29 March 2010

How to select a Prime Minister

From a discussion of parliamentarianism in Denmark, the story of King Christian IX's creation of the country's first liberal government in 1901, when the Venstre (Liberal) party was victorious:

Just how difficult the king and the conservative clique which surrounded him found it to accept the new state of things was immediately evidenced by the formation of the first liberal government itself. It would have been an obvious move to ask I.C. Christensen, the head of Venstre to form a government and let him take up the position of Prime Minister. Yet still, neither the king or his advisors could bring themselves to entrust such a position of responsibility to a simple schoolteacher, who, to compound the problem, spoke a strong west Jutland dialect. So the uncrowned king of Venstre had to settle in the first instance for a position as the Minister for Church Affairs and Education.

The king appointed a politically inexperienced lawyer and member of the board of the East Asiatic Company as Prime Minister, Professor J.H. Deuntzer (1845-1918), who as well as being one of the inner circle of the educated citizens of the capital was a regular guest in royal circles. It is reported that it was at such an occasion just before the change of political system that the king had the following exchange with Deuntzer: 'You are a left-winger, aren't you, Professor?' to which the somewhat nervous response was: 'To some extent, Your Majesty'. The hesitant response convinced the king that he had found the right man to head up the government of commoners he was on the point of forming.

Christensen had to wait until 1905 until the king relented and appointed him Prime Minister.

- Source: Knud J.V. Jespersen, A History of Denmark, 2004

28 March 2010

Silent comedy heroes

Here's some clips of two of the superstars of early cinema comedy featured in Paul Merton's Weird and Wonderful World of Early Cinema: a 1912 Pathe film featuring Andre Deed demonstrating the best way to get dressed in the morning and the benefits of a quick boxing lesson, and a 1909 Max Linder film, Juggling For Love. Linder was a strong influence on the later work of Charlie Chaplin, who in a signed photo dedicated to Max called himself Linder's 'disciple'.

26 March 2010

A newfound and unexpected admiration for Vin Diesel

Vin Diesel is such a Dungeons and Dragons obsessive that he's written the foreword to the 30th anniversary commemorative book. And while filming xXx he had a fake tattoo of his D&D character's name, Melkor, on his stomach.

He even took to introducing his castmates to the game. He would play with Dame Judi Dench after night shoots on the Chronicles Of Riddick and went as far as to show her his Dungeons and Dragons books and explain to her the different properties of Elementals.

- Popbitch

[Geek power!]

Music review cliches... on acid

Flavorwire presents a handy buzzword bingo card layout of all your favourite music review cliches: haunting, infectious, visceral and the ever-present '...on acid' all make a welcome appearance. Just don't use it for a drinking game, or you'll be comatose faster than a jetlagged Lady Gaga.

Music review cliche bingo

[Via LHB]

23 March 2010

What's in a name?

Last year, worried about how an impeccably pedigreed Tory candidate named Annunziata Rees-Mogg would go over with the hoi polloi, [Conservative leader David] Cameron suggested that she might want to campaign under the name “Nancy Mogg.”

She refused, although, to be fair, another candidate, the spectacularly named Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, dutifully “de-toffed” himself by downgrading to “Richard Drax” on campaign posters.

Meanwhile, Ms. Rees-Mogg’s brother, Jacob, a banker who is also running for Parliament and who appears to believe he belongs to the “Brideshead Revisited” era, having once taken his childhood nanny with him on the campaign trail, went on television to denounce Mr. Cameron’s plan to get more women and minorities elected as the triumph of “potted plants” over “intellectually able people.”

- New York Times, 22 March 2010

21 March 2010

Amazing Stories

Every single illustrated cover of the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, from issue one in 1926 until its final issue in 2005. Note that the May 1972 cover features a story by one Roger Ebert.

Amazing Stories

[Via Letterheady]

20 March 2010

For all the bilingual lorry drivers out there

When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed. Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated".

So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket.

"When they're proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh," said journalist Dylan Iorwerth.

Swansea Council became lost in translation when it was looking to halt heavy goods vehicles using a road near an Asda store in the Morriston area. All official road signs in Wales are bilingual, so the local authority e-mailed its in-house translation service for the Welsh version of: "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only".

The reply duly came back and officials set the wheels in motion to create the large sign in both languages.

- BBC News, 31 October 2008

12 March 2010

Who is that frightful woman?

From a discussion of the famously ugly British Prime Minister, Lord North, who also had a rather less than beautiful family:

There is an anecdote of a man turning to Lord North at No. 10 [Downing Street] and asking, "Who is that frightful woman?", only for the prime minister to reply, "That, sir, is my wife". In an attempt to dig himself out of a hole, the man rejoined, "No, I didn't mean *her*, I meant the monster next to her". "Oh, *that* monster, Sir", replied the prime minister, "*that* monster is my daughter".

Frederick Robinson, prime minister from 1847-53, used to enjoy telling this story over dinner at No. 10, until Lady Charlotte Lindsay, a guest, leaned over to him and said, "I know. I am Lord North's daughter"

- Quoted in Ian Kelly, Beau Brummell - The Ultimate Dandy, London, 2005