Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Won't Send Roses

I thought I was pretty familar with the American songbook, but I heard a great Jerry Herman number which was completely new to me, on the radio this morning.

I won't send roses
Or hold the door
I won't remember
Which dress you wore
My heart is too much in control
The lack of romance in my soul
Will turn you grey, kid
So stay away, kid
Forget my shoulder
When you're in need
Forgetting birthdays
Is guaranteed
And should I love you, you would be
The last to know
I won't send roses
And roses suit you so

My pace is frantic
My temper's cross
With words romantic
I'm at a loss
I'd be the first one to agree
That I'm preoccupied with me
And it's inbred, kid
So keep your head, kid
In me you'll find things
Like guts and nerve
But not the kind of things
That you deserve
And so while there's a fighting chance
Just turn and go
I won't send roses
And roses suit you so.

"With words romantic, I'm at a loss" is pretty weak. I suggest "I'm no romantic, at love a loss" would be an improvement, but generally that is a great lyric. I love the way that "and roses suit you so" subverts the implications of the earlier lines and changes them from bombast to melancholy yearning. It is the same technique that I noticed in Dylan's "Most of the Time" last year. I wonder if there is a technical term for it?

When sorrows come

Last week, I got sniped at the last minute bidding on ebay for a 1931 first edition of "By The Way", JB Morton's original collection as Beachcomber.

Yesterday I consulted the Evening Standard online only to discover I have missed a one-off reunion by the remaining Bonzos at the Astoria with Stephen Fry - nonchalant in a green velvet jacket - taking the late, lamented Viv Stanshall's part in an update of The Intro and the Outro. What wouldn't I have given to hear him announce, "Princess Anne on sousaphone".

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Polka In The Eye

I took my five year old to the Polka Theatre over the weekend to see "A Bear Called Paddington". It is a very impressive venue for a dedicated children's theatre. Unfortunately about an hour into the show he started nudging me saying, "I want to go now, it's boring" over and over again.

I was about to come over all self righteous and tell him that he had to stay because we had bought expensive tickets, but as I realised that he had in fact woken me up to tell me he was fed up with it I had to yield.

We made our excuses and left. Better luck next time I hope.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Normal service will be resumed ..

I'm sorry about the performance problems on the site this weekend. "A Welsh Born Icon" and all of Coraider's sites are on the end of the same pipe and the load on Bumblebee Auctions - our UK Police Auction site - went through the roof when the Guardian covered it yesterday in a piece called 'Move over eBay - this is the police'.

Traffic to Bumblebee has doubled every six months since it was launched in 2002 and the next major upgrade is planned for February but we just can't cope with that sort of spike in demand from one day to another.

I think this weekend will turn out to be an inconvenience only; a problem would be if there was less traffic not more.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Wasting Away

On finishing in the gym this morning I weighed in at 85.7kg, which is exactly thirteen stone and seven pounds and means that I have shifted another half stone since November 16 and that I am still slimming down as a by product of exercising rather than consciously dieting. That must be good.

I realise that it might seem rather self absorbed to be writing about my exercise programme and its results, but I have found that a regular weblog is a great way of tracking this sort of process and maintaining motiviation.

If I do need any more inspiration and - God forbid - have to start cutting out booze and grub, the photo capturing me in my Y-fronts at a Navarra campsite in the early Eighties that Chris is threatening me with certainly shows someone who weighs a lot less than thirteen and a half stone. I wonder what that slip of a boy would have thought of the prospect of ballooning up to over fifteen stone as I did in the summer?

Friday, January 27, 2006

En Las Penas

An unexpected bonus of this blogging lark is that it really helps in maintaining contact with old brothers in arms. I was thrilled yesterday to receive a collection of scanned photos of our early Eighties Pamplona jaunt from Chris of Stuff and Nonsense.

It is a sobering thing to see how much one's appearance changes over the years, so just for the record, the boyband in the central group of the snap above consists of:
  • centre - a slightly disheveled matinee idol, Nick Browne (not what I remembered)
  • right - a ruggedly handsome Chris Howell (not what I remembered)
  • left - a weirdy, beardy Rod McKenna (exactly as I remember).
This by a process of elimination means that the possibly vomiting figure behind my head being addressed by Rod may be John Ashton so Sean is behind the camera or vice versa. Either scenario is equally likely from what I remember of that journey into the heart of darkness.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Burns Night

I had hoped to that "eat your way around the world in London" might alight on a Scottsh restaurant last night in honour of Rabbie Burns. I had even lined up what looks like a great Scots restaurant, the Albannach, but we are hosting a user group meeting today and I felt it was better to socialize with the delegates who came up to SW19 last night.

There is always next year I suppose so it is worth blogging a link on what I have learned of the conduct of a Burns Supper.

The company are asked to stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guests accompany them with a slow handclap. The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns' famous poem To A Haggis, with great enthusiasm. When he reaches the line 'an cut you up wi' ready slight', he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife.

It's customary for the company to applaud the speaker then stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky.

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Great Firewall of China

I don't know what to make of Google censoring itself for China, while defying the US over search data, but I've found a blog called RConversation that looks like it might be a good place to start briefing myself on some of the issues.

Here is an extract from a post last week about developments hovering somewhere between sinister and funny:

Starting today, when netizens visit all the main portals of Shenzhen city, Guangdong, they will see two cartoon figures "Jingjing" and "Chacha" (Jing Cha = Police). The image of Shenzhen Internet Police will officially be online. From now on, when netizens visit websites and web forums of Shenzhen, they will see these two cartoon police images floating on their screen. Our reporter learned that these are the images of Shenzhen Internet Police, presented by Internet Surveillance Division of Shenzhen Public Security Bureau, for the first time in China.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My name is Inigo Montoya ....

Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father: prepare to die.

This deeply wonderful review of 'A History of Swordsmanship' has got me in full swashbuckling mode. How have I lived without knowing:
Salvator Fabris’s ruthless establishment of the drawing of the sword, getting it into action readily and rapidly, as his premier postura guardia, and his deriving and defining other guards from that origin; from Nicoletto Giganti’s exposition of the Lunge, from Ridolfo Capo Ferro’s first illustration of it and their bringing posture and movement into an entirely logical “in-line” progression; from Francesco Alfieri’s refining of this; from the abandoning of the pseudo-arcane geometricized esoterica of the Spanish school; from the gradual reduction of the rapier to shorter and lighter, more manoeuvrable diamond section, then colichemarde; then hollow-ground, three-edged blade forms, and the exploitation of their potential, by Liancour, Labat and Thibault, for rotational movement from its long axis for greater and greater varieties of defence, and greater possibilities of deception and compound or composed attacking with ever more finesse, a high level of new development and knowledge had already been reached. Angelo’s function was different; his training with Gianfaldoni, and then with Teillagory (said never to have been a great fencer himself, but the finest of teachers), his extraordinary horsemanship, his enthusiastic dancing, training with Guerinière, taking lessons from Vestris of the Paris Opera, will have united to give him consummate style, in an age when style was all, and harmonized into a superior grasp and command of the realities of physique and the physicality of action. He produced his recognition of what is true, efficacious and deadly, with simplicity and clarity of expression.

Even more thrillingly, on Googling the reviewer (Philip Stafford) I found that he is on the Equity Fight Directors List, so when I win the lottery I can take lessons from hm.

En guarde!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Lang Shining

The Three Emperors exhibition at the Royal Academy was astounding. Something that especially delighted me was that many of the paintings were by the influential court painter Lang Shining. It has long been a theme of mine that cultures are deeply intertwined so it was great to discover that Lang Shining was the Chinese name of Guiseppe Castiglione (1688-1766) a Jesuit.

His painting The Qianlong Emperor in Ceremonial Armour on Horseback is on the left (you can see a larger version if you click on it). The characters on his helmet are in Sanskrit, liturgical language of Hinduism and Buddhism. Wheels within wheels within prayer wheels.

A light cool room away from the thrust and bustle of the main exhibition is devoted to the painting and calligraphy of the literati. This is primarily monochrome work produced by artists who prided themselves on their indendence and amatuer status. It is very tranquil and beautiful work that looked very similar to some Japanese styles to me. It is certainly an area I would like to discover more about.

So, fingers crossed, I've moved my understanding a little beyond "The Water Margin", but - for old times' sakes - once more with feeling, can I hear Burt Kwouk?

The ancient sages said, "do not despise the snake for having no horns, for who is to say it will not become a dragon?".

So may one just man become an army.

Nearly a thousand years ago in ancient China, at the time of the Sung dynasty, there was a cruel and corrupt government.

These men riding are outlaws - heroes - who have been driven to live in the Water Margins of Liang Shan Po, far to the south of the capital city. Each fights tyranny with a price on his head, in a world very different from our own. The story starts in legend even then - for our heroes, it was said, were perhaps the souls reborn of other, earlier knights...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Harrison Bergeron

Sports Minister Ruth Kelly today promised that teams would not be allowed to select players by footballing ability.

In a bid to reassure critics of the sports white paper, Ms Kelly said selection would be against the law.

She insisted the code on transfers would be statutory.

Asked if selection by ability would be against the law, Ms Kelly replied: "Absolutely full stop against the law. I can give you a categorical assurance that that’s the case."

Ms Kelly told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme she was confident Labour opponents could be brought on board.

Ms Kelly said independence for clubs meant giving them “the freedom to succeed”.

She said they could manage their own assets and employ their own staff and have more freedom over tactics.

Ms Kelly denied the Government would have to rely on Tory support to get the plans through the Commons. She said the Tories had adopted a “common sense” position which was very close to the Government.

Shadow sports minister David Willetts said people had lost sight of the fact there could be selection within clubs.

He said an increase in setting would mean players could be coached with others of similar ability without large-scale transfers between clubs.

“We think that is a good practical way of raising the quality of football,” he told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.
Find and replace is a wonderful tool in a word processor don't you think? Do you remember this Kurt Vonnegut story from over forty years ago?

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though. April, for instance,
still drove people crazy by not being springtime. And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

Read on.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Three Emperors

This afternoon I am off to "China: The Three Emperors, 1662—1795", the exhibition at the Royal Academy devoted to the artistic and cultural riches of Imperial China. I wish I could say that I was going because of the Chinese New Year next weekend, but in fact I am going because I was talking to Hugh about it at Bondy's party before Christmas and he suggested that we put a date in our diaries.

I wish I was more organised about this sort of thing in London. I finally listened to my CD's of Persian Fire that last time that I drove down to Cardiff and back, which caused me to regret missing 'Forgotten Empire - the World of Ancient Persia' at the British Museum. Any extra knowledge of the huge contribution of Persia to the culture of the world would be a balm during the current tension with Iran.

Even more ridiculously, back in 2004 I went to the Rubens exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts when we were in Lille after I read about it in the Spectator, but still couldn't manage to drag myself along to Rubens: A Master in the Making in the National Gallery which is only a tube journey away. I particularly regret that - if regret is an appropriate word for such a pathetic failure do get up off my backside - because one painting in Lille, an Adoration of the Magi, was the first one that I ever saw that made me think that I could spend tens of hours looking at it seeing new things all the time from how the paint was applied to the detail of the costume and what that tells us of the time.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Film Watch

I can't help but wonder if anyone will go and see 'A Cock and Bull Story' under the impression that it is the heralded gay cowboy movie.

Sir Tom Jones: Welsh Icon

Patient: Doctor, I can't sleep. Everytime I lay on my left I hear 'The Green Green Grass of Home,' and when I lay on my right, I hear 'Delilah.'

Doctor: I'm afraid you have a case of Tom Jones Fever.

Patient: Tom Jones Fever? Is that common?

Doctor: It's not unusual.

I'm brooding about Welshness, because I need a bone to gnaw in the run up to Wales' away game (as reigning Grand Slam champions) against England in a couple of weeks. In this fragile state, just about the last thing that I need to read is the headline "Welsh icons? They're all foreigners" on a site describing itself as the 'The National Website of Wales".

The provisional gloss that I have decided to put on this challenge for the time being is that the modern Welsh are in essence an aspirational, non-exclusive ethnic group, membership of which is open to anyone supporting fifteen men in red when they run out at Twickenham on Feb 4, and a superset of the honoured speakers of the Brythonic branch of Celtic spoken natively in the western part of Britain known as Cymru, and in the Chubut Valley, a Welsh immigrant colony in the Patagonia region of Argentina.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

While There's A Spotlight

I went to see the stage show of The Producers last night (rather than eating my way around the world in London) after Paul stumbled across the Get Into London Theatre 2006 campaign that is making cheaper seats available for a whole range of productions up until the end of March.

The Producers is a great musical - you don't need another review from me - and I was amazed at Mel Brooks facility with show tunes. The songs reminded me that in the days when I used to noodle around on the piano I wrote a lot of fragments in a sort of Broadway style that I was idly assembling into "While There's a Spotlight", the cheesiest musical in the history of the world. Unfortunatley, as I'm not really a trained musician and this sort of stuff is a lot more harmonically sophisticated than songs that you can capture with a melody line and a chord progression I've never managed to get any of it down on paper.

When Ouriel left a comment on this blog about transcriptions I started to wonder whether software mightn't help me with the problem and emailed him to ask, he replied:

The best tool for music transcription is a software called FINALE.
If i am not wrong you can do it indeed directly from an electronic keyboard or midi file


you also have SIBELIUS

So I think I will have a go with that if and when I get my gear hooked up again. It would be odd to have transcriptions of things I wrote that I was not really able, fluently to read.

In the meantime - to whet your appetite - here is the chorus of the song in my imaginary musical that the apparently jaded veteran with a heart of gold (details to be confirmed) sings to the discouraged ingenue (details to be confirmed) to persuade her not to give up on her dreams.
I know that the sun won't catch you crying
I know though the moon just broke your heart
While the stars are all spotlights shining for you
Let's make a brand new start

Break a leg.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


The story to fit this sensational headline has not turned up yet.
I apologise but a favourable comment on my last post seems to have induced a postprandial Beachcomber reverie.
............. I think I hear a boiled egg calling to its young.

Justice Cocklecarrot Presiding

Our legal correspondent has brought a curious case to my attention.

Kevin Reeves, 40, was jailed for 15 months and ordered to pay £2,000 compensation after accepting £20,000 from a friend so depressed that she asked him to find a hitman to murder her. He even offered to do it himself, but got no further than pocketing the money.
Judge Veronica Hammerton told Reeves: “This was a calculated deception, repeated three times. While it is clear you had no intention of arranging for someone to kill Mrs Ryder and didn’t propose to yourself, you deceived her into believing it would happen. It resulted in a substantial sum being paid to you; none of the money was repaid. In all the circumstances, these offences are so serious that a custodial sentence is unavoidable.” She ordered Reeves to hand over as compensation the £2,000 he had saved up to repay Mrs Ryder.

It does my heart good to find the spirit of Justice Cocklecarrot alive and well in the criminal justice system, and as I haven't quoted the immortal Beachcomber ("justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be believed") since last April, here is some more for your edification:

Mr Justice Cocklecarrot began the hearing of a very curious case yesterday. A Mrs Tasker is accused of continually ringing the doorbell of a Mrs Renton, and then, when the door is opened, pushing a dozen red-bearded dwarfs into the hall and leaving them there.

An expert witness is called...

Mr Bastin Hermitage (for the defence): Now, Dr Spunton, is there, to your knowledge, any disease which would account for Mrs Tasker's strange habits?
Dr Spunton: There is. It is called rufo-nanitis. The spymptoms-
Mr Hermitage: Symptoms.
Dr Spunton: Yes, spymptoms, but I always put a 'p' before a 'y'.
Cocklecarrot: With what object, might we ask?
Dr Spunton: I can't help it, m'lud.
Cocklecarrot: Do you say pyesterday?
Dr Spunton: Pyes, unfortunatelpy. It's hereditarpy. Mpy familpy all do it.
Cocklecarrot: But why 'p'?
Dr Spunton: No, py, m'lud.


The court had to be cleared owing to the roars of ribald laughter which greeted the appearance in the witness-box of the twelve red-bearded dwarfs all in a heap. Their names were read out amid growing uproar. The names appeared to be: Sophus Barkayo-Tong, Amaninter Axling, Farjole Merrybody, Guttergorm Guttergormpton, Badly Oronparser, Churm Rincewind, Cleveland Zackhouse, Molonay Tubilderborst, Edeledel Edel, Scorpion de Rooftrouser, Listenis Youghaupt, Frums Gillygottle.

Cocklecarrot: Are these genuine names?
A Dwarf: No, m'worship.
Cocklecarrot: Then what's your name?
Dwarf: Bogus, m'ludship.
Cocklecarrot: No, your real name.
Dwarf: My real name is Bogus, your excellency.

(At this point the court had to be cleared)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sublime or Ridiculous?

More - via the heartbreaking yet invaluable Sudan Watch - on the strange, new ubiquity of blogs.

Jan 14, 2006 (NAIROBI) — The leaders of the main rebel movement in Sudan’s Darfur region were once brothers in arms. But last year, the two powerful men had a falling out, and each proclaimed he was the rightful president of the Sudanese Liberation Army. Things got ugly.
But not a single shot was fired. Instead, the feuding insurgents battled as bloggers over the Internet.
"I got his e-mails and read those bitter diaries," said Mohamed al-Nur, a founder of the rebel group, at a conference held here late last year by the United States to try to bring the two sides together.
"That’s the only place we hear from you — on that Internet!" hooted Saif Haroun, a spokesman for Minni Arko Minnawi, the newly proclaimed leader. "You run your rebellion from a computer?"

You can read the whole article from the Sudan Tribune here.

I used my dog's shampoo

Something that I heard on the BBC World Service about Finland's current elections lodged in my mind, especially after yesterday's discovery that practically everyone is blogging.

It seems that with exception of President Tarja Halonen all of the seven other candidates have been writing their own weblogs.

In particular, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen appears to be some sort of Pooterish comedy genius read by 20,000 to 30,000 people each day.

"I broke my glasses last night," he wrote recently.

"While I was watching television I noticed that my vision in one eye had deteriorated. I rubbed my eye, but nothing happened. I thought it must be due to fatigue. But I realized what it was when my finger went right through the frame of my eyeglasses. I've ordered new glasses for next week."

He even provided his cell phone number so readers could let him know whether he should get bold or discreet frames.

Another day he wrote: "I didn't go skiing. I took a nap instead. To get some exercise I shoveled snow."

And yet another entry: "This morning in the shower, still half-asleep, I used my dog's shampoo. It smelled strange."

It is almost as if he is channelling Viv Stanshall from the great beyond. I would vote for him in a heartbeat. His website is at http://www.mattivanhanen.net/ but my Finnish is not even up to the modest task of understanding if that is the weblog or not.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Blogs to right of them, blogs to left of them

I put a comment on Professor Deborah Lipstadt's weblog this morning that referred in turn to my post about her interview with the BBC and was pleased and surprised to receive a gracious acknowledgement from her by email. What an extraordinay medium the weblog is, the more I work with it the more conversational it seems to become.

When I posted about David Irving this morning I had no idea that Nick Grifffin of the BNP was due to go on trial today on race hate charges arising from a 2004 undercover documentary. (Nick Griffin and co-defendant Mark Collett - just like everyone in the world these days it seems are also putting their case via Blogger.)

I predict that this trial will turn out to be an even more egregious example than Irving's of Lipstadt's warning that "we should not allow them to become martyrs".

I bet that part of Griffin's defence will be that what he said has been proved by the London bombings of 7/7 to be true. Imagine how inflammatory that is going to be.

More and more I am convinced that all this hate crime legislation is counter productive. Consider the recent interview by the police of Sir Iqbal Sacranie with regard to homophobia.

Such proceedings encourage rather than alleviate tension.

Let him fade into obscurity

I've been meaning to write for a while about what I think is the absurdity and the danger of the nauseating David Irving sitting in an Austrian jail after being arrested in November last year over two speeches he made in 1989, during which he allegedly claimed there had been no gas chambers at Auschwitz.

But hold, there is no need for me to feel I ought inadequately to sally forth because Deborah Lipstadt (the American Jewish academic who dramatically crushed Irving in the British courts when he sued her for libel after she published as book that described him as "one of the most prominent and dangerous Holocaust deniers") has given an interview to the BBC in which she expresses opinions exactly congruent with mine.

"I would not want to see him spend more time in jail."

"I am uncomfortable with imprisoning people for speech. Let him go and let him fade from everyone's radar screens."

"Generally, I don't think Holocaust denial should be a crime, I am a free speech person, I am against censorship."

"I don't find these laws efficacious. I think they turn Holocaust denial into forbidden fruit, and make it more attractive to people who want to toy with the system or challenge the system. "

"We don't have laws against other kinds of spoken craziness. If you're a medical quack and you hurt someone, there's a law against that.
"But if you're a medical quack and you stand on the street corner preaching that you have an elixir that cures cancer and saves lives, no one throws you in jail."

"Germany and Austria are not so far past the Third Reich. So I can understand that the swastika symbol, Mein Kampf, Holocaust denial, being a neo-Nazi and all the rest have a certain potency there that they would not have in the United States.
"And Austria is a democracy. If the citizens of Austria were against these laws, they could change them. Austria and Germany are different, but I would not support those laws being instituted elsewhere."

"I am not interested in debating with Holocaust deniers," she says. "You wouldn't ask a scientist to debate with someone who thinks the Earth is flat. They are not historians, they are liars. Debating them would be nonsensical.
"But we also should not allow them to become martyrs. Nothing is served by having David Irving in a jail cell, except that he has become an international news issue. "

"Let him go home and let him continue talking to six people in a basement. "

"Let him fade into obscurity where he belongs."

I'm not sure that I agree about Austria and Germany but I can see it is a point worth discussing, in general though she lines up all the ducks and then knocks them over. Bang, bang, bang, brilliant.

I was also pleased and surprised to find that she has a blog at http://lipstadt.blogspot.com/

Sunday, January 15, 2006

trying to make a point

Viv Stanshall having brought comedy heroes to mind, and the spoof mastercard ad probably having scared off anyone frightened by using language, as Dylan Thomas termed it in 'Under Milk Wood', here's Lenny Bruce from a less prissy age taking the free speech fight to the contradictory underpinnings of hate crime:

Are there any niggers here tonight?

Can you turn on the house lights, and could the waiters and waitresses just stop serving for a second?

And turn off the spot.

Now what did he say?

'Are there any niggers here tonight?'

There's one nigger here. l see him back there working.

Let's see. There's two niggers.

And between those two niggers sits a kike.

And there's another kike.

That's two kikes and three niggers.

And there's a spic, right? Hm?

There's another spic.

Ooh, there's a wop. There's a Polack.

And then, oh, a couple of greaseballs. There's three lace-curtain lrish Micks.

And there's one hip, thick, hunky, funky boogie.

Boogie, boogie. Mm-mm.

l got three kikes. Do l hear five kikes?

l got five kikes. Do l hear six spics?

Six spics. Do l hear seven niggers? l got seven niggers. Sold American!

l'll pass with seven niggers, six spics, five Micks, four kikes, three guineas, and one wop.

You almost punched me out, didn't ya?

l was trying to make a point, that it's the suppression of the word that gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness.

Dig. lf President Kennedy would just go on television and say, "l'd like to introduce you to all the niggers in my cabinet."

And if he'd just say "nigger, nigger" to every nigger he saw, "boogie, boogie, boogie, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger," till it didn't mean anything any more!

Then you'd never be able to make a black kid cry because somebody called him a nigger in school.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Do Not Adjust Your Set

When I visited Chris and Kim early in the New Year we started talking about associating old teatime shows from our childhoods with the food we ate while watching them. (Shades of Proust's madeleine.) I can remember very, very little about Do Not Adjust Your Set, the ground breaking show with pre-Pythons Eric Idle, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, plus David Jason, Denise Coffey, and the Bonzo Dog Doo Band, but I vividly remember tucking into a steak and kidney pie - with a filling that seemd to have been heated to the temperature of erupting lava - as I sat in front of the TV one day when it was on.

I genuinely love the Bonzos and especially Viv Stanshall. It is amazing to me that I have never paid tribute to the Ginger Geezer here. He wrote what could be the blog's motto - the very warp and weave of A Welsh Born Icon - My Pink Half of the Drainpipe:

........ the incredibly fascinating story of your life and every day to day event in all it's minute and tedious attention to detail... And was it a Thursday or a Wednesday? Or, oh, no, it wasn't though. Oh, who cares anyway because I do not so Norman, if you're normal, I intend to be a freak for the rest of my life, and I shall baffle you with cabbages and rhinoceroses in the kitchen, incessant quotations from "Now We Are Six" through the mouthpiece of Lord Snooty's giant poisoned electric head.
So theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrre!

Friday, January 13, 2006

...... priceless

If Chris can have adverts on his blog I don't see why I shouldn't.

(Actally it is motivated as a test of a new Google service. If it doesn't work try here. I found that the blogger HTML validator seemed to strip a lot of content out of the object tag that Google supplied when I posted so I have had to put the code in an inline frame in a page I uploaded directly via FTP.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Somebody Up There Likes Me

According to Welsh Heart, you are reading "a colourful blog by a Welshman with a fine turn of phrase".

I'm flattered, but I can always do with more.

The Gaucho Grill

Eat Your Way Around the World in London alighted on Argentina last night at The Gaucho Grill. We arrived at 6:30 and were amazed to find it was absolutely mobbed with "men at steak". We were lucky to get a table, I'd definitely recommend booking.

Steaks, as implied above, are generally the order of the day in South America, cut thick, seasoned with salt and chimichurri oil then grilled. I had 300g of Bife de Chorizo (sirloin) and Paul had 300g of Bife de Cuadril (rump) along with the Gaucho Grill's own label (Terruno) cabernet sauvignon. It was indeed great meat, but there is not a lot more to say about it (except that my performance did lead me to wonder if I will be up to the Lobster Challenge).

The real revelation was the starters. We both had Ceviches. I had diver caught scallops marinated in saffron and aji amarillo with yellow tomatoes, shaved red onion and coriander; and Paul had the Peruvian - merluza (hake), tiger prawn and octopus tossed in tomato and citrus juices, olives, jalapeno, red onion and orange segments. Ceviche is fish or other seafood that is marinated in citrus juices and other ingredients so that it is "cooked" without heat. A new taste to me, and something I could eat every day.

(Follow the links for our real and imaginary destinations.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Lamentable Legislation

Here, via The Law West of Ealing Broadway, is an extract from a recent Court of Appeal judgement that required interpretation of some of the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Here is the practical result of the mania for initiatives that create new crimes.

Thursday, 8th December 2005
B E F O R E:


extract from paragraph 14 of the judgement:

So, yet again, the courts are faced with a sample of the deeply confusing provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, and the satellite Statutory Instruments to which it is giving stuttering birth. The most inviting course for this Court to follow, would be for its members, having shaken their heads in despair to hold up their hands and say: 'the Holy Grail of rational interpretation is impossible to find'. But it is not for us to desert our judicial duty, however lamentably others have legislated. But, we find little comfort or assistance in the historic canons of construction for determining the will of Parliament which were fashioned in a more leisurely age and at a time when elegance and clarity of thought and language were to be found in legislation as a matter of course rather than exception.


Christopher Howse writing in the Telegraph today points out an interesting precedent for Tony Blair's Respect Action Plan.

Bonasera: I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but -- I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a boyfriend; not an Italian. She went to the movies with him; she stayed out late. I didn't protest. Two months ago, he took her for a drive, with another boyfriend. They made her drink whiskey. And then they tried to take advantage of her.

Vito Corleone: I understand. You found paradise in America, had a good trade, made a good living. The police protected you; and there were courts of law. And you didn't need a friend like me. But uh, now you come to me and you say -- "Don Corleone give me justice." -- But you don't ask with respect. You don't offer friendship. You don't even think to call me Godfather. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you uh ask me to do murder, for money.

Bonasera: I ask you for justice.

Vito: That is not justice; your daughter is still alive.

Bonasera: Then they can suffer then, as she suffers... How much shall I pay you?

Vito: Bonasera... Bonasera... What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? Had you come to me in friendship, then this scum that ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And that by chance if an honest man such as yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you.

Don Blair: We need to accept that what works in practice is a measure of summary power ......... anything else is the theory ....... utterly useless to the ordinary citizen on the street .....we will attempt to create the conditions in which respect can flourish .......... and I believe that, together, we will eradicate the scourge of anti-social behaviour and restore Respect.


Yesterday lunchtime I went to get my hair cut at Ed's Barbers. This is not, I'll readily grant, a terribly exciting event, but it is where I've taken my five year old to be sheared since he was knee high and I just wanted to record the fact that he has christened it in a charming, malapropistic, but deeply logical way as "Heads".

After that I popped in the Lebanese Gourmet Express, next door but one, for a shawarma and found that they were handing out free samples of little ground lamb, chilli and pine nut pastry parcels that I was told were called sambousik. I'd never heard of them, never mind tasted one before. If you get the chance you should try some too. Once again, scarcely earth shattering but worth recording somehow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Not Clinging On

I see that the great All Blacks captain Tana Umaga has retired from international rugby ostensibly to to spend more time with his family.

I can't help but wonder though about the possible influence of PooterGeek's ungallant call after New Zealand's 23-19 defeat of England this year for the the banning of Klingons from Earth rugby internationals.

Mingis is the Scottish pronunciation

Apart from idly wondering if I still drink more than Charles Kennedy did before he jumped aboard the wagon, I haven't been paying much attention to the Liberal Democrats' leadership tussles.

Now however that Sir Menzies Campbell has thrown his hat into the ring, I am glad to see that the BBC is asking the important question - if we've had Thatcherites and have Blairites:
What should Ming's backers be collectively known as?

Ali G, in his US series, offered prophetic advice:
So, if this show teach you anything, it should teach you how to respek everyone: animals, children, bitches, spazmos, mingers, lezzers, fatty boombahs, and even gaylords. So, to all you lot watching this, but mainly to the normal people, respek. West side.

You may now retire to consider your verdict.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Merton Abbey Mills

It was disheartening, but not surprising, to read in the Wimbledon Guardian that the buildings that have sprouted around my office in the old Liberty Apprentice Shop in Abbey Mills rate very highly in their Merton's Monstrosities campaign.

One of the interviewees described the development as "ugly and overcrowded with no reference to the history of the site it occupies", which couldn't help but bring the Abbey that once stood here to mind as well as the Wikipedia entry for it that I kicked off last April.

Looking at it today for the first time in months I was surprised to see that it had been updated nine times since I last worked on it. You can see the changes here.

The gradual but inexorable agglomeration of information on Wikipedia is one of the most fascinating phenomena of our age. I wonder what it will look like in ten years time when you consider that just over a decade ago Yahoo looked like this?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Stuff and Nonsense

Generally I take a very firm line vis a vis the debased coinage of celebrity, but as Chris has brought it up, I suppose I can bestir myself from Mount Olympus to offer a comment on the current exemplar of car crash, nuts and sluts TV.

Maggot to win obviously, but if only Michael Barrymore can be persuaded to give swimming lessons to George Galloway and Pete Burns the exercise may not have been entirely in vain.


Saturday, January 07, 2006


We get a fair percentage of our work - and a higher percentage of our best customers - when we step into the breach because they have been let down.

Sometimes that means weekends like this one, when I worked late last night, worked today, and will work tomorrow for a Monday morning deadline.

This animated gif pretty much sums up what it feels like. (Hat tip wendyg).

Aloo Aloo Aloo

I spent a rare day code wrangling yesterday; something I don't get to as often as I would like. It is easy to forget how compelling programming is once you get the bit between your teeth. Time flew and I ended up working so late that I decided to pick up a take away on the way home.

As I'd blogged about it recently I picked up a vindaloo rather than my traditional dhansak for the first time in years.

When I tasted the potato in it, I remembered something that I'd read in Wikipedia:

Restaurants often serve this dish with chicken or lamb sometimes mixed with potatoes. Traditional vindaloos do not include potatoes, the discrepancy arising because the word 'aloo' meaning garlic (presumably derived from the Portuguese word 'alho') is mistranslated as 'potato' as it is in Hindi.

Isn't that great?

Friday, January 06, 2006


The Epiphany is today's feast of the visit of the three wise men to the infant Jesus.

An epiphany is a sudden intuitive realization or comprehension of the essence or meaning of something.

A light bulb goes on over my head, and I realise that I've been blogging long enough now - on the theme of how we are all so deeply interconnected culturally that we should be chums - to make it worth quoting myelf.

Thus allow to me recommend - from January last year - A Welsh Born Icon: Wise Men and Iran.

Fathers and Sons

Kevin and I go way back. Infant, primary and secondary school class mates in Cardiff and then, before he moved to Hong Kong, near neighbours in London.

I always got on very well with his father (and indeed, last year, blogged about what he told me of listening to the Tommy Farr/ Joe Louis fight in 1937) so I was very sorry to hear that he had died.

In a week when I have written about my son, father, and grandfather; another conversation with him comes to mind. I remember when we were chatting in the Nelson years ago, he told me that once, when he was on sentry duty in Italy, the guy standing next to him had been shot dead by a sniper.

When I passed this on to Kevin - who didn't even know that his old man had fought his way up through Italy with the Eighth Army - asked, "why doesn't he ever tell me things like that?"

I've thought about it often since then, and I'm not sure that a father could ever tell his son something like that in passing. It would be bound to come across as some sort of lesson or moral instruction that shouldn't be thrown away, and yet he could say it to me without any of that baggage.

I can understand it. I think I would feel the same.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

On the Waterfront

I was talking to my Dad about my Grandfather when I was back in Cardiff just before Christmas. My father told me that when he was a boy, his Dad used to get up around 4am each morning so that he could walk down to the docks to see if there was any work available unloading the ships that had come in. The practice of standing in front of the foreman - or whatever he was called - and trying to catch his eye was called bobbing apparently.

To me of course this is tremendously resonant with Marlon Brando's turn as Terry Malloy in 1954's On the Waterfront. I wish I knew more about life in Cardiff in the forties and early fifties. One of my uncles told me he used to "run numbers". I have no clear idea of exactly what that means but it sounds like a New York movie as well.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Self Aggrandizement

I boasted yesterday about New Year's Eve at Jake's in Jamaica.

Seeing 2004 in with a view of the palm fringed Indian Ocean at the party on the lawns of the Taj Malabar in Cochin wasn't too shabby either.

I don't remember much about the Millenium New Year, but nine months later on 30 September 2000, the little fella on the left arrived so there is really no question which was the best ever.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Jake's in Treasure Beach Jamaica

For this morning's New Year post I have decided that, having moved on from self pity to self absorption, I may as well step up to self regard. (I will probably do do self aggrandizement tomorrow.)

Did you know that I am so remarkably cool that back in the late nineties I spent the New Year at Jake's in Jamaica?

Jakes is a small boutique resort on the South of the island frequented by people like Lennox Lewis, Adam Clayton, Annie Lennox and me.

It's managed by the charming, efficient yet - due to patois, and at least to my ears - incomprehensible Jason Henzell - "nuff tings a gwan, respec', my brother".

The property has been extended from a beach house on a few acres owned by his bohemian parents, Perry Henzell, the director of 'The Harder They Come', and Sally Henzell, a set designer.

I could write about it for hours, but tempus fugit. What particularly brought it to mind this week was the New Year's Eve party. At the stroke of midnight, several guests produced hand guns and started firing live ammunition into the air by way of celebration. No one seemed to bat an eyelid, although you could have knocked me down with a feather. (If it had happened this year, by way of contrast, at the The Old Barn Inn on the outskirts of Swansea I wouldn't have been surprised at all.)

Monday, January 02, 2006


At the turn of the year, and as I move on from self pity to my customary self absorption, I thought that it would be worthwhile to record the total work that Technogym tells me that I have done since the Virgin Active gym opened six months ago.

The runnng totals are:

Mass: 1,134,693Kg
Distance: 244.8Km
Energy: 56,381Kcal.

I found a reference that claims that one pound of body weight is equivalent to 3500 calories which implies that my exertions have been equivalant to 16 pounds; an amount that is eerily close to the weight that I have actually lost and tends to confirm my intuition that I have been able to shed weight gradually through exercise alone without changing my eating and drinking habits. That's rather gratifying. I wonder if it will continue?

Sunday, January 01, 2006