Archive for August, 2009

20
Aug
09

Do not stand at my grave and weep – I’ve emailed you. There is no escape.

A new messaging service from beyond the grave has been launched, allowing personal notes written prior to death to be sent to loved ones in the future.

The Last Messages Club offers busybodies and those who insist on having the last word – even when they’re dead – the opportunity to keep poking their noses into other people’s business for days, months and years after they’ve breathed their last.

For a small fee, members can write up to 100 emails that can be released once they have died at times of their choosing, such as when a loved one marries, has a child or needs prompting to put the bins out on a Thursday.

Simon Gilligan, 63, from Cambridgeshire, has signed up to the service and has written messages that will be sent to his wife, children and friends after his death.

“The messages are personal, but most of them are humorous,” he said.

“It also makes you think about smaller details, like making sure you remind someone to cancel your bus pass.”

In other words, the new service is like really low-level haunting.

Rather than all that pointless banging on the pipes at night, or moving objects or causing people to feel a chill down their spine, you can just email them and cut out the hassle-factor.

Thanks for the funeral, although I did think I might have warranted a slightly more expensive coffin. The fixed rate on the mortgage ends next month, make sure you shop around. Off to see Michael Jackson tonight - Elvis is the support act. Love, WIB

Thanks for the funeral, although I did think I might have warranted a slightly more expensive coffin. The fixed rate on the mortgage ends next month, make sure you shop around. Off to see Michael Jackson tonight - Elvis is the support act. Love, WIB

I only hope that the messages are sent under a comforting pseudonym, rather than the name of the deceased: I can see how it might be a bit disconcerting to see that the person you buried six months ago has clogged up your inbox with messages about shopping around for an insurance quote on the Mondeo or remembering to have the boiler serviced.

Otherwise, the messages might serve one purpose early – to reunite the loved one with the deceased by virtue of a catastrophic heart attack caused by sheer fright in front of the computer.

Personally, I’d find it incredibly frustrating to be limited to just 100 emails after the grave – I bang out that many in a day, and I’d hate to be constrained in the afterlife, especially as I’d have eternity to be frustrated about it.

No, if I’ve got the option, I’d like to send an email for every conceivable eventuality.

I sincerely think that my reassuring voice from beyond the grave would be a huge comfort to all, especially if it was regarding a matter of great importance, such as whether or not my daughter should get her belly button pierced (no) or if my son should be stopped from leaving the house if he insisted on gelling his fringe (yes).

And then there are other equally pressing issues I need to advise my children about.

They need to know that it’s socially unacceptable to call themselves ‘Dr’ on their chequebook and in non-academic situations after post-graduate studies UNLESS they become a proper doctor, in other words one that can write a prescription and remove in-growing toenails.

They must also be stopped from pronouncing ‘clique’ as ‘click’, dating men who wear patent shoes (or women who wear t-shirts with ‘Pornstar’ written across them or talk in ‘little girl’ voices to get their own way), thinking Peter Kay or Lee Evans are hilarious or wearing any form of yellow gold jewellery.

In fact, come to think of it, there are so many issues that I have an opinion on that I’m minded to dedicating the rest of my life to writing emails about them just in case I drop dead without any notice.

After I’ve dealt with the really important stuff – the patent shoes, the show-off ‘Dr’ titles and so forth – there are practical matters to contend with.

Who, other than me, for example, understands the complexities of the family tumble drier and realises that if you run the tap in the kitchen during the final spin it will render the entire drying process pointless?

Explaining the tumble drier alone would take 100 emails. And that’s before I’ve even started on how you make back right-hand oven ring work by twiddling a knob in several directions while giving the whole apparatus a sharp shove.

And finally, I don’t think I’d be able to pass up the opportunity to send a few unsettling emails to people who have wronged me and who deserve a damn good haunting.

You know, a few titbits about the afterlife to give them food for thought: eternal burning lakes of fire, demonic servitors of Belial, hell’s uncanny resemblance to an Ikea warehouse on a Bank Holiday Monday, that kind of thing.

It’s important to me to know I won’t be forgotten when I’m gone. My only fear is that the WiFi connection in the afterlife will be as ropey as the one I have in the land of the living.

PS I promise not to send ‘hilarious’ jokes titled ‘ You HAVE to see this!’ or links to YouTube clips or terrifying, but false, pieces of ‘health information’ that suggest wearing a bra gives you a brain tumour. Unless you’ve really pissed me off. In which case, that inbox of yours is going to need some extra memory.

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15
Aug
09

Mix tapes – the lost art of trying to pull someone at school with a Memorex C90

It’s a terrifying 30 years since the Sony Walkman was introduced and music became portable in a way that didn’t alienate everyone within a 500m radius.

I didn’t have a Walkman 30 years ago, obviously, because they were ruinously expensive and I was only little – I simply didn’t have the strength to carry one.

They started to creep into my consciousness when I was at high school and a fellow student, one of the ones who always had the right coat, bag, shoes and highlights, brought a giant yellow Walkman on a school trip.

It was passed around the coach with the kind of reverence you might expect if you whipped out the Turin Shroud at a convent.

Despite being the size of the Yellow Pages and boasting the kind of sound quality that made listening to music underwater seem crystal clear, it represented an exciting, high-tech future.

Cliff Richard could make anything look cool (nb: leotard-wearing models did not come with standard Sony Walkmans)

Cliff Richard could make anything look cool (nb: leotard-wearing models did not come with standard Sony Walkmans)

Having only just persuaded my parents to buy one of those tinny made-for-teenagers ‘ghetto blasters’, I knew it would be a while before I could tap them up for a Walkman, or rather a Walkman equivalent available from my Mum’s home catalogue.

As archaic as it was, my own tape player had released me from the tyranny of my father, who was somewhat of a stereo Nazi, owning a set of hugely expensive ‘separates’ which made me the only person I knew who had to master a tuner and graphic equalisers before being able to put Duran Duran’s ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ on the turntable.

Everyone else’s Mum and Dad had a nice, simple Hinari or a Binatone stereo that could have been operated by an earthworm. Mine required tutorials from What Stereo? magazine before you felt confident enough to even switch it on.

On the plus side, my Dad’s technical fascism did mean that I made the most professional mix-tapes this side of the Western hemisphere.

He even taught me how to produce ‘quality silence’, a lost art these days, especially in cinema or theatre audiences when I’m in the auditorium.

In the good old days, if you made someone a mix-tape, it represented a fair chunk of your entire Sunday given over to faffing around with the record player and hovering over the pause button on the tape deck.

(I think, by the way, that that’s a contender for the most biddified, grey-haired, mobility-scooter riding sentence I’ve ever written.)

I would spend hour-upon-hour carefully working out an intricate play list that would fit on each side of a Memorex C90 without cutting Morrissey off midway through ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ or, more likely, Aha off during ‘Take On Me’.

Helped me to seduce older boys with cars and jobs. Although ye Gods, look at this picture. How many shades of wrong? And lets face it, teenage boys are pretty simple to seduce - I doubt I needed Aha: a pulse was enough.

Helped me to seduce older boys with cars and jobs. Although ye Gods, look at this picture. How many shades of wrong? And let's face it, teenage boys are pretty simple to seduce - I doubt I needed Aha: a pulse was enough.

It could easily take eight hours to make one 90-minute tape. An hour of which would be spent making ‘quality silence’ (also known as ‘sulking’ if my Dad was still lurking around trying to be ‘helpful’).

Each tape was compiled with the recipient in mind or, less nobly, as a blatant attempt to persuade the recipient to want to get off with me – those tapes cost good money, and I was keen to see some form of return. Teenage boys being teenage boys, I wasn’t often disappointed.

Hours would evaporate as you tried to cut out the recording ‘click’ between songs, struggled not to put two songs by the same artist in a row, resisted the urge to kill any parent unwittingly walking into the front room and jogging the needle on the record player and then struggled to fit all the track names on the tape insert in felt-tip pen.

After all that effort, keen to get the mix-tape to the recipient, I’d then bike it round, by which I mean I got on my bicycle and pedalled to their house rather than called on an in-house courier (even though I lived in a Grade  II listed house with a balcony AND window boxes, I wasn’t that posh).

These days, I can burn a CD in about three minutes (is it illegal? If it is, when I say that I burn CDs, I refer to music made by my family. On, er, spoons) and email it to someone immediately. It’s taken some of the magic away, frankly.

Equally, I can now have up to 10,000 songs on my iPod and if I shake it, it randomly chooses a new track for me to listen to.

Try that with the Walkman and you’d have been listening to a decidedly old record: your parents giving you the ‘you never look after anything properly’ speech for the gazillionth time before grounding you indefinitely.

NB: I still have some of my Dad’s stereo equipment, even though he went to the big hi-fi shop in the world back in 1992. And it still works, which kind of annoyingly proves his point about quality. Any of you fancy a mix-tape?

**** It’s been many a long week since last I graced WordPress. Lots of work, a lovely dose of swine flu (I didn’t throw a party for others to catch it), the odd weekend away (empahsis on ‘odd’), general apathy and ennui have kept me from posting. I will be visiting you all later to see what you’ve been up to. You’d better have been good while I’ve been away or I’ll know not to leave you home alone again. And don’t think I won’t be checking the phone bill. And the liquor cabinet ****




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