Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A tale of two cities

As I wrote on Facebook yesterday:
After examining my conscience, I have decided to abandon my Cardiffian antipathy to Swansea for the afternoon and support them as Welsh flag bearers against Reading in the play-off. The alliance of Sparta and Athens as Greeks in the face of the Persian threat two and a half millennia ago exhibits many similar features.

Traditional hostility to be resumed when Cardiff get promoted, or Swansea get relegated.
So congratulations to the Swans for running out 4-2 winners. I watched it in the pub. One barman had bet on the Swans winning 3-1 (twenty to one odds) and one had backed them to win 3-2 (at 28 to 1 odds). Swansea's fourth goal was not popular in the Colliers Tup.

I think Cardiff are crazy to sack Dave Jones as manager. Two play offs and an FA Cup Final is not failure for City. When I was a boy listening to the football results on the radio, I thought for many years that the club was called Cardiff City Nil. They's come a long way from there.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows

David Brooks (see Icons passim) has been unloading again:
I don't think appealing to people as individuals gets you far. Many social problems are caused by insufficient social capital. . . to solve these problems you need to build dense social networks. You have to get beyond treating people as rational machines who respond to the economic incentives.
We went to Rutsfest for the second year in a row yesterday. Andy H, Hugh and the Burglar accompanied me and the Bomber for a day of local music and bumping into all sorts of friends and friends of friends. It is the strange attractor of our very own dense social network.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Yoda and the Camberwell Carrot

DJ Spooky thinks it comes from reggae, but let's not quibble, the mashup is one of the great gifts of the Big-Bang-Theory generation to the world.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Freaks and Geeks

Geek Pride Day is an initiative to promote geek culture, celebrated on 25 May. The date was chosen as to commemorate the release of the first Star Wars film, A New Hope on 25 May 1977, but shares the same day as three other similar fan 'holidays' - Towel Day, for fans of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy by Douglas Adams, Star Wars Day, and the Glorious 25 May for fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld.
Three days later the Bomber and I are watching the first series of The Big Bang Theory first thing in the morning in our dressing gowns. It was his idea to get it.

It's all perfectly normal. Geek culture has been going mainstream for a long time now. Inception: Richard Gere's Silver Surfer dialogue in 1983's Breathless. Bazinga!

Friday, May 27, 2011

The parable of the talents

The Bomber and I borrowed the company IPAD from the Burglar last weekend.

Ben spent most of his time playing games, but he also knocked up some phat beats on Garage Band (Icons passim). It was interesting how much of a head start the fact that he used to take drum lessons gave him with that.

Here's what a guitarist can do with the £2.99 app.

Truly we live in an age of miracles.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

To a Louse

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

£175 from Reiss

Queen and Camilla outshone by first lady's cheerful informality, but Kate wins the transatlantic glamour title.

Those keen to pinpoint exactly how an essential relationship differs from a special one will be tracking Michelle Obama's wardrobe choices closely. The US president's wife has proved herself to have a talent for projecting a style which underscores and illustrates the Obama political message, while also showcasing her own personality.
I absolutely genuinely understand nothing whatsoever in this Guardian>Life & Style>Fashion article.

It seems I am, and will always remain, a simple soul who would prefer spending an afternoon helping Quentin Tarantino rearrange his record collection, to shopping for shoes with Lady GaGa.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Philip Witt has come up with a diverting idea for a life-hack:
In theories of computation there are two broad categories of model: deterministic and non-deterministic. Deterministic models make choices based on inputs; a simple example, the input is two and therefore the model moves to state two. The next input would be three, which would then perhaps mean that the model outputs the letter "p" and then stops. On the other hand, a non-deterministic model would make no such choice. The model splits into more than one reality whereby it takes all possible choices simultaneously; that is, steps toward all possible states simultaneously. It continues this until all possible outputs/end states are reached.

In my mind, finding a passion (taking one route) is a lot like the deterministic model; but I would suggest trying the non-deterministic approach. Write down all goals you might like to achieve or simply have to complete, both big and small, from "kick my smoking habit" to "finish my homework" to "write the short film script I have wondering around my brain", and then just go about your day as usual. If everything you could ever possibly want to achieve is in that list, then you are always working towards your goals.
I am 100% in favour of this sort of strategy. If you are ever feeling just a touch blue for example, may I recommend spending a day in which you address everyone you meet as Elvis, that never fails to cheer me up.

For a deeper funk, I prescribe a day of believing in everything by sheer willpower. Going to work in a world where there is gold at the end of the rainbow, and every chance of courtly love, dragons, chivalry, magic, and trolls at lunchtime can never be dull.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Every One a Winner

Seemingly operating on the same timetable and with the same diligence he applies to homework assignments, Ben has finally brought home the certificate awarded for last year's famous cross country win (see Icons passim).

In other sports news, everyone local thrilled to AFC Wimbledon's promotion on the weekend naturally. We listened to the penalty shoot out on the radio as Ben's mate Jonnie - who plays for the club's U10 - side was round the house. It seems that the promotion also makes the youth programme an official FA Academy. According to Jonnie this means that they get to play better teams; according to his folks it means that have to drive further to take him to matches, even though they are actually delighted.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rapture to Rupture

Britain's eight-year presence in Iraq formally comes to an end today, when the remaining 170 troops depart, spelling the end to one of the most controversial military campaigns ever conducted in recent British history.

Operation Telic, the mission to join the US in removing Saddam Hussein, began in April 2003. In total, 178 UK service personnel and one Ministry of Defence civilian died, with an estimated 100,000 Iraqis killed.
More than 46,000 British military personnel were committed to Operation Telic, costing the country more than £10bn.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

not with a bang

The fact is, we know that the year [of Noah's Flood] was 4990 B.C. Seven thousand years after 4990 B.C. is A.D. 2011. Remember that when we compute the passage of time between an Old Testament event and a New Testament event, we must add the two calendar dates together and subtract 1. We subtract 1 because there is no year 0. Thus, 4,990 + 2,011 = 7,001, and 7,001 – 1 = 7,000 years .....
I'm losing the will to live just reading the calculations for the world ending today.

Certainly there will be a mighty wind, if the word of God is anything to go by…

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Shakespeare Mas

I read this yesterday, and felt it was important I shared the following passage:
I remember during one particularly dreary February in Toronto while I was studying for my Ph.D., locked in the library, I discovered the fascinating way in which the residents of Carriacou in the Grenadines take up Shakespeare. Every year, on Shrove Tuesday, young men, dressed in elaborate Pierrot-style costumes and animal masks topped with crowns of ficus roots, go from crossroads to crossroads, performing passages of Julius Caesar competitively. They call it "The Shakespeare Mas." The game goes like this. One team captain shouts out a challenge to a member of the other team to recite a passage. (For example: "Will you relate to me Mark Anthony's speech over Caesar's dead body?") If the competitor gets through the passage without error, he can ask his opponent to recite another passage.

The contest is watched over by the huge crowds who scrutinize the speeches for mistakes. Players encourage their teammates with shouts of "brave," "tell him," "go on," and "that's right." Anyone who fails to recite the passage correctly or who mixes up the words, earns a beating from his opponents. The whips used for these ceremonies are serious business, made from telephone wires. The government had to intervene in the 1950s when the Shakespeare Mas degenerated into a huge battle between the North and South island contingents, fuelled by women who supplied the combatants with boiling water and stones. Everyone, throughout the proceedings, is hammered on the local overproof rum, Iron Jack.
The Stella Shouting Contest (Icons passim) set the bar pretty high, but this has surely knocked it off its perch.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Just Harried

The Bomber has decided he wants to do athletics rather than cricket this summer, so we went along to the Herne Hill Harriers junior session at Tooting Bec Athletic track last night. I am always astounded at the facilities one can find with a bit of digging.

He did terrifically well as ever, so we shall just see how things turn out. It has got to be good to drill the motor skills of all sorts of sports when you are young.

For me it will always be Fern Hill Harriers:
Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Peter's Pies

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

The platitudes circle, droning, intense
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

They were my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song,
I thought that love would last forever: 'I was wrong'

The stars are not wanted now, put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"a debate of general interest"

Mr Justice Eady Cocklecarrot :
  1. During the afternoon of 14 April 2011 I granted a temporary injunction until the return date on 20 April against two defendants, who were News Group Newspapers Ltd and a woman called Imogen Thomas. It had emerged from a telephone conversation between her and one of the solicitors acting on the Claimant's behalf, shortly before the hearing, that she had at some stage engaged the services of Mr Max Clifford as her publicist ............
The the ongoing case of the super injunction, the married premier league footballer and former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas appears to be an inexhaustible source of fun, made even more diverting somehow by the fact Ms Thomas is from Gorseinon. (Cowin' 'ell mun, Gorseinon!)

The latest judgement handed down from the august Queen's Bench Division of the Royal Courts of Justice is a masterpiece of comic prose that I can't recommend too highly.

I particularly enjoyed the deadpan understatement of:
She had asked him to provide her with a signed football shirt, which he did, but he told her that he was not prepared to pay her the sum of £50,000.
And the dark Kafkaesque citation:
X and Y v Persons Unknown [2007] 1 FLR 1567

Monday, May 16, 2011

Give him the finger

The nun Wu Jincang asked the Sixth Patriach Huineng, "I have studied the Mahaparinirvana sutra for many years, yet there are many areas I do not quite understand. Please enlighten me."
The patriach responded, "I am illiterate. Please read out the characters to me and perhaps I will be able to explain the meaning."
Said the nun, "You cannot even recognize the characters. How are you able then to understand the meaning?"
"Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger.
It really is extraordinary where an exegesis of Bruce Lee can end up taking you.

Which reminds me, when I was in Chinatown with the Bomber and Raybs last week (Icons passim) we naturally ended up in back street shops in search of exotic weaponry.

We couldn't find any shuriken but nunchaku were on display; labelled, to my delight, wind-chimes in, what I took to be, an heroically imaginative preemptive attempt to stave off issues of legality.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Message from the Dark Side

"Ban mobile phones and wireless networks in schools, say European leaders," reports the Telegraph this morning in what appears to be a coordinated attempt to brow beat me on the day after the Bomber has acquired his first ever mobile.

"Mobile phones and computers with wireless internet connections pose a risk to human health and should be banned from school," they say.

In an equally absurd development, having most recently thrown my back out in Dandayamana Janushirasana I am looking covetously at electric adjustable stand and sit desks.

Hemingway notwithstanding, there is just no way of making that sound cool.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

frogs croak before a storm

Dostoevsky was in favor of military intervention in the Balkans, Tolstoy opposed to it. The arguments they put forward are surprisingly relevant to our own current wars.

A little background ......

Friday, May 13, 2011


Blogger's been down all day. It' s back now but seems to have mislaid whatever it was I wrote yesterday.

Cultural vandalism.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Existential Star Wars

In all modesty, my impressions of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alex Guinness incarnation) are achievements of glory and majesty. The trouble is that the Bomber is forever insisting I perform them for his mates.

There number of time you can enjoy reciting:
Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained ...

as a performing flea at the behest of pre-teens is limited.

In future I shall console myself with Sartre Wars.

(The above recovered via Google Buzz from the great Blogger meltdown.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Raybs is going back to the States for a month or so, so the old family went out to Chinatown to eat last night as a way of seeing him off.

When Ben and I were telling him about the Attack the Block (see Icons passim) he recommended ANUVAHOOD.

I like the trailer, but it seems to have been and gone from the Odeon.
Prodnose: Why you want bloody Fruitella?

Myself: Because Fruitella's a badman sweet! You get me?
Perhaps I should be exploring this Sarf Lahndan Adam Deacon/Noel Clarke sub-genre more thoroughly?

Innit Marcus was telling me (when I bumped into him at Theatre Mark's cabaret event last week) that he is attached to a potential Noel Clarke project in some sort of production capacity? Between ourselves, I wish I'd paid a bit more attention now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Flash: King of the impossible

The flashmob was secretly planned by Buckingham Palace to mark last night's royal reception which honoured young people in the performing arts, says the Torygraph.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Any port in a storm?

I'm reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest on the Kindle at the moment, and trying hard to resist psychoanalysing an author who died young by his own hand.

In the flesh, it's a novel of nearly a thousand pages that includes footnotes. An impractical proposition for a coat pocket when travelling on the tube, but fine on the Kindle. I was also pleased to see that the footnotes work seamlessly on the digital version.

I've discovered that Project Gutenberg supports the Kindle Mobi format as well, though I haven't downloaded anything from it yet, but maybe it is always worth paying for a professional port. I've got a free e-book of Kipling's Kim but it is practically unreadable due to mad stuttering line breaks.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Boris Bikes

I hired a couple of Boris Bikes in town yesterday while I was out for a drink with the boys, and Bondy and I had a little spin around Covent Garden.

They only have three gears and the brakes seem a bit spongy, but it set me back a mere two quid and it was fun. In summary, I approve. All I have to do now is conceive of some circumstance in which they would actually be of some use to me.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

the thousand natural shocks

It is now a week since the Burnham-On-Sea Rugby Festival. The Bomber only played in the first match as he hurt his shoulder in the second half. He seems fine now, though he has trouble lifting his arm over his head, but at the time it was a heart-in-the-mouth, game-stopped, doctor-summoned, body-not-moving hand ringer after a crunching tackle.

As far as I can tell (I overheard, it's not like it's something we tally officially) the Ruts seem to have come away with a broken ankle, a broken jaw, and a broken leg as well as the usual blood and bruises among the Under 9s, 10s, 11s, 12s and 13s squads.

That is quite an attrition rate for a weekend. I'm very much reminded of Chris wondering over Christmas if kids rugby was getting more dangerous because - as a teacher - he was noticing pupils hobbling round on crutches with injuries reasonably regularly; something he (and I when he pointed it out) couldn't remember happening when we were in school.

The season's over now, so I don't have to worry about it for a few months. In the meantime, break out the Rocky Balboa DVD and keep a box of tissues handy:
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place, and I don't care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain't you. You're better than that! I'm always gonna love you, no matter what. No matter what happens. You're my son, you're my blood. You're the best thing in my life........

Friday, May 06, 2011

I'm not alive. I'm not dead. I'm just so lonely

Under the invaluable Freedom of Information Act, Dyfed Powys Police have revealed that in the last few years:
Officers were twice called to reports of the living dead stalking their largely rural area. They were also asked to investigate 26 ghosts, 20 UFOs, 11 witches and even two vampires.
Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand ........

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Casting is underway

If I ever run for office it will be with the slogan "hang and flog." I will also have manifesto commitments to bring back the press gang and the work house, so it is not a bleeding heart that makes me think there is something very rum about this Obama/Osama business.

What was a photographer supposed to be doing in the Situation Room as the operation unfolded, for example?

That I can just about understand as undignified PR, but when I read in Variety in an article apparently published on the same day as the killing that "Mark Boal's untitled script about the operatives hunting Osama bin Laden centers on the very team that wound up killing the terrorist leader, a lucky break for the filmmaker who now has an ending for the project that's still scheduled to go into production this summer with Kathryn Bigelow directing," even I started to wonder if Jean Baudrillard was right.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Rugby Round Up

Keith Richards has been tried on drug-related charges five times: in 1967, twice in 1973, in 1977 and in 1978. The first trial – the only one involving a prison sentence – resulted from a February 1967 police raid on Redlands, Richards' Sussex estate, where he and some friends, including Mick Jagger, were spending the weekend.

Yet in 2010, Peter Hitchens wrote of Richards that he is "a capering streak of living gristle who ought to be exhibited," and Toulon manager Tom Whitford told The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday night that Richards' controversial past would not be held against him if he were to join the club, who on Monday announced that Gavin Henson would see out the remainder of his contract after a suspension for fighting with his team-mates.

“If Keith Richards was ever to join us, he would come with a clean slate,” said Whitford.

Meanwhile Wales No8 Andy Powell is likely to discover today whether he has a future at Wasps following his suspension by the Premiership club for his role in a bar-room brawl.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Sometimes I just sits

Who else is old enough to remember TV closing down at the end of the evening with the national anthem? Did the image really used to shrink down to a dot in the middle of the screen and then disappear? That's what I recall, but the chances of it being correct are slim.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Attack the blog

I have just returned from a weekend rugby tournament with the Bomber, of which more later. We took in the new Thor movie when we got back, of which more later, but I fell for the trailer for Attack The Block that was screened before the main feature.

This is too much madness to explain in one text!