Saturday, 29 December 2007

Military recruitment drive

Join Ukraine army now and badly-dressed chicks will leave old pimp guy and run after you tank!

See video now and then you join! Sure!

Friday, 28 December 2007

Lost to posterity

So farewell, then, LiveDigital.

Following the well-deserved sinking of Blogsource, where the original Sour Grapes blog was for a year from April 2006 to April 2007, the whole kit and caboodle was imported into LiveDigital, where it has languished without update since.

In the mail today comes news that LiveDigital is also going down the toilet. Probably just as well. They were only ever a file-hosting site that tried to dip a toe in the blogging water, but they hadn't a hope. I think when Blogsource went down the pan most people wisely fled to the uplands of Blogger and WordPress.

So long and short, that year of Sour Grapes is doomed. David Rochester's Blogsource blog will also be gone, and who knows what else. Oh well, easy come, easy go. The hammer comes down on January 7. It's still open until then (link in sidebar). If you see anything you like, you're free to carry it off.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Overheard in someone's comments

Maarten Van Hemelen said,

December 22, 2007 at 7:07 pm

I never quite got why people are so obsessed with this. If you like to eat chocolate, it probably won’t kill you if you don’t overindulge. Isn’t the most important thing that you get variation into your menu?

tregenza said,

December 23, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Maarten said: “Isn’t the most important thing that you get variation into your menu?”

Definitely - so make sure you eat a good balance of milk, white and dark chocolate.

Bad Science » Epistemological Indulgences

Amazon? You may well ask

Here's a screenshot of the home-page of Ann Coulter's website, taken today:

(click to largify)

But wait, what's that strange ad from over in the sidebar? Let's switch tabs and have a look:

(click to largify)

It's the Nearly Me Gaff, priced at only $29.00. Fine, Grapesy, I hear you say, but what's a Nearly Me Gaff and what does it do? Here's a clearer picture:

(don't for the love of God click to largify)

Here's what has to say about it:

Product Description
For the guy that's just too big! Introducing the Nearly Me Gaff - the perfect solution for men who wish to be "tucked" in and out of sight! Nearly Me gaff provides firm control up front where you need it. Nearly Me gaff with low thong style back for a sleek invisible look.
What can it all mean? What is Amazon trying to insinuate? Here's a FAQ on the whole question of gaffs, which incidentally you probably don't want to take with you when you go fishing with your buddies.

Christmas album

Make your own excellent Christmas album with this selection of free MP3s from the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, who have featured here before. And here, on the old Sour Grapes blog now closed down and moved like the Queen Mary to LiveDigital. And I wondered why I kept it. Now we know.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Do they know it used to be Christmas

Yes, I know there have been quite a few vids lately, that's because I've been playing with Windows Live Writer.

This one is from 1984, and has become iconic. The most striking thing about it now, however, is the way it's become like an Oscars-show In Memoriam reel. These were considered the top music stars of the time, and how many of them can you even name?

Look who's featured: Paul Young, Boy George, Simon Le Bon, Tony Hadley, Paul Weller, that Kemp boy who wasn't in EastEnders, the late Paula Yates, the bloke from ABC whose name I never knew in the first place, someone from Heaven 17, the Bananaramas. All of them either really dead (Paula) or virtually. Marilyn was never anybody even then, but slipped in somehow. There are a couple of black faces, fuck knows who they are, I didn't realise we had black people in pop in Britain in the Eighties.

The only ones still at the top are Sting O Ye Luthe and Bonobo out of U2. George Michael is famous for other things these days, like appearing in the Extras Christmas Special, now available on MyTube. Phil Collins is probably still around, somewhere. Who cares?

Searing indictment

ARCHBISHOP Desmond Tutu has accused the United States and Britain of pursuing policies like those of South Africa's apartheid-era government by detaining terrorism suspects without trial.

At an event to commemorate the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDR) today, the Nobel laureate said the detention of suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a "huge blot on a democracy".

"Whoever imagined that you would hear from the United States and from Britain the same arguments for detention without trial that were used by the apartheid government," Archbishop Tutu said.

Terror detentions 'like apartheid-era' |

Christmas parties from Hell

They all sound perfectly ghastly, to be honest. 

By 7pm a small crowd has gathered in front of a small door under London Bridge station. Some are dressed formally, some less so; most of them stand in little knots of affiliation. At 7.15 we are ushered through the door and into a coat-check area, and then into a pretend lift that rattles for a few seconds and ejects us into a crowded Victorian street that runs impressively along a tunnel under the railroad tracks. There is a dark pub, an old curiosity shop and a lot of Dickens characters. I have unknowingly stepped into a world where one of my deepest phobias - a fear of interacting with actors dressed in period costume - is the main entertainment.

I am immediately approached by a young girl in a dirty bonnet with very crooked stage teeth. As she begins to engage me in cockney conversation, I can feel sweat running into my collar. I know she will not break character, even if I beg her to point out the nearest fire exits. She spots my notepad and tells me to write down her story. "Once upon a time there was a nice girl called Maude," she says, "who wanted a boyfriend but something got in her way. However, she had the biggest heart of all ..." As I write I think, Oh my God, she's coming on to me. What do I do? Eventually I give her the slip, only to be confronted by Miss Havisham, who tells me her whole sad tale. I can't think of anything to say, apart from: "Yes, I know."

Tim Dowling on how the City parties | Lifeandhealth | Life and Health

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Another list

Another list, this time an extract from the full index of photographs by Charles W Cushman, over 14,500 of which he donated to his university. Indices like this read like glimpses into some secret world. They always leave me longing for more.

Here's one of my favourites from among the pictures.

Advertising model, San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts lagoon

Gallows frames (Mining) [maps to headframes (mining)] (3)

Gambrel roofs (1)

Games (2)

Gangsters [maps to criminals] (3)

Gaols [maps to jails] (7)

Gaps [maps to passes (landforms)] (97)

Garage sales [maps to secondhand sales] (2)

Garages (14)

Garages, Commercial [maps to automobile service stations] (12)

Garbage [maps to refuse] (23)

Garden farming [maps to truck farming] (4)

Garden houses [maps to garden structures] (1)

Garden lattices [maps to trellises] (12)

Garden ornaments [maps to yard ornaments] (10)

Garden structures (1)

Garden walks [maps to trails & paths] (139)

Garden walls (19)

Gardening (1)

Gardens (1212)

Gardens, Zoological [maps to zoos] (124)

Gargoyles (4)

Garments [maps to clothing & dress] (748)

Gas [maps to gasoline] (3)

Gas masks (2)

Gas stations [maps to automobile service stations] (12)

Gasoline (3)

Gasoline pumps (1)

Gatehouses (2)

Gatekeepers' houses [maps to gatehouses] (2)

Gates (183)

Gateways [maps to gates] (183)

Gazebos (6)

Gazing into a crystal ball [maps to fortune telling] (2)

Geese (20)

Gems (5)

Gendarmes [maps to police] (19)

General stores (1)

Generals (2)

Gestures (1)

Geysers (6)

Ghettos [maps to ethnic neighborhoods] (22)

Ghost towns (3)

Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection >> Browse >> Subject

The Carlyle Letters Online

Crystal Palace

A list of suggested topics to browse through, as an introduction to the letters of Thomas Carlyle and his wife, Jane Welsh Carlyle. It does seem to cover quite a bit of ground. And there's more besides.

The Carlyle Letters Online

Fairytale Of New York - Later 1996


This solo version by Christy Moore doesn't have the drama of the Pogues' version with Kirsty McColl, but it is at least true to the song's own narrative. The song within the song is sung, if you listen, by an old man in the drunk tank. It's not a duet.

I like the line, "Ye're an ould hoor on junk" rather than "ould slut" because it's more Irish to my ear. There was no fuss in 1996 about the "cheap lousy faggot" line. See here for story, and despair.

Could this be any more wrong?

YouTube - EastEnders Xmas Party 2004 - Fairytale Of New York

Gilbert O'Sullivan - Christmas song

Warning: The combination of words, music and images contained in this video presentation could cause diabetes. This is about as kitsch as it's possible to get. Check out the half-dressed midget Santa chick (WTF?) and the stairway to heaven, clearly a reference to the recent Led Zep reunion, man.

Gilbert, of course, knew exactly how to craft a lyric so it would rot your molars out in situ. But what does he mean about hoping "the peace you seek may then resume"? Does Christmas chez Gilbert involve the breakdown of peace? Well, he is Irish.

A Happy Christmas to all my readers, as Billy Whizz used to say. If you're not a Christmas type, take whatever Happy Holiday you prefer.

YouTube - Gilbert O'Sullivan - Christmas song

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Monkey couple birth hybrid

Helena Bonham Carter has given birth to a daughter.

Helena Bonham Carter gives birth to baby girl - Now Magazine

Posted to the blong wrog, but never mind. Enjoy!

Monday, 17 December 2007

YouTube - Simpsons: Homer Picture A Day

YouTube - Simpsons: Homer Picture A Day

Pizza Hut's "Double Roll" Is Blowing My Mind | yumsugar - Food, Drink, & Entertaining.

Wow. Really that's all you need to say about Pizza Hut's "Double Roll" pizza - hot dog stuffed crust pizza with corn, mini- hamburger patties and a whole lot more. I really don't have much else to say except for that a medium costs ¥2500 ($20.50) and a large will set you back ¥3550 ($29). Oh and like most amazing things, it's only available in Japan.

Pizza Hut's "Double Roll" Is Blowing My Mind | yumsugar - Food, Drink, & Entertaining.

This is a pizza whose crust is stuffed with hot-dogs, and whose toppings include hamburgers. All right, mini-hamburgers, but dozens of them. Who else but an American company could come up with such a thing? How long before it's sold there, and the population is decimated?

Your list of lists

You're probably going to find over this coming holiday season that there are not nearly enough Top 10 lists looking back at 2007, so I thought you'd be happy to find 50 of them featured in Time (link below).

One of the lists is magazine covers, the winner of which is this awesome pic, stolen of course from National Lampoon, but that's no bad thing.

50 Top 10 Lists of 2007 - TIME


This week I have been totally loving Buzzword, a Flash-based online word processor.

Yes, I know, it sounds quite mad. I'm not at all convinced it's of any use whatsoever. I'm not yet sold on the idea of online docs at all, though Google Docs is handy for me as I don't have Excel installed and some people can't make a simple list without turning it into a spreadsheet. I know there's a cognitive hiccup: I know that keeping all my email online with GMail is madder than putting up some Word .docs I'll never look at again.

But Buzzword is so sensuous. It's owned by Adobe, so it has beautiful fonts, but mainly there's a certain sort of unctuous feel about typing in Flash. Something very physical, which is probably (I know, I know) just a hair's-breadth away from the nasty sticky typing experience you sometimes get on slow websites. But that's where sensuality resides, isn't it, on that hair's breadth? Ice-cream is only a millimetre from cold milk on one side and stony ice on the other. Sexual arousal is virtually indistinguishable from cardiac distress.

All right dear, calm down, it's only a word-processor. I must build more real pleasure into my life. Man was never meant to get excited about this sort of thing.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Rock me in the bosom of Windows

I'm writing this post on Windows Live Writer, and I never thought I would say such a thing, but it rocks the casbah for blogging to more than one blog. Yes, that's right, Windows rawks!

I've been using ScribeFire, which is a Firefox add-on which basically does the same thing: it allows you to highlight text you come across on the web and blog it direct to your blog without opening up the site and doing all that Create New Post shizzle.

Where it really performs is if you happen to operate more than one blog at a time, especially if they involve different blog identities. You feed them all into ScribeFire at the set-up, and it remembers who you are, logs in and out for you, posts and so on.

But ScribeFire is a bit limited, has a nasty little itty-bitty composing screen and I can't remember how to get to the settings to fiddle with some of the details, like the way it takes too many line-breaks and then signs itself off.

Then along came Windows Live Writer, which does all of that and more. Unlike ScribeFire it downloads your blog style (for each blog) and presents you with a composing screen that's not only big enough to read, but also resembles the blog you're posting to. It allows the insertion of pix and tables (for those who like that sort of thing), and has all the usual formatting gizmi like blockquotes etc.

But where it really rawks is with its plug-ins, which won't ever I suppose be as multivarious as the Fox's, but which are pretty cool all the same. Here are three that attracted me, though I haven't used them all:

Insert Polaroid: you may have spotted that feature on this blog or over on May Contain Nuts, which has been on fire since I discovered this baby. All your pix are mounted to look like Polaroids, with tilt, captions and evahthang.

Here, look, don't I look like the King of Hearts:

Insert video: never mind copying and pasting the embed code, or wondering where it is for sites that are not the Tube of You. When you're on the page where the video is at, click on Insert Video and WLW will fish out the code for you and slip that baby right in there.

Insert Now Playing on iTunes plug-in: Yeah I know nobody gives a shit, but still.

music note While writing this, I was listening to "The Other Side of Summer" by Elvis Costello

You can find out all about it here, and download it if you want to try it.

Name that tune in one

Can't quite put your finger on that tune that's going through your head? Having trouble sorting your Radetsky March from your Rakoczy March? Maybe what you need is this: the Barnes & Audio Player.

Actually it's fun just to play with. You'll be amazed how many titles you never heard of are tunes you know intimately. Or at least well.

Peace be like totally unto you

Come join the slowest-growing religion in the world - Dudeism. An ancient philosophy that preaches non-preachiness, practices as little as possible, and above all, uh...lost my train of thought there. Anyway, if you'd like to find peace on earth and goodwill, man, we'll help you get started. Right after a little nap. - The Church of the Latter-Day Dude

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Death in Venice

A man of a certain age who falls for a young thing ought to know it can only end in pain, although granted Cholera is going a bit over the score.

Von Eschenbach does not deserve out sympathy, though he does merit some pity.

The book is a cautionary tale for gentlemen on the whole.

It would be most unfortunate to make a fool of oneself at this stage.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A tale of two cities

Some British tourists are complaining that they lost half a day's shopping because their coach driver took them to Lille in Belgium instead of Lille in France thanks to a bum choice on his SatNav.

The shoppers, from Gloucestershire, England, were forced to spend an extra four hours in the bus as the driver corrected his mistake and had only two hours left for shopping by the time they arrived at their destination in France, The Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

Some of the passengers were demanding the return of their $300-per person payments for the bus trip.
I'm wondering what else went wrong. Here's a map of the two Lilles. As you can see, they're about 87 miles or 140 km apart. How does that translate into a four-hour detour? Zoom in a little and you'll see that Lille, Belgium is close to the E313, which then joins the E19 direction Brussels. Run round the Western Ring and then hop onto the E429 and you have motorway almost all the way. Even at a speed of 90 km/h you could be in Lille, France in 90minutes. Driving directions from Google put the distance at 160 km, and driving time at 1h36. Still, a long way from four hours.

So what else happened on that ill-starred trip? I think we should be told, but I don't suppose we'll ever know.

I don't want to alarm anyone

Today my Google Reader started reading itself. As I watched, it ran through all of my subscriptions, removing two or three (or perhaps more) from the unread list, as if it were purging old articles. I've no idea how many were rubbed out. I was too taken aback to count.

So now Google Reader fetches the news for you, and reads it too, then deletes it. Pretty soon the information and Google will have a closed relationship, just the two of them, and the rest of us can go hang. Google will know stuff on our behalf. Maybe they can tie up with CyberTwins and you can send an avatar off to debate the existence of God with someone else's avatar, both of you supported in your arguments by the Web resources Google now knows you would find most useful.

And we can sit around all day like Elohim. Completely useless at last.

Well, goodnight. Sweet dreams.

Good interview with Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi

You wrote a column in the New York Press a few years back referring to journalism as “shoveling coal for Satan.” I believe you also said that journalism as a career was worse than being a worker in a tampon factory. Should any sane young person consider a career in journalism?

If you have no real knowledge or skill set and you’re lazy and full of shit but you want to make a decent wage, then journalism’s not a bad career option. The great thing about it is that you don’t need to know anything. I mean this whole notion of journalism school—I can’t believe people actually go to journalism school. You can learn the entire thing in like three days. My advice is instead of going to journalism school, go to school for something concrete like medicine or some kind of science or something and then use the knowledge you get in that field as a wedge to get yourself into journalism.

What journalism really needs is more people who are reporting who actually know something. Instead of having a bunch of liberal arts grads who’ve read Siddhartha 50 times writing about health care, it would be really nice if some of the people who are writing about health care were doctors. | The Vigilante Journalist

ETA: Here's a clip from the column mentioned at the top of the post, also worth reading:
I've been around journalists my entire life, since I was a little kid, and I haven't met more than five in three-plus decades who wouldn't literally shit from shame before daring to say that their job had anything to do with truth or informing the public. Everyone in the commercial media, and that includes Hitchens, knows what his real job is: feeding the monkey. We are professional space-fillers, frivolously tossing content-pebbles in an ever-widening canyon of demand, cranking out one silly pack-mule after another for toothpaste and sneaker ads to ride on straight into the brains of the stupefied public.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The ineffable Joe Queenan

When I was living in Paris in 1973, I used to visit a cafe on the Boulevard Montparnasse every second Monday and get plastered while doing my laundry next door. There were only four good songs on the jukebox: two by Michel Polnareff, two by Slade. The very fact that Slade had major hits in France without any corresponding success in America demonstrates that there is still hope for the French. Well, there was. Every second Monday, I would visit the café and order a half-dozen beers and listen to Mama Weer All Crazee Now and Cum on Feel the Noize over and over again until the bartender begged me to stop. One day I turned up and the jukebox had been disconnected.

Such was the power of Slade.

It's a crime Slade never slayed America | Music | Guardian Unlimited Music

Friday, 7 December 2007

French phrases

General chit-chat

"Would you stop spitting on me while you're talking!"

"Voulez-vous cesser de me cracher dessus pendant que vous parlez!"
(voo - lay voo se - say de me cra - shay de - su pen - dan que voo parl - ay)

"Reality and you don't get on, do they?"

"Le réalité et toi, vous ne vous entendez pas, n'est-ce pas?"
(le ree - al - ee - tay eh twa voo ne voo zen - ten - day pah nes pah)

"You've got a face that would blow off manhole covers"

"T'as une tête a faire sauter les plaques d'egouts!"
(ta zoon tait a fair saw - teh leh plahk de - goo)

"Are you drunk?"

"Est-ce que vous êtes ivre?"
(es - ke voo zet eevr)

"You have a chive on your tooth."

"Vous avez de la ciboulette sur votre dent"
(voo za - vay de la see - boo - let ser votr den)

"You're a complete moron"

"Tu es completement debile"
(tu eh com - plet - e - men de - beel)

"You get on my nerves

"Tu me peles le jonc"
(tu me pel - e le zhonc)

"As a child, was your cradle rocked too close to the wall?"

"On t'a bercé trop près du mur?"
(on ta ber - say troa pray du mer)

"Idiot", "Fool", "Cretin", "Imbecile"

"Idiot", "Fou", "Cretin", "Imbecile"
(ee - dee - o, foo, cre - tin, Im - be - seel)

French phrases (via Towse)

Worldly wisdom

Things a Man Needs to Know:

When the headline reads, "Man charged with putting nude photos of teens on Internet" there is virtually no chance of the story containing any such photos, no matter how hard you click. So you might as well just not bother.

Who the hell needs screenwriters?

Woody Allen does nothing. I guarantee you'll laugh.

ETA: I should perhaps point out that this is one of a series of clips in support of the WGA strike, which you can search for on Tyoube as "speechless" or just click on the related items you'll get when you watch this one.

So my headline was ironificational. No offence, writer dudes.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The case against k.d.

In shocking news tonight, we can reveal that k.d. lang, in her version of the Joni Mitchell song A Case of You on the album Hymns of the 49th Parallel, sings "I rememember the time you told me" instead of "I remember the time" etc. [Emphasis added]

Grapes 2.0 is sure of its case, which is based on detailed analysis of the piece of music in question. At first it was no more than a vague notion, but after running the recording through my WavePad software, stripping out as much of the background noise as possible and slowing the extract down slightly, we produced this damning evidence.

We now dare to stand up and bring this serious allegation to the public. The time for cover-ups, Ms Lang, is long over. It's time your fans were given the explanation they deserve, and we here at Grapes 2.0 call upon you to use these columns pages to do just that -- before it is too late.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

The Wire avant la lettre

Three short prequel videos from The Wire on Amazon. They're selling the fourth season, which I haven't seen yet. Time to wake up the public library people to buy that motherfucker.

Paper cuts

This is stuff you look at and think, how is this even possible? Not just, How do they do it, but What is the trick, why can I not see the trick they're playing?

At the same time, the very idea of manipulating material at that almost subliminal level -- look and see how tiny strips of paper have to be turned to 3D shapes -- fills me with the sort of quantum dread I wrote about, inadequately, in this post. In some way, the idea of descending to that level of detail provokes in me the sensation of tumbling into the abyss. I think it's why I was never a very accomplished drug-taker. I don't think my consciousness takes kindly to being heightened.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Strike turns to tragedy

The Aphorist is in

Hey check out this new blog I discovered it's really great you should go there and read it and stuff. I know this guy who thought he could do that too and he asked them and they let him just like that that's right you could too. Just drop me them a banknote message at this address and I'll they'll give it some considerification and stuff.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Wilders than wild

European Journalism Centre - Media News
A rightwing Dutch MP said Wednesday that he was making a film to highlight what he calls ‘fascist’ passages in the Qur'an, in his latest high-profile criticism of Islam. The interior and justice ministers expressed concern but said they had no authority to stop Geert Wilders screening his film.
The ludicrous Wilders has had a Theo Van Gogh complex ever since the film-maker provocateur was murdered in the street in Amsterdam in November 2004. I firmly believe he thinks Van Gogh stole his anti-Islamic thunder with his film Submission (with Ayaan Hirsi Ali) and then made matters worse by getting himself all that media attention with his murder.

Maybe someone thinks I'm being harsh. If so, just take a look at Wilders' photo and then tell me he's not a nutter.

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Let's hear it for the fat lady

Show's over, folks. The Messiah has left the building.

Sold-out concert, comfortable profit, excellent reception incl. SO and encore -- Hallelujah Chorus -- that saw them stay on their feet. Yours truly came away with major kudos for bringing so many peeps in. My fellow singers did a great job, and I can now officially relax until January 3, when the new season begins for real.

And I sang the whole thing without a score, from memory. I don't (much) like to boast, but I was totally rawkin tonight.

Here's what's up next:

Friday, 30 November 2007

Walk or don't walk

Take the world champion race-walker, and set five criminal Samurai after him. Is he going to race-walk away, or will he break into a run. Find out.

Totally inspired idea. I loved it.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

And another thing ...

Google Immortal will carry on your internet activities after you're dead, on the basis of all the information on your they've sucked up saved while you were alive.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Short shameful confession

I'm a pretty nice guy trapped in the body of a complete bastard.

Armstrong and Miller

Vitriol, 100° proof

The absurd world of Martin Amis | Comment | The Observer
Now Amis should be allowed to wonder aloud about anything. He can suggest Muslims should 'experience painful discrimination until they get tough with their children' if he likes. Thought experiments are fine. But if he bundles his thoughts on Islam together and iterates them one after the other as he did when I saw him, he displays not unguarded musing but the forging of an incoherent creed of hate. It goes roughly like this: 9/11 was horrific, its driving ideology was totalitarian, the totalitarians were Muslims, all Muslims follow a book they believe to be the immutable word of God, I don't believe that, therefore all Muslims are idiots, and basically bastards. Idiot bastards moping around the Middle East in a paranoid funk just cos they lost their empire, and what a rubbish empire it was, too, by the way. Now, what is your balanced view of these primitive wife-beating idiotic bastards?

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Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Heist of the century

Undercover restorers fix Paris landmark's clock | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
The hardest part of the scheme was carrying up the planks used to make chairs and tables to furnish the Untergunther's cosy squat cum workshop, which has sweeping views over Paris.

The group managed to connect the hideaway to the electricity grid and install a computer connected to the net.
A group of hip guerrillas sneaked into the Paris Panthéon, built a workshop, and fixed the antique clock. Nobody noticed until the group announced their action. "When we had finished the repairs, we had a big debate on whether we should let the Panthéon's officials know or not," said Lazar Klausmann, a spokesperson for the Untergunther. "We decided to tell them in the end so that they would know to wind the clock up so it would still work."

Great story. Who wants to bet they end up facing a jail sentence?

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Adams sees the light

The Dilbert Blog: Going Forward
Lastly, the blog has been a source of tremendous artistic satisfaction. I enjoyed being relatively uncensored, and interacting with the readers on fun topics. That’s why I will continue blogging, albeit less controversially. I’ll just do it less often, especially over the holidays. It’s hard to tell the family I can’t spend time with them because I need to create free content on the Internet that will lower our income.

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Monday, 26 November 2007

Writing is ...

Here's a great quote from my pal Jules Siegel, on his newsroom-l list:

Cooking is so much more fun than writing, which is like doing endless dishes without even the satisfaction of seeing them all nice and clean and shiny.

Couldn't have put it better.


I liked this pic so much at Eden's place that I stole it.

New old Sour Grapes

Ten new old columns up. None of them are dated, because I'm going to have to make a special trip into the archives for that. But never mind, it's either still funny, or it never was.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Essay on coffee

Bean and gone | Extracts | Guardian Unlimited Books
What hashish was to Baudelaire, opium to Coleridge, cocaine to Robert Louis Stevenson, nitrous oxide to Robert Southey, mescaline to Aldous Huxley, and Benzedrine to Jack Kerouac, caffeine was to Balzac. The habit started early. Like a preppie with an expensive connection, he ran up alarming debts with a concierge who, for a price, was willing to sneak contraband coffee beans into Balzac's boarding school. As an adult, grinding out novels 18 hours a day while listening for the rap of creditors at the door, Balzac observed the addict's classic regimen, boosting his doses as his tolerance mounted. First he drank one cup a day, then a few cups, then many cups, then 40 cups. Finally, by using less and less water, he increased the concentration of each fix until he was eating dry coffee grounds: "a horrible, rather brutal method," he wrote, "that I recommend only to men of excessive vigor, men with thick black hair and skin covered with liver spots, men with big square hands and legs shaped like bowling pins."

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Even hoboes have off-days

Something I'm sure we can all relate to:

Laugh-Out-Loud Cats #550
Originally uploaded by Ape Lad.

Under the weather

Bilious Flux
A discharge of bile, either by vomiting or by stool, or by both, as in cholera. [Dunglison1868]

Bloody Flux
Dysentery involving a discharge of blood. [Hooper1822]

Chronic Flux
Chronic Dysentery

Coeliac Flux
A species of diarrhea, in which the food is discharged by the bowels in an undigested condition; Lientery. [Dunglison1868]

Hepatic Flux
Bilious Flux. The name given in the East to a variety of dysentery, in which there is a frequent flow of bilious fluid from the bowels. [Thomas1875]

Putrid Flux
Dysentery. If ulcers form, the evacuations assume a dirty-gray or grayish-red color, and a putrid odor, on account of sloughed mucous membrane, and large quantities of pus discharged from the ulcers becoming mixed with them. In epidemic flux, when pus and pieces of sloughed mucous membrane are ejected, the stools become intensely pungent and putrid, resembling sulphuretted hydrogen. [Vogel1885]

A selection of archaic illnesses and causes of death, from this excellent site.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

My very own Classical Star experience

A few days ago, I had the privilege of attending a concert by the celebrated concert pianistical virtuoso Lang Lang, a young 25-year-old Chinese genius who's taking the world by storm. It's said that he'll carry the torch for the opening of the Beijing Olympics in Beijing, though it's not entirely clear if he'll be expected to play the piano at the time.

Before the concert, I had the privilege of spending a few hours in Lang Lang's company, and when he was later quoted as saying,

"It's important for me to work with singers," he says. "The problem with the piano is that it's easy to forget that you have to breathe in and out. Your hands don't need to breathe. When you play with singers, they show you how to create the phrase."
It's abundantly clear to whom he was referring to, which is none other than moi truly.

Anyway, not to blow my own accordion, here are my impressions of the time I spent with the great phenomenon Lang Lang:

09.30: I arrive at the airport on the plane that brings me. Why can I never find a trolley for my bag? Everyone else seems to have one. Do they only have so many? Like: all the people in the plane minus one?

09.45: My bag just appeared, but a lady stepped in front of me at a crucial moment, and now I'm going to have to wait till it comes round again, assuming it doesn't do so via Mogadishu first! My little airport joke. Frequent fliers will require no explanation.

10.35: Arrive at my hotel to find a note from Lang Lang's publicist asking me to "touch base". What is that name, Lydia? Lynda? Lysander? What happened to the teaching of penmanship in schools?

10.40: My minibar is well-stocked, but there is no bottle-opener. I'm therefore forced to assuage my thirst with something from a screw-top bottle. I can't even see what it is, because I lost a lens in the taxi and my glasses are at the bottom of my carry-on.

12.15: Room service shows up with bottler open.

16.15: Showered and rested after my voyage, I descend to the bar to meet Lester, the publicist. No rush, it turns out.

17.00: Lang Lang apparently busy with some last-minute briefing with the music chief man, you know with the tailcoat, at the front.

18.00: Lang Lang, what kind of name is that? Did I not see him on a bottle of shampoo once?

18.30: Lester arrives and we jump in a Toyota van and rush to the theatre at 17 mph, which is what qualifies as "rushing" these days. If Steve McQueen were alive today for the remake of Bulliitt he could do the whole chase scene on his walker, including the oxygen bottles he'd need because obviously he had lung cancer.

20.15: We get to the theatre, and Lester disappears to get someone to bring me to my seat. When he fails to appear, and I try to make my own way in, a lady with lacquered hair that looks like a construction by Gustav Eiffel bars my passage.

21.20: The intermission, and Lester returns and advises me to have a drink in the crush bar while waiting for someone to take me backstage. I opt for champers, but can't seem to find fourteen quid for one glass -- a price that has substantially increased since I last had to pay for one.

21.30: I finally find a seat, and enjoy the second half of the concert, which consists of a Haydn symphony and does not involve Lang Lang.

22.15: I track down Lester only to discover Lang Lang is by this time halfway to Dusseldorf. He has left me a signed copy of his latest CD, though, which is very kind.

23.45: Back in my hotel, I put the signed CD immediately on eBay, in the hope that I can raise at least the amount of money it costs for my five minutes of hotel Internet access. Fat chance, these days. Bloody downloaders!

More news from the cutting edge of the classical scene coming soon!

Breaking News from 1959

Violin losing out to guitar in music lessons | News | Guardian Unlimited Music
"There is a shift away from the more classical music oriented instruments and towards the guitar, kit drum, those instruments in more popular music," Hallam said. "If you look at the music that children are exposed to, most of the time it tends to be pop groups - and of course that is what they want to emulate."

Sorry, is there something new going on here? The kids are giving up Beethoven in favour of this "pop" music the papers are so full of?

Can this really be true?

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New Power Generation, same as the Old Power Generation

Church of the Customer Blog
Who knows if all of this is an evil-genius plan to manufacture controversy or simply a sign of a middle-aged man turning fuddy-duddy. No matter the outcome, it seems that Prince has become what he once despised.

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Excellent article on Aretha

Put a sock in it | Music | Guardian Unlimited Music
According to industry lore, Franklin had a cold the day she committed Respect to vinyl; not only did this not prevent her from recording the song that would make her famous, it didn't prevent her from recording three other singles, too. No one does this sort of thing today; even crude records made by people who cannot sing take months to complete (in large part because records made by people who cannot sing need lots of help from the engineers). Franklin's tour de force also demonstrates that technology does not advance at the same pace as genius; the recording equipment might keep getting better, but there is no one in pop music today who can sing like the young Aretha Franklin. The closest is the old Aretha Franklin.

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Friday, 23 November 2007


In our new weekly feature Lex, we'll be taking a look at notable court-cases of the past, and viewing them in the light of current thinking on matters of doctrine, evidence-gathering, forensic science and so on.

Today, we look back at the murder trial of OJ Simpson:

So, that OJ. Was he guilty or are you TOTALLY FUCKING BLIND!!??!!

Feel free to join the debate in comments! More Lex jurisprudential stuff coming soon!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Thanks giving and giving and giving

Since it's Thanksgiving for Americans, I thought I'd share with you the question of Thanks as featured in Handel's Messiah, which I don't know if I've mentioned it, the Brussels Choral Society feat. moi truly will be performing on 1 December yadda yadda, see the site.

Here's what the Bible says:

But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15 : 57)

Here's what Handel makes us sing (us being the basses, I dunno about other lower and lowlier voice parts):
But thanks, but thanks, thanks, thanks be to God
Thanks be to God. Thanks be to God.
Who giveth us the victory, the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
But thanks, but thanks, but thanks be to God, thanks be to God,
But thanks, but thanks, thanks be to God.
Who giveth us the victory, the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But thanks be to God, but thanks, but thanks, thanks be to God.
Who giveth us the victory, the victory, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But thanks, thanks, thanks be to God, thanks be to God.
Who giveth us the victory, who giveth us the victory,

Who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So. What d'you reckon? Enough with the thanks already or wot?

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

My real-life life

Today I saw a guy hanging around outside a shop, literally kicking his heels.

More exciting episodes from my real-life life, coming soon!

Man mucking about with his organ makes a mess

As the Brussels Choral Society heads towards its big December performances of Handel's Messiah, I was delighted to receive this clip of the rousing climax to the Hallelujah Chorus.

That's the thing about organs: all the notes are in there, it's just a question of getting them out at the right moment.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Thankful for small mercies

Happy Thanksgiving Americans!

And here are some things your turkey could be made out of, if it wasn't made out of turkey.

Bon appétit!

PS: Not disgusted yet? Try our 2006 entries (not entrées, my little joke!) or 2005!

Money quote: "A knowing nod to Serrano's Piss Christ, her turkey, suspended in apple juice, acknowledges its debt to America's culture wars while fearlessly breaking new ground."

Mmm ... Piss Christ ...


Monday, 19 November 2007

Because I am involved in Mankind

"The Two-Front Battle Over Torture" by Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)
Understandably, of course, Donne did not get the appointment at Whitehall. I don’t think he really wanted it. He wanted to send a message against torture. The sermon he preached electrified the nation and did much to help sharpen attitudes against torture, especially within the religious community. And only three years later, in a gathering at the Inns of Court in London, the assembled bar and judges of England declared “upon their honour and the honour of England,” that torture was against the common law. That marked the beginning of the sunset of legally sanctioned torture in the English-speaking world. . . until the arrival of George W. Bush.

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Sunday, 18 November 2007

One for Jefe

InfiniCarb Undefined Hoverbeans
Low-Fat Puffy Kandy
Hypercaffeinated Plurality Munchoids
Recycled Crispy Poppoids
Para-Spacial Crispy MechaBiscuits

All cereal names generated by the Futuristic Cereal Name Generator. And each more scrummy-sounding than the last, if I may say so. Come on, who wouldn't want to start the day with some Fully-Networked Kinetic Celestios?

Subversive cross-stitch

More designs here.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

A grand of the grandest

Music 1000 albums | Music | Guardian Unlimited Music
Welcome to our special project in which the Guardian's music team - after much debate, some of it bitter - suggest albums that you should listen to before you shuffle off your mortal coil. What it's not is the best 1000 albums of all time. Instead, it's a cross-genre, cross-era look at some great music. Read about how we compiled it here.

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As suspected

cash advance

Get a Cash Advance

Friday, 16 November 2007

Un tas de complete vieux bollox

Digested read: Sepulchre, by Kate Mosse | The digested read | Guardian Unlimited Books
"Hello," said a voice. "I'm nice-but-dull Hal, your love interest. My father was killed in a mysterious car crash and my evil uncle Julian, who now owns La Domaine de la Cade, is behaving very oddly. Shall we investigate this together?"

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From the University of Duh

Should Hillary Pretend to Be a Flight Attendant? - New York Times
“We found that men did put significantly more weight on their assessment of a partner’s beauty, when choosing, than women did. We also found that women got more dates when they won high marks for looks.”

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Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Why can't I be a lion person?

These people are pretty wacko. But WTF? Where's the harm?

I think there should be a constitutional amendment to allow them to marry. At least.

Imagine if they could adopt children. The lines at the orphanage!@11ONE1!

Consumer Corner

I think it would be a good idea if legislators, working perhaps under the aegis of the World Trade Organisation, could require the manufacturers of foodstuffs, whenever there is a warning regarding the presence of nuttal objects or vestiges, to place the following text, including webbular linkage:

May Contain Nuts

I mean, if it saves one child, it has to be worth it. No?

Cumputery stuff

If there were some way of removing attachments from emails in GMail, and yet keeping the message they were attached to, we wouldn't need to be racheting up towards 5Gb. As it is now, if one PDF comes in, and you send it out to someone else, you count for two PDFs. You don't need to get many photos etc before your score is way up there, even though you already have the thing saved once, and that's enough.

Secondly, and B: if you were pissed off that YouTube installed a countdown counter on its new interface, which makes a nonsense of all those comments which are like, "Check out the chick's face at 1:35!", I have a simple remedy:

Click on the timer. That makes it toggle between time elapsed and time to go. Once clicked it seems to stay that way for me, but YMMV.

More info form the cutting edge of interwebby areas coming soon! To an electric computational device near you!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


I can't keep up with blogging, I can't keep up with all my blogs in Google Reader, my desk is disappearing under papers, I'm being left behind by my children's homework, I'm snowed under with demands from my hobby publicising my choir, I'm behind schedule on the assignment for my book group for next Monday

and I got some new work. Well, at least I managed to put that to bed on time and in a satisfactory state.

Let that be a lesson to those in pursuit of my time and energy: give me dosh and I'll do anything.

Separated at birth?

Sour Grapes, article for publication, Sunday:

As you may know if you watch the news carefully, the comedy writers’ union is on strike, which believe it or not I’m a member of, for the simple reason that it allows me to tell even greater fatter lies than the reporters working for the news pages. For that reason, this week’s column, on orders from the National Executive Committee, will contain nothing which is either funny or original. So no change there.
Big-shot writer gal Barbara Ehrenreich, Monday:
In solidarity with the striking screenwriters there will be no laugh lines in this blog, no stunning metaphors, and not many adjectives. Also, in solidarity with the striking Broadway stage-hands, no theatrics, special effects or sing-along refrains.

Monday, 12 November 2007

This thing we don't got no more

Satriale's sleeps with the fishes.

Guitar heroes

This made me shed tears. The explanation is here, together with more clips from StSander, all worth seeing. Brilliant execution.

Free rice

premorse means:
broken off

Know the answer? Then get to FreeRice, and they'll donate 10 g of rice to a Third World project for every answer you get right. Some tough words. Unfortunately the list is not all that long, and cycles round again pretty quickly. Well, I say quickly. I must have spent hours on it yesterday.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Bonking Boris had a book, the Graun thought, hey, let's have a look

Barmy Boris has got another new book out, this time a lengthy nonsense-verse epic on child-rearing called The Perils of the Pushy Parents. There's a razor-sharp review of it here. But the reviewer misses out one of Boris's many faults, and an important one in the circumstances. Boris, one of the main things you really ought to keep in mind in child-rearing is this: Best not to go about serially shagging ladies who are not Mummy. And then getting it all over the papers. And the telly.

Pet hate

People who misuse "ad hominem" to mean "you just demolished my stupid fucking brain-dead argument without mercy, and along the way cast aspersions on my intelligence which frankly I fully deserve".

An ad hominem argument is when I say, "Well that's the kind of thing I'd expect a Lutheran like you to say", thereby implying that the fault in the argument derives from the fault in the person advancing it. If I say, "You're wrong because the Earth in fact orbits the Sun, you pointy-headed Latin-spouting prancing dimwit" that's not an ad hominem argument, it's a killer point followed by an insult. Ad hominem is not the Latin for "you hurt my feelings".

Short shameful confession

I screwed up. All I had to do was post one blog-post a day in November. That was all.

I missed it on Friday, doing other things then going out in the evening until very late indeed.

So that's that fucked. No coming back. I missed yesterday as well just to hammer the nail home.

Oh well it was a stupid rule anyway. Sigh.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Writing for kids

Got teenagers? Here's a writing blog aimed at those crazy youngsters the kids are making so much of these days. Full of all sorts of useful tips like erm how to get published. They also feature writing submitted by teenagers themselves, which as you can imagine is hilarious. Well, I'm sorry, but it is. I won't quote any, because that would be cruel. It's a terrible temptation, though.

Personal flight solutions

All right, it's not exactly the jet-pack we've all dreamed of, but this is a totally awesome flying machine all the same. It's a Hiller Flying Platform, developed in the US from about the 40s on, but never actually put into production. You can imagine how they might think we'd have developed something pretty sleek and shiny by now, if that was the stage they were already at. But we haven't. Instead we have an Internet, but what sort of consolation is that?

"We don't torture"

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

The best a man can get

Bloody cheap razor-blades.

From a fascinating set of pix of wax anatomical models to be found in Florence, spotted over on Flickr.

Papa needs a brand new bag

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, appeared in Second Life for a book signing and, presumably as an alternative to a handshake or a cell-phone portrait, allowed members of the public to boot him in the nuts. Here's how it looked. Funnier than a stumbling cat.


Check out this products page from cheap and cheerful Dutch household-goods chain HEMA. Looks pretty unexciting, right? Just wait.

Cat and mouse

First, some screwed-up mice, in these portraits of ugly Mickey Mouses. It's a Brazilian site, I believe, but it doesn't much matter what the words say. The title simply means "Ugly Mickey", and the art is a reminder of what a sinister, spooky creature Mickey Mouse really is.

Then, screwed-up cats, starting with one called Charley, who has a condition called cerebellar hypoplasia, which without bamboozling you with science means he has a lack of growth in part of his brainal area affecting motor skills. As a result, Charley walks like a drunken man making his way across a room full of people sitting on the floor. But the thing is, he's in no pain, needs no special care and will likely live as long as any other kitty. Despite that, people who discover this condition in kittens often have them needlessly put to sleep.

I read about Charley here, and the video is here. But that's not all. YouTube, in that way it has, also offers up related videos of CH cats, and there are dozens of them. I know we shouldn't mock the afflicted, but Charley's owner says he's not, really, so mock away. It's pretty funny to watch.

Short shameful confession

I get very annoyed when people pronounce the 'j' in ouija board as in the name John, when any fool should know it's the German ja, for yes. Pronounced ya, ya morons.

Queue Eye

Outstanding episode of QFry with Stephen I this week. David Mitchell (off That Mitchell and Webb Sound/Look, qv) is always way ahead of all the rest, but he seems to have managed to pick up and carry Jimmy Carr, a less reliable performer, and even Phill Jupilus, who hardly ever has anything funny to say. Ever. Despite being that rare beast: a comedian who never does comedy, only panel-games. He once told what I thought was a good joke:

Two fat men walk into a bar. That was me and my Dad. We had a great night, actually.

David Mitchell has a fizzin an a-poppin comedy brain, tho. You might at first think it's all prepared in advance, but then you stop and think, okay so how come his preparations are so much better than everyone else's?

Here's the first slice. Follow the clicky-things for the next two parts:


Malcolm Gladwell is alive and well, and in the NEW YORKER this week, writing on FBI profiling in an article I haven't read and so won't comment on.

He claims to have been working on his new book, as a way of explaining his absence from his own blog since January this year. That's gotta be some book.

Since the reason he states is therefore the only possible reason there could be, we'll breathe a sigh of relief that he was not, then,suffering the after-effects of a cyber-kicking from a team of commenters to his blog posts. If I remember right, and I'm not going back to check because it was a long time ago in another land and besides, the wench is dead, he made some tentative suggestions relating to racism in the car-sales sector, then appeared to semi-support Enron, and next thing we know his blog went ka-blooey.

Well anyway, be all that as it may, it's nice to see him back. You don't have to agree with his every word to see he's a challenging and innovative thinker. And commenters are all cunts, goes without saying. Here's hoping he's grown a thicker skin in the interim.

A diamond in the ash

Here's a great review of a production in New York of Cyrano de Bergerac, a play I've seen several times, once in a ruined abbey, once with Philippe Volter, not to mention the films with the great Depardieu and with Jose Ferrer. Unlike most reviews for anything, it's made me want to see the show John Lahr is talking about: Kevin Kline stars, it's the Anthony Burgess translation, it's a fantastic work in the first place. So much so that it could survive even Roxanne, the 1987 film with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah which stripped the story of its setting, which is essential, and removed from it a fundamental characteristic: it's a pastiche. Rostand was writing in fin de siècle Paris, the most fashionable spot on the planet, about Arras in 1640, and writing too in alexandrines. Those are two important effects in Rostand's original which the Martin film loses. Although to be fair, Steve Martin himself would be hard to better had the film gone down a more traditional track. Kevin Kline might give him a run. Remember Otto in A Fish Called Wanda? Otto had what Cyrano has, until his dying breath -- panache.

It's often said that Rostand provided a counter to the increasing naturalism in the theatre (and the arts in general) with his fantasy of temps perdus. I think that view is superficial and simplistic, and ignores the fact that realism had been a current in painting (where France led the world) since the time of Courbet half a century before, and in drama Europe-wide for at least 20 years prior to Cyrano -- Ibsen's A Doll's House was produced in 1879. Rostand wasn't countering artistic realism, he was employing contrary techniques to do the same job by forcing the issues to stand out. The important point about pastiche is that it is an alienation effect, as Brecht later called it. Even a cursory reading of the text, meanwhile, would make it clear that Rostand was not telling a story set in 1640 as such. That's something there's no room to go into here (nor any desire, I should imagine). A translation is available at Project Gutenberg, though not the Burgess translation sadly.

Incidentally, Cyrano was a real person, a military man and playwright. At the time of the main action in Rostand's play, he would have been 21. Edmond Rostand, meanwhile, was the youngest person ever admitted into the Académie Française, though he had to wait until he was 33 years old, four years after writing Cyrano.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Goose getting fat shock

A blogger writes:

Do you want to know what I want for Christmas? I want everyone to keep their money, pay their bills, and maybe sit down together while they have a nice meal and enjoy being a part of a family for a change. I want to see people who refuse to be manipulated by commercials and 2 hour only sales. I want people to put aside the greed and the status seeking and the love of all things shiny. Instead, I want to see them give each other hugs and be thankful for the things they’ve got.
Well, you can see why she might want to keep up a secret identity, can't you? That kind of subversive talk could earn you a one-way ticket to Guantanamo.

In other news, Boy Nine came home today, did his homework and got busy on his more pressing project: the compilation of a list of things he's going to be asking for. He explained the system to me at great length on the way home from school, and without going into details, this is a plan that makes all that GTD bollocks look like it was invented by Neil off The Young Ones. If he doesn't get all he wants from us, from Santa, I imagine he'll buy it himself from his entrepreneurial riches.

Anyway, what with me not doing a Christmas carols concert this year (for the first time since 2001), that was my awakening to the lateness of the season. We walked home, as it happens, on a beautiful mild autumn afternoon, leaves falling so fast you can hardly see in front of you. It doesn't even feel like winter, let alone Bleak Midwinter.

Me? I'll settle for peace on this little corner of the Earth. The rest of you, do what you can.

I should jolly well think so

If you change your display language in GMail from English (US) -- the default -- to English (UK), your Trash file suddenly becomes Deleted Items. So much less brash, don't you think? Your personal labels will also be adapted. Work becomes Employees. School becomes Oxbridge. Chat becomes Chinwag. And so on.

I now look forward to the promised launch of English (Scot) in which Inbox becomes In, Sent Items becomes Oot, and Deleted Items becomes Awa an Bile Yer Heid.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Sour Grapes

Another bunch of Sour Grapes columns rescued from the rubbish bin and posted on the blog reserved for that porpoise. That's ten down and another 134 to go. Well, 133 really, since one of them got me a libel writ once already, which fell because the stupid plaintiff's stupid mouthpiece was too slow off the mark, so I probably won't bring that one out again.

I'm not going to interrupt our normal programming here every time I post. Get over there, if you care, grab the feed and let the little RSS elves do the rest.

Headlines to make you go "Duh"


But then you read the story.

What's this I see?

Sour Grapes
Belgium's biggest and most international amateur choir presents the world's most popular choral work of all time:

Messiah by George Frideric Handel
Philippe Gérard - direction
Eric Delson - choir direction
With soloists Elise Gäbele (soprano); Isabelle Everarts de Velp, (mezzo-soprano); Stephan Van Dyck (tenor); Ian Degen (baritone-bass).

Without a doubt the world's most popular choral work, presented by Belgium's most international choir, accompanied by one of the country's premier orchestral ensembles.

The Brussels Choral Society and the Chapelle Musicale de Tournai

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Saturday, 3 November 2007

The short story (for ShoStoWriMo)

Richard Ford writes about the short story, with many examples including Cheever and Carver, as you'd expect, but also Tobias Woolf (aren't those two related somehow?), Mary Gaitskell, Chekhov (people who think of him as only a playwright are missing out big-time), Deborah Eisenberg and VS Pritchett, considered by many as a master of the genre.

It's always struck as a bit odd how everyone professes to consider the short story and the novel as two distinct forms, yet it's always thought of as perfectly normal when a person who has hitherto only ever written stories then proceeds to tackle a novel. There's a definite feeling of coming of age, as if an 800 metres runner had finally grown up and found his courage by taking on a marathon.

In fact, you'd be pushed to name a writer who was at home in both forms. I can think of short story writers, and I can think of novelists, and I can think of writers who have done both, but I can't think of one who has straddled the line convincingly. The classic greats like Chekhov and Maupassant stayed within the form, as did modern greats like Carver, and living writers like Alice Munro. Novelists like Margaret Atwood and Martin Amis (if they ever marry they can share their monograms) have written short stories, but not very good ones. Tobias Woolf's stories are very good, whereas the only novel I've read was very much a thinly-disguised autobiography, like most first novels.

It's a terrible thing indeed that the market for short stories is shrinking so far and so fast nowadays, because while the good writers won't stop as a result, it will make life that bit harder for them, as publishers are known to be unwilling to take on volumes of stories unless the client is already a heavyweight novelist and has to be indulged.

I don't know what the answer is, and nor does anyone else, by the look of it. The article concludes:

VS Pritchett wrote that short stories were "exquisitely difficult" things to make. Though by that I don't think he meant that they were such difficult things to "put together", since we've all read bad ones that were put together rather neatly. Rather, I believe Pritchett meant that they were difficult things - the great ones, anyway - to imagine, in the way Chekhov imagined "The Lady with the Dog", or in the way that imagining time is more difficult than making a clock tick. One task asks for skill, the other for serious daring of the sort Pritchett understood and could perform splendidly, as could his great friend Miss Welty from the rich turbulence of her "sheltered life". I think of her now, gone from us - Pritchett, too, and Carver - having left so much of excellence. Their great spirits and incomparable stories spell out so well for us where daring starts and where it leads, and exactly why it is the pure and indispensable and thrilling call that brings us all to stories.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Take it to the limit

Take it Easy in Winslow, Arizona | Music | Guardian Unlimited Music
The fact that an otherwise nondescript town out in the middle of nowhere would hitch its wagon to a single verse from a 35-year-old song recorded by a band whose ability to draw in tourists was almost certain to decline as their promiscuously bland music receded into the maw of history was further testimony - as if any were needed - that in America, anything is possible, no matter how zany or stupid, provided there is a guaranteed revenue stream somewhere.

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More plush eeew stuff

Internal organs, including a worryingly yellow liver.

How could your kiddies resist? Check out Heartie the Cardiac Heart:

He's Bradying down, yesterday

Is the Pope Catholic? No.

If you're Jewish, or American, or you live in the world, you might be a little frightened at the way ordinary Americans think about Jews, as recorded by Brian Sacks here (first clip). Including the Pope, that totally Jewish Hebrew Jew guy.

A collection of ten unrelated links

Stupid place to build a town. Still, easy to take out the garbage.

The 100 greatest novels of all time.

Hands painted to look like things. Things other than hands, that is.

Another way to look for free books. That you'll never read.

Wildlife pr0n. Red in tooth and claw is the new black.

Stories told in one sentence.

The Sarcasm Society. My, isn't that clever?

What should I read next? Ask the anonymous Internet.

Help save the world. By drinking water.

Glass house by Mies van der Rohe. Please refrain from chucking rocks.

Thanks to an idle hour with Stumble Upon.

Something else from Santa

This little fellow is a spirochete, the bacterium responsible for syphilis, which is not something you want to wake up to find in your stockings on Christmas morning. Cute, though, isn't he?

He's just one of a range of giant plush microbes including Ebola, the Black Death, Lyme's Disease and more. For the person who has literally everything, including a course of antibiotics presumably. Just because they're so sweet, here another -- Athlete's foot:


The newspaper ad for supermarket giant Carrefour/GB reads "Father Christmas comes early this year". (ad page)

Here's what the special offer is.

Is that really something people associate with Christmas? Those are not supposed to go in your stocking, surely?

Scenes we never thought we'd see

Jay Leno says the word "bollocks" on network television.

Today November 1

I have been mainly going round the 13,000-odd blogs of NaNoWriMo participants and posting the following message:

"Get back to work, you".

If I haven't got to you yet, I will.

I hope this is not going to be a daily occurence.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

I can only imagine

Words are just not sufficient to encompass the idea of fatherhood represented by Dick Hoyt. Leave aside the Jebus bollocks if you can, though I suppose that's part of his inspiration, so it does form part of the phenomenon.

Here's the family site.

And here's a video I found posted on the Facebook wall of a friend, quite by chance.

It's guaranteed to bring a tear etc.

The finest superlatives


Get your own best-ever at Seth Godin's

Like this.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

We've all been there

She's down.

And he's down:

Fisk on high-horse

Robert Fisk: King Abdullah flies in to lecture us on terrorism - Independent Online Edition; Robert Fisk
The sad, awful truth is that we fete these people, we fawn on them, we supply them with fighter jets, whisky and whores. No, of course, there will be no visas for this reporter because Saudi Arabia is no democracy. Yet how many times have we been encouraged to think otherwise about a state that will not even allow its women to drive? Kim Howells, the Foreign Office minister, was telling us again yesterday that we should work more closely with the Saudis, because we "share values" with them. And what values precisely would they be, I might ask?

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Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Two pomes

It just so happened, on one day, I clicked on two poems from the same rough corner of the poetic landscape.

The first, which I'm not supposed to reproduce, but which you can read here, Elizabeth Bishop's superficially chirpy One Art, a sort of whistling-past-the-graveyard poem, in which she makes a virtue of a necessity by designating losing as an art. You probably know it by its first line rather than its title:

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Then, via John Baker, came the poignant hymn to lost love Le vase brisé by Sully Prudhomme, written in 1865, for which John helpfully provided a source (warning: pop-up infested site) for an English translation, by Pete Crowther. It's not a bad job, though he seems to have bunked off home before finishing the final stanza. Bloody Friday afternoon translations, eh?

The Broken Vase

A fan’s light tap
Was enough to chip
This flower vase
In which the roses
Now are dying.
No sound it made

But a hairline crack
Day after day
Almost unseen
Crept slowly round the glass
And dropp by dropp
The water trickled out

While the vital sap
In the roses’ stems
Grew dry.
Now no-one doubts:
“Don’t touch”, they say,
“It’s broken”.

Often, too, the hand one loves
May lightly brush against the heart
And bruise it.
Slowly then across that heart
A hidden crack will spread
And love’s fair flower perish.