Friday, 18 December 2009

# 17 Cotton buds

The bathroom is a whole new minefield of sinistry; use someone’s ‘restroom’ (sinister name) and you suddenly get a new, thrilling yet often unsettling view of them. Several lavatorial items can inspire this revelation – upside-down shower gel, tweezers, bubble bath – but none scales the same horrific heights as cotton ear buds. These sperm-shaped superfluities serve no purpose other than that of seduction, showing their possessor to be so focussed on personal hygiene that he’s willing to penetrate his own head and can he penetrate you too? Yet consider their horrible, chalky texture, the feeling that there’s some kind of bewigged insect crawling about inside you, and you realise that it’s really not worth it. Still, the weirdest, scariest facet of these terrible beasts is that you’re not even supposed to put them in your ear. Think about that: if they weren’t creepy enough, you’re not even allowed to deploy them in the one role, wax excavation, to which they are admittedly well-suited. Unattractive, dangerous and useless: the very definition of sinistry.

Attic rating: 7 out of 10

Thursday, 5 November 2009

# 16 Men who can cook well

In the not so distant past, a man who was a bit handy in the kitchen might have been considered sinister by some, by reason of the fact that he would “definitely” have an appetite for members of the same sex, “init”. It might be said today however, that a man who knows how to handle a pasta machine is sinister for the very opposite reason.

The tall dark and handsome chap offering your girlfriend a match for her unlit cigarette is not to be feared. Overhear a man mentioning the words, “deconstructed” or “velouté”, in her presence and worry. This is not to say that female attraction to men with culinary skills is misplaced; indeed the production of delicious food requires a certain level of patience, passion and dexterity.

The Sinistry lies not in the mere fact of being a man and being good at cooking but the motives behind, and processes involved in, the journey to culinary competence. The men in question pursue culinary arts for the sole purpose of adding another feather to their often well feathered caps and have inevitably sacrificed hours of healthy outdoor pursuits to cross that great watershed in cookery, which I shall refer to as the ‘Risotto Threshold’. Such men are not impressed by tales of vinegar and albumen but dream of gadgets (see earlier), foams and naming their first born, Heston.

These men apply skills acquired in the gastronomic world, to their day to day lives; not least in the way in which they approach women (largely not the single sort). They are meticulous in their preparation, conscious of presentation and execute quickly under pressure. Three star rated Sinistry.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

#15 Baby On Board Signs

Female sinistry is an altogether more complex affair than its standard mac-wearing, binocular-toting male equivalent. Women are not overtly sinister; but they employ a number of strategic sinister practices (SSP), largely directed against other women.

Take 'Baby on Board' signs. These are not safety devices or public information announcements; they are advertisements. And not the nice self-empowering you-can-do-it kind; the you-don't-have-this-so-your-life-is-shit kind. If you peer very closely, you can see etched on to the rear windscreen, to the left of the sign: 'I have a...', and to the right: '...Where is yours, You Slag?'

You can now get a badge for traveling on the tube with the same catchphrase. I suppose it is supposed to be funny - 'How could a woman have a baby 'on board'? Oh! I see! She's sort-of referring to herself as a vehicle! HA!' The badge does solve the 'fat woman or pregnant' (fwop) dilemma, at least in theory, but it also functions as a small but potent slap in the ovaries to the other women in the carriage.

The invisible, intangible, slapping of another woman's ovaries in public may not appear that sinister. But it is, when you think about it.

Attic rating: 6.66/10

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

#14 Transition lenses

Nobody doubts the utility of sunglasses, particularly on professional sportsmen, yachtsmen (on whom more later) and other professionals whose occupation might otherwise threaten their long-term vision. Nor would we, despite our constant cynicism, ever begrudge people corrective lenses: all of the contributors to this site have had had their vision blighted in some degree by years of video games, box sets of Deadwood and furious onanism. There is, however, something deeply and darkly sinister about those lenses which turn dark, as if by magic, when the wearer enters sunlight.

There are basically two issues: in the first instance they’re staggeringly, screamingly naff, so much so that one wonders what must be going through the wearer’s mind in lieu of the minimal self-awareness required to remove them. The second point is essentially sinister philosophy: as the world becomes brighter, the world of the transition lens-wearer becomes darker. The eyes are the window to the soul, and the wearer of the transition lens would rather his remained obfuscated.

Attic rating: 6

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

#13 The man with the half-pint

Perhaps with the exception of Horlicks, the lager top, and the emerging popularity of slimline tonic to accompany your Gordon’s, the half pint is the most sinister drink regularly consumed. The purchaser of the half-pint in any establishment will automatically provoke wary looks from his fellow clientele. This is for a myriad of reasons, but these two strike me as being particularly significant.

Firstly, the man who buys the half pint is often sitting alone. He is watching you. Perhaps he is waiting for an opportunity to accost you. He will often attempt to make eye contact with you, a seemingly innocent and harmless enough gesture but one that could lead to an enforced conversation, leaving you feeling more awkward than virgin in a barracks. Initially perhaps, you may be comforted by the fact that the man accosting you only has a half pint- how long can this conversation last until an empty vessel provides you with a heaven sent opportunity to beat a hasty retreat? But it is here that the man with the half pint truly manifests his sinistry. He can make it last an hour. Perhaps more. The purchase of one half-pint will give him more than enough time to choose an unwilling victim, engage him and ensnare him for a remarkable period of time.

And secondly, the man with the half-pint is making a statement. He is not drinking a full pint. In God’s name why not?! Does the consumption of 2 units of alcohol turn him into a nightmarish beast one can only imagine? Like a cross between the Incredible Hulk and Freddie Flintoff perhaps. Or maybe is the man with the half-pint deliberately appearing occupied whilst maintaining perfect sobriety, like card players in Vegas? Does this mean the fact that there is a primary school/secluded car park/mini-golf course in the vicinity suddenly bear significance?

The man with the half-pint is the mortal enemy of public house frequenters all over the world. The man who orders a half-pint lager top can only be imagined.

Attic Rating: 4.5/10

#12 Model Railways

There are some things that you can get away with as a young boy, that just don't fit in the adult arena. Public nudity, short shorts, and hugging big dogs come to mind, but the creation and devoted nurture of model railways is unquestionably the most sinister. It combines some of the most disturbing elements of our culture: quasi-Victorianism, plastic (though probably unionised) transport workers, the quest for elusive youth, and super-glue. Then model-makers place them all in an attic - the most sinister of all rooms.

No man should love inanimate objects to much, but greater love hath no man than he lay down his track for his bends. When you overhear your grandmother say that Grandad 'has put so much of himself into that model railway station', the sinister implications are uncomfortable. When she follows this with, 'He just can't wait to get the grandchildren up there', it is time to run for the door.

Attic Rating: 9/10

Monday, 26 October 2009

#11 Non-military night-vision

Night vision goggles undoubtedly grant the wearer an advantage in certain non-sinister situations. War, and perhaps nature documentaries. Nobody would dispute the advantages of seeing at night if you are hunting an enemy combatant, and tracking a pair of endangered badgers for the BBC is less bad than most. The downside to this technological advancement, however, is a device that in the wrong hands is almost unbearably creepy.  

Animals and the military use night-time for cover, to protect themselves from other people. People, on the other hand, use the dark to hide their deeply shady activities from other people. Things civilians do in the dark: develop photographs (often sepia), fornicate, spike drinks, grow mushrooms and eat ortolan. All, I'm sure you'll agree, deeply sinister. Usually the one positive is that we don't have to watch them. But thanks to night-vision technology, the citizenry can, if they really want to and have a spare few hundred pounds, sit in pitch darkness at a safe distance and patiently observe their targets, who are shrouded in an appropriately eerie green glow. Whether these are women getting changed, elderly couples watching television or children being read a bedtime story, the night-vision goggle provides an unparalleled opportunity for deviant prying. In any civilian context the utterance "oh, those are just my night-vision goggles" is tantamount to "I know, I can't believe I'm not in prison either". 

Attic rating: 8/10

Saturday, 24 October 2009

#10 The wearing of Barbour jackets in urban areas

Any man with a shovel in the boot of his car will tell you that it pays to be prepared.

It might be said however, that one’s parsnips have been thoroughly buttered, wearing a thornproof, tartan lined, wax jacket which is “extremely resistant to snags and pulls from spiky plants such as brambles and hawthorn”, on a cloudy day in Notting Hill.

It pays to be prepared. And it no doubt, in the minds of the upwardly mobile, pays to appear to have just come from; be about to go to; or have forgotten one’s Mac at; one’s ‘place in the country’.

Such jackets are undoubtedly very well made, but then again, so are shovels. The problem with being well prepared is that it often leads to a misplaced sense of confidence. The man who slips on a pair of driving gloves (more later) genuinely believes that it is safe to take corners at higher speeds now that there is fleece and calf skin between his own skin and the wheel.

The urban thornproof man is conscious of the fact that his suede loafers and Japanese denim may give the game away, but confident in the knowledge that he is well prepared. Deep seated anxiety and misplaced confidence may well be the worst combination since chair legs and swimming pools. It is a combination that gives rise to Sinistry of the highest degree. I should know; I live in London and have been known, in colder months, to wear a tartan lined wax jacket which is “extremely resistant to snags and pulls from spiky plants such as brambles and hawthorn”. But then again, it is very well made.

Friday, 23 October 2009

#9 Owning your own pool cue

It takes a certain type of man (and a frankly extraordinary type of woman) to stride into a bar – they never ever ‘wander’ in – sporting a faux-leather bag about the size of a midget’s ironing board. Upon reaching the pool table they stop. They place the bag on a nearby table (obligatory shoulder strap easily shrugged off), and carefully withdraw two halves of a pool cue. These they carefully screw together, delighting in the way the screw’s thread fits the hole’s. This is what‘fitting in’ must feel like, they imagine.

Although often very sleek and very shiny, the own-pool-cue (OPC) is not an expensive accessory. Yet it does contribute some less-than-pleasant insinuations about its owner. It suggests an emotional (notwithstanding financial) commitment to the most pointless of games: pool. One’s ability at pool usually correlates inversely with one’s ability at life. To celebrate and consolidate this fact by proudly holding the OPC is deeply sinister. Why not just hand out CVs detailing your secret desire to be a DJ, Asian porn fetish, and interest in insects? Carrying the totem-pole of sinistry around with you to tell everyone this is no better.

Attic Rating: 7/10

#8 Wearing White or Cream Clothing Outside of Sport

Imagine a man strolling towards you dressed in white. The trousers are obviously loose-fitting, probably linen, probably with some roofies in the pocket; the shirt unbuttoned to reveal a deep tan and thrusting chest hairs. Now shudder.

Wearing white clothes screams sinistry in a fruity Eurotrash accent. It’s trying to show off your tan; it’s trying to pretend you own a yacht in Puerto Banus when in fact you probably own a row boat in Skegness; it’s proving you’re the kind of person who takes care not to spill anything or sit down on anything dirty. It’s proving you’re sinister…

In case you’re not convinced, let’s think of a few other items in these shades… The chino. The white socks/black shoes combo beloved of the late and deeply sinister MJ. Finally, think of the white boxer-short and think of the y-front…

Attic Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 22 October 2009

#7 Sepia Photography

We at the ministry have a number of problems with photography. Not only is it a hobby, it is an invasive hobby, and one which permits you to store ‘private’ moments for posterity. Aside from whether or not these moments were yours to store, and the distance from which you recorded them, there are a number of different photographic techniques which might merit inclusion, not least of which is the most odious of all hues: sepia.


Sepia photography originally existed because it made photos last longer. The reason old photos are often in sepia is because of this. Note that at no point in this description does it say: sepia photography was invented so that people with half-grand digital cameras could push a button and instantly create something ‘timeless’. Men and women are equally guilty of this, modifying nights out in terrible night clubs to look like vignettes from the roaring twenties, as opposed to twenty-year old sluts, lashed of their faces in provincial town centres, or even worse, the shudderingly awkward sepia ‘couple shots’, where with a single mud-brown wash, doting youngsters can render their memories instantly more humiliating. 

Attic rating: 6/10

#5 Wine Aerators

Like any aesthetic pursuit that attracts a large number of competitive, predominantly male devotees, the appreciation of wine is a mine rich in different sorts of sinistry. Particularly dubious, however, is the paraphernalia accumulated by these people in their pursuit of an alleged but largely unfounded improvement in taste. Decanters, electric corkscrews, precision fridges and oversized glasses are just some of the accoutrements available. As any readers who’ve had the misfortune to sit through a dinner with one of these individuals will be aware, it is possible to talk about any of these items for hours, often followed by an invitation to listen to a clavichord recording or stroke a new chinchilla jacket.


Among the worst, however, is surely the wine aerator. The word ‘aerator’ should instantly arouse suspicion, imbued as it is with a sense of quasi-organic mechanical mystery. This is a device placed over the oversized glass, and through which the wine is poured, slowly, to be mixed with ‘exactly the right amount of oxygen’, improving taste, volume and ‘bouquet’, the latter being one of the shadiest terms of appreciation this side of ‘moistness’. Wine is a delicious drink that makes you more attractive and sophisticated. A wine aerator is an Italian-designed, polished chrome status symbol of the deviant, and should be avoided at all costs.


Attic rating: 7/10


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

#4 Braces/Suspenders

They say that necessity breeds invention, and few needs are more urgent than keeping one’s trousers up. Though it might sound hilarious, I’ve always found that waddling around with your chinos round your ankles is a surefire way to be kicked out of the post office or John Lewis.  And invention has responded admirably to this need. We have belts, elastic, a variety of fly configurations, not to mention the classic technique of getting trousers that ‘fit’.


Pray then someone tell my why anybody sees fit to perpetuate braces, or suspenders to our American friends - the most sinister of all trouser accoutrements. Serving no practical purpose since the chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins (more on them later), their appearance, usually down the front of portly pinstriped city bankers, says a number of things: I am wealthy. My trousers shall not full down today. I own no mirrors. Most emphatically, however, it states: I if I just slip my thumbs under these thin strips of material, I shall be exposing myself to you.  Underneath by well-fed exterior, I am a deeply shady individual. They inspire in the viewer nothing but the prickly sense of imminent molestation. Make no mistake - suspenders/braces are deeply, deeply sinister. Suspect on sight. 

Attic Rating: 6.5/10

#3 Themed Toothbrushes

At what point did companies like Oral-B decide to themselves; "People really seem to have had it with conventional and regular electric toothbrushes. We need to bring out one which claims to employ Cold War Submarine technology or people will simply stop brushing"?

It is perhaps the names of these sinister instruments of oral care that make them so unappealing. They come straight out of the Transformers films, "The Philips Cybersonic" being a prime example. However, it is the combination of plastic and rubber that just make them unbearable to hold, especially when paired with the fact that brushing with them feels strangely similar to holding a phone set to vibrate in ones mouth.

Last, but not least, the 'settings' available push these, in my opinion, into the list. They read like the sign outside a unidentified building in an alley in Bangkok. 'Superclean, Sensitive, Massage'. There is also a sub-setting which can be used in conjunction with the other settings, which allow you to choose 'Maxcare' or 'Hi-Care'. This just seems to be a case of toothbrush company marketing meeting putting an assortment of superlatives and pleasant-sounding verbs into a hat and drawing them out in pairs.

Attic rating: 4/10

#2 Wine Gums

It goes without saying that a terrific variety of confectionery could be considered slightly sinister, and the range of characters associated with them would need a whole blog of their own (some, such as the almost incredibly sinister Milky Bar Kid, will almost certainly appear later on). 

However, especially creepy of their own accord are Maynard’s Wine Gums. These horrible little bags of mystery are purchased and offered only by sinister figures: grandparents at pantomimes, godfathers at Shakespeare’s Globe, parents of friends of the family in Jaguars. Are they sweet? Are they sour? Do they actually contain alcohol? Such small sweets, so many questions; they’re like little gelatinous metaphors for date rape. One thing is certain: “would you like a wine gum” is one of the most sinister questions you can ask in any situation, and for that reason they make the list.

Attic Rating: 5/10

#1 Spare Shoelaces

Ah, the spare shoelace collection. *shivers*

The spare shoelace collection ranks as one of the most sinister things a human being can possess. No one ever replaces their shoelaces, obviously, but yet my father still insists on de-lacing any old pair of shoes he (or any other member of my extended family) throws out.

'Why are you doing that?'


'Keeping old shoelaces.'

'No reason.'

What could possibly happen that would require the spare laces? A request from the gerbil for materials to assist his auto-erotic experiments? As he suffocates himself on a tiny raisin? Or, perhaps, you wake up one morning to find that, in a fit of drunken malice, your former slip-on shoe salesman has broken into your house and stolen your shoelaces. You laugh the laugh of a man who has prepared for this eventuality. 'Ha! I was prepared for this all along! Where's the gerbil?'

Sinistery requires a partial blind-spot concerning what it is needed, as opposed to what is just, er, sinister. My father obviously doesn't need the spare shoelaces, and he knows this. He just likes them. Which is about as sinister as it gets.

Attic Rating: 7/10

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Definitive List of Sinister Things

We are building an archive of all that is sinister.

Sinister is, as sinister does; so there are no boundaries of definition that will automatically qualify (or disqualify) an object, practice, or product from being sinister.

We are in the early stages.