Monday, December 31, 2007
Finally ! To me, "The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991" is badly named in that all dogs are dangerous. Having been nipped by a Jack Russell myself, I can say it's not just the ones the size of small ponies that need to muzzled.
In fact, only four types of dogs are banned under the Act :
* the Pit Bull Terrier;
* the Japanese tosa;
* the Dogo Argentino;
* the Fila Brasileiro
Let's extend it to anything with teeth and more than two legs.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
7 IS-LET : If something "is let" it is occupied
9 INFO : "skinny" in this case meaning "information" - a 4-letter anagram shouldn't have been too trying
10 GAME-KEEPER - Someone brave is "game" and in soccer a 'keeper is the only one who can have the number one on their back
13 ATILLA - sounds like "A Tiller"
15 GIFT - German for poison is "gift" and you're always told to beware of Greeks bearing gifts. "Gift" in Swedish means married - but I thought that would be too obscure
17 S(TAR)S - "tar" is a sailor. A ship is an "SS" in crosswordese e.g the SS Titanic. The "stars and bars" was the old Confederate flag(standard).
18 ROSE - too easy
19 BERLIN - Irving Berlin - Bing (25) Crosby was dreaming of a "White Christmas"
20 ESS-TEE-MED - Sounds like S and T and then the Swedish for "with" (gave into the temptation to do something Swedish - so sue me)
23 DRUMMER-BOY - Bing (25) with David Bowie pollute every Christmas with this one.
26 T(I)VO - TV is the box, put 1 in to make TIV and then have 0 on to make TIVO - a digital video recorder.
27 E-PROM - a type of computer memory that keeps what is stored after the electricity (current) is switched off
28 NEOCONS - "Neo Conservatives" are the American right-wingers who made xenophobia and intolerance fashionable for a while - anagram of (no cones)
1 SUBORBITAL - anagram of (Rabbit soul)
3 OGAM - an ancient kind of rune writing. It's (No game) with the first and last letters removed.
4 SICK-BAYS - A BAY is a reddy/browny horse
5 BLUE - my attempt at a quadruple definition - probably too easy
6 DONNA - sounds like Donner
8 TREBLES - a treble definition ...
12 SLADE - reference to the start of "(So here it is) Merry Christmas" and an anagram of "leads"
14 TURKEY-TROT - A Trot is a Trotskyite or generally someone who is slightly to the left of what is comfortable for you.
17 SUNBEAM - anagram of "Ban Muse" and refers to the children's hymn "Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam", sent-up by the Vaselines and made famous by Nirvana
21 T(OYBO)X - the state is Texas (abbreviation TX), the rest is an anagram of "Yobo"
22 ELVES - steEL VESt.
24 MARX - start with "Mary" (the original Madonna) and change y to x (change the variable)
25 BI-N-G - Someone who is "Bi" swings both ways, and NG is No Good in crosswordese. Reference to Bing Crosby, who I am accusing of nothing of the sort.
Friday, December 28, 2007
In his family, he reinforces masculine roles by watching professional wrestling with his two sons. He also advises fathers to "hug your sons as much as you can, because if you don't, perhaps another man will".
Aside from the issue about whether there's a "gay gene", it seems obvious that watching professional wrestling will not turn a gay boy straight in much the same way that watching Judy Garland musicals will not turn a straight boy gay.
He seems to have such a stereotyped view of what gay people are. Doesn't he realise that gay people come in all shapes and sizes - some of them are even professional wrestlers and Spanish clergymen.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Armenians have to wait until January 19th for their Christmas, so were probably a bit cranky after watching everyone else on the planet opening their presents.
In the broom fight that followed, four people were injured and the already-shaky reputation of Christianity for tolerance was badly bruised. Please tell me there's footage on YouTube - would love to see the old guys in robes and long beards square off with brooms - like Jedi Knights with light sabres ...
The history behind the three different dates of Christmas is interesting (well, to me anyway).
The pagan celebration of Saturnalia was celebrated on December 25 in Rome, while Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus on January 6. The pope of the day, Sylvester, in order to abolish the pagan feast, moved the celebration of Jesus's birthday from January 6 to December 25, but the Armenian church had no reason to change the date because there was no pagan feast in Armenia on December 25. Since the Armenians maintain the ancient date of Christmas as well as the old (Julian) calendar, 13 days are added to January 6, postponing Armenian Christmas until January 19 on the modern (Gregorian) calendar.
Anyway, that's the reason why three Christian sects can share the same church and have the celebration of the birth of their founder on three separate days.
And the point to this : these three groups have so much in common. If these guys can't share nicely, how are the Israelis and the Palestinians ever going to get together?
Just to rub it in, Islamic extremists killed Benazir Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), whose creed begins "Islam is our faith ...".
Whatever it is that will bring the world together - it certainly isn't going to be religion.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
6 Throwing water on American in the process of taking action (7)
7 Land seen to be occupied (5)
9 Muddle on if skinny (4)
10 Brave one on his back carries a gun (10)
11 Famous once; at least now it sounds as if they at least haven't run out of jelly or coffee (3-5)
13 Dangerous man on horseback sounds like a farmer. (6)
15 Appropriate at this time of year, except the German equivalent is poison and the Greek one is most unwelcome. (4)
17 Sailor in a ship - just add bars to produce the old standard (5)
18 Wine went up (4)
19 25's dreams around this time of year were created by him. (6)
20 Do I hear a letter ? Do I hear the next letter ? With Swedish, this is something that gets respect (8)
23 Little one assocated with 25 at this time of year (7,3)
26 One in box when there's nothing on ? Useful gadget when there's more than one thing on, actually. (4)
27 English-American Party. Memory that lingers, even though no longer current. (5)
28 Right thinking people leave no cones upturned (7)
1 Rabbit soul breaks up. Must fall to earth quite soon. (10)
2 These bells are heard at Advent. Advert ? (6)
3 "No game is endless" - an ancient inscription (4)
4 Unfit horses in medical facilities (8)
5 Rude, cold, depressed and sporty (4)
6 She sounds like one of Santa's reindeer (5)
8 Good darts ! Big drinks ! High voices ! (7)
12 "It's Christmas !" shouts the one who leads. Leads to break-up, one could say. (5)
14 A bird and a communist dance (6,4)
16 Loose diamonds ? (3-4)
17 Jesus' chosen ones ban muse ? (8)
21 Mixed-up hooligan in a state that produces something to keep the nursery tidy ? (6)
22 Santa's helpers in a steel vest. (5)
24 A variable changes and Madonna becomes a radical thinker (4)
25 Sexually adaptable ? No good for a singer with a wholesome image. (4)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
"I don't want to be dead. There are books I want to read and I still hate my kitchen!"
The series finale is totally bereft of laughs, but more than makes up for it in emotional drama and tension. I won't spoil the ending - mostly because I can't be sure whether the worst actually happened.
Either way, it was powerful stuff, landing some good political blows, and hopefully dissuading a lot of unsuitable people from joining MI5. We're told that not only are the hours bad, and the risks high, but the money isn't much good either (even with the Luncheon Vouchers). You can't even fall back on the "serving your country" or "being the good guys". British Intelligence has for real been very much the bad guys (hint: Northern Ireland) and has acted in complete opposition to our interests (hint : bugging and generally spying on private citizens and their elected representatives).
I only "discovered" Spooks this series, and I'm delighted that there are 5 previous series for me to watch. Should keep me amused until Series 7 is made. Assuming enough characters walk or crawl away from the Series 6 finale to make a Series 7 worthwhile.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Writing the letter was very strange. Not just because I can't remember the last time I hand-wrote a letter, but also because it's so First World War. All those amazing letters home from the front from men knee-deep in muck and bullets.
There are army families who I'm sure get blasé about it all. Look at all the wars that British soldiers have fought in over the years. The Stan Clan don't have (to my knowledge) any kind of military background, so we're all pretty spooked about the Sarge putting himself in Harm's Way.
And if you're British, and don't know what Telic and Herrick are - you should be really quite ashamed. Telic is the British Operations in Iraq and Herrick is the equivalent in Afghanistan. You're paying for them : get yourselves informed.
According to the hilarious ARRSEpedia (wiki written by some very switched-on squaddies) :-
"After a brief war, Op TELIC became something like a sunny, dusty version of what Northern Ireland was like in the 70s and 80s with British soldiers watching bemusedly as the locals killed each other for no particularly comprehensible reason.
TELIC is alleged to stand for Tell Everyone Leave Is Cancelled."
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Today's Guardian crossword was an absolute belter. It is always an utter delight to pit my wits against the 86-year old vicar, "Araucaria" whose range of knowledge is staggering and who has such a fine way of presenting a clue - you can tell he loves poetry.
Today's puzzle was built around the Mona Lisa - and the title of this post is one of the solutions. So, you either needed to know the work of the 19th century art critic Walter Pater, or you could solve a 39-letter anagram. Or you could get a bunch of other clues right, take a wild guess and check it on Google.
Anyway, I just thought this was just such an excellent description of the Mona Lisa - made me want to go and take a closer look. So I did - and so should you.
What a truly excellent painting ! It has been a cliche for centuries but it is an incandescent piece of work. Very complex and subtle. As Stanley Kubrick once said
“How could we possibly appreciate the Mona Lisa if Leonardo had written at the bottom of the canvas: 'The lady is smiling because she is hiding a secret from her lover.'"
Update : It looks like Option 3 : "get a bunch of other clues right, take a wild guess and check it on Google" was a very popular option. Over the weekend I've had over 200 hits on this post from puzzled Guardian crossword solvers. Doesn't sound like much, but it's a factor of ten more than my usual readership.
Note to Araucaria : I know this quotation is front-and-centre in your obviously well-thumbed 1936 copy of "The Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892–1935" (editor : W.B Yeats), but it seems it was slightly on the obscure side for most Guardian-readers (myself included). It was a blindingly good clue though.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Now Dolly is someone who has been playing non-stop since she was knee-high to a Chevvy and she's been working with different acts in different genres ever since. Not just Country AND Western. She's been learning and developing although I'm sure she'd sing "Jolene" if you asked nicely.
Compare with Led Zeppelin who came out of their hermetically-sealed bubble of 1976 to become their own tribute act yesterday.
Look, I love their music. "Whole Lotta Love" is in my top list and "Stairway to Heaven" is Perfect in the same way that the Bach Cello Suites are Perfect. Utterly compelling from start to finish. I even had to leave off typing to listen it at this point. Twice. Then I listened to the Bach Suite No.1 - which I love, despite it being my ringtone and associated in my mind with losers wanting me to do work.
My hope is that after this one charity gig, Plant & Page (definitely not forgetting Jones - the most talented in my opinion) go back to doing their separate projects. Led Zeppelin does not exist as a living entity and hasn't done for thirty years. Pretending otherwise may fool some of the people - OK, really quite of a lot of people it seems - but it doesn't fool me.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Stan and I used to sit doing crosswords in the pub in St Albans. I hate to admit it but he's way better than I. During that time (and I may have mentioned it before but can't recollect or be bothered to search through the archives), we kind of rediscovered Dolly Parton. I've blogged about this on my own site, but it really was a seminal moment for me.
I'd never given her much time in my musical listenings even though my father in law was a country music buff who knocked around with Roy Orbison and was an all round complete muso. Sadly he died a couple of months ago and I never got to say goodbye.
Anyway Stan, a bloke called R and I used to sit in The Horn over lunch doing the crosswords. The barmaid in there was a massive Dolly Parton fan (strange she was more goth/rock than any girl I have ever met). But every day, on came on the Dolly at her behest.
One day, Stan turned to us and said something along the lines of "Isn't this weird -- we're in a rock venue, listening to Dolly Parton and doing the crosswords? And none of it seems odd." I went back to the hotel and had a good cogitate on that one. Finally I agreed with that statement. It was truly bizarre.
The barmaid was called Lauren, and her manager Sarah, who I still keep in touch with, was equally as keen on the Dolly. They are personally responsible for God knows how many Dolly Parton CDs -- hell, I know I have spent a fortune on them.
I suppose what I'm trying to get at is that you hear certain names and your brain blanks them because you have no interest. Enter an 18 year old barmaid with some class and bang, you're suddenly hooked. I would never have considered buying a Dolly Parton CD in my life, but thanks to two girls in a remote pub, I'm now an addict.
Thanks Lauren and Sarah -- you opened at least a couple of peoples' eyes.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
OR £10m - spent by Government (i.e UK Taxpayers) on the most recent Diana Death Inquest
EITHER £30bn - (estimated) amount of Tax Payers' money used to bail out Northern Rock
OR £34.1bn - UK defense budget 2007/8 (see http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/8/E/pbr_csr07_pn04.pdf)
EITHER - Upset neanderthal religious half-wits by calling a teddy bear "Muhammad". Lose your job and get deported after doing 15 days in prison.
OR - Call the teddy bear "Rupert". Risk being sued by the copyright holders
Saturday, November 24, 2007
United were toothless. Rooney wasn't available and Ronaldo was rested. If I were Sir Alex, I would rush out and give these two massive new contracts, because today confirmed that these two have been carrying the rest for some time. United today reminded me of the pushovers Arsenal could be in recent years when Thierry Henry wasn't available.
Full credit to Bolton - they don't have the massive resources of United and they're trying to recover from the nosedive caused by losing two managers. But what they do have is a world class striker in Nicolas Anelka, a world class goalie in Jussi Jaaskelainen and the strongest player in the Premiership in El-Hadj Diouf. Sometimes in football, that can be enough, and it was today.
Sir Alex complained about the referee : I don't understand it, the referee seemed to me to be bent on keeping United in the game by awarding fouls whenever a red shirt fell to the ground, which was often.
So, the first victory over Bolton's Superpower neighbour since December 1978 - and I was there.
Apologies to non-football-fan readers - but at least I didn't join in the uninformed mass outburst of flatulence regarding the England soccer team.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
I have in my time had access to billing records, payment details, dates of birth and passwords for a number of large companies. I had innumerable opportunities to download them and walk out the door with them, but I'm fundamentally honest and am anyway clueless about how you'd turn them into money. Set up false identities, I suppose.
The thing is, there were many techies like me with god-like access to all data, and a large number of low-paid call-centre workers with scary-enough access to the data. Heck, even the cleaners at one Utility I worked for could have helped themselves to one of the CDs an ex-colleague of mine had on his desk, helpfully marked "Customer Database Backup".
I believe you should live your life as though every piece of information about you is public-domain. Because frankly, that's probably the case. Your bank details are known to any number of people you pay DDs to - not to mention your bank and their offshore call centres and their offshore IT support. Somewhere along the line, someone who got their job because they were the cheapest available will have access to your details. Might as well put it on a screen in Times Squares.
And then there are fraudsters and good, if incompetent, people who screw up and lose your data in the post.
So how can I be so unworried ?
(1) My bank password is secure
(2) Stanetta's Child Benefit is paid into a tiny account we set up specially for the purpose
(3) If criminals had this information they would already have attempted to fleece a few milliion people. It wouldn't suit their purposes to wait and let the data become obsolete. Where's the evidence this has happened ?
The people I feel sorry for are those that are getting their Child Benefit paid into their Northern Rock bank accounts ...
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I do support the WGA's action though - good writers are my heroes and should be the most overpaid people on the planet. Unfortunately they get less even than mediocre Associate Producers, and I couldn't even begin to guess how you could measure whether an Associate Producer is good, bad, or dying of Ebola.
The upshot of the strike is that American TV is even fuller of Reality shows and repeats than it was before - a situation likely to persist into the new year. Hopefully this will provoke outrage and a new appetite in America for writer-driven TV shows and films.
Speaking of which, I finished watching "Lost 3", which contains some great writing and some some of the laziest writing I'm seen all together. There is one of the best story-arcs ever created, which apparently extends another three series. But there are also too many episodes where it's all about the backstory for a character, and five minutes from the end it's as though the writer has thought "Oh damn, I forgot to move the plot forward" and they throw in a twist from nowhere.
I've also never seen such bad accounts of addictions in my life. Charlie is the second-least convincing drug addict in world literature, only eclipsed by Doctor Jack (in flashforward) who it seems will turn into a mumbling, bearded, denim-jacketed Nirvana-lover. Actually there may have been less convicing drug addicts in early "Starsky and Hutch" episodes, but I'd have to research it.
I'm also not sure about the nnnnnew "flash forward" device in "Lost 3" - with all the flashing back and forward, the writers may become even more forgetful about moving the plot forward, and the viewers will become .... er, lost.
Friday, November 09, 2007
* Today was Remembrance Sunday - it was a strange feeling to be observing two minutes silence at the gym, looking down through on suburbanites in the jacuzzi looking up at the pictures of men and women in uniform on the TV.
* Blogger "Play" is a marvellous way to waste your time. It's a random slideshow of pictures people have posted to their blogs. It's like when you get the wrong pictures back from the developers - it's usually boring hills and slightly drunk girls and teenage boys doing a thumbs-up. Lots of pets too. But every once in a while, you get something seriously strange that makes it all worth while.
* Saturday's Araucaria crossword was a beast - I stared at it long and hard, but to no avail. I'm going to have it to take it on the train down to London and give it a good looking at.
* Went to see "Glengarry Glen Ross" at the Apollo Theatre in London. It is one of my favourite films, but I was pretty disappointed in the stage-play. Reduced to a series of dialogues, it doesn't carry the same emotional charge. Plus, the Apollo is a seriously unpleasant venue. Even in nowhere-near-the-worst seat in a half-empty house, visibility was poor and comfort non-existent. Obviously the theater had been designed by a sadistic architect who had taken a bung from by the Society of Osteopaths.
I followed the theatre visit with my first (and last) Vietnamese meal. Not really a fan of their approach to dividing a chicken into pieces. Seemed to have been cut up using a chainsaw. Bone and skin and meat all in one bite. Mmmmmm (not). Why can't they just do separate legs and breasts ?
* Saturday night was "The Car Man" at the Lowry in Manchester with Mrs Stan. We actually had tickets for Stanetta too, but she was double-booked. Just as well maybe, "The Car Man" has many adult themes - the occassional nudity, bisexuality and attempted homosexual rape might have been a bit much for an 11-year-old. It's a wonderful extended piece of modern dance to Bizet's music from "Carmen", with a number of memorable performances. Although, look out for Michela Meazza who plays the long-limbed femme-fatale, Lana. Utterly stunning.
Anyway, that's enough of my week. I'll write again when I get a chance.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
They believe this so strongly that they picket the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, displaying placards with slogans like "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates fags".
They have been fined $11m by a federal court for this outrageously hurtful behaviour, but the smart money is on this being reversed by the Supreme Court under American First Amendment "freedom of speech" provisions.
One of their websites http://www.godhatesfags.com was not working at the time of typing - I do hope this is because someone's God put a thunderbolt through their web-server. Their main site http://www.godhatesamerica.com/ghfmir/main/index.html is in good health unfortunately.
Please don't click on it - you'll just encourage them.
As an example, they have this counter on the website that shows that :-
Matthew Shepard has been in hell for 3311 days.
Diane Whipple has been in hell for 2474 days.
Matthew Sheppard was the 21 year-old gay student who died in 1998 in Wyoming after being robbed, pistol whipped, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die.
Diane Whipple was an openly lesbian Lacrosse coach who was mauled to death by her neighbour's attack-dogs.
Remember I said before that I loved the American Constitution ? I'm not sure I really can be a fan of anything that would prevent the father of the dead soldier from getting justice from these cretins.
I hate these hurtful, tactless, mental midgets with a will. According to Mrs. Stan, God hates nobody. To me, that's a really impressive feat. He doesn't hate gays, he doesn't hate America, and he doesn't even hate braindead thugs who cause harm in his name.
I've not met up with Stan in forever to philosophise or read the riot act to all the big five crosswords (Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent and Evening Standard). There were days where we hammered them all over a couple of brewskis at lunch.
However sometimes you meet people in your life that you just click with and know that you'll keep in touch. I have a friend called, say, the Waart -- he got his nickname from 6th form when a computer teacher asked one of the larger lads to "forcibly ejaculate this Wart". It stuck. He's now got a PhD in formal methods and is close to being the next professor at his university. I've always stuck by him and him by me. With the exception of my grandmother, he is the only person who ever visited me in my eight years in the States. That's how closely knit we are. I mentioned on my blog that we're kind kind of telepathically connected and have been since being teenagers. Long may it continue.
Stan is another one where we just clicked. He's a bit more cerebral than I am, but I blame that on the fact that I'm sickly ill a ce moment. Okay, I could be just plain dumb, but I'm not about to accept that. When the day comes that I don't finish the Telegraph crossword, then I'll be dumb.
In the meantime, being all airy-fairy, it's nice to know you have good friends knocking around.
And no, before you ask, I'm the pawn.
Ask Stan about opening chess moves ( pawn to K4) -- he approves of conventional openings. I certainly do not.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Fact : people who breathe lungfuls of air have a higher cancer risk than those who take shallow breaths in an oxygen tent.
Fact : Making children, having fun and meeting people all expose you to risk. Better to shut yourself in your plastic bubble and watch Ant 'n' Dec repeats in the dark.
And heaven help (according to these people) those of us with outrageous rock 'n' roll lifestyles who tackle hard-core extreme risk, like eating bacon.
Yes, bacon. The same nagging tone that scolds people for indulging in promiscuous, unprotected, unbiblical sex with bi-sexual drug-addicts is being used to talk us out of eating yummy, crispy pig-bits.
As a self-confessed Guardian-reader and one-time Vegetarian, I ought to be all in favour. But there are two things you need to know about Stan :-
(a) I hate, loathe and detest people telling me how to live my lifeThe question I have is this : "What's next after bacon ?" If we give in and switch to organic tofu rolls, what will they go after next ? Cuddling ? Smiling ?
(b) I blooming love bacon.
Fact : "the highest known risk factor in relation to breast cancer is age, with 80 per cent of cases occurring in women over the age of 50." Don't get old, ladies. It's bad for you ...
Fact : One day I am going to die of something. This will come after a very full life, crammed with joy, risk and discovery.
If I could have a choice, I would like to go as a direct result of exhaustion arising from my beating the living carp out some whining, passive-aggressive, flaccid, milksop control-freak who tried to spoil my joy. Hopefully, this will happen when I am 150 years old. With a freshly-eaten bacon butty (white bread, red sauce) in my tummy.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The results of my MRI scan are in, and while my lower spine is in many ways a picture of loveliness, it seems age has withered it rather.
A spinal disc is a complicated beast that does two jobs: it flexibly connects two vertebrae together and it acts a shock-absorber.
It looks like a doughnut ("mmmm ... doughnut ...") with a jelly-like substance in the middle ("mmmm ... jelly in the middle ...")
With age, one of my low-down discs known as L5-S1 ("the lumbosacral joint" to its friends) has lost water. This dried-out disc has compressed, which has resulted in the jelly squidging out of the doughnut, causing havoc with my sciatic nerve.
You wonder whether there's any way of rubbing some moisturising cream into the disc. This would "reduce the signs of ageing" "because I'm worth it".
It seems it's a Clan Stan design fault because Father Stan is a fellow sufferer.
Feels good to know what the problem is, especially since it definitely isn't one of the really nasty spinal problems it could have been.
Quick : finish with joke :-
There's a rumour that Tampax will be the new sponsors of Bolton Wanderers. It's appropriate, because the club is going through a really bad period.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Just me then.
Last Saturday I went to see "Fragments" , a set of short Beckett theatre pieces which included "Rockaby", a minimalist solo piece for one prematurely-aged woman and a chair.
I had never seen the piece performed before, but I had read and enjoyed it in the "Complete Dramatic Works" and at first I was pretty irritated by the performance.
You see, Beckett was pretty clear in his stage notes as to how the play should be performed. For a start, the vast majority of the dialogue should be played from a recording, with the actress responding in voice only a little. Even the exact shape of the rocking chair was spelled out. It was also specified that this carefully described chair should be rocked by an unseen mechanical means with no assistance from the actress.
These instructions were followed at the performance to the letter, except that no recordings were used and the chair was not a rocker, just a straight-back chair which the actress rocked herself throughout.
Look, the thing about minimalism is that everything unimportant has been taken out by the author, leaving only what they believe is crucial behind. So when Beckett says something, he thought it was important dammit, so don't mess with it. Dammit.
So, with all this screaming going on in my head, the piece was halfway through before I fully appreciated Kathryn Hunter's performance. Damn, she can act. Beckett's dialogue is sparse so the actress needs to fill in with her eyes, her bearing and her tone. Kathryn Hunter gripped the audience - even managing to drown out my inner pedant.
It's all about death and perception and the perception of death and the death of perception, so best try something else if you're looking for levity. But it is one of the best short plays there is, and Peter Brook (the director) should blooming well stop trying to "improve" it.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Hats off to the Criminal Masterminds who decided to try to pass £28 billion in half-million-pound-notes (i.e 75% of the face value of all sterling notes in circulation).
It was a nice touch that the people they tried to con were the Bank of England, who you would expect would know a thing or two about how the notes ought to look.
The Bank of England, in fact, would know that there never was a £500,000 note.
Their £1,000 notes weren't much better, and strangely enough, these are a more serious issue than the big guys, because it's not considered "forgery" if the thing copied never existed. Isn't the law funny ?
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Maybe they had a "Music that makes you feel the World is working out just fine" section - if so, that's where I would have found it.
What a voice ! Her phrasing and all-round musicality is astounding and she backs it up with a soulful voice that sounds vulnerable without being in any way frail. I was stunned to find she was from Leeds - I would have sworn she was from Roberta Flack's American South.
You don't have to rely on my ropy descriptive skills - go to her website which has a taster.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I'm reminded of this when I read of the BBC's latest adventure in downsizing.
THe BBC's lack of ambition is astounding. They have a monopoly position, are funded via a semi-compulsory license fee, have a track-record of producing some of the best TV and Radio of all time, and have one of the world's most-used websites.
Some of their greatest hits have come from small-scale work :-
* "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" was a BBC radio play
* Aardman Animations cut their teeth on creating a character called "Morph" for a children's TV programme
* "Whose Line is it Anyway?" was a BBC radio panel game
And if we just look at comedy - how about "The Mighty Boosh", "Dead Ringers", "The Goons", "Goodness Gracious Me", "Mitchell & Webb" and "The League of Gentlemen", who all started by making successes of radio shows before transferring to more glamorous media.
The plan of concentrating on "fewer, bigger, better" is madness. There is little creativity in big budget items. For every "Life on Mars" there are a hundred safe and boring Classic Costume Dramas. If the BBC raises the entry-level budget for programme-making they are going to become oh-so like ITV1, and that's not a good thing.
I'm all for "cutting fat", but Mark Thompson seems set on excising some of the muscle too.
And another thing : this idea of combining Radio and TV reporting is utter nonsense. Radio journalism is more than just TV journalism without the pictures, just as "Under Milk Wood" (another BBC success) was more than just a play in the dark. It was a "Play for Voices", which is an art-form in itself - just as valid as any other.
A radio journalist needs to paint a picture with words, and the picture is often deeper and clearer than the one that a TV camera would be allowed to capture. I'm not at all associated with the industry, and I can appreciate that. Why can't the Director General of the BBC ??
The management theorist Dale Dauten concisely summarises my message to Mark Thompson
Why are CEO's who slash jobs so proud of themselves? Instead of bragging about "cutting fat," they ought to be getting up before their employees and saying, "We did such a lousy job of planning and hiring that we have more people than work. And we are so broke and so dim-witted that we can't come up with any way to get more work. So our only solution is to send a lot of good people home. I am ashamed and I am sorry."
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Anyhow, there's a seventh Radiohead album now with the online release of "In Rainbows". You go to www.radiohead.com and download it, paying whatever you think it might be worth. Or if you're an obsessive you can pay £40 to get the download plus CD plus vinyl plus collectors' packaging.
I don't need vinyl so I paid £5 for the basic download, which I understand is about par for the course. For that, I got a simple zip archive containing the tracks in mp3 format.
And it's simply marvellous. The last Radiohead track to really affect me was "Karma Police" from 10 years ago. There have been some really interesting tracks since then, but nothing on that kind of level of emotional connection. For example, when I first heard "Karma Police" it was on the car radio. I had to pull the car over and it was ten minutes after it had finished that I was together enough to drive on.
Now, all ten tracks on this album are never less than interesting - all are complex and experimental. But it's "Reckoner" that stands out and gives me monster goosebumps even at the thirtieth time of listening.
There's even a track, "Jigsaw Falling into Place", that's unfashionably danceable - there's even a chorus dammit. It might even work with aerobics, which would spoil this weight-loss routine I've invented called "Radioheadercise" where you shrug along to their music until you're too depressed to eat.
All in all, if you've enjoyed any three tracks from any of Radiohead's albums, you'll love this one to pieces. If you've never heard of them, or hated near everything they've done then this album is unlikely to convert you.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I haven't joined the BNP, but I guess in my mind, I've regarded them as interchangable pieces of office furniture and I've rarely socialised, even though as fellow geeks I'm sure we'd have a lot in common.
Last Friday, I checked out of my Travelodge pod and brought all my luggage into work with me. Half-way through co-operating on a bit of Linux magic with a Indian lady, she noticed my bags and asked if I had family. Out came the pics of Stanetta and Mrs Stan and she showed me pictures of her boy, and she told me that she's been extended to the end of the year and wouldn't see her boy for another 3 months and I'll be damned if both of us weren't on the verge of making a tearful exhibition of ourselves in the open-plan office.
It's rough being away from home - I remember when I worked in Frankfurt I only managed to get home every alternate weekend - but the idea that your career needs you to be that far from your family for that long is crushing. It's no picnic either for those left behind, but that side of the story is for Mrs Stan and Stanetta to tell whenever they get their blogging boots on.
I'm a fan of globalism. I'm a fan of free-trade (it cuts prices and it stops war). And I acknowledge that problems of this generation of Indians is as nothing compared to those of their parents and grandparents. But there's a price being paid here.
The tech company Teradata claim that they have "Operationalized the Enterprise". Anyone can inventionate a word by appendising to a pre-existioned word, but what exactly do they mean ? Apparently it means leveraging strategic intelligence to enable operational excellence. Still not sure entirely what it all means, but well done Teradata anyway.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
It's a wonderful piece of television drama. Funny and moving, full of smart dialogue, addressing important issues and basically gripping you for the full 42 minutes.
The highlight for me was the sub-plot that concerned a group of musicians made homeless in New Orleans by the Hurricane Katrina. They had come to Los Angeles to try to make some money for Christmas, and the musicians on a number of TV shows had phoned in sick so these guys could "sub" for them.
Many people lost a lot in those floods, but among the losses were thousands of musical instruments. I'm not anything like a musician, but I love music and I'm a bread-winner, so I can only begin to understand something of the loss involved in losing your Art and your livelihood.
The musicians in the show weren't actors playing New Orleans musicians - they really were those musicians, led by the profoundly talented Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, who can blow a horn like few I've ever heard.
The piece they did at the end of show is available free here on the NBC website. Enjoy, then drift over to the Tipitinas Foundation website and give them what you think the music is worth.
I was cross that "Studio 60" was only given one series, and now after the best episode to date I'm spitting mad. Here is a series that's just getting into its stride, the characters are gelling and rubbing against each other, the writers have found their voice ... and now it's all over.
Stan says "Grrr !"
Saturday, October 06, 2007
You would think that after a few decades in IT, I'd be pretty hard to impress. The truth is that with every passing year I'm more and more blown-away by all the pretty-amazing-new-stuff (PANS) that keeps coming my way.
PANS 1 - I was able to sit at my desk in London while a world-expert in Boston took over my PC and dialled into a server in Amsterdam with which I was having problems. The technology involved ("Webex") is not new, but it was new to me. In the old days you just had to put the expert on a plane and consign him to a life of airports and hotels.
PANS 2 - Google Apps : A free Word Processing, Spreadsheet and Presentation suite of programs that allow you and a few dozen of your colleagues to share information online. The "sharing" is a bit flaky, but I can see this taking off big-time.
PANS 3 - Knoppix running under VMWare on my Windows laptop. A wonderful way to work with Linux on your laptop without having to give up Microsoft products. There's a sensationally straight-forward guide of how to set it up on http://showmedo.com/videos/video?name=linuxDevijverVMWare2&fromSeriesID=38And that's just from the last month, and truthfully I was too busy doing the day-job to do all that much of my own stuff. And I never mentioned Vista - because I've tried it and ho-hum I'm not over-excited.
. The only thing I'd have added is that if you want to get data back from the Knoppix environment to Windows, you need to use Samba.
That last idea tickles me. I imagine that if my laptop is a brain, then Windows is a dream that it is dreaming. Knoppix in VMware is a dream within that dream - and the idea that within a dream-within-dream you can push stuff into the dream ... Maaaan, my mind, it is blown.
The speed of technology is so fast just now and I count myself fortunate to be alive at this time in history.
And now for the joke ...
Five cannibals get appointed as programmers in an IT company. During their induction course the boss says: "You're all part of our team now. You can earn good money here, and you should go to the company canteen if you need something to eat. So don't .. er .. you know ... eat the other employees".
Four weeks later the boss returns and says: "You're all working very hard, and I'm very satisfied with all of you. One of our cleaners has disappeared however. Do any of you know what happened to her?" The cannibals disavow all knowledge of the missing cleaner.
After the boss has left, the leader of the cannibals says to the others: "Which of you idiots ate the cleaner?" One of the cannibals raises his hand hesitantly, to which the leader of the cannibals says: "You FOOL! For four weeks we've been eating team leaders and project managers and no-one has noticed a thing, and now YOU have to go and eat the cleaner!"
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Heaven knows I'm open to Modern Art, but the I'm-an-artist-not-a-photographer Boo Ritson is surely taking the Mickey.
Asked to choose her favourite shot for the Guardian, her choice is a picture of nine cheeseburgers she covered in glue, painted and got someone else to photograph.
And as an example of suffering for her Art, she cites the fact that she is Vegetarian who loves cheeseburgers.
Is there anything here that Andy Warhol didn't do to death in 1960's ?
Still, anyone who wants a picture of painted, gluey junk-food should contact the Alan Cristea Gallery on www.alancristea.com.
Or maybe you'd prefer Stan's contribution to this oeuvre, "Well-dressed Laptop III"
It represents the growing commercialisation of blogging, and full image rights can be yours for a £10 donation to the charity of your choice.
Other works are available from Stan's "Travelodge Period" :-
* Well-dressed Laptop IV
* Well-dressed Television XI
* Well-dressed Kettle LXIX
etc. etc. etc.
Not to mention my latest work, "Badly-dressed Laptop I", which is basically just a picture of a laptop.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3.
I had a moment of clarity during a fiery Brick Lane curry tonight.
Boris Johnson (who is responsible for the quotation above) is Zaphod Beeblebrox.
Mr. Beeblebrox is a major character in Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker" books. He is a two-headed, exhibitionistic, ego-maniac with an unshakable faith in his own coolness.
He is also President of the Galaxy, which sounds impressive, but the Book makes clear that
The purpose of the president of the galaxy is not to exercise power, it is to distract attention from the people who are really exercising power.
Zaphod, with his gift for shameless self-publicity, is the most successful President ever as the media are constantly chasing him, leaving the people who really run the galaxy to get on with it in peace.
I can see Boris being just such a Major of London. You just know he'll make radical speaking howlers, have sex with people he shouldn't and put forward surreal policies. Anything else that happens in London that's less interesting (but more important) is likely to relegated to the inside pages.
Vote Stan. You know it makes sense.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Strangely enough this isn't something they mention in their advertising materials.
Not only are the dancers built like greyhounds, but if you sit in the cheap seats you'll be surrounded by every teenage dance student in your area, as they have presumably been given tickets in return for whooping and cheering at the end of each Act.
You see, a Contemporary Dance performance, no matter how good, does not fill a 1730 seat theatre in Manchester for four nights running. The place was at best a quarter full, and only half of those were paying customers..
Which was a shame, because it was outstanding. The pick of the pieces was the world premiere of "Infinity" - a dramatic piece with dancers in white on a black stage with red petals falling in piles from the ceilling, with music by the Australian dancer, composer and skateboarder, Luke Smiles.
I had a great time, despite feeling fat and old and nursing a runny nose and a flu-jabbed arm. I just think they should have moved the performance to the 466 seat Quays theatre next door - it would absolutely have rocked the house.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Think about the Daleks' attitude to the Tardis and you wouldn't be far off.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
More to the point, seeing I have the attention span of Dennis Thatcher (in his current state), I'm amazed he's managed to get me into the habit of checking his blog on a daily basis. Surely a sign of greater things to come.
I am, however, a little concerned that the empty/full gauge may fluctuate for a while seeing his beloved Bolton are knee-tremblingly close to losing it completely. They languish second from bottom (on goal difference with Derby) after what I can only call some disappointing football. Over the course of the season, I will be mapping Stan's optimism to Bolton results, and at the end of the season I shall publish a highly technical graph that will examine the effect of world events, Bolton results and Stan's level of optimism. Fret ye not -- Kenny is a layman so will spell the results out in non-mathematical jargon. For example, I will not be performing Fourier analysis, Laplace transforms or 12-point Gaussian quadrature on the data. Well I might, but be assured that I will shield you from the hell that I go through in the name of science.
In the meantime, let us raise our glasses of cloudy fermented apple-juice, bow in the direction of the Horn in St Albans and wish Stan a fruitful bloggy future. And some decent Bolton results.
May this inspire Flitcraft into a similar venture, or at least a guest post or two on here.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
A man runs into a bar.
"Give me ten shots of your best malt whisky. Quick !"
The barmaid sets up the ten glasses.
The man starts drinking them down as fast as she can serve them.
The barmaid asks, "Why are you drinking so fast?"
"You'd drink fast too, if you had what I have."
The barmaid is shocked and whispers, "What is it you have?"
That was for Father Stan, who is my dad and not the name of an extra from "Father Ted".
He thinks I've been a tad dreary on the Blog lately.
Maybe so, but I've been having a ball.
By contrast, I have been sporadically trying and regularly failing to write a comic novel since I was at University. It made me increasingly miserable to the point where I couldn't bear to look at it.
That was until the day I recycled all of the yellowing bits of paper and obliterated my laptop's hard-drive and got on with having fun rather than trying to be funny.
Now I've discovered blogging, and I genuinely enjoy the writing, even though the material is hardly Bob Monkhouse.
So, how is it that I can enjoy writing an Editorial but not a Sketch ?
And can anyone think of a Blog Name for my mum - Mother Stanella ?
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I have a lesser story of temptation in high-places to tell. A friend of mine (let's call him Stan) was working high up in a tower block in a major UK city. He had no access to his client's network and absolutely needed to check his email.
He looked at the large list of wi-fi networks accessible to his laptop and noted that a few of them had the default names for the market-leader suppliers of wireless routers and absolutely no security. He experimented and found that he could access his email through two of them. Free, gratis and for nothing.
Stan knows that this behaviour is actually illegal - the Communications Act 2003 says a "person who (a) dishonestly obtains an electronic communications service, and (b) does so with intent to avoid payment of a charge applicable to the provision of that service, is guilty of an offence".
To protect Stan, I won't reveal whether he did actually cave in to this temptation in the office. Personally, I don't see what harm he would have been doing (if he did). For all he knew, the routers could have been left open on purpose as a charitable gesture so that unconnected people could have internet access. It's an unlikely reason, but I'm struggling to think of any sensible reason for someone in this day and age leaving a wi-fi router open if they didn't want all and sundry connecting.
I had a chat with Stanetta about this over a Starbucks coffee this morning. She agrees that it's a complicated issue but seemed to be saying that taking anything without permission is wrong, even if the something is unwanted "leftovers". She was especially sure of this when I mentioned it was against a law and people had been arrested for it.
Put that way, I find it hard to justify this kind of behaviour, but then I do sometimes let my speed creep over the speed limit, sometimes park where I shouldn't, have been known to download the odd bit of free music and have photocopied books without permission. Does this make me a bad person ?
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Seems like yesterday I was making my first posting - getting irate about the lack of safety foam in Hercules planes. Since then this issue has certainly not gone away and in fact it has been revealed that the Nimrods are similarly afflicted.
Quickly passing over the other issues I chose to care about in September last year, it's remarkable how little has changed :-
* East European Immigration - turns out that instead of an expected 300,000 Bulgarian and Romanians, only 17,360 have arrived in the first half of the year. Far from keeping them out, it looks like we might have to advertise to get them over.
* Radical Muslims - not able to be quite as mouthy, being subject to some sneaky but broadly necessary new laws. Last I heard, the talentless scrote Abu Izzadeen I had a problem with was remanded in custody waiting for a hearing sometime soon, accused of raising money for terrorism.
* Richard Hammond - made a full recovery. Teeth not even stained.
* Gordon Brown finally took over - I'm prepared to accept he's the best of the party leaders just now, but the Thatcher pics really shook me. The chances of my rejoining the Labour Party are laughable. I will instead continue to be an independent leftie bleeding-heart commie fag subversive.
* Tiscali - binned them and am now paying more for a better BT service.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Campus police in the US (where else do they even need Campus police??) seem to be big on Tasering people they think need a good Tasering. Last year an Iranian-American student was tasered at UCLA for the crime of "Failing to Produce ID at the Library while Asian".
Now, the guy in Florida was obviously being a smart-alec jerk - trying to get some publicity and generally indulging in activities designed to make his mum cry. None of these activities are crimes, and all of them are pretty standard for a student. There have been attempts by the authorities to push blame on the man, but the beauty of the 21st Century is that video from as many as five different camera angles is available on You Tube so that you can make your own mind up about where the blame might lie.
From viewing the films, I take the view that he was no danger to anyone - the Cops should have called for back-up if the four or so of them weren't competent to remove him. Then they should have charged him with resisting arrest.
That's assuming he was actually under arrest. As I understand it, the police have to read him his Miranda rights and actually tell him what he's being arrested for. I've seen the footage a few time and I can't hear any evidence of any of this going on. Assuming he were under arrest though, he should have gone with the police when instructed and then availed himself of the criminal justice system where his lawyer would no doubt have invoked his rights under the various Constitutional Amendments.
I've got to this point in the posting and I'm not clear what my point is. All I can say is that it's at least one of the following :-
(1) Me : I'm still in awe of the US Constitution, despite recent events. To blame the Constitution would be like saying that widespread Neighbour's Ass Coveting reflects badly on the Ten Commandments.
(2) Police : don't hurt people that are no danger to anyone where there are more civilised, if longer-winded, alternatives available.
(3) Police (supplemental) : spend more time at the gym - you outnumbered this guy at least four to one and you still couldn't get him out of the hall without zapping him.
(4) Mouthy student : keep asking the hard questions, but live within the law.
And with that, I'm going to get a sandwich.
Monday, September 17, 2007
After all, it was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years and the Americans aren't using it anymore ...
I'm a big fan of the United States Constitution, ratified by the Grand Convention at Philadelphia this day 220 years ago. I know it's a deeply flawed document, but I'm blown away by its sheer audacity.
How great is this :
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Notice the phrase "more perfect". Here are lawmakers admitting that here is something that has flaws, but is an improvement. You don't see that kind of honesty in modern politicians.
Note also the phrase "establish Justice" - how is that for an item on a to-do list ! Here is a government with ambition.
And finally the phrase "we the people". Not "we the government". They are writing a mission-statement for everyone in the entire new, unruly, divided, dynamic country.
The many compromises over slavery are abhorrent and the fact that it has been amended 27 times shows us that it was far from comprehensive. But it was a different world in 1787 - nobody had ever tried to frame a written constitution for a democracy before, and I don't think they had such a bad swing at it.
In fact, as a Brit I'm jealous of it. Any American schoolkid could say where their right to Free Speech is protected (First Amendment), but in Britain you'd have to be a specialist lawyer. The fact is, I don't know to this day whether or not Freedom of Speech is actually protected here.
Not that the Constitution did such a great job protecting the rights of the people at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, but you can't blame the Framers if the current guardians of the Constitution aren't up to the job.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Why ? Because I'm a bit of a geek and I wanted to see whether they were really proposing that we remove the white lines from roads in the hope that when this causes us to drive more carefully, it will save fuel. I think the following suggests they do :-
The overzealous interpretation of road signs regulation has led to a proliferation of signs that are aesthetically unappealing and can actually reduce road safety through distracting visual clutter. The Streetscape and Highways Design Bill, tabled by Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Duncan MP, would require highways authorities to ensure signs do not cause unnecessary visual intrusion, while still providing appropriate information. We believe that this should form the basis of amending legislation. We also propose pilot schemes to see how far rural road safety is improved by the increasing use of road marking and additional signs. Experiments elsewhere have suggested that motorists drive more carefully where there is no white lining and only exiguous signing. Proper science would enable more effective decision making.
The authors obviously have never driven down a road after it is resurfaced and before it is re-lined. People drive like morons and car-crashes are not environmentally-friendly.
The whole of the document is written in the style of the above excerpt - big monolithic paragraphs with gratuitously flowery vocabulary (I had to look up "exiguous", for example).
It also drifts off the point that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and we need to act fast to save it. Instead the authors pontificate on every aspect of policy, even the stuff that should be part of their day job e.g "Making Britain’s food and farming the best in the world"
I recognise the two-step approach noted by Scott Adams in relation to Quality Management :-
(1) Make a Honking Big Binder.
(2) Then treat it like a dead raccoon.
The Tories can point to the HBB (Honking Big Binder) and say that they have a "green" policy. They can then safely avoid doing anything that it says.
Incidentally, another gaffe in my opinion is the idea that VAT should be levied on flights. This is wrong, as companies can reclaim VAT and so no extra revenue will achieved and it won't be much of a disincentive. They should either make it a separate tax, or at least make sure this VAT is never recoverable.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Speaking of balls and the monarchy, The Archbishop of Canterbury has declared that Prince Charles must be defender of THE faith, and not faith in general.
Some questions :-
(1) Just how stupid would Charles look being the defender of religions he doesn't believe in ?
Such as when he's defending Islam, Hari Krishna, Rastafarianism and my Atheism for example. Personally, anything that needs a chinless-wonder to defend it isn't worth protecting.
(2) Just why does the Church of England need to be saved ?
That religion has a majority in both Houses of Parliament, the Judiciary, the Police and the Armed Forces. It is not in any danger.
(3) Which Church of England needs to be saved ?
The new back-to-basics homophobic African-influenced version, or the liberal native English one. And what about the churches of Wales and Scotland ? He would after all be the British king.
I really don't think Henry V would have tolerated posturing like this by his head churchman. He should know his place, which is head of a Protestant sect and not someone who lays down national policy. That's not even the King's job any more.
It's obvious that Rowan Williams is falling over himself to be hard-core because he's scared he's going to lose half his church to the extremists. I wonder what kind of extremist-friendly claptrap is going to come from Lambeth Palace in the coming weeks.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I'd agree, but in my world once I'd convicted her, I'd pack her off to prison.
Are we in a situation like in Russia where old folk long for the return of Stalin, because they forget just how horrid he was ?
Is Maggie undergoing a postmodern retrospective where she is portrayed as something other than a tyrannical fruitcake with a Napoleon complex, from whose damaging reign this country is still failing to recover ?
If that weren't enough it seems New (so-called) Labour is also employing her old advertising guru, Lord Smarmy Up-Himself Saatchi.
New Labour is becoming the Anti-Labour in a way that reminds me of a Woody Allen joke :-
We were married by a reformed rabbi in Long Island.
A very reformed rabbi.
So let's start with what I had for breakfast this morning.
Marmite on wholemeal toast with tea.
I apologise that I don't have pictures of the event to attach here or video to post on youtube. Mrs. Stan and Stanetta are the only witnesses to the event, and they didn't get a great look because they hate the smell and stood well back.
Marmite is an anomaly. From a country with such a bland food heritage comes something that 20% of people like, 80% hate and 0% are neutral.
If you have time, watch this piece on Youtube for an enhaustive description for foreigners of what Marmite is.
For those of you who only have time for the Executive Overview, it is either :-
(a) something that smells like you've been scratching your bottom and looks like something you'd find on the bottom of your shoe.
(b) a tangy salty yeasty spread that's the best thing to happen to sliced bread since sliced bread.
It seems odd that the product actually needs to be advertised, you would have thought that word-of-mouth would have either attracted or put-off everyone in the UK by now. However, advertise the Marmite people do, and they do it rather well. Very funny pieces based around the fact that some people love it, most people hate it.
The latest one of these adverts is to make use of Paddington bear, who will replace his traditional marmalade sandwich for you-guessed-it and cheese. I'm sure the purists will think this sacrilege.
Right, so that's breakfast well and truly blogged. Unfortunately there's no time to blog any of the rest of my day.
Same time tomorrow ?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I travel a lot on business, and I'm responsible for booking (and paying for) my own accomodation. More often than not I also take the budget motel approach. Let's look at the reasons why I would stay at a 4 star hotel instead, which is the approach favoured by the larger consultancies for housing their staff :-
* Pool/gym etc. - I find I rarely get to use these facilities. I'm a slow riser, so morning is out. At night I'm either working late or socialising. Which means I get back too late or too full to partake.
* Room service - expensive and poor quality. If you really want a badly prepared club sandwich, you can usually get one down in the bar or in a near-by restaurant. This does eliminate the joy of eating your dinner in front of the TV in your underwear, but the same effect can be achieved by bringing a poor quality Chinese take-out back to your room.
* Laundry service - does anyone ever use this ? It seems you can double the cost of your stay this way. I guess that's only an issue if you're paying the bill. For the rest of us, if you're too lazy to bring spare clothing, there is some innocent joy to be had in washing your pants in the bath and leaving them to drip-dry overnight, with a final blow-dry with the complimentary hair-dryer in the morning. Hotel-based consultants will never know the exquisite feeling of stepping into freshly hot-aired pants on a cold morning.
* Reception desk - maybe if you were staying in a strange country and needed directions or someone to call you a cab these people would be useful. As it is, you only speak to them on checking in and again on checking-out. At a budget motel you only speak to them on checking-in as there is no checking-out : you just leave.
And then there are the positive reasons for choosing a budget motel
* Cost - the big one : there's no point spending all that time on the road if you aren't going to turn a profit.
* Convenience - easy on-line booking and cancellation. Parking often free and plentiful.
* Fun - a significant percentage of people staying have come to have sex with someone they shouldn't. I love watching people in the bar and trying to guess what their story is. Secretary and boss. Lady Sales Director and Boy Toy. Married, but not to each other. Hours of harmless enjoyment.
I will admit to there being drawbacks :-
* Location - They are often sited hell-and-gone from where you need to be, in the style of Glasgow (?) Prestwick and Frankfurt (ha, blooming ha) Hahn airports. For example, the "St. Albans" Travelinn is an irritating 40 minute drive from the centre of St.Albans in the morning rush.
* Food - the nearby facility will be a chain pub with cardboard almost-food or a Little Chef. These places are unable to cook so much as a burger properly, and you will drink too much generic beer to cover the taste. I usually end up driving to the nearest town and loading up the passenger footwell with takeout curry. This would probably be unacceptable if I were using the company Mondeo on business. It is near impossible to eat anything close to a sensible diet living this way. This is my favoured excuse for my excessive belly anyway.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
It was a surprise therefore that I found myself enjoying the recent France vs. Argentina game.
Mostly it was the power of the Argentine defence - there was one particular passage of play where they held France inches from their line, repulsing wave after wave of increasing desperate French pressure.
And to say the French are big lads is understating the issue. Included in the side that couldn't breach the Argentine line was Sébastien Chabal who plays for my local team the Sale Sharks.
Imagine a cross between Eric Cantona, a Highland Bull and a freight train and you're most of the way there. Hats off to anyone who fancies making it their job to take the ball off him.
So, I'm willing to give televised Rugby a chance. Although I don't imagine I'll be a regular at Edgeley Park watching the Sharks. It is after all a poor substitute for real football.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Why not go all the way and ignore politicians totally and recruit TV personalities when making government appointments ?
For example, the following will assume the key roles in my cabinet should I be swept to power anytime soon :-
Chancellor : Anna Chancellor. I'm not sure if she knows much about Finance, but I'm rubbish at remembering names, so having a Chancellor called Chancellor will help me a lot.
Foreign Secretary : Michael Palin. He's likely to be abroad filming anyway, so it would save money if he could just pop in and do a bit of schmoozing on the way to the airport.
Home Secretary : Kim Woodburn and Aggie MacKenzie. More of a "How Clean is Your Home" Secretary, but I'm sure if anyone can clean up the mess at the Home Office, it's them.
Secretary of State for Scotland, Women and Children : Wee Jimmy Krankie. Unrivalled experience of being Scottish, a woman and a child.
Chief Whip : Indiana Jones. Already knows how to use a whip, so can do the job from Day 1.
Minister of Transport : Jeremy Clarkson. I'd love to see what he'd come up. 140mph minimum speed limits on the M1? Worth it just to see him screech up outside Number 10 in his Ministerial Lamborghini.
Minister of Silly Walks : John Cleese, obviously. The Minster of Silly Walks will be given a wide remit as a "Cabinet Enforcer". And that's a sane idea compared to putting John Prescott in the cabinet.
Friday, September 07, 2007
What can you tell about Stan from this lot ?
Dead Bodies Air
La Femme d'Argent Air
Le Voyage de Penelope Air
Let's Stay Together Al Green
Hand In My Pocket Alanis Morissette
Piano & I Alicia Keys
Back To Black Amy Winehouse
Help Yourself Amy Winehouse
Rehab Amy Winehouse
Stronger Than Me (Intro) Amy Winehouse
You Know I'm No Good Amy Winehouse
I'm Outta Love Anastacia
A Certain Romance Arctic Monkeys
Fluorescent Adolescent Arctic Monkeys
From The Ritz To The Rubble Arctic Monkeys
I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor Arctic Monkeys
You know I'm No Good Arctic Monkeys
Movin' Too Fast (New Version) Artful Dodger
9pm (Till I Come) ATB
Oh My Gosh Basement Jaxx Feat. Vula Malinga
Play Dead Björk
Let's Get It Started Black Eyed Peas
Shut Up Black Eyed Peas
Paranoid Black Sabbath
Heart Of Glass Blondie
One Way Or Another Blondie
Song 2 Blur
This Is A Low Blur
Across 110th Street Bobby Womack
Baby One More Time Britney Spears
Toxic Britney Spears
Chan Chan Buena Vista Social Club
North Country Boy Charlatans
Brimful Of Asha Cornershop
7 Days Craig David
Rewind Craig David
Walking Away Craig David
TAKE FIVE Dave Brubeck
Survivor Destiny's Child
Here With Me Dido
Thank You Dido
Once Upon A Time In The West Dire Straits
Days Go By Dirty Vegas
Forgot About Dre Dr. Dre Feat. Eminem
God Protect Your Soul Ed Harcourt
Mr. Blue Sky Electric Light Orchestra
Turn To Stone Electric Light Orchestra
Real Slim Shady Eminem
Clare Fairground Attraction
Perfect Fairground Attraction
The Moon Is Mine Fairground Attraction
God Is A DJ Faithless
I Want More, Part 2 Faithless
Mass Destruction (P*Nut & Sister Bliss Mix) Faithless
Take The Long Way Home Faithless
We Come Faithless
Why Go? Faithless
40' Franz Ferdinand
Jacqueline Franz Ferdinand
Take Me Out Franz Ferdinand
This Fire Franz Ferdinand
Scooby Snacks Fun Lovin' Criminals
Milk (Wicked Mix- Featuring Tricky) Garbage
Little Green Bag George Baker Selection
Crazy Gnarls Barkley
Lovely Head Goldfrapp
Strict Machine Goldfrapp
Get Myself Arrested Gomez
Whippin' Picadilly Gomez
Clint Eastwood Gorillaz
Clint Eastwood (Ed Case Mix) Gorillaz
Feel Good Inc. Gorillaz
Patio Song Gorky's Zygotic Mynci
Edge Hill Groove Armada
Superstylin' Groove Armada
Hollaback Girl Gwen Stefani
Kinky Afro Happy Mondays
Step On Happy Mondays
Cash Machine Hard-Fi
Daydream In Blue I Monster
Lust For Life Iggy Pop
The Passenger Iggy Pop
Right To Be Wrong Joss Stone
You Had Me Joss Stone
I Predict A Riot Kaiser Chiefs
Na Na Na Na Naa Kaiser Chiefs
Oh My God Kaiser Chiefs
L.S.F (Lost Souls Forever) Kasabian
Black Horse And The Cherry Tree KT Tunstall
Govinda Kula Shaker
Tattva Kula Shaker
Can't Fight The Moonlight Leann Rimes
Phat Planet Leftfield
Hung Up Madonna
Je Ne T'Aime Plus Manu Chao
Sunday Morning Maroon 5
This Love Maroon 5
Angel Massive Attack
Fake The Aroma Massive Attack
Karmacoma Massive Attack
Teardrop Massive Attack
Mad World Michael Andrews Feat. Gary Jules
Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? Moby
Apocalypse Please Muse
Knights Of Cydonia Muse
Muscle Museum - Muse Muse
Sing For Absolution Muse
Supermassive Black Hole Muse
Time Is Running Out Muse
These Words Natasha Bedingfield
Turn Off The Light Nelly Furtado
Blue Monday New Order
How You Remind Me Nickelback
About A Girl Nirvana
Something In The Way Nirvana
The Man Who Sold The World Nirvana
Where Did You Sleep Last Night Nirvana
Don't Speak No Doubt
Excuse Me Mr. No Doubt
Ex-Girlfriend No Doubt
Just A Girl No Doubt
Live Forever Oasis
The Masterplan Oasis
Wild Wood Paul Weller
Eclipse Pink Floyd
Wish You Were Here Pink Floyd
A Place Called Home PJ Harvey
C'mon Billy PJ Harvey
Sour Times Portishead
Theme from "To Kill a Dead Man" Portishead
Wandering Star Portishead
When Doves Cry Prince
Common People Pulp
Bohemian Rhapsody Queen
Losing My Religion R.E.M.
Fake Plastic Trees Radiohead
High And Dry Radiohead
Karma Police Radiohead
No Surprises Radiohead
Paranoid Android Radiohead
Street Spirit Radiohead
Street Spirit (Fade Out) Radiohead
The Bends Radiohead
The National Anthem Radiohead
There There Radiohead
Golden Touch Razorlight
Somewhere Else Razorlight
Up All Night Razorlight
Californication Red Hot Chili Peppers
Easily Red Hot Chili Peppers
Parallel Universe Red Hot Chili Peppers
Road Trippin' Red Hot Chili Peppers
Place Your Hands Reef
Break The Night With Colour Richard Ashcroft
Clubbed To Death (Kurayamino Variation) Rob Dougan
Furious Angels Rob Dougan
Children (Dream Version) Robert Miles
I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair) Sandi Thom
Smooth Santana Feat. Rob Thomas
To The Moon & Back Savage Garden
Laura Scissor Sisters
Secret Smile Semisonic
(Mocho Mambo) Sway Shaft
Twisted Skunk Anansie
Twisted 'Everyday Hurts' [Radio 1 Session] Skunk Anansie
Coz I love You Slade
Walkin' On The Sun Smash Mouth
Run Snow Patrol
Tainted Love (7" Single Version) Soft Cell
It Feels So Good Sonique
Beautiful Crazy Space Raiders
Black Coffee St Germain - Patricia Kaas
Tie Up My Hands Starsailor
Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing Stevie Wonder
Beautiful Ones Suede
Tatu - All The Things She Said t.A.T.u.
Psycho Killer Talking Heads
Blackbird The Beatles
While My Guitar Gently Weeps The Beatles
The Bad Touch The Bloodhound Gang
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've) The Buzzcocks
The Big Jump The Chemical Brothers
Do You Realise? The Flaming Lips
Ready Or Not The Fugees
History Song The Good, The Bad & The Queen
Mornings Eleven The Magic Numbers
Lazy Lover The Supernaturals
Havana Gang Brawl The Zutons
Achilles Heel Toploader
Dancing In The Moonlight Toploader
I Don't Like Mondays Tori Amos
Professional Widow Tori Amos
Hit Me Baby One More Time Travis
Long Distance Turin Brakes
Underdog (Save Me) Turin Brakes
Follow Me Uncle Kracker
Born Slippy (Nuxx) Underworld
Days Like This Van Morrison
Moondance Van Morrison
Fell in Love With a Girl White Stripes
Seven Nation Army White Stripes
Thursday, September 06, 2007
It seems that the paedophile Brian Davey was also a talented music teacher whose books for the Recorder are held in high esteem. His victims though are demanding that the books be removed from schools and from general sale.
I've never been much interested in artists - to me the art is everything and stands in its own right well after the artist is dead and gone. I don't care if the artist is a ginger-haired fascist with a tulip fetish or a miserable librarian from Hull - all that really matters is whether they produce anything of merit.
I'm certainly not going to stop watching "The Thick of It" because of what I know about Chris Langham's off-screen life. The reasons I don't listen to Gary Glitter's records are very little to do with his well-documented peccadilloes.
It seems unfair to me that a successful or famous paedophile be punished more than a dropout nobody. Brian Davey is doing 13 years for his dreadful crimes and I would hope that a less talented man found guilty of the same crimes would have got the same 13 years.
Chris Langham comes up for sentencing next week - should be a good test of whether sentencing is truly even-handed.
Artistic considerations should never influence the judge's sentencing decision, and Art should not be judged by its creator's moral flaws.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
This year's was quite a mixture - well, a mixture of the incandescently talented Amy Winehouse, a disappointing Arctic Monkeys album, the token Classical act (Basquiat Strings), the token Jazz act (also Basquiat Strings - I'll explain later) and the usual Halls-of-Residence/Festival fodder.
Was it really a surprise that the blandest act of all won the day ? Good job McFly broke up or they might have scooped the prize this year ...
The best song from the Klaxon's album "Myths of the Near Future" is "Goldens Skans" which is at best a moderately distracting piece of guitar pop with chord progressions that are pure Coldplay (and how un-credible is that !). There is nothing fresh, new or at all interesting about their sound.
Let's compare with Basquiat Strings, a classical string quartet (two violins, viola and cello) with a jazz rhythm section (double bass and drums). There is more invention in one bar of their music than in whole tracks by Klaxons. Listen here if you don't believe me.
So, I would have chosen Amy Winehouse to win the Mercury Prize, for her all-round brilliance (sorry, gushing again) but since I already have a copy of "Back to Black", I'm off to buy the Basquiat Strings album.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
You couldn't pay me enough to be a soldier. The idea of having to risk my life to implement the flawed strategies of clueless politicians - sod that for a game of soldiers indeed.
I'm braced waiting for the American response - I'm sure we're going to be called some variant on "Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys". But that's unfair - the British have paid a heavy price for standing toe-to-toe with the Americans : is it really a surprise that after four years, significant loss of life and a change of government, we no longer agree on how to proceed.
Monday, September 03, 2007
I know there have been many, many open letters in various publications pleading you to get help for your many addictions, but I feel compelled to write yet one more.
I'm a flabby 40-something with laughable street-credibility and zero insight into substance addiction, so my voice carries little weight with you I'm sure. I am however a huge fan of yours, and I know enough about music to know that a talent like yours comes along once or twice a generation.
I'm not writing for myself. I'm writing for my 11-year old daughter. In five years time I want her to be listening to your fifth or sixth albums, and begging me for a loan of "Back to Black" and "Frank".
The way you are going, however, I fear you will be dead by then or addled to the point of artlessness.
You are soon to celebrate your 24th birthday. I've lived almost twice as long - and one thing I can tell you is that potential is nothing : performance is everything. I've seen talented people crash and burn, and watched only the mediocre succeed.
For the good of everyone, for once I want such massive potential as yours to be realised. I really don't know how good you can get over time - you can definitely be even better than you are today. Your work to date will still get airplay in twenty years I'm sure - the work you can produce in the next five could very well put you on a par with The Beatles, The Stones and Elvis - still relevant and still exciting thirty years on.
Speaking of The Rolling Stones - they've been pretty ordinary since 1973 ("Angie" etc.), and that's drug related. Drugs make you ordinary and an object of pity.
I remember seeing an interview with you just after the Mercury nomination for "Frank" in 2004. I was reminded of interviews with the young Mick Jagger - incandescently intelligent and with enough energy and charisma to light up London.
I do sincerely hope you find someone experienced and smart to talk to. I don't want you going the same way as Mick Jagger. I was 7 when he stopped being any damn good, and I've been cheated of a puberty's worth of great music as a result.
All the best with your battle, and I hope you find happiness without self-destruction.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
This is the same kind of lazy writing where slightly bossy people are compared to Hitler or where space probes are always compared in size to kitchen appliances.
The situation in this country at the end of the 1970s had a post-nuclear feel :-
* Corpses piling up in Liverpool due to gravedigger strikes, with plans for mass burials at sea.
* Fuel for "emergency" use only, and panels of union members defining what that should be in each area.
* Rubbish not collected for months, with big rotting piles of the stuff in Leicester Square (picture).
* Emergency ambulance service suspended, with the army having to provide some kind of service.
* An appetite for striking such that Union leaders had little control over when strikes started, and in many cases could not bring their members back to work once agreement had been reached.
Does anyone really think this sounds like something that could happen in the UK in 2007 ? Sure, we do have problems, but surely not of the spiralling-into-anarchy variety.
The current problems are likely to be easily smoothed over by the application of a modest amount of money.
You read it here first : Winter 2007/8 is not going to have 30 million lost working days due to strikes, and the government will not fall. There will be only a thin layer of fast-food containers on Leicester Square.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Today's Guardian crossword showed me that I could not even pronounce PHTHALEIN, never mind guess at what it might be.
It also pointed me to a little-known poet - James Elroy Flecker who died young in 1915.
Thanks to Project Gutenberg, you don't even need to spend money to enjoy his work - just click here. Or if that's even too strenuous for you, just let your eyes follow down the page a few lines.
As for "PHTHALEIN" - it's pronounced just the way it's spelled ...
TO A POET A THOUSAND YEARS HENCE by James Elroy Flecker
I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.
I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.
But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?
How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Moeonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.
O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.
Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.