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


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


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.


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


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).