Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to spot a fake Elvis

Elvis is alive and well, as we all know, and living somewhere in the Lake District, but I’ve noticed that there are a number of fake Elvises popping up here and there. Some of them are quite convincing, and it takes a keen eye to spot the difference between the impersonators and the real thing.

I was once booked to play as part of Elvis’s backing band at the County Hotel in Taunton. This was a great honour for a young lad, and I was very excited. We musicians didn’t get to meet the King in advance. He just appeared onstage as we were rolling into Blue Suede Shoes. Wow!

Elvis was in his Vegas jumpsuit period then, sporting the high collars and the silk scarves. I’d heard that he’d put on some weight, so I was prepared for that, but I was surprised to see how short he’d become. Even in his Cuban heels he was only about five foot two. Weird how some people shrink with age. But, he did a pretty good show and I was in seventh heaven. Look at me! I’m backing Elvis!

The place was rocking, and pretty soon Elvis was working up a real sweat. I was standing right behind him, and I noticed his high collar beginning to wilt. As the material became soggier the supporting structure became apparent. It was part of a cornflakes packet! I could see the Kellogg’s cockerel showing through. That’s when the scales fell from my eyes, and I knew this wasn’t the real Elvis. Damn me, it was Squizzy Squires, a local lad, in a suit run up for him by Mrs. Peach who had the junk shop in Castle Street.

Nowadays I’m less naive, and I’ve become quite good at spotting fake Elvises. There’s an Asian one here in West Yorkshire, for instance, who fools nobody. Plus his name kind of gives him away: ‘Patelvis’. I saw another one at a 50th birthday party in the Mechanics Hall, Marsden. He was very good and I know that a lot of people wouldn’t have questioned the fact that this really was Elvis. But I heard his wife nagging him about the central heating, between sets, and that made me a bit suspicious. Later, after the show was over, and Elvis was humping out his PA equipment, I inadvertently annoyed him by closing a fire door he was about to go through.

‘Don’t shut chuffin’ door’, he said, in a thick Yorkshire accent. ‘Can’t tha see Ah’m trying to shift chuffin’ speakers?’ Once again I’d spotted a fake.

Somebody should pay me for this service. I could save people a lot of money, maybe as much as thirty quid a night.

Waiting for Elvis

‘Elvis comes into your life every day.’

This according to a lady friend I was talking to. Only keep your eyes and ears open, she claimed, and Elvis will be there.You’ll be flipping through the TV guide, and you'll see an Elvis film listed. Turn on the radio, read the newspapers, log onto the internet, walk past a record store, and at some point Elvis will appear unto you. Each and every day.

Her husband assured me this was true. ‘It’s true!’ he said. I was a bit skeptical – this after all is a couple who did the whole Elvis Wedding thing in Vegas. They were joined together by Elvis himself in the Little Chapel Of The Wooden Heart, or whatever it’s called. They’re big fans.

Nevertheless, I jumped when my mobile rang about twenty seconds later. ‘Blimey’, I thought. ‘He’s here already!’ But it was my sister – not quite the same thing.

Anyway, I’ve kept my Elvis antennae tuned in these last couple of days, in the hope of a visitation from the King. Sadly, I’ve nothing to report. I’ve seen plenty of George Osborne, but no Elvis. As with all religions, it must be a matter of faith - you have to be truly prepared to let the godhead into your life. I’m plainly not ready for that kind of commitment.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Silent movie...

Schadenfreude isn't the most attractive of human traits, so apologies for posting this opportunity to smile at the misfortune of others. YouTube is awash with this sort of thing, and it's easy to get sucked into wasted hours of viewing pratfalls.

But this clip is made compelling by the absolute rigidity of the camera, and the lack of sound. The effect is just plain eery.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to get rid of pop-ups. (Disable Pricegong.)

I’ve nothing against advertising. As someone who worked for years as a freelance illustrator I can hardly afford to be sniffy about it. So I have no beef with the static banners and sidebar ads that appear on the sites that I visit. I understand that they’re essential to commerce, even useful on occasion - in fact there are a few on this blog.

But I can’t abide pop-ups – those infuriating little windows that appear every time you click the mouse, their function being to simply crowd you out, like feral street beggars, until you respond.

Here’s an example from Ebay. I click on a picture of a Sunbeam motorcycle, and immediately get an ad for some kind of tanning product. The link between the two? The word ‘sun’. Yup, they figure that because I’ve shown a passing interest in Sunbeams, I must surely be gagging for a bottle of their bronzing lotion. God give me strength.

Anyway, this morning I’ve made a determined effort to address the problem. How to disable the kind of pop-ups that continually appear on sites such as Ebay and Amazon?

I discovered that responsibility for these hellish little beasts is often down to a programme called Pricegong. If you can disable Pricegong the world becomes a bearable place once more.

Now I’m no computer geek, so I can’t promise that this will work for all, and there may be knock-on effects that I haven't anticipated. But with this disclaimer in mind, and depending on the toolbar you use, here’s what you do:

1. Go to the far right of your toolbar, and you’ll see a little chevron thingy >>.

2. Click on this, and other areas of your toolbar, to search for the Pricegong logo. It's a green price ticket.

3. Click on the green ticket for a drop down menu.

4. Disable the blighter.

5. Now get on with your life.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

At The Walpole Bay Hotel

The Kentish coast is a long way from West Yorkshire, so when The Gents were invited to play in Margate my first response was ‘no thanks’. A 600 mile round trip just for a gig? I’m not that desperate.

But I changed my mind for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’d never been to the East coast – a shameful state of affairs at my age. Secondly, age. I had a big birthday coming up, which surrounding hoop-la I was keen to avoid. Margate suddenly seemed like a good place to be. So I said ‘OK then’, and last Saturday we tipped up at the Walpole Bay Hotel to play at a dance weekend, organised by The Cinque Ports Lindyhoppers.

The Walpole Bay was a wonderful surprise. It’s described as a living museum by its owners, the Bishop family, and that’s exactly how it’s presented – a glorious mish-mash of Edwardiana, thirties and forties artifacts, wartime memorabilia, and...tat. You could spend a very happy weekend there just poking about among the contents without even needing to venture outside to admire the sea views. Unsurprisingly the hotel has been featured in numerous films and TV programmes, and equally unsurprisingly the walls are peppered with photos of visiting and local celebs.

A perfect setting, then, for a weekend of jive and swing music, the dancers all immaculately dressed in their period outfits. And boy can they dance. The Gents are old hands at this kind of thing (see also Hep Cats Holiday) and it’s amazing to watch those crazy kids go. Playing double bass can be warm work, but it’s a breeze compared to what’s happening down on the dancefloor. I kid you not, we saw blood – a big trail of it across the floor – as we were setting up the gear. Although I suppose that could have been an example of local lass Tracey Emin’s installation art...

When we’d finished the gig it seemed too early to go to bed, so we started up again in the bar. Everybody packed themselves in there and we kept it up until three. A great night.

What was slightly weird was that there was a German film crew on hand making a documentary about the hotel. I don’t think they’d expected the dance weekend – the theme of which was WW2, it being the anniversary of the Battle of Britain and all that. So there were these wartime posters everywhere, whose message was hardly German-friendly. I don’t know what the film crew made of all this, or what they will say about it in their programme. 'Xenophobia alive and well in Britain', I shouldn’t wonder.

I was told by some of the dancers that such re-enactment groups don’t exist in Germany, and that they’re not allowed to wear their own military regalia from WW2, at least not officially. This leads to the situation where Germans who love the music and dancing come over here and don British and American uniforms so that they can be a part of it. I find this bizarre, but also rather heartwarming.