Thursday, 31 May 2007

Art's sake

I think I'm going to have to set up a wish list so that some kind soul can buy me the new catalogue raisonné of the complete paintings of Anthony Van Dyck, an Antwerp man like Rubens but by far the better painter if you ask me. It's only £125, or $157 from Amazon.

Either that or I could call the Rubenianum in Antwerp tomorrow, where one of the authors is director, and try to blag a press copy. I wonder what the chances of that are.

Sir Anthony Van Dyck, self portrait. Note the natty eponymous beardlet.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007


Here's something I'll bet you didn't know:

Part of Manhattan, including FDR Drive, is built on the rubble from bombed-out British houses.

Here it is on the map, which is a good excuse to check out the new Google Maps Street View.

Pet hate

Heard this evening on The Apprentice (BBC):

"I think that's going to affect the way I do my job moving forward."

You could just say "in future". Alternatively, you could realise that "is going to affect" is an expression of the future in English.

Real reality TV

A former kidney patient (one of the lucky ones who found a donor) comments on Dutch TV's De Grote Donorshow, and she's for it.

What I think a lot of people don't understand is the point of the show, which as the HuffPo article points out is to highlight the desperate lack of kidney donors. The show will be broadcast by the BNN channel, which was essentially founded by Bart De Graaff, who suffered a kidney illness as a child which stopped his growth when he was nine. He suffered kidney problems all his life, had one transplant rejected, and died in 2002 waiting for another, at the age of only 35. Five years later the station is still a sort of shrine to him. They changed their name from BNN (Brutal News Network) to BNN (Bart's Neverending Network) in his honour. Footage of him features regularly.

That's the context in which the donor show has to be seen. Far from being exploitative, it's polemical. It's not trash TV, it's advocacy.

Bart De Graaff, unbiggifiable

UPDATE: It was all a hoax, designed to focus attention on the availability of donor organs. Which it did rather well, I'd say. "If the Big Donor Show had been real, it would indeed have been shocking but facts illustrate that the reality is far more so," said Paul Romer, managing director of Endemol Netherlands. (quote from The Guardian)

Webulous Baker Boy

Guess who's got a really cool website?

The more handsome of Lloyd's two boys.
Click image to biggify and post on your bedroom wall.
(Warning: minimal biggification)

Damned lies

A few years ago I carried out a national survey into lying, focusing on adults. Only 8% of respondents claimed never to have lied.
The amazing thing about that statistic is how the writer, Richard Wiseman, uses the word "only". Eight percent is a huge number of people to have claimed never to have lied -- almost all of them are liars, obviously. The findings go on:
Other work has invited people to keep a detailed diary of every conversation that they have, and of all of the lies that they tell, over a two-week period. The results suggest that most people tell about two important lies each day, that a third of conversations involve some form of deception, that four in five lies remain undetected, that more than 80% of people have lied to secure a job, and that more than 60% of the population have cheated on their partners at least once.
From The Guardian back in April, dug out of SG archives. Want to find out if you're a good liar? Professor Wiseman explains how to check. No cheating, mind.

God snubs opening

Hoo-boy, I can not wait to get the chance to visit this place. Just imagine, over 4,000 years of our Earth's history, from the time when Man walked with the dinosaurs until now, all in one place.

Alternatively, for a different load of pants, try this.

I am in ur internetz

This site is the source and delta of all LOLcats.

Twitness for the prosecution

CNET makes the case against Twitter.
CNET makes the case for Twitter.

A Fairy Use Tale

This video, explaining the concept of copyright and fair use using the words of characters in Disney movies, is a masterpiece of the art of compilation. Think of the hours it must have taken to find characters saying "work" and "fixed" and "years", before even thinking about the work involved in splicing them all together.

Yes, but what's the point? It's produced by Stanford University's Fair Use project, but it barely scratches the surface of the issue, and what it's saying is completely lost behind the showy presentation. Yes, there's a joke in having it spoken by Disney snippets, but ten minutes of joke? I don't think so.

Font farewell

A bunch of writers were asked to name their favourite font, and most of them chose the dullest you can imagine: Courier or Courier New. Oh well, at least nobody went for Comic Sans.

For the record, the favourite font of this blog is Georgia, which I've had and used since it was released, and before it came bundled with XP.

Pet hate

Articles by hacks who cannot think of a single thing to write about, and so churn out something on abuses of language, full of made-up outrageous examples that have never seen the light of day until now. Like this crock of shit.

And they have the nerve to cite Orwell and his essay Politics and the English Language as an ally, when it's clear the author has never read it, because it doesn't say what he seems to think it says, and because it uses examples of bad English which are believable, and not dreamed up to make a weak point more colourful. Orwell even cites his sources, more or less. Something John Leo would have some difficulty doing, I'll wager.

Disposable mucus recovery unit indeed.

Horny-handed son of toil

The other day I was wondering about screening of the experts on Tricks of the Trade.

Check out the latest, and wonder along.

Picture books

Stories in which book titles are the storels (new word = story elements) caught on film by Nina Katchadourian. Lots of other things on the site to poke around in.

(via kottke)

Wedding story

When Andrew Coulter Enright and Heather Samples got married, they had such a diverse group of guests at their wedding they thought it would be a good idea to map out the relationships among them, to make things easier to understand, and to provide a set of conversation-starters. A brilliant idea, in other words, that should immediately be adopted for all situations where two or three are gathered together.

Here's the map:

You can see a variety of biggified sizes at the Flickr link.

Pies of the world

Who was it who was admiring some pie-charts the other day? UV?

Here are some more pie charts to enjoy, this time made up not of pie, but of the colours contained in all the flags of the world, in their respective proportions. Try to guess which is which, and click on the pie to see the actual flag.

Grapes 2.0 -- the alternative to getting some work done!

(via kottke)

Gerontology Corner

Scientists report the case of an 81-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's Disease who suddenly turned into a punning champion, prolific in making jokes and amusing wordplay. So that tragic disease is even more of a scourge than we first thought. Imagine ending your days in the humiliation of making clever plays on words like this:

For example, in response to hearing her son say “Dad let's charge up the battery for your new phone”, the patient said “Are you going to charge him for that?”

(via Freakonomics Blog)

Underground underground

Following on from our maps of the world's subways, Meg Pickard has blogged on the calculus of finding the best spot on a London Underground train. She claims that you may not know you're doing it, but if you're an experienced Tube traveller you're actually playing a sophisticated game of three-dimensional strategy. I'm sure you could adapt her principles to your own local system, if you have one. In some ways, this also echoes some of the issues raised in this morning's pissing game.

Puddy-tat science

Staying at SciAm, and I know we have some kitty-lovers in our midst, here's an explanation of the riddle of catnip, and why cats go nuts about the stuff. Apparently it's made of the minced up remains of little yellow tweety-boids. I jest. It's a lot more complicated than that. Also slightly funnier.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Crazy Christians

Christopher Mims at the Scientific American blog thinks this is satire. Wishful thinking, if you ask me. I'm inclined to think the rather horrifying truth of the matter is, it's not. I think it's absolutely sincere. And mad, of course. Obviously mad.

Outgoing World Bank President comments: Waaah! Waaah!

LONDON Departing World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz in a radio interview broadcast Monday blamed an overheated atmosphere at the bank and in the media for forcing him to resign.

Wolfowitz, who has announced he will step down June 30, denied suggestions that his decision to leave was influenced by an apparent lack of support from the bank's employees.

"I think it tells us more about the media than about the bank and I'll leave it at that," he told the British Broadcasting Corp. "People were reacting to a whole string of inaccurate statements and by the time we got to anything approximating accuracy the passions were around the bend."

(via Ed & Pub from AP)

Fantonto Torastic

I happen to know from my statistics that I have a reader in Toronto Ont. And I even have a sneaking suspicion who it is. So this is a shout-out to that person, and to anyone else interested in a collection of fantasy, horror and science fiction set in or around the city where my Auntie still lives (it's not her). Click on the pic to go to the site.

Down to earth

The painting you're looking at (click to biggify) is The Fall of Icarus, a magnificent painting by Pieter Breughel the Elder which as I write is housed in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. But perhaps not for much longer.

Air Libre is an association of residents of the outer suburbs of Brussels who fall under the flight-path of the majority of aircraft taking off from the national airport at Zaventem. They have battled through the courts to oblige the government to do something about aircraft noise, and they won. At a price, mind you: new rules on noise levels caused DHL to promise to up sticks and move to Frankfurt, which is a disaster for the local economy.

As of last Tuesday, a deadline set by the courts, Air Libre had the right to claim damages from the government of €5,000 for every offence against noise-levels rules. To give an idea of how often that happens, the group went with a bailiff to one spot and measured noise levels in one afternoon, and thereby made itself a tidy €50 grand.

The government has no intention of paying, so Air Libre has had the brilliant idea of taking their payment in goods. And they have their eye on Breughel's painting, which was the subject of a great poem by WH Auden, which you can read here. It would be hard to think of a more fitting outcome. And the idea of one of the masterpieces of Western art hanging above some family's couch as the planes continue to thunder overhead fills me with delight. So long as they make their livingroom available to the art-loving public at a convenient hour every once in a while, I can't see any problem with the situation at all.

The History of the Face in Art, or: Fit Birds Down the Ages

Speaking of face transformers, here's 500 years of depiction of the female headal area, all morphaged into a short video with music by JS Bach. See how many you recognise.

Or, for the imbeciles (you know you're out there): Would you or wouldn't you?

Play the pissing game

Click to View!

(Ladies too!)

Writting prize

Here's a nifty writing prize, open to everyone the world over, worth fifteen kilobucks in all, but sadly not open to those who "only" blog, which is a shame. All they're looking for is eloquence and wit, should be a breeze. Here's what I'm submitting:

Eagle-eyed Bulletin readers will have noticed a story in last week's Weeks in Brief of a man in Blankenberge who's been reported to the bobbies for stalking, because he sent "hundreds" of letters and emails to the commune complaining about this and that.

I've seen some demos on the street of Brussels in my time, so how come I haven't seen any demo in support of this Hero of the People? Why has no slim youth with shopping-bags stood in front of the tanks, Tiananmen-style, to support Henri Vandenbosch, the man who should immediately and by public acclaim be designated Top Citizen?

I give him his full name, even though Belgian law says that with a case against him he shouldn't be identified. And I do it because rather than being a common criminal skulking in the shadows like, say, the whole communal administration of Charleroi, or the Parti Socialiste, say, he has nothing to be ashamed of.

Henri's problems started when the pétanque club of which he's a member was obliged to shift their premises out of the Leopoldpark in Blankenberge. The commune washes its hands of the matter, which it claims is a matter between the concessionary of the park and the club. This is nonsense, of course, and rather as if the government were to send those Tiananmen-style tanks onto your lawn and then claim it was a matter for the Sherman Company of Illinois. The Pilate-like hand-washing is further exposed by the fact that the commune continued to poke its snout in, doing what burgomaster Ludo Monset, a man whose first name is the Latin for "I'm playing with you", calls "arbitating".

According to the commune, the torrent of emails and letters that came from Citizen Henri made the officials who work for the commune "upset". You can imagine how that might be, if you've ever visited your commune looking for some service. Anything that forces those shabby pasty-faced functionaries to do anything to get off their arses and serve their employers – the people – is enough to put a kink in their whole week. Henri De Groot also had the temerity not to be Turkish or Moroccan, thus depriving the commune's wretched staff of a means of abusing him.

Their problem is that the law says all complaints the commune must be dealt with, and he had sent in hundreds. His problem was that he was dealing with people who can't even be bothered to wash their own clothes or brush their own teeth, let alone do anything to serve the public. So he never got the satisfaction he was after. And he kept on. That added to their problems.

Read more at the prize-winners' site later in the year, darlings.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Reading out loud

I saw a woman walking in the street this evening, reading from an A4 notebook, and speaking the words aloud, or at least (I was on the bus) mouthing them. I saw a different woman doing the same thing (from a magazine) the other day on a subway platform.

These women are immigrants, and far from coming here to soak up benefits at the expense of everyone else, they're going to or coming from work, and at the same time doing something that most mature adults find so dauntingly difficult that they'd just rather not: they're learning a new language.

It's long been my position that anyone who has the courage and initiative to come here is exactly the sort of person we could use. The debate on immigration flares up here every once in a while, and with the elections coming up on June 10 this is one of those times.

I've lived in two cities, Glasgow and Brussels. I speak as an immigrant, though the debate is never about fair-skinned people like me. Both cities have been made better by their immigrants, and continue to be added to by those of the latest wave, whatever that may be. Inner-city deprivation is a social problem; youth crime is a law and order problem; it's no answer to say that the relatives or compatriots of people you deem most reponsible should be stopped from coming here. The answer is to do something with the ones who are here other than blame them for all of society's ills.

I lift my hat to those two women, both going to jobs, I imagine, that are unpleasant and ill-paid, both working on the way to improve themselves, to improve their lot and their families: maybe better French leads to a better job; maybe it just helps to understand the teachers at the children's school.

I've know many people who came here over the years and do nothing but sit around sucking up benefits at the expense of the public purse, and who never went out of their way to learn a word of French, let alone a word of Dutch. Ah, but they work for the EU Commission or the European Parliament, and they're British, not Polish or Albanian, so the onus is on the rest of the world to do the old lingo work. Somehow their possession of a passport issued by Her Britannic Majesty makes it okay. But I know which one I prefer.


Congratulations to Jackson Pillock for getting his name in lights, so early in his nu new career. (via PJ)


Language research. (via Language Hat (don't miss the comments) -- also linked to this)

A housecall from Dr Spooner.

Try reading the first few paragraphs of this post at Language Hat.

I read the same phrase twice, somewhat bewildered, and it was only when I got to "started tossing around tin pans" that I realised the Frisbee name had nothing to do with tie pins.

Stale rice! Yum!

Seth Godin carries this as an object lesson in how to get the marketing all wrong. I never miss Godin's blog, as it happens, because he speaks to all sorts of matters other than marketing (which also interests me). There are lessons there on writing in general, blogging in particular, and even just being a more savvy consumer.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Search trick

I'd previously mentioned about typing keywords into your Firefox location bar to go to a pre-arranged bookmark. Now I find you can type all sorts of other things in there. Try these or variations on these:

  1. "andy richter" takes you to his IMDB page
  2. "richard dawkins" takes you to the welcome page for his foundation
  3. "wackford squeers" takes you to a Google results page.
What appears to be happening is that the Fox will do a Google search by default, unless there's an obvious page to go to instead, though I'm not sure how that's determined. In some cases a search, in others a sort of "I'm Feeling Lucky" result.

So, a handy way to make a quick search without even opening a Google window, or using your search bar, which may be set to something else.

Location bar and search bar graphic nicked from Web Worker Daily.

Face transformer

This handsome devil is me, as I was painted by El Greco in about 1610.

I tell a lie. It's a photo of moi transformed by the Face Transformer at St Andrew's University in Scotland, which can take a picture and make it look like another race, oldify or youngify it, turn it into a portrait by a famous artist, make you look like an ape-man and more.

I got it to work in Firefox, but I could only save the pictures in IE. Something to do with pop-up blocking. It's also a bit slow, unless that is you're not lumbered with a wood-fired computer from the Bronze Age like this piece of junk I'm working with now.

I won't regale you with a whole gallery, but here are a couple of portraits:



Incidentally, I'm slightly more handsome in real life, if you can imagine such a thing.

Muzak hath charms

A very New Agey soundscape composed from waves, tweety-boids and music, composed for the British Airport Authority to soothe the savage breast of travellers at Glasgow Airport.

From The Economist.

Tough sport

You work hard and you train hard, just to get your name in the record books, and then you wait for someone else to come along and take your place.

Mostly, the cases concern a single nail, but one case was particularly extreme:

The other case involved a staggering 24 nails of 5cm length and represents the largest number of intra-cranial nails in a surviving patient.

This beats the previous record of 12 nails, held by a man reported in a case study from a neurosurgery team in Portland, Oregon.

From Mind Hacks

Pride may not be quite the right word

Here's an amazing video. Lions pick off a buffalo erm cub. But there's no such thing as a free lunch. See what happens after that. Eight minutes long, but it's worth sticking with it. Don't read the spolier tags.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Why not try ...

Removing the letter "L" from a "Sea World" captivity park sign, forcing people to wonder if it's rude or not?

From an LOL site.

The power of the blogosleuth

This T-shirt got a plug on Boing Boing. Then a commenter came along and pointed out that this outfit had been making these T-shirts for ages. Check them out, especially No. 1. No doubt at all the Threadless job is a rip-off. Case closed. Bailiffs, take them down.

Marketing skills

Gotta admire the big-time bullshitter. This is their claim:

You're reading ZUG,
the world's only comedy site.

But you know what? If it were true, it wouldn't be even slightly funny.

From the pages of "Yeah, Right" magazine

Pentagon says terrorists hacked Dr. Laura's son's MySpace page

(From this story, via Boing Boing)

Like a complete unknown

Talk like Bob Dylan on video and submit it. What could be simpler?

I liked this one:

by The Post Show

More transport issuezzz

Following on from the post about subway maps, here's a map of a Los Angeles transport system which exists only in a designer's fevered imagination. The map was based on that of the London Underground.

(via Boing Boing)

Grape news

As you can see from the chart, it's been more than a month since the number of times Grapes were mentioned in blog articles topped 1,000. Someone is not pulling his/her weight.

As you can also see, you can now add The Daily Grapes to your Google home page, and be kept up to date on all matters Grapely in case Tumblr, Twitter, Gtalk, Shared Google Reader or this blog should be down all at the same time. Nothing is as important to us as getting and keeping your attention.

STOP PRESS: This blog now has an authority of 7, according to Technorati. This is obviously far better than someone like Perez Hilton, say, who is languishing down there in the 7,000s somewhere, poor sap. All hail me.

All the newses as them happenses

From the Google Operating System blog:

Google News wants to respect editors' choices in regards to the importance of a news and only one section from Google News is generated by looking at the popularity of a news. Another important idea behind Google News is showing more than one perspective for a news, and this is partially achieved by clustering related news.
A news? Is that the way things are heading? Oh dear. I can feel a whyohwhy coming on.

Expert tips

Tricks of the Trade speaks for itself. Though you do kind of wonder what checks they run on people's credentials. How do they know tipsters are the experts they claim to be? The tips seem plausible enough:


If you manage a large number of people who are always offering suggestions, insist that feedback be submitted in writing. Blame your faulty memory, if you want to be diplomatic. The bad ideas will be discarded before you hear them, as the employee won't want to go through the effort of writing them out; the good ones will be more complete and better articulated, as the submitted will have to think his idea all the way through before sending it in.

But why should that be any indication of anything?

So I don't endorse any of the practices described, then, obviously, either explicitly or implicitly. Void where prohibited.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Odds and sods

Here's a fine way to waste a couple of hours, walking round the globe in a straight line. Perfect for columnists.

Here's a story about attempts to close down a website devoted to ratting out rats.

Here are some pretty unusual shooz.

Here's a look at the different city subway systems around the world. Brussels looks like a lobster. Most look like squashed skeeters or crane flies. Beijing's is very odd indeed.

Scathing critique of Britain from the Left, everything from scum politicians to scum media.

Bazza may be the Devil's Advocate or he may be the Devil himself. Best keep on the right side of him just in case.

Index cards that speak for themselves. One to subscribe to.

A list of great books. How many have you read? Heavily American. I mean, James Fenimore Cooper?

Slideshow of photographs of dead and maimed Iraqis, projected onto American buildings by Jean-Christian Bourcart.

Two most amusing cartoons. The second one from here. Can't imagine why this one tickled me.

Wacky warning labels, more scary than funny.

That's enough barrel-scraping for now.

Welcome to the Age of Bronze!

That Mitchell and Webb Sound is back for another series.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Plot point

Illicit lovers, spies, coppers' narks could all use modern technology in a story thanks to this.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Being a father

For some reason, Underwater World has a small collection of animatronic dinosaurs. They are not very convincing but they convince Naughtyman. The rubber and plastic T Rex roars at him and he screams and starts howling. "I want to go home," he cries. I pick him up. There is nothing I like more in this life than to be a safe haven for my kids. Naughtyman pulls himself as close as he could, burying his face in my neck. Curiously, I feel safer when they do that. It makes me feel strong and bold, capable.
That's what it is. Zen writes more here.


This handsome chap was born 100 years ago today.

It's an absolute bugger trying to choose a suitable picture of him, because he was iconic in so many roles, from Brideshead to Dicky Three to Wuthering Wuthering Wuthering Heights. I've gone for Hamlet because he was so beautiful as a blond, and because I liked his Hamlet so much.

Read his entry in the DNB here.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Geek stuff

I am in Ur Firefox, luving Ur hax.

I am totally loving the Bookmark-with-Keyword thingy I posted about the other day, somewhere or other.

What you can do: type a keyword of your own choice in your address bar to go to a regularly visited site.

Why is this kewl: because you don't have to click on Bookmarks, go to the folder, click on the bookmark (once you've found it -- IF you find it) -- see how boring this way is?

What you do instead: go to each bookmark concerned and right-click, choose Properties. Where it asks for a keyword, give it a keyword. So for Wikipedia, for example, you might choose "wiki". Then any time you want to go to the bookmarked Wikipedia page, all you need to do is type "wiki" in the address bar, and YOU GO THERE!

Is that grounds for marrying a Fox and having its, erm, foxlets or what? So far I have keyworded bookmarks thus (try and guess what each one refers to):


Having trouble? Well here's a clue: the Stib is the Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles. But what could the others be?

PS If you're having trouble understanding WTF I'm on about, try this:

Firefox 2

By popular acclaim

... the cartoon thingy stays. Here's today's in increased biggitude, for those with specs. It's also strangely apt:

Calm down, dear

... it's only a boat.

Vote now!

The cartoon feature in the sidebar. In or out?

More layout ballots coming soon!

Don't ask, don't tell

I simply do not want to know how the scientists behind this paragraph arrived at their conclusions. None of us, I'm sure, requires anyone to draw a picture. Emphasis added:

Well-documented effects of oxytocin in humans include promotion of cervical dilation and uterine contraction during childbirth, and the "letdown reflex" in lactating mothers. Injecting oxytocin into the cerebro-spinal fluid causes erections in male rats, and vaginocervical stimulation releases oxytocin within the spinal cord in female rats. Oxytocin has been implicated in pair-bonding in monogamous prairie voles, maternal behavior in ewes, protective inhibition of fetal brain activity during childbirth, and so on.
From Language Log.

Pesto mesto

There are many various ways of making pesto, but I had to register an objection to this one from the bloggers at Serious Eats of all people.

In the first place, Reggiano is far too expensive and too subtle a cheese to be used in pesto. Cost may not matter to the kind of foodies who write and read food blogs, who think costlier is better, but it makes a difference to most people, and it's a good principle that you don't throw good ingredients away for nothing. Especially when you see what's coming next. Gran padano is perfectly good, as is a generic pecorino, which as a sheep's cheese is better for some people.

Now check out this step:
2. In a saucepan, boil 3 quarts water. Add garlic to water; cook for 30 seconds. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon. Add the basil; cook 15 seconds. Remove basil with a skimmer; place in ice water, and cool about 1 minute. Drain well, and squeeze excess water out of basil leaves.

WTF? Boil your garlic? Why? Boil your basil? Are you fucking nuts? Does everyone know what happens when you plunge green leaves into boiling water for 15 seconds? That's right, they wilt. They lose their crispness and their colour, so goodbye any texture and taste that pesto may have had.

It keeps on getting worse:
3. Add basil and garlic to a food processor; chop. Transfer to a blender; blend on high while adding olive oil in a thin stream while the machine is blending. Add the Parmigiano; process until blended. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, processing briefly to mix.

This is disastrous advice. No matter how little time your blender is running, your garlic and basil are going to be an emulsion by the time you've added your oil. And it is simply a very bad idea indeed to process cheese in this way. Cheese should never be attacked with a blender or food-processor because the structure is destroyed and you end up with what looks like a huge ball of used chewing gum weeping fat.

In the last step, you're advised to add your pine nuts whole to the dish you're preparing. Another mistake, but not nearly as egregious as what went before.

My ideal method for making pesto is to pummel the garlic and pesto in a mortar with a pestle (it's where the name came from) but that's time-consuming. If you're in a rush blitz the leaves and garlic for as little time as possible with a wand-mixer and a small amount of oil. You should still be seeing tiny pieces of garlic and leaf.

Dry-roast the pine nuts in a clean pan. Watch them like a hawk, because they go from being cold and white to being cremated in about half a second. But one roasted pine nut has twenty times the flavour of one raw. And if you're using the good ones (they're big and fat, unlike the emaciated cheaper ones that come from China) you'll be able to use less. Break the nuts up roughly: one of the easiest ways is to put them in a plastic sandwich bag and gently roll them with a pin. You want chunks, not puree.

Grate the cheese to the consistency you prefer: I do mainly a fine grate with about one-fifth on the biggest holes for a robust chewy texture. Mix it all together, check for salt (depends on the cheese) and add enough oil to give the flowiness you need. Some dishes need a sauce, for some others you're looking for more of a relish consistency.

Quantities are entirely up to you. Start off with about two fistfuls of leaves, then add garlic to taste, pine nuts for an accent, cheese for bulk. Use a good oil, but not necessarily the best. There are so many competing flavours that your finest Luccan extra-virgin is likely to be swamped anyway. I've always found coarse, sun-baked Sardinian and Corsican oils work well in pesto. Nothing too fine.

But no cheese in a blender, please. Ye Gods.

Above is a photo of what a good rough pesto should look like. See how you can still see what's in it.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

No mincing of words

WASHINGTON, May 19 (Reuters) — Former President Jimmy Carter criticized George W. Bush’s presidency in interviews released Saturday as “the worst in history” in international relations and faulted Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain for his loyal relationship with Mr. Bush.


“The overt reversal of America’s basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me,” Mr. Carter told the newspaper.


In an interview on BBC radio, he criticized Mr. Blair for his close relations with the president, particularly concerning the Iraq war.

“Abominable,” he said when asked how he would characterize Mr. Blair’s relationship with Mr. Bush. “Loyal, blind, apparently subservient.”


“I think that the almost undeviating support by Great Britain for the ill-advised policies of President Bush in Iraq have been a major tragedy for the world,” he said.


Mr. Carter also told the BBC that the combined support of Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair for the war “has prolonged the war and increased the tragedy that has resulted.”

from Reuters via the NYT

"The White House declined to comment on his statements."

Sour Grapes says: Ouch. And the ouchiest part is -- he's absolutely right.

LATER: Carter climbed down. Utterly sickening.


Boing Boing was allowed to name one of the planes in Richard Branson's Virgin America fleet.

And they called it "Unicorn Chaser".

Here's a pic (diabetics look away):

Thrift 'Shop

A post on a tech blog thingy goes: "Digital media blog Ebin has written up a somewhat simple tutorial on how to give your photos the movie look with Adobe Photoshop."

Excuse me? Have you seen how much Adobe Photoshop costs? $649, that's how much.

So who do you think spends $649 on software for which they require "a somewhat simple tutorial"? Paris Hilton?

All the more reason to support the GIMP, by ... erm ... saying you do.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

The frickin distilled flowers sonnets

This is Some Guy from New York explaining Shakespeare's Sonnets line by line. I chose Sonnet V at random, so don't go thinking I sat through I, II, III and IV first. The people responsible for this should be murdered. I'm a peace-loving man, but I could get behind whacking the whole crew.

Blogger changes

Ctrl+S used to be Publish, rather oddly.

Now you have to go Crtl+P.

Makes more sense, but requires a change of habit.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, the details are under your composition pane, but the more link takes you to an outdated list. Trust me, Ctrl+P is publish. Look:

Title race

All right, STFU about post titles now, ya buncha whiney bar-stewards, always a-moanin an a-groanin.

I get the message.

Fluffing the Fox

Cool ideas to make Firefox work better. I love finding ways to make the Fox smoother or faster or sleeker or more handsome. I love the one for using keywords on bookmarks. Some of the others are a bit scary, mind.

Snap unhappy

At one point, the Snap Preview gizmo was a big hit, and really caught on widely.

Then, five minutes later, people were all like, turn it off it's so freaking annoying!

Now, fifteen minutes down the line, you can even find ways to kill Snap forever.

I'm sure it seemed like a great idea to the developers. To have it fail must be bad, but so much worse to find it on a death-list. Still it was a PITA.

Bing in the swing

I've added The Bing Blog to the list, by Stanley Bing of Fortune. Funny guy. Also: a reporter who drinks. Imagine:

I go into the bar. New York as it was drawn by a tipsy artist 50 years ago cavorts across the walls. It’s not that different than now. Dogs sniff hydrants. Rabbits in formal wear perambulate. There are snakes around. Trees explode in green. The bar glows from just about everywhere, bottles of every known concoction. How can there be so many? Maker’s Mark has a nice bottle. There are so many nice bottles. Pretty. Warm colors everywhere. Brown. Red. Amber. Green. Glass, too, no plastic anywhere. The bartenders have red vests, and they don’t talk too much unless you want to. There are tidbits to eat.
Check it out.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Clever and funny food designs by Martí Guixé.

Including this:

Spamt (short for: és pà amb tomàquet), the Catalan bread with squeezed tomato, salt and oil, with a universal format.

Much more where that came from.

Post titles

I'm toying with the idea of losing the title field on my posts, because:

  1. I have to think up something;
  2. The title takes longer than the post;
  3. Short posts don't need a title;
  4. Especially not a lame play on words, or a palindrome, like Notlob;
  5. Kottke doesn't have titles, and nor do UV and Pillock.
What do users think? Do you GAF? Would it affect your Graping experience? Are you bovvered tho?

Speedy and needy

The finding suggests a person's desperation for love can be picked up by others in as little as four minutes, an effect that is off-putting to potential dates who want to be made to feel special.
It doesn't do to speed-date if you're a little needy, scientists have discovered.

Glorious Blogger cares for us and loves us

Blogger now saves your poasts even as you're carving them from the living rock of poetry and philosophy. So if you should accidentally lose the page, you can always come back and pick up from your last save.

Which is nice.


Fasten your seat-belts and slip into your jammies for a white-knuckle ride.

The look of the Intertubes

Google's Operating System blog has produced a map of the Interweb, or the main parts of it at any rate, showing the main nodes, I suppose you could call them, and the lines joining them together. It's a beautiful picture. Here it is:

Like a field of dandelions. Lovely. But I have no idea what it thinks it's showing. It simply isn't possible for something so interlinked as even a small corner of the Web to be so linear in shape. Still, some bright spark at teh Goolge has something to be proud of, and to post up on the wall of his apartment.

By the way, if you're looking for Grapes 2.0 on the map, I'm not there. The picture must have been taken in daylight American-time, when my lights were out.

Probably best that way.

Brotherly lurve

There is little doubt that Falwell split Hell wide open the instant he died. The evidence is compelling, overwhelming, and irrefragable.
No, it's not Christopher Hitchens shooting at a barn door.

It's those Westboro Baptist nutters again.

Love thy neighbour as thyself innit.

President Taft

With his clothes on over at Ultrablog.

In more relaxed tenue over at Shorpy.

He'd have more of a chance in today's politics in the latter case, I'd say.

Crack troops

Hilarious newspaper headlines from Shorpy.

Gay soldiers. Imagine.

Georgie boy

Isn't it funny how Bush goes out to play on his bike, and has to be in bed by nine?

Why, if he'd only been born in the US, Boy, 9 could be POTUS right now.

Course Boy, 9 can speak in sentences, so that's a bit of a drawback.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Wolfowitz in sheep's clothing

I have been linking to an article in Salon and composing and then deleting a thoughtful article on how Paul Wolfowitz's behaviour was not only corrupt, but also shamelessly corrupt, characteristically for the Bush Administration.

With such penetrating insights, I should be assured of a job at the Institute of Duh.

Silent Witness

A 45-year-old Genk woman who was found dying by the roadside in Bilzen ten days ago was run down by a motor vehicle, according to autopsy evidence, reports No Shit Sherlock magazine.


Tinky Winky on Falwell's passing.


Spend hours poring over your own blog stats. Who's the person from Singapore who came here from Twitter? Who do we know in Wichita? And what's the weather like in Bromley? Maps and everything. Endless navel-gazing opps.

Music video

Westboro Baptist nutters.

Just no steak knives, okay?

Is it okay for a restaurant owner to refuse service to OJ Simpson? I mean, wasn't he found not guilty?

Blind justice

The Economist on Belgium's newest crime-fighters: blind people hired to listen in on wiretaps.


A moderately interesting explanation of what went wrong with Friendster.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Air blogging


In response to this.

Where will it all end?

Tuesday, 15 May 2007


The wakoopa Top Software widget I've been carrying over on the sidebar there is for the chop, because it does not do what it's supposed to. It's stupid, for example, to mention the InstallShield Update service, as that's not software anyone uses, but a thing that just runs in the background. Apps like Quick Time, Thunderbird and Word are too common to be of any interest, but seem to hog the board over all the small things I use from time to time. And I'm not using Windows Explorer at all, but Xplorer2, which is an alternative explorer, and so should really not be confused.

If it can't get a thing like that right, I have no need of it. I'll leave it there for a while so you know what I'm wittering about, then deep-six it. Let that be a lesson to widget-makers everywhere. I expect performance!


Better late than never, and not because of any shout-out, but I would like to say how good it is to have RJM as a member of our blogging fraternity. His bollocks are very well-rounded, sometimes a little hairy for comfort, but their appearance is always welcome. There are definitely bollocks you could take out at any time, and display in any company.

What is it? What'd I say?

Monday, 14 May 2007

Blog subjects

... are like buses: you wait ages then three come along at the same time.

I'd never given a thought to bento in my life, though of course I'm daily involved in packing lunchboxes. Then I saw a post on another (foodie) blog about a lunchbox blog, and from there to another, and then today to an unconnected third.

I dare say the mothers (SAHMs, and they seem to all be mothers) who maintain these blogs are all a bit too much, a bit too on. Children know when they're being fed with love, and they adore treats, but I don't think they particularly appreciate being served up such precious creations. You wouldn't enjoy eating something someone had invested quite so much effort into.

Having said that, there are great ideas to be had, and to be nicked judiciously and recycled in moderation. Little boxes of cherries and grapes look delicious, for example. And there's an exemplary amount of effort gone into presenting the subject in as attractive a way possible. We should all keep our blogs looking so neat. But ladies, you know. Lighten up.

Blog pals

A message to all those who have a stupid chain of random letters to fill in before making blog comments:

You're making your friends jump through hoops, and doing strictly fuck-all to your enemies.

The measure is designed to thwart blog-comment spam. There is no such thing as blog-comment spam. I have four blogs to which I post, and I have 83 feeds on my Google Reader. Only a fraction of people use those letter-chains, and nobody else ever gets comments-spam that I can see.

On the other hand, for those of your friends who want to post a quip to your postie, it's a real pain in the arse to have to show your credentials at the door. It takes away part of the point of commenting, and certainly attacks the community aspect blogging can be used to further (in some cases: I don't call this a little red blog for nothing). Sometimes I pass on commenting if I can't be arsed jumping through the hoops, frankly.

So weigh those factors in the balance, blog-pals like Lucyp (newly blogrolled) and Zen and others.

S not-so-S C

I may be a hep cat, movin an-a groovin on the byways of the Intertubes, but I still haven't the faintest idea WTF Facebook and MySpace are for.

I mean, I see what you do to join, but I can't imagine why.

Speaking of Gitmo

Click to biggify

Alan Shore

Spader in action, and making the case against Gitmo with sarcasm, a weapon the Right could just never master.


I'd always thought the Mullah Dadullah was part of the brain.

Apparently not.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Meanwhile back in the real world

My mother

  • Was deserted by her own mother when she was nine, and had to live with a drunken violent father who would sometimes take the food from the kitchen cupboards and make her flog it round the neighbours to raise food for his booze.
  • Had to get out of the house first thing in the morning to pick up paint for her father, often wheedling credit from the supplier for him, so he could carry on working. Then she had to take her sister and brother to school, and herself of course. I've seen pictures of her at around that age, taken in school (nobody else would) and she looks exactly like those scruffy street urchins you see in sepia photos illustrating poverty studies. Or those similar urchins I occasionally post from Shorpy to my Tumblr blog.
  • The brother eventually left of his own accord to go and stay with his mother.
  • The fact of being deserted never estranged her from her own mother, really, and in later life they were the best of friends and allies. My grandmother -- my Nana -- came and lived with us in the end.
  • She had a drinker and all-round worthless case of her own as a husband, a seaman for the first 12 years of my life. She raised four boys without his help (but with her mother's) before and after his discharge. My childhood was marked by the sounds of him beating her as I lay next door unable to sleep, and unable to intervene. From then on, you will always fight for people who cannot fight for themselves, no matter how reckless it may be to do so.
  • We were always clean, had whole, unfashionable but sturdy shoes; wore hand-knitted but warm sweaters; had ghastly but tidy haircuts with no little friends nesting therein. We always had enough to eat; very few sweets, hardly ever any fizzy drinks, a piece of fruit in our schoolbags every day. We were never kept off school for any reason.
  • She took a job when the youngest of us went to school, selling fabrics and haberdashery in a shopping centre.
  • Unsatisfied with that, she began nursing training at the age of 40, and qualified first time. She continued to work in nursing until she retired, and doubtless ensured that many a patient left hospital a lot earlier than the doctors had predicted.
  • Since taking the bus took too long and cost too much, she bought a moped at about the age of 45 and travelled to work on it.
  • She later learned to drive, and finally passed after about the eighth attempt. By then she must have been about 55. She has always driven like a little old lady, and always will.
  • Long after my first wife and I had divorced, and she had other children, my mother would babysit for them, and she probably still gives them birthday and Christmas presents. The fact that I'm no longer involved in that arrangement doesn't concern her in the least. She is.
  • She still sends me money from time to time, convinced I might be in need of it (for many years I was). I believe she does the same for my brothers, and for all of our children. The mystery is where the hell it comes from, because logic insists she has only a state pension and a small supplementary occupational pension.
  • You can protest all you like, she'd be mortally offended if you tried not to take it. So you have to spend it on her in other ways. Not that that's easy: a lifetime of deprivation both enforced and self-imposed has turned her into someone who neither needs nor wants a thing.
  • She has buried one grandchild, and the way she's going, she's likely to bury at least one child.
  • If I could have one wish, I would take a piece of my childhood, which despite what I mention above was pretty damn idyllic, and let her have it for a day, just to let her see: "That's what childhood is like".

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers everywhere.

Costs of war

This is a list of ten reasons Americans should run Bush out of town on a rail. Okay, one of them is pretty stupid, but that will probably be the most persuasive to a lot of people. You know who you are.

Power up

I'm slightly acrophobic, by which I mean I quail at heights, but not to the extent that it affects my life.

However, no matter how cool you are at great heights, I challenge you not to suffer vertigo when you see this guy at work. He goes to the job on the outside of a helicopter FFS.

Important facts

The spellchecker on my version of Word doesn't recognise the following words:


all of which were used in the same article, together with:

spoof and
Engelbert Humperdinck

You'll have to wait until Thursday to read it, though, in the next issue of The Bulletin. Now with no website!

Update: In another article, no recognition for:


No prizes for guessing that that passage was about Richard Gere. Altogether too obvious.

Hours of fun

Friday, 11 May 2007

Lamest. Video. Ever.

Air shagging.

New word

While reading, I came across an unfamiliar word: lagniappe. The explanation is here. It's a word whose use will bring a double benefit. I can hardly wait for the opportunity.


A URL shortener specially for sending URLs by Tweeter.

Fries with that?

The star of the plate was the "peas", which were actually pea puree, formed into actual pea shapes, using Adria's famous caviar technique.
Just one of the many dishes served up in a gastronomic tasting menu at L'Eclume in Cartmel, in the Lake District, according to this report. Each dish is more poncey than the last, but pea puree formed back into pea shapes does it for me. That was the moment when the latest fad for "molecular gastronomy" disappeared up its own arse.

Still it makes fascinating reading.

Probe into surprise Eurovision upset

From the BBC website:

Swiss make shock Eurovision exit

You probably didn't realise how shocked you were until I just told you.

Invisible gorilla experiment

Watch this video, and pay attention to what you see. Or more likely, what you don't.

King Fisher

"At the moment I am like the cat that ate the cheese, and then sat in front of a mouse-hole with baited breath."
Dr Len Fisher, who won an Ig Nobel Prize for his work on the optimum conditions for dunking biscuits in tea, has a blog.

Niche website

Passed along without comment: Yes, it does what it says it does.

(via Seth's Blog)


Click to biggify

A record-breaking price of $25.5 million was obtained at Sotheby's in New York this week for the above painting, a watercolour still-life by Paul Cézanne.

A work like this is why painting was invented, and its acquisition is the finest purpose to which money can be put. Even in the pisspoor conditions of a reproduction on the Innertubes from a newspaper's website, the painting reaches out and grabs you by the balls, in the nicest possible way. If you're having trouble seeing that, try staring at it for a while.

Cézanne called it Nature morte au melon vert -- Still life with green melon. The reference to "nature morte" must be a joke, as no static image could be so vibrant and alive, in ways that betray the poverty of those mere words.

Sorry to sound so bollocksy, but I bow to no man in my admiration of Cézanne, as I think I've mentioned in the past. And you can't love Cézanne without hovering on the edges of perception. Many people don't see what's so special, but boy when you do, you pass through to another reality, where $25.5 million dollars is a pittance. My one regret in life is that I have only one pair of eyes.

Send your submissions to Pseuds Corner, Private Eye, 6 Carlisle Street, London W1D 3BN or email


The image is of someone zorbing. You climb inside a plastic ball called a zorbus, and roll downhill. The pastime was invented in New Zealand, like bungee jumping. Those guys really need ways to make the time pass more quickly.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Comments nightmare

The blog commenter's nightmare is when, having penned a trenchant, indeed mordant comment to someone's post, you try to send it only to have Haloscan or Blogger eat it up. The second version is never quite as good. PJ has been so kind as to place a warning notice on her comments box, but it still happens.

Well, not any more. Not to me. I commented on a post yesterday at the ever-controversial Ultrablog. Then I went back to the same post today to see how the discussion was faring, and when I opened up the comments box, my typed-in text was still there! Before I could comment again, I had to clear the screen. And this is after closing down and starting up again today. That's what I call treating your words with respect.

It's all down to a little add-on available to users of Firefox. You need to have Greasemonkey installed and enabled, and then you can look for a little Javascript script called Textarea Backup. That makes sure that text you key in to any input field on a web-page will be preserved. You'll also get a warning confirmation dialogue every time you try to leave a page where there's anything in an input field, to stop you clicking off and losing your text.

You can get Firefox here. Greasemonkey is here. And there are thousands of scripts available here, including the one mentioned.

If anyone's put off by the sound of all that, rest assured it couldn't be simpler. You click on the Install button and it's all done for you. That's the beauty of the Fox.

Firefox 2

Small Fry

Go here to buy your speaking Stephen Fry clock, or if you prefer a try-out, to download ten snippets of Stephen doing wake-up messages like this one.
View this on LiveDigital

Not quite sure what you'd use it for, but it's a must-have all the same.

Dunno why this post is so badly laid-out. I'm messing with Dark Forces here, I'll warrant.

Good joke (requires YouTube)


Inspired by this.

Motion carried

A page of links to "anomalous motion illusion" images that will make you dizzy and/or nauseous. You have been warned.

Little black books

This blog is dedicated to the search for the perfect little black notebook.

The authors of this blog aren't satisfied with the Moleskine, which is a little bit like wishing for Jesus's more interesting brother. Talk about niche blogging.

Safe for work

The Google Earth blog Google Sightseeing suggests that this display of the status of a beam of radiation from a synchrotron in the UK might be good to leave visible on your office computer, to give the impression you're not only Twittering, blogging, Skypeing and IMing. I work from home and haven't seen my boss since before Christmas, so I wouldn't be prepared to vouch for its efficacy.

Classic satire

The highly-acclaimed and much-discussed Brass Eye special "Paedogeddon" is now up on Google Video. Well worth 28 minutes of anyone's time. Chris Morris's finest hour, on the hour.

via SmashingTelly.


Here's a way to waste hours of your life:

UPDATE: Cool widget installed. Soon there'll be no more room on this page for me. [FX: resounding cheers]

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Cease and desist


53 61 90 F0 31 D2 17 B5 EE 71 3F A2 A9 7C E8 11

is my very own 128-bit integer, just like the one used to crack DVD-HD, except no use at all in cracking that or anything else except a haiku.

I got it from the nice people here, and they assure me it's my very own.

If any of you people even thinks about putting it on their website, blog, T-shirt or any other permanent (or in the case of blogs, semi-permanent) medium or material, my lawyers will be down upon the party of the first part like a ton of bricks.

You'll have a legal shitstorm on your hands that will make kerfuffles about comments policy look like a trip to the lollipop shop. So be warned.


Wakoopa tracks the software you're using, and tells the whole world! You can also find out (at their site) what new versions are available of the software you're using, and read reviews of things you've got, providing other people have got them too. Which is not the case with some of my stuff.

I'm so avant garde.

You can also click through to the developer's own site, if you want to find out more. So check out the GIMP, Rainlendar and Ditto, all more or less useful, especially Rainlendar which I love. I'm still on a steep GIMP learning curve, and Ditto has never been used, but one day it will save my life.

Aren't the Intertubes wonderful?

Monday, 7 May 2007

Weather update

Il pleure dans mon coeur
Comme il pleut sur la ville,
Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénètre mon coeur?
Paul Verlaine; Il pleure dans mon coeur

It rained in the night, so we avoided a rush of people out of doors to see what all the water-falling-out-of-sky commotion was. Doubtless there were still a few casualties among shift-workers and insomniacs, and news will filter through as the day goes on.

It's still raining now. Already the novelty has worn off. I am after all a Scotsman. A resigned approach to rain is hard-wired.

Bring it on.

Image from Jim McBride at his ThinkBottle blog.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Rufus phones it in

Rufus really needs to lighten up and realise he's not a brooding adolescent any more. And he could do with spending a little more than three minutes composing a melody for a song that lasts four.

Weather report

The weather outside my window is dry, not particularly warm, overcast with sunny intervals.

The month of April was not only the warmest and sunniest since records began, with average temperatures up to five degrees above the seasonal norm, it was also the driest month of all time, with metered rainfall at the National Observatory of precisely zero.

Yesterday that dry spell reached the point -- 37 days of unbroken dry weather -- that matched the previous record, set in 1887. Which means that today sees another record smashed.

What this means for all of us is two things: in the short term, we're all going to have to get used again to what rainfall is like. Experts are predicting we might from Monday enter into a long spell of rain lasting up to six weeks, but that sounds a little too Biblical to me, reminiscent of Pharaoh's dream of the seven lean years and the seven fat years. Parents have already taken to starting bedtime stories, "Once upon a time, far away in a magic land where water fell out of the sky ...". I imagine tomorrow we'll see children and adults alike gazing awe-struck into the sky as the first drops fall, a bit like The Day The Earth Caught Fire but with a happy ending.

In the longer term, it's clear we're all doomed. A Belgian April with no rain at all? Thirty-eight days of dry weather, in a country unused to going for even three? Something is very obviously broken, and in a big way. The planet evidently doesn't have much time left.

It's been nice knowing you, guys.

The Grand' Place in Brussels, pictured yesterday

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Worst. Lyrics. Ever.

Speaking of poptastic music, and speaking of the Uselessnet, someone started a thread nicked the idea from the Guardian for a list of rubbish song lyrics, and the collection is so good I had to steal it. None of this is of my making; someone else did all the work; but it's too good to miss. I'll just list them as I find them.

Update: The original post to a Guardian blog is here, where you'll also find hundreds more great submissions in the comments.

#1 Des'ree - Life
I don't want to see a ghost,
It's the sight that I fear most,
I'd rather have a piece of toast,
Watch the evening news.

# 2 Snap - Rhythm Is A Dancer
I'm as serious as cancer,
When I say Rhythm is a Dancer.

# 3 Razorlight - Somewhere Else
And I met a girl,
she asked me my name,
I told her what it was.

# 4 ABC - That Was Then But This Is Now
More Sacrifices than an Aztec priest,
Standing here straining at that leash,
All fall down,
Can't complain, mustn't grumble,
Help yourself to another piece of apple crumble

# 5 U2 - Elevation
I've got no self control,
Been living like a mole now,
Going down, excavation,
High and high in the sky,
You make me feel like I can fly,
So high,

# 6 Toto - Africa
The wild dogs cry out in the night,
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company,
I know that I must do what's right,
Sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.

# 7 Oasis - Champagne Supernova
Slowly walking down the hall,
Faster than a cannonball,
Where were you when we were getting high?

# 8 Duran Duran - Is There Something I Should Know?
And firey demons all dance when you walk through that door,
Don't say you're easy on me you're about as easy as a nuclear war.

# 9 Human League - The Lebanon
Before he leaves the camp he stops,
He scans the world outside,
And where there used to be some shops,
Is where the snipers sometimes hide.

# 10 Black Sabbath - War Pigs
Generals gathered in their masses,
Just like witches at black masses.

# - Bob Dylan - Sign Language
You speak to me
In sign language
As I'm eating a sandwich
In a small cafe.

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound

T Rex 'Hot Love' is another one.

Well she's my woman of gold And she's not very old a ha ha
Well she's faster than most and she lives on the coast a ha ha

Woh Deb-o-ra,
You look like a zeb-o-ra..

Got to write a classic
Got to write it in an attic
Baby, I'm an addict now
An addict for your love

De do do do
De da da da
Is all I want to say to you

Hawkwind - "Motorhead"

"Fourth day, five day marathon
We're moving like a parallelogram"

Cliff Richard 'Power To All Our
Friends' which was a Eurovision entry in 1972.

Theres some old man
Spends his life growing flowers
Caring for the bees
Power to the bees

Theres some old lady
Spends her days making wine
The wine tasted fine
Power to the vine

Power to the boys who played rock n roll
And made my life so sweet
Power to the girls I knew before
And those Ive yet to meet

More as they come in. Feel free to add your own in comments.

Common peeps

Somebody on the Usenet mentioned Boston Legal, and as my Twitter pals know, I've just got done watching the whole first season right through on DVD, thanks to an extremely enlightened official of the Schaerbeek Flemish public library who knows exactly what to buy.

I responded, and pointed the person to this video on YouTube, which I've already flagged up for my Google Reader fans or my Tumblr fans, I forget which. Common People is a song by Pulp, the British pop band fronted by the iconic Jarvis Cocker, and in its way it's as important a number for that generation as My Generation, I Think I Love You or Pretty Vacant were for theirs (I couldn't find a single song from the Seventies (as opposed to the 1970s) that meant anything at all, other than American Pie, which was a lament for a previous generation). As far as the lyrics are concerned, it belongs to a very British tradition of a sort of proletarian nostalgia coupled with anomic social disgust which you find in songs by Ray Davies, Paul Weller or Joe Jackson, who happens to be on the first video.

Specifically, it articulates, for me, how it feels to be someone of let's say intellectual or aesthetic sensibilities in a working-class world encompassed by pints and birds -- not that there's anything wrong with pints and birds. In the BBC film made about the song (see below) Jarvis explains how he was alienated from his own class because he seemed to be a weirdo, yet he also hated Sheffield University students, who though they might have been more in tune with his ideas, belonged to a different world. It's that division that informs the sentiment of the song: he's disgusted by the idea of the Greek girl slumming among people of "his" class, but at the same time it's clear that he's pretty fucking disgusted by them himself. And for all that he's disgusted by her attitude, he still wants to get off with her. In the end, that's the way we all go.

Jarvis himself, as we now know, is a very English eccentric, in the mould of Alan Bennett, Kenneth Williams or Quentin Crisp. No matter how far they go in despising their own people, their own people take them ever closer to their breast.

But anyway back to Shatner, who admittedly is sui generis, so I went back to Pulp, with this garish video made to accompany the song, and starring Jarvis. His delivery is far from Shatner's. It's less melodramatic, more resigned, more British. But he expresses the same disdain for the subject of the song as Shatner does. Listen to cultural commentators talking similar bollocks about the song here and here and here and here and here and here FFS what a mopus agnum.

YouTube also has live versions (which include a lyrical coda cut from the radio-friendly release) of the song by Pulp here and here, but my attention was drawn away by a parody done by the TV comedy show Goodness Gracious Me, made by a team of Indian writers and comedians. In this case, the girl in the story wants to live like Hindi People (sic). The words are a brilliant example of the parodist's art: they fit perfectly into the context, and make their own joke as well as the joke of juxtaposition. Listen to how to really live like Hindi People:

Comb your hair and be polite
Do your homework every night
Don't smoke fags and don't play pool
Do extremely well at school
Take a medical degree
Graduate at 33
Move back in with Mum and Dad
Even though they drive you raving mad (are you sure)
You wanna live like Hindi people?
You wanna do whatever Hindi people do? etc

Quite possibly that's all you want to hear about Pulp and their song Common People, now and for the rest of your life. I shouldn't be at all surprised. At one point in the BBC film, Jarvis says he never thought, "Wow, that's a masterpiece".

It is.

Thanks to strangetheapple for uploading the BBC videos.

Blog tip

Can a girl of 21 really know what she is consenting to when she signs a release form for a pornographer? Does she really understand what the ramifications might be later in life? That is why I propose that we raise the minimum age of consent to participate in pornography to 65.
Another finely-crafted modest proposal from Jon Swift, a satirist deserving of the name. The Swift name, I mean. "Satirist" isn't really a name, is it?

Friday, 4 May 2007

Pandora's boxed

So farewell, then, Pandora. For those of us not in the US, at any rate. For so-called "licensing reasons" they've pulled all access for anyone not in the USA, with many expressions of regret blahdeblah. They say they hope they'll be back soon. As this story makes clear, that's way too optimistic even to be described as a forlorn hope.

I've written about Pandora before, and so has Jeff.

The rights holders, the people who own the copyright to the songs, have a mechanism whereby they can extract their pound of flesh in the US, but not elsewhere. May they rot in fucking hell for their stupidity in not realising the huge amount of free (paid!) publicity Pandora was giving them. I can't have been the only person who thought, hmm, I like kd lang, who else might I like? Then create a kd lang station on Pandora which would feed me music they've determined to be pleasing to fans of kd lang.

Which people would then GO OUT AND BUY. Hello? Music I'd never heard of, by artists unfamiliar to me, otherwise I wouldn't have needed to wonder, right?

What shall I do now? How to decide? Well, I won't, will I? I'm not about to spend €20 or so on a gamble. I'll stick to what I know, thanks. I probably won't buy anything. It'll be okay. Or I'll borrow CDs from the public library and rip them to iTunes, for 50 cents a disc. Big money in that for the rights-holders, I'm sure.

So who cares? I'm an old fart. I may have the money to buy CDs, but I don't have much of an inclination really, other than from time to time. My kids have plenty of inclination, though. I've showed them how to use Pandora to explore what there is out there, instead of just being guided by the latest classroom fad.

Well, they won't be exploring much any more, either. No more money spent on lesser-known artists, just copy the CDs everyone else has (what's the point of buying them if your friend already owns it?) and leave it at that.

I wish Pandora well, because it was a great idea, and I hope the US alone is enough to sustain them. No reason why it shouldn't be. I wish the record industry further, continuing and in the end inevitable collapse. They took the fatted calf that lays the golden eggs and tried to milk her dry. But you can only get so much blood out of a stone. This is yet another move that will drive the consumer away from "legitimate sources". Whatever happens now, the industry brought it on itself.

For the record, there's no-one quite like kd lang. She has a genome all of her own.

UPDATE: Lifehacker had a link to an article on how to bypass the ban by the use of proxies. I tried it and got onto the Pandora site, but was unable to get any music flowing. I'll try again later and see if things work any better.