25 March 2009

That pesky Abraham Lincoln

The Maryland state legislature is debating whether or not to amend the lyrics to the official state song, 'Maryland, My Maryland'. They're kind of belligerent, you see. Although I wonder why they've not been bothered until now - after all, they've been in use since 1939:

The song begins with a hostile reference to President Abraham Lincoln, who brought troops through Baltimore en route to protect Washington: "The despot's heel is on thy shore, Maryland! His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland!"

It ends with a call for the state to stand up to the Union: "She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb — Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum! She breaths! She burns! She'll come! Maryland! My Maryland!"

- San Francisco Chronicle, 24 March 2009

[Courtesy of Fark]

24 March 2009

Icelandic banking

Iceland has accumulated debts amounting to 850 percent of its GDP. (The parlous US economy only managed 350 percent). Most of the damage was inflicted by a wild and unsustainable culture of financial speculation - a bubble waiting to burst:

...another hedge-fund manager explained Icelandic banking to me this way: You have a dog, and I have a cat. We agree that they are each worth a billion dollars. You sell me the dog for a billion, and I sell you the cat for a billion. Now we are no longer pet owners, but Icelandic banks, with a billion dollars in new assets. “They created fake capital by trading assets amongst themselves at inflated values,” says a London hedge-fund manager.

- Michael Lewis, 'Wall Street on the Tundra', Vanity Fair, April 2009

17 March 2009

Your friendly, helpful judiciary

'An Invercargill judge who suspended the general manager's liquor certificate of a Winton store employee caught drink-driving also advised him how his employer could get around the suspension.

The answer: pull a sickie.

Liquor Licensing Authority Judge Bill Unwin later acknowledged his courtroom advice might have been inappropriate.

Judge Unwin yesterday suspended the general manager's liquor certificate of CRT Winton employee Murray McGrannachan for four weeks, starting on May 18. McGrannachan had earlier been convicted of drink-driving and the police had asked the authority to rule that he was an unsuitable person to hold the certificate.

The court heard that McGrannachan was the only person employed at the CRT store with a general manager's liquor certificate, which meant the store would be unable to sell liquor during his suspension.

Judge Unwin told McGrannachan he understood a store that sold liquor could hire a temporary manager to replace a sick or absent manager. However, it was unable to hire a temporary manager for one who had been suspended. The only way a company could get around it was to employ a permanent manager for one day and if that person "develops a sudden illness" he could then be replaced.

"It's subtle but perfectly legal," the judge said.

When asked after the hearing whether he thought his advice to McGrannachan was appropriate, the judge acknowledged it probably was not.

"I am not in a position to give advice to anyone and probably shouldn't have, but people don't know what to do," he said. "You are probably right. It was probably inappropriate."

He said if people were from out of town he always tried to help them because there were no licensing consultants in the area who gave such advice'

- Southland Times, 17 March 2009

16 March 2009

Hollywood teeth

‘[Red Dwarf] was supposed to go on to be a film. We wanted to go and make the movie, but every year it never happened. We were all just gearing up for the movie, and so we all went and got our teeth done - and then the money never came through. So we were all really out of pocket with these Hollywood teeth that cost something like 20 grand, which the film company was going to pay for. And then all of a sudden there's no bloody film, and we've all got these new teeth’

- 'Red Dwarf' actor Craig Charles, on the pitfalls of courting movie stardom (Guardian, 16 March 2009)

13 March 2009

Short Term Affair

In honour of tonight's Comic Relief fundraiser, here's a clip from a previous Comic Relief event featuring Steve Coogan as crooner Tony Ferrino, singing with Bjork, who performs the role with her traditional gusto and enthusiasm. She looks bloody great too!

Running a little behind schedule?

'The Duke of Edinburgh, president of the Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, has approved the following to be commissioners: Professor Sir Richard Brook, OBE, chief executive, Leverhulme Trust; Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, Rector, Royal College of Art; Mr Stuart Corbyn, lately chief executive, Cadogan Estates'

- The Times, 11 March 2009

12 March 2009

Was it more or less important than the French Revolution?

‘While the events in Waimate this week probably don't rank with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, or the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmin Square, Tuesday night's meeting was nevertheless a watershed. The lesson: Don't mess with the people of Waimate’

- A newspaper editorial struggles to judge the scale of significance of a public meeting in the Waimate Town And Country Club (source: Timaru Herald, 10 March 2009)

[The meeting was to discuss keeping the town’s doctor by encouraging the council to sell the medical centre to the doctor]

11 March 2009


During the Norwegian campaign in World War 2 during April 1940, the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Echo was repeatedly attacked by Luftwaffe bombers. As anti-aircraft weapons could do little against the agressors, Echo's signalman devised his own plan to put the enemy off his work, as the ship's captain, Commander S.H.K. Spurgeon, later told Imperial War Museum chroniclers:

Echo's Yeoman of Signals was a very efficient companion on the bridge; his name was Yeoman Paul and well knew what effect this rather gruelling endurance test had on the morale of the ship's company, because there was always the chance that the next bomb might score a hit. One day Paul suggested that, whilst the aircraft was making its approach, he would like to make a signal to its pilot on the very bright ten-inch lamp, of a rude four-letter word repeatedly. This would, he said, be a useful lesson for the ship's company to polish up their Morse and, in addition, would give the pilot of the aircraft an opportunity of knowing exactly what we thought of him. Paul had a good vocabulary and, from then on, the silent suspense of the bomb drop was broken by laughter; he assured us later that the not uncommon complaint of belly ache amongst them has been cured. This then was Echo's unusual method of maintaining its high standard of morale.

Echo later sank a German U-boat and ended its days having been transferred to the Greek Navy.

- Quoted in Harry Plevy, Destroyer Actions: September 1939 to June 1940, Stroud, Gloucs., 2006

10 March 2009

A camel's taste

'In Syria, once, at the head-waters of the Jordan, a camel took charge of my overcoat while the tents were being pitched, and examined it with a critical eye, all over, with as much interest as if he had an idea of getting one made like it; and then, after he was done figuring on it as an article of apparel, he began to contemplate it as an article of diet.

He put his foot on it, and lifted one of the sleeves out with his teeth, and chewed and chewed at it, gradually taking it in, and all the while opening and closing his eyes in a kind of religious ecstasy, as if he had never tasted anything as good as an overcoat before, in his life. Then he smacked his lips once or twice, and reached after the other sleeve.

Next he tried the velvet collar, and smiled a smile of such contentment that it was plain to see that he regarded that as the daintiest thing about an overcoat. The tails went next, along with some percussion caps and cough candy, and some fig-paste from Constantinople.

And then my newspaper correspondence dropped out, and he took a chance in that -- manuscript letters written for the home papers. But he was treading on dangerous ground, now. He began to come across solid wisdom in those documents that was rather weighty on his stomach; and occasionally he would take a joke that would shake him up till it loosened his teeth; it was getting to be perilous times with him, but he held his grip with good courage and hopefully, till at last he began to stumble on statements that not even a camel could swallow with impunity. He began to gag and gasp, and his eyes to stand out, and his forelegs to spread, and in about a quarter of a minute he fell over as stiff as a carpenter's work-bench, and died a death of indescribable agony.

I went and pulled the manuscript out of his mouth, and found that the sensitive creature had choked to death on one of the mildest and gentlest statements of fact that I ever laid before a trusting public'

- Mark Twain, Roughing It, 1880

09 March 2009

It's perfume, Jim, but not as we know it

In a media-savvy move bound to attract plenty of attention (if not sales) a company is marketing a line of three fragrances based on the original Star Trek TV show: Tiberius, Red Shirt and Ponn Far. I guess those Starfleet cruises were quite lengthy and there was a lot of hairspray in use at the time, so things would’ve been a bit whiffy out there in the depths of space.

- Guardian, 9 March 2009

06 March 2009

This is what you get for having 77-year-old politicians

'Key Republicans are gently (or not gently enough) trying to dissuade [Senator Roland] Bunning from seeking re-election in 2010 out of concern that his paltry fund-raising, declining approval ratings and irascible conduct have made him something between vulnerable and unelectable.

But in recent weeks, Mr. Bunning has shown no sign of stepping aside and delivered a string of incendiary pronouncements that have fed an impression that he is, to go with a baseball metaphor, a bit of a screwball.

He declared in a speech last month that the cancer-stricken Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would probably be dead in nine months. (He then apologized in a statement that twice misspelled her name.) He threatened to sue the National Republican Senatorial Committee if it backed a primary challenger. And he hinted at a Capitol Hill fund-raiser last week that he was so mad at some in his party that he might just quit and let Kentucky’s Democratic governor pick his successor.

The senator later denied saying this, but veteran Bunning-watchers said it was impossible to know exactly what he had in mind'

- New York Times, 5 March 2009

05 March 2009

They can't do stairs but they can swim

Volunteers clearing rubbish out of a pond in Hampshire discovered a discarded Dalek of Dr Who fame cluttering up the depths. Did the Doctor ever face an amphibious assault in the TV series? These Daleks are obviously a force to be reckoned with, albeit a soggy force.

- Telegraph, 4 March 2009

[Courtesy of Matthew]

Did he just say that?

'A video of Spain's prime minister has become a viral video hit today after he accidentally uttered the F word in a news conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Reuters reports.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was outlining a Spanish-Russian plan to promote tourism between the two countries during Medvedev's state visit when his mouth momentarily disengaged from his brain.

"Tourism is an area of special economic importance in relations between Spain and Russia," said Zapatero, speaking in Spanish. "Therefore we have reached an agreement to stimulate, to favor, to f---."

With barely a pause, but looking down at his lectern, he quickly continued, "... to support tourism."

The Spanish word "to support" has a similar sound to the expletive uttered by Zapatero'

- Times Online, 4 March 2009

04 March 2009

Just to avoid confusion

From the Wikipedia entry for the former US Ambassador to Austria:

Robert McCallum, Jr.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For the pornographic director of the same name, see Gary Graver

02 March 2009

Tragic movie taglines

Harlem On The Prairie (1937)
The World's First Outdoor Action Adventure With An All-Negro Cast.

Suspiria (1977)
The Only Thing More Terrifying Than The Last 12 Minutes Of This Film Are The First 92.

Silent Rage (1982)
Science Created Him. Now Chuck Norris Must Destroy Him.

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
This Time... It's Personal.

Cocktail (1988)
When He Pours, He Reigns

The Harvest (1992)
They Stole One Of His Kidneys. Now They've Come For The Other One.

Jack Frost (1998)
Jack Frost Is Getting A Second Chance To Be The World's Coolest Dad... If He Doesn't Melt First.

Sleepwalkers (1992)
They Feast On Your Fear - And It's Dinner Time.

Caveman (1981)
Back When You Had To Beat It Before You Could Eat It...

The Unashamed (1938)
Actually Filmed In A Nudist Camp!

- Q Magazine, April 2009 edition


The top ten malapropisms (mis-sayings) in Britain, according to a recent survey:

1) A damp squid (a damp squib)
2) On tender hooks (on tenter hooks)
3) Nip it in the butt (nip it in the bud)
4) Champing at the bit (chomping at the bit)
5) A mute point (a moot point)
6) One foul swoop (one fell swoop)
7) All that glitters is not gold (all that glisters is not gold)
8) Adverse to (averse to)
9) Batting down the hatches (batten down the hatches)
10) Find a penny pick it up (find a pin pick it up)

- Telegraph, 24 February 2009