Friday, August 31, 2007
Boy was I wrong. Wikipedia shows that not only do I not know anything about the Seven Wonders, but neither does anyone else. Who came up with the list and when is revealed several times in the article, and it's different every time. Have to do some actual research on this before I can even write the introduction.
The Wikipedia article has changed and been split up since I first looked at it earlier this week, just going to show the questions surrounding this issue (or maybe some kind of edit war is going on; when I have time I'll check the discussion page).
I like a challenge, me.
 Two of them look a bit like breasts though. Which is a good number for breast-shaped objects.
 Or four, which works too.
Book: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is actually a series of 13 books, of which I've only read the first three. And they're for kids. On the other hand they are the most subversive children's books I've ever read. The adults are either evil or stupid and they never listen to the children, no matter how many times they're right. And Lemony Snicket always takes us past the happy ending to the unhappy ending.
Film: The Sixth Sense. You have seen it, right? I'm not going to spoil it for you? You know there's a twist at the end? Okay. Having warned you about that, what's interesting is the way it becomes different films the more you watch it; the first time it's a film about a psychologist trying to help a boy; the second time it's about whether the filmmakers have cheated you or not; after that it's an interesting film about a lonely but brave boy trying to help people as best he can. The film transforms your understanding of it the first three times you watch it, in turn changing the film.
Food: It's that time of year again; blackberry glut season. Do I have anything to add to my classic Blackberry Ripple Ice Cream recipe? Well, yes. Wait until the blackberry syrup is cool; otherwise it cuts through the ice cream and pools in the bottom of the tub. I would add pictures, but my photo host is down and not back from Turkey until next week.
Wild Card: Have I really never mentioned NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site?
 Obviously I do, but I'm stupid.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
And because Youtube is there: Rocket Man as done by William Shatner, and Rocket Man as done by William Shatner done by Stewie Griffin. Of course the best William Shatner site is here.
Long (a full issue) scan of the Warren Ellis / Darick Robertson comic Transmetropolitan; possibly the best, certainly the most meditative of the run; NOT safe for work; Another Cold Morning. (For those of you coming to it blind; Spider Jerusalem is a journalist, and this issue is essentially one of his pieces).
I continue to mine Wondermark for amusing and short cartoons, in this case about the curious intersection of insurance and giant dogs; and using up the internet resource that is Superdickery, a handful of panels that don't look as innocent as they probably did when they were published, mostly about Batman.
Something serious and interesting; satellite photos of the Greek Fires. You can see the smoke, and they've outlined the fires for you.
Now all I need is to find something monkey related and we're all done here. Just one monkey thing on the internet. Could be anything. Doesn't have to be interesting or funny. Just monkey related. So here's two things to make up for lack of quality and the fact you've almost certainly seen it before a hundred times on late night adverts-from-around-the-world TV shows.
 Unanimously rated superior to Dirty Dancing by a small section of my brother's friends after going to Clarkey's wedding.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Song: Boy named Sue, Johnny Cash. There are still people who haven't heard this song. In fact I happened to be with one last night, when Matt Spall recited it as a poem, and they nearly fell off the sofa at the punchline.
Book: Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan. Altered Carbon came out of nowhere in 2002, bringing a breath of life to what cyberpunk had become; it was the novel that The Matrix should have been. Recognising this Joel Silver, a producer of The Matrix, bought the rights for enough money to let Morgan quit his job and write full time, for which he earns himself a dispensation for the worst of his film production career; the best of it speaks for itself.
Film: Saw v Saw II. I don't like horror movies when I'm not expecting it to be a horror movie (which makes sense - the whole thing about horror is that it invades your life whether you want it or not), but I was in the mood to see what they did with a sequel to Saw. So anyway, in each case the film is built around a secret; something hidden that casts all that's gone before into a different light. In Saw II, it comes in two parts, each of which is sufficient to explain the events of the film, but only one of which sets up for the second sequel (Saw III). Still, Saw II is a complete film in itself, which is better than the "Make one stand-alone film, then create connected sequels" model that Hollywood economics are encouraging at the moment.
Food: Bacon Sandwiches. Mmm, bacon sandwiches.
Wild Card: Someone at a website statistics site puts their analytical skills to work on the Red Shirt Phenomenon from Star Trek, including variables such as if there is a fight, and whether Kirk pulls.
Bonus: The kind of clock that only Stan could love.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
(I haven't read the book, and he may address this in it. If so, I turn my ire instead on the screenwriters who are... Michael Crichton and David Koepp).
(Obviously, it makes sense that the DNA from dinosaurs that survives are from late in the Mesozoic, as close to the K-T boundary as possible, and for that I applaud Mr Crichton. Nevertheless, if we can't take the title of his book as gospel, how are we supposed to take his opinions on global warming seriously?)
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
On Youtube, a video for Jonathan Coulton's song Ikea. To
Cartoon fun: This illustration from Wondermark warns us of the dangers of falling asleep; Navigating the whole remembering name minefield from XKCD; and an old Warren Ellis Edison Hate Future (probably the first one).
Gorillas are apes rather than monkeys. As far as I can tell, no one has researched the impact of putting monkeys onto the covers of comics, but it's well known that a Gorilla on the cover improves sales. So here is an example to hide the fact I have nothing monkey related in this post.
 Due to the "make your own video for Jonathan Coulton's songs" project, you can find other videos for this song if you look hard enough.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Song: Hold On, K T Tunstall. I've previously spoken of my excitement at K T Tunstall's new album, but one of the singles has got onto Youtube. Watch as the video changes styles and genre, following the theme of the world turning whether you're ready or not. And just for Jim, the final scene is K T Tunstall putting on a hat. Does everyone know what the K T stands for? Yes? Good.
Book: Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle. It starts as a historical novel, slips into secret history, then the genre slide quickens and it moves into alternate history, fantasy and finally comes to a halt firmly in science fiction, leaving your head still spinning. Also: much high medieval/early renaissance warfare. But is it any good? My god it is.
Film: The Quiet Man. The film is filled with clichés and stereotypes about rural Ireland (including an important plot point when the Dublin train is four and a half hours late). Maureen O'Hara's hair is that extraordinary red you only get when Technicolor combines with industrial grade hair dye. John Wayne does some acting (but doesn't put on an Irish accent, mostly). There are a couple of lovely shots, and much nonsense, but worth it just for the line "He'll regret it till his dying day, if ever he lives that long".
Food: Special fried rice. How do you get the bits of egg into the rice? Well, beat an egg or two, throw them into a wok, stir a little, but allow them to become an almost set omelette (aside: woks make good omelette pans). Then throw in a handful or three of cooked rice, and stir it all up. Finally throw in vegetables, prawns, chicken etc. depending on how special you want it to be, all precooked with garlic, ginger, chinese five spice, soy sauce, a bit of chili and rice wine or sherry, or white wine, or even Pernod if you like.
Wild Card: Slightly old (by which I mean a month ago), but interesting; John Rogers on scripting Isaac Asimov's Foundation.
Bonus: Cliff Richard on rollerskates. No, really. It's the video for his 1981-ish hit Wired for Sound.
Friday, August 17, 2007
If I'm really late, then I'll add in a bonus item to make it "Saturday or Sunday Six".
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Still, let's celebrate. If you liked Overdrift or BURN/N.E.N.E.R. you might like this undercover cop drama from the same people. Before I put the link in, be warned that it is absolutely and completely not safe for work, and not just because there's a picture of a knob between 04:25 to 04:30. Anyway The Deepening.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Old Music: this Rubik's Cube inspired video for Level 42's Running in the Family.
Onto something from the same people who made Overdrift (dinosaurs plus drift-racing) which I referenced a few days ago; cyberpunk spoof BURN/N.E.N.E.R.
A couple of cartoons: a classic Wondermark on Terrorists; XKCD on Facebook. In each case, bonus punchlines by hovering the mouse over the image.
A site that I come back to every now and then, even though it seems to be dormant or dead; Hats of Meat.
And a joke.
A woman got on a bus holding a baby. The bus driver said, "That's the ugliest baby I've ever seen!"
In a huff, the woman slammed her fare into the fare box and took an aisle seat near the rear of the bus. The man seated next to her sensed that she was agitated and asked her what was wrong. "The bus driver insulted me," she fumed.
The man sympathized with her and said, "Why, he's a public servant and shouldn't say things to insult passengers."
"You're right," she said. "I think I'll go back up there and give him a piece of my mind."
"That's a good idea," the man said. "Here, let me hold your monkey."
 New meaning 21st Century
 I'm not researching this as carefully as I might have.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
True as far as it goes. But what it also symbolises is not just a penis, but all penises. More than that, it represents what the penis itself represents: the male fertility principle and the generative power of the universe.
So when you see men in bells, waistcoats and blackface hitting each others sticks, just remember that it symbolises the creative force of the world, fertility, and the penis. All this, and it represents a lump of wood too.
Now that's one hell of a lot symbolism for a stick you can hold in one hand. And I haven't got around to the other things it can symbolise, depending on the dance.
 And you thought it was just a knob.
In case you miss the joke: This is a pun, or play on words, as for about half the dance the sticks are held protruding from the groin while being beaten by other dancers, and "fallacy" sounds like "phallus-y".
Friday, August 10, 2007
Song: Your Love Alone is Not Enough Manic Street Preachers. The Manics have always had poppy songs, but there's something odd about this. The repeats of lines and half lines whether they really make sense, the easy structure and (relatively) accessible lyrics make me feel that this is in someway a commentary on pop songs, rather than a pop song itself. Maybe I'm reading too much into this. It could just be that Nina Persson's Swedish flavoured English puts me in mind of Roxette and ABBA - bands whose fluent English lyrics always had a twist because they were coming from people used to thinking in a different language.
Book: I've already put my Giblet of Fire thoughts up, so instead, let's try The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross. Lovecraftian Horror meets Deightonesque Thriller, plus computer hacking. This is especially timely as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is due next month, although due to publishing and writing schedules it's apparently a movable feast and we won't reach final Götterdämmerung until 2012. The sequel, The Jennifer Morgue, is Lovercraftian Horror meets James Bond Thriller. Resist if you can.
Film: Young Frankenstein. Mel Brooks' horror comedy is all the bad film versions of Frankenstein with jokes! What more can you ask for? (He later made Dracula: Dead and Loving It, which is an almost scene-by-scene remake of one Dracula film or another, except Leslie Nielsen breaks things and does everything wrong etc. just like in the Naked Gun trilogy). Here's a scene from Young Frankenstein. Also - Abby Normal!
Food: Beer. It's liquid bread you know.
Wild Card: Something Political.
 Although I may not be; the Manics have no fear of being pretentious.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Dave will be late.
Dean will be late.
Hell, lets go out on a limb; everybody will be late.
There will be many hats.
Someone will sit on their own hat, crushing it beyond repair.
Someone will get ill (remember - it's always the 13th pint that's the bad one).
If Jim turns up he will have a pink beer, or a fruit beer, or something else that looks a bit girly.
Stan will insist on having a sip of everyone's beer so that he gets to try as many as possible.
Dave will be photographed not holding a pint.
Dean will stroke his chin and say Hmm. Actually, everyone will do that.
I will insult everyone with my predictions.
I will buy vast quantities of pork scratchings if the pork scratching stall is there this year.
Firstly: There's no conceivable Barbarella trailer that wouldn't be funny. Sadly, the real one is only quite funny. From the department of "old" songs with strange videos, there's a blast from 1984; Nik Kershaw's The Riddle.
If you aren't sure who Galactus is, BeaucoupKevin makes sure we know. Fans of Nextwave may be pleased to know that Aaron Stack (don't call him Machine Man) is now appearing in the comic book Ms Marvel; some scamp on Scans_daily has scanned in all the pages in which he appears. Obviously this is fair use, as otherwise there would be some kind of copyright issue. And from The Pain - When Will it End, Science Vs Norse Mythology.
Also, we have my favourite clothing supplier (sit and watch the pictures change) and John Scalzi on the world's latest and greatest Internet Meme Game.
And some monkey/tiger Youtube action. Who will win? Who? Who? Monkey Vs Tiger? Who will win? Etc.
 I don't want to know if you aren't. Seriously.
 Um.. really. Sorry.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Reading Harry Potter and the Giblet of Fire I can't help wondering why Fred and George Weasley aren't Slytherin house. Presumably their Gryffindor characteristics will be foregrounded later in the series.
Overdrift - Dinosaurs and Drift Racing.
And, um, thats it.
 As I insist it shall be called, not Harry Potter and the Goblins of Fire.
Go to Bottlebank
Check Transport Links
Charge Phone and Camera Batteries
Make and Take List of Contact Numbers
Pack Oyster Card
Also Water Bottle
You know, I could double the wordcount of this blog if I put all my lists online. Be glad I don't.
You may now return to your regular internet.
 In reality, I can, and probably will wait. Since my birthday is a mere month afterwards, I may put this on a list for the parents in case they are short of ideas.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
I can't help thinking there ought to be a more efficent way of doing this.
Mr Schnee won, incidentally.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Later they captured Algiers from the Spanish and Oruç usurped the throne of the Sultan of Algiers. Under increasing pressure from the Spanish, Algiers joined the Ottoman Empire in 1517, and Oruç was appointed Governor (or Bey).
Oruç and Ishak were killed while fighting the Spaniards and their Bedouin allies at Tlemcen, leaving Hızır, better known as Hayreddin Barbarossa, as Bey of Algiers.
But why are they known as the Red Beards? The picture on his Wikipedia page shows that Hızır's beard is black, as might be expected from someone half-Greek and half-Turkish. What's going on?
Sadly, the reason is that Oruç was called Baba Oruç (Father Aruj) by the Muslims he helped out of Spain. This sounded like Barbarossa to the Sicilians and Genoans who were amongst the brother's enemies. So, just as dying your beard blue doesn't make you a pirate, neither does dying it red. And Pink is right out.
 On Lesbos. Stop smirking.
 Look, the whole thing is terribly complicated, what with Christian Spaniards appointing Muslim puppet governors, despite having kicked all the Muslims out of Spain.
Friday, August 03, 2007
Book: Genghis Khan by John Man. John Man tries to find solutions to some of the mysteries surrounding Genghis Khan's life, death and afterlife. While there are records of his life (the Mongols were becoming literate at this time, something which is not a coincidence), they pose more questions than they answer. His death was kept a secret at the time and he was buried in a secret place. Today he is still a political symbol, having been co-opted as a Chinese Emperor by his Grandson Kublai Khan. The book includes a recipe for Mongolian Marmot Casserole (First, shoot your Marmot...).
Film: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Sergio Leone takes his time to tell the story, but it's time well spent. The slowly increasing tension in scenes where nothing at all happens for minutes at a time is something so rarely seen. Back on my long shots riff, I'll note there's one shot where Tuco, played by Eli Wallach, runs past Clint Eastwood's character at full pelt with his hands tied behind his back. Clint wheels his horse and accelerates into a gallop, scabbards the rifle he's holding, overtakes Wallach, and then the two of them get Wallach onto the back of the galloping horse. All one shot; no stunt doubles to be seen. I'm sure you can watch the film yourself, but here's the final three-way duel. Not surprisingly, this will entirely spoil the film for you if you watch it so resist. Resist! If you can't, note how the full width of the screen is being used.
Food: I'm over-supplied with potatoes right now, so here's the heart-stoppingly indulgent recipe for Gratin Dauphinois:
1 Pound New Potatoes
1/4 Pint Cream
8 Tablespoons grated Gruyere
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan
Butter a casserole. Peel and slice the potatoes and soak in cold water for a few minutes. Drain and dry the potato slices.
Layer the potatoes in the casserole, pouring cream, sprinkling cheese, dotting with butter and seasoning each layer. Finish with a layer of cheese. Cook Gas Mark 3, 160 C for about an hour.
Wild Card: It's another recipe, but this time from the Guinness World Record website; the latest World Record to fall is for making the largest bowl of soup. WARNING: The Guinness World Record website is a tremendous time-sink.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
The Girl with the Crimson Raincloak
Once there was an old woman who lived in the Ravenswood. When she fell ill in the chill spring, her family sent the granddaughter out to her with a basket of food. Dressed snugly in her crimson raincloak against the showers, she set off through the forest.
Along the way the girl sang to the birds and chirped to the squirrels. So it didn't surprise her when a wolf stepped out of the undergrowth and spoke to her. He said "Where are you going my girl, with your basket and your brightly coloured cloak?"
The girl replied "I'm the Red Princess of the Ravenswood, and I'm on my way to see my Granny. She's ill, so I'm taking her some food."
"Ah," said the wolf, "Perhaps I can walk with you."
"I don't think so," said the girl, who wasn't quite as foolish as she seemed. "It's not far, just over the brook."
So the wolf left her, and ran through the forest and across the brook to the Grandmother's house. There he killed and ate the grandmother, leaving some blood in a jug and some meat on a platter on the sideboard. Then he dressed himself in the Grandmothers nightdress and got into bed to wait for the little girl and the basket of food.
He waited and waited, until the sky began to darken, and then the girl's father and brother came in. "Is Scarlett here?" asked the father, "she should have been home hours ago."
"I haven't seen her," croaked the wolf.
"Even with those big eyes?" asked the brother. "Where did you get this wine? It smells very... strange."
"Can't smell," murmured the wolf.
"Even with that big nose?" said the father. "And why have you been gnawing on raw meat?"
"Not eaten a bite," whispered the wolf.
"Even with those big teeth?" said the father. The brother was staring at the sideboard in shock and horror, even as the father saw what he was looking at in the bed.
They killed the wolf, and cut him open, but could only find the remains of the grandmother. They tore down the cottage and use the stones to build a tomb, and the wood to burn the wolf carcass. The little girl could not be found anywhere.
A week later, when they had given up all but the faintest hope, the little girl appeared at home in tears, saying that Granny's house had been pulled down. Strangely, the food in the basket was still fresh, although the honeycakes and wine were gone. When everyone had calmed down, the girl told her story.
After she had met the wolf, she had thought she heard some cries from the forest. Passing through the undergrowth, she thought she saw where someone had forced their way through the branches. She'd followed the signs like this for a while, until show found herself lost.
At that point, a fairy and a cat passed by. She'd curtsied and the fairy had bowed. The fairy had asked her what she carried, and when she told him, he asked if he might have the honeycakes and the wine, for he was on his way to dinner, but had no guest-gift. She'd given them over, then asked if he knew the way to her Granny's. The fairy had told her to follow the cat, who, with a feline look of disgust, led her three times around an oak tree, to the stepping stones across the brook. She'd thanked the cat, who looked back disdainfully, then she went on her way.
She met the cat again, years later, but that's another story.
If you're wondering what's going on here, I introduce the Ravenswood here, talk about fairies here, and reference tracks that don't go anywhere here. As for the rest, if it makes no sense, that's all my fault.
 This gruesome detail comes from some of the earliest versions of the tale.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
If by chance you're at the far end of the cultural curve, and haven't yet found anything you like, you almost certainly love cartoons, so here's Bob the Angry Flower explaining what to when the New Futurama comes out; from Superdickery Superman's most redundant power (as explained below the panel); and Wondermark gives us everything we ever needed to know about cats and the internet (don't forget to hover the mouse pointer over for extra bonus punchline).
If none of that tickles your fancy, it might be that this is more up your street; Therapy Blend Coffee. Or perhaps a joke about leadership (extended version). Or, conceivably, you might want today's fact: the collective noun for unicorns is a blessing.
If you didn't like any of that, and you're still reading, then presumably you want something monkey related. Loosely related. Very loosely related. Jonathan Coulten is a singer-songwriter, who was able to quit his day job by giving his work away for free over the internet. As part of this, there was a competition for fans to make videos for his song Code Monkey (also, there was a remix competition). There are several on Youtube; amongst my favourites are the Code Monkey Dance; this straight telling of the story in the song; an inevitable WoW version (and a remix version with more fire, explosions and roaring); and the even more inevitable Harry Potter video.
 But is it also about anything else? First one to note a subtext in the comments wins
 A site dedicated to pointing out that Superman is a dick.
 Under a Creative Commons license, obviously.