Thursday, 27 December 2007

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

I jest (never miss the opportunity to quote Douglas Adams), going off the grid from today and will not be back posting until around the 5th Jan, no phone connection at the old homestead and internet cafes are few and far between in the Highlands.

Clan gathering should be complete sometime on Saturday when the revels will commence and not start winding down until the 2nd.

Have to drive 550 miles to get there so I am stealing a march by getting 40 out of the way this afternoon.

Still time for one last clip from my favourite Mexicans, here covering Wish You Were Here - watch out for best musical use of a beer bottle in 2007.

Catch you all in 2008, Happy New Year or as my Mother would put it Bliadhna mhath ùr.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Film Reviews

First up is The King which I watched on Monday night, a revenge thriller it is set at an unspecified location in Texas. A young man (called Elvis) is seen leaving the navy and then goes in search for the father he has never met. This turns out be a pastor in some kind of evangelical church in the town.

A reformed man from the wild days of his youth he has a wife and two teenage kids and wants nothing to do with Elvis and instructs his family to follow his line. Elvis gets a job delivering pizzas and ends up secretly dating the 16 year old daughter.

Events spiral dangerously out of control from this point, everything happens at walking pace, the dialogue is sparse but there are some fine acting performances in here and the soundtrack is kicking. Beautifully shot this movie is more art house than mainstream, but I really enjoyed it.

Next up is Oldboy another revenge thriller this time from Korea - what is up with Channel 4 scheduling revenge thrillers as late night festive viewing - giving people ideas for handling festive family breakdowns?

Now this is a very different kettle of fish, a drunken businessman is abducted from the street and is imprisoned for 15 years in a bland looking hotel room. He has access to a TV and is fed on dumplings every day, he spends 11 years practicing martial arts so that when he escapes he can seek vengeance on his captors.

One morning he awakes on a grass covered roof in new clothes and sets off on his quest, a live octopus is eaten on screen and violence and mayhem ensue. This is a much darker work and the ending was left deliberately ambiguous to allow viewers to choose their own interpretation.

Another good sound track, quite different in style from the previous film but works well with the images, catch this film if you get the chance and can "stomach" the octopus.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Robbie The Reindeer

Seasonal kind of post, the BBC has filmed three of these over the years (we get the third tomorrow). A bunch of guys from Aarman Animation including the director worked on them which gives them that distinctive Aardman feel.

This clip is from the first one - Hooves of Fire.

Ardal O’Hanlon (Father Dougal in Father Ted) provides the voice of Robbie (son of Rudolph), cast is littered with other fine British actors - Jane Horrocks, Paul Whitehouse, Steve Coogan, Caroline Quentin et al.

Enjoy, might post tomorrow then again I might not it all depends on how much fun I am having in the kitchen and whether or not I get too much seasonal cheer inside me.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christy Moore

From one Irish genius to another, first came across him when he was playing with Planxty and have enjoyed his work over the years. Lil bro’ used to cover some of his songs when he played in pubs back in his youth.

Saw him play live once in Leeds at the Irish Centre (great small venue) and he was fantastic - he made them close the bars while he was on stage but that was not a problem. My good friend and namesake “Mad A” went up ten minutes before hand and returned with 10 pints of Guinness for us to sup.

First clip is of him with a reformed Planxty.

Next two were from a recent appearance on Jools Holland's show, first up is Ride On and then you get Wise And Holy Woman.

Now what nutter mentioned Guinness, time for a can or two methinks.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Pogues

Have always enjoyed traditional Irish music so it came as a wee bit of a surprise to me when I first heard this lot in ‘84 that I really liked them. Anarchic punk folk should not really have been my cup of tea but I found the songs and high energy playing right up my street.

Was lucky enough to see them live a couple of times in the mid eighties before Shane went off the rails, down the embankment and across the road. They were great live as this 18 minute clip from ‘85 shows - pity that it cuts Transmetropolitan short as it was the first track of theirs that I ever heard.

To redress that here it is in full - no video just the song.

It is amazing to think that if Shane MacGgowan makes it to Tuesday (never a done deal) that he will celebrate his 50th birthday - not something that you would have put money on back in the nineties. Not a great voice but he has written some truly great songs over the years.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Myths Debunked

Must be the time of year but in a report in the BMJ this week two doctors have debunked some widely held urban myths such as, we only use 10% of our brains or that mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals. Read all about the full list over here.

In a striking new interrogation technique Dutch police feed hash cake to a suspect, maybe they should try this approach in Gitmo?

Finally a photo slide show revealing how a boot maker in London hand craft their wares. Not being shoe obsessed (unlike some people that I know) I had never heard of them but they have been in business for over 150 years.

Their prices are pretty eye watering, £2,170 for leather shoes, £5,943 for crocodile ones and £621 for felt bath slippers (WTF?).

If you want close ups of their finished wares then check out their site.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Top Ten Xmas Movies

The good Dr Kermode posted a short list of his favourite Xmas movies a wee while ago and last Friday the results were announced - I have already let the cat oot of the bag in my previous post but their vodcast is available here.

As he selected the list there is nothing on it to send him off on one of his rants but it is worth a watch.

Knowing the BBC this may not work for readers outside of the UK, if so try getting the audio only version available from this place.

Christmas Meme

Damn, got tagged by rt on a Christmas meme, I am more of a Hogmanay man myself but here goes.

1. Wrapping or gift bags? It has to be wrapping - my inexpertly wrapped gifts are legendary within the family.

2. Real or artificial tree? I never put up a tree but I would go for a real tree every time - just for the aroma it brings to a room. .

3. When do you put up the tree? See answer to 2, but if I did it would be two weekends before the day.

4. When do you take the tree down? On the fifth of January. .

5. Do you like egg nog? Yuck, I do not like sweet drinks at all, mulled wine is just about acceptable.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Cannot think of one that stands out, was always happy with whatever I received.

7. Do you have a Nativity scene? No.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? See answer to 6.

9. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? Snail mail for friends and family, email to blogging chums.

10. Favorite Christmas Movie? Along with 46% ish of the British public I voted for It’s A Wonderful Life from a choice list of ten selected by the good Dr Kermode.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas? When I see something that would be just the thing for a person.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? My mother’s ground beef and pork sausage meat stuffing - hot or cold.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Normal white lights seemed to work well on Irish Lass’s tree.

14. Favorite Christmas song? Fairytale of New York.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Petrolhead Post 2

So here we have a couple of clips from Top Gear, in the first one there is a 1950s Maserati 250F racing car (the engine sound from the straight six is really great) followed by the latest offering from Maserati.

The second clip is much shorter and shows their “tame” racing driver (The Stig) driving the same car round the track very quickly indeed.

Not for the Politically Correct out there.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Fairytale Ending

I was incensed earlier today to hear that executives at BBC Radio One had decided to air an edited version of the Pogues Kirsty MacColl classic Fairytale In New York.

This was to remove the words faggot and slut which (after 20 years) were deemed to be offensive.

In a rarely observed sighting of common sense and the BBC, and following howls of outrage from listeners the decision has been overturned.

Feel sure that if Kirsty was still with us that she would have approved.

Black Hole Bully

Once the Hubble telescope finally calls it a day we will cease to get images such as the one in this article. Basically at range of 1.4 billion light years from here, two galaxies are in orbit around one another.

The larger one (dubbed Death Star Galaxy by the astronomers) has been observed emitting a jet of high energy particles and magnetic fields into the path of the other galaxy. This will cause all sorts of problems for anything unfortunate enough to end up in it’s path.

Seeing as how we are on a space theme today you might like to head over to Paradise Driver’s place where he put up a stunning image of a spiral galaxy yesterday. If you have the bandwith download the 16 Mb image - it is really worth it - stunning picture.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Political Compass

So while sitting at the kitchen table on Saturday night, waiting on our slab of beef roasting in the oven, supping on cans of Guinness HN, IL and myself were babbling on about how life experiences had modified our views on politics and politicians.

I mentioned the World’s Smallest Political Quiz site, so the laptop got fired up and he took the test. He (like me) came out in the Libertarian quadrant and had little trouble completing the ten answers.

So then he upped the ante by firing up the Political Compass site and undertook the 6 page test before passing it over to me to complete.. This one was much tougher to complete because you could only choose to agree/disagree (with Strongly as an option for both) with a statement.

Not being able to say Dont’s Care made answering some of them much trickier and required “deep thought”. We both ended up in Gandhi’s quadrant as left leaning Libertarians with me edging him by two points to the left.

We tried to persuade IL to take the test but she complained that it would take too long, so veg got prepared, wine bottles opened and then dinner was eaten to many cries of “fecking great tasting beef” or “stunning wine dude”.

So if your are at a loose end there are two places to go and kill some time.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Cider 101 - Thatchers Katy


An independent cider maker based in Sandford Somerset, Thatchers have been in business for over 100 years making a range of fine ciders.

Conveniently located around 6 miles from Hairy Nephew and Irish Lass’s home their farm shop is a must stop venue for me on my journey back to stock up with supplies at very reasonable prices.

This one is very dangerous, made from a single variety of apple (Katy) it is light to taste, crisp and slightly sparkling and yet is 7,4% abv - hence the wine glass in an attempt to restrain myself.

Extremely quaffable you really have to keep track of how many you have had or you can end up discovering that your legs have forgotten how to function.

No more posts until late Monday as I heading off down to visit my West Country relations (and the farm shop).

Friday, 14 December 2007

Man Versus Bear

The world is a very strange place filled with some seriously weird people, this clip illustrates my theory for today. It shows a man and a Kodiak bear in a hot dog eating competition.

Have to wonder how long they starved the bear before setting this up, and what kind of sicko thought up this idea.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Fecking Bollocks

Read some bad news today, Terry Pratchett has being diagnosed as suffering from a rare early form of Alzheimer's.

The good news is it will not impact on his current works in progress and he remains cheerful, you can read his take on it over here.

Following the deaths of David Gemmell and Rober Jordan this year it looks like being on my list of favourite authors is becoming dangerous.

Beer 111 - Black Sheep Brewery - Black Sheep Ale


There is interesting tale behind this brewery, Theakstons had operated a family run brewery in the town of Masham for 5 generations when the brewery was bought out by the giant Scottish and Newcastle.

One of the sons (Paul Theakston) wanted to maintain the family tradition in the town, so he acquired premises and then scoured the land for old brewing equipment. When it came to naming the brewery he could not use his own name and sheep rearing was traditional to the area, so he ended up calling it Bclack Sheep Brewery.

That was around 15 years ago and the brewery is doing really well, for a more detailed back story visit their web site.

Now while the tale of small brewery versus mega brewers is pleasing they would not have got anywhere if their beers were no good.

I am more than happy to report that their beers are excellent, the Black Sheep Ale comes in at a respectable 4.4% abv and has quite a hoppy flavour, wish that I could get it on draught but it tastes just grand out of the bottle.

PS They rank very highly in my friend Noddy’s top five brews, though I know we would be headed for a wee stramash about what is the best Malt Whisky.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Shaun The Sheep

Have been a big fan of Aardman Animation since I first saw Wallace and Gromit on the idiot box, this series aimed at young kids first aired earlier this year when I was still in Scotland keeping an eye on my mother - it was the one thing guaranteed to put a smile on her face.

This episode Washing Day is pretty typical of what goes on in the show.

Just discovered that he has a single out for the Christmas market.

Next post will reveal what put me into thinking of sheep today.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Last King of Scotland

Watched this on DVD last night and thought that it was one of the best films that I have seen this year. A fantastic performance by Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin - he really nailed the charisma and brutality of the man - easy to see why he got the oscar for this portrayal.

Strong supporting cast with James McEvoy and KerryWashington catching the eye. Beautifully shot and a kicking sound track was the icing on the cake - but then I have had a thing for African music ever since I first heard the Bhundu Boys playing their jit music in ‘85 (H/T again to John Peel).

Not one for the squeamish among us but a cracking tale and well worth catching.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Guiness Commercials

My good blogging friend Phlegmmy put up an entertaining ad for Guiness that I had not seen before over at her place yesterday.

This set me to thinking about a) buying some Guiness (see advertising will work on me but only because I like the stuff and had run out of stocks in DBA cottages) and b) some of the great Guiness adverts that I had seen over the years. Went to YouTube and found some that I had seen and others that were new.

Here is one featuring Rutger Hauer from back in the eighties.

Then found one featuring Lee Scratch Perry - now there is one dude who is more than crazy, still he has produced some of the finest reggae heard on the planet.

One on the topic of evolution, and then one on Africa.

And to finish we have the most expensive Guiness advert of all time.

What links most of the more modern ones is that you have no idea what they are advertising until you reach the end.

Long Eared Jerboa

Warning, cute critters alert - it is truly amazing what you can find in the deserts of Mongolia, big ears and hopping about like some kind of mini kangaroo.

Check out the story and then watch the video footage - you would need a hear of stone to not go aaahh.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The Wedding Present

My favourite band from Leeds, formed in the mid eighties they came to the attention of John Peel and through him to the rest of the nation. They recorded a number of sessions for him at at his encouragement did one of Ukrainian folk songs.

Here are a couple of tracks form their first album George Best, My Favourite Dress and Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft.

The lead guitarist ( Peter Solowka ) left in ‘91 and co-founded The Ukrainians with the fiddle player and mandolin player who had joined them for the Peel Session. Still going strong today, here they are playing Cherez Richku Cherez Hai.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

£35,000 Cocktail

Read about this in the paper this morning and could not believe my eyes. What kind of deranged fecker would spend that amount on a single drink I think to myself and then read that the nightclub peddling this is called Movida in London.

I had read that this place was a hang out for “celebrities” and Premier League footballers - ah ha, that some of the footballers in question play for Chelsea and earn over £120,000 per week.

That explains it then, these guys have a hard time spending their measly wages and obviously need to find new ways to lose their cash before it explodes on them.

It does not sound to me as though it is going to taste any good, nobody says that these guys have any taste - the cars they drive are a dead giveaway.

Their money would be far better spent on a bottle or 175 of Penfolds Grange (about £200 a bottle for the ‘97 vintage) and the taste is said to be amazing - but don’t take my word for it.

“The 1997 Grange (a blend of 96% Shiraz and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon) looks to be a classic Grange, although slightly softer and more forward than the backward 1996. The saturated purple-colored 1997 offers a gorgeously sweet nose of blackberry liqueur, cherries, camphor, chocolate, plums, and mocha. The wine is opulently-textured, extremely soft, layered, and seductive, with Grange’s tell-tale personality well-displayed, but in a seamless, seductive style. This is a superb Grange that can hold its own against the more heralded 1996. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2022.”

(Robert Parker - Wine Advocate)

Friday, 7 December 2007

Hero

I heard this lady being interviewed on the radio this week and she is definitely a hero.

Rosebell Kurungi was an IT consultant based in the UK, nine years ago she was in Africa flying from Uganda to the Congo. The plane crashed in the middle of nowhere and she was lucky to escape with no injuries.

She walked 100 miles in ten days (without any food) before being rescued, unfortunately she had developed infections in her legs on the journey and on her return to the UK both of her legs had to be amputated below the knee.

Not only did she learn to walk after this but she went on to play tennis and to swim. Since then she has established two charities to help fellow amputee victims, you can find a much fuller account of her ordeal on this site.

Now that makes for a real hero in my book.

Heroes

Season 1 of Heroes finished the other night on terrestrial TV and it was a blast, they showed the last two episodes back to back.

The pace of the last six episodes was pretty intense and they managed to pull various story threads together in a satisfying series end, while leaving room for interesting plot lines for season 2.

Have really enjoyed watching all of this, I like TV that does not dumb down and assumes a basic level of intelligence of it’s viewers. Great story, scripts, acting and really well shot.

I have read some negative reactions to the season 2 stuff that has been on in the US this autumn but will wait and make my own mind up when we get to see it in the middle of next year.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

“Dead” Man Reappears

This story has all of our meeja in a spin at the moment, in summary he disappeared while canoeing in the North Sea five years ago and was declared dead one year later.

On Saturday he walks into a police station in London and states that they might be looking for him as a missing person, he claims to have no memory of the last seven years.

It then emerges that his wife sold their two houses six weeks ago and has migrated to Panama, then a photograph of him and his wife taken one year ago in Panama appears in the press over here.

He was arrested yesterday and is being questioned by the police, meanwhile his wife has disappeared from her luxury apartment and is believed to be staying under warps at the expense of one of our tabloid newspapers.

No doubt the full story will eventually emerge but the people I feel sorry for are their two sons who have spent the last five years believing that their father had drowned.

As an aside, I had no idea Panama was such a fine place to escape to, low cost of living, no tax liable on your overseas investments and a great climate. If I spoke Spanish I would seriously be considering selling up here and retiring down there.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Petrolhead Post 1

So time to confess one of my previously undocumented passions - the motor car. All shapes, sizes and countries of origin are welcome - it started when I was at school and over the years the condition got worse.

Probably peaked in the mid eighties but I still enjoy admiring them and while I could never contemplate spending in excess of £25,000 on one that does not mean that I cannot appreciate them.

We have a couple of TV shows over hear that cater for like minded individuals the original Top Gear and the young “upstart” Fifth Gear.

This clip comes from Fifth Gear and is basically a comparison test of the Audi A8 against a Porsche 911 - only petrolheads need bother to watch

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Young Chimps Have Better Memory Than Humans

A scientific study in Japan has shown that young chimps perform better than their mothers and university students at a simple short term memory test. The subjects are shown numbers on a screen and then have to remember which numbers were where.

The chimps had previously been taught how to count from one to nine and the results indicate that they may have a photographic memory. Could be that by using students instead of "normal" people skewed the odds in favour of the chimps.

Maybe it would be safer to entrust our personal data to these chimps instead of the chumps running our government?

You can read the full story here.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Cyanobacteria

The world’s oldest living organisms? Only heard about these critters last week, they first appeared around 3.5 billion years ago when our atmosphere was pretty murky and not really suited to life as we know it.

These guys changed all that with their abilities in photosynthesis they started pumping Oxygen into the seas of that time. Initially the Oxygen combined with the Iron in the water generating considerable Iron Oxide deposits - pretty handy considering the large number of ways that we find Iron to be useful.

After all the Iron had gone from the seas there was nowhere else for the Oxygen to go except into the atmosphere - which from this point on gave us the starting place for all the life on earth that followed.

They are still around today so let’s here it for these plucky fellows without whose help the rest of us would not be here.

As a by product they left behind a fossil record of Stromatolites which are described and shown over here.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

King Creosote

Hailing from the Kingdom of Fife King Creosote is the “stage” name of one Kenny Anderson. He is a very prolific songwriter who has released many CDRs on his own label Fence Records.

Part of a loose musical scene based in Fife and known as the Fence Collective (most famous alumni being KT Tunstall) KC’s work is now reach a much wider audience. His latest release (Bombshell) has found him and his band touring the UK and appearing on Jools Holland.

He writes really interesting lyrics set against some fine tunes and sings in his own local accent.

Here are a couple of tracks from the new album performed on Later, You’ve No Clue Do You (has to be the best/only? reference to a board game in a song) and then Home In A Sentence.

Finally one caught at a music store signing Cowardly Custard - his ability to not take himself seriously really shines out on this one.

If you want to know more check out his web site (includes a link to his MySpace pages).

Friday, 30 November 2007

Performance Poets 2 - Linton Kwesi Johnson

The original Dub poet whose first album appeared in 1973 with LKJ reciting his poems in Jamaican creole over dub reggae music.

Initially his poems were highly political reflecting the problems that faced Afro Caribbeans in England in the seventies. I bought several of his early releases before losing track of his work in the eighties.

Always liked the rhythm of his words and especially their juxtaposition with some very fine dub reggae.

So here are some clips, starting with It Dread Inna Inglan from his first album.

Then we have If I Was a Top Notch Poet which is a more recent work.

Finally the title track of his first album Dread Beat An’ Blood, shot in Paris with some fine reggae going on in the background.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Let’s All Be Careful Out There

If you are using Windows as your OS and Internet Explorer as your browser then you are at risk of having your computer highjacked by rogue hackers.

This story highlights the lengths to which they will go in targeting their victims by what part of the year we have reached. So it has been stopped for now but these guys never give up and will return sooner rather than later.

You can protect yourself to some extent by ensuring that your Windows contains all the latest security patches from Mickeysoft.

Far better though to use Firefox as your browser, I have been using both for some time now and have found that even though pop ups are disabled in both only Firefox actually stops them occurring at all sites.

You can get it here and it is free - woo hoo.

PS and if you use Outlook as your mail client they supply a less likely to be hacked client called Thunderbird - liked the film then get the client.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Blackadder Goes Forth

Was out of the country in ‘83 when the first series appeared on our screens but was soon advised on my return that it had been “must watch” TV.

By the time of the last series I had been hooked on the scripts and the acting, a lot of fine British actors had appeared throughout the four series (Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Miranda Richardson, Tony Robinson, and Rowan Atkinson to name but a few).

A satirical look back at our history - what’s not to like. So here are three short clips from it, first up is How the First World War Started, followed by Secret Mission (nails our WWW1 generals lack of intelligence) and finishing with The Russian Revolution.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Reduced Shakespeare Company

Was musing the other day about the last time that I went to a theatre to see a production that was not stand up or music and decided that it must have been in the nineties.

Remember going to and really enjoying a production of Guards Guards at local big city’s main theatre. Then remembered catching a performance by the RSC at the same venue sometime earlier - they went down really well.

So here are a couple of quick clips of them and if they ever appear near you then make the time to go out and catch them.

First up we have Biography of William Shakespeare, followed by The Othello Rap.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

ID Cards -A good Thing?

Not from where I am sitting, despite the government claims on how they will prevent identity theft and help to catch terrorists I remain unconvinced.

First up is the cost, £5.31 billion - latest estimate from May 2007. Like it is going to come in on time and to budget, for a short list of fecked up government IT projects read this.

Next up is that hoary old chestnut of biometrics making them “very secure”. Taking fingerprints as a start point I had no idea how easy they were to replicate until I read this yesterday from the always informative and entertaining Dr Ben Goldacre.

The data that they plan to store on the cards would be very valuable to those in the criminal fraternity who could use it to perform identity theft on scales not previously seen. Cloning fake ID cards will prove to be a very lucrative business to them as well.

Look at how little effort it took to “crack” the new UK biometric passports and regardless of what the government tell us I feel sure that the same will apply to ID cards.

I just do not trust government to keep our data safe and have great trouble swallowing their claims for the “benefits” of having ID cards, it is just another attempt to control us.

Read what they are doing right now in the US with mobile phones which have GPS chips - call me paranoid but it will start happening here soon - may even have started already.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Randy California/Spirit

This dude was one of the finest electric guitarists ever to have graced the planet, he played with Jimi Hendeix in New York in ‘66 when he was only 15. He got the name California from Jimi as he had 2 Randys in his band and needed to distinguish between them.

One year later Randy founded the band Spirit with his step father on drums and they went on to record several great albums, with my favourites being The Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus, Spirit of ‘76 and Future Games.

Only got to see them play live once (back in the 80s) and had to make a 170 mile round trip to do it - but it was worth it, they were on great form that night and everyone really enjoyed it.

So here are a couple of short tracks (around 3 mins), I Got A Line On You and Nature’s Way. Last one is around 9 mins but with the added bonus of Dickey Betts (Allman Brothers) guesting on If I Miss This Train - a big ol’ blues jam to brighten up your weekend.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Bad Day at Work?

If you had a bad day at work then head over to Whichendbites and read this.

If it does not make you smile then you have just experienced the frelling nightmare of nightmares of a day.

Oh and it has been snowing in Aberdeenshire where even the snowmen are now using wi-fi for blogging.

Tokyo - “Foodie” Capital of the World

Apposite given yesterday’s post that the Michelin Guide has crowned Tokyo as the foodie capital of the world by awarding it’s restaurants more Michelin stars than any other city it has reviewed to date.

This is the first year that it’s restaurants have been reviewed (using a team of 3 French and 2 Japanese reviewers) and they have awarded it a staggering total of 191 stars.

For the record, Paris has 98, London 50 and New York 49 so a total of 191 is quite amazing. Fine dining over there is quite a different experience from any other country on the planet - there are some places where you can only get in if you have been recommended by an existing customer.

There are many styles of Japanese cuisine and to fully appreciate some of them requires an extensive knowledge of the local culture. Even the colour of the ingredients can have meaning.

To learn more about fine dining in Tokyo read this article.

Me, I am off out to bag me some tempura.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Zatoichi

Saw this film earlier this week and it totally blew me away. It is a classic tale of blind master swordsman taking on copious amounts of bad guys and defeating them.

The fight scenes are amazing to watch (not for the squeamish) with incredibly fast action but the film is much more than that. It is beautifully shot, contains a lot of humour and large parts of the story are told in flashbacks - and it ends with a rousing song and dance piece.

Written, directed by and starring Takeshi Kitano this is one fantastic movie, catch the trailer here.

I am informed by reliable sources that today is a holiday in the colonies/fledgling democracy/USA, so a happy holiday to all my readers in the US - and try not to overdo it on the eating front, there are only 33 days until Xmas.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Pentangle

This band contained not only two of the finest 60s folk guitarists (Bert Jansch and John Renbourn) but also the delightful vocals of Jacqui McShee.

Added to that you have my favourite stand up bass player (Danny Thompson) and Terry Cox on drums. Pretty hard to define their sound but they lie somewhere between folk/jazz/blues.

Here are two songs from their Basket of Light album (1969), Light Flight and Train Song.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

News and A Song

The King of Spain told Hugo Chavez to “shut up” last week, someone turned this into a ringtone and 500,000 Spaniards have since downloaded it. You can check out the story here and can listen to the ringtone - sounds awful to my ears.

Things I never knew, “there are 162 islands off the coast of Scotland”. This dude has visited and spent a night on all of them - well I guess that everyone needs a hobby or two. He has some cool photos over at his site.

Another week another whimsical cat tale.

Finally, I came across this video while trawling though YouTube over the weekend. It is a cover of one of my favourite John Prine songs performed by Bonnie Raitt and her band.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Farewell Scully

It is with a heavy heart that I have to report that Scully over at Skywritings has decided to retire from the blogosphere and has pulled down her archives.

She is a fine writer and artist whose daily contributions will be missed by her many readers.

All the best Scully for whatever life brings you next.

I will raise a glass of Cragganmore tonight to your memory.

Slàinte mhath!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Dreams Shattered - Scotland 1 Italy 2

So that is it - we failed to qualify but will finish 3rd in a group that contained the two finalists from the last World Cup and one of the quarter finalists.

Considering where we were in the world rankings when the draw was made for this competition that has to go down as over achieving of the highest quality.

There were some bad decisions made in last night’s game but to be fair they went both ways so we cannot really complain.

The good news for the next World Cup draw is that we will at least be among the second seeds so should not end up in another “group of death”. Most of our side are young so the future is looking bright if they continue to play as they have done in this campaign.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Beer 110 - Wychwood’s Hobgoblin


This is the flagship beer of the independent Wychwood brewery, rich dark red brown in colour (my photo does not really show this) with a fairly malty taste which slides easily down the throat.

A respectable 5.2% abv which is not reflected in it’s easy drinking flavour, goes well with a curry as this one did last night. Widely available in North America.

What a relief to wake up to light drizzle this morning, no need to scrape ice off the car windows as I had to do on Thursday and Friday mornings.

Friday, 16 November 2007

At Last a Use For Chocolate

I did not even know that you could make biodiesel from chocolate or that there was a company over here transforming 100 tonnes of it every week until I read this in the paper yesterday.

The incredible part is that all the chocolate would have ended up in landfill sites if these guys were not transforming it.

Five Favourite Spaceships

As a variation on a theme of favourite aircraft I thought that favourite spaceships would be entertaining.

Number 5 Romulan Wardbird - Star Trek


Always thought that these looked graceful with a sinister threatening look to them - kind of sums up the Romulans.

Number 4 White Star - Babylon 5



One very beautiful looking spaceship, has an air of elegance that none of the other craft in the series possessed (except maybe for the Vorlon’s) - and they sure did for the evil Shadow ships.

Number 3 Tardis - Doctor Who



The very first spaceship that I ever saw, unprepossessing to look at from the outside but it’s ability to travel through time and space coupled with the size of the inside make it a winner. Oh and the latest incarnations of the series have proved to be very entertaining.

Number 2 Serenity - Firefly



A very practical looking cargo ship with inter system capability coupled with in atmosphere operation, extremely durable yet also having a certain elegance to it. Kept flying by an extremely competent female engineer.

Number 1 Moya - Farscape



A living ship (and a mother) this one was always going to get first place as it comes from my favourite sci-fi series, not only cool looking in normal flight but awesome in starburst mode. More than just a ship she enjoys travelling in deep space for the pleasure of it and provides a home for her rag tag collection of passengers.

Honourable mentions to Dark Star, Valley Forge (Silent Running), Lexx and Talyn, Moya’s son.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Spaced

This comedy series run to two seasons on Channel 4 (around 1999/2001), was written by and starred Jessica Stevenson and Simon Pegg.

It is pretty hard to summarise in a few sentence but the words surreal, cult, weird all spring to mind. Very distinctive camera style and the shows are peppered with references to sci-fi and films.

The basic plot premise is that Tim and Daisy pose as a young professional couple in order to rent a particular flat - madness and mayhem ensue.

This clip from the second season gives some of the flavour of it but if you ever get the chance I would recommend catching all of it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Gordon R Dickson

Reading a post over at Scully’s earlier this week reminded me that somewhere in the archives upstairs I have six or so books by Poul Anderson that I have not read in 20 odd years. Must try digging them out again.

So I scanned the shelves behind me and noticed the Dorsai books by Gordon R Dickson, bought them 30 years ago but have not picked them up for at least 16 years - so that is my reading sorted out for the next week. Hard core military SF writing with great story telling at their heart.

I hate throwing books out but as space is limited I have had to clear out some over the years, had to let my Heinleins go 20 years back, and most recently some of my Piers Anthony sets went to Hairy Nephew. Judging by the piles around the house I am getting very close to having to undertake another clear out, some old friends will have to go but not before one last read.

Uh Oh

We have another outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus on our shores. This will go one of three ways as I see it:

Outbreak will be contained by the culling - could be tricky here as the birds were all free range living outside (unlike the last one).

Outbreak will spread - shortage of turkeys for Xmas.

Outbreak will break the mold and find a human subject where it can evolve into a human to human form of bird flu in which case we are all screwed - not very likely according to the scientists.

On a much lighter note I read about a cat that now expects to be collected by a car from the same place about from 1.5 miles from it’s home every morning

Monday, 12 November 2007

Beer 109 - Badger’s Tanglefoot


This helped to revive my brain last night, golden coloured with a hint of fruit in the taste it is one of my top 5 English ales. Weighs in at 5% abv and because it is so easy to drink it ought to be labelled “dangerous”.

According to the brewery’s web site the name derives from the first tasting session held by the head brewer, several were consumed and on rising to leave the head brewer experienced a loss of steering and Tanglefoot was born.

First came across in when holidaying in Dorset, we were staying in a barn on a hilltop and it was quite a trek down to the sea and from there along the coast to The Smuggler’s Inn.

Fine old building selling Tanglefoot, and it had hot and cold running water as well (the barn lacked such facilities) - so after an extended lunchtime session it was time for the return journey.

It seemed to take much longer than the outward trip - but that could have down to the effect of the beer on our feet.

And the reason that there is no head on the beer is that I had to replace the camera batteries after pouring it - not a very long lasting head but that is a minor quibble.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

New Sidebar Additions

Brain feels like mush today - probably not unrelated to staying up until 03:30 this morning listening to music from the seventies and trying to finish the last bottle of red wine (thanks for passing out on me G).

First up is The Missy M Missives - written from a secret location somewhere near to Aberdeen. In her own words “Thirties, Scottish, script-writer, producer, lecturer and ringmaster of my family, The Flying Martinis.”

Next is If The Creek Don’t Rise, written from the middle of nowhere in New Mexico - describes the lives of two pioneering eccentrics as they wrestle with living 2 hours away from “civilization”. This lady takes her cats with her when she goes out hiking - do not know what could be stranger than the cats actually going out with her, oh and cool pics of the views.

Finally Which End Bites?, the musing of a front line UK police dog handler gives an indication of what their job really entails and some of the bureaucratic bullshit they have to endure.

They do not post every day but when they do it is always worth a read - now for some hair of the dog to try to jump start my brain.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

News Stories

Wonder if the person who wrote The Terminator script had ever heard of this (around since 1969).

This was a major news story here this week.

Why a kilogram no longer weighs a kilogram is explained here.

Goat-free roads made me speed’ - you could not make this up.

And finally, Toads are ‘open-minded’ about sex

PJ Harvey

Along with many others first came across this lady while listening to John Peel’s radio show, a very unique individual. Was reminded of her yesterday while passing through the BBC radio web site (to get at the Kermode live video stream) and came across this link.

She plays 2 songs from her latest album and gives a very entertaining interview.

Followed this with a trawl through YouTube and found this early gem from her second album (filmed in 2001), then hit paydirt with this cover of Satisfaction.

Polly Jean and Björk - two unique ladies performing together, aural bliss for the weekend.

Friday, 9 November 2007

I Do Not Think That This Is Working

Came across this site while surfing over a Tam’s place and thought maybe I should try it.

I did but I am unconvinced by the result that it gave me, the only explanation that I can think of is that is biased towards British spellings but as the site appears to be US based that one does not fly.

Try it out for own site and see if you agree with me that it appears to be “broken”.

iPhone Mania?

Not in this hoose, they go on sale here tonight at 18:02 and the “meeja” is watching for signs of the mania* that accompanied it’s US launch.

Expensive, overrated, and you cannot replace the battery yourself - WTF?

Now the Nokia N95 - supports 3G, has a 5 Megapixel camera (c/f 2 meg on the iPhone) and you can change the battery/sim card yourself - what more do you want?

I do not use my mobile enough to justify buying one but if I did this one would be my choice of today’s offerings.

* Online Etymology Dictionary has this to say on the origin of mania, c.1400, “mental derangement characterized by excitement and delusion,”

Which sums it up pretty well.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Space Stuff

New planet found (only 41 light years away) but the really interesting thing is the gap where an Earth like planet could be lurking.

And Discovery returned safely yesterday after a 15 day successful mission - commanded by a lady as is the ISS, that is what I call progress.

I just love watching the ISS track across a night sky in the Highlands with little background light - one of life’s simple pleasures.

Oh, and deep joy at DBA cottages, the DVDs of Season 2 of Battlestar Galactica arrived this morning - will try to ration them out but will probably fail.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Butthash Alert

Thanks to Noddy for alerting me to this disturbing “yoof trend”.

As if the world was not crazy enough, then from that page I followed the link to Crack Crazed Squirrels Terrorize South London.

Raised a smile on a driech Wednesday morning.

John Peel

I own and listen to a pretty varied range of music (folk, reggae, blues, bluegrass, punk, dance etc etc) and while some picks came from family or friends the majority of them came from listening to Peel’s radio show over the years.

You never knew what was coming next on his shows and that was the fun in listening, some of the stuff that he played I just never got, but then through him I discovered a whole range of artistes whose music I just love.

Here is his favourite single by The Undertones - Teenage Kicks.

I will forever be grateful to him for introducing me to these guys - that song still makes the hairs on the back of my neck rise after 34 years. Listen out for the harmonies being supplied by Peter and Bunny - truly magical.

Sadly John passed away in 2004 at the age of 65 but his legacy lives on.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Petrol Rant

Driving out of Smalltown this morning I noticed that the price of petrol had finally reached the 100.9p level for a litre regular unleaded. But it gets better, the highest price in the country for this is 109.9p per litre as of yesterday.

At the highest price that works out at £5 for a UK gallon of fuel, (or $10.44 for my North American readers) - two thirds of the cost is taken by the government.

This is on top of the £180 per year road tax that we have to pay if your car is more than six years old and has an engine size over 1549cc, and do not get me started on insurance costs or veins will burst.

It might not be so bad if I could find an open road to drive along but I am living at the wrong end of the country for that to ever happen.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Beer 108 - Morland’s Old Speckled Hen


This used to be brewed in Oxfordshire so qualified as a local beer, however in 2000 this was bought out by the “evil empire” of brewing for whom Eldest Niece works.

Have to admit though that they continue to turn out a beer very close to the original, quite hoppy in flavour with a good bitter taste and a lovely colour. At 5.2% abv it was easily robust enough to accompany last night’s curry.

On an unrelated note us Brits now send over 1 billion texts each week (same number as for all of 1999), if I send more than 2 a month then something is well out of kilter in my universe.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Performance Poets 1 - John Cooper Clarke

Was watching the first two of the “last” Sopranos episodes on video (thanks to my friend D who recorded them off his satellite for me) and was stunned at the end of the second which ended with a voice/”song” that I recognised.

It was Chickentown by John Cooper Clarke, and I thought that this was a weird place.to comes across one of his works. Saw him live once in the local Arts Centre and thoroughly enjoyed him. Here is another of his pieces Beasely Street - Enjoy.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Meme Time

Found this at one the the cab blogs I frequent and found it a fun way to pass some time.

Meme instructions:

1) Go to Wikipedia
2) In the search box, type your birth month and day but not the year.
3) List three events that happened on your birthday
4) List two important birthdays and one death
5) One holiday or observance (if any)

So I enter April 10 and get

Events

1) The Sepoy Mutiny popularly known as the “Revolt of 1857” broke out in Meerut, India as part of the Indian independence movement (1857).

2) The RMS Titanic leaves port in Southampton, England for her first and only voyage (1912).

3) The Belfast Agreement is signed (1998).

Birthdays

1) Bunny Wailer, Jamaican musician (1947).

2) Bob Bell, British engineer (1958).

Deaths

Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Italian-born mathematician (b. 1736 d 1813).

Only one observance and that was too obscure to include.

Will not “tag” anyone with this but if you are a loose end ...

Friday, 2 November 2007

The Modfather

Paul Weller has been one of my favourite song writers since I first hear The Jam back in the late seventies. I also approve of him being his own man and changing directions several times to do what he wanted rather than what the business or his fans would have preferred.

So here are three of his mellower tunes for you to enjoy, the first is That’s Entertainment (from the album Sound Affects)

The second is Wild Wood from the album of the same name, and the last one is Broken Stones (from Stanley Road), which has the added bonus of a trombone solo from Jamaican legend Rico.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Mad Scientists?

New Scientist magazine has published an article on the top ten “most bizarre” scientific experiments of all time.

Unfortunately you need to be a subscriber to read it, however courtesy of the “Grauniad” you can get a flavour of it here.

These crazy scientists probably had an “Igor”* assisting them in their weird experiments.

* Discworld reference.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Halloween

Scotland has a different tradition of activities on this night, namely Guising.

I can remember as a young loon in the hills going out dressed up with
lil bro’ and reciting poetry (while he sang) for our treats. Oh and no pumpkins for us, we used hollowed out neeps (turnips) for lanterns - and usually ate the contents with mince and tatties before heading out.

Have a frightful night!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Comet Holmes

Heard about this last night but was suffering too much background light last night at DBA cottages to get a good view - better luck tonight maybe.

If you do get the chance then check it out - here are some tips on finding it.

UPDATE Had a call just after seven last night from a friend who lives 2 miles away and had just come in from looking at it. So I sloped out into the night and did not have to go too far before I found a spot from which I could get a look.

Very fuzzy image but there as advertised, then got an email from another friend 12 miles away who had been out with his 8 year old daughter viewing it.

Cosmic goodness all around last night. It would have been more spectacular seeing it in the Highlands but that splendid vista of the Milky Way is around 8 weeks away for me when I trek up there for New Year.

Hovercraft

Was chatting with HN at the weekend about great “booze cruises” that we had made to France over the years. Buy cheap day ticket for car and passengers to Calais, arrive in France and hit the Hypermarket of your choice and load a trolley with cheap wine and beer. Repeat as necessary until car is full and then return.

Back in the early nineties when lil bro’ had returned from oil drilling overseas for a well earned break we decided that we needed to do such a run. Instead of a ferry we chose to use the Hovercraft service that was still operating.

Turned out to be a “wizard wheeze”, your drive down to the landing slip and then into the belly of the beast before ascending to the passenger deck to find your seat. Felt very much like getting onto a small passenger plane. The engines start and it rose gently onto it’s skirts and then we were off, 25 mins later we came straight up a beach and then onto a concrete apron.

The return journey was more eventful, we hugged the coast for a time (it had got more choppy out there) while the cabin crew dispensed drinks and then we turned out to sea. It was like a wild roller coaster ride as we went up and down the waves, we were quite enjoying ourselves (managed to keep the beer in the glasses).

The other passengers were not, the crew closed the bar and within 5 mins the first person was using the sick bags and that set off a chain reaction. We were both fine and all too soon for us the roller coaster reached the harbour and calm descended, the cabin crew apologised to the passengers for the wild ride but we thanked them for the experience and drove off with silly grins on our faces.

Here is news piece from back in 2000 when the service finally ended. Am really glad that I took the opportunity to use it while it was still there - a grand day out and a ride on a venerable British invention.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Back From The West

Weekend went more or less as expected, weather was mild but overcast/raining most of the time, we finished eating dinner just after eight on Saturday night (some sort of record).

Admired HN’s new 30” wide screen PC monitor, Irish Lass’s new Mulberry handbag (so prized that it lives in it’s own cotton sack when not in use).and commiserated with them on the sad demise of “Quennie”.

“Quennie” was their 20 year old BMW 7 series car that they have owned for 14 years and which had taken them safely all around the UK and Ireland. It was diagnosed dead a couple of weeks ago and their attempts to replace it have been frustrated twice so far, which explains how I ended up touring the streets of Cheddar in what can only be described as a “Columbian drug baron’s” style of vehicle.

I am not going to jinx it for them by describing it in any more detail, but if they do get it then there will be photos. All in all a grand visit and a good time had by all, yes there was loud music but fortunately no mad dancing around the living room at 02:00. Even managed to get up before they left for work this morning - thanks to nor resetting my mobile to GMT on Sunday morning.

HN and OEN both blamed my own humble hi-fi system for persuading them to invest tens of thousands of pounds on their respective systems - me I blame the IT business for giving them too much disposable income.

So here a couple of photos:



Yes that is a drop down screen at the back and the projector for it in the foreground, a surround sound system plus the racks of power amps below the screen. The system drives a pair of fine speakers which deliver clear sound with a very healthy bass - oh and their 300 year old house comes with walls that are 2 feet thick so do not worry about the neighbours.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Neanderthals ‘were flame-haired’

Came across this article yesterday and it makes for interesting reading. Have long held the view that Neanderthals have had to put up with a lot of “bad press”.

This will probably be my last post until sometime on Monday as I am off on another road trip.

Heading west to Cheddar (Somerset) to visit Hairy Nephew and Irish Lass for the weekend. On previous form this should result in very late nights, loud music, and not eating dinner until well after nine - oh, and large amounts of alcohol being consumed.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Loudon Wainwright 111

This dude first crossed my path in ‘72 (or thereabouts) when I heard his third album. The song Muse Blues really struck a chord as I was trying and failing to master the guitar and had delusions of becoming a song writer - even owned the spiral notepad and pencil!

Have since then seen him perform live on at least six occasions and have never been disappointed, he throws his body into his performances (might have slowed down a bit now) and his gurning* has to be seen to be believed. Even stayed in the same small hotel as him when he played the Cambridge Folk Festival back in the eighties - decided that he probably wanted to concentrate on his breakfast and not be harassed by a fan at that time of the morning. His humour might not be to everyone’s taste but he can always make me smile.

So here we have Nocturnal Stumblebutt, Mr Guilty a finally his “hit” Dead Skunk.

* Note for overseas readers a gurn is a distorted facial expression, and a verb to describe the action.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Beer 107 - Greene King Abbot Ale

This one makes it into my top 5 English beers , first came across it at our local arts centre in the late seventies. We enjoyed many a weekend session guzzling rather more than was probably good for us on a Friday night - if very slow/non existent Saturday mornings were any guide.

Plenty of flavour (but not very hoppy) and a healthy 5% abv.



Are you happy now EN?

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Janey Godley

Came across her blog in 2005 and was very impressed, with her writing and stories - so much so that I bought her autobiography as a gift for a family member.

Travelling across this land to perform her stand up she seems to regularly encounter the strangest of situations or the weirdest of people.

Here is a fairly typical example of what I have described. Check out the archives on her blog for more whacky tales.

Queen of Scottish Comedians.

Original Eldest Nephew

When I was visiting EN last week she remarked that she wished that OEN was still with us so that she could show her son to him. I replied that he would have loved to meet him - he was always really good with kids.

In June 2001, OEN, his best friend from school, Hairy Nephew (EN’s brother) and his girl friend Irish Lass were over in Germany for a short break to take in a track day at the Nurburgring on their respective sports motorcycles.

Back in the UK it was a Monday so I was in the office doing typical DBA things, enjoying myself jesting with my favourite co-workers and settling into my working week, when the phone on my desk rang.

It was HN, and immediately my spider senses started tingling (HN was notorious in the family for his “phone phobia”) - I could hear the emotion in his voice as he said ”There is no easy way to tell you this obi-wan, there has been an accident and OEN has been killed”. I replied with something along the lines of “Is there anything that you need me to do?” and was told “not at the moment” - so we ended it there with me asking him to ring me when they got back over here.

Picked up my tobacco and papers and went outside for an extended smoke break and a walk around the car park. So I had to deal with the fact that OEN had gone from our lives forever, went back in and sleep walked through my duties for the rest of the day - did not tell anyone at work what had happened.

Went home that night, had something to eat and then drank a bottle of wine and had a couple of drams of a good single malt in his memory as I tried to assimilate this news. I remembered seeing him for the first time one cold January afternoon 35 years earlier with his father holding him up to a hospital window for me and little bro’ to view.

Memories of all the times we had done crazy things together, argued about stupid stuff, concerts we had attended, places we had visited etc etc.

Got into work early the next day and when my manager showed up I explained the situation and that at some currently unknown point in the near future I would need to disappear for a few days. He completely understood and told me that it was fine by him.

The depleted crew returned at the end of the week when I joined them for a painful night of memories and got the full details of what had happened on Monday.Our only consolation was that he dies while doing something that he really loved.

Towards the end of the next week I flew into Inverness for the funeral arriving there a couple of days early. Cannot remember much of what went on in the church but was impressed with the number of his friends and colleagues who made the 1100 mile round trip for the funeral - a couple even came across from Dublin.

So that night in a rented cottage on a hill overlooking the town a small group of us held a wake in his honour, we all got shit faced together and swapped stories long into the morning. All of us were in agreement that this was the way that OEN would like to have been remembered,

It is far easier to handle the death of an elderly relative or friend as the life in question has run it’s natural course, however when a young life is cut short it feels like much more of an injustice - the universe delivering a really hard kick in the groin.

He is gone from our lives but as long as we retain our memories of him he will never, ever be forgotten.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Bruce Cockburn

Managed to get a good four hours out of the PC today with no shut downs - maybe due to it being colder this morning and my not turning on the heating. Hey just put a fleece on indoors, help save the planet by leaving your heating off!

Still having trouble completing “that post” so as a treat I am sharing 2 of my favourite Bruce Cockburn tracks. First came across him when one of our cousins from Canada brought across his first two albums for myself and little bro’ in the early seventies.

Fine guitarist and a really poetic songwriter, when I went to Toronto in late ‘79 I had to stock up on the other eight LPs that he had since released. Worried abut their safety all the way on the flight back home.

From the ‘79 release Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaws here is Creation Dream - pretty good home made video.

Also from the same album is Wondering Where The Lions Are - I have no idea who the people in this video are but it was the only copy of the complete song that I could find on YouTube.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Still Here - Just

My PC appears to be suffering from a dodgy power supply, get about an hour out of it and then it just shuts down - fecking annoying - need to then let it cool off for an hour before getting another 60 minutes out of it. So, still working on the post I said would go up yesterday maybe tomorrow.

As a substitute London EMT pointed us in the direction of a thread on this Mountain Bike forum about the perils of strong laxatives. The entries to read are those by blue-tone - really LOL stuff.

Or you could head over to Las Vegas cabbie’s place and read his tale of two recent “overexcited” passengers. It is the one from Saturday October 13th.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Big Yin

Some good friends of mine were up from Dorset for a family wedding today so I walked the 2 miles over to another friend’s house to visit with them this morning. It had been cold first thing but by ten under a clear blue sky it had warmed up quite a lot, now walking is usually my best thinking time.

I was thinking of a comment that Eldest Niece (EN) had made on Thursday afternoon which led me down a path towards a suitable posting, more thought applied on the return journey. Fired up the PC, and started tapping words into a document, read it and decided that I was not expressing my thoughts all that clearly (wish that I had Scully’s easy way with words) - so I will leave it to stew on the back burner overnight.

In lieu of that here is Scotland’s King of Comedy Billy Connolly, first saw him back in the ealry seventies and was blown away (he was still doing guitar/banjo playing as part of the act more than in recent years).

Here you have Cardinal’s School Visit (1981) and Tobacco Police (2002).

Enjoy.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Baby Lewis In His Crib

Had a good trip there and back (traffic wise - always a plus) - Hummer count on trip 1 and it was on the motorway and not the narrow B road that I had been using earlier (phew).

Little Lewis turned out to be as cute as advertised, running his mum (Eldest Niece EN hereafter) ragged when not napping. This is one seriously hungry little fellow, he glugs down on his milk in the same style that EN’s brother glugs down a pint of Guiness.

EN’s man returns just before five and needs to send a quote to a customer, so to “speed” things up she transfers it to her work laptop to send out over her broadband connection. This turns out to be a major mistake, on the first attempt Outlook locks up and loses her email, 2nd attempt - same result but the message has been saved.

I suggest rebooting and letting it cool down for a bit before trying again - major mistake. Fifteen minutes later EN fires it up gets the dreaded “Invalid System Disk” message. So she rings her company’s tech support guys and explains the problem and gets the reply “Do you have a small Phillips screwdriver? You need to remove the battery and then try jiggling the hard drive, then see if it works”

EN’s man heads off with a gleam in his eye, EN meantime cannot wait and waggles her laptop in the air and then tries rebooting and it works! Message is sent by the time her man returns with screwdrivers and is very disappointed that he does not get to dismantle it.

The wee man goes to bed not long after six thirty and her man settles him down while EN prepares our dinner (Aberdeen Angus sirloin steaks, pepper sauce and veggies). As Lewis is going to be on formula milk overnight and tomorrow morning she decides that my visit is the perfect excuse to have her first glass of red wine for five months.

Dinner was most excellent and the pair of them manage to sit up until ten thirty (bedtime has been nine for the last three weeks). EN remembered me telling her back in August that I had found my video copies of the last series of Buffy but that it did not include the final episode so before retiring she cues up the last DVD for me.

I am amazed that she managed to remember that what with lack of sleep and learning how to cope with her new arrival. End up watching all three shows so it is after one before I head off to catch some some sleep.

Anyhow here are some pics of the wee man first one is mine (the other two I took were too blurred), the next two are of him at five days.:







Note for EN, manage to pick up a bottle of your Export IPA on the way back so I will feature it at a later date.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Georgia 2 Scotland 0

Much sadness here at DBA cottages this morning, I could make excuses (loss of key players through injury/suspension, blatant penalty appeal turned down when scores were level) but that would not be fair.

The better team on the night won, they outplayed us for most of the match and deserved their win.

What this means for qualification is that in order to get through Scotland now need to beat Italy (current world champions) in their last game at home in Glasgow next month. A pretty tall order but the dream while fading still lives.

So, to cheer myself up I am heading out to visit eldest niece and great nephew later on - see you tomorrow.

WARNING - next post will contain cute baby photos!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Groove Armada

Marks & Spencer have been running a TV advert campaign all summer for various parts of their food range, when I started to think about the background music they were using I realised that I knew that tune.

Took me a couple of weeks to figure out what it was as I do not watch much TV with commercials (video them and then FF through the breaks by choice).

It is At The River by Groove Armada, and for any of my younger readers the “strange device” in the video is called a turntable

These were (and in some cases continue to be) widely used to play music in the “dark ages” before CD players were invented. Many audiophiles/”luddites” remain convinced that with a good turntable a richer quality of sound can be produced compared to a CD player.

I fall into this class, it was 1994 before I purchased a CD player and my Linn LP12 (happy 23rd birthday) deck can still kick it’s ass to this day.

An Atheist Speaks

Came across this rant on The Trouble With Islam while I was over visiting at Whichendbites place and it made me chuckle.

Naturally decide to check out some of his other postings and the guy turns out to be an “Equal Opportunities” Atheist.

Christians, Jews, Catholics all get turned over - interestingly he has yet to turn his eye on Hindus or Buddhists but then again he only seems to have been posting for six months.

In the interests of “balanced reporting” here are two more links to him,
Unholy Scripture and Catholics.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy

After my last rant time for some humour, first heard this on the radio back in the late seventies and was totally blown away by the story and the characters. In my view the greatest radio comedy that I have ever heard.

Read all the books, quite enjoyed the television series from the eighties (clunky special effects aside) but am not a fan of the movie made in 2005. While the special effects were great, the story arc is just to large to be cut down into a 2 hour film.

What the universe needs is for the makers of the new Doctor Who to remake the TV series using the radio scripts as a starting point.

In the meantime here is a clip from the old TV series featuring Zaphod, Ford, Arthur, Trillian and my personal favourite Marvin.

Drink Driving

What is it with Hollywood and drink driving? Is there some mind altering substance in the water supply or is there a higher than average supply of the “stupid gene” over there?

This year has seen a constant stream of actor/”celebrity” drunk driving stories with the most recent being this dork.

You drive out somewhere, have a few drinks and then decide to go home, as I see it you have three choices:

Hail a cab - that is why they are there at that time of night,

Ring a friendly limo service if you do not want to travel in a conveyance that might have been used by “ordinary people”,

Climb into your own vehicle and drive badly homewards risking other lives and your own.

So people with the “stupid gene” select option 3 almost without fail, the maths is not hard three or four beers or glasses of wine over a two hour period is almost certain to put you over the limit.

While I have no problem with them wiping out their own lives it is the risk they pose to others that concerns me. Now there are far more “ordinary people” over here and over there who commit similar offences through ignorance /”delusions of invincibility” - but these “celebrity” types have the cash to pay for their ride home and should be setting a better example.

I know from personal experience how alcohol impairs your ability to control a vehicle, it slows you reaction times and ability to read what is going on around you.

In my “defence” I was younger (and stupider) and driving in a country where there were no drink drive laws as alcohol was banned there. Lots of desert to run off into, only ever did it in the wee small hours when there almost no other traffic - but it was not clever.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Neil Young

Was watching TV early Saturday night and came across an interview with Neil Young and the first thing that struck was how much he has aged over the last year - still lucky to be among us nonetheless.

Terrific songwriter and a very fine guitarist he has been one of my musical heroes for the last thirty years. Cannot say that I have enjoyed all of his offerings, but that is one of his traits that I admire, he does what he feels like doing and not what is expected of him.

Finally got to see him and Crazy Horse live around six years ago and they were excellent - well worth the two hundred mile round trip in very heavy rain.

So here in aging order are three clips, Old Man (recorded 1971),
Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) (1979) and Pocahontas (2004).

Respectively they are Acoustic, Electric & Loud (though I did find a clip of him doing this acoustically which was great) and Acoustic.

Finally someone put the interview up on Youtube, here he is talking to everyone's favourite film critic.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Beer 106 - Fuller’s London Pride

Well, after preparing dinner my thoughts turned to alcohol and what to choose this evening. A quick check of the cupboard revealed this little beauty.



My second taste of real ale and it has remained one of my favourites ever since then, more hoppy than the Youngs but also with a fine taste of malt in it. Definitely in my top 5 of English ales and well worth trying.

Have a great week - I was hoping to visit my Great Nephew this week but I think I broke my little toe yesterday morning (have previous toe breaking experience). Feels a lot better today but still hurts when I walk so am not sure if it will be up to driving this week - time will tell.

Scotland 3 Ukraine 1

The dream run carries on, was listening to the game on radio and could not believe it when we went 2 goals up after only ten minutes.

Yet another great performance by the lads, you can watch all the goals here.

Seems that they are now playing part of this song after every Scottish goal, so I could not resist including a link.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Silly But Fun

Now this is the sort of thing that travel guides never mention - America is one scary country.

Check it out here and make sure that you read their Top 11 tips - who knows when you might need them.

Women Know Your Place

Spoof informational film from Harry Enfield & Chums:



Hard to believe that our culture once supported views like this.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Meet The Natives - Part The Second

So our plucky adventurers got to see a fox hunt and were perplexed that the “fox” was a guy on a quad bike (hunting foxes with hounds was made illegal here in 2004). They laughed their heads off when the hunt flushed a fox out into an open field and none of the hunters noticed it.

Back at the castle Sir Somebody organised a black tie dinner for them on their last night, they followed along and appeared to enjoy themselves. Then they switched into their traditional clothing (or lack of it) and performed one of their “custom dances” - fair play to the toffs, a good number of them joined in.

Then they went to the Isle of Skye - as Captain Cook had described Tanns as being like the Hebrides when he first landed there - think that they enjoyed the scenery. On the journey back they came across snow for the first time in their lives and they sure loved that - running around throwing snow balls at one another and marvelling at the stuff.

They were put up in a penthouse flat in London and got to visit the outside of Buckingham Palace.

The good news is that our brave men from Tanna achieved the aim of their quest and got an audience with Prince Phillip (not filmed), they went to ASDA (supermarket chain owned by Walmart) and got kitted out with lounge suits, shirts and ties. They were truly delighted to get this opportunity and got all excited the night before it.

Next thing we see is them returning to their village (wearing their suits etc) to a big welcome, the chief explains to them that PP said that it was not the time for him to return. They show around their framed photograph of them with PP - which goes down really well.

The whole village gathers that night to watch the film of their adventures on the other side of the world and it is smiling faces all round.

Russian Humour Alert

Came across this news story earlier in the week - who can say Russian have no sense of humour.

The latest news is that they docked safely with the ISS around 16:00. Must say that I envy them spending six months orbiting the globe above us.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Meet The Natives

Channel 4 has been running a three part documentary series called Meet The Natives, the setup is that 5 islanders from Tanna (in the Pacific) are flown to the UK for 4 weeks to experience living with middle, working and upper class families (tribes).

Their religion leads them to believe that Tanna and England were once the same island and that we are all brothers - they also believe that Prince Philip is the son of their god.

Only one of the five speaks English yet they all seem to be able to pick up on things very quickly,. The look of disgust on the Chief’s face when he was shown pigs being artificially inseminated was priceless - I think that it might have been down to the females being aroused by a male pig that they could only touch with their noses.

On the other hand they bond instantly with the rabbit hunter and his ferrets, lending a helping hand and regarding it as land based fishing.

In the second program they visit Manchester where they see homeless people for the first time and are appalled they we treat our animals better than our fellow humans. Back home if someone needs a house they all muck in and help to build one.

A jet wash causes great excitement – it’s something else they have never seen before. “Now I can see that a car is like a human being,” comments one of the men. “They have to shower frequently and wash their bodies with custom medicine. Then every so often you have to clean out their insides.”

Their way of looking at the world around them and their philosophy on life (“love, happiness, peace and respect”) should be an inspiration to us all. There is an openness about the way they approach all the new things they are encountering for the first time. They certainly belie our "civilized" westerners opinions on "primitive tribes". Having said that, they have very old fashioned ideas on the place of women in society.

Last episode is on tonight, here is what they wear when back home, the chief is the one in the middle.

Tell Me It's Not True

According to this story, it was proved 20 years ago today that Nessie does not exist - I am crushed.

Anyway it is still a bonny place to visit, so here are a couple of pics.



Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Cloud Appreciation Society

Heard about this lot today and having checked out their website it is well worth a visit. There over 3,000 pics available up there, and I reproduce one of the paragraphs from their manifesto:

“ Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked.
They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul.
Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save
on psychoanalysis bills.

I really like the idea of a society that is dedicated to clouds and found myself endorsing a large part of the manifesto. It was hard to tear myself away after 45 minutes had flashed by.

So here are some of my favourites from my first visit, Grim Reaper, Salvador Dali, Lightening Strike, Cool Image, Noctilucent Clouds.

Noctilucent means “visible at night” (that old Latin education of mine comes in handy even after all those years) but in the world of meteorology it is “(of high-altitude clouds) visible during the short night of the summer”.

So head over and check them out here.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Mark Kermode - “Control”

Anyone who listened to Mark’s demolition of the latest Tarantino offering might wonder if he ever does give positive reviews.

Here is one from last week on the film Control which is a biopic of Ian Curtis and his band Joy Division.

Basically it is a six minute extract from the live video stream when the show goes out at 15:00 on a Friday, which can usually be found here.

For another fine rant here he is on Pirates of the Caribbean 3 - fans of the franchise would be advised to look away now.

The result of the Comsat Angels vs Joy Division text poll was a resounding victory for Joy Division.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Beer 105 - Cairngorm, Trade Winds

The Cairngorm brewery is based in Aviemore, which sits down in the river valley with the Cairngorm mountains looming on the horizon. The brewery has only been there for six years and I had never tried any of their beers until 2006 when I had to spend a year back in my home town - about 12 miles up the valley.

Still remember the taste of the first one that I drank and after that I was hooked, and it is always good to support your local businesses. This one has a pale golden colour and is quite hoppy in flavour, went down very well with my curry last night.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Sutton Hoo - Part The Second

Returning to the visitor centre I got a coffee and sat out in the sun, chilling out next to a tree with an area of garden to myself. Read the pamphlet describing the site and noticed that photography was only forbidden in the Treasury Room.

Refreshed, I entered the Exhibition hall and was greeted by two National Trust volunteers who told me that the Audio/Visual film would be starting shortly and was well worth the visit. It was pretty entertaining and at 8 minutes was about the right length - contained the statement that 80% of modern English words come down to us from Anglo Saxon, which came as news to me.

Amble round the hall soaking up the history and I come to the first display cabinet where I take this shot - looking at it last night I was amazed to find that I had a successful replica of the case contents. So without further explanation here it is.



Then moved in front of the case next to it and took this one, which is not as sharp but does show the ornaments from a horse bridle found in the tomb of a warrior excavated in 1992.



Next stop was the reconstruction of the famous helmet but first I read a notice telling me that photography was not allowed in the Exhibition hall for reasons of privacy and security - damn. Major disappointment as it warranted half a dozen shots all of it’s own, so the next few shots are not mine:





The reconstruction of the helmet is a thing of great beauty and the same could be said of the sword. The hall also had a reproduction of the tomb found within the ship as it would have looked when it was created and boy had they filled it with stuff.

Cooking pots, clothing, jewellery, chain mail coat, sword, spears, shield , that helmet and other items including a game board.- wish I could have taken a photo. That dude certainly went into his afterlife with everything that he might require.

The Treasury Room contained reconstructions of various artifacts, lyre, shield, smiths tools, cloth and jewellery - these people certainly appreciated the finer things in life which I found ironic given that they were living in the middle of the “Dark Ages”.

Coming out of the hall I found that the sun had disappeared behind dull grey skies, headed back with my brain still sifting through the memories of the day and a smile on my face.