These are some favourite links based on my web surfing and reading in the mid-noughties. I have attempted to revise it from time to time but pretty much apart from adding Newsarse (sic) in 2010 and removing some very old links that no longer work at all, I gave up. Some links may still not work or the sites may have changed. Others may not really be the sort of thing I look at much these days… but then, putting together a list of links isn’t really the sort of thing I’d do these days either. I’m leaving most of the list as it is because it was valid at one time. Life is an archive.
Read on to the bottom of the page for a more comprehensive list of old links with commentaries.
News & comment
Writing & creativity
Good people whose names end in ‘n’
Some books I have enjoyed
My life in links
The following is another list of links I put together in 2003 with commentary on the subjects in question. Again I don’t know if they all still work or not. There are a few things here I probably wouldn’t link to today (e.g. Friends Reunited, which has since been all but subsumed by Facebook) but I’m leaving them in because it’s quite fun to see how ‘the internet’ looked a few years ago.
writing / publishing / creativity / inspiration
The BBC Writers’ Room : Useful guidelines for submitting drama and comedy scripts for TV and radio, a message board and details of the BBC’s New Writing Initiative.
Poems on the Tube : a selection of poems from a variety of periods and locations around the world, as seen on underground trains all over London.
Advice on Novel Writing by Crawford Kilian : an internet-based course from 1992, including notes on plot and dialogue and submitting work.
Easy on the Hoptedoodle : A fine article from nytimes.com with tips on prose style and subject by Elmore Leonard. (The New York Times site requires registration.)
Advice from John Steinbeck for writers at the beginning of their career.
Georges Polti’s Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations : a summary of each of Polti’s 36 archetypal plots; also has a “plot of the day” which refreshes each time you load the page, encouraging you to write an exercise based on one of the plots.
The Poetry Library : the site of the Poetry Library in London’s Royal Festival Hall, with among other things a “Lost Quotations” facility allowing you to track down forgotten verses. NB: Poetry Magazines Online : watch this space for a newly-launched collection of digitised small poetry magazines from the shelves of the Poetry Library.
Booktrade Info : does what it says on the cover. Also has some useful links to other literary sites and magazines, and less explicably, to UK Weather information.
A Salon interview with Graham Swift : the British author talks about his Booker-winning novel Last Orders.
some favourite writers & poets
(in alphabetical order)
Simon Armitage : I am a big fan of his superb first three collections, Zoom!, Kid and Book of Matches , and went to a few of his readings from around the time of their publication. I remember he opened each of the readings with a poem called Hitcher, in which he replaced the exclamation from the final line, “Stitch that”, with “Fuck you!”, which had the effect of freezing the room somewhat. He only seemed to do it so he could then relate an ironic anecdote about how he’d once read the poem, with the spicier line, to a group of schoolkids, and was told off afterwards by the headmaster who said, “We don’t like poems with language in them.”
ee cummings : One of those totally original people you either love or hate when you first discover them, and I loved him. I find myself thinking often during these times of war in Iraq of his poem about Olaf, the “conscientious object-or” who died for being big enough to tell his generals “I will not kiss your fucking flag.” Even better is the couplet: “a politician is an arse upon / which everyone has sat except a man”.
Emily Dickinson : When I was studying English Literature at sixth-form college in the late eighties we had a brilliant lecturer called Sandra Thorogood who in one unforgettable lesson took us through I felt a Funeral, in my Brain and A Clock stopped . I can still hear her saying now: “‘ As all the Heavens were a Bell, / And Being, but an Ear’… That’s a huge image, isn’t it?”
Graham Greene : A site with background information on the works of the great English novelist compiled by the beautifully named Melody Yiu, a Greene enthusiast from Vancouver.
Ernest Hemingway : I’ve always felt Hemingway has been given an unjustly hard time for being “macho” and insensitive. My impression from his books is that his macho nature was little more than a huge scab grown over a heart as big as a house. There’s a picture of him taken near the end of his life with a pen in one hand and a glass of whisky in the other, and he’s standing up to write as though he’s too wired to sit down – an image which half inspires you and half breaks your heart. A Moveable Feast is one of my all-time favourite books, which has everything to do with the fact that I first read it in Paris when I was very young, single, travelling and in love.
Russell Hoban : I first heard of this American-born, London-based novelist in 1987 when I was 16. The Literary Review reviewed his then-new novel The Medusa Frequency in glowing terms and captioned a picture of him: “Hoban: Is he the greatest writer in the world?” When I read the book my imagination and understanding of what it was possible to do in a novel – which had been conditioned at school by classic-but-still-rather-old-fashioned fare such as Dickens and William Golding – changed overnight. In under 150 pages the novel expresses in a beautiful lyrical style the eternal hunger in us for fidelity, and also has a lot to say about love, loss, creativity, human nature, art, cephalopods and London along the way. The story is basically that of a blocked writer visited by the Head of Orpheus which tells him its story, and the resulting book-cum-epiphany is a combination of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and the writer’s own key story of his lost love. I first read it when I was young and frustrated by love and writing in about equal proportions and it made me feel anything was possible in both areas. Fifteen years later I still have the same frustrations, and the book still provides me with the same inspiration and reassurance and continues to reveal things to me I hadn’t noticed the first, second and third times around.
Ted Hughes : He always seemed to “be there” when I was a kid, whether a teacher was reading from The Iron Man or the school was putting on his nativity play The Coming of the Kings (in which, for the record, I played the priest!), or you were trying to work out what Crow was all about. I’m proud to say I attended a rare reading of his at the Royal Festival Hall a few years before he died; the “support act” was Simon Armitage and by some strange coincidence I was sitting next to Andrew Motion in the audience. Hughes was an enormous man, with a personal presence and voice as big as those from his books. It was a gripping performance despite the fact that he hardly read out any poems – he spent most of the time talking about what had inspired them. In some cases the explanations were better than the poems, such as when he told a story of how his grandmother, laid up once with a fever, hallucinated that she was visited by a pillar of fire; she ran her fingers along the surface of it and said the fire had “the taste of honey”. With things like that happening in your family, how can you fail to become a poet?
James Joyce : Ulysses was another key book in my adolescence. I spent the whole of the summer between school and sixth-form college reading it. Which probably accounts for my sententiousness ever since.
Brian Patten : one of the original Liverpool poets who came to fame in the sixties, but famous in his own write as one of the best lyric poets in Britain. He writes about relationships like nobody else. I’ve met him a few times at readings and he once famously gave me the advice to keep a pencil and paper to hand at all times, even by the bed, “because if you don’t write ideas down when they come to you, they won’t wait for you, they’ll fuck off somewhere else.”
Jacques Prevert : I was first introduced to this classic 20th-century French poet at the age of 15 when we were given the task of translating his heartbreaking and deceptively simple poem Dejeuner du Matin for French homework. Which must go down as one of the most inspired pieces of teaching ever.
Buddhapadipa Temple : a traditional Thai Buddhist temple and monastery hidden in the suburbs of Wimbledon.
Buddhist Society UK : a long-established resource centre.
Paul Tingen : interesting “Zen guitarist”.
favourite musicians & bands
The Rutles : the greatest band of all time.
The Beatles: the second-greatest band of all time.
Jimmy Buffett : unique site of the great US singer-songwriter who makes chunky, uplifting records combining country & western and Caribbean influences.
Eric Clapton : my first and last personal guitar hero.
Bebel Gilberto : included here because her record Tanto Tempo is sexy and funky in equal proportions and because in the present company she makes me feel less old.
David Gray / Drunken Gibberish : the official and best unofficial sites, respectively, of a fine, er, (debate rages about whether he’s English, Welsh or Irish, but who cares?) singer-songwriter whose tender, honest and intimate album White Ladder shot him to fame a few years ago.
George Harrison : my favourite of all the Rutles.
Billie Holiday : for me, the best popular female singer of all time.
Joni Mitchell : her vocal range is umpteen miles long, she’s a brilliant songwriter, paints all her own album covers, makes records in a vast range of styles and has influenced everybody. I first heard Blue when I was 16 and played it until it wore out. (You could still get vinyl albums back in the eighties, you see.)
Neil Young : why are all my favourite people Canadian?
And not forgetting …
Gerry Lockran : the late father of an old schoolfriend of mine, a half-Indian British blues musician whom I sadly never got to know properly.
Luxembourg : Pulp-ish underground London semi-pro band, not really my sort of thing, but I’m friends with the drummer (although he maintains this isn’t true) and it is rather a stylish website.
Mojo4music : the UK’s best magazine about real bands, from the Stones to the Smiths.
Mic Conway’s National Junk Band : surreal Sydney-based vaudevillian outfit who combine ukuleles with sousaphones, false teeth and juggling elephants to produce a unique musical and entertainular experience.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain : slightly less surreal London-based ukulele septet with an incredible repertoire ranging from classical to punk via the best cover of Life On Mars you’ll ever hear.
Adam Ant : When I was ten years old I wanted to be Adam Ant. I wanted his clothes (specifically, the jacket he wore in his “highwayman” period), his confidence, his imagination, his good looks, his popularity, his charisma. I can’t listen to his records much now (the track Something Girls from Friend or Foe is the only exception), but I still have a soft spot for him. He may have had his fifteen minutes, but I’ve always had the inexplicable feeling that despite everything that’s happened to him – his battle with depression, plunging record sales, a flailing acting career – that one day he’ll get it all together again and burst forth with something amazing.
Friends Reunited : UK residents (and increasingly those from other countries) can use this huge database to contact old schoolfriends. I’ve already met up with a few old friends I’d lost touch with, and found that someone I used to go to school with is now a successful film director… the bastard.
Cusack Books : London-based out-of-print booksearchers specialising in film, TV, music and retro/nostalgic topics & titles.
Salvador Dali : Written off constantly as everything from a dreadful artist to a Franco sympathiser, Dali had an unequalled talent and an incredible imagination, and stands alone in 20th century art. He seems to have always figured somewhere in my life and imagination; I still have a big poster of The Metamorphosis of Narcissus on the wall which I bought when I was about ten for 50p from an art shop. In 1988 the BBC screened a brilliant 90-minute documentary about his life and work, which I watched over and over again; I still have it, on the same tape as another great BBC programme about Leonard Cohen. The video is a bit crumbly now and I can recite the “script” backwards but it still gets an airing when I’m in need of a pick-me-up.
Henri Matisse : Years ago, I had a job in a hotel in a rather drab Paris suburb. I’d never been away from home for any length of time before and it was Christmas and I couldn’t go back to my folks to celebrate. For the first couple of weeks, everything about the hotel and the town and the time seemed overcast. In need of some comfort I went into Paris and visited the Louvre. This turned out to be a mistake, at that moment anyway, because the museum’s brilliant treasures felt too aloof and cold and couldn’t reach me. I wandered out and there was a postcard shop nearby full of colour and warmth. I went inside, bought two Matisse cards, The Red Tablecloth and The Open Window , went back to the hotel and put them in my room. They saw me through until the ice melted.
Pablo Picasso : Like Bob Dylan (his 20th century musical equivalent), Picasso seems to have been around forever, and even if he died years ago there’s still nobody in my opinion who can touch him. He not only created astonishing work like Guernica – whose effect resonates decades later as the canvas is shamefully covered up for Colin Powell’s UN address – but deserves to be remembered just as much for things like the fantastic goat sculpture he built from junk picked up in a scrapyard.
Internet Movie Database : indispensible user-based resource explaining just about everything you ever wanted to know about almost every film ever made.
Babelfish : have hours of (unintended) fun translating a few sentences from English into French (or a host of other languages) and back into English again. Or, as Babelfish would have it, ” have the hours of the recreation (fortuitous) translating some sentences of English into French (or presses other languages) and again in English still.”
The Framley Examiner : from my time as a press-cutter I can personally vouch for the fact that there are real local newspapers with names like The Yate & Sodbury Gazette . On this basis, The Framley Examiner hardly needed to send up such organs – but it does.
GORBY : generates a brilliant random band name from a database of mismatching nouns and adjectives at the “pull of the lever”. Crazy Eyelashes and The Capitalist , anyone?
Googlism : enter any search term and this site searches Google for what it knows about it, reporting back a whole page of results stripped down to single lines of information, with the results reading like mad poems, eg:
the meaning of life is a strategy for getting nice surprises
the meaning of life is the fusion and tension of spar
the meaning of life is impaired by fixed notions or perspectives on what it means to be human
the meaning of life is to do god’s will
the meaning of life is enjoying the passage of time
the meaning of life is love
the meaning of life is by fortune to be found
the meaning of life is being alive…
gumwrapper.com : site of a mad American bloke who’s collected millions of bubblegum wrappers over the past 30 years and linked them together into one insane paper-chain.
Flat Stanley : The two-dimensional lad from Jeff Brown’s children’s books has been turned into a kind of global ambassador for fun: “Students make a paper Flat Stanley and mail it, along with a blank journal, to someone on the List of Participants or to a celebrity or politician. The recipient treats the visiting Stanley as a guest and takes it places. After a few weeks Stanley is mailed back with a completed journal…” Sadly, the only three politicians featured as having “entertained” Stanley are George W. Bush, Jeb Bush and Colin Powell. Surely somebody can send poor Stanley to someone half decent?
Romania Travel Centre: a great site for holidays in Transylvania, one of which offers a unique biking holiday “to include the observation of large carnivores” (including the lynx at the top of this page).
private eye’s old ” chaotically unsorted” links page
I lifted the following huge list of humour and satire links from Private Eye’s site on its “last appearance” in January . The page has now been reduced to a dozen or so sites, most of which revolve around Peter Cook. No plagiarism is intended here – I just thought the original was worth preserving.
The Secret Journals of George W. Bush
News At Ten
Download a pilot Pete ‘n’ Dud animation at dutchcrotch.com
The Weekly World News — larger than life
artnose.com — art market satire
Catmachine Live — eavesdropping on the neighbours in a parallel universe
The Filthy Jokes site
Action for Justice & The Campaign For Fair Hearing
PawnPusher — yes, it’s chess!
Titanic – – German-language satire
Channel Z TV — live via satellite from the Derwent Valley
Splimple — for people who didn’t think they liked poetry
ballygobackwards.com — the on-line magazine for Northern Ireland’s forward-thinking citizens
VIZ — not (quite) as rude as Derek & Clive
The Dogtown Diaries — ever had your heart broken by a golfing melody?
cartoonz — daily cartoons, rare books, and originals for sale…
shiola.com — featuring Big Ron’s World Cup Bingo
satiresearch.com — satire updates from around the world
Lord Bonkers’ Diary
Foolscap — the African Court of Humour Rights
August Horne’s Morbid Obsessions
www.sheepfarming.co.uk — Orpington Man rants (and rants…)
The University of the Bleeding Obvious
The Phantom Review
Crikey! It’s Australian…
Le-Monte newspaper of the strange but true…
gagpipe.com — headline satire from around the world
Not the 1901 Census
Corporate Watch — keeping an eye on big business
www.sedition.org.uk — “opinion over ego”
The Specious Report
(Probably not) the official George W. Bush site
God’s Right Hand
Colin’s Comedy Website
Pip’s Web Site
Rip-Off Britain — exposing the scams
UK-Banks.org — info on UK financial institutions (and links to anti-bank sites)
The Friday Thing
None so strange as folk — urban human behaviour examined
The On-Line School of Disimprovement — re-establish your credentials as an under-achiever
DeadBrain — includes the Tony Tracker prime minister locator.
Heisenberg’s Fun House — square pegs in black holes
The BMA Library Webcam — “like watching paint dry but better”
Lookylikey.com — the Paul McCartney one is uncanny…
ToonToons — “fairly truthful tales from the North of England”
Borat’s Guide to Britain
Leslie Crowther — “wonderfully cheesy”, says the London Evening Standard
Get Ethical — what you buy matters
JABS (Justice Awareness and Basic Support) : MMR information/message board.
Single Vaccine Clinic
The Schmews — “Europe’s finest news source”
The Despondent — news, comment and satire for a despondent generation
The Smoking Gun — secret, surprising and salacious documents
The Register — biting the hand that feeds IT
Have your say at MetaFilter
It’s not news… it’s fark.com
National Lampoon Dotcom
UkAuthors.com — forums and info for writers
Worldwide News — a random tabloid generator
The PAP Newswire
A relentless digest of UK disgrace
PeopleCards — 100% celebrity-free trading cards
The new ugly face of football
Six Reels : dedicated to films so obscure it’s untrue…
Let’s Get It Off! Official UK campaign for work-free Friday afternoons.
What Should I Put On The Fence?
Mock Spatchcock: “Guilt relief after looking at porn online”.
FreeArcher.co.uk — register your support for poor hard-done-by Godfrey Bowman here…
The Commentary Box — sport, politics, dead celebrities
Hillman Avenger : animated, anonymous insults
All-New Web Rage
callmetony.org — weekly political satire and comment
The University of Bums On Seats
South Pacific Institute of Nolledge
The Whitley Bay Citizen
The Portadown News — “Not as funny as it used to be”
Whirligig — 1950s British television nostalgia
Take a purity test at theSpark.com
Spin On This
The Tonygochi — A Blair for your desktop. Plus the Clinton Apologiser…
The Covert Comic — “the funniest web site produced by any covert intelligence officer anywhere”
Funny Stuff Central – – jokes, stories, links etc.
Have your say at www.issues.tv — forums discussing issues in the news
www.amigoingdown.com — calculate the probability of your flight crashing
www.thebrainstrust.co.uk — “British son of The Onion”, says the Grauniad
The Sheep Cull game. Needs Flash
The late, great John Glashan
Exploding Dog — pictures drawn to order
The Bad News : weekly compilation concentrating on misuse of power by government/big business.
britishexpat.com — mainly for expats, but useful for all — worldwide hotel/flight bookings etc.
fish.co.uk — Christian Aid’s subscription-free ISP that raises funds for world’s poorest communities
The Hunger Site: click on a button to make a free donation of food.
Give water: 250,000 clicks on this page gets £100,000 from Thames Water
spinon.co.uk — updated twice weekly
Derek & Clive — the complete works
Cook’d and Bomb’d : Peter Cook/Chris Morris site
The Establishment — the Peter Cook Appreciation Society
TV Go Home
funny.co.uk : the comedy portal
The Boothby Graffoe site
Garbled Communications UK — comprehensive entertainment site
The Britney Spears Guide to Semiconductor Physics
orangeAfro — not a magazine about citrus fruits (or hairstyles)
Jinx — ‘cutting-edge wit, faintly disturbing streaming video and rather too many jokes about masturbation’
Michael Kelly’s Page Of Misery
The Anxiety Culture Site
Dean And Nigel — how to blend in
noisegate — streaming video, free mp3 downloads
If it’s in the press… it’s got to be true
Satire Wire — new satire for the new economy
Moonrock Radio . A financial satire site
The Toque — published every Tuesday
Netribution — the home of UK filmmaking
UKShop.org – – UK shopping mall with hundreds of retailers
Mayorwatch : keeping an eye on Ken…
The Happening Happy Hippy Party . Yes, they’re back…
Top 50 web sites : very useful directory of interesting sites.
Article19 : the Global Centre for Free Expression
Landover Baptist Church : The Largest, Most Powerful Assembly Of People To Ever Exist.
BGM Online: the monthly satirical magazine with attitude…
How Stuff Works: er… that’s it.
An alternative explanation of how stuff works
Losers on the Internet — sad, sad sites.
Ha! Humorous Arts review…
The Centre for the Easily Amused
ComedyBooks — Hancock, Goons, Python etc.
The London Cartoon Gallery
Mark Wood’s Cartoon World
Cartoons by Landers
Pants Of Death — cartoons by Jon
Cartoon Stock : cartoons for first-time publication, reprints, online rights and merchandise
Ian Baker cartoons
Tony Husband cartoons
John Cooper cartoons and illustrations
Cartoons by Tony Reeve
Bill Tidy’s Page: commission your own Tidy cartoon.
Cartoons by Banx
Cartoons by Gaspirtz
SETI at home : use your computer to help analyse radio telescope data
The Daily Anorak
radiohaha — the online encyclopaedia of contemporary British radio comedy
TV Cream: “a repository of all aspects of now-dead media”
Off The Telly — reviews, views and news of UK TV
HumorLinks — hundreds of links to comedy on the Web.
The Dilbert Zone
The Drudge Report
The Media UK Internet Directory
The Big List of Movie Mistakes
Need To Know — the “weekly high-tech sarcastic update for the UK”.
The Princess Diana WebRing: The Diana industry shows no signs of flagging…
The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office Giftshop
The (Electric) Peel Bell
Multimap — a complete interactive atlas of Great Britain.
ReadWell — worldwide media/telephone/fax directories
Electronic Yellow Pages
The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest : compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.
British Home Tutors – – home tuition over the internet
Fortean Times Online
Peter Cook’s lost masterpiece, Consequences (with Godley & Creme).
Robin Ramsay’s Lobster
Jo’s Completely Factual and Not At All Juvenile Guide for Americans Visiting Britain
Colonel Rohde’s Gazette & Swinehurst Telegram-Companion . Published monthly (weather permitting).
The DUBBINternet : all aspects of the worship of dubbin
Death by Jargon (Flash required)
The Horn Of Plenty