Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Anachronism

Queen Victoria
Used to belt out U2's Gloria
Whenever she was off her face.
(Prince Albert played bass.)

Prodnose: Lèse majesté?
Myself: I throw myself on the mercy of the court and implicate Edmund Clerihew Bentley.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Queen sends first official email

The Queen has sent an email to Commonwealth children around the world in response to blogs that they posted about their daily lives. The royal emails were signed Elizabeth R, which is exactly how the first Queen Elizabeth signed letters in those days, with a stylish interlacing flourish of the quill.

Our own Queen has long embraced communications technology. The interest runs in her veins, for Alexander Graham Bell demonstrated to Queen Victoria long-distance telephone calls to London from Osborne House in 1878. Eighty years later, the Queen made the first automated direct telephone call from Bristol to the Lord Provost of Glasgow. Now there is a Royal Channel on YouTube, and the Christmas message, first televised in 1957, is also a podcast. So it should come as no surprise that the Queen has turned email into E II R mail.

Sir Bufton Tufton

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Better than faster, and faster than better

The boxing, the Burgundy, the ease in talking to privates and generals alike, the friendships with Camus or cigar-store bookies: A.J. Liebling ....

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I am demanding

Amazon having proven that, while commitments and hours in the day mean that there are only so many books I can read, there appears to be no practical limit to the number of books that I can buy.

On demand printing - as reported in the Times yesterday " IMAGINE walking into a bookshop and being certain that even the most obscure title will always be in stock" - can only make this worse.

Dr Strabismus (Whom God Preserve) of Utrecht is currently working on an automatic reading machine that will scan all the contents of a book and then pulp and recycle the paper; effectively closing the loop with on demand printing. He envisages a set up in which the output of the on demand Espresso Book Machine is fed directly into his Turbo Express Reader.

Plaudits from the Green lobby and orders from Local and central government are confidently expected.

Friday, April 24, 2009

thought for the day

Ten countries ruled by nasty people control 80 percent of the planet’s oil reserves.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

On Saint George's Day

vice anglais (French)

vice + anglais, literally "English vice"

Noun vice anglais m

(slang) flagellation
(slang) homosexuality

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Young Master is Home

Ben is back from Florida. I was amazed how much I missed him.

"What's the craziest thing you've ever done?" was last night's leading questions.

"I don't know," I said. "Parachuting maybe. How about you?"

"Swimming with an alligator."

"You swam with an alligator!"

"Oh no sorry, not an alligator, a manatee."
Manatees are slow-moving, non-aggressive, and generally curious creatures .......
Has any other reader noticed the remarkable resemblance between the alligator, notorious for its bone crushing bite, and the manatee, notorious for its witless collisions with propellers? I wonder if they are - by any chance - related?

Monday, April 20, 2009

millipede my pants

England manager Fabio Capello is reported to be disputing the length of the blades of grass on Wembley's turf with head groundsman Steve Welch.

According to the Sun, Capello wants each blade to stand no taller than 17mm compared with the 19mm that Welch is recommending. The paper also reports that the 62-year-old makes regular visits to the stadium to measure it.

In keeping with the Italian's attention to detail, an England insider told the paper: "This may sound ridiculous - but it goes to show how Fabio leaves nothing to chance.

"It is thought he is using his own ruler and does not agree with the groundsman. But of course the groundsman has to protect the field of play and obviously thinks he knows what is best for it. "You can be sure Fabio will want the grass at 17mm and you can be sure he will be checking it."

Capello is "Charlie Suet" and Steve Welch is "Dr. Strabismus" in Beachcomber's Wembley.

For myself I feel like reaching for my Uuzi 9mm ..... or is it 11?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

oaks and acorns

There are new sections on YouTube where you can watch full length licensed movies and TV shows ( and respectively).

There is not a huge selection and a fair few of the movies seem to be unavailable in the UK, but it is a fascinating development.

My daily scribblings here give me a sense of quickly things are developing. (How fast this cloud is skidding across the sky?)

My first attempt at embedding video was on June 7, 2005. At the time it seemed esoteric.

On March 3, 2006 I wrote about trying to get hold of a copy of an Indian movie called Sarkar. (I did buy a copy in Tooting in the end.)

On 19 April 2009 I can legitimately embed the whole movie below.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Kanye Cannae

With regards to laughing at, and as I've hinted before, Kanye West makes me laugh.

In respect of laughing with, Marina Hyde makes me laugh.

Laughing with Marina at Kanye:

Started the day the way I like to: communicating with my fans via my blog. I will NEVER forget their potential to be uplifted by what I do. Today I posted them the usual design pictures - a skateboard ramp in Holland that is made out of Styrofoam and diamonds, and a Japanese coffee table that is also a child. INCREDIBLE!!! Then I let them further into the mind of Kanye with a post about combs. Combs are incredible - they have been on the scene ever since humans had hair, but I was thinking about it last night and mankind would not always have had a highly designed comb in the shape of a Walther PPK. Think about it! The first combs were probably human fingers! Wait! I'm grossing you out, right, but WAIT - COMBS were ONCE FINGERS! But now combs are EVERYWHERE.

I was getting deep into this when an email arrived asking if I was OK after they made fun of me on South Park. "OK," I replied. "I'm still laughing so hard I'm nearly breaking the keys on my MacBook Air as I type this, and this is such a limited-edition model only three people own one - me, Steve Jobs and Obama. That's how hard I'm laughing at that BS!!!!"

But think about it. What those South Park boys have done is demean everyone who is uplifted by my performances, reminding me I STILL have to fight against the system, and The Man's decision to pigeonhole me as a much-decorated musical genius. Have some respect, humorists! Just let me be great! Just let me be Kanye!!!!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

to the power 6

Ashton Kutcher has beaten CNN in a race to become the first user to have more than one million followers on Twitter.

One turns to Haldane:

Exhibit A:

The world is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.

Exhibit B:

I suppose the process of acceptance will pass through the usual four stages:

(i) this is worthless nonsense;
(ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view;
(iii) this is true, but quite unimportant;
(iv) I always said so.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cowards Flinch

I didn't have any very high hopes for FCO Bloggers: Global conversations, but I found this rather moving.

I'm not making any exaggerated claims for blogging changing diplomacy etc. but it is interesting none the less, and certainly a lot more human and constructive than the vile innuendo of the blogs-in-public-life red rag fiasco. (It must be said that describing Gordon Brown's abandonment of Damian McBride as resembling "a sinking ship leaving a rat" is a great line.) exists by the way, even if it is somewhat forlorn ....
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Spector is Haunting

At the risk of seeming insensitive to the tragedy of Lana Clarkson, Phil Spector's conviction yesterday reminded me of a story I heard Danny Baker tell on the radio about evidence in a case involving dispute about royalties that took place about a decade ago.

Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot presided, Mr. Tinklebury Snapdriver was for the defence, Mr. Graham Gooseboote for the prosecution.

Mr. Gooseboote: Is it correct Mr Spector that in the early 1960's your precocious musical talents earned you the sobriquet "the boy genius"?
Mr. Spector: That is true. I am still a genius.
Mr. Gooseboote: Indeed.
Mr. Spector: And I remind you I am speaking under oath.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

All things being equal

Sean has reminded me that I haven't inaugurated any Welsh Born Icons for some time, so here are two:

Robert Recorde, sixteenth-century inventor of the equals sign was from Tenby. As it has been suggested, "[h]is equals sign was an invention that, while slow in becoming universally adopted, is still perhaps the most fundamental thing ever invented by a person from Wales"

William Jones, born in Anglesey in 1675, was the first recorded mathematician to use the symbol pi in its present form in 1706, though it would not achieve widespread adoption until used by famed Swiss mathematician Euler.

Magnificent as the achievements are I can't read them without thinking of the monologue in which Dr Evil says his father "would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark".

Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament.

Monday, April 13, 2009


The Thai New Year (Thai: สงกรานต์ Songkran, from Sanskrit sankrānti "astrological passage"; Chinese: 潑水節) is celebrated every year from April 13 to April 15. It coincides with the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia.
The most obvious celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water. People roam the streets with containers of water or water guns, or post themselves at the side of roads with a garden hose and drench each other and passersby.


....... irony's not really a, a high priority. We haven't had any irony here since about, uh, '83, when I was the only practitioner of it. And I stopped because I was tired of being stared at.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

You bet

In which we find, "the extraordinary confluence of several important strands of thought: the justification of theism; probability theory and decision theory, used here for almost the first time in history; pragmatism; voluntarism (the thesis that belief is a matter of the will); and the use of the concept of infinity".

Happy Easter.

Granted, a Bayesian might hold that rationality places no constraint on probabilistic judgments beyond coherence (or conformity to the probability calculus). Then as long as the strict atheist assigns probability 1 to God's non-existence alongside his or her assignment of 0 to God's existence, no norm of rationality has been violated.

Furthermore, an assignment of p = 0 would clearly block the route to Pascal's conclusion. For then the expectation calculations become:

E(wager for God) = ∞*0 + f1*(1 − 0) = f1

E(wager against God) = f2*0 + f3*(1 − 0) = f3

And nothing in the argument implies that f1 > f3. (Indeed, this inequality is questionable, as even Pascal seems to allow.) In short, Pascal's wager has no pull on strict atheists.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Steve Shows

The Bomber is in Florida with his Mum, so I got a rare chance to check out Thursday's comedy at GJs this week.

Steven Merchant was on the bill. That's right, the British Comedy Award-, BAFTA-, Emmy- and Golden Globe-award winning writer, director, and comic actor best known as the co-writer of the The Office, as the co-writer and a co-star of Extras, gigging in the boozer at the bottom of the road because he wouldn't have to "share the money with Ricky Gervais".

Everyone goes to Rick's.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lost in Austen II

Why did the chicken cross the road?

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single chicken, being possessed of a good fortune and presented with a good road, must be desirous of crossing.”

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Can she vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read.

As a general rule I prefer kung fu vampires, but I suppose zombies will do at a pinch.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Strange Bedfellows

Judge Esme Chombo of the Lilongwe High Court rejected Madge’s bid to get her hands on four-year-old Mercy James, who lives in the same orphanage from which Madonna helped herself to David Banda in 2006. The judge smacked Madonna’s hands like a errant child, saying you can’t just jet in here and take off with a child like so many trinkets. Malawi has a law that adoptive parents must live in the country 18 months to two years, and the judge was not going to look the other way.

"The issue of residence, I find, is the key upon which the question of adoption rests, and it is the very bedrock of protection that our children need; it must, therefore, not be tampered with. As wisely put by G. K. Chesterton: 'Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.'"

What deep joy to hear a judge quote Gilbert Keith Chesterton in relation to Madonna's adoption quest.

One small point, I had always thought it was Robert Frost who made the wise observation in question.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Houseman's Hanami

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

Unfortunately perhaps, I can never read Houseman without smiling to myself at Hugh Kingsmill's brilliant parody.

What still alive at twenty-two,
A clean, upstanding chap like you?
Sure, if your throat 'tis hard to slit,
Slit your girl's, and swing for it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

High AIG

If you can get past the profanity, this article from Rolling Stone of all places is a good primer on the present financial meltdown.

Its taking me a long time to get my head around the credit crunch. In my defence, a lot of the abstruse financial instruments involved where invented after I got my MBA so I'd never heard of them until recently. Try Wikipedia on CDS's and CDO's.

I'm staggered that critiques accessible to the layman are so difficult to find. It should be like shooting fish in a barrel. What an indictment of the decline of the left and the third estate over the last twenty or thirty years.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Dove from Above

" Shooting Stars" is to return. In previous episodes:

John Peel had a minute to climb into a pram and cover himself completely with a babies blanket.

Jarvis Cocker was given the task of throwing mini Babybel cheeses at a giant poster of Judy Finnigan's face, with £5 awarded for each hit to the eyes, and £10 for each hit to the mouth, with the additional proviso that Cocker had "to throw them in the style of a girl".

Damon Hill was buried in a large tub of mushrooms which Vic referred to in a pirate's voice "The sea of mushrooms!", and was given the task of throwing out as many bags of crisps from the container as he could (while the rest of the team and audience left the studio and the lights were turned out, leaving Damon 'looking' at his watch whilst still covered in mushrooms).

Johnny Vegas had to see how many vacuum attachments he could stick to his face.

Ulrika Jonsson had to wipe dandruff from a car windscreen using any of her four cheeks, while "Oops Upside Your Head" by the Gap Band played.

Mark Lamarr, armed only with a child's plastic shield, was forced to fend off various stuffed animals, in increasing size, that were swung at him by Vic from the 'Garden of Tanktata'. The animals ranged from a dormouse to a grizzly bear, it was the bear that was the only mammal he failed to defend himself against, in which the weight and speed of it caused him to go flying into the wall behind him, while losing all the money he won in the game. He later had to fend off a series of different-sized timepieces, from a wristwatch to a stuffed cow wearing a wristwatch, which he completed sucsessfully. The shield was called "The Shield of Cher", because according to Vic she can "Turn back time". This format was repeated again for Clare Grogan's challenge, who was pelted with fruit, culminating in the World's Biggest Fruit, a very camp man/fruit called Soft Alan (played by David Walliams).

Mark Williams was forced to lie on top of a cupboard while Vic and Bob tried desperately to knock him off by hitting him with brooms and slamming their bodies into the side of the cupboard.

Gordon Burns from The Krypton Factor had to knock detergent bottles off a wall made up of dog food cans with a trombone, providing it was playing a note, unless it was a bottle of Jif, in which case he was to intentionally miss it.

Lisa Stansfield had to insert a stick of celery between her legs and reverse towards Vic's "lovely dog John" in order to entice him with a series of Greek dips.

Paul Daniels was locked in an Iron Lung and had to place sweets in his mouth before dropping them onto the body of Ken Tussle (Charlie Higson), the only man capable of letting him out, who was asleep on the floor and could only be woken up with sweets. Ken Tussle had an enormous false nose supported by a wheel, which swept from side to side across his stomach.

Dervla Kirwan had to put on an enormous ginger wig, crawl in and out of a viaduct, catch mice in her hair and shake them into a series of potties.

Norman Pace was shot in the backside five times with a spud gun, in order to see if he could remain silent.

Richard E. Grant was placed in a barrel and rolled towards the "Valley of the Plum," which, as Bob informed us, was made up of mostly Victorian fruits, "damsons, greengages and of course, wedlocks!"

Stephen Fry had to climb into a large wheeled tortoise shell, and collect the various components of a fried breakfast from the floor of the studio.

Ardal O'Hanlon had to karate chop a bread stick, a celery stalk, a cucumber and a marrow in 10 seconds, then chop a man's wooden leg in half.

Griff Rhys Jones had to climb down a flight of stairs face down with a plastic fork in his mouth and knock false teeth and fake hips down the stairs into a bucket below.

Martin Clunes had to balance roast chickens on Les Dennis's back in "Journey to Fowl Mountain".

David Baddiel had to stand on a vibrating platform with a plate covered in Brussels Sprouts; he won a pound for each sprout still remaining on the plate.

Myleene Klass was placed in a box where she could not see anything below her neck and was told she had to spend a minute with a monkey attacking her lower half (in actuality it was Vic). Anthea Turner had a similar challenge, only with a bull instead of a monkey (again played by Vic, with some plastic horns).

Janet Street-Porter had a large piece of wood strapped to her back and was asked to walk towards a large fan which could only be switched off with her face, calling for "Ken, the elderly security guard in the local Osram factory", to help her.

Jack Dee had an opera singer stand in front of him while singing Nessun Dorma. Jack was not allowed to flinch or laugh and a dead blue tit was placed on his head used as a "flinchometer". The dead Blue Tit fell off twice.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


2009 marks the 150th anniversary of Edward Fitzgerald's landmark translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Why an arrangement of verses chosen to suggest the progress through the day of a hard-drinking, sceptical sensualist and amateur philosopher should appeal to me, I have no idea.

Two quatrains for the great and good of the G20 and the crusty anarchist protesters alike :

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes - or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two - is gone.

And those who husbanded the Golden Grain,
And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain,
Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd
As, buried once, Men want dug up again.

this too shall pass

The cherry blosson has bloomed early again this year.

is an elegant kigo.
What did Buddha say?

One stormy evening, two monks who were returning to their monastery, came across a beautiful young woman who was unable to cross the flooded street.

The older of the two took her in his arms and carried her across before continuing on his way.

Later, the younger novice monk approached the elder and said, "Master, as monks, we cannot touch women."

"That is so, brother," replied the senior monk.

"But Sir, you lifted that girl by roadside?"

The elder smiled at him. "Then I left her behind, child. You carry her still."

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Gee Twenty

I tell them what I used to do, to ask if I feel guilty. I do, somewhat, and it nags at me. When I put it out of mind, it inevitably resurfaces, like a shipwreck at low tide. It’s been eight years since I compiled a program, but the last one lived on, becoming the industry standard that seeded itself into every investment bank in the world.
I wrote the software that turned mortgages into bonds ..............

That right, the world's financial crisis can be laid at the door of a coder called Michael Osinski. He owns up in the New York Magazine.