29 November 2008
28 November 2008
The hubbub makes you sorry that you are not deaf. I hear the beefcake boys wheezing and panting as they lift their lead weights, and the masseur's hands slapping their shoulders. Then, the ball players arrive and start yelling out the score - that's usually all I can take. But there's also those people who plunge themselves into the water with an almighty splash, and that only gives a mild idea of what goes on. At least these people have normal voices. Apart from them there is the depilator who screeches for customers and never shuts up until he's stripping the hair from someone's armpits and making them yell even louder than he does. Then there's the drinks pedlar, and the sausage salesman, and all the other hucksters, each bawling in his own special way.
- Seneca the Younger (c.4 BC - AD 65), quoted in Philip Matyszak, 'Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day', London, 2007
27 November 2008
The best bit of advice anyone’s ever given me was ‘shut the f—k up’. This was back in about 1990 when I was on a panel at some new music conference in New York. I was f—king off my trolley, spouting off at the mouth about bootlegs or something else I knew nothing about and Barry White leaned into the mic and went (adopts an earth-rumblingly low voice) ‘OK, shut the f—k up!’ I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I’ve just been told to shut the f—k up by Barry White. Class.’
That was quite an eventful conference actually, because Ice-T and Ice Cube were there and it was all kicking off between their respective posses. They were running around with guns and all that, it was f—king wild. Ice Cube was actually supposed to be on our panel but he stormed off and some journalist put his hand up in the audience and said, ‘Excuse me, is Ice Cube coming back?’ Again, I was off me trolley and quick as a shot I said, ‘No mate, he’s f—king melted!’ It went down like a lead balloon…
The interview also mentions his fondness for practical jokes. If you listen to the original 12-inch version of ‘Temptation’ you can hear Bernard Sumner shouting at 0:50 when Hook and Stephen Morris shoved a snowball down his shirt during the recording.
- NME, 29 November 2008
26 November 2008
- Source: Popdose.com
Australia the movie [...] has one huge problem. It stars Nicole Kidman. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. At a stroke, the world's female cinemagoers will say as one: “I'm not going to see it if she's in it.”
Kidman is one of those women who turns other women off. And no, not just because she's pretty and we're jealous. It is because we perceive, and men don't, that she's one of the most overrated actors in the world, a woman who has been the kiss of death in practically every movie she has starred in.
Kidman is exquisitely accomplished at being awful. Did anyone see Cold Mountain? The sweeping American epic (note: another epic) foundered on the rocks of her gormless mirror-gaze. She can't act. Instead, she drifts around films like a lost porcelain doll, looking frozen, brittle and vapid, staring at the camera with her oh-golly-look-how-I'm-looking-interesting blue eyes.
And today's (predominantly male) directors haven't quite woken up to the fact that it just isn't enough for female actors just to wander around like supermodels: they need another skill too. Like emotion.
- The Times, 20 November 2008
25 November 2008
Bohumil Dolezal, a leading commentator who once advised Mr. Klaus, said Mr. Klaus’s greatest talent was his ability to appeal to average Czechs, who imbibed his easy populism along with their beers.
“Czechs have a deep and hysterical past full of injustice, and Klaus is a master at tapping into this,” Mr. Dolezal said, adding that the office of the presidency, despite its limited powers, lends the aura of emperor-king.
“Even if a horse was president of the Czech Republic, it would have a 50 percent approval rating,” he said. “And Klaus is surely much cleverer than a horse.”
- New York Times, 24 November 2008
24 November 2008
He distrusted Churchill, who in return disliked his work even when he was a powerful morale-booster during the Blitz. Perhaps his humane cynicism about high-flown rhetoric stung the war leader: Giles was in the Home Guard and saw domestic destruction close-up, and in drawing his unheroic soldiers followed the tradition of Bruce Bairnsfather in the first war, observing that squaddie humour still worked: “mud, cussing, lorries that won't go, shells that fall too near and boots that pinch too tight...” Who can forget the soldier looking up at an approaching missile and observing: “Oh look, here comes your Easter Egg.” Or the GI bride taken home with a baby, but horrified to find that her Wally lives not in a skyscraper but a hillbilly shack?
In 1944 he was a correspondent at Arnhem; he drew pictures of cells and gallows at Breendonck transit camp, and went into Belsen with the liberators. But here he flatly refused to draw, saying that photographs alone must tell the story that 50 years later was still to “haunt and horrify” him. Yet out of this grew the warmth and gaiety of Giles's postwar work. His Britons - stumpy, impudent, longsuffering, domestic, anti-authoritarian - cluster in the Giles Family, at whose head stands the baleful circular black figure of Grandma, a mouthpiece for every bracingly incorrect view: a fan of Lenin, hanger and flogger, hedonistic gambler and drinker, keen on violence. She smells of embrocation and mothballs yet is beadily on the ball.
She links the postwar tribe with its history: her mother “helped wash up at a Fete attended by Queen Victoria”. On a Christmas album we find her playing poker with an equally grumpy Santa in her nightie, while his presents go undelivered.
I was bewitched by the mysterious yet delightfully droll ramblings of Giles when I was growing up in the 70s and happened upon my grandparents' collections of the omnibus editions. Aside from Grandma Giles, who seemed rather terrifying, I liked his attention to detail in his backgrounds, where waggish short-trousered lads, babies in silly hats, rangy scavenging dogs and wary, one-eye-open cats capered and undermined any lingering pretence of seriousness.
There's an exhibit of Giles' work on at the Cartoon Museum in London until 15 February 2009.
- Source: The Times, 24 November 2008
23 November 2008
Astronauts hope they have a solution for getting a pivotal piece of equipment working so it can convert urine and sweat into drinkable water and allow the international space station to grow to six crew members.You don't find many workplaces in which the employees are queuing up to get to work so they can drink urine and sweat, do you? (Although to be fair the water apparently tastes perfectly normal when the system works properly).
Flight controllers asked station commander Michael Fincke on Sunday to change how a centrifuge is mounted in the $154 million water recycling system. The centrifuge is on mounts and Mission Control asked Fincke to remove them.
"Fantastic! That is something we can do," Fincke told Mission Control.
The astronauts have been working for the past three days to get the system running so that it can generate samples for testing back on Earth, but the urine processor only operates for two hours at a time before shutting down.
- Associated Press, 23 November 2008
21 November 2008
Russell Brand (RB):
… and could I take this opportunity to apologise to British institution and Manuel actor from Fawlty Towers, Andrew Sachs, whose answerphone message I besmirched … or more importantly, Jonathan Ross who I know was problematic when he came on your show Chris … He was … I phoned up Andrew Sachs to apologise for a matter live on radio and Jonathan Ross blurted out an expletive regarding Andrew Sachs’s grand-daughter who I’d in inverted commas recently “met”.
I met her brains out.
Chris Moyles (CM):
What a … wow.
And she’s in the hot tub?
There was a hot tub incident, but remember, that hot tub in a way is like Lourdes – people come there to be cleansed … and play cricket.
- BBC Editorial Standards Committee findings (PDF, 19 pages), November 2008
...his attention was arrested by the facade of one of the Christian sects. They were travelling seated on one of the swift upper ways, the place leapt upon them at a bend and advanced rapidly towards them. It was covered with inscriptions from top to base, in vivid white and blue, save where a coarse and glaring kinematograph transparency presented a realistic New Testament scene[...] Graham had already become familiar with the phonotype writing and these inscriptions arrested him, being to his sense for the most part almost incredible blasphemy. Among the less offensive were 'Salvation on the First Floor and turn to the Right', 'Put your Money on your Maker', 'The Sharpest Conversion in London, Expert Operators! Look Slippy!', What Christ would say to the Sleeper - Join the Up-to-date Saints!', 'Be a Christian - without hindrance to your present Occupation', 'All the Brightest Bishops on the Bench tonight and Prices as Usual', 'Brisk Blessings for Busy Businessmen'.
- H.G. Wells, The Sleeper Awakes, 1899 (revised edition 1910)
'Gosh. Poor old George Bush. He's having a rough time, isn't he? He has the worst presidential approval ratings in US history. Under his stalwart leadership, the country has taken an economic, social and emotional nosedive. His own party attempts to distance themselves from him on a daily basis. And to top it all off, can you believe that nobody wants to buy his memoirs? To add insult to injury, publishers are courting his wife with fervour, each clamouring for the opportunity to bid on her memoirs. It has to burn at least a little, right?
The Otago Daily Times also reported that:
On his birthday in June, Mr Mathias told the Otago Daily Times he had "not yet" been tempted to get married, and when asked yesterday if he had asked any of the nurses to marry him, he replied, sharp as a tack, "Not yet."
- Otago Daily Times, 21 November 2008
20 November 2008
...encouraging Dunedinites and cricket watchers to use the catch-cry, "it's all white here" and dress in white for the occasion. The Dunedin City Council and the Otago Cricket Association say the concept mirrors "black-outs" created during the All Blacks' [rugby] games in the city.
I'm fairly sure that the West Indies team aren't close followers of rugby, but someone will probably point out the connection for them. Here's hoping they're not sensitive souls because when a largely white city welcomes a team of black sportsmen* it could be seen as extremely ignorant and borderline offensive to use the phrase "It's all white here!"
- Source: The Press (Christchurch), 20 November 2008
* Note that the current West Indies team has one white player: 30-year-old all-rounder Brendan Nash, who was born in Western Australia. His dad competed as a swimmer for Jamaica in the 1960s.
19 November 2008
[Courtesy of Largehearted Boy]
18 November 2008
- Spike Milligan, extract of a speech to the Chelsea Arts Club in May 1982, quoted in the Independent, 18 November 2008
17 November 2008
Attempted Assassination of the Queen
God prosper long our noble Queen,
And long may she reign!
Maclean he tried to shoot her,
But it was all in vain.
For God He turned the ball aside
Maclean aimed at her head;
And he felt very angry
Because he didn't shoot her dead.
There's a divinity that hedges a king,
And so it does seem,
And my opinion is, it has hedged
Our most gracious Queen.
Maclean must be a madman,
Which is obvious to be seen,
Or else he wouldn't have tried to shoot
Our most beloved Queen.
Victoria is a good Queen,
Which all her subjects know,
And for that God has protected her
From all her deadly foes.
She is noble and generous,
Her subjects must confess;
There hasn't been her equal
Since the days of good Queen Bess.
Long may she be spared to roam
Among the bonnie Highland floral,
And spend many a happy day
In the palace of Balmoral.
Because she is very kind
To the old women there,
And allows them bread, tea, and sugar,
And each one get a share.
And when they know of her coming,
Their hearts feel overjoy'd,
Because, in general, she finds work
For men that's unemploy'd.
And she also gives the gipsies money
While at Balmoral, I've been told,
And, mind ye, seldom silver,
But very often gold.
I hope God will protect her
By night and by day,
At home and abroad,
When she's far away.
May He be as a hedge around her,
As he's been all along,
And let her live and die in peace
Is the end of my song
I turned to the Little Black Book section, which turned out to be an authoritative A-Z of overprivileged arseholes (most of them still in their early 20s), plus the occasional celeb, rated and compiled by the single biggest group of wankers in the universe. You're supposed to want to sleep with these people, and the text attempts to explain why. It's the ultimate in self-celebratory nothingness, 2,000 times worse than the worst ever article in Heat magazine. It includes five lords, six ladies, four princes, five princesses, two viscounts, three earls, a marquess, and 16 tittering poshos whose names are prefixed with the phrase "The Hon" (which, I've just discovered, means they're the son or daughter of a viscount or baron). Names like Cressida, Archie, Guy, Blaise and Freddie feature heavily. How annoying is it? Put it this way: James Blunt is also on the list, and he's the least objectionable person there.
Each entry takes the form of a chortling mini-biog guaranteed to make you want to punch the person it describes flat in the face. Thus, we learn that "Jakie Warren" is "the heartthrob who lives in the coolest house in Edinburgh and has the initials of all his best friends tattooed on his thigh. You can touch them but he'll make you buy shares in the racing syndicate he co-owns with Ed Sackville ... Good in bed, we hear."
Or consider "The Hon Wenty Beaumont": "The growl, the growl - girls go weak for the growl ... Utterly divine Christie's kid who enjoys nothing more than playing Pass the Pig during weekends at the family estate in Northumberland or in Saint-Tropez."
In other words, the only thing these waddling bags of arseflesh have going for them is unrestricted access to a vast and unwarranted fortune. Strip away the coins and it reads like a list of the most boring people in Britain.
As an additional poke in the ribs, each entry is accompanied by a tiny photograph, so you can squint into the eyes of the cosseted stranger you've suddenly decided to hate. The girls are technically pretty in a uniform, Sloaney kind of way, while the men are more varied, falling into three main categories: dull preening James Blunt types, dull preening indie types, and simpering ruddy-cheeked oafs who look like they're about to pull a pair of underpants over their head and run around snorting like a hog in a bid to impress a blind-drunk debutante.
In summary, it's an entire alternate dimension of shit, a galaxy of streaming-eye fart gas, compressed into a few glossy pages. It will have you alternating between rage, jealousy, bewilderment and distress, before dumping you in a bottomless slough of despond. Buy a copy. No, don't. Stand in a shop flipping through the pages, deliberately fraying each corner as you go. Drink it in. Feel your impotent anger levels peaking. The headrush is good for you. Try it. You'll hate it. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm off for a cry.
- Charlier Brooker, 'Tatler's Little Black Book is the most dispiriting document mankind has produced. Fight for a copy', Guardian, 17 November 2008
13 November 2008
YouTube Contest Challenges Users To Make A 'Good' Video
[Courtesy of Cousin Alex]
Do not make challenges you cannot back up. For example, never say in your "Hamlet 2" review, "I challenge anyone who goes to see the movie not to sing the words to 'Rock Me, Sexy Jesus' for years to come." When Gene Siskel predicted that "Hakuna Matata" from "The Lion King" would become a national catch-phrase, he later gracefully acknowledged he was wrong, after only a little prodding from me. [Note: A reader informs me that Gene was right. I believe the jury is still out on "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus."]Sit down, shut up, and pay attention. No cellphone use. No texting during the movie. No talking out loud. No sucking up the last Coke out of the Kidney-Buster. It is permitted to laugh, or to scream when a movie scares the crap out of you. It's okay to join in the general chuckle after the It's only a cat! moment is over. There was a special amendment forgiving Pauline Kael for saying "Oh! Oh! Oh!" in astonishment. We eagerly awaited her "ohs!" and took care to note when she uttered them. It is acceptable, but rarely, to join in a general audience uproar, as at the first Cannes press screening of "The Brown Bunny." Even then, no cupping your hand under your armpit and producing fart noises.
Local food production does not always produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the 2005 DEFRA study found that British tomato growers emit 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of tomatoes grown compared to 0.6 tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of Spanish tomatoes. The difference is British tomatoes are produced in heated greenhouses. Another study found that cold storage of British apples produced more carbon dioxide than shipping New Zealand apples by sea to London. In addition, U.K. dairy farmers use twice as much energy to produce a metric ton of milk solids than do New Zealand farmers. Other researchers have determined that Kenyan cut rose growers emit 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per 12,000 roses compared to the 35 tons of carbon dioxide emitted by their Dutch competitors. Kenyan roses grow in sunny fields whereas Dutch roses grow in heated greenhouses.
[Courtesy of AL Daily]
12 November 2008
A typical story about him, probably apocryphal, has him attending an official reception in Peru, and, very inebriated, approaching a willowy figure in scarlet for a dance. Brown is repulsed and protests grandly that he is Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; why could he not have a nice dance? The reply comes: for three reasons, Mr Brown. First because you are disgustingly drunk, second because that music is not a dance but our national anthem, and third because I am the cardinal-archbishop of Lima.
- Andrew Marr, A History of Modern Britain, 2008
11 November 2008
1) India had not forgotten Andrew Flintoff's pecs-out rampage round the Wankhede a few months earlier when they completed a stunning two-wicket win chasing 326 in the final of the 2002 NatWest Series at Lord's. Watching from the balcony, Ganguly took his shirt off and yahooed it round his head like a tequila-sozzled mercenary. It was very funny - and very Ganguly.
2) During India's epic 2-1 home win over Steve Waugh's Australians in early 2001, Ganguly developed a habit of making Waugh wait at the toss, thus achieving outside the hours of play what few managed to do inside them: raise the temperature of the Iceman. Waugh pronounced himself "wound up" by Ganguly's "continued petulance" and, after muchconsideration, called him a "prick". Ganguly smiled to himself and got on with the business of winning a series.
3) Ganguly was once batting with Mike Atherton during his stint with Lancashire in 2000 when, in between overs, he regally summoned Athers to his end. Expecting to gain some valuable insight into the quality of the bowling or the nature of the pitch, Atherton was surprised to be handed Ganguly's sweater instead. Ganguly may not have said"dispose of this, my good man," but he probably wasn't far away.
4) Arriving in New Zealand for India's ill-fated visit in 2002-03, Ganguly and his entourage (wife, child, maid) whizzed through customs ahead of the rest of India's tour party and allegedly commandeered the team bus to take them directly to their hotel without waiting for anyone else. Well, he was the captain.
5) After India's left-arm swing bowler Ashish Nehra was given the new ball against Namibia during the 2003 World Cup, he retired with figures of 0.1-0-0-0 courtesy of a twisted ankle. Asked later why he had opened with Nehra, Ganguly was straight to the point. "We wanted to see what Ashish did with the new ball," he said. "We found out that he falls over."
6) India were 1-0 down at home to Australia in 2004-05 when the teams travelled to Nagpur for the third Test. Ganguly asked the groundsman to remove the grass from the wicket, only to be presented with a greentop that prompted the umpire David Shepherd to chuckle "Looks like home, don't it?" With immaculate timing, Ganguly developed a groin problem "at the very last minute", according to his coach John Wright. India lost by 342 runs.
7) In 2006 Ganguly turned out for Northamptonshire. It quickly became apparent that he had left his best form somewhere in the Bay of Bengal, and Jason Brown - Northamptonshire's off-spinning rabbit - was persuaded to strike a bet with team-mates about who would average more. Ganguly's championship scores during his brief stint were 2, 0, 6, 2, 5* and 9: a total of 19 runs at 3.80. Brown (80 runs at 6.66) won his bet.
8) After India had lost in the final of the 2001 Coca-Cola Cup to Sri Lanka in Colombo - their eighth successive one-day final defeat - Ganguly was summoned to see the match referee Cammie Smith, who felt he had verbally abused a Sri Lankan batsman. But rumours of Ganguly's unpopularity must be exaggerated: not one person, including the Sri Lankans, would testify against him. Cordial relations were regarded as more important than stuffing Sourav. The Sri Lankans "played the game," remembers Wright, "and pulled the rug out from beneath Smith's feet."
9) You must have heard the one about the time Ganguly scored a 50 for Lancashire, turned round to salute his adoring team-mates on the balcony and then discovered they were all inside the dressing room doing more important things like cutting their toenails. Here's how Flintoff summed up the dynamic: "It's a struggle with him. He wasn't interested in the other players and it became a situation where it was 10 players and Ganguly. He turned up as if he was royalty - it was like having Prince Charles on your side."
10) Ganguly falls out monumentally with Greg Chappell, Wright's replacement as India coach. One report suggests Chappell's messages to Ganguly out in the middle, urging him to speed up his batting, were routinely ignored. He is dropped from the side in 2006, but - amid widespread outrage - returns soon after. A year later he makes 239 against Pakistan at Bangalore. Post-Chappell, Ganguly averages 46, four more than his career figure. You've got to hand it to him. And you've got to admit: we'll miss him.