Saturday, October 29, 2005


A Sad Day For Humanity

Why? What happened? Well, yesterday, the latest series of 'Wife Swap' ended. I love 'Wife Swap.' I've stated that position before, and I'm going to stick to it, no matter how unpopular it may become ('Wife Swap peppers the schedules like a rash of bad acne.').

For those who live in a country without this monument to mankind, allow me to explain - 'Wife Swap' is a TV show in which the wives of two families will swap places for a fortnight. In the first week, they have to obey the rules of the house they move in to, and in the second week they get to set the rules and enforce the changes on their new family. Afterwards, they meet up and argue about it.

As a tribute to my love for this shining beacon of televisual exclellence, allow me to present:


1. We know who produces 'Wife Swap.' We're not so sure about who wrote Shakespeare's stuff.

2. A considerable chunk of the Bard's musings were historical plays. Yes, yes, very good, we all love that 'now is the winter of our discontent' and such, but the truth is these pieces of history were more or less irrelevant, even at the time of original performance. By contrast, 'Wife Swap' deals with real human issues, like alcohol, sweat and dog poo.

3. Shakespeare is often regarded as a master of tragedy and comedy, but he rarely mixed the two to great effect in any single scene. By contrast, 'Wife Swap' does that all the time, such as in last night's episode, whereby the wife formerly obsessed with cleaning was on the verge of divorcing her husband after he appeared not to have learned his mistakes, and his face was something too funny to behold. Genius!

4. Very few people could honestly say that partaking in a Shakespeare play saved their marriage, but a lot of the participants of 'Wife Swap' can.

5. Criticism of 'Wife Swap', such as that above, lacks a little literary finesse. 'Rash of bad acne?' Can you even say that these days, or are the bad-skinned a protected minority? Robert Greene, a contemporary of Stratford's finest, was much better:

"an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey."

Much better, I'm sure you will agree.

6. Shakespeare wasn't even a very good criminal. The myth that he was arrested for poaching deer has now been long-since debunked, and his only quarrel with the law concerned a couple of piddling boundary changes in Stratford. Lizzie Bardsley would have wiped the floor with him.

7. Shakespeare was well regarded in his own time, but was certainly not regarded as the best poet, and probably not as the best playwright. By contast, who can think of a better family-swapping reality TV show?

8. To quote the Wikipedia link, 'there is a common association of his work with boredom and incomprehension.' Many could criticise 'Wife Swap' for being trash television, but few could truthfully describe as incomprehensible.

9. Some of the Bard's sonnets have given rise to questions about his possible bisexuality. 'Wife Swap' has the gay market covered, with an episoode of the show featuring a lesbian family produced in America.

10. The Lord Chamberlain's player clearly considered himself very highly indeed, inventing many new words, such as ode and alligator. Most now view this as inventive, but I see it as arrogant. Why did he feel so far above everyone else? 'Wife Swap' has a humble humility to it that becomes it well.

Lizzie Bardsley, benefit cheat. Still, she is a much better criminal than the Bard.

Friday, October 28, 2005



Right then, you horrible lot, time for some culture.

Brassai was born Gyula Halasz in Brasso, Romania (then a part of Transylvania) in 1899. He moved to Paris, and moved to Montparnasse, where all the artists lived. His genuine love of the city led to his slow obsession with it, and he released his first series of photographs, entitled 'Paris By Night' in 1933.

He became recognised as one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century until his death in 1984.

Check his work out now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Way Off The Marx

A quick piece of advice - if you know anyone who would use the verb 'to Sovietise' in a positive way, consider removing them from your social circle. Rob Hinkley provides us with a superb example (from here):

'The Motor Industry must be sovietised . . . if supply exceeds demand it must be rationed.'

Whoever you are, don't have kids.


You may have noticed I added the 'Animal Of the Day' thing to my blog a while back. I love these little fiddly bits you can stick around the place - makes it feel like home, somehow. Anyway, the other day the animal was the honey badger, 'the most fearless animal in the world' (2002 Guiness Book Of Records), quite clearly the best animal that God, Allah, Buddha, evolution, or whatever has granted us. They fulfil the two requirements of a person like me who likes childrens books and horror films, by being both cute, and unbelievably fearless. Why not enjoy the sight of one eating a scorpion?

That looks like the lifestyle to me.

Better still, watch one maul a snake.


On to the serious business. Why has the Miranda July film 'Me And You And Everyone We Know' been given an 'R' rating in Australia, a rating that is now apparently rarely used? Well, to be fair, the MPAA rated it 'R' in the USA too, but very much needlessly so. It contains one reference to underage sex, which is verbal. Although the MPAA written warning states 'disturbing sexual content involving children', it isn't really disturbing at all, and certainly nothing remotely controversial happens.

MA15+ would really have covered it adequately, in my opinion.

Apparently, it's only necessary to hint at the possibility of underage sex in Australia to get top rating. Miranda July's allegedly excellent film has fallen foul.


Today's final thought comes courtesy of Ofcom, who have rapped the BBC over the knuckles for their showing of Quentin Tarantino's 'Pulp Fiction' at the hour of 9.15. The ruling stated that the 'seriously offensive language, graphic violence and drug abuse' that mark the start of the film were inappropriate for that time of the evening.

Coming so soon after the ridiculous panicking over the screening times of 'Rome', this ruling represents another slap in the face for the BBC, and another indication of why Ofcom should be scrapped, and a genuienly 'light-touch' regulator created. Just nine viewers complained this time, out of approximately one and a half million. Apparently, this struck nobody at Ofcom as faintly daft.

The BBC countered that Pulp Fiction had been screened on that channel on four previous occasions, and that none of the content should be a surprise to the audience given the film's fame and well-known content. Ofcom rejected this, pointing out that those screenings all took place after 9.45. Ofcom concluded;

'Such intense material is not normally expected so soon after the watershed. We believe the scheduling of the film at 9.10pm was too early, given the strong, adult content from the start.'

So it's official. The watershed is no longer the watershed. 9.45 is, apparently, the new watershed. Until the next decision, when presumably that will be too early. Gah!

On future TV viewings, 'Pulp Fiction' could become a literal 'midnight movie.'

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Will You Witness The Fitness, Or Talk Of The Pork?

So, Vinny Testaverde. For those who don't know who this is, suffice to say he's a very famous American Football player. He was on telly last night, still plugging away at the grand old age of 42, not doing particularly well, it has to be said, but nonetheless, gotta admire the dedication.

Despite a night of four turnovers and few passing yards, he still wasn't abysmal. However, I'm less interested in his playing record than his fitness levels. The man has a gym in his home, and has kept detailed notes of every single session in his gym since 1990. To think I was worried I was becoming anal about this blog.

For the fourth time in as many weeks, Vinny realises he forgot to tape 'American Idol.'

All this is of considerable interest to me at the moment, because I'm about to join the gym. Yup, me, Mr Cynical, who regards the gym as one of the most loathsome steps backward in human times, is about to sell his soul.

The gym is the most crushing edifice of the post-postmodern era. Gone is the feeling that people can look how they damn well please, to be replaced by the desire, wholly lacking in any form of irony, to punish oneself in a manner determined to make the individual as constantly driven for meaningless improvement.

Everything about the gym is problematic. First off is joining the institution in the first place. I have had to acquire something called a 'cheque guarantee card' to even join, presumably because they think I would bounce them if I could. They're right, of course, but there you go. Then there's the price. I'm in at a snip, £130 - £140 for twelve months, but in London, folks can look forward to bills of nearly four hundred quid at the average establishment.

Then there's the other patrons. Buff, aggressive, Testaverde types who are still going to be canoeing the Atlantic well into their fifties, when those of us of a more sensitive disposition are just about starting to crumble. These are fellows who 'treat their body as a temple.' As a militant atheist, I treat my body as a temple too - I abuse it day and night.

So, why am I going down a road well trodden by Judas and Brutus before me? Well, first off, I want to know what they're all so smug about. Is punishing yourself on a treadmill as much fun as another double-stuffed-crust pizza? It sure doesn't look it, but there must be some good reason it's nearly full every night. Are they enjoying 'Fear And Self-Loathing In The Fitness Suite?'

Then there's the importance of it all. Gym is a fad; in ten years, cool will be back to the seventies, and people won't need the gym because they'll all be on a five drug cocktail of appetite suppressants. I will be able to say 'I was there. I was a part of it.' Plus, who could deny the anthropological significance of it? Who goes to the gym? I want income streams, family histories, written assessments from the housing authorities. If not, I'll have to make do with prejudiced judgements based on whether or not their tracksuits are made by Adidas, but at least I'll be informatively prejudiceed, and not ignorantly so.

So, my comrades, wish me luck, for I soon step into the abyss. I'll keep you posted on progress.

Is the 'gym experience' like the Eric Prydz video? Or is it, as I rather suspect, more like a country club for people who could never afford the tweeds?


I Thought There Were Only Seven Circles Of Hell . . .

. . . but apparently not. You see, I've been banished there;

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Seventh Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)High
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Extreme
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Extreme
Level 7 (Violent)Extreme
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Extreme
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Extreme

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

yet I could have gone two levels worse. In some ways, that's disappointing. The test appears to claim that I'm 'violent.' Too bad, eh? I suppose I can be if my eggs crack. Nightmare! However, by and large, I'm a nice bloke. Really.

Why are you looking at me like that?

(via Defiantly Maybe)

Monday, October 24, 2005


JackBoots Not Recognised; Alabamans(?) Rise In Estimation

Jack Straw might have been taken down a peg or two this weekend as, on a waste-of-time foreign junket to the USA, where he visited Alabama, the home state of Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice, he was recognised by almost nobody.

JackBoots, who earned his nickname because of his tough stance at the Home Office, was dubbed 'Mr England' as victims of Katrina completely failed to recognise him, or, in the cases where they did, variously called him 'Mr Shaw' and 'Mr Snow.'

Fantastically, according to the Yahoo story, 'British and U.S. officials said the tour was designed to show Alabamans that diplomacy is relevant to their lives.' Not that relevant, though.

Straw continued to show his complete ignorance by calling American Football 'rugby with commercials.' Gah!


Sunday, October 23, 2005


The Battle Of 'Rome'

You can say what you like about America, but they usually wait for something shocking to come on screen before they complain like crazy about it. British prudes have an even worse strategy - it's called the 'pre-emptive backlash', and the one currently raging over BBC/HBO co-production 'Rome' may be one of the longest pre-emptive backlashes in recent television history.

No 'disgusting' aspect of the story is too revolting for the more prurient of Britains media pressure groups to work over, and discuss in lavish detail, before informing us it's just too much for the general public.

In Italy (Italy!), where, of course, all the gory, glorious action actually took place, a special children's cut has been made. In Britain, the controversy seems to be over the time of the showings. The programme will be shown at 9 pm, which, as all my readers will doubtless be aware, is the watershed. The watershed is specifically designed to separate adult programmes from general interest ones.

The Beeb have decided to run with the programme at nine because they want maximum exposure for a big budget series. Meanwhile, the prudes have been trying to get their oar in first. The worst agony aunt in Britain, Ann Widdicombe, has leapt in first, calling the programme 'a feast of decadence' and 'more akin to a porn movie.' All this proves is that Widdicombe has never watched a porn movie, because if she had, she would realise just how fatuous a comment that is.

The BBC article claims:

'An opening battle scene recalls the ferocity of Ridley Scott's Gladiator, followed by a sex scene that would not have looked out of place in the notorious 1979 film version of Caligula.'

'Those who do not switch off in disgust will be treated to a flogging, a crucifixion, numerous deaths and an impalement.'

It's fascinating, isn't it, that the sort of people complaining loudest about these acts were almost certainly uniformly those praising 'The Passion Of The Christ' loudest. Of course, violence, scourging, flailing and crucifying is all well and good if it's the son of God suffering, but if it's secular? Well, that's just not right.

We are then told that the actor playing Mark Antony won't let his sone watch the film:

'"It's too violent, the sex scenes are too graphic, and it's on after 2100," he told the BBC News website.'

This is written as if admitting the prudes have a point, but in fact his son is just eight years old. Look, if anyone is letting their kids, as young as eight or nine, watch adult programming, then they are just bad parents. That's no reason to stop the enjoyment of the rest of us. Parenting is something that parents have to learn - Ofcom can't teach it to them.

All the lads had turned out for Phil's toga party at the local bathhouse.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Meet Lindsey Blackledge

Everybody, meet Lindsey Blackledge:

According to this page, dear Lindsey was arrested in July 2002. Her offence?

'The 19-year-old California gal was arrested in July 2002 for possession of a stolen, 14-ounce tri-tip steak. According to the Calaveras County sheriff, the beef was swiped from the outdoor grill of Katherine King, a 38-year-old San Andreas woman who called cops after discovering her meat was missing. When police arrived at the crime scene, they discovered a trail of "meat juice" leading from King's grill to an upstairs apartment. Inside the apartment, investigators followed the meat drippings to a bathroom, where they found the purloined sirloin hidden in a cabinet below the sink. Blackledge--who was found in the apartment--was charged with a felony.'

When will these felons learn that the beef-juice will catch you out in the end? I particularly like the image of the policemen bursting into her apartment, ignoring her, and instead following the spots of dripping on the carpet. Life is good, no?

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Jesus May Not Be A Cunt, But Some Whining Moaners Undoubtedly Are

Before I start, I should say that I've done two posts for my other blog this week, so please consider reading them and commenting if you choose, though in fairness, the second is pretty old ground to enyone who has read here recently.

Today's annoyance comes courtesy of mediawatchwatch, with this story. Essentially, the story is that a nineteen year old man was convicted the other day, on somewhat shaky grounds (the story in the Metro claims the new 'anti-hate' laws, but these haven't been passed yet), and will probably be sentenced to community service. His crime? Wearing a Cradle Of Filth tee-shirt. The offending shirt, which can be seen here;

features a masturbating nun on the front, and the words 'Jesus Is A Cunt' on the back. In poor taste, certainly, but is it a crime? Well, according to mww, there have been previous prosecutions, and indeed convictions:

'Feb 1, 2005, Dale Wilson, 35, of Norwich, was arrested by two police officers as he walked to the newsagents on Halloween ‘04. He pleaded guilty to “religiously aggravated offensive conduct”. He was eventually discharged and told to “grow up”. He paid £150 costs, and the judge ordered that the T-shirt be destroyed.

Back in ‘97, Rob Kenyon, 29, of London was found guilty of committing the offence of “Profane Representation under the 1839 Act” by Bow Street Magistrates Court. He was fined £150.

Cradle of Filth drummer, Nicholas Barker, was also arrested in Dover and charged with “creating a public disorder” for wearing the same T-Shirt. There were no further proceedings against him.'

I personally believe that none of these alleged offences are crimes at all. To take the case of Dale Wilson - I can quite see why the police might tell a man wearing a rock tee-shirt in his mid-30s to 'grow up', but the destruction of his property is legally questionable. Rob Kenyon is the only one to have been prosecuted with a specific offence. Which act this is is unclear, but since profanity is not a criminal offence, I fail to see how it's relevant. Finally, if the tee is so profane, why was the band drummer not charged? Why should the public be liable to losing £150, but not the people behind the tee in the first place?

Yet another example of the Police wasting their time and the taxpayer's money. Oh, and these folks aren't the only ones to be arrested for just walking around.

To cheer yourself up, read this. We can at least hope.


'Remember When We Used To Play, Bang Bang?'*: A Film Review Of 'Lord Of War'

'Arms-dealers will inherit the Earth, because everyone else is too busy killing each other.' - Nicolas Cage, playing Yuri Orlov, in this film.

'When the truth walks away,
Everybody stays,
Cause the truth about the world is that crime does pay.'
- The Offspring, Have You Ever

I've spent much of the last three days trying to remember if I saw 'Gattaca.' I remember it being on telly, and I definitely remember considering watching it, but I can't work out if I did or not. I have a vague recollection that I did, and found it confusing, but that might be me remembering thinking it would be too confusing before deciding not to watch it. Who knows?

The reason for this speculation was the new film by 'Gattaca' director Andrew Niccol, 'Lord Of War.' Positive reviews have been circulating for a while, ever since its slightly disappointing entry into the US Box Office at number three.

Nicolas Cage plays Yuri Orlov, an international arms dealer who is forced to give a second look at his life's work as he is chased across the globe by Interpol agent Jack Valentine (bad name!), played by Ethan Hawke.

I'm torn on the poster artwork, because it is a very simple image, but I do think it's quite effective. Generally a thumbs-up.

Any doubts that this film will skirt around the issues are exploded, as it were, at the very beginning of this film. As the titles roll, in one of the most stunningly effective sequences in modern cinema, the camera follows a bullet, from it's creation, through the stages of its manufacture, into its shipment, on to a war zone, and then, in the end, into a young soldier's brain. Boom. Niccol even has the bullet pause, just slightly, in midair, so we can get a look at the soldier about to die. He's a young black African, who looks no more than sixteen. If you don't feel that emotional punch, then you may as well sell your soul, because you're dead inside already.

Cage narrates the film all the way through, and his narration starts of with the line, 'Don't worry. I'm not going to tell a pack of lies just to make me look good. I'm just going to tell what happened.' This is a crucial part of the film. Perhaps having an unbiased narrator seemed an excellent idea when writing the screenplay, but in fact I believe it would have been better to have had Orlov justifying his actions. The narration is perhaps too perfect in this regard - at one stage in the film, Orlov asks his brother, 'how many car salesmen go home and talk about their work? How many cigarette salesmen?' His point is that these people are able to leave their job at the office, and so should he be, but the comparison is more apt than that: car and cigarette salesmen, by and large, try to justify their job when they are asked. Orlov does very little of this in the dialogue, and none whatsoever in narration.

Cage's narration starts at the very opening of the film, and continues throughout. My qualms about Cage as a voice artist were completely assuaged - indeed, it turned out he had a terrific narration voice, but if I were to have another tiny criticism, maybe the frequency of the narration was a little disruptive at points.

Don't be concerned, however. Despite Orlov's disinclination to justify himself over much, there is no moralising the other way done. There's no self-flagellation of the kind that so infuriated me about, for instance, the allegedly immoral Hardenberg in the pitiful 'The Edukators.' Instead, we see two sides of the coin, and Niccol lets the audience decide for themselves. There are sympathetic parts of Orlov's character. He is born in the Ukraine, but moves to Little Odessa in New York. His family has had to pretend to be Jewish to get out of the Soviet Union, and he feels displaced and alone, without purpose or direction. He sells arms because he wants to do something meaningful with his life, something he'll be succesful at. We all feel this way at some point in our lives, and Orlov is a perfect example of a go-getter. He isn't content just feeling miserable - he goes out and does someting about it. Indeed, upon being asked why he does what he does, Orlov rejects the idea that the money matters, and simply shrugs, saying 'I'm good at it.'

Over time, Orlov inevitably becomes rich, and he becomes the most succesful privateer gun-runner in the world, eclipsing the old guard who rejected him before. He even gets the gal he's dreamed about, a difficult role ably played by Bridget Moynahan, and a young son who he loves. He clearly loves his family, and humanising the monster is a good ploy by Niccol, because it allows us in to Orlov's life just a little.

One slight problem is that parts of the film are actually too interesting. For instance, the interplay between Orlov and his wife would have borne a much deeper subplot, but at a running time of 122 minutes it's easy to see why no more was added.

Outside of the home, however, is where the problems lie. This film really does offer the viewer a fascinating tour on just what the arms trade involves. At one point, Cage, in the narration, informs the viewer that '$32 billion worth of arms were stolen from the Ukraine alone [after the Wall came dowm].' The staggering size of the arms trade is difficult to comprehend for people like me, but watching this, it is easy to see why so many munitions and armaments 'disappear' around the world.

That's what I call an arsenal!

The film wisely chooses a focal point after a while, focusing in on Orlov's dealings in Liberia. I suspect Niccol was writing the screenplay for this at the time of the now-all-but-forgotten civil war there recently, and I have to say I think he chose the perfect country for a look at the vileness of most of West Africa's ruling class.

The president in the film, Andre Baptiste, again played excellently by Eamonn Walker, is a fictional president, but his (and his sons) limb-hacking, heart-chomping introduction would perfectly fit any of the recnt leaders of the 'land of the blood bath' in recent years. In 1990, Prince Johnson, a friend of future leader Charles Taylor, had a friend film him cutting the ears off then-president Samuel Doe, before forcing him Doe to eat them. Johnson also allegedly ate Doe's manhood, because it is believed in parts of West Africa that doing so increases one's personal strength. In fairness, Johnson later apologised to Doe's widow, but it was a bit late by then. By the time the civil war reached its peak in 2003, there were three parties involved, one led by the president Taylor, one by Prince Johnson, now on completely different sides, and one by a different warlord called Roosevelt Johnson, who was no relation. They were all equally revolting.

Eamonn Walker is excellent as (fictional) loathsome leader Andre Baptiste. During the course of the film, we see him shoot a man for no reason, hear about his limb-hacking pastime, and watch as his men raid a truck full of UN aid. Sadly, it's an all-too accurate charcterisation.

All the countries in West Africa suffer from these problems, and the only people who suffer are the ordinary citizens of the nations, who are betrayed at every step by power-hungry warlords. Orlov admits this, saying 'often the worst crimes are committed when both parties call themselves 'freedom fighters.'' It is there, in West Africa, that Orlov has his only real moment of conscience in the whole film. Ironically, it is induced by excessive consumption of cocaine and even 'brown-brown', cocaine cut with gunpowder. This is a brilliantly powerful scene. Orlov can't bear the sight of a girl with no arm asking 'will my hand will grow back?' This is where films like this really work. As a connoisseur of horror, no amount of gore can upset me at all, but films like this and 'Hotel Rwanda', with their unflinching portrayal of the real effects of conflict, are where genuine discomfort lies.

The leader of the 'freedom fighters' (read mass murderers) starts firing the merchandise.

However, Niccol admirably performs a balancing act. Part of our engagement with Orlov as a character comes through the strong use of humour throughout the film. In places, it really is genuinely very funny. I have no wish to spoil all the jokes for you, because you should see this film, but I would like to give one. On being told that there are peace talks in one part of the world, Orlov barks into his mobile phone, 'OK, I'll reroute the ship to the Balkans. At least when they say there's going to be a war, they keep their word.' Strong stuff. Also providing a few laughs, though somewhat more disconcertingly, is Andre Baptiste's son, of the same name, who is desperate to obtain 'the gun of Rambo.' Style is all-important to the truly evil.

I would recommend 'Lord Of War' very strongly. It's Cage fulfilling a good, serious role, proving that his performance in the excellent 'Matchstick Men' was no one-off. It is also a serious film, about a serious issue, which manages to find its own level of respectful humour, which will keep you fully entertained for every minute of its running time. You may even, like me, find yourself just pricking a tear at the ending.

*Nancy Sinatra, 'Bang Bang.' Obviously.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


'I Kinda Hope That We Get Stuck, Nobody Gets Out Alive'*

Today, a very wonderful thing happened. A lift got stuck. However, it wasn't just any old lift - it was a brand new lift, on one of the most pointlessly expensive and rubbish buildings built on the south coast, the new Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.

Better still, it was the city council's project manager who was the only person trapped. Life couldn't be much better, could it? The fellow, called Greenhalgh, but apparently pronounced Greenhouse, was still trapped late this morning, but I think he's out now.


I hope Mr Holland doesn't mind me stealing his photo, but I like it too much. They should really have left Mr Greenhalgh there to stew on his mistakes.

*Aerosmith, 'Love In An Elevator'

Monday, October 17, 2005



I've never before been asked to do one of these meme things, though hell, I did one anyway, but last week Paul put in the request, so here goes:

'So, first of all, here are the instructions:

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.'

This presented me with a bit of a problem. Since my twenty-third post was this rather uninteresting offer, and the fifth sentence merely consists of 'Genius', I think I'd better cheat, and go with my nearest lengthy post, nineteen, the fifth sentence of which is:

'Octavio (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a young man desperate for cash who enters his dog Cofi into illegal dog-fights on the backstreets of Mexico City.'

When we moved into my current commune, my friend and I decided to buy a big, black, nasty dog called Cofi who we would keep in order to maul any burglars. We haven't got around to it yet.

Since I was given this by Paul, I'll pass it on to a Paul - this Paul. Actually, that's quite neat - after all, Paul is my middle name.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Attacking The Creek

If you're an Australian reader, particularly if you live in the Northern Territory, you may be somewhat saddened to hear that it could be months before the wonderful 'Wolf Creek' reaches your locale. The Northern Territories' director of public prosecutions has asked for a delayed release so that the film, which is extremely loosely based on the disappearance of Peter Falconio, won't prejudice the upcoming trial of Bradley Murdoch.


Of far more interest is the confirmation of director Greg McLean's next project, a crocodile-based film. Gosh. It's working title is 'Rogue', and as I understand the situation, it'll be about a crocodile gone somewhat more wild than usual.

Hmmmmm. This is a well-mined theme, and I'm really not sure how well it will work. Still, let's wait and see.

One thing I would like to take issue with in the link provided, however, is the assertion that 'more good news, though, is that the film is being funded by the Weinstein brothers, formally of Miramax, who a) generally know movies, and b) generally stay out of the way of filmmakers as long as they are not screwing the pooch.'

Has he forgotten 'Shaolin Soccer?'

This is one of my biggest beefs with film studios and distributors. Shaolin Soccer is a Hong-Kong nonsense comedy written and directed by rising star Stephen Chow. Upon its succesful release in Asia in 2001, Miramax quickly snapped it up, before leaving it on the shelf for two years. Finally, they released a mauled version of it. They cut the running time from 102 minutes to just over 80 minutes (!), they removed several important subplots, a vomit scene, presumably out of squeamishness, and then decided, in stead of subtitles, that they'd go the whole hog and completely ruin the film by dubbing it.

It was a disaster. Shaolin Soccer became the 10th most frequently illegally downloaded film in August 2003. Chow must be the only director in the world giving thanks for file sharing, because without it, the chance would not have been there to spend as much as he did on the superb 'Kung Fu Hustle.'

A wholly typical scene from Stephen Chow's bizarre, but definitely still wonderful, Hong Kong nonsense comedy 'Shaolin Soccer.'


I may not be around until Sunday or Monday owing to prior commitments. However, I would recommend all the places in my sidebar.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005



I suspect you'd have to be very disconnected from British society indeed not to have noticed the influx of this game called Sudoku. This is one of the things I dislike most about Britain - every now and then, people get the urge to act like the most cretinous type of sheep and all rush out to buy exactly the same thing as everyone else on their street.

Harry Potter has come and gone, and so Sudoku is filling up the hole. Even apparently intelligent people are falling prey to its dubious charms.

Why? What, really, is the point? They're easier than a crossword, and less interesting too, and utterly, completely useless. Naturally, celebrity bandwagon-hopper Carol Vorderman is in on the act, but so, apparently, is everyone else. It's the new Atkins diet.

This is by far the worst import from Japan ever. I'll take the knotweed any day.

Anyway, why not enjoy a crossword-related joke? (it isn't mine, it belongs to one of these fellows)

A: Do you know what the hardest cryptic crossword clue ever is?
B: No, what?
A: 'The overworked postman.'
B: How many letters?
A: A sackful!

I'm available for stand-up.

'Well, I'd say, based on the evidence, the answer is the Boring Git, in Britain, with the sub-cretinous wordsearch equivalent.'

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


First You Felt Good, Now You Can Feel Better!

I have been very kindly asked to participate in a new group blog, which is just starting. I'm still going to be writing here, but I shall be contributing there too, with reasonable frequency, and I would like to invite my readership to come on over and comment away - the only requirement is a basic level of civility, because obviously it isn't my blog. If you wish to call me a cunt, please do it here.

If you enjoy my witterings here, please consider linking to this new blog too. Oh, and if you like, you may be able to participate as well.

Monday, October 10, 2005


'Proper Horrorshow'

I was at the cinema last night watching David Cronenberg's 'A History Of Violence.' It was very, very good, I really enjoyed it, but the experience was almost ruined by the adverts before the film even started.

Now, look. I go to the cinema a lot. A lot. I've seen my share of bad adverts, adverts that made me want to leave. I gritted my teeth through the forty-three times I saw that Orange advert with Darth Vader proposing a film. I refused to throw rocks at the screen as I was confronted by people bouncing through a city on giant Maltesers. I didn't kill the man next to me when he laughed at that advert for Surf Tropical where the old woman washes her bloomers in a glade.

However, last night, I lost it. I couldn't believe what was in front of my eyes. It was an advert for a new jeans brand (called, vomit-inducingly, &denim) which was a retelling of the Romeo & Juliet story. It went on for six minutes, which wouldn't have been too bad, but some genius had decided to make it a musical, and I had to listen to Tamyra Gray and Mary J Bilge pounding out screech after screech after screech, getting ever more unlistenable. The woman next to me asked her boyfriend 'is this the movie?' I don't blame her - about five minutes in, the thing felt like it had been going on for an hour.

I love soul music. I do. Yet this was just yelling, at a very high pitch, very, very loudly. It was awful.

Predictably, it has come with a press release. This is possibly the most fatuous document I have ever clapped eyes on:

'There's clothes. There's jeans. And there's a significant difference. While clothes come and go, a favourite pair of jeans can stand by your side, for years or forever. It's like a long mutual relationship. A love story.'

No it's not, it's a fucking pair of jeans. Stop yelling! Get over it. If you rip them, or get shot in the hood, as happens in this pile of excresence, or whatever else, just buy another pair. It's not a life partner. 'Forever?' They're out of style in six months! AAAARRRGHH! Leave me alone, you spawn of Satan.

'&denim is not just a collection. It's a brand. And since a pair of jeans is the only kind of clothing where true feelings are involved, we want to create a soulful brand over time'

Who are these tossers? Why do they need a six minute, abysmal quality musical to tell me that they're deluded twats? I never, ever, ever, ever want to see this again.

I would seriously suggest you think hard about visiting the cinema until you can be sure the coast is clear, and this blot on the horizon has evaporated in the manner it so richly deserves.


This was far, far, far more disturbing than the violence in the film. That was a snowy morning in comparison. If you really love jeans that much, see a psychiatrist.


Monthly Nostalgia

I decided a while ago to start a feature whereby I'd flag up some of the good posts I wrote when no-one read this blog, and so consequently got no comments. This is the latest. It is, in fact, the first post I wrote on the subject of censorship, and probably still my best. I know that's an instant turn-off for most of my readership, but actually this one wasn't bad.

If you're really, really bored, give it a look.


Hold The Front Page!

The headline in yesterday's 'Sunday Express' was 'Queen In Sniper Scare.'

You know, that is a scary thought. I mean, I never suspected her.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Robbie Williams Goes Up In My Estimation

The jackbooted one deeply impressed me yesterday, coming out as he did with a powerful attack on those who have been truly hypocritical in loudly finger-pointing at Kate Moss despite their own considerable drug habits. That article pretty much covers the story, but leaves out a wonderful quote when he announced that he'd 'snorted cocaine with the same writers attacking her.' I'm impressed by his rightful decision to stand up against the shocking hypocrisy of those involved in this, even though it could have damaged him.

I've said enough about this story now, but I would just like to end with a quote from some time Match Of The Day 2 pundit Kevin Day, speaking on Radio Five Live's 'Fighting Talk' programme about the Adrian Mutu cocaine allegations:

'It's time we got a grown-up debate about recreational drug use in this country, because the sight of journalists, of all people, tut-tutting at someone living a life like that is like Bernard Matthews tut-tutting at ham.'

True that.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Critical Comment

I mentioned casually here a week or so ago about the poster quotes for 'Revolver', the new Guy Ritchie film, which has been trashed in almost every review I've read. The poster quotes, which come from 'The Sun Online' say the film is 'Brilliant . . . Guy Ritchie back to his best.'

Now, thanks to Paul, we find out exactly what happened to get this quotation on the poster. Now, first of all, let me say a word about the source. I dislike the Guardian, and I have done for years, but MediaGuardian is one of the best parts of the paper, and it's investigations into events like this are well worth reading.

The story Revolver-wise goes like this. The Sun did do a film review of Revolver, written by Johnny Vaughan, who seems to have taken this on as a near enough full-time job. As film reviewers go, he's not great, but neither is he awful, he did write a positive comment about 'Life Is A Miracle', which if you recall I loved, and who really reads The Sun expecting quality film reviews anyway? Vaughan reviewed Revolver and didn't pan it, but at no point did he use the word 'brilliant.'

In point of fact, I have, in recent weeks, spent some money on this blog, and given it to Rupert Murdoch in exchange for looking at Sun archives. To me, this is penny-pinching of the worst kind, but what else do you expect from News International? Anyway, 50p later, and I can bring you the extent of Vaughan's praise:

'But this time he's not content with showing off his undoubted skill
with slick visuals -he mixes things up by throwing more twists and
turns at the audience than this summer's Ashes series.
The plot (and I use the word loosely) twists around gambler Jake
Green (Jason Statham), who takes on crime boss Dorothy (yes, really)
Macha (Ray Liotta). . .'

'. . . Admittedly, at times, I struggled to follow the complicated script's
use of historical quotes and unnecessary animation sequences. To a
mainstream audience they could prove risky.
On the plus side, the acting is spot-on. Singer-turned-actor Andre
3000 oozes charisma and his terrific double act with Pastore, who
Sopranos fans will remember as Big Pussy, proves an inspired bit of
Elsewhere Ray Liotta deserves an award for his hilariously OTT turn
as the insanely tanned Macha, but this week's gold star for services
to scene stealing has to go to the excellent Mark Strong, as
stuttering hitman Sorter.'

No 'brilliant.' No 'back to his best.' So MediaGuardian looked into it, and discovered that 'brilliant' came from page 3 girl Ruth. She extends her undoubted knowledge on the subject of film to us thus:

'It's got a great story and I quite fancy hunky Jason Statham in the lead. I think it's a brilliant film and is going to be a big hit.'

Mmmm-hmmm. The Sun then admitted, however, that 'Ruth's in it.' Oh. So not only are we getting, as a main poster review, the praise of a half-witted topless bimbo, but a half-witted topless bimbo with a vested interest. Convincing!

As the Guradian point out, however, 'the origin[s] of the phrase "Guy Ritchie ... back to his best" [are] far more opaque.' Essentially, what The Sun had been doing was selling space on their site, or at least access from their site, to various marketing companies and agencies who provide editorial-free content. Since The Sun are the only people to say anything nice about Revolver, and actually nobody qualified at The Sun said anysuch thing anyway, it's quite disturbing that the distributors were able to put it on the poster in such enormous letters. The moral of the story is to never go to a film because of a poster-quote, or only to do so if it's by someone you explicitly trust. Personally, I would avoid anything that only had praise by any redtop newspaper, or 'Hotdog' magazine, just for starters. The posters to trust are those that include the names of film reviewers that you recognise. Thousands of people went to see Revolver, and hated it, on the says-so of a page three girl who they would have completely ignored had she been named as such.

This is becoming a bugbear of mine. In his regular Five Live slot last week, Mark Kermode pointed out that Johnny Vaughan had found little praise in his review for 'Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo', despite being in the film. However, Vaughan was significantly less detrimental that practically every other reviewer. In a very short piece, his only actual comment, as opposed to narration of the plot, was this:

'If you are easily offended, this movie is not for you. But if you
enjoyed part one and if the sight of a girl with a man's genitalia
for a nose sneezing into a bowl of soup makes you chuckle, take a

No thanks! Amongst the many, many slating this film has got is possibly Roger Ebert's most negative review for years. It's not just critics, either; asked to name the worst film of the summer, IMDb members (ie, the world public) were torn between 'Gigolo' and 'The Dukes Of Hazzard.'

Despite all this, Vaughan gives, and the newspaper gave, no indication that he had a vested interest.

This is going to be a major new campaign for me from now on - no vested interests in film reviews. No review should ever be given if the reviewer in question ws involved in the project, except in the most tangential of ways.


In a not entirely, dissimilar vein, I should like to have another quick moan.

Danny Wallace is a very funny man, in my opinion. I read 'Join Me' not long after it was published, and I absolutely loved it, and I have been recently captivated by his 'How To Start Your Own Country' TV series.

All of which makes it faintly irritating that both the poster for, and indeed the cover of, his new book 'Yes Man', which I am currently halfway through, and enjoying very much, contains a quote from Richard Madeley saying 'this book is a treat.' The trouble is, Wallace used to work on 'Richard & Judy.' It's another example of vested interests, and I really don't like it, so allow me to propose a review for future editions, by me, who has no connection to the project whatosoever:

'This book is a treat, and is even better than Richard Madeley thinks it is.'

Even better than Richard Madeley thinks it is.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Making The Song That Little Bit Less Baad Asssss

In these days of an ever more enlightened BBFC, it is extremely rare for censorship on any particular work to be increased. Indeed, some recent decisions have been so surprising, amongst them the decisions to pass 'Taxi To The Toilet' and 'Tenement' uncut, that it seemed we were really on the road towards me being completely happy. Unfortunately, my personal happy-meter took a plunge this week with the news that blaxploitation classic 'Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song' has now had significant cuts applied to it. It was previously available uncut.

Basically, the story is this. Early in the story, the young hero loses his virginity to a 'party girl.' The actor in question looks to be under the age of consent, and Mario Van Peebles, fourteen at the time, plays the young Sweetback in the story, but upon submission by Missing In Action in 1998, Melvin Van Peebles, the director of the film, assured the BBFC that that particular moment was being acted by Hubert Scales, another actor in the film, who at that time was over the age of consent. Confused? Let the BBFC clear it up:

'This work was previously passed uncut on video by the BBFC in 1998 on the basis of written assurances from the film's director, Melvin Van Peebles, that the person playing young Sweetback having sex with an adult female in reel one was Hubert Scales, an actor who was at least 18 at time of filming.'

'Information that has come light since 1998 has cast considerable doubt on those assurances and it now appears to the BBFC, on the basis of the available evidence, that the actor in the scene in question was, in fact, the director's son, Mario Van Peebles, who cannot have been older than 14 years at time of filming.'

What makes the story interesting is the 'information that has come to light.' That information is actually a documentary film by Mario Van Peebles, the minor in question, now of course a player in the film industry of his own right, called 'Baadasssss!' This was a rather brilliant documentary/homage which paid tribute to his father's work, and also cast an eye over, essentially, what it was like to be black in the early seventies. It was a great film and a fascinating cultural artefact, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

However, it has proved a bit of an own goal. The trouble is that Mario recounts in the film how he lost his on-screen virginity in that opening scene. Indeed, a reasonable portion of the film's length is devoted to that scene. Consequently, the BBFC, faced with a new submission for cinema release for the old film, had to cut it. Melvin Van Peebles consented to having black ink placed over the relevant body parts, alongside an explanation as to the cause.

The BBFC have taken legal advice, and it's now the case that anyone in possession of the 1998 Missing In Action video could be liable to prosecution under either the Protection Of Children Act, or, somewhat more likely, the Obscene Publications Act. Sorry.

Predictably, Mark Kermode has written an excllent piece, far better than this, here. To steal his final line:

'In the case of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, the cutting of this masterpiece may be regrettable. But however unsatisfactory the outcome, the Van Peebles have no-one to blame but each other.'

Mario Van Peebles ably showed in 'Baadasssss!' that life was very hard for an aspiring black director in the early seventies. He also showed that it was possible to fall back on hippie sex in order to console oneself.


Goodbye Cuddles!

I know I'm a bit late for writing about this story, and I have already said just a little here, but I would like to comment on the story of last weekend whereby West Midlands Police raided a massage parlour on the Hagley Road, south Birmingham, due to allegations that it was a brothel.

I have a big, big problem with this news story, which I've been meaning to write about ever since. Namely, this is that the parlour, which went by the name of Cuddles(!), was located on a main arterial road, one of the busiest in Birmingham, and, therefore, one of the busiest in the country outside of London. Most commuters from the south of Birmingham travel in on the Hagley Road. I used to travel on that road six or seven times a week, and I knew, just as everyone else did, that Cuddles was a brothel years ago. I knew that at least six years ago. Why on earth did it take the police so long to raid the place?

One of two uncomfortable possibilities seems to be the case: either West Midlands Police are so out of touch with their own community that they didn't know something that was abundantly plain to tens of thousands of people, or, rather more likely, they knew, but just didn't care very much.

Female police officers lead a woman away from Cuddles 'massage parlour' after the raid last week.


Paddy Powerless

Ironic congratulations are due to the Irish Advertisning Standards Authority, for forcing the removal of a billboard advert that, for once, was actually mildly interesting. It depicted Jesus and the disciples spending the last supper gambling and playing roulettes, complete with the slogan 'there's a place for fun and games.' Here's the advert:

The Wythenshawe Hospital Gambling Club's annual main event was much better after the fancy dress idea.

The advert, which was located in 79 places around Dublin, caused a mixture of laughter and disgust. Leading the protests was Archbishop John Neill of the Church of Ireland, who claimed the advert would be 'offensive to most Christian people.' Obviously the Archbishop doesn't regard his follower's senses of humour very highly.

Happily, Paddy Power can receive our congratulations for replacing the rejected adverts, which had been submitted to legal threats, with new ones saying, 'There's a place for fun and games. Apparently this isn't it.' Fair play!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


200 Posts!

I called this Welshman I know a backward, shitkicking redneck once, and he got so mad he started gnashing his tooth.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


More Multi-Posting

The first thing to comment on today, obviously, is the sad passing of Ronnie Barker, the comedy legend. I use that word advisedly, for I genuinely feel that Barker was one of the funniest men to grace British television screens in the last century.

His comedy has a particular resonance for me personally because at certain points in my life pretty much the only thing that has kept me in touch with a certain female relative is a shared love of cricket, and of 'Porridge' and 'Open All Hours.' Certainly, those shows are creatures of their time, but the writing on them is wickedly funny and Barker could always get the very best out of it.

Barker also offered a link to a previous time - 'The Two Ronnies' used to regularly pull in audiences of between thirteen and fifteen million, and was one of the last genuinely shared cultural experiences in Britain, bar sporting events. Nowadays, no single comedy programme could hope to hold a candle to those viewing figures. Partly this is down to wider choice, and partly down to changed cultural habits, but in large part it's down to how funny the programme was.

I was immensely saddened to hear of his departure. May he rest in peace.

There's a rather touching obituary here.

Gotta love the jacket! Comedy legend Ronnie Barker.


On a rather more cheerful note, I'd like to praise comedian Rob Brydon for his set on the Jack Dee thing at the Hammersmith Apollo, which was on BBC1 last night. It was absolutely fantastic, one of the funniest stand-up sets I've seen on telly for quite some time.

I usually hate character comedy when it's done on stage, because it's so difficult, and people often screw it up. Brydon, playing Keith Barret, the divorced relationship councillor role that he's reprised from the television, proved that when it's done well, it really can be excellent.

Highly amusing.


It seems to me that the real news in this story about Jade Goody being arrested for shoplifting is not so much that she was doing a Winona (although naturally she denies any wrongdoing, and far be it from me to suggest otherwise), but that she was buying a £16 denim jacket from Asda in the first place. I take it you've squandered all those appearance fees away then Jade?

Yet another celebrity who's never actually done anything to celebrate.


In yet another 'celebrity' arrest, the world's most boring man, Pete Doherty, has been left protesting his innocence after being arrested on Sunday for posession of hard drugs. Apparently, however, he has had to be let go as there is basically no evidence he'd got any. He claimed that he's had some species of implant in his stomach to stop him taking any more, which sounds pretty unlikley to me, but then two of my friends saw his band Babyshambles in concert on Friday night, and pronounced him to be 'drunk, but not fucked.' Well, that's a relief then.

Choirboy George offered up a prayer before his trial for nicking Frank's scooter.


According to this, corroborated here, the Conservative-controlled Dudley Council have banned pictures and knick-knacks containing or consisting of depictions of pigs, because of a complaint by a Muslim employee. Unfortunately, this surpasses even the 'Allahcone' case in terms of preposterous offence. In that post, i described Rashad Akhtar as 'possibly the most ludicrously easily offended man in Britain', but it appears I spoke too soon. The complainant, who sensibly remained anonymous, has been backed up by Councillor Mahbubur Rahman, who said:

'If it is a request made by an individual and other officers can reason a compromise it is a good thing, it is a tolerance and acceptance of their beliefs and understanding.'

On the contrary, it can't be a tolerance or acceptance of 'understanding', because I don't believe this complainant is being understanding at all. Similarly, it is not a 'compromise' - the objects in question have been banned. How is that a compromise?

Apparently, even a tissue box with a depiction of Winnie the Pooh's friend Piglet has been outlawed. In the hope that it will thoroughly piss off Councillor Mahbabur Rahman, allow me:

Don't be deceived. They're sinful. Sinful, I tell you!

I'd like to finish with a quote from the Gay & Lesbian Humanists, who say:

'It is this sort of action that trivialises real oppression and real offence. Few would dispute that a pigs head left on the steps of a Mosque or a Synagogue is a vicious and offensive act, but to ban cartoon pigs on a box of tissues from the workplace on similar grounds? Doesn’t that just make a mockery of tolerance?'

In a word, yes.


Blogger Scott Burgess has returned, and started his comeback with an excellent skewering of Saturday's Independent cover. Among the many elementary mistakes in that edition of the Independentius Narcoleptus were the assertions that the Ottoman Empire (founded 1299) 'with . . . ships and caravans, achieved domination of the silk road and taught the west everything it knew about trade before the advent of ocean growing ships.' As Scott points out, it's really rather embarassing that they managed to forget a group of very important people in that statement. They then carried on to assert that the Ottomans were 'the pioneers of a disciplined bureaucracy and inventors of a standing army.'

Remember, this is a national newspaper. Oops.


Stupidity ties neatly in to the last part of this rather mammoth (you have my apologies) post.

I'm not a student - I'm unemployed - but I do have to attend that convergence of The Great Moronic Unwashed for a few hours a week, and today was such an occasion. What I have to attend is a course about American politics. I was somewhat nervous before I went, but I can't for the life of my remember why. I anticipated the Bush-bashing, and I was ready for the pop psychology, but what I wasn't ready for was the astounding level of ignorance amongst a group of people who, you would imagine, having reached further education, are supposedly well educated.

It really defied belief. First, someone mentioned 'the state New England' and wasn't corrected. Then came two mistakes so terrible I'm embarrassed to relate them:

*Answering a question about how and why American people are proud of their Constitution, a student answered that Americans have to recite the start of the Constitution every morning before school.

Well, actually, it's the Pledge Of Allegiance, but never mind, it's all the same, right? Not only that, but in fact it isn't even a legal requirement. Astoundingly, she wasn't corrected. That's just wrong, in every sense of the word.

*Even worse than these two mistakes, however, was a statement by one student that made my blood boil. It was so stupid that I actually emitted an audible snort. What he said, and in a very arrogant, I'm-a-genius-who-knows-exactly-what-he's-talking-about kind of way too, was this:

'In schools they teach the Great Design [sic] that God created everything, because of the neoconservatives and that.'

What he was trying to say was that Design Theory is taught because the neoconservatives want it to be, not that God created the world because of the neoconservatives, but frankly syntax is the last of this young man's concerns.

He starts of by completely failing to understand what a neoconservative is, and for that matter what neoconservatism is.

Per the wikipedia link, 'domestic policy does not define neoconservatism.' Neoconservatives are, in the correct usage of the term, former New Deal liberals who have converted to conservatism (hence 'neo') because of shifting perspectives on foreign policy, free trade, and support for states like Taiwan. What it does not describe are the sort of God-bothering religious conservative zealots this student is prejudiced against - those would better be described as paleoconservatives.

The second mistake is a profound misunderstanding of education policy in the USA. While the federal government, who he is of course referring to, take overall legislative responsibility for education, the administrative matters and, more importantly the curriculum, are decided by local districts and state boards of education. This is the reason for the controversy over 'Intelligent Design' being located in certain states in the Deep South, not all over America.

None of this should really bother me that much. After all, cross-cultural misunderstanding is not one way. In his 'Notes From A Big Country', Bill Bryson, of whom the more observant amongst you will have noticed I'm something of a devotee, points out that various American guidebooks on Britain in the mid 90s claimed, amongst other things, that 'Cardiff is the only urban centre in Wales', that Glasgow rhymes with cow (which isn't strictly untrue if you say it in a very, very exaggerated Dudley accent) and that one's Christian name is one's second name, and one's surname is the first name. Hmmm.

So why am I so hot under the collar about this? It isn't declining standards in British (oh, alright, English) universities. It isn't the fact that such singularly culturally moronic young people will surely end up working in the Foreign Office. No. What annoys me is that I have to sit an exam - I know, I know, tell me about it - on this lot in January, and I'm genuinely worried that correct answers will count against me, since it appears that the only endeavours worthy of praise in this field are ill-founded prejudices and factual inaccuracy.

American schoolkids recite the Pledge Of Allegiance, or the Constitution, or the No Child Left Behind Act, or the Oath, or the instructions for making a great chocolate cornflake cake, or something.


Two important updates - firstly, Tony has written a far better tribute to Ronnie Barker than mine. Read it here. Secondly, and probably more importantly, I have to correct a mistake. According to the Melonfarmers, the only pig-related item banned from Dudley Council is a pig-shaped stress reliever. As they point out, the rest of the story was the product of a slow news day.

Monday, October 03, 2005


The Sporting Life, And Other Mysteries Of The World As It Seems

I see that the typically informed and informative writing at Ubersportingpundit continues. I'd like to point out two posts in particular, and have my say.

First off, a piece about Roy Keane, who has of course claimed he wishes to leave Manchester United at the end of the season (or conceivably before).

Ah, Roy Keane. On the one hand, an excellent organising midfield player, on the other Ireland's only football hooligan. Personally, as a man who loathes Manchester United more than anything else on Earth, I have to say I shall be delighted to see the end of him. Football is all about grudges, it's all about hating teams passionately. If I could, I'd wish Man Utd go down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down, out the bottom of the Isthmian. I even dreamed that happened once, and they knocked down the ground to build a supercasino instead, which had the double virtue of pissing off both United fans and modern day puritans. It was, I believe, the happiest dream I've ever had.

So a large part of my dislike for Keane comes down to his effectiveness. Pearce says 'his contribution to United's epic treble-winning year of 1999 cannot be doubted', and he's absolutely right. When people assign decades to teams - the seventies and eighties to Liverpool, the nineties to Man Utd, the early 2000s to Arsenal, the late 2000s to Chelsea, they often look back and struggle to remember more than a handful of players who really made all that happen. Keane was such a player. He's instrumental in every game he plays in, and is perhaps the man most suited to the role of club captain in the whole Premiership.

Of course, a large part of Keane's success derives from the way he plays the game, which is to say very aggressively. A large part of the reason I loathe United so is down to the very thuggishness of their captain that gave them so much success. Anyone remember this?

The lads all wanted to pitch in when Martin lost his contact lenses.

That's Keane shouting at Alf Inge Haaland after deliberately breaking his leg. Bizarrely, apart from a small media storm at the time of the publication of his autobiography, Keane's assault today remains all but forgotten. This is one of the sad disgraces of modern sport - Keane deliberatley injured a fellow professional in a manner that would be called Grievous Bodily Harm in a court of law, yet people forgave him. Why?

They forgave him again after his departure from World Cup 2002 before the tournament even started. That article is entitled 'A nation disowns its hero', but in fact all was forgiven and forgotten more or less straight away.

Football is not called 'the beautiful game' without reason. The departure of Keane marks the end of a player who started to draw fine lines on the canvas, but spoiled it with blood. He should not be missed.


The other post worth considering is this one. Briefly, it asks whether or not the Premiership is boring this season.

Perhaps a more pertinent question would be why it's so boring every season. For a long time now, the amount of money in the game, admittedly combined with other factors such as how clubs are ran, has allowed certain teams to dominate, and create eras. The current season seems very likely to mark the start of the Chelsea era, and my God how boring does it promise to be. Most football pundits appeared to agree with this thesis after just a few games, but now the fashion appears to be to pour scorn on that attitude (whatever happened to Duleep Allirajah, anyway?). The argument appears to be that because after seven games last season everyone thought Arsenal would walk away with the title, when of course they did nothing of the sort, it's wholly ridiculous to claim that Chelsea will this season.

However, the fact of the matter is that in those seven games last season, and even in their unbeaten season previous to that, Arsenal were already living on borrowed time. The Abramovich cash was sure to figure eventually, because if you throw enough of it at something eventually the difference will start to tell. I vividly recall a phone in at the end of last season, after Chelsea won the title, 6-0-6 it was, when Alan Green was refusing to let anyone claim that Chelsea 'bought' the title. This is rather like like the Emperor's press secretary forbidding anyone from pointing out the Emperor's nudity. It was patently obvious Chelsea had bought the title, and denying it fooled no-one.

There are of course attendant benefits to the Abramovich cash. It has made the Premiership a better league, and certainly a richer league, since teams can demand large amounts of money of the benificent giant for their star players. Some teams, like Manchester City, who received an incomprehensible sum for overhyped winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, are spending that money wisely. The other benefit, of course, is that a better class of player can be seen week in, week it, around the country. Without the Abramovich money, we wouldn't be seeing Drogba or Essien on Match of the Day.

The real issue is whether these benefits merit the cost of a hopelessly uncompetitive league. As even Lyons admits in his defence of this seasons Premiership, 'it's correct that only four teams in the league have much chance of becoming champions this season.' Four out of twenty is an exceedingly poor ratio. In reality, of course, it isn't even four, because Liverpool don't even have an outside chance, as Sunday's mauling proved.

I would go so far as to argue that neither Arsenal or Manchester United have much chance either. They both struggled to get past Birmingham and Fulham respectively this weekend, two teams who will certainly be in the bottom half of the table at the end of the season. So far, there has been precisely no evidence of Chelsea struggling at all.

Time to indulge in fantasies again. Were I supreme being and ruler of all the universe, one of my first acts would be to install a salary cap and a supplemental draft in the Premiership. Both would have the wholly benficial result of levelling the league off, or more accurately, giving each team their turn. This may sound hopeless and fruitlessly egalitarian, but as a fan of the NFL, I have to say American Football is far more interesting precisely because at the end of September it isn't wholly obvious who'll be champions come the end of the season. Certainly, American Football teams are not wholly equal - some are run better than others, some are better in control of the salary cap, and then there are the effects of the draft to consider - but everything is up for grabs, whereas almost every game in the Premiership this season has been, and will be, completely predictable.

I think that's sad.

Are they a force for interest, or a force for bordeom?


A much, much, much better and more detailed post on the same subject can be found at Coffee And PC.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


That Poetry Doth Flow From The Soul

Thanks to Clairwil, my attention is drawn to this quiz, which claims to match a poem to your mood. Here's mine:

'Down! Down! Well, it's what poetry has been used for since the dawn of time - so all right, here's something suitably passionate that might just persuade the object of your desire into bed.'

'Phillis, Or, the Progress of Love'

'DESPONDING Phillis was endu'd
With ev'ry Talent of a Prude,
She trembled when a Man drew near;
Salute her, and she turn'd her Ear:
If o'er against her you were plac't
She durst not look above your Wa[i]st;
She'd rather take you to her Bed
Than let you see her dress her Head;
In Church you heard her thro' the Crowd
Repeat the Absolution loud;
In Church, secure behind her Fan
She durst behold that Monster, Man:
There practic'd how to place her Head,
And bit her Lips to make them red:
Or on the Matt devoutly kneeling
Would lift her Eyes up to the Ceeling,
And heave her Bosom unaware
For neighb'ring Beaux to see it bare...'

Jonathan Swift (1667 - 1745)

First of all, I must congratulate the quiz for working out that I was well horny when I did it. How it got there from my selection of 'Eeyore' as my favourite literary character I don't know, and frankly I don't want to.

However, I do have one problem with this, which is the claim that poetry 'might just persuade the object of your desire into bed.' Look, the only women who would really be turned on by poetry are women with long black hair, thick rimmed spectacles, and long, flowing bohemian skirts, worn not because they're fashionable, but because they haven't shaved their legs in a year and anything else would chafe.

I find 'old-time' romance infuriating, not least because I really wish it worked, whereas instead every single bloke knows the only way to score, unless you're really good looking, is to hit the cheesiest club in town and prey on that lass from Huddersfield who's bursting out of her top and falling off her stilletos because she's had eight snakebites too many, and gently guiding her towards the old bachelor pad.

I'm the sad git who actually wishes for the days of Bertie Wooster, when all a man had to do was take a girl for a moonlight stroll in the garden. Now, the only moonlight stroll you'll be doing is the one down the road to the gutter where your newest acquaintance is vomiting up the evening's curry.

Still, on a less depressing note, I must just say I really like this poem. Maybe I was wrong to dismiss Swift as a buffoon as early as I did. That's quality adolescent humour on display there, and it did raise a chuckle.

Even poetry would be better than negotiating this. Good God, I sound like I'm seventy-five!


A Unique Message For A Single Reader

This post is solely dedicated to the twat who has ruined my nice, tidy, well-ordered visitor statistics by arriving at this site nearly seventy times yesterday searching for Christina Aguilera pictures. Have a look at this picture below, save it, and then fuck off and never come back.

Just like her music teacher told her, Cindy would never become good at the guitar using only one hand.

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