Thursday, March 31, 2011

Submariner



I went to see Richard Ayoade's movie "Submarine" last night and I thought it was great. It is the funniest display of diffident, gawky, geeky male angst I have seen this year with the exception of Richard Ayoade's bashful,though engaging, interviews promoting his film "Submarine."

Now that Swansea has a great coming of age move and a house that looks like Hitler, Cardiff will have to buck up its act.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ben and Bert


The Bomber played the Albert Hall last night. He was part of the massed primary choir in the concert put together by the Merton Music Foundation.

The gig itself was, as you might imagine, something of a curate's egg but the Merton Youth Jazz Orchestra was a revelation; really tight, great dynamic range, and some fine soloists. I was astounded. I'd go and see them again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hipster Dating

Sites like YouTube do largely leave out people who don't have a video camera. That's changing with the beta launch of youtube.com/create, where anyone can use video creation sites Xtranormal, Stupeflix and GoAnimate to make personal videos or animations and post them directly to YouTube.
I have got to have a go at some of this when I get a few spare minutes. The likes of Hipster Dating show what's possible but set a high bar.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A bucolic interlude

When I got out of the car yesterday, I heard the bees buzzing, looked up to see them pollinating the freshly bloomed cherry blossom and started to imagine waggle dances back at the hive. Would I even have noticed this small glory of nature if I hadn't trained my mind with Honeybee Democracy?

Cherry blossom and insight just as I commence Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind; a good omen.

The dusty passages of Icons passim provide a haiku from 2006 and let me know the tree has bloomed earlier this year.

The photograph that once adorned it is lost somewhere in the interwebs though; mono no aware.
Legend tells of a legendary literateur, whose literary skills were the stuff of legend.
He travelled the land in search of worthy folios ........

Sunday, March 27, 2011

An unreliable narrator

The Kindle informed the world (or at least Twitter and Facebook) when I finished Iris Murdoch's "The Sea, The Sea" yesterday.

It is a difficult book to love because Charles Arrowby, our unreliable narrator, is so blinkered and deluded. I don't like playing peek-a-boo with the author like this, laughing up my sleeve whenever we catch her story teller out. How about good old "free indirect style", woman? Combining a more reliable third-person narration with your anti-hero's inner voice, so I don't have to read it like a bleedin' detective story.

The weird thing is however, unconvincing as I found Arrowby's voice in the novel, the tone in which casually misogynist cupidity mistakes itself for keen psychological insight, is precisely that of Elias Canetti's astonishingly caddish take on Ms Murdoch herself in Party in The Blitz.

You sir, were no gent, and perhaps she knew more about men than I allow.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

summon up the blood

Bottom of the table with no points from their first three qualifying games, Wales face England at football today.

Prodnose: We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part!

Myself: We're just the guys to do it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

What a woman

Elizabeth Taylor's funeral took place on Thursday afternoon at the Forest Lawn Memorial Parks & Mortuaries in Glendale, California.

The service was scheduled to begin at 2 PM but at Miss Taylor’s request started late. Miss Taylor had left instructions that it was to begin at least 15 minutes later than publicly scheduled, with the announcement, ‘She even wanted to be late for her own funeral.’


"She was unquestionably gorgeous. I can think of no other word to describe a combination of plentitude, frugality, abundance, tightness. She was lavish. She was a dark unyielding largesse. She was, in short, too bloody much." Richard Burton.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Hairy Bikers in Cardiff

In this rather up-market episode, the Bikers head to Wales for some posh nosh. They discover Welsh cuisine is far more sophisticated than leeks and laver bread as they meet three Mums, each with their own take on what makes food fancy. For Avis Davies, it's a Maltese stuffed marrow dish; Derith Rhisiart takes the humble Welsh cake as the basis for her very posh cheesecake, and for Jewish mum Ruth Joseph no posh table is complete without her special orchid gateaux, made in the tin her mother brought to Britain when fleeing Nazi Germany as a child.
Mum's Know Best, they say. See Icons passim for the scientific proof.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No killing the butcher

From the invaluable Syntax and Lexis in Glamorgan English:
A well-known expression usually found written as ach-y-fi (also ych-y-fi), shown by its usual spelling to be generally taken for Welsh, rather naturally on account of its usually containing a voiceless velar fricative, is curiously enough most likely to be of Flemish origin. It has a Cdf variant akkavee and Wright (1905a) at accabe suggests for that a derivation in common with closely similar forms quoted from Bremen, Holstein and Flemish sources. It has to be remembered that the same fricative value can be associatcd with the general English exclamation ugh, exclamatory noises falling frequently outside the normal phonetic repertoire of a language (see Jones 1977 s. ugh).
Well I never! Ach-y-fi, our very own, and very handy, expression of abhorrence and disgust is actually of Belgian/Dutch rather then Welsh origin. Have you ever heard anything so marvelous? Were you fooled by the voiceless velar fricative as well? There's no shame in it.

Och! "Fool me once, phlegm on you; fool me twice, phlegm on me," as our Scottish cousins say. "Exclamatory noises falling frequently outside the normal phonetic repertoire of a language," being a staple north of the border as well as I recall.


Prodnose: I agree. I always agrees with you usually.

Myself: I never believes horoscopes, but I never doubts you.

Prodnose: You know I always say to ask you first, but he just don't.

Myself: Forget it for the minute. Mam won't mind, and I always forgives you.

Prodnose: Trouble is I means well but I puts my foot in it.

Myself: I'll tell him where he gets off.

Prodnose: Tell you what, I reckon that’ll do. I notice you got a new car. I notices things like that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dance me to the end of love

Abbeyfest 2011 is still nearly four months away, but I stumbled on this evocative video yesterday and it has whet my appetite for six weeks in the summer. I think we'll sponsor it again.



Anything with Madeleine Peyroux's version of Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" as its soundtrack has a head start in any event.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Darling, are we terribly wicked?

In case I was being followed, I went to a matinee of William Douglas-Home's The Reluctant Debutante in Richmond Theatre yesterday, before settling down to watch England versus Ireland in the pub. The play, which is about launching a young gel into the season, is set in 1957 which is scarcely conceivable given that Heartbreak Hotel was released in January 1956 and Look Back in Anger was first produced four months later in May.

The years have not been kind, and it was so lightweight that it might blow away caught in a gust of wind, not unlike England's Grand Slam and Triple Crown aspirations.

(I noticed Susan Hampshire and Eddie Kulukundis in the audience which reminded me that Rod use to work for the Kulukundis shipping company back in the 80s before he ran away to the Congo.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Note to self

Wales could still land the title - their first since 2008 - but it would require them to beat France by more than 20 points and Grand Slam-chasing England to suffer a similar fate against Ireland in Dublin some three hours earlier.
I really ought to stay out of the bookies today. And yet, and yet ......
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Come on Wales.

Friday, March 18, 2011

That red hair's no lie

Last night's Guinness, spuds, Muppets and Flann O'Brien; more Oirish than Irish but great St Patrick's Day doings none the less.


I felt so sad and so entirely disappointed that tears came into my eyes and a lump of incommunicable poignancy swelled tragically in my throat. I began to feel intensely every fragment of my equal humanity. The life that was bubbling at the end of my fingers was real and nearly painful in intensity and so was the beauty of my warm face and the loose humanity of my limbs and the racy health of my red rich blood. To leave it all without good reason and to smash the little empire into small fragments was a thing too pitiful even to refuse to think about.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Untrodden Forest

Revisiting my Amazon Associates account on a whim this morning I was delighted to find that I have earned £1.23 from the sale of a copy of Lexicography and the OED: Pioneers in the Untrodden Forest (Oxford Studies in Lexicography and Lexicology)

The mechanism by which this transaction was ascribed to me is unfathomable as I have never linked to Professor Lynda Mugglestone's, no doubt, flawless tome.

Perhaps it relates to the elevated tone of my prose?

Whatever. How do you like them apples?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Smiley Culture

Musician Smiley Culture dies during police raid on Surrey home: Police watchdog launches inquiry as 1980s reggae star dies from stab wounds.


There are so many layers to this turn of events that one scarcely knows where to begin. Irony doesn't even begin to cover it.

I'll just change gears and remember that Squire Ashton (bushy of mustache, and with a demeanor that would have suited tweed) used to perform an hilarious RP version of Police Officer in the chaotic flat I shared with him, Rod and the other Nick back in the 80s.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I am only a voice

I had a meeting in Buckingham Palace's Centre Room this morning. It opens onto the most famous balcony in the world. Add it to the Chinese Dining Room and the Yellow Drawing Room (Icons passim), and you are starting to get quite a collection.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Route and branch



Google has beefed up 3D imagery available via Google Earth to cover the entire royal wedding procession, and the perspective of Icons passim shows me the extraordinary progress the app has made since 2007.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Menace II Society


President Obama, prepare to face your sternest challenge yet: Dennis the Menace, the hero of the Beano, is to celebrate his 60th birthday by tackling the US President.
Dennis, who first appeared in the Beano on March 17 1951, will this week celebrate the milestone in a collector’s edition showing him using his biggest ever catapult to launch several squishy tomatoes.
And Mike Stirling, the Beano editor, revealed that one of the earliest “menacings” of the birthday “Year of the Menace” will involve President Barack Obama.
“We are giving our readers what they want,” he said. “This will be the first time a US President has appeared with Dennis, and his security guards are going to have their hands full when the President visits Beanotown.”
Luke Angel notwithstanding, I think the smart money is on Dennis (and Gnasher).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Hangover

I have a gentleman's head this morning.

I am deploying the line that it is Andy H's fault for having a birthday, and consoling myself that Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein are apparently teetotal.

I wonder if anyone will stage an intervention? What a wonderful phrase that is.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I don't mind

I ordered Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind for the Kindle yesterday. It is not "published" until March 15th, but on that date it should simply appear, silently and without fuss, on my reader, via the Whispernet.

How fitting that is for an aspiration to the state of ‘no-mind’.

Later, as I sat watching the Bomber's judo lesson, I got a chatty SMS from Andy M saying:
Hello Nick, just reading a new ish Oliver Sacks book called Musicophilia, very interesting read about music and the brain, have you read it? Hope you are well, Ben too, have to get together for a beer sometime .....
Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain sounding right up my street, especially with "The Plastic Brain" (Icons passim) having recently piqued my interest in this area, I whipped out the Kindle to get a copy only to find it is unavailable in any but dead tree format.

There was a gnashing of teeth. I am still some way from enlightenment.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Primary Practice

I went along to the Bomber's Primary Practice graduation from St. George's yesterday.
The Primary Practice after-school club offers Year 5 and Year 6 pupils the opportunity to learn more about medicine and healthcare by taking part in practical activities and teaching them new skills such as basic first aid. The course is delivered by fully trained St George’s Student Ambassadors, and has been designed to develop pupils’ scientific knowledge and enhance their confidence and teamworking skills at this important time of their education.
In 1733, St George's Hospital was opened in Lanesborough House at Hyde Park Corner. The institution has been training medical students since then. And now it is just around the corner. How extraordinary.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

catch fire

I have finished reading my first book on the (draws deep breath) Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 3G Works Globally, Graphite, 6 as recommended by Chris and Kim.

History should record that the book in question was Honeybee Democracy- I'm eclectic you see - and I have now moved on to Iris Murdoch's "The Sea, The Sea." (If you hack my account it will tell you I've only read 75% of Honeybee Democracy, but that is because I haven't ploughed through the notes.)

The Kindle's been tested on a plane, the tube, the pub and everywhere else you might imagine, and passed with flying colours. I am convinced.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

You Did it to Me

A huge and iconic stained glass window hangs in a church in the US state of Alabama, paid for by the people of Wales, after the church was destroyed by bombers in 1963, killing four little girls.

In 1963, racist bombers blew up the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The murder of children marked another low in the violent resistance to civil rights.

News of the bombing was broadcast worldwide. Welsh sculptor John Petts heard about it on the radio as he worked in his studio and wanted to do something to help. He contacted The Western Mail, and a campaign was launched to raise money to help rebuild the devastated church. No one was allowed to give more than half a crown – to ensure that no rich benefactor could take credit for the money raised. There were reports of children, black and white, queuing up in Cardiff's Tiger Bay to donate their pocket money.

Tens of thousands of people contributed to the fund. With the money that was raised, Petts was commissioned to create a new stained-glass window for the church. Grand in scale, it depicted the crucified Christ as a black man.

The window is now a focus of worship and has become one of the most famous pieces of art to come out of the darkness of the civil rights period. At its foot is a simple message: "Given by the people of Wales".

Read more today, and listen on Thursday 11.30am-12.00noon BBC RADIO 4.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Has the internet made us stupid?



No, we were stupid already.
We have finally realized that the Internet is much more than a network of computers.
It is an endless web of people. Men and women from every corner of the globe are connecting to one another, thanks to the biggest social interface ever known to humanity.
Digital culture has laid the foundations for a new kind of society.
And this society is advancing dialogue, debate and consensus through communication.
Because democracy has always flourished where there is openness, acceptance, discussion and participation. And contact with others has always been the most effective antidote against hatred and conflict.
That's why the Internet is a tool for peace.
That's why anyone who uses it can sow the seeds of non-violence.
And that's why the next Nobel Peace Prize should go to the Net.
A Nobel for each and every one of us.
This is such a load of cobblers, one scarcely knows where to begin.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Will you be back?

Yoostar 2, "the first console video game that lets players insert themselves into their favourite films and television shows," is out later this week with 80 scenes in the box and hundreds more scenes available online.

This "movie karaoke" game uses the motion-sensing power of Kinect or the PlayStation Eye camera to let nerd-thespians insert themselves into famous movie and TV scenes, starring alongside (or in place of) their favourite actors. Gamers recite classic lines or "flip the script" and deliver a personalized improvisation. Yoostar 2 then scores the performance and lets players upload the scene to Facebook, Twitter, Yoostar 2's in-game Xbox Live or PSN portals, or Yoostar.com. Besides classic scenes, YooStar 2 includes familiar Hollywood sets from Gladiator, I Am Legend, The Matrix, and more.

Trashy as it sounds I am sorely tempted by sharing my takes on Rocky, The Godfather and Casablanca with the world.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

motherhood and apple pie

Very few of our taste preferences are biologically preset. Much rather they are linked with some sort of experience. Although there are some genetic factors that cause differences in taste perception, similarities in taste preferences much more commonly reflect similar experiences with types of flavours and foods. The shaping of taste preferences begins in the womb and continues throughout the rest of our lives.

Thus research suggests that the world is so ordered that you don't just think your mother's cooking is the best in the world, your taste develops in such a way that, for you, it actually is. That is marvellous I think

Friday, March 04, 2011

Modern Anglo-Welsh

Our Cath is Catherine Zeta-Jones
Our Kath is Katherine Jenkins
A subtle, yet powerful, dialect that we're speaking, isn't it butt?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Old Profanity Showboat


I was out at the Battersea Barge last night to see Mark's latest showbiz venture. It is always good to be surrounded by people who are more eccentric than me.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Do, or Do Not

Did you know that Yoda lived in the Rila mountains? Me neither until the Bomber bumped into him last week. He's a lot bigger in real life than he appears in the movies.

We saw Tim Burton's Corpse Bride on the telly when we were in Borovets. There is a sword versus cutlery battle towards the end. "The fork is strong with him," said Ben of the Johnny Depp character.

He has further announced that he is "thinking about Italy" for next year's winter sports holiday, and that he will probably be on a snow board rather then skis.

The path to the dark side, that is.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Dydd Dewi Sant hapus!


St David's Day has been marked with a Welsh Google Doodle.
The second G of the word has been "dressed" in a Welsh hat, a shorter version of the stovepipe, and a full-face piece of lacing, tied under where the chin would be.
The "descender" of the G is wrapped in a shawl with a yellow daffodil in the position of a brooch.
Very fetching. I'm wearing the same costume myself today, as it happens.