Sunday, July 29, 2007
One more thing I saw on the way home yesterday, but was too excited by Biplanes and Hovercraft to write about.
But I left it. No Woodpecker suprise for the "barbecue" today.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Biplanes versus Hovercraft!
which is okay. Just so long as I don't get roped into an inferior sequel.
(It's pretty clear that Jim, as well as producing Parker has also been moonlighting as a location scout for E-ON. What a busy man he is.) (This connection pointed out to me by Stan).
Friday, July 27, 2007
Friday Five is supposed to be a bit more casual. If, like one correspondent, you find yourself sitting waiting for it with baited breath when you get into work, you're going to be disappointed. Hell, I might not get to it until after quitting time. It's for things to do outside work, IE the weekend.
If you insist on having your internet reading material available during the working day, I suggest you show some goddamn self-discipline and wait until Monday. Pretend that Friday Five is actually
That is all.
 Or slacking worker
Book: Temeraire by Naomi Novik. Napoleonic Wars + Dragons = Yowzer! Novik is pitch perfect (except for the anachronistic use of 'hello' as a greeting rather than an exclamation) and the story is fascinating. The twists on 19th century storytelling standards give you a touch of intellectual cover for reading about tales of Daring! Aerial! Combat!
Film: Children of Men, which has just turned up on the Sky Movie channels this week. Not for the story, or background or ideas, not that they aren't interesting, but purely for the length of some of the shots in the action sequences. The most violent scenes appear to be one long take, including one in a car that goes on and on, and one in a future Bexhill being fought over street-by-street, where it begins with them coming out of a building, they're ambushed by people, split up, then the army turn up and gun people down, and the hero goes for cover, then goes up the street, then takes cover for a while as more fighting breaks out, then goes around the corner to a block of flats, and takes cover for really quite a while whilst shots and explosions go on, then sneaks across the road, and up the stairs in the flats and along, and people who were in the scene earlier reappear - and it looks like it's one shot. Outstanding documentary-style film making.
Food: Big Mushrooms baked with garlic butter. Get some of those really big mushrooms, make some garlic butter (room temperature butter, crushed garlic, chopped parsley stirred together), smear the butter on the mushrooms and bake for 25 minutes in a medium oven. Gorgeous.
Other: This news story will be used (by me) as a story seed, although not until next week at the earliest. But it's cool on it's own. If you prefer mysteries to the gritty, grainy minutiae of human existence, don't click on the 'Update: mystery solved!' link. If you like details and answers rather than pointless ignorance, do click on the link (after you've read the story first).
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The Whedon-esque awareness of genre is there - the mysterious agent suggests that the name Suresh is as common as Smith or Anderson; Hiro is the one who makes all the Star Trek references, but it's someone else who has an evil twin in a mirror universe. But I was musing, as it started, how do you form a superhero team? Logically, you all link up with the pre-cog, was one of my theories. On cue, up turns a pre-cog, linked to one (or more) of our characters. Of course he's a junkie artist, who created prophetic artworks while nodding off. He ODs at the end of the first episode. Well, says I, great, but I'd have killed the pre-cog at the start of the series and only have him (and his work) appear in flashback.
Next, of course, they kill the pre-cog. I am in love with this series.
 Even now, I've only seen half of Life on Mars. If you're a person that I love, imagine that's about where our relationship is.
 As opposed to watching isolated 5 or 10 minutes burst, before changing channels at the ad break.
 Obviously this is not original, nor is my other leading idea, the guy who figures out what's going on and tracks down the talents to create a team. Following on from this, storytellingly, the disaster that hits New York on 8 November is caused by one of the good guys, not the super-powered serial killer.
 Used with malice-a-forethought.
 In a flash-forward. But still.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Midweek Monkey Business
First, a Youtube video of Elton John singing Pinball Wizard. What to look out for in this are Elton's enormous Doc Martens, The Who trashing their instruments halfway through the video, and (especially for Jim) the extraordinary and amazing Pinball Crown!
Next, some single frames from comics for those with no time or limited attention span. Xkcd demonstrates the art of media in res in Comic Fragment. Beaucoup Kevin gives us an Important Reminder. And an old one (I'm firing off all my ammunition here, in the naive belief that the internet will give me more amusing stuff by next Wednesday) Old Comics Zen from Warren Ellis. Note that the rest of Ellis' site is Not Safe For Work.
For those of you with the time and inclination to read, here's an amusing story about a dog and a sweet potato.
From She by H Rider Haggard (1886) here's a lawyer joke: "I put down the letter, and ran my eye through the Will, which appeared, from it's utter unintelligibility, to have been drawn on the strictest legal principles." Sorry, I like old lawyer jokes. Today's uninteresting fact: The H in H Rider Haggard stands for Henry.
And finally, it wouldn't be Monkey Business without monkeys. Well, it might be, I've not really made up the rules yet. But here's a Youtube film about Drunk Monkeys.
 Don't forget to hover your mouse over the cartoon for a bonus surprise punchline.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Song: Sweet Little Mystery by Wet Wet Wet. It feels like a hundred years since I heard this. It's feels and sounds like a happy song. But the lyrics are about a moment that's a turning point. I'll probably return to this point in future posts about songs.
Book: The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gattiss. Mark Gattiss was (is) a member of The League of Gentlemen, and has written Doctor Who as well. The hero of this book (available as a novel as well as the graphic novel linked to), Lucifer Box, is exactly how my friend Jim would like to be, right down to living at 9 Downing Street. Except for the bit about shagging men.
Film: The Princess Bride. Is there a more perfect film? The moment when the Grandson in the meta-story asks "Is this a kissing story?" is so well observed (because there aren't actually kissing stories, but an 8 year old might suspect there are, and anything with lots of kissing at the start might look like one. And then, of course it ends with a kiss. Oh get over it, I've not spoiled anything for you.)
Food: Barbecued Sardines. Fresh sardines (gutted by the fishmonger, note) just shoved on the grill and cooked in mere moments on a hot summer evening - perfection. Some notes on barbecuing sardines and other fish previously on Night of the Hats.
Wild Card: A New Sith, or Revenge of the Hope. One day I'll finish my final Star Wars post, and generally tidy up my relationship with the series. Until then, enjoy this article, which explains exactly what R2D2s role in the Alliance was.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Bluebeard is a fairy tale, based on earlier folk tales written by Charles Perrault in 1697. Bluebeard is a rich nobleman who wishes to get married, but is having difficulty because of his "frightfully ugly" blue beard, and also because he had three previous wives, who have all mysteriously vanished. The youngest daughter of a neighbouring family eventually agrees to marry him, but just after getting married, he has to go away for awhile and leaves his new wife all the keys to the chateau. He especially points out one teeny-tiny key to a little room that he forbids her to enter.
The wife's sister comes to stay, and convinces her to look in the room. As might be expected, it's covered in blood and has Bluebeard's former wives hanging on the walls. Jumping to the conclusion that Bluebeard has killed them, they lock the room up, but have got blood on the key and can't get it off, this being before Brasso was invented. When Bluebeard unexpectedly returns, he realises that they have been in his "secret" room, and tries to behead them with his sword. The wife and sister run away into the highest tower and lock themselves in. Just as Bluebeard is about to break in, the sisters' brothers arrive, presumably to escort their over curious sister home, and kill Bluebeard.
Notable in all these events is the lack of piracy.
In the epilogue, the wife inherits all of Bluebeard's fortune, and uses the money to get captain's commissions for her brothers, a dowry for her sister, and uses the rest to court a worthy gentleman who makes her forget Bluebeard's ill-treatment. Because a wealthy widow being in charge of her estate not getting married would be Un!-Think!-A!-Ble!.
 Possibly based on real events.
 Every translation and synopsis I've checked uses this phrase, which may tell us something about blue beards.
 And, it's implied, poor.
 Not the most efficent stroke, as events show.
Monday, July 16, 2007
To be clear: Piracy is organised crime. It is violent, sordid and deeply unpleasant. The Romans declared pirates to be the Enemies of all Mankind, and later laws on piracy recognised this principle, for good and sufficent reasons. So if you see a pirate, don't shout "Ahrrr!", or "Ahoy!" or "Look - pirates!". Instead, call the police, or the coastguard, or the US Navy. Piracy is not a laughing matter.
 Due to the efforts of the British, Spanish and later American fleets throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries
 Embarrassingly the Barbary Pirates were first confronted by American ships; indeed the threat from organised piracy in North Africa lead to the founding of the regular US Navy.
Friday, July 13, 2007
I was the only one on the beach (as a man and his dog had just left), and I came across a dead blackheaded gull. I looked down at it and thought something along the lines of, well, I've travelled to the ends of the earth on a spirit quest, is this the moment when I have a shamanistic initiation? And if so, why is my spirit guide a dead bird? So I stared at the bird, and it stared back at me, with one eye, and neither of us spoke. I didn't speak, because, you know, I'm not going to open the conversation with a dead bird, and the gull didn't speak, because it was dead, and so wasn't going to open any conversations. So eventually I walked away and felt more and more ill.
 That would be bad for so many reasons.
Fairly obviously, this was someone elses nightmare. I wasn't supposed to have this. The only likely candidate for causing this kind of chaos is some Cidre Fermier from the enchanted forest of Broceliande in Brittany, which, if we believe the label, was made by a wizard in a giant teacup. That's the cider in the giant teacup, not the wizard. Probably easier just to show you the label.
 Since Mr Peel was captured by the Japanese during the war, he has almost certainly stopped teaching by now.
 Farm Cider, or Scrumpy.
 No, really.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Update 21/09/10: The above link no longer works, but this other one in my notes does - for the moment at least. I note that the song is not as good a quality (which is why it was spare).
Just for reference:
Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé. (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !
Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !
(And in English
Arise, children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us, the tyranny's
Bloody banner is raised. (repeat)
Do you hear in the fields
The howling of these savage soldiers?
They are coming into your midst
To cut the throats of your sons, your wives!
To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let us march, let us march!
May tainted blood
Water our fields!)
All sung, of course, to the tune of "A Frenchman went to the lavatory".
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
There's quite a bit of entertaining wrongness about it - sub-saharan Africa is filled with cannibal tribes, and the word "pub" is written in quote marks, presumably because this is "British" slang. But it reaches it's nadir in the quote below (The story so far: Tarzan has been marooned on an island off the coast of Africa called Jungle Island, and has met a native warrior):
This one was Mugambi, chief of the Wagambi of Ugambi...
Please Burroughs. Having invented the Ugambi river, it's not unreasonable that a tribe might take it's name from it, nor that a member of such a tribe might take his name (or possibly title, although it's used as a name throughout) from the tribe or river name. But do you have to be so obvious as to shove all three invented names with the same suffix into one sentence?
(Burroughs has been dead 57 years, so he's unlikely to do anything about it. I, however will attempt to learn from his mistake.)
 More usually referred to by Burroughs as a "savage".
Meanwhile, I note that Legend includes a character called Princess Lily, and The Princess Bride has a character called Princess Buttercup. Sadly Willow, in Willow, is not a Princess although there are indeed princesses in the film. Did someone notice this when bundling 3 80's Fantasy films together or is it just serendipity?
Monday, July 09, 2007
It wasn't until I got home that I realised I don't have any enemies any more. Damn it.
 I'm being unfair to Legend. On the other hand, why should I be fair to it? Note that the film Legend is not related to the David Gemmell novel Legend.
Omelette Fines Herbes
1 heaped teaspoon yogurt
a handful of fresh herbs, roughly chopped
1 knob of butter
salt and pepper
Put the butter into a skillet or frying pan, and heat up. While this is going on, break the eggs into a bowl (don't whisk yet), add the yogurt and season. When the butter is melted and sizzling, pour into the bowl, and put the pan back on the heat. The pan should still have a thin coating of butter on it. Whisk up the egg, yogurt and butter mixture until homogenised, then pour into the pan, still whisking. It should be nice and fluffy. As it cooks, sprinkle the herbs on the omelette (if you're going to fold it, sprinkle them in accordance to how your folds are going to fit). Remember that it continues to cook, even after you take it off the heat. When it's almost done, put it on the plate.
 Unless you're Vas in which case a knob and a half
Thursday, July 05, 2007
It seems to have changed since the first time I read it, in many ways. But here's one thing I noticed that I think may be an in-joke.
The story so far: our hero Gordon King is lost in the jungles of Cambodia, and takes shelter in what he identifies as a ruined temple of Siva.
... A few feet below him was a stone floor, and he could see dimly now that the chamber extended the full breadth and width of the tower. In the centre of the apartment rose something, the nature of which he could not distinguish; but he was sure that it was inanimate.
... Turning toward the object in the centre of the room, King quickly identified it as the symbol of Siva and realised that he was in the Holy of Holies.
So King identifies something that rises from the middle of the floor as a symbol of Siva. Siva has a number of symbols, known as the Lingam, but Burroughs doesn't specify. Which suggests to me that either Burroughs had no clue as to what this linga was, or he knew very well but it's too rude to be published in 1933.
When I first read it I had no idea, but thanks to my brief flirtation with Hindu theology and religious art, I would guess that the 'symbol of Siva' that King saw was a stone cylindrical pillar with a rounded top; amongst it's interpretations is the obvious one as a phallus.
Hindus don't immediately read the lingum that way (I'm told) but Westerners historically have. Which makes me think Burroughs is making an in-joke which anyone who'd read the same secondary or tertiary sources he had would get. And you can't go wrong with a knob joke.
If my overly close reading of a 30's pulp novel throws out any other interesting factoids, I'll be sure to share them here.
 Obviously it's me that's changed, not the book. But my changes are invisible to me.
 Aka Shiva
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
She has been blogging away on a journal (www.mirandadillon.livedigital.com) for some time now. Sadly no one seems to comment on it.
Part of that seems to be technical issues, in that her provider wants you to register with them, and then "connect" and so forth before letting you put comments on, and I'm still looking into this. But there's another way. So I put forward this plan for the 3 and a half readers of this blog:
1. Go and read Mandy's journal. There's a tremendous amount of it (the poor girl's been out there for months and months, and writes entries most days (it's a journal!)), but don't let that stop you. Read a week at a time, and come back again and again.
2. In between reading, have a think about it. Imagine you were on the gorgeous, blisteringly hot islands, having adventures, half the world away from your family and friends, and ask yourself what you'd like to hear.
3. Contact Mandy with those thoughts. If we don't sort out the commenting thing, and you don't know how to get hold of her, let me know and I'll pass on other contact details.
And that's it.
Except why am I doing this, and not her brother? Well, he got a similar request to this, and he responded:
"Sod your blog campaign! I'm here in the north of England (yuck!) with Bod getting smashed!"
Ah, brotherly love. There's nothing like it.
1. William I
2. Henry I
3. Empress Matilda (Maud)
4. Henry II
6. Henry III
7. Edward I
8. Edward II
9. Edward III
10. Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence
11. Philippa of Ulster
12. Roger Mortimer, Earl of March
13. Anne Mortimer
14. Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
15. Edward IV
16. Elizabeth of York (wife of Henry VII)
17. Margaret Tudor
18. James V of Scotland
19. Mary, Queen of Scots
20. James I
21. Elizabeth Stuart, Electress Palatine
22. Sophia, Electress of Hanover
23. George I
24. George II
25. Frederick, Prince of Wales
26. George III
27. Prince Edward Augustus
29. Edward VII
30. George V
31. George VI
32. Elizabeth II
(Cribbed in it's entirety from the Answers.com page referenced above)
Everyone on the list is the son or daughter of the person above. Due to some lines becoming extinct (Lancaster, Stewart, Tudor) and other reasons, this is of course very different to the line of succession.
Well, so far so good. But wait; genealogy goes back further than this. As you might imagine, Elizabeth II is able to trace her lineage back, through William I to Charlemagne. Keeping the same generational numbering as before:
-9. CharlemagneSo here we have an answer to the question what makes a royal or noble house noble? It's that (for example) 41 generations ago, one of your ancestors was the Emperor in the West, Heir to the Caesars, Anointed by the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne.
-8. Pippin of Italy
-7. Bernard of Italy
-6. Pepin, Count of Vermandois
-5. Herbert I, Count of Vermandois
-4. Berengar of Bayeux
-3. Judicael Berengar
-2. Conan I, Duke of Brittany 
-1. Judith of Brittany
0. Robert II, Duke of Normandy
1. William I
But just one cottonpickin' minute! Charlemagne's dynasty, the Carolingians, traced themselves back to the previous Frankish ruling dynasty, the Merovingians. Here, the records get a little dubious; the link between the Carolingians and the Merovingians may have been documented much later than the actual events. Nevertheless, here's the line of descent:
-20. Childeric I
-19. Clovis I
-18. Theodoric I
-17. Theudebert I
-15. Grimwald of Aquitaine
-12. Pippin the Fat
-11. Charles Martel (illegitimate)
-10. Pippin the Short
All well and good; we've traced the descent back to the legendary 5th century founder of the Merovingian dynasty, Merovig (sometimes Merovich). Still more interesting though is Merovig's parentage; his mother was the queen of the Franks, married to Pharamond. However it seems that she became pregnant after swimming in the sea, where she met a sea monster; specifically a Quinotaur, which is a shapechanging creature that is half-bull and half-fish .
Let's put it like this: if you can't trace your family tree back to sea monster, a Norse god or, at least an old style semi-legendary saint, then I'm not interested in your claims of nobility.
 aka the Conqueror. Before that, he was known as William the Bastard, which to me gives all the encouragement he needed to do something that would make history remember him for, other than the questions over his parentage (which are more obscure and interesting than you might think, but that's for another post).
 Which is not quite the achievement you might think; basically every old noble family from west of the Vistula (and many from east of it) can trace themselves back to Charlemagne. That's what being noble is all about.
 No, really. We haven't yet got to the unlikely bit.
 In this example, actually more than one, but lets not go there.
 Holy Blood and Holy Grail, which was not ripped off of by The Da Vinci Code suggests that the Merovingian kings were the descendants of Christ, one symbol for whom was the fish.
 Alfred the Great, who is also an ancestor of the Queen, was a descendant of Odin.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Exhibit A: Morecambe and Wise, in their flat, including their shared bed. Today, sharing a bed implies a sexual relationship, but then it didn't read like that at all.
Exhibit B: Top Gun (and this link is not safe for work); unlike many macho action films, this has a subtext that is explicitly homoerotic.
Exhibit C: Bert and Ernie, who share a bedroom (but have separate beds). This has lead some people to suppose that they represent gay lovers in some way.
So what's going on here? Am I unhealthily obsessed with this stuff, or do I have a point?
Well, my first point is this: a friend of mine has said (paraphrasing here) that the gay community has co-opted all cool figures as gay icons; or as John Scalzi puts it:
And as for the "macho = homoerotic" thing, both in film and in general, well, let's just chalk that up to the fact that at this moment in the history of our nation straight men have ceded everything but snarky T-shirts, Xbox 360, leet speek and the classic geek pear shape to the men of alternate sexualities. A good-looking man in text-free clothing, speaking about something other than the iPhone? Gay. Two such men engaging each other in a way that does not have a WoW server as an intermediary? Super Gay! 300 such men, fighting Persians in jock straps and capes? Super-Mega-Ultra Gay!Or, to put it yet one more way, with gay culture reaching out throughout all of culture, but still being seen as separate, you can see gay stuff everywhere.
Which leads us on to my next point which is that sex is used to sell everything, and is all over our media all the time. Alan Moore makes this, and several other interesting points in an article which amongst other things is a history of pornography over the last 25,000 years in Arthur Magazine.
Which leads me back to my title, and what is supposed to be my theme; if you spend slightly too much time lurking on the internet where Lord of the Rings fans who came in from the films hang out you continually come across the suggestion that, given that Aragorn and Legolas know each other so well from events before the trilogy, they were probably lovers.
If you want to take a look back at the exhibits again, feel free.
Anyway, here's my point; that what we've lost is the idea of intimacy being something separate to sex; that Eric and Ernie, or Maverick and Goose, or Bert and Ernie, or Aragorn and Legolas live or work, or save each others lives in such a way that they are as intimate as lovers or spouses, but that doesn't mean that they are. Indeed, in these cases, they're entirely orthogonal to any sexual axis (which isn't always true in fiction).
Enough of this; my next post will be lighter and more amusing I hope.
 Although, not in that way.
 Links funnier than anything else.