June 28, 2005

Favorite movie stars

The results of the Normblog movie star poll are up. It's nice to see Cary Grant take the top spot; next to Jimmy Stewart, he's my favorite actor and a Bristol boy to boot (Mac went to the same local school).

Here's the way I voted (with four out of the top five):
Ingrid Bergman
Humphrey Bogart
James Cagney
Kirk Douglas
Cary Grant
Katherine Hepburn
Robert Mitchum
Barbara Stanwyck
James Stewart
Spencer Tracy

Watching Wimbledon

I haven't been blogging much recently; I can't understand how anyone can blog when Wimbledon's on.

You see, tennis is my game, though I haven't played for a couple of years - not since I messed up my knee doing Tai Kwon Do. Now, all I can do is watch. But when Sharapova is playing, watching is almost enough.

The Ladies' Championship is down to the last eight and all the matches will be played today. Here's the draw:

Lindsay Davenport (US) v Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus)
Amelie Mauresmo (Fr) v Anastasia Myskina (Rus)
Mary Pierce (Fra) v Venus Williams (US)
Nadia Petrova (Rus) v Maria Sharapova (Rus)
Four Russians in the last eight!

I'm hoping for a Davenport-Sharapova final. But if Venus Williams gets past Mary Pierce today, the Sharapova-Williams semi-final should be a joy to watch.

Normal blogging (whatever that is) will resume after the weekend.

June 25, 2005

Day by day

Chris Muir's strips just keep getting better and better.

June 24, 2005

Tree fells boy

There's been a little drama in the Junior household. Yesterday, the Big Fella managed to run face first into a tree, and a jagged branch has cut a three inch gash down the front of his face.

He's got a bump on the head, a big black eye and he's going to have a scar. But it could have been worse - less than half an inch to the left and he'd have poked his eye out.

I told his Grandma what happened, she wasn't very sympathetic: "He ran into a tree? Tell him he's an eejit!"

I already did. Bless him.

June 21, 2005

Little green microbes

It seems some people at NASA are getting worried about the prospect of life on Mars.

New Scientist reports:
Before the US sends humans to Mars, it should rule out the possibility of dangerous life forms on the planet, a NASA advisory panel has reported. And it says the only reliable way to do that is with a robotic sample-return mission - which could take more than a decade to implement.

June 20, 2005

Social scrutiny

Via Most Sincerely Folks: Application forms for the new UK Identity Card are now available online.

Anyone for tennis?

Wimbledon starts today and the BBC will, as always, be providing top quality coverage of the event.

I'll mostly be watching Sharapova - she begins her defense of the title on Tuedsay. I like her game and I think there's a good chance she'll win it again this year. When she's on form - and it looks like she is - she's awesome.

Go Sharapova!

Soaking Cruise

The BBC reports that Tom Cruise was assaulted at the London premiere of "War of the Worlds".
Four members of a freelance camera crew were arrested at the War of the Worlds premiere in London after its star Tom Cruise was squirted with water.

The 42-year-old actor's face and jacket were drenched with water squirted from what appeared to be a microphone.

The crew was working for Channel 4. It said it hoped Cruise would see the funny side of the stunt which was for a new comedy show.
So, Channel 4 is now paying people to go around assaulting celebrities in the street because they think it makes good television!? I don't know what it is that leads some people to think that if they have a camera and a microphone they are somehow above the law. In any case, the individuals involved have been arrested and bailed, and will face police questioning today.

After they're through with the police, they might start thinking about how they're going to respond to Cruise's lawyers.

A spokesman for Channel 4 told the BBC:
The water squirting was not intended to cause offence and was very much in a spirit of fun. We hope Tom Cruise will be able to see the joke in the spirit with which it was intended.
Sounds like wishful thinking to me. Village Voice said it a while ago: "Tom Cruise sues the way Robert Downey Jr. violates his parole."

I hope he takes them to the cleaners.

June 15, 2005

Monkey business

If monkeys had money what's the first thing they'd buy?

Mark Liberman at Language Log explains what happened when researchers taught capuchin monkeys to use money:
After "several months of rudimentary repetition", the monkeys learned that one-inch silver disks with a central hole "were valuable as a means of exchange for a treat and would be similarly valuable the next day". Chen and Santos were then able to experiment with price shocks, wealth shocks, gambling games and so on. And along the way, the monkeys began on their own to exchange money for sex.
I thought patriarchal capitalism was supposed to be responsible for the commodification of sex. But if monkeys are doing it...

June 12, 2005

No porking

From the BBC: A Bristol pub owner has been given a two-year Anti-Social Behaviour Order for putting up a sign in the car park of his pub saying "Porking Yard".

Local magistrates ordered landlord Leroy Trought to change the wording to "Parking Yard" after the local mosque complained that the sign was offensive to Muslims. Trought faces a prison term if he breaks the order.

Mr Trought undoubtedly feels hard done by (he's changed the name of his food stall to "The ASBO Snack Bar"), but he should count himself lucky that the Religious Hatred Bill is not yet law. Otherwise, he might have been convicted of "incitement to religious hatred" and jailed for up to seven years.

Looks like free speech is getting expensive.

Elderflower Sunday

Today, we'll be out gathering elderflowers for this year's batch of elderflower champagne. Mac usually makes about five gallons of the stuff - we'd make more if we had the bottles to put it in - it's my favorite summer drink.

The recipe comes from an old Women's Institute book on homemade wines and cordials published in the 1950s. I highly recommend it.


2 elderflower heads
1 1/2 lb. white sugar
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1 gallon of water
1 lemon

Pick elderflower heads that are in full bloom and put them in a bowl with the sugar, vinegar and the juice and cut up rind from the lemon (not the white pith!). Add the water, cover and let the mixture stand for twenty-four hours.

Strain the liquid into strong bottles, cork firmly (screw-tops can also be used) and lay them on their sides. In two weeks it will be sparkling and ready to drink.

Just in time for the second week of Wimbledon. Perfect!

June 10, 2005

Daily Mail-o-matic

Found at qwghlm: The Daily Mail Headline generator - "A new Daily Mail headline every time you click the green button."


June 07, 2005

Poker Joe

Recently, instead of blogging, I've been playing poker. Online. For money. It's ghastly, I know - but someone's got to do it.

Since before Christmas, when I had to give up work, tournament poker has been my only source of income. I haven't won much - no more than a few thousand dollars - but every little helps.

Anyway, just saying, I find it hard to blog and play poker at the same time -though some people seem to manage it.

So, if I'm not here or lurking around the blogs, you'll find me at Pokerstars - look me up and say hello.

Africa and the G8

Martin Kettle, writing in today's Guardian:
My fear is that the dynamics of the G8 summit involve too much of the naive leading the naive. Too much of the Make Poverty History campaign reeks of middle-class Europeans trying to feel good about themselves by prescribing very radical but practically dubious solutions to Africa's problems. Unusually, though, a similar criticism can be levelled against our normally pragmatic and careful government too. Geldof and Brown are in the same game. Both are brilliant at playing on liberal guilt. Neither of them is nearly as good at helping us to understand Africa.

June 04, 2005

Family file

I got a video file from my eldest son today - he's in the middle of his exams.

I know it's normal for students to let off a little steam on mid-exam weekends. Sometimes they even video the proceedings - I can understand that. But sending a media file of it to your dad! Now, that is original.

Thanks, son!

(I'd post a link but the file's too big to upload)

Frivolous ping

I know I already said this, but Suburban Blight is back and looking better than ever. Kelley's just upgraded to Movable Type 3.17, and is in need of "a frivolous test ping". So, here it is: PING!

Welcome back, Kelley.

June 03, 2005

Local graffiti

For some reason, Bristol seems to produce more than its fair share of graffiti artists: Delj was bombing walls in Bristol long before he made it big with Massive Attack, and then there's Banksy.

I know it's wrong but, so help me, I really appreciate some of Banksy's work - it livens things up a little.


Must be the day for it - more graffiti blogging here.

Fisking Walden

Via Ed Thomas at Biased BBC, I found the Rottweiler Puppy's cracking response to Brian Walden's recent column for the BBC on the decline of the West and European opposition to the US.

You should read it all, though one bit stuck me - regarding the lack of gratitude shown towards the US for its historic contribution to European security, Walden has this to say:
Perhaps the US deserves much gratitude for what it's done to preserve European freedom. In practice it doesn't get it. Its influence and culture are resented...
That's certainly true, though (as RP points out) there's a word for people who criticize American materialism while avidly consuming its products.

As for expecting gratitude from Europe, I think we've had all we're going to get. Reading Walden, I'm reminded of the fact that Americans like Europe a whole lot more than the Europeans like America - such relationships are bound to end in tears.

My advice? Never love someone with low self-esteem, they'll end up hating you for it.

June 02, 2005

Over the Wall

Clive Davis is in Berlin:
A shame there's so little left of the Wall. But it's hard to describe the feeling you get when you're crossing a road and suddenly realize that the thin, two-brick line running across the tarmac represents the point where East and West once met. Somehow that's more meaningful than any grand memorial.

Advice for life

Via Language Log: Mr Sun offers some practical advice to this year's crop of new graduates. It includes a few things they most likely won't have heard at Commencement, such as:

Make a list of the things you want to do before you die. Be as open to your heart as you possibly can. Now, throw that ridiculous piece of trash away and get your ass to work. The ball is over, Cinderella.
If you start lowering your expectations and compromising your principles now, you won't have to play catch-up when mounting debt and endless tedium crush what was once your soul.
Recent graduates should read it all.

June 01, 2005

The morning after

Rereading my post from yesterday on addiction and recovery, I realize there's more I wanted to say.

First off, though I use the terms "addiction" and "recovery" I don't mean to imply that I accept the assumptions that often underlie their use - I agree with Dean Esmay when he says that drinking is a choice not a disease. Even so, I acknowledge that environmental and genetic factors can make it really difficult for some people to make that choice.

Secondly, (and this is probably the reason I'm stoked up enough to be writing this) like a lot of people, I've lost friends to addiction over the years. Some of them came back from it, some didn't. Some are still out there doing their thing, one or two others are long gone.

Every recovering addict I see, every time I meet someone who's kicked the bottle, it gives me hope that maybe some of the people I once knew might also be taking steps to recovery - that one day they might be clean and whole again.

I'd like to say more but, to tell you the truth, I find it difficult to write on this subject without becoming over-emotional. So, I'll finish with someone else's words: the author's note at the end of "A Scanner Darkly" by Philip K Dick.

This has been a novel about some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. They wanted to have a good time, but they were like children playing in the street; they could see one after another of them being killed -- run over, maimed, destroyed -- but they continued to play anyhow. We really all were very happy for a while, sitting around not toiling but just bullshitting and playing, but it was for such a terrible brief time, and then the punishment was beyond belief: even when we could see it, we could not believe it. For example, while I was writing this I learned that the person on whom the character Jerry Fabin is based killed himself. My friend on whom I based the character Ernie Luckman died before I began the novel. For a while I myself was one of these children playing in the street; I was, like the rest of them, trying to play instead of being grown up, and I was punished. I am on the list below, which is a list of those to whom this novel is dedicated, and what became of each.

Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error in judgment. When a bunch of people begin to do it, it is a social error, a life-style. In this particular life-style the motto is "Be happy now because tomorrow you are dying," but the dying begins almost at once, and the happiness is a memory. It is, then, only a speeding up, an intensifying, of the ordinary human existence. It is not different from your life-style, it is only faster. It all takes place in days or weeks or months instead of years. "Take the cash and let the credit go," as Villon said in 1460. But that is a mistake if the cash is a penny and the credit a whole lifetime.

There is no moral in this novel; it is not bourgeois; it does not say they were wrong to play when they should have toiled; it just tells what the consequences were. In Greek drama they were beginning, as a society, to discover science, which means causal law. Here in this novel there is Nemesis: not fate, because anyone of us could have chosen to stop playing in the street, but, as I narrate from the deepest part of my life and heart, a dreadful Nemesis for those who kept on playing. I myself, I am not a character in this novel; I am the novel. So, though, was our entire nation at this time. This novel is about more people than I knew personally. Some we all read about in the newspapers. It was, this sitting around with our buddies and bullshitting while making tape recordings, the bad decision of the decade, the sixties, both in and out of the establishment. And nature cracked down on us. We were forced to stop by things dreadful.

If there was any "sin," it was that these people wanted to keep on having a good time forever, and were punished for that, but, as I say, I feel that, if so, the punishment was far too great, and I prefer to think of it only in a Greek or morally neutral way, as mere science, as deterministic impartial cause-and-effect. I loved them all. Here is the list, to whom I dedicate my love:

To Gaylene deceased
To Ray deceased
To Francy permanent psychosis
To Kathy permanent brain damage
To Jim deceased
To Val massive permanent brain damage
To Nancy permanent psychosis
To Joanne permanent brain damage
To Maren deceased
To Nick deceased
To Terry deceased
To Dennis deceased
To Phil permanent pancreatic damage
To Sue permanent vascular damage
To Jerri permanent psychosis and vascular

...and so forth.

In Memoriam. These were comrades whom I had; there are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The "enemy" was their mistake in playing. Let them all play again, in some other way, and let them be happy.