Saturday, December 29, 2007

What I Found on the Train

Look what I found on the train home last night! It's number 8 (or VIII as the by the same author page suggests) in Tom Clancy's Op Center series (mostly written by people who aren't Tom Clancy). Is it any good? Let's take a peak inside at Chapter 1:
..."I just wanted to wish you well. That's a remote, hostile region you're heading into."

That dialogue is a bit clunky, a bit info-dump, and unnecessary info-dump at that as the prologue has explained in detail the dangers and difficulties of the region in question (Kashmir). Still, lets see how Tom Jeff continues:

Rodgers clasped Herbert's hand and grinned. "I know. But I'm a remote, hostile guy. Kashmir and I will get along fine."

Ah. It's the setup line for a joke; it's not a clunky info-dump, it's a clunky introduction to allow one of our characters to (re)introduce themselves! Phew.

As an in-joke to anyone who's read the first couple of chapters, here's a music video (not the version mentioned in the book, which only seems to have left ambiguous traces of it's existence on the internet):

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Collection

Film: Die Hard. If you must have a Christmas film (and you must), make it this one. It really brings out the spirit of Christmas; "Ho Ho Ho, now I have a machine gun". Alternative: White Christmas. It's a bunch of Irving Berlin numbers stitched together by a fairly slight plot! Also they should actually be in drag in this scene. If you can get past that, it's amusing, light and not too demanding, which is what you want to watch at Christmas. For another view of the film, there's Brokeback Christmas.

Song: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Bjorn Again. It's like all our ABBA Christmas fantasies coming true! Assuming you have ABBA Christmas fantasies. Alternative: Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth, Bing Crosby and David Bowie. The conversation at the start is kind of amusing; the whole pretending they don't know each other shows that Bowie is not a comedian, but Crosby is.

Food: Roast Goose. How do you roast a goose? Dad has boned ours. It should cook quicker and will be a doddle to carve. Do we lose flavour? If so, it's gone into the stock as he's cooked the bones up with the giblets and trimmings, reducing our large stockpot full down to... well down to two jugs that are filling up a large amount of the fridge, and a saucepan that won't go in. Anyway, if you don't do that, don't forget to prick it and turn it over to brown the back and let all the fat drain off. Use the fat for roast potatoes (or not; Heston Blumenthal says that this is fine as long as you want your potatoes to taste of goose. He prefers to use olive oil; also he notes that you can flavour the oil with your potato peelings as most of the flavour of the potato is just under the skin. Blumenthal is clearly both a madman and a genius; potato flavoured oil for roasting potatoes in! Alternative: Pickled Onions. It's too late to pickle your own for Christmas, but the important thing to remember is to soak them in brine twice for 24 hours before cooking up the vinegar and spices; introduce the onions to the vinegar when you take the vinegar off the heat.

Book: A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens. It's always A Christmas Carol. Alternative: Don't Cry for me Aberystwyth, Malcolm Pryce. Father Christmas is murdered in Aberystwyth; as we know he comes from Greenland, a self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark, so the Queen of Denmark hires Louie Knight, Aberystwyth's celebrated private eye, to investigate. It's comedy, although dark and tragic too. Makes more sense if you've read the previous Louie Knight thrillers.

Wild Card: Talking of Trebuchets (as we were) here's the homepage of the Warwick Castle Trebuchet. Alternative: a youtube video of what claims to be a world record trampoline jump. Bonkers.

Friday, December 21, 2007

In The Bleak Midwinter

Well back at Hallowe'en I promised to write about midwinter. And here we are! And I've nothing prepared! Despite nearly two months lead time!

Well here's a rotating animation of the earth viewed from the sun at (Northern) Winter Solstice, illustrating the whole long night/short day thing. You can also see what it's like in other parts of the world.

Wikipedia notes that the word solstice comes from latin; sol meaning sun and sistere, to stand still. Thus the solstice is where the suns stands still for a moment in it's North-South movement across the fixed stars.

As might be expected, the solstice was an important time for the later roman cult of Sol Invictus (the undefeated sun). This cult was also associated with the cult of Mithras and celebrated the festival on the Winter Solstice of the Julian calender; 25 December. Converts to early Christianity kept this festival, equating Jesus with Sol and/or Mithras, and holding a mass in his honour. This was condemned by the early Catholic Church for being a pagan practice.

Midwinter is traditionally the start of the deep winter and the famine months of January through March; famine months as no new food was available to pre-modern communities.

Anyway, if you're reading this, you probably want Stonehenge, neopagans singing and Druids. Where are the Druids? I can hear you ask. Henge at Winter Solstice. Druids.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Not Midweek Monkey Business

I drew the above when asked why I want a trebuchet. It is, of course, a non sequitur so don't try and work out why the trebuchet settles the argument.

In other news Bonde do Role, who I previously mentioned and complained they had no video for the song Marina Gasolina, now have one. It is Not Safe For Work. It hasn't quite got over to the Not Safe For Anyone Ever[1] category, but be warned that it is both rude and odd. In amongst the W00T!s and complaints in the comments there's some information about the lyrics and why an Australian underwear company stopped using it for advertising (it's rude).

While I'm embedding things, here's something that's NOT a Christmas song[2].

[1] As a rule I don't link to sites in that category.
[2] I have nowt against Christmas songs, but you can find them easily enough yourself.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Many things on a Monday

I've been failing to keep my own blogging schedule recently. This, of course, just goes to show why this blog is useless and pointless; Technorati give it an "Authority" of 1. But anyway;

Film: The Golden Compass. Well to make it work (with the choice of not gutting it and putting in whatever Hollywood cliches came to hand taken as read) you need to get Lyra right, Pan right and finally IOREK BYRNISON! 15 FEET OF ARMOURED BEAR! right. Lyra is good (although they could probably have found 20 child actors who could do the job if they'd wanted), Pan works, although the constant changing is more distracting on screen than on the page, and Iorek is very good. Ian Mckellen has the right voice, although he has the wrong accent to me; Iorek sounds like he went to an Oxbridge college (which would have made an interesting plot twist if they'd gone for the gutting and clicheing option). Leaving off the end of the book leaves them with some tricky choices for the rest of the trilogy - if it goes ahead.

Book: More Phillip Pullman love as I've just finished The Ruby in the Smoke. It's a kid's book. Although it's a kid's book with opium smoking and child slavery and... well never mind. I'd seen the BBC Adaption[1] with Billie Piper and that, with the change in cover, made me take it more seriously. Good stuff!

Food: Cooking Belly Pork again (as we've been getting techie advice from Stan and I need to make sure I'm up to the task of repayment) - this time based loosely on a Ken Hom recipe. Brown the belly pork, skin side down, then put into a pot of simmering stock, rice wine or sherry, soy sauce, five spice powder and ginger. Leave it to cook for ages (an hour and a half a least). You can reuse the stock for other Chinese dishes; Ken Hom recommends freezing it.

Song: Sweet Talking Woman, ELO. I would have made it the version of "Don't Bring Me Down" on Dr Who (you know, in the episode "Love and Monsters"? With Peter Kay? The one where the Doctor is mostly off-stage and a group of people try to track him down but get distracted into forming an ELO tribute band? No? It has an oral sex joke at the end? Try this from 2:10 onwards) but it's only in the middle of that video I linked to in the parentheses, so I've gone with the more interesting Sweet Talking Woman.

Wild Card: The Young Man has a travel blog. Look on in near real-time as he wanders the Middle East! (And the Far East probably, or I've wasted my time posting his Chinese language books to Ankara).

Bonus: Short again! Well there's this tutorial which explains how to make an 8 page pamphlet or zine out of one sheet of paper. Well I found it interesting.

[1] "Now a major BBC Drama" as it says on the back. They never bother telling you if it's a minor feature film or adaption, do they?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hairy Faces

My beard is coming in handy with the cold weather - if only it covered my nose my face would be pretty warm when I'm outside. Of course, my nose is about the only part of my face it's not covering; it's a bit out of control. So much so that my friends suggest I colour it white, put on a white wig and a red jumper[1] and shout "Ho Ho Ho" on Christmas Eve.

For an alternate view on beards, see Kate Beaton (unless you're Stan or Vas, in which case you want the cartoon before).

[1] Although for some reason they don't think I need to stuff a cushion up the jumper. Hmm.

Monday, December 10, 2007


On the Golden Compass website there's a thingy that creates a daemon for you. Here's mine.


If you agree or disagree you can click on it and fiddle with the answers for the next 12 days. Disagreeing is more interesting as it will change.

Obviously if you haven't seen the Golden Compass or read the His Dark Materials trilogy then 1. you don't know what I'm going on about and 2. You should run to your nearest bookstore and say "Please will you sell me Phillip Pullman's His Dark materials trilogy, in recipt of which I will tender this fistful of legal tender."

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Five December Style

Song: Rockstar, Nickelback. Let me tell you what annoys me, the lyric "Gonna join the mile high club/ At thirty-seven thousand feet". That's the six-mile high club. I can't find the song writing credit, so I hold the whole band to blame.

Book: Lion of Macedon, David Gemmel. It's one of the Gemmel books where he avoids his own formula, partly because he has some real history to jam into his fantasy of Parmenion, general to Philip of Macedon. The sequel Dark Prince was recently plagiarised in a complex and unlikely literary scandal; sincerest form of flattery?

Film: Movie Night has been called off, so I'll use the film column to link to this video of a stag weekend my brother went to in Bratislava. What's interesting is not the content, but the fact the final scene is about midnight on 20 August and the video was up the next day. By 0900 in fact. This kind of thing unimaginable a few years ago. Welcome to the 21st Century (again).

Food: Fish Pie! Have I blogged about fish pie before? I can't remember! Mmm. Fish Pie.

Wild Card: My brother writes to note that between his first visit to this blog from Syria and the second, it was blocked (as was facebook). Apparently using a "poxy server" gets around the wailing fire-wall. Once again Strange Maps has the information.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sunday Six in December

Song: The Middle, Jimmy Eat World. The video is a party where everyone is in their underwear! Sometimes I wonder if Jim is a music video director.

Book: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen Paul Torday. It starts off looking to be a gentle comedy, a satire of impossible projects and the people who have to complete them, but it turns into something more interesting, deeper, and slightly darker than expected. But funny too.

Film: The Searchers. Probably John Wayne's best film; possibly director John Ford's best film. A Western about perseverance, love and redemption. If you watch closely you can see it's influence on Star Wars. Go on, watch closely. You know you want to.

Food: It's mincemeat time again. Mmm mincemeat.

Wild Card: An interesting article on how on the internet no one knows you're a dog, or a forty year old pervert in your underwear, or, in this case... well that would give a little too much away.

Bonus: Do I have a bonus? And if I don't should I maybe try and blog according to the schedule I've set myself? Well perhaps I do.
cash advance

(It was postgrad when I first checked, dammit. Have I been dumbing down?)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Midweek Monkey Business Late Version

Late, internet stupid, blah, blah blah. So do I have anything of interest? Well, there's the video of the Mark Ronson (featuring Amy Winehouse) version of the Zuton's Valerie, here as much for it's interest as the story; allegedly Mark Ronson, his band and a whole bunch of extras turned up for the video shoot, but Amy Winehouse didn't. So Ronson[1], building up the legend of his competence, suggested bringing a bunch of the extras on stage to fill in. The rest is down the link, along with all the usual stupid Youtube questions and comments.

An old song or two I stumbled on this week: Wax, Building A Bridge To Your Heart; and Jim's least favourite band, Men Without Hats, with Safety Dance.

Also, Mark Ronson again with his version of the Kaiser Chief's Oh My God featuring Lily Allen. It seems that Ronson, a whole bunch of extras and the Kaiser chiefs had turned up, but... no wait, that was another time Lily Allen didn't turn up to perform at a Mark Ronson gig. The cartoon version was supposed to be there all along.

So World News - the world's largest Elk is to be built in Sweden; so large it will have a restaurant, concert hall and conference centre inside it. Also the world's toughest No Parking sign.

Solar System News - On October 24 the Sun was no longer the largest object in the solar system; Comet Holmes appears to have exploded in size and brightness.

Finally, from the National Geographic, a picture of Stan a spider monkey.

[1] Or possibly an unnamed member of the production team

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday Six (Just About)

Song: In honour of Jim's movie night, I present the classic masterpiece that is Fountain of Wayne's Stacy's Mom.

Book: I only just started it, but in Hannibal Rising, the unnecessary prequel to the other Hannibal Lecter novels, the stone outside Lecter Castle in Lithuania is called the Ravenstone. Hmph. It now sounds like the Ravenswood stories are some kind of cheap rip-off, or amateur tribute. Well, that's an improvement for sure.

Film: Hero. Not for the gorgeous design with colour-coded alternate versions of the stories that it's made up of, the extraordinarily kinetic martial arts or the whole Chinese propaganda elements; I mean watch it for that, sure. It's here because I have the story of why it's "Quentin Tarantino presents Hero". Apparently Tarantino hears that an American studio have bought the rights to put out a English Language version, and are trying to work out how to edit it for US audiences. Tarantino, who has his own sources for Asian cinema, tells them not to be so stupid, but to release it as it is (with dubbing for people who can't be bothered to read subtitles). Hmm, say the studio executives, who are personally responsible for the small, but still multi-million dollar, budget for this release, we could do that, but say Quentin, would you mind if we put your name on it as some people who might otherwise be put off will go and see it. Tarantino agrees (does he get paid? How much? We don't know) and the rest is history. Or histories as it turns out.

Food: Last night I made a smoked Mackerel pie. Simply fry up some lardons, onions and carrots, make some cheese sauce, combine with the smoked mackerel in a pie pot, then roll out some pre-prepared pastry. Easy!

Wild Card: The most interesting video explaining the essential unity of moebius transformations; if you aren't big into math, this film will show you some of the "Ah, I get it!" some of us have. Via Making Light.

Bonus: You have seen this already I'm sure (I've seen it in half a dozen places) but here's the trailer for the film Brokeback to the Future.

Stuffing Birds Inside Each Other; What I've Watched on Television; Other Updates

Big shout out to my brother, who has commented from a Syrian prison cell internet cafe that the first thing you find if searching for Coq au Trice is a post saying I've talked about it in the past. Well, here's another, but with linkage to the recipe; another useful link, with pictures of how to bone a turkey etc. and stuff it.


Last night I watched Matthew Collins program This is Civilization in which he examines civilisation through art (and, obviously enough, art through civilisation). There's much of interest (this first program was about religion and art and civilisation and their intersections), but the thing that struck me that wasn't obvious was the placing of the adverts (two very early, after his first two brief sections, then one late on) and his acknowledgement of the adverts in the program. I think this is part of his focus on what art physically is; that sublime painting you fell in love with is reflected light from painted marks on a flat canvas; that divine statue of a Apollo is a shaped lump of marble or bronze[1]. In the same way, this television program is a program paid for and built around the adverts. At least that's my take on it.


I think I've now watched 10 episodes of Dexter in a row[2]. I'm not going to talk about the most obvious things (there are 10,000 other websites for that), but instead say that Dexter (the character) protests too much. I mean he is an emotionless psychopath[3], but the way he always talks about not feeling anything, then talks about Harry or Deb[4]... well anyway. And the use of explosive Latin Jazz at moments of suspense or horror is excellent.


The Helicopter Music Competition isn't dead, merely resting. The video to the Stereophonic's The Bartender and the Chief is based on a couple of sequences from Apocalypse Now, but for some reason the video doesn't appear to be online. Which is a pity as it would make a good spacefiller until I get around to doing things properly.


And what of Friday Five, or rather Sunday Six? I'll get around to that in about two hours.

[1] Note the absence of the word "just".
[2] So much for my inability to commit to things. Partly, of course it's because FX put it on about 10 times a week, making it easy to catch the next one. I managed 7 consecutive episodes of Heroes as well, although that was two double-headers and a triple-header (or watched 3 times in 6 weeks).
[3] Not a spoiler; this is the very heart of the show.
[4] Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) looks very like the current incarnation of Mel C. Yes? No?

Monday, November 19, 2007

This Evening

I've spent the evening walking backwards around Sandwich pointing out broken lightbulbs on the Christmas lights. It's an unusual hobby, but one that amuses me.

The big turn-on and Sandwich Carnival are this Friday.

In case you wanted something from me

I'm taking this week off from Midweek Monkey Business (and last week from Friday Five); assuming I don't go crazy and start throwing out blogposts everywhere, this week I'll only (sort of) address one question: "What is your blog about?"

Here's what the labels say the blog is about (labels are patchy before January this year):

Friday Five (17)
Midweek Monkey Business (16)

- (Regular Posts)

Recipes (15)

- (Me and every other blog)

Trip North (12)

- (Special Event now over)

Ravenswood (8)

- (Ah! It's about my fiction!)

New Words (7)

- (... and my love of New Words)

Blogging (5)
Fish (5)
Neil has gone bonkers (again) (5)

- (Those three go together well - how fortuitous!)

Beer (4)

- (Ah! it's about my love of beer!)

Coq Au Trice (4)

- (... and my love of stuffing birds inside each other)

Dreams (4)

- (That series seems to have died for the moment)

Facebook (4)

- (Hmmph. Self-recursive.)

Harry Potter (4)

- (Me and every other blog)

High Days and Holidays (4)

- (Well now we're getting somewhere - it's also about dates and special days)

Hats (4)

- (See also the title)

The Princess Bride (4)

- (Do I really like this film that much?)

Pirates (4)

- (Ah - it's about my hatred for pirates!)

Heating (3)

- (Hopefully this label will be retired tomorrow)

K T Tunstall (3)
Pop Music (3)

- (Another fortuitous combination)

Stan (3)

- (Grr... Stan)

Tarot (3)

- (Another series in hibernation)

Too Honest (3)

- (Surprisingly "avoiding the question" isn't a label)

Warren Ellis (3)

- (The Love Swami)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A New Word that's actually by me.

In a discussion about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I coined the word "Spaghnostic". Meaning:

A person who holds that knowledge of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is impossible

Would you belive the spellchecker doesn't like it? At the moment Google only gives my first use.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Somewhat after Midweek Monkey Business

The Internet has not been my friend for the last couple of days. But enough of that! Here's a roundup of the best of the rubbish that I've found on the internet this week. In honour of my brother, here's They Might Be Giants with the Tiny Toons video of Istanbul (not Constantinople). The Youtube comments, unsurprisingly, seem keen to refight... hell, there's a thousand years of Turkish/Greek conflict to choose from; let's just say the Battle of Manzikert and leave it like that.

Bicycle Bicycle You are my Bicycle serves as an introduction to the band Be Your Own Pet; in the comments fans are refighting the details of one band member leaving a year ago. Oh Youtube comments, you astound me with your wit and charm.

BeaucoupKevin pulls out the stops for his Genius Covers Sunday series with the Atomic Superboy.

Warren Ellis has redesigned his blog-object for the winter; it's very busy and puts the latest posts from people on his blogroll on the right hand side. It's an interesting design. You could go and have a look, but the content is not for everyone; be warned that it is Not Safe For Work.

I meant to post to this earlier, but it's still interesting; Matthew Vaughn's Week in the Guardian; as it says:
After laughing at Ricky Gervais, the movie director sees his wife get the attention at his film premiere, faces the press with Michelle Pfeiffer and is asked if he can manage to cut a £300m budget in half

Scans_Daily brings us some Wonderwoman Ape action. No, that sounds wrong, especially after one news story Warren Ellis linked to. I mean they bring us some White Gorillas in a Wonderwoman comic. And some innuendo. Is that close enough to monkeys for you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Wisdom of many Chefs on Lobsters.

Recycled from a number of emails and posts over the last three years.

JAMIE OLIVER has several pieces of advice, including:
-Cover a live lobster with a wet towel and it will go to sleep
-DON'T take the rubber bands off it's claws (Stan - this means you)
-Plunge it straight into really salty boiling water (he notes that Rick Stein boils his in seawater)
-Remove the black sac at the head and the strip of black running along it's back (everyone is keen on this)
His alternative to dealing with live lobsters is to buy a cooked one from a supermarket

RICK STEIN ( in his seafood odyssey) doesn't have any advice on cooking lobsters, although there are a couple of fine pictures of crustaceans. He does talk at length about how to deal with a ready cooked lobster (he suggests from a good fishmonger)

KEITH FLOYD prefers to kill the lobster with a big knife by stabbing it in the neck, cutting it in half and then grilling it. His alternative is to go to a really good restaurant and paying through the nose for it. [1]

Good Housekeeping's Cook's Book (which essentially tells you everything you need to know before you try and follow a recipe) says that the RSPCA recommend putting a live lobster in the freezer in a polythene bag for two hours before killing it.

Robert Carrier circa 1963 suggests that the most humane way to kill a lobster is to put it in warm water and then heat it up. I'm very suspicious of this, and think Good Housekeeping are more likely to be right.

If you're ever fortunate enough to be offer a selection of Lobsters, you should choose the ugliest one; the one with damage to it's shell, barnacles, even seaweed growing on it. Why? A Lobster that looks clean and nice is one that has shed it's shell recently. It hasn't grown into it. It's flesh is less dense, and there's less of it. An ugly Lobster has had it's shell for ages and fills it, getting you more lobster-meat.

[1] After this first email, Jim replied:

Does Oliver also advise spraying everyone within 20feet with saliva stinking of eels whilst also being an annoying fat lipped ******* mockney ******* ******* ******* **** aardvark ****ey***** *** **** to a cool Toploader soundtrack?

Oh and I can't say much for Rick Stein's taste in music - thank you for the CD[2] anyway Neil.

Stan - don't give up the day job

[2] I'd got Jim "Rick Stein's Musical Odyssey" from the music and video exchange. Claire had wanted to get him the Gary Glitter Party Album (only 50p!)

Outmatched by American SF Writer.

With all due respect to Julia, John Scalzi has come up with an even better new word:
Which means: “A scale model representation of the end of the world.”

(Also he's been to see the Creation Museum, and describes it in a blog post I'm certain has the highest percentage of the word horseshit in one essay in human history)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

New Words update

In response to my questions about the word Geschplonken Julia writes:

it is indeed a new word. a word of transcendental(?) power and importance. it means to zonk out. to feel sleepy and splodge out on the sofa enjoying a fine snack or two. eg i am geschplonken. hope this is of use. x

Excellent. To celebrate this afternoon I'm going to be Geschplonken.

Saturday Six

The internet was not my friend yesterday, so in place of Friday Five, I proudly present Saturday Six.

Song: Momento, Bebel Gilberto. It seems to be Brazilian music week on Night of the Hats, Rather than the salsa-frenzy of Bonde do Role I pointed at on Wednesday, here's the dreamy voice of Bebel Gilberto, which I can listen to for hours, and often do.

Book: The Dark Heart of Italy, Tobias Jones. Italy is a weird place. It's a secular republic that dances to the tune of the Catholic church. The civil war between the Fascists and the Partisans was never resolved, leading to bombing campaigns which continue to this day, and no one is ever held responsible for them. Plus insane bureaucracy (2 weeks per person per year for 25 visits to various offices on average), insane football, insane corruption... Anyway, the point is Jones talks about all this, but never loses his sense of humour or affection for the country.

Film: Vampirella. Jim I'm sure will be pleased to learn of the existence of this film. I had to go to bed before it finished, but was struck by a curious parallel; Vampirella, last daughter of the dying planet Drakulon comes to Earth, as do several Drakulonian criminals - Superman II anyone?

Food: Rissoles, or as I called them, lambcakes. I didn't follow the Griff Rhys Jones recipe linked to exactly as I was using things up, but you get the idea.

Wild Card: Kate Beaton draws comics. Also she lives with Law Students.

Bonus: Uh oh. Out of ideas. Fortunately BeaucoupKevin has pointed out this game: Bobteds.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New Words

Julia on Facebook has described her current status as "geschplonken". Google provides nothing. It's a bona fide new word!

If only we knew what it meant.

Update: Google now points to this post. This is so self-recursive it's making me dizzy. I think I'll spend the rest of the day geschplonken.

Rude Television

Bill Odie (previously discussed by me here) outdid himself last night on Autumnwatch by stating that "this is a much more typical beaver shot, so to speak"[1].

The world is clearly ready for my new sexually explicit gameshow - "Clit or Miss".

For the alternative to this gameshow, here's Fry and Laurie:

(Thanks to Jim for the suggestion)

[1] while talking about a bit of film about a beaver.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Some sort of Midweek Monkey Business

Music from Brazil department: Bonde do Role (that link's to the Myspace page so it immediately starts playing James Bonde) have finally appeared on my musical horizon; I really wanted a video to Marina Gasolina but Youtube doesn't have the official one and the one fan vid is rubbish, so here's the link to Office Boy and it's 80's-style video.

As Xander said when both Buffy and Willow turned him down for the Homecoming dance "I'm going to listen to country music - the music of pain." However this Leann Rimes song is kind of bluesy, so maybe that's why it's not too painful; Nothin' better to do.

More than a month ago BeaucoupKevin did a series of Batman-the-TV-Series pictures with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns captions. It's here.

(If you don't know what this is about, well TV Batman was very camp, and Dark Knight (written by Frank Miller of Sin City and 300 fame) was very gritty. Bonus: Dark Knight captions to Classic Trek stills)

Once upon a time A A Milne was well known as a playwright (and later was well known as a critic of P G Wodehouse) and he wrote a detective novel. Sadly his novel was chosen by Raymond Chandler to demonstrate the implausibility of most detective fiction in his 1944 essay The Simple Act of Murder. Don't read the essay if you want to simply enjoy detective fiction without wondering about the holes; do read it if you want to know how to construct actual mysteries. Then marvel at how people in the entertainment industry continue to ignore these lessons.

I'm short on time and links, so I'll simply finish with a monkey video. Except I've mistyped it as "Mockney".

Monday, November 05, 2007

Stan and the Fag Machine

(Recycled from a Facebook Photo Comment - I'd labelled this photo "Stan and the Fag machine" and Jim had commented "As an idea for a sitcom 'Stan and the fag machine' was never destined to take off..", to which I replied with a bit of the pilot)

Fag Machine: Hi Stan! Want a fag?

Stan: No thanks. I don't smoke.

Fag Machine: Okay.

[Jim enters, dressed as a slice of pie. Mad props from the audience]

Fag Machine: Jim! You're dressed as a pie.

Jim: I know. My boss thinks this will improve sales.

Stan: Aren't you self employed?

Jim: Yes.

[Audience lets out howls of laughter]

Jim: My Boss is a ****.

[Audience can't believe what it's hearing, gasps, then cheers madly]

Fag Machine: Jim, do you want a fag?

Jim: No thanks. I don't smoke.


Sunday Lunch, Walks and Pubs

I've been thinking a little about the logistics of Sunday Lunch and Sunday Walks. If you go for a walk in the morning to build up an appetite, return home and then have a proper roast Sunday lunch, either someone needs to be at home to cook, or you're an hour and a half minimum from eating on your arrival[1]. Hence the walking to a pub for lunch.

If you're walking after lunch (to burn off all that stuff you've just eaten) choosing a pub near an interesting walk again saves you valuable time and, in the winter, daylight. People living near interesting walks can avoid this problem. One final note - it's due to the lack of daylight on Winter Sunday's that my family tend to eat the main meal in the evening; otherwise Sunday Lunch eats up the entire day.

[1] In Summer you could barbecue; you really need to let charcoal burn for at least half an hour before cooking on it anyway, but some sort of cold starter could easily take up the required time.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Boiler Trouble

The boiler has stopped working again. Time for a new one. Unfortunately that will take two weeks. So I'm going to be wearing my dressing gown over my clothes and going out alot. Although probably not at the same time.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Some sort of title based on Fridays and Fives

Song: Time after Time, Cyndi Lauper. I remember when this came out and I was surprised by the perfection of the lyrics. But then I was 8 years old and hadn't really paid attention to pop music lyrics before. So I imprinted on this (along with Boney M, Human League and Queen) and what we might call my "musical taste" was born.

Book: World War Z; an Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks. It's written as a series of interviews with survivors of a world overrun with zombies. There's some nice touches (North Korea's weird and mysterious response to zombies overrunning civilisation, and the lack of stories from "The Hero City" stand out), but essentially it's a straight zombocalypse. Or is that Zombiepocolypse? Maybe Zombie-calypso. Anyway, nothing wrong with that.

Film: Little Miss Sunshine. Everybody in it sees their hopes and dreams dashed, destroyed, or has their failures rubbed in. Or all of them. As you might imagine, it's a comedy and everyone learns something about themselves and each other by the end. Except Grandad. Why is it funny? Because the tragedies, grotesque as they are, happen to characters we care about.

Food: I seem to have been cooking variants on things I've already talked about recently. So let's note that you can make mash more exotic with such things as celeriac - half celeriac/half potato; celeriac takes longer to cook than potato so cut it smaller and/or put it in a couple of minutes earlier. Other root vegetables can work just as well.

Wild Card: As it's winter, here's how not to drive on snow:

If in doubt, stay at home!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Piracy: I harp on about it again.

You probably think that piracy is still kind of cool, or at least funny, despite my reports on it as a vicious, nasty and sordid crime. I can't say this enough times: if you see a pirate call the cops, or the coastguard. Or if you're on the high seas, like in this article, call the US Navy.

Perhaps, with the co-operation of the most powerful navy the world has ever seen, we can one day end the scourge that is piracy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hallowe'en Thought

Meg, a cat, has recently moved to the country to pursue her career as a hunter and has put on weight.

Spud, a human, has moved to the country to train as a blacksmith and has lost weight.

Putting these two "facts" "together" gives only one conclusion on 31 October; Vampire Cat.

Spooky Hallowe'en Midweek Monkey Business

I Put A Spell On You isn't actually a scary song and would normally look like a fairly lame Hallowe'en effort. Or so I thought until I saw this video of Screamin Jay Hawkins performing it. Other Hallowe'en-related songs:

The Time Warp (Again) - here with Star Trek visuals (note the Pagesbar tag)

Skullcrusher Mountain - This is a Jonathan Coulton song from one of his make-a-video competitions. It has too many monkeys, and if I'm lazy I'll recycle this link as the monkey link.

Remains of the Day - from The Corpse Bride.

Spooky - Dusty Springfield. There's some other versions of this song with spookier videos, but I like this version of the song. Some of you may say this blog has had too much Dusty Springfield recently. I say that a quick google has found me several blogs with much greater Dusty content and I still want more! Ahem.

There's probably some actual hallowe'en cartoons on the internet, but here's a Wondermark cartoon that sums up my feelings. Pho999 on Scans_daily has posted a hallowe'en urban legend. Also more youtube action, this time, Betty Boop's Hallowe'en Party; as always with Betty Boop, it's 5 minutes of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot although it does actually have some kind of resolution at the end of this one.

Blogger's blogs of note has brought up this gem: Mustaches of the Nineteenth Century. Is Jim reading this? Someone poke him with a stick, as this blog is definitely in his bag.

I would post about Samhain, but it's too much like hard work. I'll pull out all the stops for midwinter though. Promise.

Does anyone else remember Tales of the Golden Monkey? Flying boats? Mysterious goings-on? Japanese bad guys? Well, the fansite above has it's own Youtube channel (which, since you can set one up yourself isn't actually that exciting).

Still looks a bit light. Here's a link to the covers of some romance novels; note that the Tricks and Treats series includes the most erotic of fruit, the Pumpkin. Or is it a vegetable?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Real Life is for Losers

The boiler has now been properly mended; we have wireless broadband and Sky in two rooms.

I may never leave the house again.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Boiler Update

The boiler has now been fixed[1] so I'm dressed relatively normally again.

That is all.

[1] Fluff in the valve; 2 minutes work to fix.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


The boiler has broken down - AGAIN - and it's been getting a bit chilly in the evenings. Rather than putting a jumper on, I indulged my eccentric side by wearing my dressing gown over my clothes.

Just saying.

The Fourth Wall

Mum and Dad went to a play in a restaurant as part of the Canterbury Festival; this was both a play taking place in the restaurant, and a play set in a restaurant (of an inn in 1950s Italy as it turned out). They were served a meal[1] and occasionally found themselves part of the action.

While talking about this I made reference to "The Fourth Wall" a drama theory term that it turned out they weren't familiar with. In case anyone else is unfamiliar with it I'll briefly explain here.

Classically a stage has three walls, the one at the back, and the two wings (which allow actors on and off). The fourth wall is the one between the audience and the play. It is, of course, invisible, to allow the audience to watch the play, but exists to separate the audience from the world of the play.

Breaking the fourth wall (interacting with or acknowledging the audience) is now an almost overused technique in films, especially comedies. Charles Stross talks briefly about it, in reference to his use of the second person in his latest novel at the start of this film (him doing a reading; it's an hour long, but the bit I refer to is near the beginning).

[1] As this was a play in a restaurant rather than a restaurant in a play, the food was good, rather than cold, and/or fake.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What I've Learnt This Week

A Swashbuckler isn't someone who buckles his swash; he's someone who swashes his buckle(r).

If you aren't up to speed on archaic weapon combinations, the buckler is a small shield held in the hand or fist, able to be moved rapidly to block blows or to punch at an opponent. You can find an introduction to sword and buckler fighting on this page; inevitably there's some sword and buckler fencing on youtube too.

To swash it is to beat it with your sword hilt. It's the drum noise you get at the start of this trailer for Zulu except the shields are cowhide and they're hitting them with the butt of their assegais, rather than swords (can't find more relevant video at the moment).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday + Five = This Post

Song: Electric Barbarella, Duran Duran. For no good reason, except Tony Hadley is apparently going into politics for the Tories.

Book: Northern Lights, Phillip Pullman. It's for kids! There's a film coming out in December under the American title The Golden Compass. It stars Nicole Kidman! Read the book before I drag you to the film! Or afterwards. Or not at all if you like.

Film: Hollow Man. This film is essentially a vehicle for the quite extraordinary "invisible man" effects; Kevin Bacon's character picks some almost deliberately stupid things to do (if you're invisible) that happen to create really striking visual images. In a film filled with ludicrous science, Elisabeth Shue's character at one point makes an electromagnet to escape from a room - this was analysed by the short-lived but entertaining program Hollywood Science.

Food: Breadcrumb cake. With too many breadcrumbs left from topping tomatoes, simply add salt, pepper, herbs, a little oil and some Parmesan and put under the grill for a couple of minutes!

Wild Card: The question was asked on Scans_daily "How many times has Lois [Lane] been engaged?" Someone with a complete run of Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane comics (running from the late 50s to the early 70s, a companion comic to the other Superman comics of the period) has taken a look at all the proposals, engagements and weddings that Lois went to in just this comic. It was the comic with the greatest frequency of Lois getting engaged, but it's quite extraordinary; the series runs in ten parts.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Business Midweek Monkey

From Paul, the excellent song/intro to Beach Blanket Bingo. Paul says "Why can't all parties be as fun as this?" I say, why does that never happen to me when I go fishing? Also, I've previously noted my appreciation of Amy Macdonald's voice, but for some reason didn't point you at this video for her song L.A.; not only do I like the song more than Mr Rock and Roll, but she smiles and seems to be enjoying herself once or twice in this one.

I thought the Jessica Simpson video for These Boots Are Made For Walking was blatant and exploitative (although there's nothing wrong with that per se); what I'd forgotten was that the Nancy Sinatra original was equally so, if in a slightly camp (kitsch? naive?) sixties way.

Via Beaucoupkevin, Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life a webcomic about 2 robots from Mercury on a road trip through a Solar System in which the human race has died out. Also about drinking, free will and the nature of being human. It got the first update in six months last month; the author says "Forget fear of commitment, I don't even go on second dates." Well, hell, I can top that, I don't even go on first... What? It's not a competition?

Wondermark gives us a heads up on the hot memes for next year's internet. And here is a pi pie.

We've just missed the anniversary of Bishop Ussher's date for the creation of the world (23 October; note also that he calculates that Adam and Eve are driven from paradise on 10 November, a very short period of tenancy indeed); note that the 9:00 AM time comes from James Lightfoot, and that's a time for the creation of Man, not of the world. In celebration here's that picture of the Earth from the Moon. Ah, the Moon. Must blog about that soon.

Via Making Light the Robotic Dalek Pumpkin, presented without comment.

And from 1959, a news report on how two monkeys were the first animals to survive a space mission.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ravenswood Stories: The Slave who Shot himself with an Arrow

There was a man from the Ravenswood who went away to war and came back with a great fortune, and also with a slave. This was the first slave to be kept in the Ravenswood, so he caused great excitement, envy and disapproval.

(It's not true that this was the first slave; when the First people built their hill fort, they had slaves working with them; a thousand years later when the Iron Empire tore down the fort they brought (and took) slaves with them to work the fields; when the Iron Empire left and the Sea People came, they made slaves of many of the Ravenwood's inhabitants; when the Northmen came they bought, and sold, and took, and brought slaves; but by the time of the Conqueror there were few slaves and he made no more, so by the time of this story no one had been a slave in the Ravenswood for as long as anyone could remember)

The slave was mostly hardworking, and knew a lot of animal husbandry, which made him in great demand amongst those herdsmen who didn't dismiss his skills as foreign witchcraft. So it was, that when a cow strayed, he was the one to find it.

He found the cow on top of a ridge, looking down a cliff and the slave was separated from it by an overgrown gully. To try and scare it back towards the farm, he shot an arrow to just in front of it. A gust of wind came from nowhere and blew the arrow back at the slave, hitting him in the forehead.

The slave's cries spooked the cow back to the farm, and attracted the attention of the other searchers, including the priest. When the story got back to the Bishop, he went up to the ridge and declared that this was a miracle (of sorts) and that a shrine should be built there. The man who owned the slave took great pride in this, until the Bishop learned the nature of the slave's relationship, and shamed the man into freeing the slave.

This pleased everyone but the former slave, who complained he now had no home or work. The Bishop, thinking quickly, made the former slave warden of the shrine. The man who had been a slave (as he was now known) sent abroad for his wife and children, and they came and joined him (as did his wife's mother who he had not sent for). They lived at the Arrow Ridge Shrine for many years, until the Night of the Fires.

But that's another story.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Christmas and Wishes

Dad has been making Christmas Puddings. When you make a Christmas Pudding and stir it, you can make a wish. Like many wishes, if you tell anyone about it, the wish won't come true.

Logically you can game this by wishing for something you DON'T want to come true, then tell everyone about it. This of course can't work; by the nature of magic and wishes, a wish must be made with all your heart. Wishing for something you don't want can only have bad consequences.

But what if you wish for something you truly want, then change your mind? Breaking a wish can't be good, but if the wish would cause damage, what are you to do?

If I believed in this stuff, it would make for quite a dilemma. I played safe and wished for something personal to me.

What Real People do on Sundays

Last Sunday I managed to get a group of friends out of their post-Saturday languor and we went out for a pub lunch. The first part of my plan to make us more like real, adult, Middle-England-type human beings on a Sunday is working!

Next time, of course, I'll have to sell them the idea of "going for a walk".

Friday, October 19, 2007

Things you learn on Wikipedia

Just been on the Sandwich (disambiguation) page on Wikipedia. Who would have thought that it includes a link to the List of Sexual positions page?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Helicopter Music Update

Over on the Facebook Version of this challenge, there's several good suggestions, all of which will get discussed when the entries are closed. On a slight tangent, one of Ross's "modern options" was My Chemical Romance's I'm Not Okay (I Promise) (some profanity so probably Not Safe For Work). As I've noted on Facebook, in the admittedly small genre of music videos which are in the style of movie trailers, this promo comes second only to The Beastie Boys' Sabotage. Which would make a good song to blare out of the stereo while riding a huey over the treetops... I think this is where we came in.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Food to Annoy Stan

On Sunday Claire, soon to be housemates with Stan, was extolling the virtues of some sort of Pork, Pear and Parsnip dish( I wasn't paying quite as much attention as I should have). Stan however wasn't keen on the mixing of sweet and savoury flavours. Obviously there's two ways Claire could go with this; either alliteratively or continuing to pick flavour combinations Stan doesn't like. Equally obvious is the path I'd choose; hence I'm volunteering to make Puff Pastry Onion Tart as a starter.

Slice up quite a few onions; enough to cover a baking tray after they've been cooked. Then cook them in olive oil as slowly as you can for quite a while. Eventually they'll be soft, sweet and translucent, or you'll get bored. Spread them out on a baking tray.

Roll out some puff pastry so it will cover the onion covered baking tray, then actually cover the tray with it. Follow whatever instructions your pastry packet or recipe suggests re: cooking temperature and times and egg wash or whatever. When it's done, take it out of the oven, let it cool a little, then put a wire rack on top of the tart and turn the whole lot over, which hopefully will leave you with a huge puff pastry onion tart on top of the wire rack. Then decorate liberally with anchovies and olives. When you finally get around to taking a mouthful of crunchy puff pastry, sweet, sweet onions, and salty anchovies and olives, you'll either be like Stan and go "Urgh", or you'll be like me and say "That's bitchingly good". Mmm... sweet and salt...


To fill in what promises to be a light blogging week, here's a couple of scanned images, just because.

There are many reasons to like Modesty Blaise, either in the novels or the strips. The novels have tended to lose out in the cover stakes, but I really like this one.

Nicholas bloody Parsons!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The origin of the A-Team reconstructed

The characters in the A-Team are NOT inspired by the Athos, Aramis, Porthos and D'Artagnan[1] from Alexandre Dumas classic novel Les Trois Mousquetaires. Nevertheless it would make a good comedy sketch to

a. have the A-Team brainstorming session and
b. show a few sample scenes if they had based the A-Team members on the Musketeers.

Obviously the best thing to do would be round up all the A-Team actors[2] and put them into scenes from the 3 Musketeers, except with direction from the A-Team. In the event this can't be done, then a bunch of "us" dressed up as the A-Team dressed up as Musketeers driving around in a black van with a red stripe would have to do.

(Extracted from a conversation this afternoon)

[1] If only because they are clearly based on characters from the Robin Hood legends:
Hannibal - Robin
BA - Little John
Face - Will Scarlet
Murdoch - Friar Tuck
[2] Or a good impersonator in the case of George Peppard

Friday, October 12, 2007

Firday Fvie

Song: The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil. Too obvious for a special-forces-in-a-helicopter scene, but not for my Friday Five. No Siree. Comedy or Tragedy? - Tragedy (obviously)

Book: Jonathan Coe, What a Carve Up! Claire has recommended this book for, well, forever, and I finally got around to reading it. It confirms two of my thoughts about Claire; 1. that she has excellent taste; and 2. that she's as mad as a bag of cats. Comedy or Tragedy? - Tragedy. It's pretty damn funny for a tragedy, but tragedy it is.

Film: 300. I haven't seen it yet but got the DVD today. Still we all know the story from Herodotus and it's not like it's the first time it's been filmed is it? Comedy or Tragedy? - Well, they've all been dead for over 2000 years, so I say Tragedy.

Food: Rock Cakes. It's always Rock Cakes. Comedy or Tragedy? - Comedy. With Rock Cakes it's always Comedy.

Wild Card: The Stan Roberts IMDb page. Comedy or Tragedy? - Comedy. If you follow it through you can see it's also a tragedy, but that's because it stops being a self-contained narrative and spreads out into the rest of the world which contains both, and other things that don't fall neatly into those two categories. Not that any of them did. Time to return to the rest of the world for a while.

'Sympathy for the Devil' is too obvious

The situation is that you are part of an American Special Forces Unit[1] flying on a helicopter on a mission into the jungle[2]. The question is, what song (or songs or other music) would you have blaring out on the stereo?

Since it's the only way to get anyone to answer, I'm making this a competition, for a prize I'll figure out later. If Stan is the only one to answer he'll obviously win, and no one wants that[3]. Maybe everyone who enters should get a prize. That would be good. Perhaps I'll do that.

Entries either in comments, or if it's too embarrassing for that by email, or for even more embarrassing than that[4] by email, but claiming it's a friend's selection. The deadline will be one week from today, but I'll probably accept anything that limps in over the weekend of the 20th-21st. Go check out your music collections and war films!

[1] Including Green Berets, Delta Force, SEALs, Rangers, Marine Force Recon etc.
[2] If the jungle is jungly enough, then you might be sailing on a boat up a river, in the back of a truck, or maybe even riding on top of a tank; conversely other terrain would be acceptable (mountains and deserts being topical) but then it would have to be a helicopter.
[3] Stan does, but he'll be forever haunted by the possibility that he's won not through his virtues but by default.
[4] No excuse now Jim.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Still running on empty

To fill in until there is content, here are the top search engine searches that have turned up on Night of the Hats:

1 52 a frenchman went to the lavatory (and variations on this)
2 18 psychopath test (and variations)
3 9 night of the hats (and "nightofthehats")
4= 6 night hats
4= 6 blackberry ripple ice cream (and "blackberry ripple")
6 4 case nightmare green
7 3 lammas day
8= 2 joull wikipedia
8= 2 pictures of buttervant
8= 2 pippin the fat
8= 2 ace of cups cup of plenty

That thing I do on Wednesdays, with monkeys.

Midweek Monkey Business looked a bit light last week, and seems even lighter this week, so I'll probably take next week off and institute a one Wednesday off a month to let the links and enthusiasm build up again. Meanwhile:

I caught this while flicking through the music channels last night. I know nothing about this band, but I like the video a lot and the song quite a bit; The Young Knives, The Decision. (It turns out there was an earlier video which was darker, funnier and a bit more disturbing.)

On Saturday night, or rather Sunday morning, the disc jockey in the discotheque we were patronising put on a version of Son of a Preacher Man. I didn't recognise the version[1], but was pretty sure it wasn't Dusty or Aretha. A quick flick through the Youtube archives got me this live Joss Stone version which is pretty close, but the Wikipedia entry on the song lists 69 covers, so I'm unlikely to get to the bottom of it soon.

(I'm not going to apologise for linking to 3 versions of Son of a Preacher Man but this is what I mean by being a bit light on ideas).

Dark Horse Comics have a graphic novel version of War of the Worlds (Story H G Wells, Adapted by Ian Edginton, Art by D'Israeli) online - it's good, although I can't help comparing it to Volume 2 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen[2]. On a lighter note, to get the most out Sluggy Freelance you need to got through the 10 years of back issues. Nevertheless there are some bits that standalone pretty well, like last Friday's strip.

Warren Ellis recently linked to what he described as "the best found-image photoblog in the world" the Not Safe For Work named riotclitshave. It has images that are not safe for work, and in some cases not safe for anyone, many fascinating ones (the German girls ice hockey team from the 30's with swastikas on their chunky jumpers; the nun with the eye patch; USS Iowa from above firing it's guns so you can see the shock waves; 2 clowns heading for a corner, around which is about to come a man with a trolley of pies and none of them watching where they're going etc.) and some pictures that everyone in the world should see. Also some monkeys.

I really am out of ideas now to bring up this link to The Medieval Cookery website. There are many interesting recipes (remember, no using anything from the New World - not tomatoes, potatoes, chili, or (gasp!) chocolate) but the main thing to remember is that they loved pepper. So much pepper.

And of course, Mr Monkey's World of Hats. There. The tank's empty. Hope you're satisfied.

[1] Possibly because of the two hour happy hour at the cocktail bar earlier that day
[2] Repeat to yourself 100 times: "There was no film. There was no film."

Monday, October 08, 2007

Polite Fictions

I'm going to talk about polite fictions, to no great purpose and with no conclusion in mind; this is a subject I'm interested in as a someone who spends a remarkable amount of time lying, evading and not answering questions[1]. If you're not interested feel free to go and read Stephen Fry's blog; it makes mine, and indeed every other blog on the internet quite superfluous. I'll be here when you get back.

(If you know me and think this post is about you, it probably is; on the other hand if you think it's only about you, you're very wrong).

So we all know that there are times when we have to pretend that certain things haven't happened, or that we don't know something we do, or that we shouldn't give clear and unambiguous answers to certain questions. For example, at work a few years ago, it became obvious to me that one of my co-workers was pregnant. For good reasons pregnancies aren't announced to the world for the first three months so I simply kept my mouth shut and acted all surprised when it was announced (although I'd taken the liberty of coming up with a response wittier than "How did this happen?")

This is somewhat different to the situation where someone is ill, but refuses to draw attention to it. After having to drag someone home and force someone else to go to hospital, I've pretty much given up being polite about this stuff.

Of course this is most interesting when it comes to relationships. When two people are not together, but we all know they are, there's room to have some fun; flirt outrageously (after all they're officially single!), try and set them up on dates, make double-edged jokes, serenade them outside their window at 4 in the morning, leave bad poetry tucked in their underwear draw... ah the list is endless. So much fun.

Anyway my point is this; none of my friends answer my calls anymore and I don't know why. Can anyone help?

[1] In particular as someone who blurted out on Saturday night an unacknowledged and unofficial answer to the question "Are X and Y together?", when the questioner meant "Are X and Y travelling here together?" rather than "Are X and Y an item?"[2]
[2] Not helped by his rephrasing his question with the barely less ambiguous as "I meant 'Is X with Y?'"

Nazi Dance Fight Revisited

At the risk of making my blog seem obsessed with Nazis, I'm reluctantly revisiting my post Nazi Dance Fight. When attempting to reconstruct the hungover conversation with Jim and Stan, it seemed to me that the most likely to have come up with this idea was Jim. Now though, Stan has said he was the one with the idea of making the Nazis in The Sound of Music dance fight in the style of West Side Story.

I'm making the correction; we were all throwing ideas into the ring, and if Stan remembers it was him I'll take his word for it. But what if Jim disagrees? With no record the only way to resolve the dispute will be some kind of contest, perhaps a formal duel. A formal duel set to music. A formal duel set to music in costume. Yeah, that'd do it.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

"It seems the tables have turned"

Voice Mail Message from 2:30 This Morning

Hi Neil... It's James.

[Long Pause]

[No, a really long pause. A strangely long pause in fact.]

It seems the tables have turned. Stroder is locked out of the

[Another Pause]

Can you call me back? Bye.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday 5 October

Song: Aretha Franklin, Respect. A karaoke favourite! For me that is.

Book: Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon. I was reminded of this by the Mitchell and Webb sketch in which Admiral Karl Dönitz is appointed the new Fuhrer[1] as there's an hilarious sequence in Cryptonomicon in which some of the characters are reading transcripts of intercepted German transmissions between Dönitz and a U-boat captain Bischoff:

Bischoff : Sank another merchantman. This newfangled radar shit is everywhere.
Dönitz : Acknowledged. Well done.
Bishoff : Bagged another tanker. These bastards seem to know exactly where I am. Thank god for the Schnorkel.
Dönitz : Acknowledged. Nice work as usual.
Bischoff : Sank another merchantman. Airplanes were waiting for me. I shot one of them down; it landed on me in a fireball and incinerated three of my men. Are you sure this Enigma thing really works?
Dönitz : Nice work, Bischoff! You get another medal. Don't worry about the Enigma, it's fantastic!
Bischoff : I attacked a convoy and sank three merchantmen, a tanker and a destroyer.
Dönitz : Superb, another medal for you!
Bischoff : Just for the hell of it, I doubled back and finished what was left of that convoy. Then another destroyer turned up and dropped depth charges on us for three days. We are all half dead, steeped in our own waste like rats that have fallen into a latrine and are slowly drowning. Our brains are gangrenous from breathing our own carbon dioxide.
Dönitz : You are a hero of the Reich and the Fuhrer himself has been informed of your brilliant success! Would you mind heading south and attacking the convoy at such-and-such coordinates? P.S. please limit the length of your messages.
Bischoff : Actually I could use a vacation, but sure, what the heck.
Bischoff (a week later) : Nailed about half that convoy for you. Had to surface and engage a pesky destroyer with the deck gun. This was so utterly suicidal, they didn't expect it. As a consequence we blew them to bits. Time for a nice vacation now.
Dönitz : You are now officially the greatest U-boat commander of all time.
(Page 391. From here the narrative turns from comedy towards tragedy and returns to the plot.)

Film: There's actually opera on TV all the time if you search far enough down through the 10 zillion channels Sky has. I haven't actually seen this production of The Magic Flute, but with the English libretto by Stephen Fry, what do I have to lose. Must make a note: watch more opera -it's like Miss Saigon but without the helicopter!

Food: Roast Pheasant! Pheasant season opened on 1 October! Pheasant is a game bird and very lean so dries out easily (my mantra for cooking game). Avoid this by smearing the bird in butter, laying bacon over the breast and thighs, and baste in the middle of cooking. Roast for maybe 10 minutes at 230C and another 30-40 minutes at 200C. Serve with game chips (crisps heated in the oven make a fine impersonation), a clear gravy, fried breadcrumbs, watercress and rich jellies like quince or blackberry. Alternatively look back through my archives for Pheasant Pot Roast.

Wild Card: I've been keeping this in reserve for a while as I'm still not quite sure what my reaction is, but anyway here's the music video to Jeffrey Lewis' Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror. Let me know if you think anything. Not Safe For Work. In fact probably this whole post is NSFW.

[1] Based on the factoid that Dönitz was the short lived leader of Germany after Hitler killed himself.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

To lighten the mood

I had intended to follow up my previous downer of a post with something that always cheers me up: Hilary Swank crashlanding a shuttle in the film The Core. Jim and I once watched a film entirely about a shuttle crash, which I can't find listed on IMDb, and afterwards said "but it was so much better in The Core!" so we watched that sequence from The Core and they'd done a much better job in a five minute sequence than the 90-odd minutes it had taken the other film. Anyway, nobody has been cheeky enough to upload that particular sequence onto Youtube so instead, if you want a moodlifter Warren Ellis asks the question What is the Greatest TV Title Sequence of All Time?

Update: Jim reminds me that the film we saw was Max Q, 91 minutes of our lives we aren't going to get back (except in Argentina, which IMDb claims has a runtime of 98 minutes for this film).

48 Hours Critical Window

Numb3rs is an American TV show which is better than that aggravating 3 in the title would seem to indicate. It does seem specifically aimed at me - young brilliant maths prodigy is the brother of a young ass-kicking FBI agent[1]; whenever a crime is a bit unusual Don (FBI) calls in Charlie (Maths Professor) as a consultant[2] - but I didn't have anything to say about it that you couldn't get from a close watching of an episode or two[3]. Then on Tuesday, at the start they flashed up 4 numerical factoids that I was familiarish with (from watching Without a Trace):


And I'm putting together 90% Parents responsible and 56% Children found alive and I'm not liking what that adds up, and I'm really not liking those figures combined with 203,900. Even if we include kids being snatched by parents who are split up and then vanish.

So anyway. That was today's depressing moment. Time for something uplifting.

[1] An FBI agent whose team is so flexible they get brought in on any type of crime; either that or the LA office is very short on big crime solving teams
[2] No nepotism going on there
[3] Not that that usually stops me

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

David Tennant's Hamlet

So David Tennant, known for his portrayal of "The Doctor" in Dr Who is to play Hamlet for the RSC. Has he thought this through?

(Um... the opening lines of the play? If you aren't carrying them in your head, take a quick look.)


I'm pretty sure that you'll have heard that Lois Maxwell has died. You probably saw her as Miss Moneypenny in 14 Bond films, but did you know she was Miss Holland in UFO and voiced Atlanta Shore in Stingray? On which note, here's the Stingray Megamix.

Growing up, one of my parent's albums I played a lot was Boney M's Nightflight to Venus. As a tribute to the continuing influence this disco classic on my life and taste, here's one of the many singles, Rasputin. The lyrics are surprisingly historically accurate.

Xkcd has a cartoon that adequately explains Stan's drinking at work. Also a comic book exposition of the history of hollow earth theories from scans_daily. And from Kevin Church here's the goddamn Batman.

Have I really not blogged about the Planetocopia, where a real climatologist has created a number of fascinating planets? And some monkeyness.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Servers and Personal Computers

(This got sent to me in 2003)

Dear All,

There are a lot of changes taking place across the board in regard to servers & personal computers. The goal is to remove all laptop computers by June 2003 and all desktop computers by August 2003 as a part of the ongoing cost-cutting around the business. Instead, everyone will be provided with an Etch-A-Sketch.

There are many sound reasons for doing this:

1. No boot-up problems
2. No technical glitches keeping work from being done.
3. No more wasted time reading and writing emails.
4. No more worries about power cuts.
5. Budget savings on Upgrades unparalleled

Frequently asked questions from the Etch-A-Sketch help desk:

Q: My Etch-A-Sketch has all of these funny little lines all over the screen.
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I turn my Etch-A-Sketch off?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: What's the shortcut for Undo?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I create a New Document window?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I set the background and foreground to the same colour?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: What is the proper procedure for rebooting my Etch-A-Sketch?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I delete a document on my Etch-A-Sketch?
A: Pick it up and shake it.

Q: How do I save my Etch-A-Sketch document?
A: Don't shake it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

All Cretans are Liars

Jim and Dean are back in the country and have been swiftly followed by this postcard, which sadly is too phallic to show the picture of. Here, though is the text:

Dear Neel,
Deen and I are in Creet. People from Creet are called Creetuns, not Cretins. This is importunt. Deen took me to a place called the Labi-Rinth and we got seperated, but a thred from my T-shurt had got cort on the entrance and I followed it back.
Deen was very suprised to see me!
Everywun talks about the Myno-tour, but Deen said it was at least half bull.
Wether continues fine.

Nice Weather for Me

It was raining, but, as it's after the equinox, I went out for a walk anyway (otherwise I'd never go out for six months of the year). Along the townwall I passed some ducks who were walking along the grass. Just like me! Perhaps it really was nice weather for ducks.

Further on I found some ducks asleep with their bills tucked under their wings. Just like me when it was raining earlier (except the wing bit). So it was nice weather for walking and nice weather for dozing. If you're a duck. Or me.

Am I going anywhere with this? No, not really.

Quick Cooking

I was watching an episode of Nigella Express, in which Nigella demonstrated recipes for widweek supper parties. One of them was her stripped down, express Coq au Riesling. Which is all very well. But I've generally found that when cooking things from the French-peasant-dishes-with-wine family that they get better (or at least no worse) if you leave them overnight and reheat them. So I'm dubious of the time saving qualities displayed here.

On the other hand, it does give me an idea for a Christmas taste-test. And serving it Alsace-style on noodles - that's time saving and brilliant.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Partridge Pot Roast

It's the same recipe as my Pheasant Pot Roast except with 3 partridges instead of a pheasant, and cooked for 45 minutes at 180C rather than 1 hour at 150C. As the original recipe this was taken from was for grouse, and partridges are much more like grouse to cook than pheasants, unsurprisingly this worked just fine.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Five's Fridays (or Friday's Fives)

Song: John Denver, Leaving on a Jet Plane. In the clip I link to, John Denver talks about his love of flying. Sadly, Denver died while piloting a plane on 12 October 1997. If I were organised I'd have left this two weeks to mark the anniversary, but that would have been in questionable taste, and I have other things planned for that day.

Book: DMZ Vol. 1:On The Ground, Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli. This is a comic book collection, so if you're too snobbish for that go and look at the Bayeux Tapestry or something. DMZ is set in New York during a second American civil war; Manhattan is the DMZ of the title. The protagonist is Matty Roth, a rookie photojournalist, who finds himself trapped on the island and begins reporting. Fairly obviously this is a comic about divisions in American society, living in a war zone, and the purpose of journalism, but it's also about growing up and finding that the world is a much stranger (and cooler) place than you ever imagined.

Film: Footloose. "Well, 'nobody puts Baby in a corner' is all very well, but nothing beats men dancing with men", as my brother or one of his mates said. Which is all very well, but for some reason no one seems to have put the classic montage of Kevin Bacon teaching Chris Penn to dance to the tune of Deniece William's Let's hear it for the boy on Youtube. As an inadequate placeholder, here's the final scene of Footloose which does feature some men dancing with men, but as it's a climax and summation of the film dilutes this important property with some women. Which is okay too.

Food: Based on a Nigel Slater recipe, Pork Belly with mustard and (preserved) lemons[1].

Fry onions and garlic slowly in a lidded casserole in some butter. Cut the belly into bite size pieces. Add the meat and a pinch of fennel seed to the onions and brown it for a couple of minutes. Cook it in the oven for at least an hour[2] at 150C; make sure that it's sealed, so some buttered paper as well as the lid won't do any harm. Add a little flour to thicken it, then stir in the chopped lemon and some seeded mustard. Cook with lid off for another fifteen minutes.

(No quantities as I play it by ear)

Wild Card: I'm sure I'm last to point this out, but here are the 2007 World Beard and Moustache Championship Winners.

[1] We have too many at the moment. Feast or Famine, that's us.
[2] As long as you can stand (between 1 and 1.5 hours) leaving it in with no liquid; the moment when you're sure that it's burnt to the bottom is probably when it's just right.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Green Tomato Chutney

It's that time of the year when the tomato plants are still fruiting, but you know they're going to die soon. Fortunately our ancestors (in this case my Nan, in a recipe dated "Sept 72") had a solution: Green Tomato Chutney

2 lbs Green Tomatoes [1]
2 Large Onions
3/4 pint Vinegar
1/2 lb Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 oz Mustard Seed
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 tablespoon Salt

Cut Toms in halves, peel and slice Onions. Sprinkle these with salt and leave overnight[2].

Crush the Mustard Seed, put all ingredients in pan of Vinegar, bring to the boil. Simmer until tender and thick. Put into small jars and cover.

Update: As well as tender and thick, the tomatoes should have changed colour from green to brown.

[1] This afternoon I picked nearly 3 lbs so have multiplied all quantities by 1.5 in the instance going on in the kitchen
[2] Underlining preserved from original.

Midweek Monk-y Business

Wednesday is halfway between Sunday (here expressed by The Velvet Underground) and Saturday (interpreted by Jim's favourite chanteuse, Whigfield) so I call it "Midweek". If you aren't keen on my choices, as an alternative, you might also look at this song by The Sundays, or this excerpt from Saturday Night Fever.

As ever I've plundered the usual suspects for amusing cartoons; digging yourself your own hole on Wondermark; a Not Safe For Work commentary on Science from BeaucoupKevin; and an off-beat one-gag eight-page Tom Strong story on scans_daily.

As always I'm the last person in the world to report on goings on on the internet; nevertheless, I'll mention that Stephen Fry has a blog. The best commentary on this comes, as always, from Warren Ellis.

And as for Monk-y business, here's more Youtube of Shaolin Monks doing that whole Kung Fu thing (the bit where one of them spins a thing under him while bouncing up and down on his buttocks has to be seen to be believed, although the amateurish editing reduces the credibility).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Amateur Theology Moment

There are many advantages to being a lapsed Anglican - you don't actually have to go to church; you can follow your own spiritual instincts without worrying about becoming so heretical you have to find a hipper vicar; and if you find yourself in a household that expects you to go to church on a Sunday[1] you can go without embarrassment[2] or having to excuse yourself - but occasionally you find yourself with a theological question and no one to discuss it with.

Like now: If God is a trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, why is it that it was the Holy Spirit that came to Mary to conceive our Savior? And why is the Father called the Father then?

It's not that there aren't answers to this, it's just I'd like to know which are the orthodox answers and which are "out there".

[1] They exist
[2] After all, you haven't actually broken with the church, have you?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Seven Wonders: Introduction

The one thing we do know about the Seven Wonders is what they are. So here's the list:

The Colossus of Rhodes
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Origin of the List

But is this the list? Apparently Herodotus and Callimachus of Cyrene made lists of seven wonders, but we don't have their lists, only references to them. The earliest list is apparently in a poem by Antipater of Sidon around 140 BC (by which time two of them had already been destroyed), and he has The Ishtar Gate of Babylon rather than The Lighthouse of Alexandria (still standing at that time). The Lighthouse got put in later. So what is it a list of in the first place; why have a list of wonders?


Essentially the list is one of "sights"; a "Things to see before you die" tour if you like. It is, of course, a Hellenic[1] list; specifically a list originating from Ionia in modern day Turkey. Looking at them in order of closeness to this centre we have the Colossus and the Temple of Artemis as Greek Wonders, the Mausoleum as a nearby Persian/Lydian/Greek Wonder; then the Statue of Zeus for the Greeks in Greece. All these are on or near trade routes easily reached by ships in the Aegean. Further afield we have the Pyramids and the Lighthouse for Egypt[2]; a long way away but still on the trade routes and easily reached by sea. Finally, at the far end of world[3] we have the Persian[4] Hanging Gardens; you can go there but it's a long way and a once in a lifetime trip.

[1] Greek
[2] The Lighthouse was built by the Ptolemies, a Hellenic dynasty founded by Ptolemy Sotor, one of Alexander the Great's generals. Was the replacement of the Ishtar Gate with the Lighthouse more Helleno-centric chauvinism? If I find out before I write it up I'll let you know.
[3] Or not, after Alexander
[4] Or Babylonian or Chaldean, but to the Greeks, all the Eastern Empires were Persians (or Medes)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Five for feeling Urgh

Song: When I'm down, sometimes I listen to Hold On by Wilson Phillips. It talks to me on a level that I don't blog about. (Sometimes I listen to Dead Souls by Joy Division, which also talks to me in a way that I'm not blogging about).

Book: When I feel like reading something of real interest I pick up anything by Lois McMaster Bujold, but especially Mirror Dance. On the other hand, if I feel like losing myself in another world, I pick up anything by Lois McMaster Bujold, but especially The Curse of Chalion.

Film: When I'm bored sometimes I put on the sequence from The Matrix Reloaded beginning with the Watchmaker being broken out ending with the end of the Freeway. Even though it's robbed of all suspense, and indeed meaning. Which is among the points the films make. Other times I watch The Princess Bride and lose myself in it's playful joy. Or is that it's joyful play?

Food: When I fancy eating but don't want to spend ages cooking, I quite often make a Spanish style omlette; potatoes, onion, peppers, garlic and (when we have too many) a preserved lemon fried up; lots of egg poured over, then sprinkled with cheese and grilled. Other times I just make Cheese on Toast.

Wild Card: When I'm looking for something different I look at until this kind of thing happens. Or maybe I go look at Bruce Schneier's blog for all the news on security, cryptography and squids.