30 June 2008

A lost weekend at Glastonbury

'In the old days people would drink too much, take too many drugs and lose their tent. Now they drink too much, take too many drugs and forget how to use their GPS. The final result is the same'
- Long-time Glastonbury festival regular Richard Creightmore, on reports that festival-goers are using GPS devices to avoid losing their tents in the massive camping grounds (Source: Guardian, 30 June 2008) 

Retreat is the new attack

From a discussion of the military record of General Ivan Fyodorovich Paskevic (1782-1856), an imperial Russian military commander:
...Paskevic rose to be commander-in-chief, even though better generals were available.  He did have some organising talent, but in his campaigns he emerged victorious only because his opponents were more incompetent than he.  His critics claimed that he was only at ease when in retreat; he retreated when enemy troops advanced, believing that they would not dare to do so unless they were certain of their superiority; he retreated when the enemy was out of sight, anticipating an attack from an unexpected direction; he was even known to retreat when the enemy retreated, fearing a ruse.   
In fairness to Paskevic, the author does go on to add, 'but he did win victories from time to time, and his courage was undisputed'.
- J.N. Westwood, Endurance and Endeavour: Russian History 1812-2001, Oxford, 2002, p.36

29 June 2008

A bit of parental discipline

A six-year-old in New Plymouth responded to his errant father's assault of the child's mother and threatening her with a knife by whacking the man on the nose and leg with a vacuum cleaner pipe, the New Plymouth District Court has been told. Ninja skills there! I'm no fan of corporal punishment, but this chap definitely sounded like he needed some firm guidance from his sensible son.

- Source: Taranaki Daily News, 28 June 2008

28 June 2008

They don't make 'em like they used to

You know, in all the times I heard 'Cruisin' (Sunset Sam)' by former Monkees member Michael Nesmith in my growing-up years I never saw the video for the song. Now that I've finally seen it, three things strike me:

1) It's a really enjoyable video, and I can see why it was regarded as ground-breaking at the time, because it set the mould for much of what was to follow as MTV gained popularity;

2) I really didn't expect Sunset Sam to look quite like that...; and

3) ...with that in mind, was it really that hard for Lucy and Ramona 'to figure out if he was gay'?

27 June 2008

Stir-fried Wikipedia

Two Engrish menu photos, including 'stir-fried wikipedia' along with 'stir-fried wikipedia with pimientos':
- Source: Guardian, 27 June 2008

Train in vain?

Scottish commuters on a new rail line from Alloa to Stirling have been enjoying the 8 minute journey between the two stations, but have been less impressed by sometimes having to wait 20 minutes at the end due to a lack of ticket machines.  There is no ticket machine at Alloa, and the journey's so short that the train's conductor simply hasn't the time to sell everyone on board a ticket, so long queues form at Stirling to purchase tickets to avoid the penalty for travelling without paying.  If it takes that long, wouldn't it be easier to walk instead?
- Source: The Scotsman, 29 May 2008 

26 June 2008

Jazz, science teachers and the mentally ill

From The Mighty Boosh, a discussion on the merits of jazz:
Howard: Are you aware of the music known as jazz? Are you aware of jazz music, the movement of jazz?

Vince: Why do you keep goin' on about jazz for?

Howard: Because it's the most important art form in the 20th century.

Vince: No one listens to jazz. Science teachers and the mentally ill, that's all jazz is for.

Howard: You better take that back, you electro ponce.

Vince: Or what?

Howard: You better just take it back, that's all.

Vince: I won't be taking that back, I'll be leaving it out there for all to see.

Howard: Drink it back up.

Vince: No. I hate jazz.

Howard: You hate jazz? You fear jazz. Huh?

Vince: Shut your mouth.

Howard: Ahhhh... you fear jazz, don't you?

Vince: No I don't.

Howard: You fear the lack of rules, the lack of boundaries. Oh its a fence, no its soft, ahh... What's happening? The shapes, the chaos! Huh? It has to be simple nursery rhymes for you, doesn't it? [to the tune of a nursery rhyme] Dee di dee di dee dee di. When the melody gets abstract, you mess your trousers and run to your mummy. [Howard starts scat singing].
- Source: 'Electro', s1.e7 of The Mighty Boosh 

24 June 2008

If it ain't broke...

'Bundaberg [in Queensland] was gazetted a town in 1902 and a city in 1913. The main street is called Bourbong Street — the result of a typographical error by the local daily paper, the News-Mail. The street had originally been named Bourbon Street'
- Source: Wikipedia.org

Lactation for the purposes of pugilism

Caitlin Moran in the Times, on breastfeeding in public:

So what will it take to increase breastfeeding rates in this country, other than stopping it being illegal in the 99.99999 per cent of the British Isles that isn't the lactating mothers' front rooms, of course? For myself, I was a constant, militant, public breastfeeder - but I can't now, three years later, remember quite why. Briefly analysing it, I would say it was probably a combination of: 7 per cent having a mother who contentedly breastfed eight children, in turn, for the first two years of their lives; 12 per cent being a rock-hard, ice-cool feminist warrior queen, like Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, but wearing a purple, white and green hat; and 81 per cent wanting the crying, screaming baby to just shuuuuuut uuuuuup before we set off all the fire alarms in Boots.

To be honest, I brought a geeky aesthetic to the process, in that I often pretended my breast milk was a killer laser beam. Once I'd built up a sufficient head of pressure, I'd jet my milk lasers across the room, "taking out" objects/people while making the "zzsswhoompf" light-sabre sound from Star Wars. Perhaps we could get more women into breastfeeding from that angle, encouraging them to use lactation for the purposes of pugilism. That way, until public breastfeeding is made legal, at least they could pick off disapproving art gallery security staff, one by one, with their mummy-guns.

- Source: The Times, 23 June 2008

20 June 2008

Mike Myers, antifunny

A.O. Scott reviews Mike Myers' new movie, The Love Guru:
The movie's takeaway catchphrase is "Mariska Hargitay," which is used by the title character as a fake-Hindi spiritual greeting. This is almost hilarious the first 11 or so times he does it, but by the time Guru Pitka (Mr. Myers) says "Mariska Hargitay" to Ms. Hargitay herself, it's somehow less amusing than it should be.

Which might sum up "The Love Guru" in its entirety but only at the risk of grievously understating the movie's awfulness. A whole new vocabulary seems to be required. To say that the movie is not funny is merely to affirm the obvious. The word "unfunny" surely applies to Mr. Myers's obnoxious attempts to find mirth in physical and cultural differences but does not quite capture the strenuous unpleasantness of his performance. No, "The Love Guru" is downright antifunny, an experience that makes you wonder if you will ever laugh again.

How long before the Hargitay joke appears dated?  Oh, it already is.
- New York Times, 20 June 2008

18 June 2008

Military intelligence

- Source: Glen Baxter, 'Trundling Grunts', London, 2002

The benefits of incumbency

The village of Voinesti in Romania has re-elected its long-serving mayor, Neculai Ivascu, for another term of office with a majority of 23 votes over his rival, Gheorghe Dobrescu.  One small complication is that Mr Ivascu died just before the vote was held, but his former electors obviously didn't consider this to be an impediment to his election.  
"I know he died, but I don't want change," one villager told Romanian TV. 
However, Romanian electoral officials have annulled the result and declared Mr Dobrescu the winner, causing controversy amongst the late Mr Ivascu's supporters.
- Source: BBC News, 17 June 2008    

16 June 2008

Don't share your saliva

The airport car park in Dunedin, New Zealand, has posted a sign at its ticket booth politely asking its customers to refrain from holding their parking chits in their mouths before paying their parking bills.  Makes sense to me: as we all know, that was how the Black Death got started in the 14th century. 
- Otago Daily Times, 16 June 2008

A true renaissance man

Reuters has reported that an Italian man who had recently been dumped by his girlfriend allegedly kidnapped her and forced her to do his dishes and laundry.  So, was it a girlfriend or a cleaner you were wanting?
- Source: Stuff.co.nz, 16 June 2008

13 June 2008

Lego photography

Photographer Mike Stimpson has recreated a series of famous photographs of the 20th century using the medium of Lego, including the works of Cartier-Bresson and Capa.
- Source: BBC 

12 June 2008

Coldplay: Everything that's wrong with modern rock music

Andy Gill reviews Coldplay's new album, Viva La Vida, in an article entitled 'Why I hate Coldplay':
The strange thing is, I can't seem to find anyone who bought X & Y, or who intends to buy Viva La Vida. For that matter, I have never encountered one person who has a kind word to say about Coldplay. None of my personal or professional acquaintances, nobody in the street or the local café, not a single soul will admit to liking Coldplay or purchasing their music. Indeed, most seem to agree that they epitomise everything that's wrong with modern rock music. So who's buying all their albums? Who are those masses politely arrayed in their thousands at stadiums when Coldplay play? Is it some secret society, an Opus Dei of dreary anthemic music? And where do they congregate, other than at stadiums and arenas? Do they have parties? And if so, how many slash their wrists at these parties? What's the attrition rate?


Their music sounds like Radiohead with all the spiky, difficult, interesting bits boiled out of it, resulting in something with the sonic consistency of wilted spinach; it retains the crowd-pleasing hooks and singalong choruses while dispensing with the more challenging, dissonant aspects and sudden, 90-degree shifts in direction. Chris Martin's decision to sing in a register that, at times, strains his vocal almost to a yodel brazenly apes Thom Yorke's more skilful and restrained use of a similar vocal gambit. But where Yorke's subtler employment brings soul into prog-rock, Martin's gauche overuse has become a cliché, which itself has been aped by the likes of James Blunt, perhaps the band's chief rival in musical mawkishness.

- The Independent, 11 June 2008

11 June 2008

How to annoy a judge

Joseph Scott, a supporter of a defendant appearing before the Timaru District Court has been imprisoned for 14 days for contempt of court, after swearing at the presiding judge:

The judge was talking to a defendant in the dock about his offending when he was interrupted by mutterings from the public gallery.  He asked if someone had a problem, and Scott said he did because the judge was making the defendant uncomfortable with his persistent questioning.  Judge Crosbie said he would take his time if he had to decide whether to send someone to jail.

Scott then said "well f... hurry up".

- Timaru Herald, 11 June 2008

What, no sunset clause?

Press restrictions in the Soviet Union were implemented by the following decree, which was proclaimed as a 'temporary and emergency measure'.  The measures remained in force from 1917 until press reforms in 1990 under Gorbachev, 73 years later:

'The Workers' and Peasants' Government points out that in our society behind this liberal screen, in fact there is only freedom for the property-owning classes, seizing the lion's share of the press, freely poisoning minds and introducing confusion in the consciousness of the masses.  Everyone knows that the bourgeois press is one of the most powerful weapons of the bourgeoisie.  Especially in critical moments when the new power, the power of the workers and peasants, is only just gaining a foothold, it is impossible to leave this weapon entirely in the hands of the enemy at this time, when it is no less dangerous than bombs and machine-guns.  That is why temporary and extraordinary measures have been adopted to cut off the stream of filth and lies in which the yellow and green press would gladly drown the youthful victory of the people.

As soon as the new order is consolidated, all administrative restrictions on the press will be lifted; it will be allowed full freedom within the limits of responsibility before the courts according to the widest and most progressive laws in this respect.  Considering, however, that only the absolutely necessary limits on the press, even in critical moments, are permissible, the Council of People's Commissars decrees as follows:

General Regulations on the Press

1) Press organs to be closed are only those: a) calling for open resistance or insubordination to the Workers' and Peasants' Government; b) sowing confusion by the obvious distortion of facts; c) calling for openly criminal actions, i.e. of a criminally punishable character.

2) The temporary or permanent banning of press organs is carried out only by a resolution of the Council of People's Commissars.

3) The present regulation is temporary and will be revoked by a special decree with the onset of normal conditions of social life.

(Signed) Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars,
Vladimir Ul'yanov (Lenin)'

- Source: 'Decree on the Press' made on 27 October (9 November) 1917, reported in Pravda, 28 October 1917, and quoted in 'The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union 1917-1991' by Richard Sakwa, London, 1999, p.58-59. 

09 June 2008

Mary loses her head

A short re-enactment of the beheading of Mary, Queen of Scots, after she was convicted of treason in 1587. This clip was filmed by the Edison Laboratory on 28 August 1895. Most accounts state that two strikes of the executioner's axe were required to sever Mary's head, not one.

05 June 2008

After paying for them first, obviously

The National party leader, John Key, spoke to students at Waitara High School in Taranaki yesterday.  The Taranaki Daily News reported that 'Mr Key spent a good chunk of his talk in Waitara pushing his party's plan to spend a billion dollars on "superfast broadband."  He said this would allow students to access his Bebo and Facebook page at a fraction of the speed, and download movies in seven seconds'

- Source: Taranaki Daily News, 6 June 2008

Setting new standards of political discourse

New lows, that is. Witness the car-crash TV that is the interview with a community board member for Paraparaumu-Raumati in New Zealand, in which misguided Dale Evans appeared on national television wearing a KKK robe and hood as a bizarre form of protest against National Hoodie Day - an event designed to de-stigmatise the public image of youth in New Zealand.

Evans, whose initial similar stunt in a community board meeting was apparently designed to attract attention to his personal campaign relating to local bore-water issues, even staged a bonfire to add some cross-burnin' appeal to his live TV interview. Oh yes, and he blacked his face underneath the hood, too. He's since apologised, of course.

I'm not sure if I applaud TVNZ for airing the interview for eight whole minutes to allow this jerk the oxygen of publicity that he craves, but then again Evans probably knew full well that this sort of stunt was bound to get him straight onto the vapid TV infotainment shows, and presumably also other networks across the world, all eager for a weirder-than-weird human interest story. Treating him as a laughable loser may arguably be healthier in the long run, but part of me craved a real lambasting commensurate with the stupidity of his actions.

[Courtesy of AL]

04 June 2008

RIP Bo Diddley

Above: Diddley

There was sad news from the world of music this week - reports that legendary rock and blues guitarist Bo Diddley died in Florida, aged 79.

Bo Diddley's musical talent will be greatly missed. I only have a few of his tracks, but they all roll with a massive rhythm and pulse with the soul of a man who could really play it mean.

I also liked the way his song titles always managed to work the words 'Bo' and 'Diddley' in somehow. For example, three of his songs were called 'Bo Diddley', 'Hey! Bo Diddley', and 'Bo Diddley-itis'. With that theme in mind, here's a few more of his previously unknown cover versions of songs by various artists throughout the years:

- Bo Diddley's Only Making Plans For Nigel
- Being For The Benefit Of Bo Diddley
- Wake Up Boo Diddley! (performing as The Bo Radley Diddleys)
- Girls Just Wanna Have Bo Diddley
- Thankyou (performing as Bo Dido-ley)
- Girls & Boys & Bo Diddley
- Mr Tambourine Man (performing as Bob Diddley-an)
- (Re-e-e-e-wind) When The Crowd Say Bo Diddley
- Bo Diddley-hemian Rhapsody

Now the world's most talented Bo is probably just Bo Derek.

Above: Derek

03 June 2008

Women Increasingly Choosing Dead-End Careers Over Dead-End Relationships

COLLEGE PARK, MD — According to a report published Monday in The Journal Of Gender Studies, many American women are bucking centuries of traditional gender roles by placing stunted, emotionally unfulfilling relationships on hold in order to pursue mind-numbing careers devoid of any upward mobility.

The study, which surveyed a cross-section of 477 female recent college graduates, found that young women were 23 percent more likely than any previous generation to seek dissatisfaction in the professional world rather than in empty romantic partnerships. Dr. Gillian Detweiller, a professor of women's studies at the University of Maryland and coauthor of the report, said that the data suggests a cultural sea change in how women choose to experience lifelong disappointment.


- The Onion, 26 May 2008

02 June 2008

How the mighty have fallen

From an article on the plight of the ultra-wealthy in New York, who are feeling the pinch as a result of the credit crunch:
'Justin Sullivan, managing director of Regent Jet, which leases private airplanes, said most clients in real estate and on Wall Street are switching to chartered jets over private jets, and cutting their flight budgets by about 25 percent. One New York real estate developer cut his budget to less than $250,000 a year from $1.5 million a year.
"A year ago, he would have only flown Gulfstreams," Mr. Sullivan said. "Now it's moving to the point where he's flying Beech jets and Learjets."'
- New York Times, 1 June 2008