Monday, 16 November 2009

Texture Restaurant, London / The Renaissance of Cauliflower

So – what's your opinion of cauliflower?

How many marks would you give it out of 10?

How does it rate in a showdown with, for instance, broccoli?

In the league table of vegetables, is it a Cambridge or a Bolton?

The Intellectual Hooligan would never presume (you may well imagine) to anticipate your own feelings on the matter. For his own part, though, he must confess never to having considered the cauliflower to sit atop any kind of pedestal. Cauliflower, in the eyes of the unreformed Hooligan, was probably in the bottom quartile of vegetable accompaniments – unless it was pulling off a stunningly unexpected coup in the context of cauliflower cheese.

For me, y'see, cauliflower was definitely sub-broccoli. Too often soggily school-dinnerish and bland – its sickeningly yielding, translucent-albino flesh oozing cabbagey juices; its flavour as desaturated as its appearance.

But I come to you, o reader, in the wake of a damascene conversion.

Ye! I have seen the light; I have tasted ambrosia. And I preach unto you a new gospel: that of the Ur-Cauliflower.

The cause of this extraordinary volte-face? The agent of this revelation?

Now, Texture is a pretty top joint. But what'd you expect of a gastronome such as myself? I found myself there (as a gift, mark ye!) on the anniversary of my birth, consuming the contents of the restaurant's 'tasting menu' – a sensory odyssey of eight courses (or thereabouts … What? You want me to count as well as write?).

Now, you might be wondering how on earth a man (even one as inordinately podgy as myself) manages to chow his way through eight courses. It does, you're right, sound somewhat excessive. But each course, y'see, is very little. No big wodges of protein here; no steaming hillocks of vegetable; no polyfiller carbohydrate.

Instead, you're getting a few brilliant morsels. Every mouthful is an event. This is blink-and-you'll-miss-it cuisine.


Now, I don't for a moment propose to go through the meal course by course. That would be immeasurably tedious, wouldn't it? I hate restaurant reviewers who go on about the bloody food.

(No, but seriously: reviews that harp on about food are boring. Stolid, unappetising, unilluminating.)

But you want to know about the cauliflower, right?

It came in liquid form, within a vessel only somewhat larger than a thimble. And it was FUCKING AMAZING. Creamy but light and totally free of unctuousness, masterfully textured with tiny nutty fragments, and ... man ... the essence of all that is right about cauliflower. The Kobe Beef of the cauliflower world. This cauliflower had been grown in the composted remains of the Hanging Gardens of frigging Babylon. Massaged daily by nubile vegetable fetishists. Pruned and trimmed by award-winning topiarists. It was a bonsai cauliflower.

What else? Well, there was the tenderest, seeping eyelet of pedigree pigeon, offset (marvellously, imaginatively) by bacon popcorn (all the smoky intensity of the former; the light dryness and crunch of the latter). Precious crystals of rhubarb, served in a cauldron of liquid nitrogen. Paper-thin cod's skin, fried to a crisp ...

So. Texture Restaurant. If you're looking for mindless nosh or mountains of carbohydrate, best to avoid. Eating here is an aesthetic experience, and one that (like a visit to the Tate) demands concentration. It will make you think, make you savour. It will bewilder you with a catherine wheel of flavours and textures.

And it will revivify at least one common garden vegetable.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist stumbles

Relatively recently, the site of which she is founder and figurehead – Brazen Careerist –metamorphosed into a social networking site, a 'career management tool for next generation professionals'.

(So Penelope's popular, linkbaity blog – which mixes careers, sex, 9/11, sex, networking, sex and sociology (spiced up with a soupcon of sex) – has, in one respect, acted as a protracted 'warm-up' and advance marketing tool for Brazen Careerist's social networking dimension. And a very successful and engaging one. Even the bits that aren't about sex.)

This new Brazen Careerist social network is scrapping against Linkedin on the established, slightly older and more traditional right-hand flank, and Facebook on the less targeted, more indiscriminate left. Quite a pair of combatants. But there may well be a niche. Well observed.

I've created a profile on Brazen Careerist (following Penelope Trunk's superb clarion call thereto), but haven't really done much else. To be honest, I'm not madly into that stuff. I have difficulty enough responding to emails.

Anyhow, that's the background.

Today, though, I received an email from Ryan Paugh, right-hand man of Penelope and CEO of Brazen Careerist. Not a message to my Brazen Careerist inbox (or whatever); an actual email, to my personal account.

Here's the text of the email. You probably don't need to read it all – the first couple of paragraphs and the PS should be ample:

Hey Guys!

I'm reaching out to you today because I wanted to share something our friend Ramit Sethi is offering for members of Brazen Careerist. You may know Ramit -- he writes about personal finance and entrepreneurship at, became a 26-year-old New York Times bestseller earlier this year when he published "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," and has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, ABC News, etc. He's the only guy who's ever given me advice that I actually used for my OWN money.

He is THE personal-finance guy for young professionals, and he's offering an online Personal Finance Boot Camp that will help you automate your finances in 6 weeks. He'll be teaching...

Specific tactics to optimize your credit cards
Negotiate with banks (negotiation scripts included)
Set up high-interest accounts
Start investing in sensible investments
AUTOMATE your money so you can focus on the things you really care about.
Not just stuff from his book - he'll be doing weekly webcasts and inviting special guest speakers to cover entrepreneurship topics like marketing, pricing, branding, and more.

I know what you're thinking: "Why do I need to pay money for this? I could get all of this for free online."

Yeah, that's true. You can read How-To's until your eyes bleed. But taking action is whole different ballgame. (1) If you pay you're going to actually DO it, and (2) when you join the I Will Teach You To Be Rich Boot Camp you're making an investment to automate your own finances. I'm a fan because he never lectures people about spending money on lattes, but instead shows how we can spend EXTRAVAGANTLY on the things we love, if we cut costs mercilessly on the things we don't.

When Ramit came to us with his Boot Camp idea I knew it would be a success because (1) the man knows what he's talking about, and (2) he emphasized how the program was all about motivating each other to succeed. The point is not to just READ, but to take ACTION.

You guys know we don't think twice about spending money to go out, or see movies, or buy shoes or whatever. So I really encourage you to invest in yourself for 6 weeks and take action on your finances.

Registration closes in 72 hours, so sign up now to automate your money in 6 weeks and start 2010 off fresh.

Here's the link:


- Ryan Paugh, Director of Community

PS: In full disclosure Brazen Careerist has an affiliate deal with the I Will Teach You To Be Rich Boot Camp and will receive a portion of profit for every person we get to sign up. With that said, Ramit Sethi is the best of the best and you're going to get what you paid for!

... Mistake.

Brazen, you're a young social networking site, trying to carve out a difficult niche. Spamming affiliate sales messages to your early members only months after your launch is a VERY BAD IDEA.

Now, allow me to be clear: I'm not upset. I'm not offended or enraged. (I have better things to be offended and enraged by, honestly.) And I'm in no way implying that this is a con or anything (even with a URL like that).

But when was the last time the CEO of Facebook sent something like this to my inbox? Or Linkedin?

This makes Brazen Careerist look cheapass and desperate for a quick buck. It looks insecure and unprofessional. It administers a whacking great blow to the careful brand-building of Penelope's blogging (which is so effectively personal).

And I reiterate: it doesn't matter if this Ramit Sethi is the best there is. The fact remains, you're spamming me with unsolicited sales messages. That's not a good signal. If you want to play with the big sites, Brazen, stop doing that shit.

Because the brand is a real fragile thing. Be gentle with it. O be gentle.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Grant Burge Benchmark Shiraz - dark fruit and shoe polish triumph

Any members of the Wine Society reading this blog o' mine? Statistically improbable, I guess.

Be that as it may, I'm nevertheless going to take a moment to recommend Grant Burge's 'Benchmark' Shiraz (2008, South Australia), which was one of the (numerous) bottles I received in my latest duo of cases from said Society.

Considering the fact that it's a smidge under £6, this is a damn good wine. Shove your snout into the glass and inhale a bracingly intense blend of blackcurrant and shoe polish (FUCKING LOVELY SHOE POLISH) … then grab a gobful of liquorice, coffee and dark fruits, before tailing off gradually (oh so delightfully gradually) to raspberry and lavender.

I reckon I'll be snapping up a fair few of these critters.

Ahh ... writing about wine. This used to be my frigging ambition, d'you realise? Right up until the stone-hearted bastards at Majestic Wine rejected my graduate trainee application on the (scandalously misguided) grounds that I am 'not a natural salesman'.


In defiance of Majestic, then, you may expect more of this kind of tosh. Indeed, this week's Intellectual Hooligan may have something of a gourmet theme, I fancy ...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Why Pope Benedict XVI is like Steve Jobs

Is it heretical to compare Pope Benedict XVI to Steve Jobs?

If I may, I'll leave you theologians to ponder that and dive right on into the pirana-infested waters of religio-technological commentary.

The current affairs bit

Yesterday, it seems, the Pope issued a decree to the effect that Anglicans wishing to join the Catholic Church will henceforth be provided with a 'legal framework' to assist their defection – whilst 'preserving distinctive elements of their Anglican identity, such as liturgy.' (quoted from The Times)

(What a blow for Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbish of Cant. Springing this announcement on him was like dropping a breeze-block on a gently snoozing barn owl.)


Anyhow. Onward to my thesis: Pope Benedict XVI has been taking a leaf out of Steve Jobs' book.

A Tale Of Two OSes

First, some background, in which I establish my credentials. I used to be a PC man, y'see. One who was given suck (you might say, were you drawn inexorably towards unnecessarily gratuitous figurative language) at the twin teats of MS DOS and Windows 2.0.

Solitaire and Minesweeper were my toddler playthings and, later, the MS Word paperclip was, to me, a kind of benevolent (yet embarrassingly senile) uncle. Oh the awkward silence around the Christmas table, when Daddy would propose a toast, only for Uncle Clip to jolt to his feet and exclaim: 'It looks like you're trying to write a letter!' Another Christmas ruined.

But I digress.

The Windows XP search dog was my first pet. I sent him off to find some MP3s a couple of years ago, and (sadly) he still hasn't come back. I think he might've been run over, crossing the road while reading that book of his. BUT I BET HE'S STILL SMILIN', BLESS 'IM.


So you may well believe that the notion of defecting to the Apple Mac – when first it was suggested to me – left in my mouth a taste more or less akin to the cud of vile incurable sores on innocent tongues.

But now I realise: Apple = Catholic; PC = Protestant.

Apple has always run a closed system. You want to buy Apple's music? You buy Apple's music player. You want to spruce up your desk with a shiny iMac? You'll be running Apple's operating system on it, then.

Now – PCs, by contrast (like Protestantism) are the DIYers' haven. The Frankenstein-friendly laboratory in which Anything Goes – so long as (to pursue the metaphor until it drops to its knees, panting and groaning for mercy, on the hard concrete floor) you're prepared to face the possibility that you'll create a vengeful entity whom you will ultimately battle to the death amidst the frozen Arctic wastes.

Catholicism is definitely in the Apple camp on this one. Because it's pretty much an all-or-nothing kind of deal. You Do It Our Way. Less of this 'personal relationship with God' stuff. Founded on the principle (surely correct) that most people don't actually want to engage with the workings of stuff, they just want it to work and look damn impressive.

... which it does. Because Catholicism – like Apple – has got the style, has got the rockstar glamour. The Mass in fucking Latin. The big, swinging incense things. The fabulously ornate iconography.

Protestants? Well, um, they do a mean pew.

Bootcamp for Prods

Now – back to me, and my technological volte-face: my defection to the ranks of Apple.

I can tell you exactly what was the turning point – the hairline crack in my resolutely anti-Macintosh facade. It was when I heard about Bootcamp.

Bootcamp, in case you don't know, is the facility (available on all Apple computers) whereby you may choose to start up your computer in Windows mode as an alternative to the Mac operating system.

… And, once you're in Windows mode, it's just as if you were on a PC. So you can do all those crazy things that PC kids do. Fire up Clock. Get in some Spider Solitaire action. Defrag your hard drive. YES, MY BABY. YES, MY SWEET, SWEET BABY.

Supplying Bootcamp – first as a free Beta, then automatically bundled with every Mac sold –was a Steve Jobsian work of genius.

It was the reassuring 'Your satisfaction or your money back in full' postscript coming at the end of the seductive sales letter. Because Bootcamp gave me the idea that I could somehow switch without switching.

… and that, my friends, that is what Pope Benedict XVI has just done.

He's invented Bootcamp for Prods.


Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Curry (from the Chinese) and other Ulster Faves

Regional TV, the Intellectual Hooligan loves you. May your light never fail.

Have a watch of this video, which was supplied to me by a notoriously well-connected sometime-mover, sometime-shaker of the Belfast media circuit. It is Ultimate Ulster's nailbiting rundown of Ulster's top 10 meals.

Don't fret if you think it starts off slow: the pace soon picks up.

Any list of top 10 dishes that features 'Chicken' as an item on its own is surely worth a watch. (As if we didn't all know towards what nefarious ends the noble chicken may find itself used.)

If you're impatient for the comic highlight, however, I recommend you skip to 14.20 or so – number 3:

'A dish that crosses international boundaries with a cultural clash that you find irresistible.'

Irresistible indeed.

Stick around, won't you, for the Chinese Curry advocate who subsequently appears at around 15:40 (after some unfortunate Chinese chef has submitted to the indignity of describing the creation of 'Chinese Curry' as if it were some proud, ancient tradition).

'I voted for curry because it's a bit of an event in our house on a Friday evening. Most nights my wife will cook something, but on a Friday night it's a takeaway, and Chinese curry is for us.'

Right. I bet your wife is gratified to provide the culinary backdrop for so eagerly anticipated an event. She plays her John-the-Baptist-esque 'I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him' role with humble reverence, preparing the ground for that which follows.

By the time you reach number 2 or so, you'll probably be half dead with the suspense of it all. What's going to be number 1? To what dish (what dish that could triumph over such renowned feats of gastronomy as 'Chicken'?) will be awarded that most prized of accolades: Ulster's favourite dish?

I'm not going to spoil that surprise for you. But I recommend that you jump in at 18.40 or thereabouts for a masterful example of the tension-building reprise, TOTP-style.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

David Cameron; Peter Mandelson: your verdict?

I was talking to my dear friend Rebecca (yes, portrait artist Rebecca; fellow Cogwheel Dog Rebecca. Rebecca the adopter) today, and our Skype conversation turned to – of all things – politics.

I gave voice, y'see, to a sense of frustration with the Left. My sense of frustration was (as it happens) specific rather than generic – but that's immaterial. Whatever I said caused Rebecca to type the following message in response:

'You don't like David Cameron do you?'

It was a question that took me utterly by surprise. Because – as I said to Rebecca – it was a little like asking: 'You don't like algae, do you?'

In other words: a game-changer of a question. A question that, in and of itself, throws open the doorway (or uncovers the rabbithole) to a troubling Alice in Wonderland-esque realm of possibilities hitherto unconceived.

Like remarking to a distinguished old sea bass: 'So – you've never wondered about spending a few weeks' holiday on dry land, then? A shame: I think you'd really appreciate the Pyramids.'

The Notion of Liking David Cameron

The notion of Liking David Cameron, you see, is not in the universe I inhabit. It's like the notion of breathing ivory or criticising water. (Yeh. Bloody water. Always so goddamn fluid, aren't you?)

It's not that I hate the man, either, I might add. I wish him nothing but … um … nothing, I guess.

So, anyhow. I wondered what the fine readers of the Intellectual Hooligan think of Mr Cameron.

It's a nuanced political issue, I realise. So I decided that the best way to canvas would be via a multiple choice poll.

Vote, my pretties! Vote! Let's show MORI how it's done.

Oh, and while we're at it: Peter Mandelson

Old Petey comes in for a fair bit of popular hatred, it seems to me. I've never really understood why. I don't mind the chap. And, anyway, how can you hate someone who likes dogs so much?

But, once again – over to you, Hooliganettes. Deliver, if you please, your verdict on Mandy:

I'd also like to point out that online polls are very easily abused, and multiple voting is quite possible. So I'd like to make a request: please abuse the above polls as much as you like. Bring on the multiple voting. Game the system ...

… and make it look as though I have LOADS of subscribers.

(C'mon. I agonise about this stuff.)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Freshers' week is shit

At about this time of year, the Intellectual Hooligan's heart goes out to all those naive youngsters embarking upon their first term of university. Those poor freshers.

For the Intellectual Hooligan remembers all too clearly his own Freshers' Week. It was absolutely shit.

I'm not sure what's with the nationwide conspiracy to pretend that this isn't the case. Or perhaps it's just that people other than me all enjoy stomach-churning rollercoaster oscillations between gruellingly awkward silences, hideously banal exchanges, hateful 'ice-breaking' exercises and cheap alcohol.

So, yes. Freshers' Week is shit for many reasons. But it's also dangerous.

You're in a new environment. An unfamiliar, intimidating environment. One in which everyone is doing his or her best to appeal nonchalant and cool (oh, what a change from school, eh?)

So the danger is this.

You meet some people who are not acting nonchalant and cool. They're smiley and happy and welcoming.

'Oh, how nice!' cries your Fresher brain, 'Aren't these people lovely?'

Yes, they are indeed lovely. They invite you to sit with them at dinner. They ask you questions and listen attentively to your answers. Heck, maybe they are just a little bit intense. But they all seem so NICE.

'Hey!' exclaims one of them. 'A few of us were thinking of heading along to a gig this evening! You want to come along?' (Yes. These are nice people who talk with unnecessary exclamation marks. Gee. THEY'RE SO NICE!)

So, nodding your fresh little head in eager acquiescence, you accept the invitation.

Spool forward: we're at the venue. People are queueing. You have a vague sense that something's not quite right. Hard to put your finger on it. Then you realise: they're all queuing VERY NICELY. All smiling. Not much posing, not many fag-clouds. Everyone's SMILING. It's Freshers' Week; they're in a queue. But they're SMILILNG.

Heck, these people are just SO NICE.

So you and your nice group join the back of the nice queue. At this point, perhaps, you're beginning to think: 'Wait a minute … I don't actually think I'm all that nice, though … In fact, the more I think about it, the more I suspect I'm actually quite a bastard. Hmmm.'

But you dismiss the thought. 'Heck!' you tell yourself, 'Why am I worrying about people being nice? This is great!'

But – you're also beginning to think, 'Okay. Yes. It's great. And, sure, they're real NICE. But a couple of the people in this group I'm hanging out with are FUCKING ANNOYING. There's this 'larger than life' guy, for instance. He keeps hugging people, dancing and capering around and presumptuously characterising himself as 'The Quirky One Of The Group'. The Funny Guy.

And he's actually really not funny. He's just a prat.'

But, hey. Even so. He's a NICE prat.

Then, before you know it, you're inside the venue.

There are tables.

People are chatting. (It's actually quiet enough to chat, not shout, y'see.)

And … hmmm … there aren't actually that many people here, really, are there? Well. Er … maybe it's quite … underground? Ah! Here's the band … Two guys with – what's that? – acoustic guitars?


Well, they're quite tight … Not what you'd call musically innovative … Quite simple … Melodic … Hardly edgy … To be honest, not my thing. But it's inoffensive enough. Could've been a lot worse, I guess.

So, what are they singing then?

Reader, you know as well as I do: it's not always easy to make out lyrics in pop songs. Especially live. Things are blurred, consonants are smeared, sound booms and echoes and resonates.

But there's one word that really cuts through the muddiest mix.

One word that will sure as hell catch my attention when it's belting out of a PA.

One word that has the power to make my head whip around and my attention snap into focus.

That word, dear reader, is 'Jesus'.

Nooooooooooooooo …

Finally, see, it all makes sense. The niceness. The openness. The welcoming vibe. The politeness. THE FACT THAT EVERYONE IS PUTTING UP WITH THAT FUCKING ANNOYING FAT TOSSER WHO KEEPS HUGGING PEOPLE.

The horrible truth crystallises like, um, a horrible crystal:


(And, yes, this Really Happened.)

So, Freshers: beware. It sucks, but it's a grim reality: if someone is nice to you during Freshers' Week – scram.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Korner Kitchen in Bromsgrove: anti-panini nirvana

My dear hooligans in arms, thank you for bearing with me during the hiatus since my last post. As you'll see shortly, I have not been idle.

No, indeed. Rather, I have been eating egg and sausage sandwiches. Just for you.

(Okay. Maybe an insy bit for me. But still almost exclusively for you.)

How in blazes (you may well demand) did I get my hands on an egg and sausage sandwich?

(I should perhaps point out, lest you be taken aback by their femininity, that those aren't actually my hands on the photo.)

… But, yes: how in blazes? After all (you may reason), I'm an Oxford blogger, ain't I? And what is Oxford if not the antithesis of egg and sausage sandwiches of the type depicted above? Oxford, panini capital of the world.

Well, it just so happened that I found myself, not so very long ago, in the township of my youth: a moderately desolate kind of a place – too large to have retained much charm; too small to have accumulated much buzz – called Bromsgrove.

Now, finding myself in the (unforgiving) position as Bromsgrove tour-guide elect, it was my duty to acquaint my companion, whose charming mitts feature above, with the sights of the town.

Except that Bromsgrove doesn't really do sights.

What it does do, though – with a modicum of aplomb – is tastes. Courtesy of the Best Thing About Bromsgrove: a small emporium named (with elegantly poised tackiness) Korner Kitchen.

If you're ever in Bromsgrove (stop laughing, will you?), check out the KK. It is seven flavours of superior. It is exceptional. It produces the finest, hottest sandwiches you will ever stuff, yolk-smearingly, into your ravenous gob – the pappy white bread cleaving to your palette; the morning sausage burning your tongue.

This is the Ur Sandwich. The anti-panino.

And it's yours for only £1.80.

Only in Bromsgrove.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Barry Delaney Wears Dress to Funeral; Journalists Collapse in Paroxysms

So. Judging by the story's viral contagiousness, you may well already have read about Barry Delaney (above). He commemorated the death of his friend Kevin Elliott (killed in action in Afghanistan) by attending his funeral dressed in a fluorescent yellow dress and pink stockings -- in accordance with a pact he had made to do so, should Elliott be killed.

In other words: journo-wet-dream.

For what could be more delightful to a lazy-penned hack than a story that combined so many heady ingredients?:

  • topicality (mounting Helmland province deaths, growing public antipathy and all)
  • transvestism (a potent google-magnet of a topic, if ever there was one … want proof? Consider the following graph, in which the popularity of transvestite searches is measured against the ever-reliable yardstick of those for doughty 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli)
  • tragedy (chasing the Princess Diana dragon)

… and, most important of all:

  • trash

Yes, trash. By which I mean those vast segments of British society that any decent broadsheet regards with towering, bile-swollen condescension, trembling hatred and hyperventilating incomprehension.

The commoners.

To see what I mean, read Mark Townsend's nauseating coverage of what is (I'll freely admit) a bizarre story. Or make do with a few extracts:

It was just after 10am last Wednesday when Delaney squeezed into a tight lime-green mini-dress and donned a pair of 99p pink knee-high socks. Then, assiduously avoiding the mirror, the 25-year-old poured a neat vodka – his, and Elliot's, favourite drink.

– 'Assiduously' … and that faux-literary dash after vodka. Leave off the false afflatus, please.

His reminisces last Wednesday were interrupted by the blare of a car horn from the forecourt 120ft below. It was Jonathan Wells in his Vauxhall Vectra, ready to take Delaney to his best friend's funeral. Wells made no mention of Delaney's odd attire during the two-mile drive to St Mary's Church in Dundee's centre.

– Was it really necessary to name the car?

The pact was Elliott's idea: a year ago, while the friends were watching Delaney's widescreen television together, he began hypothesising about his funeral.

– and, now, the reference to his 'widescreen television' … as if this were somehow a noteworthy detail.

They had been friends since 2005, when they were introduced by Elliott's 22-year-old sister, Kirsty, and hit it off immediately. They had bonded in the drinking dens of Dundee – their favourite haunt was Fat Sam's. They were inseparable except for Elliott's long tours in combat zones.

– 'Their favourite haunt was Fat Sam's'? What? Seriously: what?

What the fuck kind of a tone is this article meant to be written in? The whole thing oozes cliche in a way that is alternately (sometimes simultaneously) inept and sardonic. It seems to be an attempt to straddle cloyingly maudlin sentimentality and spiteful tongue-in-cheek mockery.

It is simultaneously one of the most bizarre pieces of writing I have come across in the Guardian and one of the most repellant.

... don't you think?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Life recorders: a childhood dream realised

Techcrunch is running a story in which it speculates that 'life recorders' may become ubiquitous.

These are devices that record and store (via photographs, GPS data and suchlike) every moment of one's life.

Every shade of amazing, in other words, at once.

When I was a wee boy (you remember hearing about me as a wee boy, don't you?), I actually used to imagine that, when one died, 'heaven' consisted of a big computer console (this is back in the days of Kings' Quest, natch) that offered once massive instant replay of one's whole life. One could view it as a map, on which one's lifelong travels were highlighted; one could replay key scenes from various camera angles.


Privacy? Shmivacy. I WANT ONE.

(Without the Microsoft logo, though, please.)

Cogwheel Dogs. Yes.

In a brief interlude from important matters such as Special K masochism, Dr Hugh Brady and the inexcusable, barely comprehensible mediocrity of the panini, I bring you an announcement.

The band in which I play, Cogwheel Dogs, has released an EP today, called Greenhorn. I've gone into this at more length on my rambling music blog Heavy Soil: here's the dramatic announcement I just wrote over there.

Mindful of the intellectual elitism of my audience here at Intellectual Hooligan, though, I'll confine myself simply to offering y'all a link to download the new EP for free. Yes, that's right: free. Like oxygen. And the caterpillar that was nestling amongst the florets of your broccoli.

And here's a link to the Cogwheel Dogs website which I'm going to call grungy folk blues for the hell/SEO of it.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Pretty pretty Oxford photos

The Hooligan went a-snapping, yesterday. His mission? To seek out Oxford's hidden beauty spots, off the tourist track.

I started off with The Red Lion. Check out that radical wide-angleness. I applaud the choice of red: not your common-or-garden primary hue.

Then Oxford's fine Euro Bar – accommodation for the discerning traveller:

But my greatest discovery was the wonderful multistorey car park behind the Westgate Centre shopping complex (if complex be quite the word).

The above stairway has an odour that might be described as homely. Were one a sewer rat. But it looks amazing. I want to go back there at night time (because I reckon it'd be a really cool and fun place to hang out in the dark) and see what shadows are thrown.

Here's a view from the top, down into a bizarre courtyard:

And as well as affording plenty of nice angles and jommetry, there are some damn fine textures, too:

So, Oxonians: check out the Westgate carpark while you still can. (And boy do I expect the tourist hordes to descend upon it like locusts, now that it's been mentioned on this blog.) It won't be around for long, y'see: demolition is around the corner.

And I'll warrant that the gleaming new multiplectacular structure that takes its place will be way less interesting.

Here's a slideshow of all 'em fotows:

(See, I did slip in an Oxfordy shot, just for you sticklers.)

Friday, 28 August 2009

Special K Challenge Travesty

So. After yesterday's epic fail (sorry, Christine, I can't help it) – what have we learnt?

Let's begin with the positive.

We have learnt, I fancy, that near-boundless respect is owed to dieters. Because anyone who can withstand that kind of punishment must be made of stern stuff indeed.

But we have also learnt (it seems to me) that Kellogg's Special K Challenge is an absolute, chronic charade. My body didn't need any kind of rational argument to accept this; it knew it instinctively.

You know those stories about a man and his dog walking at night? They're caught in a blizzard, lost, desperately in need of shelter. And they are striking out to try and get to the nearest town.

All of a sudden, the dog starts to bark and refuses to go any further. No matter how the man may tug and curse and kick, the stubborn mutt digs in its little toes and will not budge. With all his strength, the man is unable to shift it.

Suddenly, the blizzard lifts, and the man finds himself feet away from the edge of a precipice.

You know the story.

Well, that's what my body was doing to me when I tried to eat Special K for lunch. It was protesting with every ounce of its strength, doggedly (see what I did there?) attempting to halt its foolish master.


Because, yes, I'm pretty sure that two weeks of that treatment would lose you some weight. But I'm sure that two weeks of eating only eggs would do that. Because you'd quite quickly become so incredibly sick of eggs that you couldn't bear to eat them.

(In this hypothesis, I admit, I exclude the evidence of a former housemate of mine, who appeared to subsist almost entirely on fried eggs. But, hell, you know what I mean.)

That people be held in the thrall of this nonsense – that the Special K Challenge be considered even remotely legitimate – is a travesty, and a tragedy.

Now. I'm off to a Lebanese restaurant. Ta-ra.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

This Is What Failure Looks Like

Sweet, sweet failure.


I have written a poem to express my current volatile emotional state. It goes like this:

Oh! Oh
Sweet nut
of Dough!

(Tempt me not, Satan...)

I cannot believe ...

... the fact that nobody – not a single soul – has seen fit to post me a comment so far today.


The least you blighters could do would be to offer me some morale-boosting encouragement. Or heckle me from the e-sidelines, if you'd rather.

(Yes, the psychological side of Special K dietary trauma is beginning to kick in, now.)

Special K Masochism continues

Earlier posts in the series:

The Worst Picnic Imaginable.
(Enid Blyton was wrong. Food does NOT always taste better out of doors.)

There is a word that is used by the good people of Belfast (and perhaps further afield – I know not). A fine, expressive word.

That word is gankin'

And gankin' is exactly how I would describe the aroma that hit me when, for the second time today, I unfurled the inner packet of my Special K. It was a woeful smell. A smell that presaged, if not doom, then at very least sensory discomfort of a moderately high order.

It was the most depressing thing I have smelt in a long time. When you read this, bear in mind that I sometimes have to go into the boarding house bedrooms of male sixth form students.

And my sense of smell – the warning sense – had not failed me. Because what followed was undoubtedly the worst lunch I have ever had.

You know how I wrote, earlier today, that the taste of Special K wasn't that bad, really?


Now, thanks to Kellogg's, I have experienced a new kind of sensation of bodily ambiguity. And it is this: simultaneously feeling ravenously hungry and repulsed at the thought of eating another mouthful.

And, post-'lunch', I have the same sensation in my stomach as I used to get before playing a cello solo in the school music competition when I was about 10. It's not a nice sensation, in case you were wondering.


Almost time for luncheon

Normally, I look forward to my lunch.

(Don't cry for me, dear reader, don't cry.)

I'll tell you something about this Special K challenge: it's embarrassing. You see, I like to think that I'm to a certain degree renowned (in a small, modest fashion) for my opulent tastes. In a former job, for instance, a colleague walked in whilst I was preparing my lunch and remarked, 'What's that? A cheese platter? You are so Oxford ...'

I don't think that's going to be the verdict of anyone who happens to walk in on me eating my lunchtime bowl of Special friggin' K. 'Classic' or not.

(Information for free: it's not actually all that special, in the eyes of the masses.)

Ah well. Such are the sacrifices we must make for slimness.

Special K Dust Bowl

These folks just opened a new packet too, by the look of it

So ... Hands shaking in excited anticipation of summer slimness, I open my box of Special K. The inner packet seems already to be open. That's what I call customer service. Reassuring.

Unfortunately, the packet seems to contain approximately as much dust as Oklahoma. Jeez! It's like I just punched a hoover bag.

No matter. Into the bowl it goes. A good, hearty portion of Classic K, seasoned with K-dust. Mm mm fricking mm.

On with the full cream milk ... and we're away.

First impression ... Bloody hell! That's pretty damn sweet for a 'diet' cereal. There must be massive amounts of artificial sweetener in here. Gag.

That said, it's not too bad, really. A nice malty kick.

Unfortunately, by the time I'm halfway through my (dust)bowl, the lower strata have been sitting in that creamy, creamy milk for too long. The result? SLIME. It's like eating the spawn of a troupe of Horlicks-dependent frogs.

Glub glub glub.

Still, I'm hungry. And my alternatives are limited (nonexistent). So down the hatch it goes. Slithering down the Hooligan gullet. After all, this is the only thing I've got to fuel me until lunchtime.

And, oh man, am I looking forward to lunchtime...

A small setback

Hmm. Checking my body mass index, it appears that my result (18) indicates that I am 'underweight' (a BMI of 25 is required for the Special K diet, we are told; to attempt it with less, we surmise, is potentially hazardous.)

To this I say: PAH!

You won't catch the Intellectual Hooligan wimping out of his Special K diet on account of some trifling BMI nonsense.

On which note:

I believe it's BREAKFAST TIME ...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Purchasing the Manna of the Slim

[This post is part 3 of an ongoing (and, naturally, quite riveting) series. Here are parts 1 and 2.]

So. Having resolved to get slimmer for summer, my next task was to purchase the wherewithal so to do. A task I set about with childlike glee, you may believe.

My first port of call? The Co-operative Supermarket, Summertown, Oxford.

Argh! God! They weren't lying about the 10 tasty varieties. It's enough to make a budding slimmer begin to panic. Cripes!

But wait! Maybe this gentleman will be able to advise me. He looks like a kindred spirit:

... actually, no, on second thoughts: he seems to be halfway through shoplifting a box of Coco Pops. LOOK AWAY QUICKLY.

To my left, meanwhile, a pleasant couple seemed to be having the kind of cheery Oxonian conversation it seems e'er my lot to overhear. I think I decided I'd better make my choice quickly when wifey started calling hubby a 'twat'. Didn't want to be playing the gooseberry, after all.

So, hurried, flustered and, discombobulated by the array of options (sorry, varieties), I confess that I took the easy way out and plumped (I choose my verb, you may believe, with care) for the normal, plain variety (I prefer to think of it as 'Classic') – and made my way checkoutwards.

So, picture me, minutes later, as I stride (decorous – if portly – gentleman in business attire), a box of Special K casually tucked under one arm, a pint of milk (full-cream, naturally) dangling with confident nonchalance from one pudgy finger. As metrosexual as you like. The folk of Summertown stopped to see me pass. I noticed a few chaps unable quite to conceal their expressions of grudging admiration, I fancy.

And quite right, too.


The Special K Diet -- answer to all my wildest prayers

(And you better believe it: the Intellectual Hooligan prays wild.)

'Hot damn! I wish I could get Slimmer for Summer!'

Such has been the nature of the Intellectual Hooligan's interior monologue for some time now. As anyone that knows me will doubtless attest, I desperately need to flush some flab, prune some podge, blow some blubber.

I could scarcely believe my luck, therefore, when I learnt that – with the help of kind-hearted FMCG firm Kellogg's – I could do just that.

Kellogg's could help me get the toned, beach-ready bod I've been dreaming of. All I have to do is sign up to ...

...The Special K Challenge


(What's FTW? Christine knows.)

So here's the deal. The Intellectual Hooligan can get himself bikinitastic in no time. He must simply observe the following dietary regime (taken from the Kellogg's website):

For 2 weeks, start the day with a delicious bowl of Special K for breakfast (choose from 10 tasty varieties!), and then enjoy a second bowl either for lunch OR your evening meal. For added variety you can top your cereal with fruit or low fat yoghurt. Don’t forget to make sure that your 3rd meal is nutritionally well balanced.

'10 tasty varieties!'? LAWKS! This just gets better. Do they do prawn cocktail?

But what about snacks? No problem! They're still allowed (FTW!) – although Kellogg's (ever-watchful, avuncular, with only dieters' best interests at heart) does sound the following note of caution:

We recommend you replace your indulgent snacks with up to 2 Special K snacks. You can also enjoy as much fruit and vegetables as you want and make sure you drink plenty of water and diluted fruit juices.

(Hmmm. Do they have Special K doughnuts?)

Anyway, we'll cross that bridge, dear readers, we'll cross that bridge.

Because, right now, I'm just astonished at the saintly altruism of Kellogg's in so selflessly crusading on behalf of the nation's health. Bless them.

Mm mm mmmm. Meal 2 looks pretty, pretty good.

Planning My Special K Diet – FTW!!!!

So it comes down to this: I have to get my (outrageously lardy) arse down to Tesco's right away to snap m'self up a box of that Spesh-K magic. Because, sure as night follows day, it's only Special K that has the power to reduce my considerable bulk.

Just imagine, for instance, if I were to pervert their Slimmer for Summer Diet Plan by replacing two meals per day with a different bowl of cereal (say, Co-op's own bran flakes). That would be no good at all. Those pounds would stubbornly refuse to shift.


Oh no indeed. It has to be Kellogg's Special K.

Otherwise they'd say so, wouldn't they?

And there's no-one I trust more than multinational fast-moving consumer goods firms.

Dietary Hooliganism

So. Coming soon to a screen near you (quite possibly the same one you're staring at right now – unless you're some waster in an internet cafe or something (get with it, if so: internet cafes are so 90s it kills me) – THE INTELLECTUAL HOOLIGAN GETS SLIMMER FOR SUMMER.

Boy, I'm looking forward to those svelte summer months ahead ...

Monday, 24 August 2009

Oxford walk - incidental photos

So, photos.

Yesterday, the Intellectual Hooligan trundled off, Canon EOS 1000D in hand, for a promenade around North Oxford. As is his wont.

En route, the following images presented themselves. First up: some trees and a sky.

Then some birds, racing for the finish line.

And, finally, my favourite photo from the expedition. This is in a small area known as the Trapping Grounds – a curious little haven of woodland and marsh just off Oxford canal. There are loads of blackberries in there (since yesterday, slightly fewer), some unexpected large wooden sculptures, and some frigging brilliant spiders' webs.

This is a bush which – caught in the light from the evening sun – shimmered, rippled and glowed with spiderwebs. To the extent that it was actually difficult to look at it, so focus-defying was the effect of the myriad effervescent strands.

Kind of scary, kind of beautiful. Voila.

Getting results; whetting appetites

It's obviously a good time for breaking records and getting results, right now.

Y'see, not only have the students at my place of employment achieved excellent A level results (the College's best, if you're interested. You're not, are you?) – but I also happened to check into my RSS stat-munching instrument of choice, Feedburner, today, to discover that subscriber numbers for both this blog and my music blog, Heavy Soil have seen the kind of surge that'd make a little bit of envious sick come up in General Petraeus's mouth.

Don't worry. General Petraeus is used to things that make sick come up.

So, to you new subscribers (both of you), welcome to the world of intellectual hooliganism.

In celebration of this bountiful subscriberly harvest, I have a treat in store for y'all. Believe it.

What kind of treat?

Well you may ask. And you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out. But allow me to whet your appetite:

2 BOWLS ... 2 MEALS ... 2 WEEKS ...

... Tomorrow, dear reader, all will be revealed.

Meanwhile, though, I've a few photos for you. Coming right up in the next post ...

Monday, 17 August 2009

People who travel, and the aching tedium of listening to them

This man's mind is almost certainly BROADER THAN I COULD EVER IMAGINE.
(No, of course I don't mean the black guy. Jeez.)

Sometimes, I love Penelope Trunk (well, to be more linguistically scrupulous I actually just love her blog. But I felt like she deserved a link with the words 'love Penelope Trunk' – SEO-wise, it'll clearly be in line with her web strategy).

Today, she wrote the kind of iconoclastic post that I'd love to have thought of first (but am instead going to piggyback shamelessly): Four reasons traveling is a waste of time.

This chimes – massif-style – with my own thoughts (making allowance for that fact that old Penny, like the rest of us, knows that a good blog post is a little exaggerated, a little provocative in its wording).

For it has long seemed to me that globetrotting has become the unassailable, unquestionable Ultimate Experience in the eyes of our society.

It's an assumption that manages simultaneously to be aggravatingly small-minded and sweepingly, bloatedly decadent.

You see, travel broadens the mind, apparently.

Notice how the people who say that are the people who are always bloody well grinding on in the most breeze-block-ingestingly tedious way about their travel experiences? Notice that, eh?


And notice how incredibly patronising people become when you tell them that you've never travelled outside Europe? How they treat you with about the same air of condescending pity (one suspects) as that with which they greet the third world children with whom they spend a generous half-day or so playing tag before they head off on a month's safari?

Notice how they tell you: 'Man, you have to travel more,' with a gormlessly self-satisfied smirk?

Yes. I noticed that. And I reckon narrow-mindedness suddenly got a whole lot more appealing.

You see, I don't have anything against people travelling. Marco Polo, for instance, did a fine job of it.

No; I have a problem with someone assuming that, because they believe the experience of travel is edifying, I must do, too.

Because if I'm talking to somebody about the fact I play distortion cello, for instance, I don't follow up with: 'You have to learn an instrument, man. It broadens your mind.' Even though I might happen to believe that, in certain contexts, it does. That 'in certain contexts' is key, y'know?

Similarly, if someone tells me they've never read any poetry, I wouldn't dream of reacting with amused condescension. I might think: 'I'm glad that's not true of me'; but I wouldn't be so smugly arrogant as to assume that everyone would draw the same benefit from literature as I.

Anyhow, let's not get into philosophical stuff. That shit's boring. Let's return to the crux of my argument: people who tell you that you ought to travel are almost always the most fucking desperately tedious individuals imaginable.

The kind of people who go to places in order to stick a pin in their shitty Facebook 'Places I've Been!!!!1!' map to impress their similarly shallow m8s


Anyway. You should go read Penelope Trunk's post. Then read the comments, and laugh at all the wounded, affronted travel-lovers as they spitefully retaliate.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Intellectual Hooligan fan celebrates obsession

Yes, it's true. My Google Alert informs me that the first piece of Intellectual Hooligan fan merchandise has been created.

They got the logo wrong. That's a crap font.

Brand-tarnishing amateurs.

A Small URLtastic Triumph

Well, grand day of days! The Intellectual Hooligan has moved abode.

Not physically, of course. No. Physical is so 20th century, don't you know? The move was a virtual one. And, I admit, there's not much to show for it. Except that, glittering up there in the URL bar (if you're reading this on the web rather than as an RSS feed item, natch) is a sparkling new web address.

The Hooligan has gone up in the world. Goodbye; hello self-hosted domain.

Yes, the Intellectual Hooligan may now be found at – though the old blogspot address will still work.

I feel like I've moved out of a dosshouse into Park Lane, y'know?



Tuesday, 11 August 2009

True culinary exoticism

Greetings, my dears.

Apologies for the dearth of intellectual hooliganism of late: your globetrotting correspondent has been, well, trotting the globe, I guess. Small segments of the globe, at least.

Tumbling and gamboling in my mind (however) like soon-to-be-tender spuds in a bubbling and nutritious stew are numerous ideas for forthcoming posts. So the long wait HAS NOT BEEN IN VAIN, NO, NO, IT HAS NOT BEEN IN VAIN, SWEET ONE.

Meanwhile, though, I'd like to treat y'all to a bit more gastro-snobbery. You love it, don't you? What's more, it justifies me in posting another internal link (part of my ongoing campaign) to hardcore filth (<--- despite appearances, this link is totally safe for work. Unless you're a KFC employee. Or a chicken, I guess.)

Anyhow, yeh.

In my travels, I had the opportunity (yet, unaccountably enough, passed up said opportunity) to dine in the restaurant with the menu depicted below:

You'll note, natch, the presence of the perennial favourite – a snip at 3.95. But how could even the most ardent panini-lover pass up the option that follows it – the Greek salad – a 'delicious choice for connoisseurs', we are told.

Those connoisseurs, eh? Damn them, with their sophisticated balsamic dressings and their olives and their EXOTIC BLOODY FETA.


(Oh to be a connoisseur...)

Friday, 31 July 2009

The hardest thing I have ever had to do

When I was a wee nipper, back at school (yes, that school), I used to scoff at so much that people wrote. (Hell, who'm I kidding? I still scoff at things people write.)

Specifically, though, what I mean is: I used to scoff – from a child's perspective – at things that adults wrote. What my teachers wrote, in particular.

The school magazine (a ridiculously otiose and protracted tome laughably entitled The Bromsgrovian, as if this were some kind of proud statement of acclaimed identity or tribal allegiance to rank alongside 'The Washingtonian' or 'The Royalist' or 'The Freemason' or 'The Confederate' ... oops, there I go again, scoffing away. Tsk.) ... sorry, as I was saying (David will no doubt object to my laboured syntax, here, as I interrupt my own sentence (twice now) with extended parenthetical observations. So be it. This is how the Hooligan rolls; how the Hooligan rocks.)

[Actually, let's chuck in a paragraph break, while we're at it. David will like that.]

... The school magazine (as I was saying, you recall?) was often crammed with laughably simpering, cliche-ridden tripe.

Meanwhile, termly letters from the headmaster opened – with elbow-ingestingly horrific frequency – with an account of the growth or retraction (depending upon season) of assorted foliage in the school grounds. Autumn, for instance, would invariably be heralded by a headmasterly paragraph on the falling of leaves from the trees around the green. Spring would feature the crocuses (oh! the crocuses!) ... and so on.

Even those teachers whose creative intellect I respected immensely (a group, I might add, that did not include aforementioned headmaster) seemed curiously unable to avoid similar blandness.

In my naive (yet simultaneously sardonic and hypercritical) youth, I could not understand how the authors of these assorted articles and missives could bear to dribble out such tired, anaemic shit.

It seemed to me at the time that I was one of the privileged few who were able to elude such triteness – to cut through the blancmange of cliche with the hacksaw of ironical self-consciousness combined with knowing self-parody and dry disclaimers.

(That's quite a hacksaw, you're thinking.)

Just cast in a few self-aware parentheses (the young Hooligan observed) and it'll all be fine.

But now – now that I find myself writing copy for this place (and, on occasion, this place, whose website I am soon to set about phoenixing the ass thereoff) – I realise with sober horror that ducking out of cheesy writing is the easiest and most self-indulgent thing in the world.

Because serious, non-self-parodic copywriting is the most fucking difficult thing I ever have to do.

No question.

All your defences are stripped away like so much wet tissue clinging to, um, the bowl of a blocked loo, um, being stripped away by, um, some powerful corrosive chemicals or something.


You're suddenly talking to an audience who is not even remotely interested in you or your cleverness. You're talking to an audience who is not interested in you, because (get this, you post-adolescent, attention-seeking squirt) you are not even remotely significant.

Your wit
don't count
for ...

... anything.

Writing 200 words about a school concert is several thousand times harder than writing a 2000-word pastiche in the style of Thomas Carlyle, or taking the piss with perfectly-poised irony out of WB Yeats. (Not that I decry the latter.)

Or writing this incredibly lame blog, for that matter.

I've got more to say about this. But I think I'll spill over into a second post, tomorrow. Ever since my 1,000-word spree, after all, I'm all about serialisation.

Tune in next time, then, for more about the agony of small-time copywriting, landing-page creation and ... probably some more stuff that occurs to me later.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Neckwear Riots Begin

Well, okay, rioting is possibly a touch strong. Some people started up a Facebook group. Uh huh. But still: viva la revolucion!

Their noble cause: clip-on ties.

Pupils at McAuley Catholic High School in Doncaster (a notorious hotbed of dissidence) are gathering their pitchforks and burning torches at the revelation that the school proposes to introduce clip-on ties.

To these pupils I say: you are on the side of the righteous.

Clip-on ties are a frigging monstrosity. A disgusting item of clothing. If you're not going to have proper ties, don't have a tie at all. It's simple.

Two paragraphs of the BBC News report bear repeating:

In May the Schoolwear Association, the trade body for the school uniform industry, said 10 schools a week in the UK were switching, because of fears of ties getting caught in equipment or strangling pupils.

The association also said that clip-on ties can stop pupils from customising the size of the knots in their ties.

I like the idea of ties strangling pupils. Like some (really shit) horror film. Attack of the Killer Neckwear. And the latter paragraph features, without doubt, the best use of the verb 'to customise' that I've encountered for some time.

Sadly, though, the protests don't seem to be aesthetic in their motivation: 'I personally think they are a pathetic waste of money', reads the 'statement from the Facebook protest group'.

So – disappointingly – it's all about the money, after all.

As for Facebook protest groups in general ... Well, dear readers, that is a subject for another time ...

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

What brings you here?

Google Analytics Addiction is, increasingly, a recognised phenomenon.

For those of you who don't keep a blog or website (or who do, but haven't yet succumbed to the lure of sweet, juicy statistics on a daily basis), this may be hard to fathom. But there is so much joy, I tell you. So much joy.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Analytics is the facility to see how people reached one's site – specifically, the search terms they put into Google before arriving.

For instance: I note (with a combination of amusement and mild panic) that no less than three people have alighted at the Intellectual Hooligan in the past month via searches for some form of 'dr hugh brady'. 

I hope none of those people was the man himself.

More unambiguously heartening is the news that four people have got here through searches for 'edmund trebus'. I am not alone in my thirst for information on this splendid and elusive fellow.

Meanwhile, some of the other interesting searches that led people Hooliganwards – each one linked to the page to which these intrepid searchers were led. Judge for yourselves whether or not they were satisfied or disappointed with what they found there:

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