Monday, January 29, 2007

King Arthur for Monarch

It's been brought to my attention that Prince Charles isn't too keen to take the regnal name King Charles, considering the popularity of previous holders of that name[1]. The leading suggestion is George VII.

His Royal Highness' full name is, of course, Charles Philip Arthur George Mountbatten-Windsor. Clearly the best name of these for a king is Arthur[2]. I doubt that the Prince of Wales will be swayed by mere popular opinion, but, on the off-chance that he would, I propose that we start a campaign for Arthur to be our future king.

You heard it here first! (unless you clicked on the Wikipedia article and read it there)

Obviously we all hope that Charles doesn't have to choose a regnal name for many years. God Save the Queen.

[1] Apologies for that last one, but the connection to the 1st Earl of Sandwich made it irresistable.
[2] Night of the Hats is not drawing parallels between the King Arthur legends and the current Royal Family. Yet.

More Bread

On Friday I baked some bread, and think I've finally recreated the flavour of my coriander and rosemary bread from on-or-about my 29th birthday. Unfortunately it didn't rise very much. I intend to experiment to try to determine what the limiting factor vis-a-vis rising is - currently I'm looking at proving time, kneading time, amount of yeast, and proportion of sugar to yeast as my variables.

A side effect of this will be baking a tremendous amount of bread. This post will now take the place of the previous one in being the centre for bread recipes on this blog.

Here's my original recipe for the bread from October 2004:

Warning! Bread should only be used for good, not evil. If a stranger offers you bread, JUST SAY NO! Bread should only be used under controlled conditions. Always ask your parents before making bread.

Two loaves (or one really big one!) of rosemary and coriander not-really-foccacia-style bread

1 kilo strong white bread flour
1 pint tepid water
3 x 7g packets of yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons salt
quite a bit (5 sticks/maybe tablespoon and half) rosemary
some (a dessert spoon or so) coriander seeds
some more salt
a tablespoon and a half or possibly two of olive oil
(no, I wasn't paying attention when I put the flavouring together. It was intuitive)

Sieve the flour. No really, it helps get air in it. Make a well in the middle, put in the salt, sugar and yeast. Pour in half the water. Mix up the middle until it's kind of porridgey. Try not to let any water out of the well. Add some more water. Mix it again until it's porridgey. Keep doing this until all the water is in. If you do this on a board or work surface, you have an exciting moment when all this porridgey gloop tries to escape from the flour on all sides at once. Try not to let this happen.

Eventually it will be thick enough to safely pile everything into the middle, and will become a sticky dough, and as you knead it, steadily less sticky. I went all out on kneading it (something loud and guitary was on the radio) for maybe 5 minutes. Stick the dough in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and put it somewhere warm for an hour to "prove".

While the yeast does it's thing, make up the flavouring. Crush the rosemary, coriander seeds and a bit of salt together in a pestle and mortar, or maybe food process it, that would probably do too and get you a fine paste which would make it less bitty and rustic, although I was felling pretty bitty and rustic when I made mine, which is why it was pestle and mortar. Add in some olive oil and keep crushing it, and then let the whole mess sit there infusing flavours for a while. It's probably a good idea to prepare some baking trays by sprinkling flour on them at this point.

The dough should have expanded to be a huge... thing. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface, take it out the bowl and squeeze all the air out until it's a heavy dough again. I know this all seems to be a big waste of time, but it makes better bread. Now add the flavouring mixture; I flatten the dough and pour it on top, then fold it over and knead. Olive oil will get everywhere. Don't worry! Wipe it up wth the dough. Keep kneading for 5 minutes. You may need to sprinkle more flour on the surface, the dough, yourself, and maybe a friend as well; it can get pretty messy. Eventually it will become a bit more well behaved, and you can sculpt it into your favourite bread shape(s), put it on the baking tray(s) and put it back somewhere warm for another hour or so for a second proveing. Be warned that it will grow (again) to maybe twice it's size. You can leave it longer if you want, but anything less than 45 minutes will probably be disappointing.

At some point preheat your oven (only you know how long it takes to heat up) to maybe 190C or so. When the dough has proved for the second time, put it in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes; I check on it after about half an hour and decide from the colouring when to take it out.

Leave it alone for 10 minutes or so after it comes out the oven. You'll just burn yourself. THEN dig into nice hot slices of bread.

When you do this on a baking tray it spreads out and becomes a big flat loaf. If anyone experiments with a proper sandwich style loaf in a tin let me know; it would probably need a bit longer, and maybe a lower temperature.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Blogging about not blogging

Somebody has been working through the archives, and I'd like to reward them with brand new, interesting material. Sadly, that isn't going to happen despite needing to get on with Circular Story, Stan's Tarot and finally do the Trial Part 3.

So instead here's one or two things I intend to do this year, when not slaving over a hot keyboard.

1. Organise a trip to Ireland. (For several people! If you want to be involved, why not drop me a line or post a comment. Amongst our objectives will be to find out if Jim is the heir to the Viscountcy of Buttervant..)

2. As my blog is now the internet's prime resource for "Coq Au Trice" (Google it and see!) I obviously need to cook one.

3. Derby Day! A large trip to the Derby can only be good. This year June 2.

4. Hunt and Gather weekend. It turns out that Vas has never gathered, so it's time to put that right. We don't want to go too hardcore on this; Stan was saying something about a rabbitskin posing pouch.

5. Come up with more new words. When my Dad recently opened a 1.5L of champagne I declared it "Magnumificent". (My research suggests that, although this word has been used before, it seems to have been in reference to Tom Selleck's moustache, or locations from an 80's TV drama).

(Yes, it's a New Years resolution post. Get over it).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Inside Alan Moore's head.

I've just reread Promethea. For those of you coming in late, this is a comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by J H Williams III. What it isn't is like other Moore works, such as Watchmen or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; these can be enjoyed as stories without getting into the subtext, psychology and politics in the case of Watchmen, or playing spot the reference in League. That won't work in Promethea, or, at the very least, you'd be very puzzled by Issue #12[1].

Moore used the comic to introduce his ideas on magic, philosophy and religion to the world. It explains amongst other things what the Universe is[2], what God is[3] and what magic is[4]. It tells you the magical symbolism of the holy grail, how to navigate through the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah and what the Apocolypse is.

The art is gorgeous, and unusual designs are used to illustrate the subject matter ; Issue #12 for example is a frieze, which, in theory, could be a mobieus loop.

The Apocalypse is a weird thing indeed, and one which nearly disrupts the whole story. But Moore gets away with it. So there you are: everything you ever wanted to know about what goes on in Alan Moore's head, in 32 issues.

(You want more? Try Alan Moore on children's TV and Warren Ellis on Alan Moore on the phone (the link towards the bottom), both from the indispensable BeaucoupKevin)

[1] In which the history of the human race (and, indeed, the universe) is explained in terms of the 22 major arcana and in which the major arcana are explained in terms of the history of the universe. By two snakes on Promethea's caduceus.
[2] God
[3] Love
[4] The manifestation of God's love in the Universe.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Dream Diary 8

Well, a most peculiar dream last night. A short, white haired, green skinned being called Prometheus, who was the mythical Prometheus, had come to Earth and created the Norse and Greek Gods. As an encore he gave science and reason to the human race.

I found this out, when I walked in on him trying to get Thor and Poseidon to get up and come with him. (I might have been Odin when I came through the door, but I was me later in the dream).

It became clear at the end that this was a millenia long courting ritual for his mate, a plant with a rather phallic flower stem. It turns out that Prometheus only has a lifespan of an hour, but can manipulate time (the thing with his liver being torn out again and again was explained away by this).


Well, it's clear enough to me where most of this came from; I'm currently rereading the Moore/Williams comic Promethea[1]; my most recent look into mythlogy comes from Dan Simmon's Ilium/Olympos Duology[2]; and before going to bed I caught most of The Mummy, and was intruiged by the scene in which they use 20th Century technology (in the form of a biplane) to race the mummy-as-djinn's magic (travelling as a sand-tornado)[3]. What's strange about it is the clear plot, which is almost really-logical rather than dream-logical.

[1] More on this later.
[2] Since I don't intend to do more on this later: The scenes in Troy/with Akhilles brilliant; other scenes sometimes drag a bit; there's an absolutely hilarious joke in Ilium that you can't explain out of context.
[3] Also, they don't get the horses and camels in shot together.

The sex lives of Bananas

[Note: A few people have turned up here looking for information on banana trees walking. A better source than my ramblings is the wikipedia entry on bananas]

While in the Canary Islands, I discovered that bananas haven't had sex for 10,000 years[1]. Since I've already gone this far down the route of investigating bananas, I might as well continue, so here's the full story.

Wild banana fruit are full of seeds, and generally not very good for eating. On the other hand, this is a result of them reproducing sexually. They also reproduce asexually, by growing a new trunk or stem[2] for each bunch of bananas (which is why banana trees "walk" over time, as the old stem dies and a new one takes over). If you're a neolithic New Guinean proto-farmer in 8,000 BC you can transplant these new stems, to create new banana trees. But since the fruit is full of seeds, why would you?

Well, fairly obviously, occasionally banana trees grow which are sports; infertile plants with no seeds in their fruit. Usually these would be the exception, but neolithic farmers discovered one (or more likely, several at different times; 8,000 BC is the earliest date. The one's you eat probably weren't domesticated until 4-5,000 BC), transplanted stems, and the rest is history.

History with no sex in, which makes it clean, wholesome fun for the entire family.

[Edit: Some auto-content-harvester stole my last post and put it on their website to make it look like they are a real blog with real people rather than a robot-thing that just exists to lead people to products and services. In the near future my posts will try and avoid this by being even less likely than usual. I should probably have checked that doesn't exist, but, you know, who has the time?]

[1] If you find evidence to the contrary elsewhere on the internet, I really don't want to know.
[2] They're not really trees, but I'm not doing the research for this post.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Stan's Tarot: Cups Part 1

Cups represent the medieval clerical class; hence spiritual authority, meditation, contemplation and inner feelings; leading naturally to these being the cards of reflection and emotion.

Unsuprisingly they correspond to the water astrological symbols; Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio.

Ace of Cups

The Cup of Plenty Overflows, bringing love, contentment, true happiness and overflowing joy. Also: Fertility, Perfect Union, Bountiful Abundance and Spiritual Fulfillment through Unconditional Love.

2 of Cups

Love Declared; An Offer or Marriage; Close Friendship Acknowledged. Mutual Understanding and Intuition.

3 of Cups

Fullfillment of Hopes; Celebration of Good Fortune. Recovery from Illness or Bad Fortune. Abundance, Revelry and Friendship.

4 of Cups

The Grass is always Greener on the other side! Don't take your Blessings for Granted. You should be Thnakful for What you have, rather than Risking it for things you Yearn for.

5 of Cups

Regret, Bitterness, Anger. To taste from many cups, but to forget the sweet wine, only remembering the bitter aftertaste.

6 of Cups

A Yearning for Simpler Times, Childhood Joys, Innocence and Less Responsibility. Faithful Acceptance and Unquestioning and Unconditional Love. But beware of Nostalgia, as you can never return to the Past.

7 of Cups

Success and Love are Close if you follow the right path. On another path, Illusions and Dreams may never be Realised. Too many Roads to Choose from can slow the Journey. The Gifts of Imagination and Creativity can distract you from your Destination. Material Goods may bring Little Satisfaction.

Note that a couple of these have worked out well, and some are innapropriate. Also, I have cribbed heavily from Kat Black's Golden Tarot Book.

Previously: Introduction

Next: 8 through King of Cups.

Stan's Tarot: Introduction

The Internet is full of tarot decks of various degrees of interest - here's a few:

Golden Tarot - I actually have this especially gorgeous set.

Charybdis Tarot - A dark and wierd art project from New Zealand (rated as "gruesome" by the Vas preview board).

Pirate's Arcana - The major arcana, based on the two Pirates of the Carribean films. If you're only going to click on one fortune-telling-pirate link today, make it this one.

If you're really getting into this stuff, try Morwenna's Tarot which has hundreds of oracular decks. The site itself is in German. Note that I've barely scrped the surface of this site.

Anyway, despite these, and many, many other excellent sites, there's good reasons why I might make a personal deck. As it happens, I have a friend with 25,000 online photos (hidden behind a password barrier). Surely among these there must be enough pictures for a full deck...

Well, maybe. I'm not starting with the Major Arcana (save that for the finale). Swords is a bit tricky (although there are a remarkable number of 1, 2 and 3 sword pictures); Staves is okay up to about 5; Coins seems to be either one or many, and very very dull; Cups... yes I think we can do Cups.

It'll be up as soon as I've sorted it out.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Jim's holiday

Jim's holiday from June 2006 (Yes, I'm sorting out old emails. Why do you ask?):

I received an unusual communication, which I reproduce below:


"What I did on My Holidays"
By Jim
Aged 30 and 7/8

For my holidays I went to Roads. Roads is an island off the coast of Turkey, but it belongs to Greese. Roads used to be Collossal, but then it fell down and an Oricle told them not to rebuild it.

Roads is very hot and sunny. The beaches are filled with men and ladies with no tops on. An told me not to spend all day in the sun staring at the ladies with no tops on, but I did and my face went read and I got a headache. This is all An's' fault.

I think everybody should go to Roads for there holidays. Like An says "All Rhoads lead to Roades".


Even more unusual is the fact that at the bottom it
says "3/10 - see me" in Vas' handwriting.

More recycled stuff

From May 2006, my "hilarious" alternative versions of the Da Vinci Code.

Unsuprisingly there are a number of copycat films in production, although theyare keen to point out the differences between their films and "The Da Vinci Code". Stan, producer of "The Michelangelo Cypher" explained that his film was completely different - it's all to do with Joseph of Arimathea bringing the holy grail to Glastonbury and rather than having a shadowy Catholic sect trying to keep it all secret, the hero must contend with freemason cyber-commandos.

Jim, currently directing "The Raphael Enigma" described the film as: "A scantily clad Swedish cryptographer joins forces with a scantily clad Scottish historian and a scantily clad Spanish flamenco dancer-turned-bodyguard for all kinds of fights, stunts, explosions and some gratuitous lesbian scenes in order to discover the truth hidden in Raphael's paintings"

Anne, Screenwriter of "Carol Vorderman's Sudoku challenge" denied any parallels with The Da Vinci Code. "It has nothing to do with that 'film' - in my story a tv maths whizz must solve giant number grids in order to discover the vault containing her deceased co-presenter's outrageous ties and horrendous jokes before the cult of the Hashishin release them on an unsuspecting world. It's a children's fantasy"

The French

Until I have a new idea for the new year, here's a brief rant from an email I sent in March last year about why I didn't like one of my friend's characterising the French as cowardly, stupid and incompetent (after all, the French have enough things about them to dislike, without making up more).

The context: Google Fight may or may not have had Nice Germans beating French Military Victories.

I don't know what Jim did, but I prefer the idea of there being more sites of "French military victories" than "nice Germans" as

a. The whole point of disliking the French is how close they always came to winning, requiring us to use our British qualities such as stiff upper lips, spunk, and clever physical comedy* and one liners** to overcome their superiority in chocolate, wine, food, cigarettes, attitude to statues of young women in the nude*** and hats. They were always a superior type of foreigner, unlike Italians, Spaniards, Turks etc. so beating them MEANT something. If they hadn't, for example, conquered most of Europe under Napoleon, Trafalgar, Waterloo, and the whole Peninsular War would have been meaningless, and in the wrong place.

b. I have met some nice Germans, but why would you put it on a website?

* "I really do not see the signal!" (Nelson, probably not putting the telescope to his blind eye)
** "Publish and be damned!" (Wellington, when Napoleon threatened to reveal the secrets of his bootmaker)
*** ie fine art

(Ironically, I've just posted about Nice Germans on this blog).

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Not a New Year message

It's 2007, and frankly, I'm all out of ideas. Except this one[1]:

King Kong is a monster movie, but Kong is not the monster.

[1] Which I suspect is not original.