Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pimp my Cyborg



Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Oscar Update

Since Wyndham and Sniffer have buggered off on holiday, and Herge is presumably still experiencing technical difficulties, I will take this opportunity to inform my remaining readership (the poor deluded souls) of my cat Oscar's progress.
He went under the knife yesterday. The vet removed what he described as "a nasty, aggressive growth". The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes, so he removed those as well. A sample of the tumour has been sent away for biopsy and I should know the results by Friday. I am not feeling overly optimistic, but the vet is confident that he has removed all traces of the tumour. Even if the cancer is malignant, he feels that there is still a chance that there may be no recurrence.
I was going to post a photo; but in his current bandaged and bedraggled state, Oscar is not at his most photogenic. He went into the garden today, and ate a little food, so he will hopefully be his usual perky self before too long.
I was supposed to be going to Edinburgh this week, but Oscar's illness has put paid to that. Never mind. I'd probably have spent far too much money; anyway, there's always next year.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Tunnocks Teacakes Exclusive

Boyd Tunnock has today announced an advertising campaign to be directed at the North American market.
In todays Uddingston Evening News, Boyd has commented that: "these rude colonial types are essentially heathens who bear false witness to the false gods of Hershey and Mars. I see it as my duty to teach them the error of their ways. Teacake consumption is an essential feature of any society which aspires to call itself civilised".
The campaign is to be spearheaded by April Pissoff, a resident of British Columbia, Canada. April will be extolling the benefits provided by teacakes as nipple protectors in sunnier climes. This feature of the teacake is not widely recognised in damp, drizzly Scotland. Boyd feels that April is the perfect person to model the twin teacake approach to preventing nipple sunburn.
On receipt of her consignment of teackes, April has kindly agreed to provide an exclusive first view of this novel use of the teacake to her regular blog readers.
April has announced that she will be posting high defintion photographs of her chocolate tipped nips on her blog at the earliest opportunity.
She will welcome comments from her regular readers.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Gerry Fitt

The senior Ulster politician, Gerry Fitt, died recently. He was at the epicentre of the Civil Rights Movement which emerged in Northern Ireland during the 1960's.
From working class Belfast stock, Fitt was politically driven to improve the lot of the people who endured the worst unemployment and housing conditions in the United Kingdom.
He was a committed socialist, and although an Irish nationalist, was prepared to work to produce a settlement that would leave Northern Ireland in the UK. As long as the rights of all, and a decent standard of living for his constituents could be ensured, he was prepared to work with unionism.
He regarded the use of violence for political ends with contempt, and was outspoken in his utter condemnation of the IRA. He found their brand of blood and soil nationalism, akin to fascism in its extremist ideology, repugnant.
His outspoken codemnation of the IRA led to the end of his political career. He was threatened with death, and his home in West Belfast was subjected to such sustained attack that it had to be heavily fortified.
He eventually lost his Westminster seat to Gerry Adams, and enobled as Lord Fitt, moved to London. He was a popular figure at Westminster. A natural comedian and raconteur, he was often to be found at the terrace bar of the House of Commons, regaling all and sundry with tall tales and anecdotes. He was a lover of gin and tonic, and was reputed to be able to drink any journalist (not noted for their abstemiousness) under the table.
We don't seem to produce politicians like Fitt anymore. He was resolutely old Labour, and although his brand of socialism has been comprehensively discredited, was absolutely true to his convictions. There was no side to the man, he was utterly trustworthy, and was respected by all.
Fitt's tragedy was that he was born in the tribal society of Northern Ireland. He was rejected by the catholic nationalist community as a sell out to the British state, while continuing to be regarded with suspicion by Ulster Unionism.
That's the problem with societies that contain communities with conflicting senses of national loyalty and identity: you have to be one thing or the other, there is no middle ground.
He exemplified all the things that are good about Belfast: straight talking, grit, humour, and compassion.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Boring Cat Post

When I first started this Blog malarkey, I was absolutely determined not to post anything concerned with family members, day to day trivia, or lastly and most importantly, domestic pets.
Unfortunately an event has occurred which has forced me to break this taboo. My twelve year old tabby tomcat, Oscar, has developed a lump the size of a squash ball under the skin of his left shoulder. I took him to the vet on Friday and was informed that he has a cancerous growth.
On Monday the vet will be operating to remove the tumour and send a sample for biopsy. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it turns out to be benign.
Oscar is absolutely fine in himself, and has shown not the slightest sign of discomfort. If the cancer does turn out to be malignant, I will take him home and care for him until he shows any sign of discomfort, or stops eating with his usual enthusiasm. Then I will bow to the inevitable and have him put to sleep.
He is a fine cat with a lovely temperament. If I do have to lose him I shall console myself with the thought that those whom the gods love die young.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Born to be Bald

Getting older is something which people used to do in a dignified fashion. There was a general acceptance that behaving and looking like a total twat was an activity best left to those too young to know better.
These days everyone seems to be chanting the 'fifty is the new thirty' mantra. No it fucking isn't; fifty remains fifty, whatever the style gurus in the colour supplements tell you.
All this grey power guff really gets on my tits. There are a lot of them, and they've got most of the money; but that doesn't mean that the rest of us should have to tolerate their misguided attempts to appear at the cutting edge of fashion and lifestyle trends.
There is nothing more cringe inducing than a male in his late fifties sporting a pony tail and goatee beard. At this late stage in life he has decided to rediscover his lost youth by purchasing a FUCKING BIG MOTORBIKE.
The last motorbike he rode was a 50cc Honda in 1972. No matter: he regards himself as perfectly competent to go out and buy a brand new 1200cc Honda Fireblade that can do 0-60 in 2 seconds flat. To go with the bike, he naturally invests in the most expensive leather gear that he can find.
No matter that his addled brain has half the reaction time of his twenty year old self. He is perfectly happy to live out his James Dean fantasies and hurtle about like a maniac on amphetamine. He no doubt imagines that he looks cool and rugged. In reality he looks like a leather clad, orange juice drinking, homosexualist.
The only redeeming feature of the born again biker is their short life expectancy. Within a couple of years they are usually sandwiched between a couple of 40 ft trailers. This leaves a nice fat life insurance pay out for their bored wives.
Now I quite like older women; particularly the ones with fat bank accounts. I suppose I should become a gigolo and take up with one or two. That way I could afford a new moped. Then again, mopeds were for mods; there's nothing sadder than an ageing git in a parka riding about on a Vespa.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Places Where the Spirit Dies

I've been meaning to devote a post to these blood sucking scum for some time. I always thought that they were an exclusively British franchise; one of those enterprises set up when Thatcher was in power and things were tough oop north.
Imagine my horror in discovering that the tentacles of this satan extend worldwide.
There must me more Cash Converters outlets in Glasgow than in the rest of the world combined. It seems that every time you turn a corner you are confronted by their vile, primary coloured signage. 'Come hither all ye numpties, chavs and neds', they seem to call, 'sell us your crap and cash your cheques for a 15% fee'.
There is something deeply dispiriting about these places. They're just dressed up second hand
electronic goods junkshops. The people rummaging around and peering at elderly toasters are some of the most desperate looking drongos in society. Even the vagrants on the street have a greater glimmer of intelligence in their eyes than these mongs.
We're supposed to be a wealthy, developed economy for fuck's sake. What the French and Germans must think God only knows. Welcome to Scotlands answer to Barcelona, style capital of Northern Europe. My arse: the lepers stain of these excrescences of exploitation makes the place resemble a rainy downtown Bogota.
Couldn't someone do us all a favour and start a fire bombing campaign. I'll pay for the petrol.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Seeker

Pete Townshend has always been a bit of a hero of mine.
Of all the post war British generation of rock stars, he was always the most questing and articulate.
He spoke directly to his audience and was loved for it. The Who had an audience who felt that they were one with the band. The rest of the stadium rockers were aloof, jet-setting rock aristos who really couldn't give a flying fuck about their fans. They just saw dollar signs.
He has led a pretty tortured existence at times. During a particularly intense period of self loathing in the early 80's he was addicted to heroin, and drinking five bottles of cognac a day (he spilt a lot).
He has had a broader artistic range than most of his contemporaries; collaborating with Ted Hughes on the stage version of 'The Iron Man', and acting as an editor for the publisher Faber and Faber.
He has had his own website since the early days of the net, and predicted the impact, including the more prurient aspects, which it would have today,
I came across some interesting comments about blogging on Pete's website which are worth quoting:

" This is not a blog to which you can reply, or send a comment, or were you can tell me you think I need to turn up my amplifier, or write another WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN, or that I am just fine as I am. I may start one of those one day. When I cranked up this website, knowing that one day everyone would be able to have one very much the same, free Blog sites were not available. They are a miracle. They make the world smaller. We can sail in the cockpit, we can hitch on the flatbed lorry, drink and smoke and tell our stories and we will remember each other. Even if we hear a million names, and see a million faces - and believe me when I say this is true because this is my experience - we will remember them all, some of them very well indeed. Blogs make the world smaller. Not everyone will agree that's a good thing, I think it is".

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Danish/Canadian Fisticuffs

It is reported that conflict is about to erupt between Denmark and Canada.
The Danes haven't been noted for their belligerence since the Vikings decided to give the rape and pillage a bit of a rest. These days they spend most of their time raising pigs, smoking drugs and drinking strong lager. Having a tendency to be invaded by Germany every now and then, they tend to keep a low military profile.
The Canucks haven't had a decent punch up since WWII. The only people close enough for them to invade are the Yanks and the Russians. This would be a bad idea. They get rid of some of their aggression through seal clubbing and beating crap out of each other (they call it ice hockey). In the long run, of course, this is no substitute for the real thing.
The cassus belli is a frozen rock called 'Hans Island', located just off the coast of Greenland. Canada and Denmark both claim sovereignty over this guano encrusted lump of nothing.
The Canadian defence minister recently arrived on Hans Island to examine a new Maple Leaf flag planted by Canadian servicemen there, and an old flag left by a Danish naval party three years earlier.
I can see this whole affair ending in tears. Those Canuck bully boys are out to give the plucky Danes a damn good spanking.
I don't see why we Brits should stand idly by while those rude colonials give a bloody nose to our Danish mates. Just think what they've given us over the years: Danish pastries, bacon, Tuborg lager; the list is endless. Let our boys at 'em. We're definitely up for it; we've had a fair crack at the Mick, and we showed those Argies what for. Those moose shaggers wont know what hit 'em.

Monday, August 22, 2005

'Have another cup of tea, put a record on'

I'm old enough to remember the days when the long playing record was king. Between the ages of 13 and 18, I saved every penny I could just to get my hands
on an LP.
They were objects of lust and desire; held up in record shops, the small print of their text examined with reverence. I remember carrying the just purchased LP home in a carrier bag with a sense of anticipation that I have rarely experienced since.
You really felt that you were getting something for your money. The artwork (see Revolver left) was often magnificent, and often worth the purchase price alone. The back of the sleeves would be crammed with liner notes, and sometimes there would be an information supplement or poster inside the sleeve.
CD's killed the LP. With their demise, the whole tactile, visual experience was removed from purchasing music. The jewel like CD cases were a novelty, but somehow the sense of occasion was lost.
I was unemployed for a period in the early 1990's. In desperation for cash, I sold my record collection to a second hand music shop. The little weasel of a salesman gave me an average of £0.75 for my LP's and singles. I had some absolute crackers that I really should have held on to. I had the Rolling Stones 'Sticky Fingers' with the real zip on the front. Worse still, I had all the early Beatles singles in their original EMI sleeves. They had been donated to me by a kind aunt.
God knows what some of those records must be worth these days.
Of course, I replaced them all with CD's, but I still miss leafing through a stack of LP's. These days I mostly download. I suppose it's the music that matters really, not the medium that it's conveyed on.
I'd love to be able to lower an LP onto a turnable right now: listen to the stylus arm click into place, and hear that slight snap, crackle and pop before the music started.
Happy days.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Books I should have read but haven't.

I like to think that I am reasonably well read; but unfortunately I'm not as well read as I'd like to be.
There's a bit of the autodidact in me, and I feel a bit guilty that I haven't read all of the world's classic literature. Of course it's an unrealistic aspiration; there are so many great novels published each year worth reading that it would be impossible to keep up. Surely, however, it should be possible for me to read all the classic novels up to say, 1945.
Sadly, it never happens. I set myself a target to get through three or four literary novels over the course of the winter. These are usually Penguin classics, written in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries.
Last year I thought I'd give Joyce's 'Ulysees' and Conrad's 'The Secret Agent' a go. I struggled through the first hundred or so pages of each and then gave up.
I've now resigned myself to the fact that I am incapable of reading anything that I don't find enjoyable. There is surely no point in forcing myself to plough through something that, although an acknowledged classic, strikes me as being turgid and unintelligible. I'm probably just a bit thick and, anyway, life's too short. The time would be better devoted to finishing Half Life 2, or building a replica of Westminster Abbey from matchsticks.
This year I'm planning to have a go at Proust's 'Remembrance of Things Past'. I'm not overly optimistic that I'll get very far with it, but you never know. Even if I don't read it, it will look good on my bookshelf when visitors call. At the time of purchase, I will also buy a couple of books for light relaxation: an Ian Rankin 'Rebus' perhaps, a racy thriller by the likes of Robert Harris, maybe a bit of mindless sci fi. Now those books, I know, WILL GET READ.
Some of them might even get read twice; which reminds me, it's been a few years since I last read 'The Lord of the Rings'. That ought to keep me occupied for a few weeks when the nights draw in.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Appearance and Reality

There are few things in this life more irritating than people who like to give the impression that they're something that they're not.
We come across them in all walks of life: the pop stars that claim they are artists, the rich people who claim that money doesn't matter to them, bloggers who claim that they aren't interested in comments.
These people aren't that much of a problem. We can snigger at them in private, and snort at their more derisory statements.
It's when these sort of people get into a position of power and influence that we need to worry.
To find two prime examples we need look no further than George W Bush and Tony Blair, the men that claim leadership of the free world.
George Bush is perhaps the more worrying. He likes to give the impression that he is a straight talking, no bullshitting Texan, more at home on the ranch than in the salons of power. In fact, Bush's background couldn't be further removed from this John Wayne caricature. He is a blueblood WASP, Boston brahmin, prep shool and Yale educated son of wealth and privilege. The workshirt, swaggering gait, is just an act he uses to ingratiate himself with middle America.
He likes to contrast his homespun appeal with the superficial airs of the east coast liberal establishment. In fact, his marks at Yale were actually marginally better than those of his supposed intellectual superior, John Kerry.
Tony Blair is at least as irritating, if less worrying given his relative lack of power. Tony claims that he is a 'pretty straight kind of guy'; he likes to empathise with the common man. In truth, it is hard to imagine a more establishment figure than Blair. Educated at Fettes College (the Eton of the North) and Oxford, and given a shoo in to the Inns of Court, he has a background that would have been instantly recognisable to Gladstone and Churchill. His 'Cool Britannia' posturings during the height of Britpop were particularly revolting, if ultimately unimportant. What is most worrying is his adoption of a presidential style of government, and open contempt for Parliament and Cabinet.
I suppose image manipulation is inevitable in our media dominated world, but I don't think it's too much to ask that our political leaders should show a bit of sincerity once in a while.

Friday, August 19, 2005

In Praise of Angrychimp

Not so universally recognised (although he deserves to be) blogging genius, Herge Smith, has today handed over his daily post to some of his more devoted readership.
These posts are in the style of the original angrychimp, and some are quite excellent (with the exception of my own half-hearted effort). Good as they may be, none are more than pale imitations of the posts produced on a daily basis by the creator of Angrychimp, Herge Smith.
Make sure you get yourself over there this instant. You wont regret the visit.
On a personal note, I would like to thank the chimp for giving me an excuse not to think up anything original to post today. Tar mate.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Madge Takes a Tumble

Rich, famous Americans are rarely satisfied with being treated like royalty; they aspire to some vestige of the real thing. Marrying into the British aristocracy has been fashionable for the last couple of hundred years. Winston Churchill's father, for example, married a rich American heiress.
This has been quite useful for British aristos of course. Generally on their uppers, they require the occasional injection of a few million greenbacks to keep them in country houses and Rolls Royces. Marriage has the added advantage of introducing a bit of vigour into the depleted, interbred gene pool.
For some reason, the poor deluded Americans are under the impression that our moth eared, chinless wonder aristos are in some way the personification of wealth and glamour.
As we natives are well aware, the aristocracy rarely wash, wear down at heel tweeds, and like to spend their summer holidays staying in draughty old barns and shooting innocent wildlife.
Madonna is the latest celeb to fall for the myth hook line and sinker. When she could be in Malibu, warming her 47 year old nether regions in a jacuzzi, she chooses to ride around the dank English countryside on an old nag. It's all very well going native, but what's the point if you're only going to fall off the horse and break three ribs.
Madonna should get a grip and head back stateside. We'll only take the piss out of her by calling her Madge, and force her to drink pints of warm beer. Doesn't the daft bint know that we take great pride in our discomforts?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My Mate Marty

This is my mate Marty. Although a bashful creature by nature, he is a fairly regular visitor to my verandha. He is principally nocturnal, but sometimes ventures into the open around dusk. He has a varied diet including nuts, berries, worms and small mammals. He also has an extremely sweet tooth. I leave pieces of bread thickly coated with jam and peanut butter on the picnic table on my front lawn. It took him a while to muster up the courage, but he now appears regularly.
Once commonplace throughout Britain, he is now only found in numbers in the north west of Scotland. Persecution by gamekeepers and farmers almost led to extinction for Marty and his kin in the UK. As a protected species, numbers have increased over the last thirty years, and there have been isolated sightings in the north of England.
Can you name the species to which Marty belongs? Better still, if you have ever seen one I would love to hear about it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

New Development in Canada/UK Cultural Exchange Program


Sister April Pissoff, new acolyte at the Temple of Cakesniffer, has expressed an interest in cultural artefacts and practices pertaining to the ancient and holy land of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

As mother lode of the Cult of the Cakesniffer, this venerated kingdom has much to offer the new devotee. Sister Pissoff may be interested in partaking of the holy sacrament that is the Tunnocks Tea Cake. This estimable confection has been central to Cakesnifferdom for millennia. Its origins are uncertain, but it is believed to originate from Uddingston, Scotland. There may also be connections with Roslyn Chapel, Fife; ancient and last redoubt of the Knights Templar. Some even claim that the tea cake originated in the middle east, and that the recipe was carried back to Scotland by knights of the Third Crusade.

Whatever the origins of the tea cake, its centrality to the arcane rituals of Cakesnifferism is unquestioned.

As Keeper of the Tea Cake, I Brother Garfer, am prepared to procure a packet and send it across the dragon infested seas to the strange land that is known as British Columbia.

Only two things are required of Sister Pissoff if this generous gesture is to take place:

  1. An edible item of a tasty nature, native to the land of British Columbia, must be sent to Brother Garfer in solemn recognition of Sister Pissoff's solemn devotion to the path of the Cakesniffer.
  2. Photographic evidence of Sister Pissoff consuming the tea cake whilst clad in the sacred Cakesniffer T shirt will be required.

By the crumbs of the cake I do thee bless. Praise be to the raisins. Amen.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Aberdonians Boldly Go

"The engines cannae take it Captain!"
Following the sad demise of James Doohan, famous for his role as 'Scotty' in the original (and best) Star Trek, Aberdeen City Council have announced that they plan to build a visitor attraction/theme park in his immortal memory.
Aberdeen is one those places that isn't exactly renowned for the number of famous citizens it has produced over the years. It's a bit like the old chestnut of being asked to name ten famous Danes. Er.......I know......Hercule that's it. Actually, he was Belgian: and fictional . I can't think of many famous Aberdonians. Annie Lennox and, oh I don't know.....Fish out of 'Marillion'; although I could be wrong on the latter.
The good burghers of Aberdeen have seized on the flimsiest of pretexts for their venture. In one of the episodes of Star Trek, Scotty reminisces about going for a "pub crawl in auld Aberdeen".
Well, that's it isn't it, bona fide Aberdeen credentials. Problem is, James Doohan was a Canadian: his accent in Star Trek sounded about as Scottish as George W Bush. The councillers are obviously grasping at the flimsiest of flimsy straws. Perhaps they imagine that their theme park will attract high spending trekkies from all over the globe. I think they may be being a mite over optimistic.
A few years ago, a local historian claimed that Elvis Presley was descended from emigrants hailing from a village close to Aberdeen. I expect that we will soon hear an announcement that a replica of 'Graceland' is to be constructed next to a B&Q warehouse.
This all smacks of desperation. Anyone would think that the oil was running out

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Yer Bits and Bobs

Back in the dim and distant, your average Victorian gent and gentess used to carry a truly stupendous quantity of accoutrements around with them. Travelling around Britain in the 1870's your average well to do gent would have about his person:
  • umbrella
  • snuff box
  • gold watch on chain
  • iron tipped walking cane
  • Cape
  • pinze nez or spectacles
  • woollens
  • waterproofs
  • greatcoat
  • books
  • newspapers
  • field or perspective glasses

They were so weighed down with bits 'n bobs that it's a wonder the cart springs on their horse drawn carriages didn't snap under the weight. Imagine the weight of all those sodden woollens when it rained? Railway carriages must have reeked of stale cigar smoke and kippers as the garments gently radiated steam.

We don't carry quite as much around with us these days, but we come pretty close. The last time I travelled by train I had about my person:

  • Ipod
  • newspapers and various magazines
  • PDA (I've no use for the thing, I just like fiddling with it)
  • notebook computer in case
  • books
  • knapsack (not containing bomb)
  • digicam
  • umbrella
  • Swiss army knife (don't ask)
  • Tunnocks teacakes

I'm sure that I didn't weigh as much as my Victorian counterpart; but I certainly equalled him in the sheer quantity of my bits 'n bobs. Plus ca change.

I'm a great believer in always travelling light. If only I could practise what I preach.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Little Tubes of Contentment

Fancy a roll mate?
MY NAME IS GARFER AND I AM A CIGGIEHOLIC. It took some guts to say that, I can tell you. I have admitted my heinous addiction in a public forum and hang my head in everlasting shame.
Tobacco is one of the most addictive drugs known to mankind. I've read that it's actually more difficult to kick ciggies than heroin. Heroin withdrawal is nasty in the extreme, but once you come through it you don't suffer the intermittent, overwhelming cravings that nicotine produces.
Of course no one can justify smoking tobacco; but that doesn't alter the fact that smoking can be highly enjoyable. There's nothing like a post prandial cigarette to imbue the smoker with a sense of satisfied wellbeing. Smoking is excellent when you're under stress and I'm convinced that it is an aid to concentration. Of course a lot of the pleasurable effects are down to the release of a powerful drug: it's not really making you feel better, it's making you feel the way that you would feel if you'd never smoked at all.
There is also the habitual aspect. If you feel distracted, reach for a fag. If you pour a cup of coffee, reach for a fag. If someone uncorks a bottle of wine, reach for a fag. The permutations are endless. To give the things up is not just to kick an addictive drug, it is to relearn how you behave in a myriad of different situations. Giving up is just TOUGH.
I'm going to have another go this year. I smoke rolling tobacco which, perversely, doesn't seem as nasty as the ready rolled variety. The orange tar stain which appears at the end of my index finger tells a different story.
I've been smoking for twelve years. Apparently if I give up at this stage the long term health risks will quite rapidly equate to those of someone who has never smoked. That thought is certainly an incentive.
Now, after all this tiring typing, I think I'll roll myself a small cheroot and wistfully contemplate my little tube of contentment. He may not be there to provide me with solace for much longer.

Friday, August 12, 2005


I've never been much of a one for horror films. It's not that I'm particularly squeamish or easily frightened, it's just that I don't find the majority of horror films remotely scary.
Exploding heads, gore fests and the like don't really do anything for me. As for Friday the 13th and assorted clones, once you've seen one physically perfect American teen disembowelled on screen you've seen 'em all.
I prefer films that are more suspense orientated: 'Halloween' with the horror mostly in your imagination, 'Psycho' with its slow, creepy build-up.
Ghost stories can be good. 'The Others' was excellent. All atmosphere,oppressive mists, creepy housekeepers and a creaky old mansion. All cliches; a bit 'Turn of the Screw'ish, but totally compelling and highly effective. The 'Sixth Sense' was good too, although its use of the twist in the tail ending has been copied ad nauseum.
The one horror film that really sticks in my mind is 'Carrie'.
I actually find this film quite hard to watch; I find it genuinely disturbing. It's really a film about the persecution of the unusual or oddball by their peers. The sensitive, intelligent Carrie is tormented and humiliated by her high school classmates. I think that's what I find most difficult about the film: there's just so much real human cruelty on display. Carrie is a caricature of the kid that got picked on at school for being unfashionably dressed, physically awkward, or socially inept.
The slow motion scene where the bucket of blood tilts and pours over Carrie as she stands at the centre of the School Hall, basking in the mock adulation of her peers, is utterly sickening. The explosion of psychic violence which she unleashes is a relief; a cathartic outpouring of revenge for all the misery that she has had to endure.
It's a film about the agonies of adolescence and the casual cruelties which people can inflict on others. That's real horror.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ridiculous Shirt and Tie Combinations

Some people are totally devoid of dress sense. Ok, I'm no fashion plate, but I know better than to walk around in public looking like a complete and utter fuckwit. Like it or not, we are judged on our personal appearance. Who hasn't noticed the lycra encased lardarses wandering around our shopping centres, and not sneered inwardly? Can someone please tell these people that skimpy cutaway tops are not appropriate for people with fat, dimpled, whey coloured upper arms.
It's not just the women; our menfolk are drab and lumpen. Football top, baggy shapeless jeans from Littlewoods and cheap Tesco white trainers appear to be the order of the day.
As you move up the social scale things don't improve much. It doesn't take much imagination to get yourself booted and suited. You'll probably look anodyne, and no one will give you a second glance: but that's the point really. It's a uniform designed to let you blend in, a decently dressed and reliable individual. Easy.
A couple of years ago everything went tits up. The cutaway shirt collar, often a different colour from the shirt, became popular. About the same time, single breasted suits with skinny lapels, and fattly knotted lurid ties, became de rigeur. The combination looks totally fucking ridiculous.
Fashions come and go, but looking like a complete twat, whatever the current trend, is something that we possess a national genius for.
Income is no barrier to appearing a twat. BBC news reporters have taken to the fat tie/cutaway collar trend with a vengeance. One in particular favours fat purple ties. His lapels are so high that they're parallel with his earlobes. All in all, he deserves to be taken round the back of Broadcasting House and given a good kicking. The fucktard gets a huge clothing allowance, paid for by our taxes, and blows it on looking like a total mong. TOSSER.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Comfort Food

This follows on from my previous post really. On one of the rare occasions that I do have a stonking hangover, I am unable to contemplate any food that doesn't have the consistency of puree. The thought of having to masticate meat or,worse still, swallow a slimy piece of fried egg makes me want to gag.
There is only one solution: a tried and trusted friend that has rescued me from post-alcohol starvation on many occasions. I bring you the king of potato dishes: 'Champ'.
Everyone likes mashed potato. It's ubiquitous really; you just plonk a dollop on the side of your plate and eat.
Nothing special about the stuff, just some easily digestible carbohydrate.
Champ is different, it raises the humble plate of mashed spuds onto a different plain. Like all the best comfort foods it is simplicity itself to make.You just boil some spuds, pass through a potato ricer, and mash with full cream milk, loads of butter, and chives. Season well with salt and pepper and pile the creamy mash on your plate. Finally, make a well in the mash and add a big chunk of butter. Cover over the well so that the butter melts in the centre of the mash. Finally, scoff with a big grin on your face. YUM.
It sounds a bit crude, but the french make something similar called pommes mouselline. They use nutmeg instead of chives.
n.b You need dry, floury potatoes to make this properly.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Binge Drinking

I have to admit that I do enjoy getting hog whimperingly drunk now and then. Let's face it, most of us seek a bit of oblivion from time to time .
I don't drink nearly as much as I used to. The only time that I touch the stuff is on a Saturday night. These days the hangovers are so cranium burstingly horrendous that it isn't really worth the candle.
Anyone that's ventured into our town centres recently can tell you that public drunkeness is quite the thing. Scantily clad mingers baring their obese arses, and label clad tossers with stupid haircuts, puking in the gutter, are a common sight.
Mr Blair is all in favour of a 'continental cafe culture'. The licensing laws have consequently been relaxed to the point were our town and city centres are dominated by enormous drinking venues. We don't have many elegantly clad diners sipping wine spritzers to show for it; we have pissed up lager louts and hen party harpies.
I don't know what the Government expected. We're Northern Europeans for fuck's sake. Give us readily available cheap booze and we will get pissed en masse. The Danes do it, the Germans do it, the Norwegians do it (on home made hooch), and the Icelanders do it.
Why do politicians never learn? All you have to do is look at Hogarth's 'Gin Lane' to see what our collective attitude to cheap hooch is.
Gormless tossers. It's enough to drive anyone to drink. Mine's a large vodka and lemonade.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Tourist Tat

Get tae fuck!!
When people cross the border from England to Scotland they take leave of their senses. Normal perceptions of value and quality instantly evaporate into the ether. Aunty Doris, who normally scours Asda for two for one offers and end of sell by date bargains, and haggles feverishly at market stalls, is overcome by financial incontinence.
Cheap brass ashtrays emblazoned with 'haste ye back' become as covetable as fragments of the true cross. Ornamental celtic brooches manufactured in China from old coathangers are fondled with reverence. Minature bottles of Old MacSporran genuine malt whisky are handled like vials containing the secret of eternal youth. Entire streets are composed of shops selling this kind of crap. Chuck in a few Edinburgh Woollen Mill shops selling shapeless jumpers and you have the perfect recipe for retail hell.
Want to buy a pint of milk, or a new spanner set? Fucking forget it. This is a tourist town; put on your Jimmy hat and fork down your haggis and tatties, the next train south leaves in twenty minutes.
I will be writing a post on 'twee shops' at a later date. Now they REALLY get on my tits.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

In Praise of Idleness

It would be fair to say that I have never been over imbued with the protestant work ethic. I have always been more attracted to the joys which can be provided by contemplation of the trouser leg.
I've always regarded work as something that is done for a specific purpose; i.e for money. Woolly phrases like 'self-fulfillment' and 'realising one's full potential' have inspired little more in my soul than a resigned shrug.
That's not to say that I don't work. Not being of independent means, and unlikely ever to be so, I have not had the option of a life of cultured leisure. I would quite happily have taken my place amongst the Eurotrash, and jetted around the globe snorting cocaine and attending film premiers. Sadly, that was not to be my fate. I am more likely to travel to a film matinee by scooter and suck on a sherbert fountain.
Work has been an unavoidable necessity. To lessen the trauma, I have adopted a modus operandi which renders the whole sordid business a little more tolerable. I do my best to confine work to short bursts of frenetic activity; thus maximising the time available for idleness.
It's a difficult trick to pull off. You certainly can't get away with it if you have to work stipulated hours for an employer. In my last office job I'm sure that I could have done the work required in half the time. That wasn't an option. You don't get paid for the work you do; you get paid for the hours you work.
My current self-employment is much more congenial. There's nothing like taking an afternoon off on a whim, or taking holidays on cheap off season rates, to make life that little bit more savoury.
Of course, if I had the money, I probably wouldn't do anything at all. I'd probably be dead, or a raving alcoholic/drug addict.
Maybe one in ten people actually enjoy their jobs. Even they, I'm sure, would be off like a shot to indulge in decadent self-indulgence if handed a huge wad of cash. It's all a question of degree. Some people prefer poverty to the daily grind, and will quite happily live on windfalls and tinned sardines rather than submit to the indignities of labour. Others, city traders for example, will need a bit more inducement to forgo their eighteen hour days and £100k salaries.
The art of idleness has aquired a champion in quarterly (or thereabouts, when they can be arsed) magazine The Idler. There is much material for idle contemplation in this learned tome.
Climb in your hammock, pour a large gin and tonic, and contemplate nothing in particular. IT BEATS BLOODY WORKING ANYTIME.

The Joe Strummer Memorial Forest

Joe Strummer and the Clash famously refused to play on 'Top of the Pops'. Joe was his own man, and always held true to his convictions. That kind of self aggrandizing pop promotion would have been anathema to him. He wasn't much of a one for rock mythology.
Of course, he was a mess of contradictions. Son of a diplomat; public school educated, he seemed an unlikely champion of working class alienation and angst.
The Clash were always out on a limb like that. More art school than Borstal, they weren't your typical three chord, housing estate revolutionaries. Maybe that was the point. For all the political causes they wore on their sleeves, what mattered to them most was the power of their music to reflect, change and amplify attitudes.
In middle age, Joe retired to the country and became a dedicated Daily Telegraph reader. Another contradiction. The exemplar of urban alienation ups sticks to the countryside and reads middle England's favourite broadsheet. You couldn't make it up.
He developed a keen interest in environmental issues and the importance of forest regeneration for the health of the atmosphere. After his death, a 'Joe Strummer Memorial Forest' was established on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. You can plant a tree in memory of Joe. You can find out more here
That's a nice way to remember someone. It certainly beats a handprint on Hollywood boulevard in my book.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Give Me Cornetto

I regard myself as reasonably cultured. I read quality newspapers, I like literature, and when on holiday I sometimes go for a wander around art galleries.
The one aspect of culture that leaves me cold is opera and opera lovers. I don't believe that there is such a thing as 'opera lovers'. They are just pretend culture vultures who wear their supposed love of opera as a spurious badge of artistic appreciation.
Take the Sydney Opera House for example. EVERYONE knows that Australians love beer, surfing and Aussie Rules Football; not listening to plump Shielas warbling in Italian. The Aussie government only built the opera house because....., well because that's what governments do. "It'll look grite on the postcards ocker. All we need to do is let the opera crew in a coupla times a year. The rest of the year we can use it for AC/DC concerts and Star Trek conventions. Just think of the tourists the beaut'll bring in".
Those fat three tenors really get on my tits. So does Kiri de fuckin' Kanewa. Why can't they just sing properly; like that nice Ronan Keating, or Barry Manilow? Something with a proper tune that you can sing along to.
Now that's what I call music.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Oh Danny Boy

Every time I catch a glimpse of this prancing tit, I feel like reaching for a large tin bucket and vomiting long and copiously.
Ireland has a long and ignoble tradition of producing godawful crooners like Daniel O'Donnell. Most of them aren't heard beyond the confines of the emerald isle. They make a living singing at dancehalls and weddings; churning out cover versions of pop hits and lachrymose Irish standards. The pissed numpties at these events lap it up like their mothers milk.
It's when one of them makes it onto the world stage that everyone with an iota of Irish blood in them starts to cringe.
The ear torturing 'Lady in Red' by the truly dreadful Chris de Burgerbar is one example. Daniel O'Donnell
is the personification of all that is utterly ghastly about this deplorable cultural export.
I mean, just look at him. The coiffured, blow-dried mullet, the head coyly propped on the extended fingers: he's every post-menopausal, sexually frustrated aunty Deirdre's dream hunk 'o' spunk. I can understand why women of a certain age used to chuck their knickers at Tom Jones when he was shaking his crotch at Las Vegas. But this cretin? It beggars belief.
The worst thing of all is that he is a really nice chap who is kind to his mother, doesn't drink, and doesn't cheat on the wife.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"They don't 'alf talk funny round your way"

The UK is a small country. Come to think of it, it's a small country composed of three even smaller countries. With such a small landscape and a shared language you would think that everyone would speak the same.
Not so. We must have more regional variations in accent than anywhere else on earth. The Canucks have a propensity to say 'eh' after everything, but they all sound much the same (apart from the people from Newfoundland, who sound like Martians). The Yanks, with the exception of Bostonians and southerners, have a pretty much common or garden American accent. I'm sure that there are nuances which we cloth eared Brits can't pick up on; but all the same, they all sound very similar.
We, on the other hand, have managed to produce a micro-geography of dialect and accent. The classic example of this is the Liverpool accent, or 'scouse'. This is limited to a strict diameter around the river Mersey. At it's verges, the inhabitants of one street will speak broad scouse, while their neighbours in the adjoining street will speak in a Lancashire/Manchester accent.
Most of the bigger city accents are limited to the urban centres. Many of these; Birmingham, Glasgow, Belfast, Bristol, are generally unloved. Others, such as Newcastle's about it, are generally liked.
This brings in the inevitable question of social class. George Orwell claimed that a Briton revealed the social class to which they belonged merely by opening their mouth. That's probably less true these days; but there's no doubt that someone who speaks RP (Recieved Pronunciation) is immediately percieved to be upper-middle class at the very least. This is probably why silver tongued conmen have no trouble fleecing rich widows in London.
The upper class accent of the monarchy sounds increasingly idiosyncratic. It's interesting that the younger royals have adopted RP; it just isn't done to be seen (heard) to be talking down to one's social inferiors. It's bad enough being regarded as a joke by the bulk of the populace without appearing to be a chinless wonder every time you speak.
I think local dialects and accented English are a good thing. They add to the richness and uniqueness of English as a living and developing language. As long as everyone knows how to speak and write the 'standard' form of English there's not much to worry about. If we all start speaking estuary English peppered with a smattering of Americanisms, the game will be up.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Fucking Merchant Banker Wanker Tosspots

I've just got to get this off my chest.
HSBC bank have today announced that they will forthwith be declaring the financial records of their customers to any other bank which is planning to lend to them. This is totally fucking outrageous.They're wrapping it up as being in their customers 'best interests'. Too fucking right. What it means in practise is that if I have a barney with my bank manager and walk down the street to Barclays to open an account, he can contact my bank for what is effectively a credit reference. Some fucking client confidentiality that!
We all knew that the bastards were a bunch of cocksucking leeches. Now the wankers have had the nerve to come out and state it openly.
Not satisfied with making billions out of charging us exorbitant sums for fuck all service, they now want to gang up together and stop us moving elsewhere if they don't like it.
Fuck it. This is really the limit. I'm emigrating to Switzerland.

The Parsons Nose

Odd creatures, chickens. They're really just egg and protein factories put on this earth to enable us humans to stuff our faces with chicken nuggets on a regular basis. The omellette is the ultimate fast food and can be stuffed with whatever takes yer fancy.
I watched a documentary on supermarket chickens last week. These are the industrially produced variety which are pumped full of growth hormones. They put on breast meat so quickly that their legs can't support their weight. They stagger around in agony in their own faeces and suffer ammonia burns that leave livid marks on their flesh.
We allow a creature to be raised in conditions of abject misery just so that we can buy packaged chicken for a derisory £2.50. It is criminal: not only do we cause needless suffering to a sentient animal, we also ensure that the finished product is utterly tasteless. The saturated fat level is also higher, so we are condemning ourselves to obesity and coronary heart disease into the bargain.
I only buy free range chickens from the supermarket, although I must admit that there isn't much difference in taste. My mental image of 'free range' chickens is one of happy little clucking peckers scuttling around the barnyard and facing down the farm cat. I'm sure that the reality is nothing of the sort.
The problem with this kind of ethical food purchasing is that it can't be practised 100%. I like my Chinese and Indian takeaways, and am not averse to a plastic wrapped chicken sandwich. All this food will contain broiler chicken meat; there is no escaping the stuff. I have had to settle for the good old British compromise of doing my ethical best as long as it doesn't inconvenience me too much. It's hypocrisy really; but what can you do.
n.b I typed 'ugly chicken' into a google image search and up popped Drew Barrymore. Why so?

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Lost World of Mitchell and Kenyon

The past is another country. The modern developed world in which many of us are lucky to live represents the acme of modernity. We take for granted our technological conveniences, and regard as our birthright the affluence that we enjoy.
The miraculous recovery of the films of Mitchell & Kenyon shows another world; a world that existed very recently, almost within living memory.
We look at the grimy, bustling northern towns and marvel that life could ever have been so hard and unrelenting. What we forget is that the British working class in the Edwardian period were the best paid and most secure in the world. They had an absolute certainty in their position as citizens of the most economically developed and powerful nation on earth. That world would be shattered irrevocably with the outbreak of the First World war. The world they knew would soon be at one with Nineveh and Tyre: there would never be such innocence and confidence again.