly because he's an Oscar winning screenwriter and an actor of note and not really the kind of person you expect to find hosting a panel show on BBC4.

It also seemed a little odd to me because he seemed keen to eschew some of the normal conventions of presenting. As a viewer, even if you know the presenter is reading from an autocue, you assume they have chosen to say those particular words and that they reflect their own opinion. Julian seemed inordinately keen to tell the audience that he wasn't responsible for the script with lots of "this is the one they've given me to say"s and "I don't know why they want me to say that"s and so on.

This might turn out to be a stroke of genius on his part and it will endear him to viewers. Either that or he'll wish he'd used his Oscar winning pen to write the show himself.

I've been very impressed with the initial burst of sponsorship money raised for my London to Brighton bike ride. As I'm writing this the total donated is up to £990. If you're a UK tax payer and you tick some boxes and fill in some details while you're donating, the British Heart Foundation gets to collect even more money thanks to an automatic tax bonus. This tax bonus (Gift Aid) means that so far a further £267.38 has been raised taking the total to £1257.38. I'm pretty impressed - I only decided to do it for sure four days ago.

Thanks to everyone who has donated so far and go-on-you-know-you-want-to to everyone who hasn't. Sponsorship.

March 18 2006

I have decided to cycle from London to Brighton. This might be related to the fact that I have recently turned 35. It might be an effort to prove to myself that I'm not really getting older. But then again it might not. Of course I'm not just going to set off by myself and cycle to Brighton - that would be foolhardy. No, I'm taking part in a big organised event in which everyone pretends that it's not really foolhardy and uses the fact that so many other people are doing it at the same time as evidence.

You'll have guessed by now that the event is of a charitable bent. It's organised by the British Heart Foundation which is a damn good cause, I'm sure you'll agree. Of course my participation is entirely selfish. I'm hoping that the money I raise will be the exact amount needed to develop some radical new life-saving treatment that I will then take advantage of in later life.

Having decided to take part I've been inundated with advice. It's the kind of advice that makes me wonder whether or not I've done the right thing by deciding to take part but of course it's too late now because I've told people. If only strangers had thought to tell me how arduous the trip is before I'd told them I was making it... then I could have decided not to do it and nobody would have been any the wiser. Heigh ho. Shopping list: talc, vaseline.

The ride takes place on June 18th so I have 3 months to do my worrying in. And my fundraising. If you'd like to sponsor me then please visit: www.bhf.org.uk/sponsor/davegorman/ and give what you can. When I'm cycling towards a daunting hill and my legs want me to give up it will be much easier to carry on if I can remind myself why I'm doing it in the first place: misplaced vanity. No, not that... I mean the British Heart Foundation. Yes that's it.

I do hope you will sponsor me and I really do mean it for the right reasons. You can also help by spreading the word and linking to my fundraising page.

March 17 2006

In the article about flickr that I mentioned a couple of days ago I said that I didn't really know how to pronounce it. Should it be pronounced flicker or flick-R? As I should have expected, many people got in touch to tell me the answer. Of course loads of people told me that they knew for a fact that it was flicker and a similar number seemed to know for a fact that it was flick-R so I didn't come much closer to an answer. But then an e-mail arrived from one of the founders of the site which cleared things up for sure. It's pronounced flicker and had the correctly spelled domain name been available it would have been called flicker too. But it wasn't. So it's flickr.

Some people seem to be upset by the article although it seems to me they're assuming it's meant to be reportage when it's quite clearly an opinion piece. Papers are full of my-favourite-this-that-or-the-other or why-I-love-thingummy pieces and I wonder if they all make people's blood boil in the same way?

I spent yesterday filming a few more bits for Annually Retentive... it really is one of the most enjoyable jobs I've done.

March 15 2006

A few weeks ago a scribe from the Guardian stumbled upon my photos on flickr which led them to ask if I'd write a short article for their online edition explaining why I use and like the site. It took me longer than it should have done to get round to it but the article was published today. It's true by the way - a Brazilian magazine has asked if they can publish my photos of East End grafitti. Life's odd isn't it? Maybe I should get some business cards printed up: Dave Gorman: International Photographer. Or maybe I shouldn't.

In other unrelated yet Guardian related news I've agreed to be a judge for the Guardian Student Media Awards. I've done this twice before. The first time I was one of the panel judging the travel writing section and the second time I was looking at the websites. This time I'm back to the travel writing. The judging takes place over a very fine lunch at the Ivy and that's reason enough to accept the invitation as far as I'm concerned.

March 14 2006

Last July I took part in a show called Vorderman's Sudoku Live for sky one. You can work out what it was from the title. It was live, it was about sudoku and it was hosted by a Vorderman (in this case they'd wisely opted for the one called Carol which is good because she's a TV presenter and I think all the other Vordermans are probably her unknown relatives and that would be silly.)

Anyway it was a bit of a laugh and Carol is dead nice so when I was asked by the same production company to take part in a show called Vorderman's Big Brain Game it was easy to say yes. Which is why this afternoon I spent time on a team with Sara Cox and a guy called Ajay trying to win a game against Lisa Rogers, Rufus Hound and a girl called Jimmy. Or maybe Ginny. Yes, Ginny makes much more sense even if I've spent the whole day thinking she was called Jimmy.

Ajay or Ginny - or for that matter, Jimmy - had the opportunity to win up to £10,000 while I had the opportunity to solve some puzzles and to dress up in a boiler suit and try to dodge some lasers like a fancy jewel thief might, which is better. I won't spoil the show by telling you what happened.

March 10 2006

I'm delighted to say that Genius has been recommissioned by Radio 4. We haven't worked out the dates for the recordings yet but there's definitely going to be a second series and that means we open up the search for genius ideas once again. Last series a few people e-mailed me direct with their ideas which just goes to show that they're not geniuses. The only way to have your idea considered by everyone involved in putting the show together is to send it to the show. The phone number and an e-mail form are here.

I'm sure you're all really enjoying my persistent pursuit for justice in the world of ebay so you'll be delighted to know that one month and six days after I paid for a Peep Show DVD that turned out not to exist I've managed to get a refund for it. I doubt I would have managed to do so if I hadn't published the e-mail address of the perpetrator on this page like the petty-vigilante I am.

Somebody else who read about the incident got in touch to tell me that they had recieved two copies of the DVD for their birthday and would be happy to let me have the other. It seems Series 1 DVDs are rare and valuable so I've sent them what we both thought was a fair price. There's a happy ending.

March 9 2006

Annually Retentive is a TV series about a TV series. It stars Rob Brydon. The TV series it's about is also called Annually Retentive. It's a panel show. It's hosted by Rob Brydon who's being played by Rob Brydon. I'm playing one of the team captains who's called Dave Gorman. The other team captain is Jane Moore and she's playing herself.

The panel show doesn't really exist... except that right now it sort of does. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we recorded two episodes each night with 4 guests on each show. The shows will never be seen as complete episodes but bits of them will appear in the show about the show. So right now the show within the show exists and the show that they're within doesn't. But it will.

It's been remarkably good fun so far and the audiences have been great. After the first pair of recordings the producers decided that as the audience was enjoying them so much and we were all relaxed doing them they might as well add a few rounds in and give themselves more choice when it comes to choosing how much of the show is about the show and how much is the show.

Everyone involved has been a pleasure to work with thus far. Especially Rob Brydon and don't let the fact that he asked me to write that lead you to conclude it's not true. It is true.

March 7 2006

We recorded two episodes of Annually Retentive last night - or at least the show within the show. I think everyone decided that we should do the show as well as we could rather than seeking to make a deliberately bad panel-show. The end result was a very enjoyable night with some remarkably good guests. The whole project feels much more real this morning and I'm really looking forward to the next couple of days.

Now... I have a few loose ends to tie up relating to my two recent ebay related fiascos.

The most recent of these concerned the attempts of a certain Jon Hogg to defraud people by selling them nothing but the belief that they were taking part in a TV show I was making. I wrote about it a couple of days ago and you can also read about it in this Chortle story here.

Now Jon Hogg turns out to be a 17 year old lad who in his father's words can be "a bit of a d*ckhead". (His Dad didn't say * he said i )

The truth of the matter is that Jon was doing something wrong and even after it was obvious that he'd been caught doing it he was prepared to carry on, ignoring e-mails from me and others on the subject. Sadly it was only the threat of serious consequences that persuaded him to put a stop to it. Still, at least he acted before ebay... their first response was to tell me that they couldn't remove the listing, which makes no sense at all. They've since removed it. Which makes sense. Odd.

The second ebay related series of events is certainly more trivial but has been running a little longer. I first mentioned it in this parish at the end of February. It concerned my attempts to purchase a DVD of the brilliant sit-com Peep Show which was in part prompted by the ridiculous news that Channel 4 had decided not to commission a new series (see Chortle.) Since then it seems that someone at Channel 4 has seen sense and a new series has been commissioned after all. (see Chortle again.)

But I digress. The point is that the seller concerned was actually trying to sell counterfeit copies of the first series. Ebay discovered this and ended their listing but I'd already paid for it. I requested a refund to no avail. The seller then disappeared from ebay and removed all the money from their paypal account. No refund came. No DVD arrived either.

Oddly just after I put their name and e-mail address on this page they got in touch to say they would sort it out. While I'm sure they will be true to their word I'm slightly confused by the e-mails I'm receiving from them which seem to be very insistent that it wasn't their fault. Now it's possible that she is telling the truth - in which case it is her brother who is responsible for this whole thing and she was on holiday at the time. Of course that would involve her brother having her passwords and registering a paypal account in her name and using her e-mail address but in a way that was to his financial advantage... which I have to say seems a tad unlikely. In any case if that is what happened I think she should probably be directing her anger at her brother.

I'm told that it should all be resolved today. I hope so.

March 5 2006

I don't have a lot to say about yesterday's Showbiz Poker other than to say that, much as I like the game, it can be incredibly infuriating. Good company, bad cards. No doubt some bad play on my part also.

Harumphing over - I now have something more serious to actually grumble about. Oddly it's another ebay related menace but this one is more serious than the apparent theft of £6.99 I mentioned a few days ago. Someone is basically claiming to be me in an attempt to rip off innocent people - up to 1000 of them - of £1.01 each. So far I think three people have fallen for it so he's only made £3.03 out of his fraudulent ways... but if his masterplan was successful he'd make over a grand out of 1000 tiny frauds.

The item is titled Dave Gorman ebay experiment - take part now!. It claims that I'm making a TV special about ebay and essentially that people can help out/take part by purchasing an imaginary widget for £1.01.

Obviously this is a lie and I'd like to think that anyone reading it would know it's a lie. There are several give-aways in the listing. For a start whoever wrote the listing can't spell. It's existence not existance, imaginary not immaginary and alleged not alledged. Anything that was meant to come from me would be better proof read than that.

It also shows a ridiculous paucity of imagination. I guess I'm used to this. When I first did Reasons To Be Cheerful I was inundated with e-mails from people suggesting other songs I could examine for future shows. When I did Better World I started to receive emails with suggestions for shows of an altruistic nature and when I did Are You Dave Gorman? my inbox overflowed with people suggesting things related to namesakes... other people's namesakes, lookalikes, people who share a birthday etc. etc. Now that I've done the Googlewhack Adventure people seem to have me labelled as some kind of internet-humourist and so I get lots of suggestions along similar lines. It seems very odd to me. The last thing I want to do is something-a-bit-like-the-thing-I've-just-done. The last thing I want to do is live up to some kind of label. Anyway, I guess it's this perception of me that made this ebay user (eb_ayflash) think his fraud seemed plausible and I suppose it's also the reason that the (satisfyingly paltry) three fools fell for it too.

I wrote to ebay about this yesterday and nothing seems to have been done about it so far. I've written an e-mail to the seller in question too. He hasn't taken it down yet. A few days ago when someone 'sold' me something on ebay and then disappeared with my money I posted their e-mail address on this page. I was narked that they'd taken my £6.99 but my tongue was in my cheek as I typed it. I thought it more amusing than anything else to take a small and petty grievance and discuss it here. I certainly wasn't intending to turn my page into some kind of ebay watchdog.

However this instance seems to be altogether different and rather more serious. And it isn't me who's being conned. Oh well. Here goes: His name is Jon Hogg. His address is ********edited******** and his phone number is 0151 *** ****.

Keep checking back at davegorman.com to see which miscreant's personal details I publish next!

March 4 2006

It was my birthday on Thursday. Because my birthday features in the Googlewhack Adventure a lot of people know about it so I get a lot of e-mails from strangers wishing me well. Which is nice. Unfortunately there are too many to reply to - but it really is appreciated. What's also in the Googlewhack Adventure is the fact that as I began my early 30s I was struck by the (unpleasantly vain) notion that I should make my living in a more respectable fashion. I sort of failed to do so but then spent 3 years making a living by telling people the story of my failure in a way that was, by and large, received as being my most mature work to date... so maybe I kind of succeeded. In any case there was no such crisis of confidence as I turned 35. I spent most of the day working on an opera that I'm contributing to (don't ask) and you can't get more grown up than that.

In the evening I went to see The Boy Least Likely To who I'd interviewed a couple of weeks ago when hosting on 6Music. Oh yeah, I might be 35 but I can still groove on down with the kids. They were great when they played in the studio but obviously better at a gig where their happy, uplifting energy creates a great atmosphere. I was surprised and flattered when part way through the show they stopped to give me a slice of cake (victoria sponge, cake fans) for my birthday. Aw shucks.

I had to have a relatively early night as I was up the next day for more opera-related work followed by some more filming on Annually Retentive where the hardest part of the job seems to be not corpsing at Rob Brydon. We have the studio records for the show at the start of next week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) which I'm looking forward to. I think when they're happening we'll really feel like we're making the show proper and the whole project will come alive.

Right now I'm wishing I'd spent the day in a poker bootcamp because this afternoon I'm playing a game for Showbiz Poker (I think that's the new title for Celebrity Poker Club) and the competitive side of me is desperate to do better than I did on my last appearance a year ago. That was my first ever game. I've played a fair bit since then. I've definitely got better. It should be a fun afternoon if nothing else.

When I'm writing this I sometimes wonder whether anyone will be reading it. Then sometimes an entry strikes a chord and I get a flurry of e-mails and it's clear that I'm not sending this news out into the ether unread. A few days ago I mentioned how someone had fleeced me on ebay by not sending me an item I'd ordered. I'm certainly not alone - I received a host of e-mails from people venting their spleens about similar things happening to them, many of them worse than my £6.99 incident. I also received an e-mail from the seller. Which is odd because I'd e-mailed her before and had no response and yet, when her e-mail address was on my site, something prompted her to get in touch. She's promised to reimburse me... I'll let you know if it materialises.

Now... poker.

March 1 2006

Yesterday was a very full but satisfying day. I made my first contribution to a new TV show that I'm very excited by. It's a peculiar beast but at the same time the pilot show (that I wasn't involved in) is one of the funniest things I've seen. It's called Annually Retentive and it's sort of a panel show but not really, in fact it's more about a panel show than anything else. At the heart of the show is the very, very funny Rob Brydon. If you want to come along to see the studio recordings (March 6, 7, 8) you can get tickets here.

The evening was then spent recording two episodes of Radio 4's Quote... Unquote. This is a real life and far more straight forward panel show of some 30 year standing so you can't help but be aware that you're stepping into an institution when you take part in it. I was in particularly esteemed company (John Lloyd, Simon Brett anyone) and I was very pleased to discover that the other pannelist Stephanie Merritt was also making her first appearance on the show. Needless to say everyone involved was really very jolly and the evening flashed by.

You can tell I haven't read much this month because I'm recommending a classic. I was re-reading a section from Side Effects a few days ago and I thought I'd have to recommend this on the site. Then I started thinking about Without Feathers and whether that collection of writing was more worthy. Then I discovered that the two of them are collected in one volume and with a third, Getting Even, also in the package. Whatever the pieces in Getting Even are like - and I won't pretend to have read them - yet - the book is worth it already for the great comic writing in the other two. It's easy to forget quite how good Woody Allen has been down the years but it's great to remind yourself of it by dipping into these. Quite, quite brilliant.

Complete Prose of Woody Allen 

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Back to the top of the news page. See all the books I've recommended so far here.

February 27th 2006

I really enjoyed the Colin & Edith Show last night even though Jim Noir turned out not to be playing after all in one of those last-minute-things-that-happens-when-making-TV-shows. The two bands who were on (The Zutons and We Are Scientists) were both great and great company too. As it happensJim Noir are doing a gig in London tonight - within walking distance of home - and I've managed to blag a ticket for that instead. A complete set in a decent venue will be more pleasing than one or two songs in a TV studio for sure.

I read something in the paper yesterday about the £53million robbery. It all sounds pretty brutal and unpleasant but what surprised me was the way in which the police had reached the conclusion that one of the criminals had been wearing a false beard. It basically said that he had a scruffy, wiry and wispy ginger beard but that it was probably fake because it was a different colour to the hair on his head. I thought this was really common. In fact a few months ago I was arguing this same point with a female friend in a pub. She was intrigued by my own mismatched beard/hair combo and I was explaining how common it was. She didn't believe me and so we conducted a small survey of the other men in the group - all of whom were clean shaven. Over half of them said that they too had ginger beards and not one of them had red hair. You'd think the police would know this. (Not about the specific conversation between me and some friends in a pub a few months ago - that would be weird and scary - but about the widespread redness to the beards of non-red-headed men.)

I think I've been the victim of a less serious crime myself recently. Like all right minded people I've been a huge fan of Channel 4's Peep Show. I think the idiots have decided not to recommission the series and partly prompted by the realisation that it wouldn't be on my telly anymore I set about trying to buy the show on DVD. I got Series 2 for a reasonable price but while Series 1 was released on DVD some time ago it no longer seems to be available. So I thought I'd have a quick shufty on ebay to see if I could pick up a bargain there.

I managed to buy a copy for only £6.99 and promptly sent off my payment. Then I got a message from ebay advising me that the item had ben removed from their listings because it breached 'one or more of our policies.' It went on to explain; 'Any offers or bids placed on this listing are now null and void. We advise you not to finalize this transaction with the seller. As stated in the eBay User Agreement, neither seller nor buyer should engage in transactions that breach the law or eBay policy.' Which is all right and proper but doesn't really help me given that I'd already paid for the item. Ebay can never confirm the particular breach of its terms and conditions but I suspect that the DVD was a bootleg copy. I don't want to buy a bootleg copy so I wrote to the seller requesting a refund. They wrote back to say that they would send the DVD and that I could get a refund if I wanted.

Needless to say the DVD hasn't arrived. I contacted Paypal - the ebay owned company that I'd used to transfer the funds - and opened up a complaint procedure. Ten days later Paypal wrote to me to say that they'd found in my favour but that they were unable to refund the money because the seller's account was empty. I should think it was. They were no longer listed as a seller on ebay and had no doubt emptied the account when they knew their nefarious bootlegging operation had been discovered.

So I've sent a stranger the grand total of £6.99 and received nothing in return. Ebay and paypal have politely explained that they're unable to help me to get my money back and that seems to be that. Obviously it's only a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things but even so it's a bit galling and it certainly puts me off using ebay a bit as despite all their advertising stressing how safe and secure it is there appears to be nothing stopping people from getting away with this kind of small scale nonsense.

Of course it would be petty and childish of me to publish the e-mail address of the seller responsible. But on balance probably not as petty and childish as it was to take my money and run so I'd like to say a big hello to k****.o******@talk21.com. (self censored, March 10) You're a very naughty girl.

February 24th 2006

I've thoroughly enjoyed my two weeks standing in for Tom Robinson on 6Music. I think the main thing when doing a job like that is to not annoy the regular listeners. They obviously listen for a reason so to change the show in any big way would spoil it for them. All you can really do is present the show the way it is... but in your own way. Which in my case means in a shambolic way.

We had some really great bands in the studio and I started to enjoy chatting to the guests which hasn't always been the case in the past. Well, I've always enjoyed having bands in, I've just never considered myself much cop when it comes to interviewing people... but I think that side of the job saw a marked improvement this time round.

As always while I try to play some music that won't have had much play on the radio before I also end up discovering music that's new to me and leaving with a big shopping list. I now have to get hold of some Jim Noir amongst other things.

I seemed to be all over the place yesterday. The episode of Banter I recorded recently was on Radio 4 at 6.30, then I was hosting the 6Music show from 7 til 9.30 and when I got home there was a repeat of the Culture Show on BBC2 with my contribution to the Design Quest thing in it. It's always a bit weird when that happens. Things that were recorded in advance just colliding randomly... I always get a bit paranoid and imagine someone somewhere accidentally catching them all and feeling like I'm electronically stalking them.

I've been invited to appear on a new BBC3 show hosted by Radio 1's Colin and Edith which is taped on Sunday. I don't know too much about it but I think Jim Noir are playing and that's reason enough to turn up as far as I'm concerned.

The variety I've been enjoying of late continues... I'm a guest on two episodes of Radio 4's Quote Unquote which record next Tuesday and on March 4th I'm returning to take part in another episode of Celebrity Poker Club, the show that started me off on the road to ruin this time last year.

February 18th 2006

If you'd asked me a year ago what my hobbies were I would have struggled to answer the question. The things that interest me; reading, listening to music and so on aren't really hobbies because they're things that everyone does. Aren't they? I probably thought that hobbies in general were a bit strange. It occurred to me tonight that I can now legitimately claim to have three hobbies: cycling, photography and poker.

I started playing poker about a year ago when I was invited to take part in a televised tournament. I got very interested after the show and started to play online occasionally. Recently I've played more frequently online and in person on a few occasions. I've even won a small amount of money of late and while I'm certainly not in profit overall, I have made a profit in 2006.

I've been an occasional cyclist for a long time but it was always just a practical best-way-from-A-to-B kind of cycling. Then last year I started to go for bike rides just for pleasure and to get away from things. (There's a great 10 mile round trip that takes me through the Lea Valley - it's beautiful, quite a bit of it is a nature reserve and you wouldn't have a clue that you were in London) While I was in the States towards the end of last year there were a few occasions when I hired a bike in order to disappear and see some stuff. You see things differently on a bike than you do from a car. Partly I suppose it's just the difference in pace but also I think you pay attention in a different way. When you're driving you're looking out for things because you don't want to hurt anyone. When you're cycling you look out for things because you don't want to get hurt.

It was while I was in the States that I started taking photos with a different eye also. I started because of the rock balancing but once I'd discovered the photo-sharing website flickr it wasn't long before I was putting more thought into photography as well. (Oo... rock balancing; that's four hobbies - I've clearly gone hobby-crazy!)

I was thinking about this because tonight I indulged in three of them and they all left me feeling strangely fulfilled. A friend was hosting a poker night. It was out near Greenwich/Blackheath and I decided that while I didn't really know the way it would be a decent bike ride. I'm guessing that it's about a 6 or 7 mile ride from Bethnal Green (I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong) and I know my way over to the Isle of Dogs pretty well but after that I'd be guessing or, more likely, referring to maps.

Because I haven't done the journey before I wasn't sure how much time I should allow so in the end I decided to put my camera and tripod in my bag and leave early. That way, if I made good time I could dawdle awhile and take some photos and if it was further than I thought I could just keep cycling. If only I'd thought to take a detour via some balanceable rocks too.

It meant that I used the Greenwich Foot Tunnel for the first time in my life. I pushed my bike through because I am a law abiding citizen but even so it was a great reminder of why I love cycling. I had no idea the tunnel was there a short while ago and yet it's an amazing part of the city I live in. It's 1217 feet long and around 40 to 50 feet below the water. It's impossible to walk through it without wondering about the weight of all that water overhead - the River Thames. But the tunnel has been in use since 1902 so I guess it's likely to last a while yet.

All in all it was a good night out. I've got to be a bit healthier for a 13+ mile bike ride, I've had a nice time in good company and it hasn't cost me a thing. In fact I made a small profit. I've also discovered something new about London, connected parts of the city that weren't really connected on my mental map and taken a few pictures along the way.

It occurs to me that maybe one of the reasons I've got into scrapes in the past might be that I had time on my hands and nothing to do with it except look for trouble. Maybe now that I'm hobbied-up to the max there'll be less strife.

February 16th 2006

My occasional stints on 6Music are easily amongst the most enjoyable of my distractions. I think if I did the job week in week out the shine might come off it but getting the chance to go in every now and then to cover for someone else is just a perfect gig. I never feel particularly slick or professional but it is the radio station I listen to most which means it's easy to be enthusiastic about the music. They allow me to play quite a lot of stuff of my own choosing as well which makes it even easier.

The most enjoyable aspect for me has been the live sessions. I had a meeting with the producer a few weeks ago to chat about who we thought would be good on the show and I've been amazed at how many of the bands I suggested have been available. We had Jim Bob in on Monday. I think he was my very first interview on my first stint on 6Music many moons ago while I was standing in for Gideon Coe. He's really good company and when the album School comes out in April I highly recommend it. (Sample lyric: There was an altercation at the Esso station, they used to call it smash and grab/ There was a theft of fuel and a fire at the school. It started in the science lab.)

Tuesday and Wednesday saw Misty's Big Adventure and The Boy Least Likely To respectively. They're very different to each other yet they both have something charmingly childlike in their music and both of their latest albums are amongst my current favourites. Today we had Teddy Thompson in the studio. I'm less familiar with TT but he was really relaxed and enjoyable company and again his latest album is very, very good.

I didn't know that the thing I recorded for The Culture Show was going to be on this evening. I only realised when we got a text message at the studio asking me how I was managing to be on 6Music and BBC2 at the same time.

Because the show runs Monday to Thursday I now have a three day weekend before I'm back in for a second week. I hope you get the chance to tune in - if you ignore my babbling you'll hear some really great music.

I spent Wednesday afternoon recording a voice over for the BBC4 Top Of The Form night. This involved sitting in a studio watching an edited version of the programme I filmed all the links for last week and then fitting the appropriate words to the appropriate shots where I wasn't on screen. If you watch the show when it goes out you'll notice that I have a very red nose in most of it. I told you it was cold in that Neasden warehouse.

A few people have e-mailed me to request an RSS feed for the page. When I first read these e-mails I didn't know what an RSS feed was. Now I do. I'm not sure I'm really able to explain it properly but wikipedia has this to say. Essentially if you use a feed reader it can give you the latest news from several sites and that way you don't need to go to a page especially to find out whether or not there's been an update. I think. As you can see I haven't really got my head around the subject yet... however I have got my head around it enough to add an RSS feed to the site. I think. If I've succeeded, it's here.

February 10th 2006

I've really enjoyed this last week. Every day has been different and fun. Yesterday was spent in a freezing cold warehouse in Neasden recording stuff for a BBC4 show about the old school's quiz Top Of The Form. The channel will be having a Top Of The Form theme night which I'll be hosting. They'll show a couple of (highly entertaining) shows from the archive, a modern day revival made with current schoolkids, a documentary about the show and some other related programmes. I'm sure it was important for the whole look and feel of the evening to record the links in a freezing cold warehouse. In Neasden.

The first part of today was spent in Clapham filming a short piece for The Culture Show. It's a short piece that's longer than the short piece I filmed for them two or three weeks ago. It's all to do with a feature they're running called Design Quest which aims to find the public's favourite piece of classic British design. The first recording I did was used as part of a programme in which various people discussed 25 different classic, British designs. Then viewers voted for their favourites and these votes have whittled the list down to a top 10. Now longer films are being made to represent each one.

Mine is about the world wide web. A new tranche of voting opens next Thursday and this will get them down to a shortlist of 3 and then there is presumably more voting to select the winner. Trying to explain it is exhausting enough. How anyone is meant to compare an angelpoise lamp to a routemaster bus to the world wide web is beyond me ... but if they do I'm sure they'll agree with me and vote for the web.

After that I headed into 6Music to take part in the venerable broadcasting institution that is Roundtable. I've done this a couple of times now and it's always mischievous fun. It was nice to pop in because for the next two weeks I'll be pretending to work there when I deputise as host for the Tom Robinson's Evening Sequence. I'm looking forward to that.

February 8th 2006

I've had a very enjoyable couple of days. I spent last night at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. I was there to present an award but really that was just an excuse to spend the evening in good company, witnessing some amazing live performances. It really was a pretty special night.

Tonight I spent the evening recording a panel show called Classic Comebacks. It's about old TV shows and was hosted by Les Dennis. I scared myself by knowing more about Prisoner Cell Block H than I thought I did.

I've generally been having a high old time of late and I've been trying to work out why these things are making me quite so happy. I mean they are fun to do but I think there's more to it than that and I think I've worked it out.

I am essentially self-employed. I write stuff and I perform stuff. That's it. I think I'm incredibly fortunate to be able to make a living in this way. But within the range of things that I do there are differing degrees of responsibility.

The Googlewhack Adventure for example carries quite a lot of responsibility. It's a show and a book about events in my own life that I wrote and that I perform. Although there are a lot of people who helped to make it happen at the end of the day, my name is on the book cover, my name is above the door of the theatre and whether or not the project works is going to come down to me.

In contrast the work I've been doing lately carries very little responsibility. I don't mean to suggest that I don't care about the outcome - I do - only that the shows I've done haven't been mine. It doesn't matter whether it's The Wright Stuff, Classic Comeback, Banter, BBLB, Morning Glory or The Culture Show each one is someone else's responsibility and I'm hired to slot into them in some way. They're less challenging than a one-man show but less stressful also. Somewhere between these extremes lies Genius. I host the show but it's put together by a team of people and it's a real collaboration.

I think in an ideal world I need to have a healthy mix of these things. If I have too much of one I start to crave the other. I love the excitement of a new project and to some extent I think I thrive on the pressure that goes with it. But I don't think it's healthy to have just that.

For most of the last three years I've been consumed by The Googlewhack Adventure one way or another. There have been diversions along the way but it's taken up a huge amount of my time. It's been very exciting at times but it's also prevented me from doing some of the other less stressful gigs along the way. Especially given the amount of overseas touring I did with that particular show.

So now that I'm back and that show has been put to bed I think I'm redressing the balance. I have no desire to take on any big new project for a while and I'm loving the variety of things that are available to me. None of which give me any sleepless nights.

On Thursday I'm filming some links for a BBC4 documentary I'm presenting and on Friday I'm recording a longer follow up piece about the world wide web for the Culture Show (assuming enough people decide that the world wide web is a great bit of British design) while on Monday I begin a two week stint hosting a show on 6Music. No wonder I'm enjoying things at the moment; the last four months of 2005 were high on pressure and low on variety and the first 38 days of 2006 have been the exact opposite.

February 3rd 2006

The Wright Stuff has made for a very enjoyable week. It has to be enjoyable in order to justify getting up so early each morning. The show has two panellists who appear all week and then each day there's another guest as well. Almost every time I do the show the other regular is Janet Ellis as was the case this week.

There's something odd about sitting behind a desk with someone who was presenting children's TV when you were a kid. It's like bumping into one of your old teachers in a pub... nice to chat to them on level terms but you have to remind yourself that you are on level terms. When I was 12 I watched Janet break her pelvis. Not on purpose you understand. Blue Peter wasn't that cruel back then.

 

This book has a cover I don't really like, it's about a subject I don't find particularly appealing and it's a debut novel from an author I've never heard of. I don't really know why I first picked it up.
But I picked it up on a whim while I was in the States and I'm very glad I did. It's a rites of passage tale set in the Southern States. It's the intertwining stories of three girls through summer camp, high school and the University of Alabama. The opening scene is utterly astonishing and the story rattles along to a thoroughly surprising and rewarding end. Fantastic.

Eating The Cheshire Cat 

cover

Back to the top of the news page. See all the books I've recommended so far here.

January 25th 2006

I had another very early morning yesterday with a car picking me up at 6.15 in order to get out to Elstree to appear on Channel 4's Morning Glory, the breakfast show hosted by the unstoppable Dermot O'Leary who is currently hosting two different live TV shows back to back each morning with his usual slick and cheery aplomb. They start Morning Glory with a guest going through the day's papers - a feature that they really ought to call Morning Glory's What's The Story? It was fun anyway.

It'll be early mornings and "so what have you seen in the paper, Dave?" all next week too as I return to a week of The Wright Stuff. Then there are two weeks in February in which I'll be standing in as the host of Tom Robinson's Evening Sequence all of which led me to send an e-mail to my mailing list late last night.

I try not to overuse the mailing list because I don't want people to think that I'm hassling them or that I expect everyone to be interested in the minute details of what I'm up to. Occasionally I get e-mails from people complaining that I did something but didn't tell them about it asking me what's the point of a mailing list if you don't send us an e-mail. I think there's a balance to be struck. If I sent out an e-mail for every single broadcast event in my schedule as and when they were added to my diary I'd have sent out five or six so far this month and several thousand people would be thinking I was inordinately proud of sitting next to Dermot O'Leary in the mornings. I mean, I like him, but I can't see that alerting 9500 people to a 4 minute appearance at breakfast is really worthwhile.

However if you've signed up to a mailing list for someone who does what I do for a living then 5 days of The Wright Stuff and 8 days of evening radio seems to justify one e-mail... and so I wrote it and hit the send button and then held my breath. There's a bad side to a mailing list of this size. I don't have 9500 e-mail addresses stored in my computer's address book - that would be crazy - I use a paid-for service from a company called bravenet.com. People add their own addresses and have to confirm their subscription by replying to an e-mail. That way I can guarantee that I'm not sending e-mails to anyone who didn't choose to receive them and that means that I can't be accused of sending spam.

When there are 9500 subscribers there are inevitably some addresses that cause problems. Obviously someone who signed up to my mailing list in 2002, say, wasn't thinking it was a particularly momentous thing to do. When they moved to a new job, or left their university, or changed their cable TV supplier or just went travelling and decided that they couldn't be bothered with that hotmail account any longer there was no way they were going to think, oo, I'd better unsubscribe that e-mail address from Mr. Gorman's mailing list... after all, there's no point him receiving an error message the next time he vainly tries to inform me that he's on breakfast telly was there?

About 2% of the addresses that receive the e-mails bounce back error messages - so that's nearly 200 e-mails informing me that individual addresses no longer exist. Every time I send an e-mail this happens and every time I then have to spend several hours going through the list deleting the addresses that are no longer relevant. It's like having an office job. Ugh. If I don't delete the addresses then next time I'll receive 400 error messages and so on. Then there are the 100 or so auto-replies that thank me for my e-mail, inform me that so-and-so is out of the office but will be back in on Thursday and will reply to my e-mail as soon as they get back. I hope they don't all reply when they get back. And why are so many people away until Thursday?

More problematic still are the error messages from accounts that have decided my e-mails are actually spam. A computer somewhere has decided that I am sending out spam and has blocked it from arriving at the inbox of the recipient. They might never know about it. Maybe they're wondering why I never send them any e-mails? If there's no way of alerting those people or their mail provider I delete those addresses from the list too... after all there's no point me sending out e-mails that won't be received. It seems a shame seeing as they asked to receive them.

Today I discovered a new layer of difficulty has been added to the mailing list. Several people have added anti-spam measures to their accounts that ask the sender of an e-mail to confirm their existence. They send an e-mail back to the sender asking them to confirm their details and then, once the service in convinced you are a real person and not a computer sending out adverts for porn or mortgages or luxury watches or whatever then your e-mail gets through. I can see why people do this - I get around 800 spam e-mails a day and would dearly love to remove them. At the same time, I've just spent an hour clicking buttons that direct me to websites where I am asked to pass a test just so that an e-mail can be sent to someone who asked me to send it to them in the first place.

The most frustrating of these are those that arrive asking me questions that I don't know the answers to. One has come from bluebottle.com. It directs me to a website that then asks me for the full name of the intended recipient. I have no idea what the full name of the recipient is. I've never met them. I've looked for the address on my mailing list and it doesn't exist. There's a similar address connected to a yahoo.com account but there's no name attached to it. This means that my e-mail isn't sent directly to that address... which means that one of the 9500 e-mail addresses on my list is set up to automatically forward all e-mails to this bluebottle.com address and I have no way of knowing with any certainty which one it is.

So I can't delete the address from the mailing list and nor can I do anything to convince their anti-spam service that I'm not sending spam. This could go on for ever. There's no way of breaking the loop. Every e-mail I send to my mailing list will be intercepted by the bluebottle anti-spam service who will e-mail me asking me questions I don't know the answer to. There's no way of me removing them from the list because I don't know who they are and I can't satisfy the anti-spam criteria ... because I don't know who they are. E-mails will bounce around in the ether for the rest of time without any of them getting to the person who asked for them in the first place.

I know it's not the biggest problem in the world. I know there are people who have far more unpleasant jobs to do today. Mind you, I suppose they get paid to do their unpleasant jobs and no one is paying me to spend hours administrating a mailing list. In fact, I pay for the mailing list to exist myself ... out of the goodness of my own heart. And the money I earn from doing my job. Some of which comes from selling tickets or books. Some of which have been bought by people on my mailing list. Mustn't grumble.

January 20th 2006

I was sitting flicking channels earlier when a programme came on called The World According To Google. I found myself thinking that I didn't want to watch it because, as interesting as I think the company is, I think I've probably crammed a lifetime's worth of Google related thinking into the last three years as it is. So I carried on flicking.

Nothing was keeping my attention so eventually I clicked back to the Google show where I was surprised to see a small extract from my DVD... including some very out of context stuff taken from the pre-show sequence. That's odd, I thought, I don't remember anyone asking if they could use that. I was sitting there wondering how and why someone would take this without my permission when suddenly my own very tired and drawn face popped on the screen giving a short interview about Google too.

So I guess that they did have my permission and more. Only I have no memory of doing the interview. I don't know when or where it was. When the credits rolled it became clear that the episode was called The World According To Google but that it was really an episode of The Money Programme. Maybe I'm deliberately shutting things out. Maybe now that the Googlewhack Adventure is no more I am wiping the peripheral information from my memory. It was very odd.

January 18th 2006

I've never enjoyed talking head style TV. I don't mean as a viewer, every now and then a list is interesting enough for me but as a participant it isn't really my thing. I've never done one of those I love 1970-something programmes because I don't remember all that much about any given year and the things I do remember aren't the things they want their talking heads to be talking about.

Unfortunately these shows aren't constructed around the things the contributors recall... instead they've already compiled their clips and written their script and they know what they want you to remember. If you haven't remembered it that's okay so long as you can pretend to remember it in a pithy fashion. Which I can't.

I did take part in one about favourite comedians as I thought that was something I knew about but was a little dismayed when it turned out they didn't want me to talk about my favourite comedians at all and instead had a list of names they wanted comments on... including many people that I really can't raise an opinion about.

Yesterday I recorded something for The Culture Show about my favourite piece of British Design. This seemed like a different proposition because... well, because it was The Culture Show for a start but also because they went about it in a different way. I chose to talk about the world wide web (yes it is design and yes it is British!) but while I was there I also recorded a small bit about cat's eyes (the road safety things not the eyes of cats which were nobody's invention... unless you believe in God but even then, I don't think he's exactly British) and the classic Penguin book cover.

I'm not very good at being concise which is a problem for these kind of shows. It's all about the soundbite. I won't be surprised if when the show comes on I'm not on screen and they've quickly managed to find someone to espouse the virtues of the web in under 10 seconds in my stead.

January 16th 2006

Banter was hugely enjoyable last night. A lot of panel shows have a tendency to get unpleasantly competitive with everyone desperate to speak but this was really generous in spirit - no doubt in part because of the generous spirit of the panellists - but also I think because the structure of the show means that everyone has their turn anyway.

It's a series of rounds in which you discuss your Top Threes in different categories... so last night we discussed, amongst other things, our favourite monarchs, our favourite fictional robots and our favourite soap villains. You're told the categories in advance so you can prepare for them properly but the funniest and most satisfying things spring not from the prepared material but from the conversation. Or banter.

It was a long recording and a lot of stuff was said that won't have a chance of making it into the show (which is intended, I think, for the 6.30 slot on R4) but of course the live audience enjoys being privy to it all the more when that happens.

January 14th 2006

In spite of knowing almost none of the answers I really enjoyed All The Way From Memphis last night. It was very jolly company and the questions are very cleverly constructed by Jim Walton who also hosts the show. The show ends with a quickfire-fingers-on-buzzers round and Andrew Collins is just too quick with his fire. In both shows I knew maybe 25% of the answers in that round but it seemed almost impossible to get in first. When I did finally manage to buzz in and score a point it even raised a friendly cheer from the audience. (I say 'friendly', I mean 'patronising.') Mind you, I'm pretty sure that the others hadn't buzzed in not because they didn't know the answer but because they were too cool to reveal they're knowledge of The Wurzels back-catalogue. By then I had no such pride.

My Andrew Collins themed weekend continues tomorrow when we'll be recording an episode of Banter also for Radio 4.

January 12th 2006

In the East End of London there are some letters that only come out at night. They're painted on the shutters of some of the businesses in the area. I've been aware of them for a while and not really thought much about them. I'm not a big fan of graffiti in general but these seem quite inoffensive. They do no harm to anyone and if anything the shopfronts in question look more attractive with a big bold letter painted on them than without.

A couple of days ago I took a few pictures of a few clustered around the junction with Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane. I ended up with ten letters snapped and I posted the pictures on flickr.com and wondered aloud - well, in text - whether there was a whole alphabet out there.

Of course, the minute I'd wondered whether or not there was an alphabet out there I knew that I would be going out again to hunt them down. With the help of some comments left on the pictures and with two more jaunts around the East End I managed to collect the set. Here they are.

I'm sure there was something more constructive I could have been doing with my time. Like some of that work that's piling up.

January 10th 2006

BBLB was as enjoyable as normal - Dermot O'Leary really does make it a very easy and enjoyable show to guest on. Mind you, so does the fact that this year's Celebrity Big Brother is, in spite of any misgivings I may have about it, completely absorbing. It's a guilty pleasure.

January 8th 2006

Oh I forgot to add that on Tuesday I'll be a guest on Celebrity Big Brother's Little Breakfast. Most people will, I imagine, be on their way to work that early in the morning and those who don't have work to go to will most likely still be asleep but if you're early to rise and unemployed I suppose you might catch it.

January 7th 2006

My plans to keep my diary relatively free don't seem to be going too well. Having thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the revival of What's My Line and The Name's The Same for BBC4 back in August last year I'm really happy to be working with the same team on something in a similar vein... this time the show being re-examined is Top Of The Form. I'll let you know more about what I'm doing for it when there's more to be said.

On Janaury 13th I'll be taking part in two episodes of the Radio 4 music quiz; All The Way From Memphis. You can get tickets to be in the audience here.

January 5th 2006

Happy new year everyone.

It seems I was wrong to sum up my travels for 2005 when I did as I ended up taking a trip to Stockholm to bring in the new year with some good friends. So obviously, my 2005 glasses had a final outing. But they are out of date now and I will never wear them again. Still, I think I got more use out of them than anyone else, having worn them on New Year's Day 2005 and New Year's Eve 2005 and on many occasions in between. Well done me.

(I have some more attractive pictures from the trip here.)

As the new year brings a new news page I hope you'll forgive me for repeating a bit of information from my final entries to last year's page... it is stuff that's still relevant and I don't expect everyone to go chasing links around the place unnecessarily.

As I was away from home for most of the last four months and the US tour was quite intense I'm determined not to race back into things and overload my schedule. So I'm trying to be a bit picky about agreeing to any work commitments so it's just going to be a mix of old favourites I enjoy doing or new things that I'm confident will be more fun than anything else.

A good example of the latter is a new Radio 4 show; Banter. It's hosted by Andrew Collins and features Richard Herring as a regular panellist all of which leads me to believe it should be fun. It involves a studio audience so if you're interested in being there (it's in London) on January 15th, take a lookee in here.

From January 30th to February 3rd I'll be having a few early mornings and returning to Channel 5's The Wright Stuff. They also have a studio audience so if early morning topical discussion floats your boat you can call 020 7284 7710/7715.

This is a true story. Which makes it all the more frightening. When the US military decides to do some 'blue-sky thinking' to see if some of the Californian hippie ideals can be used in warfare you get a comedy of errors. When the impact of these ideas is felt by people (as opposed to just goats) it gets much more scary. Some of the reviews of this have shown gleeful amazement at the ability of a humourist to uncover so much which strikes me as terribly patronising to a man with Jon Ronson's track record. He's a fine journalist who has a very funny lightness of touch. But not only does he know when to tiptoe around a subject he also knows when not to. Brilliant.

The Men Who Stare At Goats

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back to the top of the news page. See all the books I've recommended so far here. Or carry on to 2005.