Thursday, November 29, 2007

God says some cold-blooded shit before popping a cap in yo ass

You thought the Bible was all about loving thy neighbour and turning the other cheek, didn't you? Well, even leaving aside the fact that those two activities (especially when juxtaposed like that) sound just a little bit gay (never mind that business about coveting thy neighbour's ass), you're reckoning without the big bad gnarly Old Testament.

Forget those touchy-feely long-haired girly men (Jesus, this means you), the Old Testament kicks ass. Ezekiel 25:17 be damned, the Old Testament God will get properly mediaeval on yo ass.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

oh Christ

It'll be December on Saturday, so I think even the most bah-humbug of us may have to concede that Christmas is on the way. So, just to get you in the mood, here's a couple of photos taken at Winter Wonderland in central Cardiff last night.



Monday, November 26, 2007

celebrity lookeylikey of the day

Another sporting one: ex-Welsh football international, ex-manager of Fulham and very possibly soon to be ex-manager of Real Sociedad Chris Coleman, and ex-New Zealand cricket captain Stephen Fleming.

let's get demotivated

Christmas is coming up, and you'll be wanting some present ideas. If you're not keen on the standard motivational calendars, try making your own de-motivational one from some of the designs available here.

Even better than that, you can knock up your own designs using these templates. So you can produce all manner of designs tailored to your own squalid inadequacy and failure. Great!


that's novel!

My linking in my previous post to my earlier Sufjan Stevens album review reminds me that I alluded in it to certain songs reminding me of the novels of Douglas Coupland and Dave Eggers. I was reminded of a couple of others yesterday:
  • Massive Attack's Teardrop always reminds me of Jeff Noon's cyberpunk-y classic Vurt. It's the line where Liz Fraser warbles mysteriously about "feathers on my breath" that does it.
  • Mark Lanegan's No Easy Action (from his best solo album Field Songs, coincidentally reviewed in the same post as the Sufjan Stevens album linked above) with its swirling Middle Eastern backing and his gravelly rumbling about "I stagger in a daze outside my tent" always puts me in mind of Jim Crace's Quarantine.
It's a sort of musico-literary synaesthesia. A bit less spectacular than the real thing, I'll grant you, but there you are.

sporting malapropism of the week

Carlton Palmer on the BBC's Final Score on Saturday afternoon, talking about Everton's drubbing of Sunderland, and the trying afternoon endured by keeper Craig Gordon:
The keeper's had an absolute....holocaust....out there
Interesting. I assume that word just popped into his head as a synonym for "nightmare" or something. Although if Gordon had been conducting some sort of genocidal atrocity during the game that might account for his attention wandering a bit.

Another interesting one is the use of "horror show" in the same context, i.e. synonymous with "nightmare". The interesting bit is that it's a phrase made famous by Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange (and Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation), as part of the invented slang language Nadsat, but it was used to mean "good" rather than "bad" (like most Nadsat words it's an Anglicised version of a Russian word), i.e. precisely the opposite of its intended meaning by the sporting pundits.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

albums of the day

Era Vulgaris by Queens Of The Stone Age.

I reckon Josh Homme is a pretty smart bloke. In music as in other things, dumb isn't much fun, but knowingly dumb is. And while hard rock is, as a rule, pretty po-faced and self-important, QOTSA clearly have a fairly well-developed sense of their own ludicrousness, something that would have prevented Axl Rose and David Coverdale, to name but two, from being such complete berks.

Having duly bigged QOTSA up I now feel obliged to tell you, to restore the delicate balance of the Force, that this, their most recent album, isn't their best.

Their previous album Lullabies To Paralyze was a stylistic mish-mash, everything from fairly poppy stuff like I Never Came and In My Head to the turbocharged rifferama of The Blood Is Love and Someone's In The Wolf (plus some amusing Blair Witch pagan/Satanic imagery in the artwork just to wind up the nation's moral guardians). This one, by contrast, has a much more heavy, muddy, industrial sound which pretty much doesn't let up for the whole album. When it's used in the service of a decent song, like the opener Turning On The Screw with its relentless two-note fire-engine riff, or the single 3's & 7's it's fine, but there isn't much light and shade, apart from Make It Wit Chu which, slightly bizarrely, sounds a bit like Brass In Pocket by The Pretenders.

In the end, as always, it's down to the quality of the songs, and despite some enjoyably gonzoid moments like Misfit Love and Battery Acid these just aren't quite up to the standard of the three previous QOTSA albums Lullabies To Paralyze, Songs For The Deaf and Rated R. Any of those would probably be a better place for the uninitiated to start. Or have a look at this acoustic yet rockin' performance of Hangin' Tree featuring an authentically terrifying undead vocal performance from the legendary Mark Lanegan.

The Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens.

You've just released one of the most critically-lauded albums of 2005 (Come On Feel The Illinoise!), and you've announced that it and its 2003 predecessor Greetings From Michigan will form the first two parts of a somewhat ambitious scheme to release an album for each of the 50 US states. So what do you do next? If you're sensible, crack on with some haste, as your current every-two-years release schedule will see you complete the set in 2101 at the age of 126.

But no. What Stevens actually did was knock together an album of out-takes, discarded songs and general odds and ends from the recording of Illinois and release it as an album in its own right (this one). Er, and then crack on and pick another state, right? Well, actually, no. What he actually did was release a 5-CD box set of Christmas-related songs. As you do.

Anyway, back to The Avalanche. This could have been horrible: Illinois was finely balanced on the edge of self-indulgent whimsy, and reading the track listing reveals that there are no less than three "alternate" versions of its centrepiece Chicago - a great song, but still, too much of a good thing and all that.

As it happens, though, this is great. There's nothing as brilliant as Decatur or Casimir Pulaski Day here, and the right version of Chicago was undoubtedly picked for the main album, but the standard is remarkably high considering there's a total of 43 songs on the two albums. It's the quieter banjo- and acoustic guitar-based stuff like Saul Bellow, The Pick-Up and Pittsfield that does it for me, but the more baroque stuff like Adlai Stevenson is fine too. A few of the atonal instrumentals can be safely skipped over, though.

Now get on and do another state.

Friday, November 23, 2007

exciting news

If this article is to be believed then we may finally be in with a chance of seeing something most people though we would never see: a new My Bloody Valentine album. Those of you paying attention to previous album reviews will know I take the entirely reasonable view that their 1991 album Loveless is one of the great albums of the 1990s, or, heck, any other decade come to that. So since we've been waiting just the SIXTEEN BLEEDIN' YEARS you'll forgive me a bit of excitement.

Here's a brief interview with MBV's main man Kevin Shields about the album (Loveless, that is, not the new one), and here's some songs: the rumblingly funky Soon and the far more strange To Here Knows When, which is so warped and weird as to cease to be a rock song at all in any meaningful sense, and yet it's still great, particularly at ear-blistering volume. In fact I would argue that's the only volume at which it really makes sense: if you're listening to a song featuring electric guitar feedback effects (and those are the best kind of songs) you really need to listen to it at a volume which might plausibly cause those effects to happen in real life, i.e. loud. I used to make this eminently sensible argument to my mother when I was living at home, but strangely she didn't seem convinced.

Finally, here's Sometimes as featured in the soundtrack to the excellent Lost In Translation. If you are suffering from some species of brain injury and don't enjoy Kevin Shields' fabulously warm and treacly guitar sound, you can always gaze at the lovely Scarlett Johansson. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fluorine Uranium Carbon Potassium Erbium Sulphur!

Here's an amusing diversion from Theodore Gray's Periodic Table site - make words out of chemical symbols. Proper names are tricky as lots of names begin with or contain the letters D and J, and Dysprosium aside they don't feature in the table at all. Certain names like Oliver Sacks and Gavin Henson can be made, but not many. The real fun, of course, is in making the longest vaguely plausible name you can make, like for instance the entirely plausible Bamber Beau Forbes Wingate Stephenson Hardy Harper. Even more fun is composing sweary phrases, as follows:

once again I win the internet

Where Electric Halibut leads, others follow.

So when I posted my most recent album reviews, I knew it wouldn't be long before the big wide world started to sit up and take notice. No sooner had my thoughts on the Lucinda Williams album landed with a resounding fishy slap on the scaling and disembowelling slab of the internet than some unshaven hungover inky-fingered hack at Independent Towers was dispatched across London to pen some hastily-composed scribblings on her concert at the cringeworthily named indigO2 on Monday night And he thought it was pretty good. And well he might. Never cross the Halibut.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'll link to that!

Fired with enthusiasm I've added a couple more: Cecil Adams' excellent The Straight Dope, and Barbara and David Mikkelson's exhaustingly, erm, exhaustive urban-legend-debunking pages at Snopes. Sample pages: an article about the origin of the question mark (the inverted interrogative at the start of sentences in Spanish only became "official" linguistic practice in 1754. FACT.), and some fun stuff about dead Popes, though I can't find anything on Snopes debunking the nonsense about medieval Popes having to sit on a special chair to have their testicles checked, which was trotted out as fact recently by no less an authority than Gyles Brandreth on QI, with no intervention from Stephen Fry. Shame on him.


Here at Electric Halibut we're very much pro-facts and anti-fantasy. With the exception of that particular sub-genre of fantasy involving Scarlett Johansson and a bath full of Swarfega.

the links are on me

A couple of additions to the links sidebar (on the right) which may be of interest:

The Bristol Rugby website. I was sure I had this up there already but it seems to have dropped off somehow. My reinstating it gives me an excuse to mention Bristol's glorious 17-0 victory over Stade Francais at the weekend, in some archetypal Bristolian weather conditions.

Theodore Gray's Periodic Table website. Who could not be fascinated by the very stuff the universe and everything in it is actually, in a very real sense, made of? Particularly when some of the elements can be made to cause entertaining explosions simply by some carefully calibrated chucking of lumps into a lake.

The Language Log, for those who find the minutiae of the English language inherently fascinating. A recent post links to the similar Eggcorns website which is a list of common misuses and misspellings. I see they've got phase/faze which always particularly annoys me, for some reason. And, just to link to some previous posts, there's an article about finding mondegreens in foreign song lyrics. The alternative lyrics to the French kiddy staple Alouette are great.

Monday, November 19, 2007

celebrity lookey-likey of the day

It's a triple whammy tonight. World-Cup-winning rugby coach (and far more importantly erstwhile coach of Bristol) and recent random blog post mentionee Bob Dwyer, dead novelist Kurt Vonnegut and cartoon God-botherer Ned Flanders. Yes, yes, it's the moustaches. Or is it?


what I did at the weekend

Feel free to trawl through all the photographs of our weekend walk round Dursley and Wotton-under-Edge if you like, gawd bless yer, but if you can't summon up the energy, here's a whistle-stop tour of the main points of interest.
  • Stinchcombe Hill - home of Stinchcombe Hill Golf Club. Apparently a favourite course of Hollywood's leading stuttering English fop stereotype Hugh Grant. Also scene of minor acts of public disobedience by a local eccentric who, sadly, we didn't see on Saturday.
  • The Tyndale Monument at North Nibley - commemorating the life of scholar and pioneering Bible translator William Tyndale, a piece of work for which he was rewarded by being dragged off to Belgium, strangled and burnt at the stake. Strangled quite badly, one has to assume, otherwise the burning at the stake would be a bit pointless. I'm told there are 117 steps up to the top - I was going to count, but I forgot. And then forgot again on the way down.
  • The (now somewhat overgrown) hill fort at Brackenbury Ditches.
  • The charming New Inn at Waterley Bottom. We had to keep our visit pretty brief, but the pint of Cotleigh Tawny Owl was very nice.
  • The legendary Old Spot Inn in Dursley, home of the excellent Old Ric bitter from the Uley Brewery. So good, we had four! Each!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

albums of the day

Car Wheels On A Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams.

Yes, it's an American country album. Run screaming from the room if you wish at this point. But that reaction, though it's a visceral one some people seem to have (the same goes for English folk music, as I pointed out in a couple of earlier posts), would be a shame. Because this is actually rather good.

Clearly we're not in Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers territory here; this is all a bit more gritty than the Nashville mainstream (Williams is from Louisiana). This is much more in the country-rock idiom, from the chiming guitars of the opener Right In Time (which is pretty unequivocally about sex in a way that would probably have made Dolly Parton's hair curl, or possibly her tits fall off) and the title track which follows it. Williams' weary drawl of a voice is somewhere between Chrissie Hynde and Sheryl Crow - there's an argument here for "paying your dues" (translation: slogging round the country touring for 20 years) as Williams was 45 when this album was released. I'm not sure a 25-year-old could sing these songs with the necessary conviction.

The pace dips a little in the middle of the album with the slower numbers Concrete and Barbed Wire and Lake Charles, the first of which provides an amusing mondegreen, as it sounds for all the world as if she's singing "concrete and Bob Dwyer", though I accept that's unlikely.

Then it's back to the boogie shuffle of Can't Let Go, the rocky I Lost It, the waltz-time Still I Long For Your Kiss which featured in the film The Horse Whisperer, and the bluesy Joy and Jackson to finish with.

In Rainbows by Radiohead.

It would be a shame if the unusual selling strategy adopted for this album overshadowed the music, but it was an interesting one: download the tracks from the band's website and, beyond a mandatory fee for postage and packing, pay as much or as little as you like. Some surveys suggest that most purchasers opted for the "as little as you like" option (i.e. £0, or $0 if you're in America), thank you very much. Bloody students, I expect. For what it's worth (you see what I did there?) I slipped them six quid, excluding P&P. Which means I'm going to heaven.

Anyway, the music. The skittering electronic drumbeat at the start of the opening 15 Steps gives the listener pause for thought and perhaps a slight gulp of apprehension - are we in for another "challenging" Radiohead album in the Kid A or Amnesiac vein? Then after 40 seconds or so you get a twisted little guitar riff and the song settles down a bit. Then after 2 minutes or so Colin Greenwood's bass and some kiddie-choir singing kick the song up another gear, and you can sit back, relax and unclench the buttocks. It's all going to be all right.

Bodysnatchers with its bassy, distorted guitar figure is as orthodox a "rock" song as they've done since OK Computer, though in general this isn't a particularly "rock" album, despite being largely guitar-based. The songs are more in the slow arpeggio-y style of No Surprises than the rock epic style of Airbag or Lucky. Nude is a queasily gorgeous ballad, All I Need is just a bit odd with its menacing synthesizer backing and strange fragmented lyrics about being "an animal trapped in your hot car", Reckoner is very reminiscent of Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk, and the glum piano ballad (with random percussion stabs) Videotape is a suitably arresting conclusion.

Kingsley Amis must have hated every half-decent book he wrote after 1955 being hailed as "his best since Lucky Jim", just as John Irving must hate every book he writes being reviewed somewhere with the phrase "his best since Garp". Undeterred by that I'm going to plough on and say it anyway: this is their best album since OK Computer. Sorry guys.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

you wouldn't think that many women would step out of line

Johann Hari in today's Independent offers a bracing hosing-down with cold water to the retrospective love-in following Norman Mailer's death, basically by making the point that just as being brilliant at football didn't absolve Gazza or George Best of being wife-beating drunks, so being a Great Writer didn't absolve Mailer of being one either (a wife-stabbing drunk, in fact, in Mailer's case). All the more surprising that robust feminist types like Bonnie Greer were queueing up to pay tribute, quite gushingly in Greer's case. Then again her sister (no, I know, not really) Germaine had some previous with Mailer as well.

Oh, and I forgot John Irving in my list of American authors in the previous post as well. His Wikipedia page contains a highly entertaining checklist of his major recurring obsessions (and I'd just like it noted that I namechecked a few of these in another book review a while back).

I am so not going to bother reading Until I Find You. No bears!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Norman conquest

I was going to tag these ramblings on to bottom of the previous post, but it was getting a bit long, so a separate one is probably called for. Those of you who read obituaries will have noticed that Norman Mailer died this week. Now I should lay my cards squarely on the table at this point and confess that I've never read anything by Mailer, but in a way that illustrates the oddity of his celebrity quite nicely: by far his most famous work of fiction (The Naked And The Dead) was one of the earliest things he wrote (in 1948), and I would guess it's not all that widely read these days; most of his most celebrated later work was journalistic non-fiction (The Armies Of The Night, Miami And The Siege Of Chicago, The Executioner's Song). The reality is he was far more famous for his life outside of his novels than for his literary output: the six marriages, the near-fatal stabbing of his second wife Adele Morales with a penknife, the drinking, drug-taking and brawling, the battles with feminists, critics, the government, the establishment, everyone.

For all that, Mailer's name is often mentioned in connection with that most nebulous of concepts, the Great American Novel. In the wake of his death, following relatively closely on the heels of the death of Kurt Vonnegut and less closely on the heels of the death of Saul Bellow a couple of years ago, John Walsh wrote a piece in The Independent today bemoaning the death of those writing, or at least attempting to write, the Great American Novel. Leave aside the meaninglessness of the concept and I still don't think I agree that the general state of the American novel is in any trouble. In addition to the people mentioned in the article such as Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers, Jeffrey Eugenides, David Guterson and Donna Tartt, there's the aforementioned Joyce Carol Oates, Rick Moody, Richard Ford and, possibly slightly more contentiously, Chuck Palahniuk, Douglas Coupland, Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy, as well as the crazy experimentalists like David Foster Wallace and Mark Z Danielewski. Personally I don't feel like I'm in danger of running out of stuff to read any time soon.

the last book I read

The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates.

It's the morning after Ariah Littrell's wedding night, and she's in the bridal suite of a hotel in Niagara Falls. Unfortunately there's a small fly in the ointment of her marital bliss, and it's this: her new husband Gilbert, tormented with guilt at his repressed homosexuality, rose bright and early without waking his bride, dressed hastily and strode puposefully out of the hotel, made his way to Goat Island and threw himself over the barrier into the Horseshoe Falls.

Ariah becomes something of a local celebrity as she waits for her husband's body to emerge from the whirlpools and rapids below the Falls (which eventually it does). During this time she catches the eye of Dirk Burnaby, an eminent local lawyer. After a scandalously short courtship they are married, and have children. Dirk becomes heavily involved with a case brought by a woman from the poor industrial district of Niagara Falls who claims that dumping of toxic waste by local chemical firms has affected the health of her children, including causing the death of her daughter from leukaemia. As the case reveals a complex web of secrets and vested interests across the local community, Dirk gradually becomes alienated from his former friends and colleagues and, following the dismissal of the case, dies in dubious circumstances after his car leaves the road and crashes into the Niagara River.

The third section of the book follows, in a much less linear way, the lives of Ariah and Dirk's three children Chandler, Royall and Juliet as they grow up in the shadow of their father's disgrace and death. Eventually a series of successful lawsuits brought in the wake of Dirk's pioneering work years before redeems his reputation and brings the family back together.

A few minor criticisms can be made: Ariah's transition from blushing virgin on her wedding night to sensual wife during the halcyon early days of her marriage to Dirk to icy widow and matriarch after his death comes without much in the way of explanatory context to make it convincing or elicit much sympathy, Royall's one-off sexual encounter in a graveyard with the mysterious woman in black (in reality the original plaintiff in his father's final case) reads like it's been parachuted in from a completely different novel, and the belated explanation of the circumstances of Dirk's death is just a little too neat. An un-plot-related criticism: my paperback edition (bought for a bargain £1.50 in the Mind charity shop on Cotham Hill) is surprisingly badly proofread for a novel by a major author; quite a few fairly elementary spelling mistakes, inconsistent spellings of place-names and character names, etc.

Aside from that it's highly recommended, the muted roar of the falls providing a haunting backdrop which exerts a powerful draw on all the characters. A considerable amount of the material for the novel is based on real historical events, including the scandalous Love Canal incident (the basis for Dirk Burnaby's abortive lawsuit) and, of course, the falls' well-deserved reputation as a suicide spot. Some interesting pictures (like the one on the right) can be found of the five-month period in 1969 when the American Falls (the smaller of the two major cataracts) were "dewatered" for some major geological studies to be done. During this time several bodies were found, including the body of a young woman lodged head-first into the shattered rock at the bottom of the falls. Now that really must have smarted.

The Falls won the Prix Femina √Čtranger in 2005 - contrary to what you might assume from the name of the prize it's open to writers of both sexes. Taking a look at the list of previous winners I see that this is actually the second winner that I've reviewed on this blog - the first being Alison Lurie's The Truth About Lorin Jones which won in 1989. I've also read the winners of the prize from 1988, 1992 and 1993, all of which I can recommend unreservedly.

Monday, November 12, 2007

congratulations, YOU are a genius

Apparently my blog is too sparklingly erudite and literate to be understood by anyone less educated than a college post-graduate. Click on the icon displayed here to test out your blog's verbal diarrhoea rating.

Find your blog's reading level!
Anyone struggling with this might like to know that the Cheese Racing web site has a much more cretin-friendly "Elementary School" rating.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

album of the day

Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins.

Would it surprise you to learn that Sharon Osbourne's finest moment is not her Botox-ed judgmental musings on X-Factor? Nor indeed her contributions to the family soap opera? No, her greatest contribution to modern culture is her very public resignation from managing Smashing Pumpkins back in 2000, on the eve of the release of their fifth album MACHINA/The Machines Of God, citing medical reasons - "Billy Corgan was making me sick", and going on to refer to him as "a six foot baldy twat in a dress". All hilariously undignified but quite amusing given Corgan's slightly humourlessly high opinion of himself - and around this time he was regularly sporting a full-length leather skirt combo, so he hardly had grounds for complaint.

Back in 1993 things were a bit simpler. Corgan hadn't started wearing women's clothes, for one thing, and Smashing Pumpkins were releasing the follow-up to their debut album Gish. And a pretty splendid album it is too. Smashing Pumpkins were, like a lot of other early-1990s bands, bracketed together under the "grunge" banner with Nirvana and others, but this couldn't be more different from Nirvana's primitivism; it's a lavishly produced, layered and overdubbed affair, all the more surprisingly given that it was produced by the same man as Nevermind, Butch Vig.

Corgan's nasal yelp (very much an acquired taste) and buzzy, sludgy guitar sound (rumour has it he re-recorded all his bandmates' guitar and bass parts himself) dominate the first few tracks Cherub Rock, Quiet and Today. The album really gets into its stride with the longer songs that give the band a bit of space to stretch out: songs like Hummer, Soma and Silverfuck. A few lighter acoustic-based numbers like Disarm, Spaceboy and Sweet Sweet aside one could criticise the album for being a bit short on variation, light and shade, etc., but then again you could always pop on a Joni Mitchell album afterwards.

celebrity lookey-likey of the day

Has anyone else noticed how ex-England rugby captain, post-World Cup backstabbing sour-grape merchant and non-cocaine-snuffling non-drug-dealer Lawrence Dallaglio increasingly resembles one of those Easter Island statues (actually they're called moai)? Hmmmm. Just me then.

what I did at the weekend

Hazel and I went up to my parents' place for a flying visit at the weekend - one of the few things we did apart from sitting around eating and drinking wine was to go for a short-ish walk around Grosmont, which is here.

Note that this is pronounced Groz-mont, unlike the place of the same name that we visited up in Yorkshire back in August, which is pronounced Groh-mont. You can see why Johnny Foreigner has so much trouble.

Anyway, the main points of interest were: a couple of old ruined farmhouses up on the hillside below the Graig Syfyrddin ridge, various interesting old tractors in advanced states of disrepair, rust and invasion by grass and shrubs (farmers, while theoretically horny-handed sons of the soil with a quasi-mystical empathetic connection to mother nature, are, in reality, scum), and finally Grosmont Castle, which was quite impressive in a completely shot to buggery and ruined kind of way. Some pictures can be found here.

Then it was off to the Angel Inn for some lunch and a couple of very nice pints of Butty Bach from the Wye Valley Brewery. The pub was the subject of a heart-warming rescue from closure by local residents a couple of years ago, and seemed to be doing a roaring trade when we were there. Nice chips, too.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

formerly known as the Johnny Cyclops bomb

Following my as-yet-unsuccessful attempt to secure the release of the classic Channel 4 sketch comedy series Absolutely on DVD, I hereby submit another classic lost comedy series for your consideration: Whoops Apocalypse. Not the slightly ropey 1986 film, but the brilliant 6-part ITV series from 1982. Never even been repeated, to my knowledge. Criminal. And you can probably buy box sets of Hi-De-Hi, I shouldn't wonder.

Oddly enough there is supposedly a complete compilation DVD (called The Complete Apocalypse) of all the TV episodes and the film - all the internet sources I can find say it was due for release on May 21st 2007, but no-one seems to have it. Amazon have it listed, but unavailable. Anyone know what's going on?

Incidentally the Spanish video release carried the title ¿Holocausto nuclear? ¡Lo que nos faltaba! which Google auto-translates as Is Nuclear Holocaust? What we are missing! I think perhaps something has been lost in the translation....

Thor blimey

Richard Dawkins again, making a pretty obvious point (or at least it ought to be), but one that's quite nicely and succinctly nailed in the first 2 or 3 paragraphs here. The rest is slightly more generic stuff, but still worth a read.

Frankly if we're going to have people running around wilfully believing in stuff in defiance of all reason then the Norse gods seem a much more exciting proposition. I mean, Jesus was such a wet blanket. No fun at all. Whereas with Thor you get a bit more excitement. And I suspect if anyone had tried nailing him to a tree they might have found themselves being "had words with". By which I mean being repeatedly pounded with a hammer.

And "church music" would be a lot better as well. The Christians get Cliff Richard, the Norsians get Led Zeppelin!

celebrity lookey-likey of the day

Alternative title: scurrilous sporting paternity allegation of the day. And that allegation is as follows: Andy Caddick is Toby Flood's dad. Aaaahhh.....he's got his father's ears!

Monday, November 05, 2007

pus, anyone? no? pus?

I thought as a tribute to my last book review I'd drift off into a Sebaldian reverie with the help of this postcard which my mother sent me last week.

By a strange coincidence my parents were in Worth Matravers only a couple of weeks after our recent visit, and even called into the Square And Compass for a drink.

The pub isn't pictured on the postcard reproduced here (click for a larger version), but the gravestone at the bottom left is interesting, because it's the grave of Benjamin Jesty, pioneer of vaccination well in advance of Edward Jenner's more celebrated efforts in the same area. Jesty's activities weren't as widely known for the fairly obvious reason that Jesty was a manure-encrusted farmer and Jenner was a respected country doctor. Wearing a bit of tweed and not smelling of poo counts for a surprising amount, then as now.

Before we start swelling with patriotic pride too much, it should be pointed out that there's some evidence that the Chinese, damn their inscrutable eyes, were doing something pretty similar with inoculation back in about 200BC, when we Brits were still running around in the nude wearing woad and drinking mead out of each others' skulls. Ah, those were the days.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

row, row, row your boat, gently down the AAAAaaarrggghhhh

What's wrong with this picture?


Aaah, the cerulean blue sky, the rolling green sward of the hills in the background, the deeper blue of the water, the outstretched limbs of the trees on the bank, oh dear sweet mother of Jesus the sucking hellhole in the foreground.

My advice, and you can take it or leave it at your discretion, is not to take your loved one out for a romantic jaunt on a lake in a dinghy with a hamper of scones and Pimm's if there's been a lot of heavy rain recently, and furthermore if said lake happens to be a manmade reservoir equipped with what some describe as a "bellmouth overflow" and others (more colourfully I think) describe as a "glory hole spillway", as there is a very real chance that you could drift inadvertently into one of these and emerge as an interesting dilute solution of mince and sawdust at the base of the dam a few seconds later.

The one pictured above is in the USA, but there are a couple in the UK. This interesting page has some pictures of what purports to be the biggest one in the world, next to the Monticello Dam at the end of Lake Berryessa in California, as well as some details of some other interesting (man-made) holes. The obvious hole-related temptations relating to Paris Hilton, yo mama, etc. have, mercifully, been avoided (well, except in the comments).

Most dams handle overspill slightly differently by just having a section removed from the dam over which water can flow, like the near portion of the dam on Wimbleball Lake on Exmoor, pictured here when we were there in September. No actual flow at this point, though, as the water level was relatively low.

And yes, I know that's two dam-related posts in a few days. What of it?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Martina Hingis is a crack whore

It's true! Well, sort of true. Well, according to her not true at all, actually.

But I think, taking a rational and considered view, and in the light of my previous post about her personal life, that it's probably safe to assume, on balance, that yes, she was snorting cocaine off Anna Kournikova's freshly-showered buttocks in the locker-room at Wimbledon. Well, I would.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

too much information

Aaah, Public Information Films. Who can forget Rolf Harris trying to persuade us to learn to swim? Or Jimmy Hill urging us to look out for bikes? Or some weird Dali-esque symbolism featuring a hammer and a ripe peach that was undoubtedly the inspiration for the famous Young Ones parody:
With Christmas only four months away, imagine that this desktop is a crowded shopping street on a busy Saturday morning. Say, for instance, that this huge meringue filled with whipped cream is a young mother, loaded down with groceries. And perhaps this enormous, soggy, over-ripe tomato is a tiny little girl who doesn't realise what a dangerous place her exciting new world is. And let's assume that this cling-film wrapped parcel of mashed banana and jam is a deaf senior citizen, who's in a wheelchair.....and is blind. And this cricket bat, with a breeze block nailed to it, is your car. Now what happens when your car mounts the pavement?
These films were, in a majority of cases, designed to shock. But my overriding memory of this genre of films was of a film that wasn't strictly a Public Information Film, but which was shown on Nationwide in 1977: The Finishing Line. I have the most vivid memories of sitting on the carpet in our house in Newbury watching this on the normally fairly cuddly Nationwide slot and having the absolute fucking screaming bejesus scared out of me; I've seen some horrific things on a television screen in the subsequent 30 years, but nothing that's traumatised me quite so much.

The clip available on YouTube, grim though it is, doesn't convey the full horror - it omits, for instance, the bit where the kids hurl bricks through the windows of a moving train and into the faces of the driver and passengers with much gleeful firing of jets of ketchup into the camera. Even by modern standards it was shockingly graphic, but, to be fair, it cured me of any desire I might have had to play on railway lines. Or indeed to do anything except sit in my darkened bedroom staring wide-eyed into space, rocking back and forth and moaning quietly yet insistently to myself. They really don't make 'em like this any more.

Welshman of the day

Ray Gravell, who died suddenly yesterday.

Mainstay of the Welsh Grand-Slam-winning teams of the late 1970s, British Lion and stalwart of Llanelli for many years. The centre partnership is perhaps the least-celebrated bit of the legendary Welsh teams of the late 1970s golden era (1976 through 1978 in particular), although the partnership of Steve Fenwick and Gravell (with occasional contributions from Roy Bergiers and David Burcher in the event of injuries) was an important one, and prefigures modern centre partnerships quite closely: Fenwick at inside centre the skilful footballer and distributor (and handy back-up goalkicker), and Gravell at outside centre the big aggressive battering ram in attack and thumping tackler in defence.

Following his retirement in the mid-1980s Gravell carved out a second career as an actor, indeed he may be one of the few British Lions to have his own IMDB page. Which reveals that he starred in 1992's Damage, which I've seen, although I can't recall his appearance in it. I expect I was probably distracted by a naked Juliette Binoche.

More recently he became a commentator for BBC and S4C and had been battling diabetes for some years, eventually having a leg amputated earlier this year.