Thursday, 31 January 2008

Lines on the death of Miles Kington

So farewell, then
Miles Kington.
You were British humour's most cosmopolitan writer.
Yet for some reason
We could never get you to change your name
To Kilometres.

Obituary in the Independent

Tart art

The bedrooms of German prostitutes are just as tasteful as you'd expect them to be.


(via kottke)

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Thick of It

The first part of the first episode of this magnificent political satire. You have never seen a political comedy like this. People used to go on about how true to life the gently-absurd yes Minister was. Well, this is to Yes Minister as Catch-22 was to Dad's Army. In this sort of warfare, a guy's guts will come pouring out of his flying suit.

The series was conceived by Armando Ianucci, and stars the unfortunate Chris Langham, a fabulously droll, dry comic actor who's now best known for his child-pornography record. And charging up every scene he's in is my old pal Peter Capaldi, another Italo-Scot like Ianucci, who plays a Downing Street spin-doctor whose tactics would make Alistair Campbell wet himself with envy.

Brilliant, brutal comedy. From this link you can go to the whole first series and one Christmas special. If there's more up on the Tube of You, I'll keep you posted. There's unlikely to be any new episodes made, sadly, for reasons alluded to above.


sour grapes montage

Montage "Sour Grapes" from Montage-a-Google. Make your own.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Surprise result

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I answered all the questions as required, and this is what it proves. In fact, for the record, I was born and bred in Glaazgouw, Scaahtlind. Go figger.

Monday, 28 January 2008

No shit, Sherlock

SLIDELL, La., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Police in Louisiana said finding a cash register in the back of three suspects' car was a strong indicator the men were behind several burglaries.

Cash register a strong burglary clue -

LEGO turns 50

Happy birthday LEGO.

It's not who you know, it's also the strangers

Looking for reference for a literary agent who works for Random House or other big publishing house. Who takes the work of fiction and spiritual work something on the lines of "The Alchemist and Lord of Rings

LinkedIn: Answers

Here's another one:

Can somebody educate me on "How to get my book published".. (i am wrinting a book..)

Honestly, does social networking have no limits? Not even for struggling wrinters?

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Cutting-edge radio

"Keep with the classics, if you don't mind, and hear all your Play Classical UK favourites, in a trice."

Continuity announcer goes to commercial on Play Classical UK. Listen here, if it's not too much trouble, old chap.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Retire and consider

The Charge: Using the expression OMFG in an email to an adult editor.
The Defendant Pleads: Guilty.
Plea in Mitigation: She sent me this link to an interview subject.

"I do not think it means what you think it means"


Harper's debunks a bit of Bush mythology:

[Bush] came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.

Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled “The Slipper Tongue,” published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: “Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught.”

"The Illustrated President" by Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Tom Cruise is nuts

The story so far

Previously, on Deadwood:

Some motherfucking strangers have murdered a gibberish-talking cocksucker in Al's place, possibly on the orders of the rich motherfucker who's moved into the fucking camp, still trying to get his cocksucking hands on the fucking widow's claim.

Meanwhile fucking Bullock is standing for Sheriff, and the fucking jew-boy Star is standing as mayor against cocksucker EB Farnum. And the cunt Trixie has moved into Shaugnessy's shitpile but she stills sneaks through the wall to the store to service the Jew's fucking cock whenever the fuck he needs it.

Roll credits ...

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The Fivesyte Saga

Some further thoughts on the Forsyte Saga which should have been in yesterday's post, but were omitted because I forgotted of a production error.

  • The locations and settings are, not surprisingly, sumptuous and lavishly filmed, in contrast to the 1967 series which was shot with five cameras, virtually live, in the studio. The other amazing thing about that series was that it was made in black and white just as the BBC was switching over to colour transmissions. The story goes that people who had become hooked watching at home made a special effort to go round to their wealthier friends to see it on the new colour sets, only to find it was in black and white for everyone.
  • Galsworthy in his preface nails what it is about Soames. He's not a bad man, but he has one overwhelming quality: "One has noticed that readers, as they wade on through the salt waters of the Saga, are inclined more and more to pity Soames, and to think that in doing so they are in revolt against the mood of his creator. Far from it! He, too, pities Soames, the tragedy of whose life is the very simple, uncontrollable tragedy of being unlovable, without quite a thick enough skin to be thoroughly unconscious of the fact."
  • Not even his only daughter Fleur, Galsworthy points out, loves him the way he expects to be loved. In the Granada adaptation she doesn't love him at all, until he reveals the terrible secret of his and Irene's disastrous marriage. At which point she realises that he is suffering the agony of undimmed guilt, and his remorse breaks through to her. The scene in which he confesses to her was strikingly reminiscent of the moment in Godfather Part Three when Michael confesses the murder of Fredo, and we see that far from being unrepentant, he is in fact utterly stricken with grief and a regret that cannot ever be resolved.
  • The ending is doubly touching, then, in that we have seen Fleur go off on honeymoon with a man she does not love (as neither Irene nor Annette loved Soames) leaving Jon Forsyte (Irene's son with Jolyon) to mourn the loss of his true love forever, just as Soames has done. He brings a painting, a Dégas copy which he bought long ago, to give to Jon, because it reminded everyone of Fleur. When he first met Irene she was disdainful of his approach to art as commodity to be traded, but now he makes clear the painting is "of little value, but important". She too cracks and finally shakes his hand as they separate forever.
  • On the downside, there are several French characters in the story, one of whom is Annette, Soames' second wife. She's played by Beatriz Batarda, who's of Portuguese background, with a French grandmother, according to IMDB. She's of the school that believes in accents, less is more. The other two, one of them playing her mother, are simply awful. As if their English isn't bad enough, they're called on to speak words of French which they clearly cannot do. There's no excuse for this. The worst offender, simply because he's playing a sizeable role and is around a lot, is Prosper Profond, played by Michael Maloney. His accent is simply dreadful, more of a caricature that Pepe Le Pew's, less realistic than Peter Ustinov as Poirot, more ridiculous than Peter Sellers as Clouseau. Here's a photo of the guy, just so you can mock him if ever you see him in the street.

Now playing

I'm listening at the moment to this album by accordion/bandoneon player Richard Galliano, together with the 14-piece string orchestra della Toscana. The first three tracks are a concerto composed in 1994. The rest includes compositions by Astor Piazzolla, whose name is never very far away in this type of music.


Richard Galliano


Dreyfus Records - Passatori

Oddball photo site


But is it art?

inkjet prints on silk, cotton, polyester filling, thread, stainless steel shelf
24"H x 36"W x 12"D

Pillows is a stack of pillows covered in pillowcases. Each pillowcase is sewn out of fabric on which images of skin have been inkjet printed. Each pillowcase possesses unique markings and coloring and is printed from a different image of skin. They evoke our psychological relationship to objects as projection surfaces for comfort and familiarity. The comfortable nature of the soft pillow is undermined by the magnified detail of the skin and even more so by the image of meat-like flesh on the pillow inside the pillowcase.

< < l a u r a s p l a n > >

The Forsyte Saga

Today I finally watched the last episode of The Forsyte Saga, something I'd been putting off because I didn't want to let it go, and because the conditions had to be just right -- no interruptions, no competing demands, no distractions.

The Saga is of course based on the novels of John Galsworthy, the Nobel prize winner, written in 1906-21. Galsworthy was hugely popular in his day, particularly as a playwright, but his fame waned the minute he died, and his works remained forgotten until the BBC made an adaptation in 1967 of the Saga. Even then, that did little to revive interest in his other work.

The version I was watching was the 2002 adaptation for ITV with WGBH of Boston, and the later 2003 sequel. It stars Damien Lewis as Soames, Rupert Graves as Young Jolyon, Gina McKee as Irene and Corin Redgrave as Old Jolyon.

The story is set from 1886 (according to the book, although the TV series seems to have started earlier, according to some reviews) until 1920. Aside from an important plot-point revolving around the Boer War, nothing from the outside world encroaches on the Forsytes' lives, in the series at least. I haven't actually read the trilogy, and only looked up the preface to see if it would clarify a few points I'm making here.

The story concerns two branches of the Forsyte family, making their way up the social ladder to the top of the upper-middle class. One one side, Soames the solicitor, himself responsible for much of his family's fortune, and very much concerned with accumulating possessions, including artworks. The title of the first novel, A Man of Property, refers to him, and that trait is to be crucial to what follows. 

On the other side, Young Jolyon, the artistic type. The first we see of him is his longing looks at his child's nanny -- and if anyone can deliver a longing look it's Rupert Graves, with his great soft puppy-dog eyes. Sure enough Jolyon decides to run off with his nanny, and his father disowns him as a result. That theme -- the need to follow your heart and go wherever love will take you -- is also a thread that runs all the way through the work right to the closing pages, when we learn that Soames can now empathise with Irene's son, who finds himself in the same spot as Soames once did. And that Soames' daughter is now trapped in a loveless marriage, like her own mother, and like Irene once was.

Irene is the star around which all the other bodies in the Forsyte universe turn. She is from genteel lower-middle class origin, and is courted by Soames after he uncharacteristically falls for her at first sight. She agrees to marry him only when he pledges to release her if she ever needs to be let go. Her family is in two minds about her: on the one hand she is stunningly beautiful and statuesque; on the other she is glacial and untouchable.

Irene is played by Gina McKee, who I've had reason to praise already in these posts, and she's a magnificent creature here. It's easy to imagine how a dry stick like Soames (although he does have hidden passions) could lose his mind over her. And easy to imagine how the rest of her admirers who follow could all do the same. McKee is called upon to portray all of that, however, while rarely being given any emoting to do. There are one or two incidents, and the rest is Irene being enigmatic. She is in fact someone who has to be seen through other people's eyes. Amazingly, McKee pulls it off.

Damien Lewis is simply masterful as Soames, from the smugness and self-satisfaction of his early conquests to the crippling rage and frustration that consume him later when he realises that his notions of property and ownership have no bearing on the rest of the world. Lewis, who was only 31 when the series was made, ages with the help of only a light coating of collodion and some painted-on liver spots. What makes his performance more convincing is the way he inhabits his clothing, all pressed wool and starched linen, and his body too. He seems to carry his hands in a permanent tetanic fist, thumbs along the seams of his trousers. His shoulders become bowed as if carrying a huge weight, and his walk is the very portrayal of the word "constipated".

His performance is also a masterclass in understatement, because Soames is constantly trying to keep his animal feelings inside, to maintain decorum and face. He seems to chew the inside of his own mouth, and at one point he bit his lip and bled. I am quite convinced that wasn't make-up.

Rupert Graves is not called upon to do anything other than what he always does. He is soft and flowing where Soames is angular and razor-edged; spiritual where Soames is material; open and forgiving where Soames is clammed-up and vindictive. If there is one major criticism of the work as a whole, it would be that rather too programmatic pitching of opposites.

A special word for Corin Redgrave, who plays Old Jolyon. What a charmer he turns out to be. At first he rejects his son for throwing over his wife for a servant. Later, though, the wind of mortality leads him to relent, and he not only reconciles with his son (we see where Young Jolyon gets his soft heart from) he also forms a delightful bond with Irene, unknown to anyone else. Redgrave has always been one of our most under-rated and under-employed actors, probably as a result of his loony Socialist Worker politics. It's too bad. He's just great here.

I was watching The Forsyte Saga on DVD. I am now obliged to go out and buy the book, then find the time to read it. More about that if the time ever comes.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Flags of the world

Gambia has the world's best flag (above), according to this site, based on criteria explained here. The flag, he says, represents the geography of the country, as well as having good strong colours. And he's right. Take a look at a map of the place.

The choice is quite understandable, and for the most part his A grades are all justified. Lower down the scale things become a little murkier, then at the very bottom it's all self-evident again. There can be little doubt that the flag of the Northern Mariana Islands is "truly awful". I protest at the Fail grade given to Brazil, however.

The Stars and Stripes gets a C+ for being "too busy" and having "too many stars". The dude is from New Zealand, incidentally, which is why he dares such heresy. I think he's right. All those lines, all those stars: it's positively juvenile.

The Union Jack is also "too busy" and gets a B. And the New Zealand flag gets a C for "colonial nonsense". You may have to refresh your memory as to what it looks like, to understand what he means.

Belgium, meanwhile, gets a B+ and the thumbs up for "good shape" -- apparently he thinks it's more square than rectangular, but I think he's mistaken. There are literally thousands of Belgian flags on permanent display these days around the streets of Brussels (picture). They don't look very square to me.

The scene on every apartment building in town, yesterday

Art books

For those of you who have been following along, here is Art Garfunkel's reading list for 2007. I wrote about the list, which he's been maintaining since 1968, last January in this post. Since then, he's been busy with Burke and Dostoevsky, but also Jean Rhys and Octavio Paz.

More news on Art's reading next January.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Yet another comedy video

Catherine Tate sniffing George Michael's pyjamas. Sure it's feckin Christmas.

Government of the people, by the people etc

John Edwards knows about it.

Stand by to repel boarders

AMERICANS have been given a stark warning about visiting Scotland - don't eat the haggis or give money to drunks.

The advice comes from website

It's compiled from the views of 2000 Yanks who have visited the UK.

Their pearls of wisdom are revealed today and they include some interesting insights on Britian - as well as some plain daft ones.

One wrote on Scotland's national dish: "Haggis. Ugh. Ugh. I am an adventurous eater. I will eat whatever, at least once. But this was nasty.

"It is the sheep's stomach stuffed with its intestines. Eww. It is really bland, too."

Another said of aggressive beggars: "Watch out for Scottish people who've had too much to drink and ask you for money."

While a third said: "They are very possessive of their favourite soccer or football teams. I mean, they go stark nuts about games, teams and players.

"Do not make a derogatory statement in the wrong place at the wrong time.You may be hurt."

Other things that have baffled US visitors include separate hot and cold taps (US fawcets give you a mix), strong drink, queueing, and country roads and lanes.

Some of the advice is useful, such as: "Don't stare at anyone if you're in a pub. They may take it the wrong way and beat you up.

"If you are going to go to a 'small' town, don't get drunk and make advances on the women... I have tried this.... it is dangerous.

"Don't get drunk in a strange pub. Remember that everyone there knows everyone else there - they and their grandfathers have been drinking with each other for 500 years."

Another warns: "Always join the line or queue - if you don't take your turn there's always trouble.

"You may see mobile vans selling food and drink at tourist spots or in laybys. Be wary of these... their hygiene is not always good."

As for the roads, one explained: "It is really easy to forget that they drive differently - their streets are narrow and curvy and they dart around quickly in little Euro-cars.

"Driving in the UK is not easy. They don't drive on the right side of the road, but on the wrong side.

"Careful with roundabouts. You might want to check them out before you drive through one... trust me they can be tricky."

Finally, on drink: "Beware the snakebite, an evil concoction of lager and cider that will, in moderation, cure ahangover, but in excess, give you one that you will not soon forget."

Advice For US Tourists: Don't Eat The Haggis - The Daily Record

Striptease Instructional Intro

Ruby-red Mulva? What is she talking about?

Striptease Instructional Intro

Friday, 18 January 2008

Kurt who?

Rule #5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

Rules Kids Won't Learn in School

LMFAO video

Everything about this video is monumental, from crazy Bobby Conn, who might be Mike Myers dressed up and doing a Steve Martin SNL routine, to the Sesame Street children dancing in the background. But the thing I love most is the tall ungainly girl in a slip-dress and paratrooper's boots who's in shot the whole time -- and rightly so!

Trust me, this is one you will not regret clicking on.

Paparazzo magnet

Imagine, if you will, a hall full of 2000 people, and someone takes a picture of the orchestra and choir together at the moment of the ovation.

One face is turned toward the camera, like Robert Walker at the tennis match in Strangers on a Train. Guess whose?

No, wait a minute, that's no good.

Zoom in 30 percent. Enhance. Zoom, enhance. Zoom. Rotate, recentre, enhance. That's better.

Cleans up nicely innit.

Odds and sods

Listening to Wikipedia as a sound file I could take or leave, but I can't help thinking the website where you can set it up, Pediaphon, could have come up with a better name. I can see them being burned out next time there's a howling mob with pitchforks on the loose.

Did Mike Huckabee have gastric bypass surgery to lose all that weight? This guy makes a convincing case. On the other hand, why would it matter? Well, maybe honesty is a thing to consider when you're trying to be the Jesusier-than-Thou candidate.

An all-mod-cons portable art chair, for when you go out into the fields painting sunflowers or haystacks. Monet would be turning in his grave.

Waste hours of your dwindling life-span with White Dwarf.

Little itty-bitty tiny dinky houses. Loved: 2, 4, 8, 11. Hated: the geodesic yurts.

Hobotopia goes from strength to strength. Click Pip pic to skip.

That'll do for now. Off to watch The Forsyte Saga on duvvud. More about that later.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Another loony theory from the wonderland of evolution

Proponents of evolution remind me of the slightly dumb class clown who thinks people are laughing with him, while all the time they are snickering as he makes a goofy spectacle of himself.

Another loony theory from the wonderland of evolution

Dennis doesn't believe man and apes have a common ancestor. He needs to look in the mirror. Here's Dennis:

And here's an ape:

Tell me you don't see a family resemblance.

I say, do get her done, there's a good chap

Ever feel like you'd like to be tougher, but you either can't or won't put in the effort it takes to make you tough, like going to the gym, lifting weights, drinking beer out of the neck of the bottle, getting a mullet, having a distrubed childhood, not being very bright and having a small penis?

Here's the answer: the Tattoo Sleeve. Now you can look like someone whose name or middle name (or preferably both) is Wayne, without going anywhere near a needle.

I understand the researchers at TattooSleeve Inc are now working on a way to make it look as if your front teeth were smashed out, while not interfering with your ability to nibble on carrot sticks.

Here's what the Wayne of tomorrow will be wearing seared into his flesh:

Purty, ain't it?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Boys and their toys

Joe has all his toy cars -- sorry die-cast models -- in his basement. He also has a full-size slot-car track which goes up into the ceiling. His wife is very proud of his achievement, and so is he, as the video shows. His little girl likes playing with it. He doesn't have a son, which is kinda cruel.

Found via Ikea Hacker, which is a site that's always full of interesting things people have done with boring furniture, which you can look at and then go, Nah. And then go back and sit on your Töfu chair with your feet on the Dldö coffee-table.

Pimp my mouse

New model mouse, souped-up and customised.

Get your own.

World's top bookshops

The world's most beautiful bookshop, the Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht, according to The Guardian. Read all about it here. It's essentially a giant modular bookshop frame erected inside a Dominican church. If they had erected the self-same framework inside an aircraft hangar, and stocked it with the same books, it doubtless wouldn't have won. The prize is going to the church, then, even though as part of the permission to use the building, it was stipulated that the shop would not impinge on the church building in any way.

Brussels also got a mention, in the form of the art bookshop Posada. Choosing a shop that sells art as well as art-books might seem like cheating. But not as bad as voting a church Best Bookshop.


Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Vendetta fear after poet murdered

Two brothers killed in retaliation for the shooting of 82-year-old writer in a small Sardinian town

Vendetta fear after poet murdered | News | Guardian Unlimited Books

Follow-up to this story.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

No curbs

I've just been watching the last season (to date) of Curb Your Enthusiasm. What is there to say? This is probably the best sitcom ever made, or maybe ex aequo in first place with the first season of Fawlty Towers.

But Larry has turned out 60 episodes of this show, compared to Cleeseses eight. And the 60th was as good as any, as we leave Larry with the foxy Viveca A. Fox and her family of hurricane refugees. Brilliant.

I watched it on a new site, which I just sorta stumbled on when the site where I used to watch TV comedies (like the excellent Peep Show) went down for some reason. This one has patchy coverage, also (despite the name) includes shows like The Wire and Dexter (update later) and has videos of pretty good quality -- the CYE was good enough for full-screen.

I don't know what the legality of it all is, but it's certainly one I've bookmarked.

The Scout Association : Official UK Website

Beaver Supplement

Yes, really.

The Scout Association : Official UK Website » Home


Someone on Blog 365 posted to a discussion I was erm in, and I clicked on the links to see what the person's blog looked like, and then I read a post and was about to be right neighbourly like, and leave a comment, but then BAM! I ran into the wall of registration. This person makes you register before you can even comment. Not just a captcha, mind you. That's already bad enough, and annoys the shit out of me so much it's discouraged me from commenting on many occasions (yeah, I'm talking to you).

But registering? To leave one little comment? How off-putting is that?

I'll tell you. It put me off completely. I made like a tree and fucked off out of there, never to return.

People, if you want other peeps to comment on your posts, don't put up walls. Even readers who are not thinking of commenting at this time still want to feel welcome, and they see the walls too.

By the way, I have some nice new grapes over there on my Blog 365 page. Drop in and look at them -- or it, if you will, as it's actually conjoined grapes. We used to call them Siamese grapes, but the country changed its name to Thailand, and Thai grapes would sound like too much of a bad pun.

Totally true story

According to the Belgian Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, residents of a social services home in Bruges have complained about the quality of their meals. Two of their complaints are:

  1. The food tastes awful; and
  2. The portions are too small.

You couldn't make it up. Unless you're Woody Allen, that is.

Crossposted to May Contain Nuts

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Little Red Colbert

I know some peeps don't like blogging about videos, but folks you gots to make an exception for this, in which Stephen Colbert dances to Prince in the Smithsonian, and not in Eden's kitchen thank the lawyers. He's a lovely little mover. Who even needs writers?

Degrees of separation?

So is this spooky or what?

There's Jon Stewart ragging on Mike Nevagivasukabee about being supported by Chuck Norris. See them together:

And that of course got me thinking of how former BBC correspondent Martin Bell was supported by David Soul, when he was standing as an independent MP in England. No pictures of the two of them together, sadly, but here's an interview.


All well and good, and not much of a coincidence. Until I stumbled across this page, in which DS is appearing at an event hosted by MB.

See the title of the event? Missing in Action.

And what does the phrase "missing in action" make you think of? That's right. This:

Coincidence, or something more sinister? You decide.

Animator II

This guy is a worthy successor to Terry Gilliam. Weirdly wonderful, in a very similar way. Here's his show-reel.

Friday, 11 January 2008

New goomah

Sopranos star Gandolfini engaged.

Remembering Hillary

A New Zealander of my acquaintance was not too impressed today when, discussing the death of Sir Edmund Hillary, I pointed out, "Well, it's not as if he's done much lately".

This is simply a matter of fact. Why would someone get so upset?


Silent Library.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Archive News

News from the Royal Archives in Kew, London, that may be of interest to those who do not benefit from the great honour of being subjects of Her Majesty:

Uncover the stories of 1977

It's 1977, Johnny Rotten is banned from the airwaves leaving "Mull of Kintyre" to top the charts. But it wasn't all punk and Paul McCartney. The Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee. Government files from 1977 have just been released giving you the inside story of the Jubilee and more.

Discover more at

Download the files for free until 31 January 2008.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Neat ad juxtaposition

Two Google ads, side by side on a web-page:

MCN says: The answer is staring us in the face. Have the billions of poor people grow tropical hardwoods. Oh no wait, didn't they do that before?

PS: How many mahogany trees do you think I could fit in a window-box?

A bit of rainforest action going on here, on this Paris apartment balcony.

What the Dickens was he thinking?

As well as being one of the greatest English novelists of all time, and a celebrated performer of his own and others' work, Charles Dickens also found time to have ten children with his wife Catherine née Hogarth, with her obviously doing most of the work.

Here are their names, with associations attached:

Charles Culliford (Charley) Dickens (1837-1896)

The only Culliford I could find was a 17th century pirate, so this first child's name may not have much significance.

Mary (Mamie) Dickens (1838-1896)

Mary was named after her mother's sister who died the year before Mary was born. Mamie, as she was called, later wrote a memoir My Father As I Recall Him, which is online here.

Kate Macready (Katie) Dickens (1839-1929)

William Charles Macready was an actor and a friend of Dickens.

Walter Savage Landor Dickens (1841-1863)

Landor and Dickens shared a biographer in John Forster. Landor was a writer and poet much more popular then than he is now.

Francis Jeffrey (Frank) Dickens (1844-1886)

Jeffrey was a judge and critic, helped launch the Edinburgh Review with Sydney Smith, and helped Smith edit the periodical.

Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson Dickens (1845-1912)

Count D'Orsay, much admired by Byron, was an artist and dandy, and a friend of Disraeli and Bulwer-Lytton.

Tennyson, obviously, was the Poet Laureate from 1850 until he died in 1892.

Sydney Smith Haldimand Dickens (1847-1872)

Smith was a preacher, lecturer, pamphleteer and writer.

Haldimand was a Swiss-born general who helped defeat the French in Canada and from there carried out raids into the colonies during the American Revolutionary War.

Henry Fielding (Harry) Dickens (1849-1933)

Fielding was, of course, the author of Tom Jones. But also founder of the Bow Street Runners. He died more than half a century before Dickens was born.

Dora Annie Dickens (1850-1851)

Dora was named after a character in David Copperfield.

Edward Bulwer Lytton (Plorn) Dickens (1852-1902)

Bulwer-Lytton was a hugely popular writer of the time, nowadays mostly forgotten except as the author of the inimitable first line, "It was a dark and stormy night".

So, with the exception of the two literary giants Fielding and Tennyson, Dickens named his children after leading literary figures of his circle, one or two of whom were also personal friends. Nonetheless, I find that little foible quite charming. To be so immortalised by one of the giants, in such an intimate way, must have been considered quite an honour. How different from the leading figures of the culture today, who call their children Brooklyn, or Fifi Trixibelle, or Lourdes.

From our Dude, Get A Life department

Here is a set of 12 screenshots from the DVD and HD versions of Lord of the Rings which have been put up for comparison, so you can appreciate the minute difference in quality between respective images from that tiresome dreary endless load of old elven bollocks. Why, it's almost fascinating enough to make you want to sit through the whole nine centuries hours all over again.

Here's just one of the shots. Isn't it marvellous?

Smirking Hickabee

Isn't it amazing how self-pitying and self-aggrandizing the religious freaks in this country are? It's not enough that they can make straight-faced professions of "faith" at election times and impose their language on everything from the Pledge of Allegiance to the currency. It's not enough that they can claim tax exemption and even subsidy for anything "faith-based." It's that when they are even slightly criticized for their absurd opinions, they can squeal as if being martyred and act as if they are truly being persecuted.

It's perfectly reasonable to reject a candidate because of his religious views. - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine


Christopher Hitchens on top form criticising Mike Huckabee, "who is an unusually stupid primate but who does not have the elementary intelligence to recognize the fact that this is what he is".

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Rules of thumb

Over there in the sidebar, under the picture of my swollen, dripping orbs, you'll find a list of Rules of Thumb, which is a feed from a great new site, which I'll be displaying for a time among all that bling. They aim to have every rule of thumb on earth in one place, and there are hundreds of categories. Some of them are hilarious, which probably means they're true. Dodgy example:

Every dollar spent on a scientology product or service will bring six to eight minutes of happiness.

Lots more at the site. Be a bit patient, though. They just got Boing Boinged, so it's running a little slow. It'll be even worse when the Grapes 2.0 hordes descend, I dare say.

UPDATE: Seems Rules of Thumb was a book, and indeed still is. Here's the link.

Monday, 7 January 2008

2008 Super Minimalist Micro Calendar

Click this image for a printable pdf.

2008 Super Minimalist Micro Calendar (Reduced) and Calendar Link - Time and Date

Instructions at link

Wake me when it's Armageddon

The Starry NIght™ Sleep Technology Bed from Leggett & Platt is the archetype of modern sleep - a pioneering combination of technology and bedding to create an environment that is intelligent, intuitive and comfortable.

Starry NIght™ is the first bed in the world to encompass:

  • Anti-snore technology
  • Dual programmable temperature control from 68 to 117 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Sleep Diagnostic Center; monitors body movement and breathing pattern
  • Internet connectivity
  • Wireless RF remote via Microsoft's Media Center
  • iPod docking station
  • life|ware™ Connected

Starry Night™ Bed

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Culture notes

Recommended: I've just been listening to the most marvellous CD of the Puccini opera I Can Haz Fluttaby? featuring the great soprano Victoria de LOLAngeles.

Job market

My friend is applying for a job in government service. He has to send them a CV, and a cover your arse letter.

Fingers crossed.

Don't fuck with the silverback

Great photo sequence as tourists piss off gorilla.

Nobody was hurt, but the guy in the blue anorak is the bitch. Forever.

I love the idea that he probably paid a fortune, like those cruisers on the ship that sank off Tierra del Fuego, to go to a place he had no fucking business being. And this is his reward.

I'm not one to judge

but your parenting skills are being called into question if custody goes to K-Fed.

That was supposed to be a joke, but it's not funny. I looked for a ridiculous photo of the guy to push the point, and came up empty. The worst I could see made him look slightly woozy, which for a person pursued by paparazzi isn't too bad. The best was here:

Try it yourself: use Google Image Search and see if you can find such innocuous images of Britney.

I'm afraid the conclusion is obvious: mother isn't necessarily the better choice, even when father is a no-good low-life. Fathers for Justice take note: start dressing up as K-Fed and invading Parliament like that. Someone might begin to take notice, which is something even he can't claim.

That's a lot of bottles of Krug

When the Queen Mother died in 2002, at the age of 101, the chatelaine of five royal residences and with a vast retinue of more than a hundred servants, the astonishing scale of her expenditure - on haute couture, millinery, jewellery, a stable of 12 racehorses, vintage champagne and lavish entertainment in the manner of a bygone era - had left behind debts of more than £7million, making her arguably the greatest royal spendthrift since the opulent Versailles heyday of Marie Antoinette.

The Queen Mum, saluting herself as CinC, Queen Mum's Own Highlanders

Marie Antoinette, barely distinguishable

The Empress of Extravagance: How the Queen Mother left behind more than £7m in debts | the Daily Mail

Incidentally, M-A was plagued throughout her life and into death by rumours and lies about what a spendthrift she was, among other calumnies. The parallels are more fitting than the disgraceful Daily Mail could know.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Posh classical dickhead

Media-friendly orchestra conductor Charles Hazlewood analyses pop songs he thinks are ever so classical in a BBC Four series.

We can't get that here, so The Guardian kindly offered some examples of Charleseses insights:


Dizzee Rascal - Paranoid

Best bit: The way Dizzee rhymes "East" with "beef".

Autopsy: "I was dropping my daughter off at nursery this morning and I was listening to this. What's interesting is it starts with the chorus ("Rinse me out, use me up, cast me down, fuck me up") and that there's this rolling bass line that underlines all the verses. That makes me think of Henry Purcell, one of our greatest composers from the 17th century who was part of a time when an awful lot of music was written over the top of what was called a ground bass. The idea was that one wrote music over one recurring bass line that's on a loop and here I am listening to Dizzee Rascal and thinking "blimey there's a ground bass."

Johnny Dee on the complexities of pop | Rock | Guardian Unlimited Music


Sour Grapes says: It clearly didn't occur to Charles that Blimey, here I am playing foul-mouthed pop smut to my three-year-old. Wake up, Dad!

Here's a picture of Chas doing that Sorry gesture when he's cut someone up on the school run because he was too distracted by the tonic-dominant dichotomies of The Gees of Bee.

Poet gunned down in 50-year-old vendetta

These things never happen to poets. Only in Sardinia. Amazing story. Try casting Philip Larkin in the role instead, or Wallace Stevens, just for fun. He was shot six times. That's more than Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson put together. 

The Sardinian poet Peppino Marotto did not seem a likely target for a cold-blooded assassination. The 82-year-old was well known and much loved on his native island for his poetic portrayal of peasants, shepherds and brigands, scrupulously written in Sardinian dialect.

But after he was shot repeatedly on Saturday, residents of his home town of Orgosolo, an isolated town tucked into the Sardinian hills, whispered that Marotto may have been the victim of a vendetta dating back half a century, part of a tradition of feuds and banditry that many believed had long since vanished from the Mediterranean island.

50-year-old vendetta suspected in killing of Sardinian poet, 82 | News | Guardian Unlimited Books

Sentence of the week

We'll get to the anal sex, horse masturbation and incest in a minute.

Released at last | Guardian Unlimited Books

Michael Faber nails how to open a book review. And the stunning sentences don't stop at the intro. Another example:

In one of the most lushly rendered sequences, "The Twister", 15-year-old Dorothy, convinced she will die as her house is buffeted by a tornado, decides that she can "do what the heck I liked", and frigs herself to a climax that's surreally mingled with the twister's impact.

And the goods just keep on coming [sic].

Poll: Most beautiful children's book

A Flemish paper is running a poll to find out the "most beautiful children's book of all time".

As well as Dutch and Flemish titles (only to be expected) the list already contains the likes of Charlotte's Web and The Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are and The Snowman.

I take it their definition of "beautiful" is as wide as can be, since they include not only Sendak and Briggs, but also books like Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which as far as a recall didn't have a lot of beautiful illustrations, if indeed it had any.

So let me throw the question open to readers: What do you think is the most beautiful children's book of all time?

Already noted:

Beatrix Potter all
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Alice in Wonderland
Le petit prince
Tracy Beaker
Pippi Longstocking
Guess How Much I Feel Like Throwing Up Love You
Winnie the Pooh

Vote in comments, as often as you like.

From beyond the grave

I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED. But if there is an afterlife, I'm telling anyone who asks that I went down surrounded by hundreds of insurgents defending a village composed solely of innocent women and children. It'll be our little secret, ok?

Obsidian Wings: Andy Olmsted

A posthumously posted message by Andy Olmsted, blogger and member of the US armed forces in Iraq, who died on January 3. He left his last post to be put up by a friend. It's a very humane message.

Found via Fabulously Jinxed

Short shameful confession

I have a hypersensitive gag reflex, which can be triggered by nothing more than holding a pencil in my mouth, for example. Brushing my teeth is an ordeal, and I've actually had to throw up because I was brushing a little too energetically. A visit to the dentist is a nightmare, because although she's aware of the situation -- it is a genuine condition, though "condition" is a little strong when there's nothing but one symptom -- there's not a damn thing she can do about it.

Still, it could be worse: I could have been born a woman or a gay man, KWIM.

Sorry this confession is not all that shameful. I resolve to do better in 2008.

Lots of lovely WiFi

Today I discovered a cafe where there's open, accessible free WiFi, not because the cafe is providing it, but because it's leaking in from someone who's working/living in the immediate area. So, ethics be damned, I sat there soaking up lots of lovely free WiFi for an hour or so. And I will of course do so again, next time I'm in the vicinity. However, I think if I had a computer it might be another matter.

I deal with these questions on a case by case basis.

New word: snarge


It's described by an expert as "what's left after a bird hits an airplane, goes through an engine. There are no feathers or any other kind of remains of the bird left except blood, guts."

Every time a tweety-bird goes into an Air Force jetplane's engines, the remains -- the snarge -- are sent off to the Smithsonian in Washingtonian where the bits are examined to find out what species was involved. That information helps to determine when it would be a good idea to keep the expensive jets from taking off and landing, because a single chaffinch could take down a whole plane at a cost of more than $1500, or possibly even higher.

Anyway, here's a video report from the Wall Street Journal on the subject of snarge, and who even knew the WSJ had video? Mine is just all made of paper.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Important news

The National Archives at Kew will be closed to the public from Monday 21 to Sunday 27 January 2008 inclusive.

We will reopen at 09:00 on Monday 28 January 2008

This is to enable us to carry out building works as part of the improvement programme we are implementing at Kew.

Find out more about the improvement works

News | The National Archives will be closed from 21 to 27 January 2008

Look, don't blame me, okay?

I'm just the messenger here.

Hoursh of innereshing reading

Welcome to

This website has been set up to be the definitive online resource for all things Whisk(e)y.

Main Page - Whiskipedia

Thursday, 3 January 2008

2008 begins for real

Today the holiday came to an effective end, despite the continuation of the comedy "terrorist alert" which the Belgian government saw fit to impose last week, presumably envious of the fact that London and Paris get theirs, so why not the Capital of Europe?

Today was the first day of the January sales, and this evening saw the first choir rehearsal for the new season. Which in turn brought me, since I don't have time to eat before going out, for my first assiette pita of the year. That's a dish of gyros lamb with a mountain of mixed salad and frites, as well as a piquant garlic sauce and rich meat jus. It's all served at the local snack-bar, which is what we call a place that sells Freedom Fries and sundries. There's nothing quite like it in the UK or US, especially since I have my assiette with a glass of dry white wine.

It's my guilty secret.

Tomorrow I shall go back to work, in a somewhat leisurely fashion, and this weekend for real. Then on Monday the children go back to school, Mme Grapes goes back to work and finally I'll have my daily life back.

Not that I want to see the back of them or anything, ahem, but this holiday period has been inordinately long. All because Christmas and New Year fell on a Tuesday, which meant everything stopped the Friday before, and can't resume until the Monday after.

Which is almost upon us. A happy 2008 to all my readers, especially those I haven't yet addressed in some other forum. To the Blog365 lot, courage and strength. To everyone else, luck.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Banished words of 2007

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A "surge" of overused words and phrases formed a "perfect storm" of "post-9/11" cliches in 2007, according to a U.S. university's annual list of words and phrases that deserve to be banned.

Choosing from among 2,000 submissions, the public relations department at Michigan's Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie targeted 19 affronts to the English language in its well-known jab at the worlds of media, sports, advertising and politics.

The contributors gave first prize to the phrase "a perfect storm," saying it was numbingly applied to virtually any notable coincidence.

Wordsmiths, avoid these words.. | Oddly Enough | Reuters


I can't say I've really come across that phrase all that much. The full list of banished words is here. Better candidates for top spot, in my view: organic and emotional. Random and sweet are teen slang, so they're not supposed to make sense to Lake Superior State University types. Decimate is as old as the Roman hills, and it's been misused for as long. And how often does anyone see authoring or wordsmithing? A pretty useless list, in all. Send your suggestions to make next year's list better, at this address.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

My word of 2007

And the winner is ...


Join us again in 2009 for My word of 2008. Auf wiedersehen!

Fame at last

Look who's appearing in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm:

(click to biggerise)

I take it they're referring to this, written and directed by one Larry David. Oh well.