Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Musicals We Don't Live In

Following from this post, here's some things that didn't happen on Christmas Eve, but maybe should have:

Jim: ... and I never ever sway drunkenly!
Me: What never?
Jim: No never!
Me: What never?
Jim: Well... hardly ever.
Entire Pub Acting As Chorus: He hardly ever sways drunkenly! We'll give three cheers and one cheer more for this bloke who's wearing a pinafore.[1]

Also not happening:

Me: You're a bum
You're a punk
Stan: You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
Me: You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot[2]
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last
Stan: I could have been someone
Me: Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
Stan: I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you[3]

This is all just as well. We know what happened the time Dean started a new dance craze using just a flat cap and a Kate Bush sample.

[This has been in drafts for 4 days because I'm unhappy with the formatting]

[1] Later I was not described in these terms by my sisters and my cousins and my aunts:
He butcher's G&S so terribly
that now he is the ruler of the Queens Navee

[2] There's a terrible version of this song by Ronan Keating (who, despite his best efforts can't get the sheer roughness and toughness of Shane Mac Gown's voice) and Marie Brennan (sister of Enya and formerly of Clannad, and a voice who I have much time for, but simply isn't Kirsty MacColl) where this line is changed to "You're cheap and you're haggard"
[3] This didn't happen because of course I always begin by stepping out of the pub and in my worst best brogue declare:
They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me
You were handsome...

Yes I always sing the Kirsty MacColl part. Why? It's tradition.

Monday, December 29, 2008

In Which It Turns Out I'm The Wrong Sort Of Goth

[It's that time of the year when I dump emails and drafts into this blog to stop them hanging around for ever. This has been sitting there for maybe 4 months because it doesn't really have a conclusion, but just rambles for a short while]

I'm not actually a goth[1]. If I were one, apparently I'd be the wrong sort. The evidence: I prefer The Cure to The Sisters[2], prefer Les Daniels, Kim Newman and George Martin to Anne Rice, like Byron more than Shelley[3], and like Ted Hughes poetry over Sylvia Plath.

As it happens, I liked Ted Hughes as a kid mainly for The Iron Giant[4] (not poetry). Later, as I grew up into a teenager I preferred Sylvia Plath's poetry and in fact read and re-read her Bumper Fun Size Book Of Every Damn Poem She Ever Wrote[5]. It was only later when Hughes died and I finally got around to reading Tales From Ovid and, er, Birthday Letters that I finally made that decision. I say "er" because that is of course the collection of poems about his relationship with Plath.

[As I said it rambles. I did have an idea for finishing it, but can I find Birthday Letters, Tales From Ovid, or Bumper Fun Size Book Of Every Damn Poem She Ever Wrote? No I cannot.]

[1] There's not quite enough black in my wardrobe, I don't use eye makeup, I don't attend goth events very often and most importantly, I don't self-identify as a goth.
[2] And worse still don't get worked up about the differences. Not entirely coincidentally, when I logged into Youtube while grabbing a couple of links for this, it thought I might be interested in a Siouxsie and the Banshee's video of them covering a Beatles song.
[3] My choice for a tiebreak between the two is of course a swimming contest.
[4] It has a giant space-bat-angel-dragon in it. I say no more.
[5] Better known as Collected Poems.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Secret Diary Of Major Squick 5f

We join Major Squick at the end of this series of diary entries. To recap, he has been ordered into the hills in disgrace, to patrol for bandits. Having caught them by dressing some of his troops as local women he returned only to march his cross-dressed troops past the Governor and the Rajah. With both he and his fellow officers thinking his career is over, he meets with the Colonel...
23 J__ 18__

My luck has not run out! The Governor and the Rajah are both of the Modern Persuasion and thought that an irregular female militia would be just the thing to discourage banditry. After all the men are scattered about the fields and forests all day, while the women are concentrated in the villages, and able to form a reaction force.

The Rajah has requested that I be sent on secondment to take advantage of my hands-on experience with female militia to raise a battalion in his own state. For the 12 months I am there, I will be given the local rank of Major-General. The Colonel and I have agreed that it is best for all concerned if I keep a discreet distance from the regiment for a while. I will even wear local uniform which tends to the gaudy side.

I am sure the remaining members of my family that accept correspondence from me will be pleased to learn that I have achieved general-rank, even if it is only in the forces of a native state. For myself I can hardly believe it. Only when I am immersed in my new role, and in my outlandish costume, will I feel General Squick.

The Rajah has perhaps been inspired by Lakshmi Bai, who had a bodyguard regiment of women; nevertheless it apears that the Major, or for the moment, the General, has fallen on his feet. More Major Squick in the New Year.

(Major Squick begins here; link to all of Major Squick here. )

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Secret Diary Of Major Squick 5e

Against the odds, and my expectations, Major Squick has succeeded in capturing a group of bandits. However, it looks like there will not be a happy ending...
22 J__ 18__

It seems the luck that has supported my military career has finally run out. I had hoped to make a discreet entrance to the compound with my irregularly uniformed troops. However the Governor of M__ and the Rajah of K__ were inspecting the regiment as we arrived and we had no choice but to march past them. The Sergeant-Major turned so red I thought he might expire of apoplexy.

Someone has left a loaded pistol on my desk. I must have a word with the adjutant to encourage the officers to be more careful with their personal arms.

I see the Colonel first thing tomorrow morning.

Major Squick is oblivious to the meaning of the loaded pistol; that he should (metaphorically) fall on his sword.

(Major Squick begins here; link to all of Major Squick here. )

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Secret Diary Of Major Squick 5d

Previously Major Squick has attempted to trap bandits by disguising his soldiers as women. This has gone wrong and now he must try to repair the damage, at some personal cost.

20 J__ 18__

Success! It seems that the bandits had only just returned to their camp, and in their haste had neglected to search the baggage before beginning to make unwelcome advances to the "local women" they had captured. Just at the moment when they penetrated the disguises, I and my detachment arrived and took the bandits from the rear. We captured them all without a fight.

There was however one casualty, myself. In the excitement of the skirmish, I was knocked from my feet and landed on an asp, which bit me in the behind. The surgeon, seeing this occur, swiftly pulled down my breeches and sucked the poison from the wound. Other than a slight fever, and my current inability to sit or lie on my back, I have suffered no ill effects.

Somehow in the chaos, the uniforms of the disguised men have gone missing. They will have to march back in their current clothes. I hope the Colonel will forgive this breach of discipline in the light of my successes; I am sure the Sergeant-Major will not.

Sucking the poison from a snake wound is usually not a good idea as you tend to end up with 2 poisoned people; the surgeon is either lucky or an expert.

(Major Squick begins here; link to all of Major Squick here. )

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Secret Diary of Major Squick 5c

We rejoin Major Squick when the obvious flaws in his plan become apparent to him - slightly too late for him to do anything about.

19 J__ 18__

My plan has gone terribly wrong! The bandits have abducted the men disguised as local women before they reached our ambush site. We waited until well after sunset, thinking that they were delayed, being unable to march at their usual rate due to their feminine attire. Eventually we backtracked and discovered that the cunning bandits also engaged in daylight robbery. My tracker suggests that the bandits cannot know the error they have made; the attack was over so quickly my men were unable to get their rifles out of the baggage, and, unlikely as it seems, the disguises continue to fool them. One of them seems to have kept his wits about him, and has been leaving clues to their travel. At first light we will follow them and hopefully find the bandits in their camp.

Major Squick has once again been too imaginative. I can't believe that this will end well.

(Major Squick begins here; link to all of Major Squick here. )

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Secret Diary Of Major Squick 5b

We return to Major Squick 2 weeks later, during which time he has unsurprisingly achieved nothing.

17 J__ 18__

Despite my best efforts, bandits have robbed several parties of travellers while I have found no trace of them. I have come up with a ruse to capture them inspired by an acquaintance "Sweet" George S__. While acting as a Political Officer on the North West Frontier he found himself being hunted by a group of Pathans. The Pathan is a great hunter and tracker, and S__ knew that in order to slip past them he would have to take extraordinary measures, in this case adopting the local dress of a woman. He had several close shaves and a number of adventures both fortunate and unfortunate while travelling. He eventually arrived at Peshawar, where the sentry would not believe his story until he lifted his skirts!

My stratagem has been to ask for volunteers to dress as women and move slowly and loudly through the hills. Meanwhile I will take the rest of the detachment and set up an ambush at the site where they will camp. When the bandits attack the camp, hoping for easy pickings from defenceless women, they will be taken by surprise by the rifles in the baggage and unable to escape as I will surround them with the rest of the troops.

Bob Parkhurst in particular makes a very convincing woman. This wheeze is so cunning, nothing can go wrong.

Typically, even when attempting to do his job, Major Squick does so in a transgressive way. Sadly it is so outrageous that the bandits would almost certainly fall for it as it will be completely outside their comprehension.

(Major Squick begins here; link to all of Major Squick here. )

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why We Don't Live In A Musical

Once or twice Jim has asked "why don't we burst into song and dance like that?" while watching a musical. Allow me to explain:

This evening Dad and I were watching Oliver Twist. Bill Sykes (BOO! HISS!) turned up on screen. "Is that his Nancy on his knee?" he asked. "Yeo ho," I replied,
And his arm around her waist!
And then we stopped, unable to remember what happens next[1]. I've never been in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta as I have an awful singing voice; my Dad played a pirate (in the first part) and a policeman (in the second) in The Pirates of Penzance, but that would be over 40 years ago. Neither of us has sat down and memorised The Mikado. So essentially, we don't spontaneously burst into song and dance routines as we haven't practised and rehearsed enough to improvise.

Here's what should have happened (link):

Chorus: Then man the capstan — off we go,
As the fiddler swings us round,
With a yeo heave ho,
And a rum below,
Hurrah for the homeward bound!
With a yeo heave ho,
And a rum below,
Yeo-ho, heave ho,
Yeo-ho, heave ho,
Heave ho, heave ho, yeo-ho!


Well thank God for that; it's the shortest day. Now the days get longer! Not that you can actually notice until mid-February, but still. It does mean it's the Christmas season in earnest; two weeks of being jolly and pleasant and polite in company. But there's other things to look forward too; films on TV! Not the usual Christmas films but the special ones involving my friend Stan. Here's the list from two years ago; some of them will be repeated (endlessly), but here's a few that I've not mentioned before:

Iron Stan

Stan is captured by terrorists and put to work in a secret cave. He builds a flying suit equipped with a cabbage firing bazooka and escapes. Getting home he builds a better suit and renames himself "Gold-Titanium Alloy Stan" and generally does good and defeats bald men with beards while drinking a lot.

King Stan Vs Stanzilla

Stan gets a monkey suit AND a lizard suit for Christmas. Unfortunately he gets drunk and stumbles through his scale model of Tokyo, wrecking it.

Tequila Stanrise

Stan drinks cocktails and listens to the Eagles. His best friend wants to put him in jail. They both fall for the same woman. Hijinks ensue.

The Day That Stan Stood Still

Remake of the 1951 classic. Stan turns up on Earth with a giant robot dressed in underpants. There's some kind of threat that requires mankind to not nuke themselves or maybe save the environment or something. Hardly any drinking takes place.

The Stanford Wives

Stan moves into town to discover all the wives are fawning, submissive and impossibly beautiful. Maybe they're robots, maybe they've been reprogrammed by a psychologist, maybe it's just a metaphor for gender conflict; trying to figure it out drives Stan to drink.

Stanship Troopers

Stan joins the Mobile Infantry and fights Bugs, and comes to the conclusion that the only good Bug is a dead one. As a result he becomes Hero of Planet P and gets lots of free drinks.

Stanship Troopers 2: Hero of the Staneration

Stan gets trapped in an outpost surrounded by Bugs and full of convicts and assorted troopers. Is there a traitor in the tower or have the Bugs been able to build a human replica or is it just the convicts trying to escape? Whichever option it is, it's the kind of situation that calls for a drink.

Stanship Troopers 3: Stanauder

Stan gets in a barfight with a general and is sentenced to death. Meanwhile the singing Sky Marshal has a religious revelation which threatens to bring down the Staneration. The solution? Flying armoured suits made of Gold-Titanium Alloy with cabbage-firing bazookas crewed by condemned criminals!

The Secret Diary of Major Squick 5a

For the latest extract from the Diary of Major Squick I have deciphered a number of entries which form one continuous narrative. I'll be posting them as I get the time between now and Christmas.

3 J__ 18__

In a fit of high spirits at New Year, I suggested that the Afghan Hounds be raced against each other, with the houseboys as jockeys. It seems that the Colonel's wife was unhappy to discover that her prize Afghan Hound dogs had been used in such a way, especially as they had been scheduled to be put to the Governor's Daughter's bitches the next day, but were too weary to perform. Until his wife has calmed down, I have been ordered to take a patrol into the hills to look for bandits who have been plaguing the province.

The Colonel has not yet inspected his wine cellar, and the water in the fountains were barely pink at all by the time he saw them. The missing paintings I have replaced from my own collection until I can find decent replacements - fortunately the Colonel never looks at them.

As we can see, Major Squick has been propelled into action as the result of his own foolishness and debauchery. We can only hope that he manages to achieve something useful and constructive, although I can't help suspecting that he will spend the time in a hilltop tea plantation committing more outrages.

(Major Squick begins here; link to all of Major Squick here. )

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mixed Spice And Cheese Wrapped In Bacon

I made mincemeat, back when I did the stir-up Sunday post. What I forgot was that there wasn't any mixed spice when I made it. So I mixed my own, and it smelt like mixed spice and the mincemeat is pretty good, if I say so myself.

Mixed Spice

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground coriander
1/3 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/3 teaspoon grated nutmeg
a few cloves

Put the cloves and caraway seeds in a pestle and mortar and grind up until they are a fine powder, or you get bored. Add the powdered spices and grind a bit longer. Make sure it's evenly mixed. Makes a bit more than 2 teaspoons of mixed spice.

In other recipe news, Stan was asking about cheese wrapped in bacon. The rest of us think he may have dreamt it, but Google is free so I had a look. The most obvious thing from looking through the first few result pages for the string cheese wrapped in bacon is that people love stuffing "things" with cheese and then wrapping those "things" in bacon. Popular "things" seem to include hotdogs (yuck[1]), dates and chicken fillets (yum). Still top two, just cheese in bacon:

Pan fried mozzarella wrapped in bacon with chutney and sesame seeds - I've seen this chef on TV and he generally seems to have an idea of what he's doing.

Goats Cheese Wrapped In Bacon - I can't vouch even as half-heartedly as for the previous one but the recipe looks simple and easy and makes sense.

Baked Cooleeney Wrapped in Bacon - I've never heard of Cooleeney before, and it's not helped by being spelt "Cooleney" on that page. It looks to be Irish, but I'm not doing a great deal of research on this.

After that Google goes quiet for a few pages recipe-wise, although I found a page where someone was preparing for Christmas smoked cheese wrapped in bacon, halloumi wrapped in bacon, 2 types of stuffing wrapped in bacon and sausages wrapped in bacon (Pigs in Blankets? - it was talking about these that lead Stan to asking about cheese wrapped in bacon) and they're threatening to do roast potatoes wrapped in bacon, which will either be terrible or genius and I don't know which.

So cheese wrapped in bacon: is Stan in a coma, mad, back in time or just drunk? The jury is still out.

Update: If you google for "cheese wrapped in bacon" this post comes up on the first page now. As a summary of google posts about cheese wrapped in bacon, that's pretty ungelpful. Sorry if that's how you got here.

[1] I say yuck, but for all I know a cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped, battered and deep-fried hotdog could be delicious. I feel the experimental method coming on...

Friday, December 12, 2008

So This Is Christmas

Clues to the season:

1. There's frost everywhere outside
2. I've been getting Christmas cards in the post.
3. I'm already sick of Noddy Holder shouting "It's Christmas!"

The Fairytale of New York is being overused as well. Favourite Christmas song for this year so far? Bo Pepper's I Haven't Got You Anything (This Christmas) for these lyrics:
I ain't got no money maybe I will make a card
Or fashion a penguin out of a block of lard
I hope it's not too hard

If anyone wants to give me a lard sculpture, please put it in a coolbag and tell me to keep it in a fridge.

UPDATE: Within mere minutes of posting this I came across The Black List 2008 - Hollywood producers favourite un-produced screenplays. What should be there at number 3?

BUTTER by Jason Micallef
“A small town becomes a center for controversy and jealousy as its annual butter
carving contest begins.”

You know why that's unproduced? It should be called LARD, that's why.

Monday, December 08, 2008

My Face And The Growths Upon It

As ever I have grown a beard as we enter the cold part of the year. However this was thrown into difficulties as I have another tradition - when I go away I shave it off[1]. Since I was only off to France for the weekend, and it gets bloody freezing, I just trimmed it.

Clearly I won't be impersonating Santa Claus this Christmas Eve. Worse still, I traditionally shave it off on Christmas Morning[1], so there won't be time to grown anything out of the ordinary. Which is why it's aggravating that as soon as I get back, I find 10 Very Good Reasons Why You Should Grow A Giant Beard and Wondermark's Hierarchy Of Beards.

[1] What do you mean why? It's a tradition.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Stir-Up Sunday

If you'd asked me a few months ago "Is there a traditional day for making Christmas Pudding?" I'd have said "I expect so, there's traditional days for everything else[1]." If pushed I'd have said "Mid-October maybe?"

Turns out it's the last Sunday before advent, or, as it happens, last Sunday. And everyone knows this (even my parents, who make Christmas Puddings in mid-October to give them more time to mature, and also from when it used to be half-term and Dad could get us to help to stop us running wild for a couple of hours[6]).

Everyone else also tells me it's called Stir-Up Sunday, because you make sure that everyone gets to stir-up the pudding and make a wish. Actually it's the other way round. The Collect for the day, in The Book of Common Prayer says:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It's because the words stir-up and fruit appear in the service that people began to stir-up their puddings on that Sunday.

Am I the only one entertained by this?

Those of you who stirred up on Sunday, how was it?

[1] Everything else includes such things as planting parsley[2], slaughtering animals[3], make your one bet of the year[4] and find it difficult to get a drink in Ireland[5]
[2] Good Friday
[3] Midwinter
[4] Usually the 2nd Saturday in April
[5] Good Friday
[6] Our Ancient and Traditional Christmas Pudding Recipe came from the Bon Viveur column in the Daily Telegraph in the late 60s. After researching this information I now know this means it's a Fanny Craddock Recipe. Excellent! Why don't modern TV Cooks dress like that?