Saturday, July 29, 2006

A piu’ tardi, ragazzi! (Later, dudes!)

Allora, io devo parlare così per i prossimi sei o sette giorni, perché Moglie ed io andiamo in Italia.

È strano... Quando io vado lì, devo parlare in italiano, e quando i nostri amici e la famiglia vengono qua, io devo parlare in italiano! Hmm...

È un'ingiustizia, però!

See comments for translation

Is one Israeli life worth 10 Lebanese?

I'm really pleased with the way my tree and plant pics came out, and I'll do another post soon with some more.

In the meantime, I was hoping not to have to moan about the situation in Lebanon again for a while. I'm sure all bloggers try to be aware that they have a readership without necessarily allowing that readership to dictate what they write. First and foremost, we probably usually write for ourselves, and if people like what we write and come back time and time again, that's very gratifying.

-- By the way, let me take this opportunity to thank all of my regular readers for their visits and comments. It is appreciated. --

By the same token, though, we have to write what we feel. And sometimes readers may not agree. That's fine in a general sense -- if we disagree over the merits of a pop group or film, for example -- but can get trickier when you move into the arenas of politics and religion.

The whole business in Lebanon is my current albatross, if you will. In a sense I don't want to harp on about it anymore, because I don't want the patience of my readers to wear thin. But on the other hand, I feel so appalled by the situation that I can't help but write about it. I am essentially helpless in any other way in this matter. All I can do is put my words out there and hope they are read and counted along with those of any other protester.

If you are reading this and you are an Israeli and you live in Israel, know this: Despite what your government may be telling you, THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY DOES NOT SUPPORT YOUR COUNTRY'S ACTIONS. Bush does, and Blair does. And some people within their countries may well do, BUT MOST OF US DO NOT.

Furthermore, not content with destroying the infrastructure of Lebanon, the Israeli government has now gone against what it has been saying for days and has indeed decided to invade the country. Troops are creating a "safe zone" two kilometres (1.25 miles) wide on the Lebanon side of their shared border. They are, in other words, occupying a piece of Lebanese land 2km wide, and God only knows how long. CAN YOU BELIEVE THE BALLS OF THESE PEOPLE? They cannot help but lie. They have been lying for days about their intention in the conflict, and the lies just keep on coming.

In the meantime, of course, the death toll continues to rise. The UN estimates current mortalities as a result of the crisis as 600 Lebanese and 51 Israelis. The figures rise every day, but one thing has remained relatively constant: about ten times more Lebanese are dying than Israelis.

And as if all this weren't enough, Israel has also now decided to increase its activity in Gaza, where, according to some reports, up to 150 Palestinians have been killed over the past two or three days. Additionally they have virtually shut down the entire Palestinian fishing industry, firing upon any boat that moves too far away from the shore. Most fishermen have decided to give up even trying to fish. Around 10,000 Palestinians are reliant on the fishermen in this area for their food.

Again all this seems to have been started by the kidnapping of one Israeli soldier. One man.

Final word (for now...): the Israeli administration are a bunch of cunts.

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“Nice and treesy does it / Does it, does it, does it every time”

Here is the post that was promised by that lovely cedar of Lebanon earlier in the week. No, not a post about the conflict in Lebanon, this time, despite what might have been thought; one about trees and things, kind of, instead.

Last Sunday, Wife and I went out to visit some friends who live down Winchester way. It takes a couple of hours to get there, but we go there a couple or three times a year, and they come here a couple or three times a year. At the end of the day, you've got to see your friends. And if you're prepared to put forth a little effort to see them, it makes it all the more special.

Anyway, they had a little day out planned for us, but they wouldn't reveal where we were going until we got there.

icecreamfudgesundaeWhen we arrived we were greeted in glorious fashion by their two wonderful Weimaraners. They're great dogs, and one of them really does smile when he sees you! It's amazing. After a sit-down and a glass of juice and a chat, we went out to lunch. I ordered a steak, and then followed that with the ice cream fudge sundae that you see here. It was a struggle, but I managed! The girl half of our friends revealed that she eats up to three homemade versions of these each week! I was gobsmacked, to say the least.

So, after lunch we had to walk some of those extra pounds off, and they took us to an amazing place called the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. There's not much to say except that it has the most amazing collection of trees, flowers, and shrubs -- "some 42,000 plants (12,000 different types), which now thrive in an area of 180 acres", according to the website.

Anyway, here's a few of the pictures we took while there.


If you enlarge this one, you can see all the bees and butterflies on the flowers. Wicked!


I loved the texture of the flaky, almost paper-thin bark on this tree.


This is one of hundreds of pieces of artwork scattered around the grounds, many of which are for sale (at a price).


And how's this for a big leaf?!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Father, forgive me... (and forgive Clooney while you’re at it)

Over the course of the past two or three evenings, I've tried to watch one of the films we've had on rental from LoveFilm: George Clooney's directorial debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Occasionally I do have to watch movies in two sittings, just because of tiredness, or not getting to sit down early enough in the evening to finish one. Of course, though, ideally I'd rather not do it.

But oh, two sittings was not enough. It put me to sleep twice over two nights that movie. And ... and this is so not like me - I watched The Cave, remember? ... I have had to admit defeat. I just couldn't bring myself to watch another minute of it.

Yes, it had good bits, and yes it had good actors acting well. But I just couldn't watch it, and I don't really know why. I just found it unwatchable. I find almost no films unwatchable. Like I say, it's not that it was bad, per se; just bloody boring, I suppose.

I give (what I saw of) this film 19 out of 100.

“I distinctly heard him say ‘Jew’. He said, ‘Jew want something to eat?’ He said ‘Jew’!”

I was watching the news on Thursday night, and they reported that it would cost around US$400 to move an entire Lebanese family by taxi from Tyre, which has been all but annihilated over the course of the past three days, to Beirut, which is considerably safer.

Four hundred bucks -- that's about £215 -- to save an entire family from Israel's unjust, untargeted, non-specific bombing raids. Now, I appreciate this is not our problem to pay for, and furthermore I appreciate that there's a heck of a lot of families to move, each one costing $400, but all I could think was ...

In the scheme of things, $400 is fuck-all. And I know charity begins at home, but where are those Hollywood altruists now? You know, the ones who were all over Hurricane Katrina. Is it controversial to suggest that they are all in the pockets of Jews? They wouldn't want to rock the boat and find that the Weinsteins et al don't want to share a Hollywood table with them anymore, maybe...

[Note: This post is not intended to be read as anti-Semitic. It is simply a presentation of a potential, and wholly feasible, scenario. Everybody knows that Hollywood is largely controlled by Jewish money; while this does not necessarily mean that Hollywood supports the current Israeli action, it could be argued that non-Jewish players would not want to be seen to support Lebanon's cause.]

Thursday, July 27, 2006

“Someday a real rain will come...”

Last night I watched a documentary called The Boys Who Killed Stephen Lawrence. If you don't know who Stephen Lawrence was, please do click here.

I'd seen a news story the previous day about some of the new revelations that were to come to light in this documentary, and so I felt compelled to watch it. In fact, I probably would have anyway, because, like many people in the UK, I am astonished at how this case has gone unsolved for 13 years. Of course, I should rephrase that: not unsolved, because it surely is solved; rather, that the guilty have gone unpunished.

I haven't studied the case closely. I probably know no more about it than the average citizen. Arguably I may even know less, since I don't read newspapers. But hell, you know me: that won't stop me from having an opinion...

One of the things that struck me most was how these "boys" -- in reality, violent, dangerous thugs -- had got away with several non-fatal stabbings in the months and years prior to the attack on Stephen. Not only that, but that many people in the area knew full well that these idiots regularly carried knives of up to 2ft (60cm) in length out in the street. What I didn't know was that they had attacked white youths as well as black, which surely is going to make a "racist killing" verdict so much harder, should the case ever return to a courtroom. (This return is, though, at least a possibility now that we've scrapped the Double Jeopardy laws.) Of course, we all know they are racists: witness the conversations they had while under police supervision:

Suspect David Norris: "If I was going to kill myself ... I'd go and kill every black cunt in the country, every Paki, every copper ... I'd go down Catford and places like that with two sub-machine guns and I'd take every one of them, skin the black cunt alive, mate, torture him, set him alight. I'd blow their two legs and arms off and say go on, you can swim home now."
Suspect Neil Acourt: "I reckon that every nigger should be chopped up, mate, and they should be left with nothing but fucking stumps." (from Guardian Unlimited)

We, in Britain, all know that within days of news of the attack on Stephen, the police were inundated with calls from local people, almost all of them naming this same gang as the most likely culprits. Turns out now, though, that one of the senior policemen in the investigation was taking bribes from the father of one of the suspects. Ah, so now things all start falling into place...

I don't know...

We've entered a new and wholly unsavoury era in the UK. FourDinners's post of a couple of days ago highlights this too. Everyone (and I mean that in a general way) hates everyone. The blacks hate the whites; the whites hate the blacks; the Jews hate the Muslims; hell, the whites hate the Muslims; the Muslims hate the whites and the Jews; the police hate the Brazilians, seemingly, or at least can't tell them apart from the Asians; we all hate the people we work for; the people we work for all hate us. This is one miserable fucking country we've got going on here...

But after watching this documentary last night, I turned to Wife and said: "Y'know, there's some people that I really don't like. Sometimes I know I'll turn to you and say, 'I hate so-and-so for this reason or someone else for that reason', but I can't imagine going out and stabbing them. Really getting right up in their face and sinking a huge fucking blade into them. And yet there are people out there that do this just for fun or just as a random attack, not even knowing the victim, and the victim never having done anything to them."

I went and took a shower then, to wash away "the scum, the cunts, [...] the filth, the shit".

Stephen Lawrence, 1974-1993, RIP


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

And here’s a “trailer” for an upcoming post


This fantastic cedar of Lebanon was photographed at Hillier's Arboretum, near Winchester, on Sunday.

I went to London, and all I got was this dodgy photo


I know the quality is shite, but that's my mobile phone for you, coupled with the fact that I took it through the window of the train. Figured this one could be for all you Pink Floyd fans out there. Don't say I never give you anything (he says, pitying their taste in music...).

20 Comments Wednesday

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Five things: I’ve been tagged

ACT has tagged me to do this five-things thing, and it's been a while since a tagging so what the hey, eh?

Five Things in My Freezer
1. Lots of ice because the freezer badly, BADLY needs defrosting
2. Two ice cubes in a cracked ice-cube tray (must remember to fill it up again)
3. King prawns
4. A frozen quiche that has probably passed its use-by date
5. A little baggie of prawns that were a gift for Cat from a neighbour about four years ago

Five Things in My Closet
1. Not me. I'm straight, got it?
2. A box of Manic Street Preachers T-shirts
3. Some clothes that are absolutely covered in Cat's hairs from when he used to sleep there. Before he went over to "the other side"
4. A great Sailor Jerry shirt that I bought in New York but is about 19 sizes too big for me
5. A leather jacket decorated and painted with Adam & The Ants badges and logos

Five Things in My Car
1. A gearstick (are you jealous, my American friends?!)
2. A steering wheel
3. Seats
4. Foot pedals for accelerating, braking, and "clutching"
5. A roof that doesn't leak

Five Things in My Purse (umm, well my "manbag" when I use it)
1. My wallet
2. Mobile phone
3. Pens
4. Shades
5. Sunglasses

And the five I'm tagging are...
1. Camie Vog at Perfect Blue Buildings
2. The Cappuccino Kid at The Tranquility of Solitude
3. Tanya at Start Wearing Purple
4. The Wanted Man at Are You up to the Test!?
5. Suze at

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Monday, July 24, 2006

“I’m gonna pick my baby up / And take her to the picture show”, part 2

If you haven't read part 1, you can find it here.

As many of you have guessed in your comments to part 1, the problem with going to the pictures these days is the same as the problem with many other pursuits: other fucking people. I probably shouldn't complain too much; from what I hear of cinema-going in Hong Kong, it would make even the rowdiest UK cinema seem like tea at the Ritz, but still... If I had my way, these would be the rules for cinema-going:

1. No admission after the Coming Attractions trailers have started. No exceptions.

2. No food allowed. No, not popcorn either: it smells like dirty old socks; and certainly not fucking Chinese takeaway, oh Wife of mine! Water is the only acceptable beverage.

3. No mobile phones. No, not even set to vibrate; and no, not even for texting, you cunt. (Although I did find it amusing to see kids playing games on their mobiles while at a screening of Scooby Doo. Yes, the film was that fucking bad.)

4. Any talking louder than a whisper and the culprit will be evicted.

Does all that seem harsh? I think not.

Another problem with other people sharing your movie experience is one of perception. A case in point, if I may be so bold as to venture one, is what happened when I went to see Blue Velvet.

The venue was the wonderful Prince Charles cinema off Leicester Square in London; a great little place -- cheap as chips and home to many a wonderful film-ogling session. Blue Velvet was not one of them. You see, I'd previously watched Blue Velvet on telly and it had scared the shite out of me. Clearly I scare easily, because David Lynch has a habit of doing that to me. And yet almost every line in this most masterful of masterpieces was laughed at.

I sort of understand why, because it is a parody of sorts in some ways; but this shared viewing has effectively spoiled the movie for me in a big way. Because when you take away the tongue-in-cheek script and the hammy acting, the plot and the action of that film are all darkly terrifying. These are truly horrible, vicious people doing horrible, vicious things to innocents.

Oh well. I just wanted to say, really, that I wish I had my own cinema where just Wife and me and a few select friends could go. Of course, I'd have to ensure they were going to abide by my rules and I'd let them know when they could laugh, snigger, and cry, but you get my gist.

In the absence of enough funds to do that, we will have to settle with either DVDs at home or the rowdy crowds at the moving-picture emporium. Neither is truly the cinematic experience we all hope for, but what can you do?

Furthermore, when tickets can cost up to £10 each, it is always cheaper to buy the DVD on import from the States. At least that way, if the movie sucks arse, you can always sell the bloody thing after and recoup some of your outlay! Who says I'm a cheap bastard?!

Coming up in part 3: Bootleg and pirate movies

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More BB questions

Regular readers of this blog know how much I love highlighting the stupidity of this year's Big Brother contestants. Evidence can be found here and here.

Now for this week's victim, Welsh genius Imogen.

Q. What year did man first set foot on the moon?
A. [Lots of umming and aahing.] I done this in school... I'll have to guess... 1902?

Umm, Imogen, forgive me, but I think the first car went on sale in 1904 or something, so you reckon rockets were flying to the moon before that...?

Q. In Roman numerals, what does L stand for?
A. [She says she doesn't have a clue. She laughs, and this clearly inspires her.] Laughing?

Imogen, dearie, the word "numeral"...? Does it mean anything to you?

There was another question, but I can't for the bloody life of me remember what it was. Suffice to say she got that one wrong too. If you know, drop me a line and I'll add it in.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

“Saturday night at the movies / Who cares what picture you see”, part 1

Today, the BBC has reported, ad nauseam (you'd think it was a slow news day), that cinema attendance in the UK is better than in most other Western countries.

These are the figures: one in four of us UK types go to the flicks at least once a month, and 75 per cent of us have been to watch something on the silver screen in the past 12 months.

Well, colour me hard to please, but it ain't that fucking impressive, is it? When Wife and I lived in north London, we used to go to the Odeon in Camden Town every Sunday. That's four times more often than is being raved about in the press. As Big Brother's Imogen might declare, "What the fuck, beb?" Were we singlehandedly keeping the UK cinema industry in business?!

I must say, though, that even before leaving London, our cinema-going had dipped. The main reason for this was the unexpected and frankly shocking closure of the wonderful George & Nikki's cafe, almost right next door to the cinema mentioned above. To use a phrase that appears only once on Google, and that will lead you back here, too: Cunt me with a cunting stick, their all-day breakfasts were to die for. Even the veggie version was phenomenal. But that's probably a post of its own.

So, getting back to the pictures...

The inimitable Candy Minx recently said, in a comment at Mister Anchovy's blog, that the cinema is "the chapel of image and community experience in imagination". Essentially I do agree with that. I believe that the movie theatre is the only place to see a film as its director intended. In practice, though, things start to get a bit rotten in the state of Denmark.

To be continued...


Question of the day

Do cats blog? Well, mine does. Kind of. Check him out, pussy lovers.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Another great Big Brother moment?

Again, not strictly a Big Brother moment this, but whatever... So, despite not watching BB last night, we did flick over to watch a bit of companion show Big Brother's Big Mouth. Now, I've never watched this before, partly because Wife had convinced me that I don't like the presenter, Russell Brand, whose name is not David Brand despite what some Wanted Man might have tricked you into believing.

Anyway... Mr Brand started talking about his ball bag, as you do. And then -- sorry, this is so going to mean nothing to our American cousins -- he mentioned being "in Stringfellows, with Beppe, Walliams, and Gaffney, with our booth smelling like my ball bag". Oh, priceless...


Be careful what you wish for...

So, no sooner do I suggest people leave anonymous comments than I get 183 of the motherfuckers, all saying things like "Great site. Keep up the good work", or "Nice colours", or whatever the fuck else. I've started going through and deleting them, but judging from my e-mails, this cunt spent 34 minutes on my blog leaving these pesky things. And seemingly only one per post. I really haven't got it in me to go through deleting them all in one sitting, so I've removed the most recent ones and will attempt to delete the remaining, oh I don't know, 175 of these bastard things over the course of time. My advice in the short term is: don't click on the messages that say shit like that. It seems they take you to a credit-card debt consolidation site, but who the fuck knows. So I've put word verification back on now...

This is all even more ironic because I got up a little early today. Last night, Wife and I ditched Big Brother in favour of a movie, and I felt that if I got up early this morning I might be able to RECLAIM THE HOUR AND A HALF OF MY LIFE THAT I LOST TO THAT SHIT! And then I'm confronted with this. Bastard fuck cunt bollocks.

And breathe. And move on.

So, this movie was The Cave. I have no idea why it was on our LoveFilm queue but it was. Wife says I put it on the list; I think she did. Regardless, we both wish we hadn't. The Cave concerns a group of cave divers who enter a seemingly newly discovered cave in the Carpathian Mountains. Once inside, they discover a couple of unusual life forms that are quite similar to moles and salamanders. So far, so what? But then one of their number is killed and another is attacked by something with big fuck-off claws. It scratches the fuck out of the guy's back before he cuts himself free, taking one of the beastie's fingers with him.

So, this is a monster movie set in a cave. But... hold on: didn't we see a monster movie set in a cave a couple of months back? Why yes, we did. That one was called The Descent and it differed from this in that the key cast was entirely female. Not that the fact it was chicks in a cave with monsters made it any better. But it did. And I never thought I'd say this, but The Descent, as disappointing as it was, was actually better than the big steaming pile of doodoo that is The Cave.

It's not just the sense of déjâ vu, though; it's also that the script was so so bad and the acting leaden. The direction was much in that Batman Returns mould -- y'know, the third movie, the one by Joel Schumacher. That kind of "use lots of dark and lots of different angles and it'll keep the audience interested" line of thinking. No, it wont; it'll keep me pissed off, wondering why the fuck I can't see what's going on. Until I realize that FUCK ALL IS GOING ON, that is.

Still, for the ladies, eye candy comes in the shape of Third Watch's Jimmy (Eddie Cibrian, above), while the guys get to drool over Brit chick Lena Headey (left), who, in case you're wondering is only two degrees of separation from me.

All told, the movie runs about 90 minutes. But bear in mind that you'll never get that time back. Seemingly not even if you get up early in the morning. Rating: This was one of the worst films I've ever seen in my life. It wasn't even "so bad it's funny". I rate this movie 20 out of 100.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Post #300: HNT #7

So you really wanna see me half-nekkid? No, probably not... What could be worse? How about me half-nekkid and dancing!

Go on, give it a click! After all, this is my 300th post.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

This’ll be a good show...

The last play that Wife and I saw was in New York a few years ago, and it had Phillip Seymour Hoffman and John C Reilly in it: True West, written by Sam Shepard. But I think it's time to go to the theatre again, because, to borrow an expression from Soupdragon, Oh. My. Dog.

It seems, horror of horrors, that The Evil Dead, that most fabulous example of low-budget filmmaking, is set to become a musical and will hit an NYC stage in October.

Drowned In Sound reports that the first few rows of seating at the show will be a designated "splatter zone", so I guess we can expect blood aplenty.

I love the Evil Dead flicks, even though I saw them for the first time only six or seven years ago. And I love New York. Dare I suggest to Wife that we check out this theatrical experience...? Chainsaws and zombies and blood, oh my! It will be so cool.


It's a funny thing, anonymity. When I set up this blog, I chose to remain anonymous, at least insofar as not revealing my name or face, even not divulging my location or vocation for a while. This is all quite common practice in blogland, so no surprises there.

But the more blogs I visited, the more I realized that lots of people did not opt for anonymity. At least, they appeared not to. We have no real way of knowing that the names and profile pics people use are genuine. For example, some people may think that the normal-sounding name Sue Ellen Mischke is the real moniker of the blogger at I've Made a Huge Mistake. Those who have been ardent viewers of Seinfeld will know otherwise.

What is interesting, though, is how the realms of anonymity change. For me, anyway. I have put pictures of my face, albeit just the eyes or just the lips; I have put pictures of my tattoos; I have revealed information about my job. All of this stuff means that anyone who knows me would certainly recognize me from my blog.

Beyond this, I have a reasonably large circle of blogmates now. And in many ways, these blogmates are no different to real mates. Something happened over the weekend that made Wife and me laugh a lot. The first thing we thought was, Can we blog about this? But it was of such a personal nature that neither of us wants to! Because that anonymity is almost not there anymore. Strange.

It's not like I set this up to be a total say-what-I-could-never-say-to-my-friends fest, but it's interesting that certain things shall remain unsaid. I shan't be revealing details of my sex life on here. It's not that I think people shouldn't. Absolutely, I think people should! But I won't be.

I assume everyone has something they won't reveal. Maybe it's only their real name; apart from that, anything goes. Maybe it's that they are KKK or BNP members. Maybe they hate Arabs, or Jews, or gays. Maybe they were molested as a child. Maybe they've got a month to live. Of course, the secrets could be nice ones too: a teddy-bear collection; a regular giver to charity; a Samaritans helpline worker.

So, what's your secret? I pretty much expect no comments here! But if you're here and you feel like sharing, click the anonymous option in the comments box and go ahead. Thanks.

20 Comments Wednesday is here again

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Them Frenchies and their crazy movies!

I've just had a quick skim back through my last few days' worth of posts... What a depressing lot, isn't it?! It's rare that I get political, but some things just seem so wrong; and then there's also the family stuff...

Anyone reading just these last few days without ever having seen anything else must really think I'm a fucking depressing cunt on a particularly bad downer, but really that's not true at all! And now I'm going to (try to) put some of this stuff behind me.

Anyways, it's been a while since Wife and I watched a film, so Thursday night, with my dad's visit looming mere hours away, we decided to check out one of those sitting on our side awaiting our beady eyes. The choices before us were Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Secret Things. Wife really is not very interested in the former, which surprises me cos I think it sounds cool, so we opted for the latter. And that was fine with me cos it's got naked ladies in it. If nothing else, the French are good at finding any opportunity to put naked ladies in films!

Choses Secrètes is a film of two halves, shall we say. And, purely by coincidence, we watched it in two halves, having a five-minute break after the first hour to set the video recording for Big Brother. Oh, perhaps I shouldn't have admitted to that. Oops.

The first half sets up the relationship between a young girl who has been working the bar at a strip club and one of the dancers from the same club. Within minutes of the film's start, these two girls have become friends when both are sacked from their jobs. The dancer teaches the barmaid about sexuality and how to get what she wants out of men. And let's face it, men are idiots where sexy women are concerned.

secretthings3All goes swimmingly for the first hour, more or less, of the running time, but then enter Evil Male Protagonist. Here is a chap who is going to turn our heroines' theory on its head. This is a bloke who has had girls set themselves on fire in front of him when he has used them up and worn them out and has no further need of their charms. Our girls know he is going to be a tough nut to crack, but it seems they'll have a go. But wait, what's this? A betrayal from within the ranks? Aahhhh, girls, girls, girls... When will you learn? Your inability to get on with your fellow female, especially where men are concerned, is always your downfall.

It is bizarre how the tone of the movie changes. It's not entirely unexpected: it's almost as though there is no choice but for it to go the way it does. But even so, it does go mad. Okay, step back a mo, we're not talking Salò weirdness here; more Eyes Wide Shut with that bad guy from The Crow and maybe with a twist of Bound, but still...

I think I quite liked it. It always takes me a while to get a feel for a film. I can't even discuss most films properly until I've slept on it. Sometimes it takes a couple of days for it to really sink in. Of course, the bad films have already been forgotten by then, making it difficult to write any sort of reviewy thing. This wasn't a bad film, though. It wasn't great, either, but it is another one of those "you could do a lot worse in two hours" kind of flicks.

Shall I introduce some kind of rating system for my reviews? Let's give it a go. I give this film 62 out of 100.

“Mum” – a poem

I called you.
I told you
things you didn't want to hear.
You cried,
but would you rather I lied?

I told you
we loved you,
but when I put down the phone
I cried.
I'm sorry you're alone.


The Middle East, continued

Thanks for the comments, guys n gals. It's not that I have any in-depth knowledge on this subject, but as with many of my posts, I simply wrote from the gut.

Now here are a couple of things that I neglected to put in yesterday...
  • Lebanon, as a country, is not even responsible for the kidnapping of the soldiers. The "terrorist organization" Hezbollah is behind it. Interestingly, though, Hezbollah is not considered a terrorist organization by the European Union (EU), although the EU does accept that Hezbollah has committed terrorist acts.

  • It seems to me that this attack from Israel is akin to Britain bombing the fuck out of Ireland in response to one IRA bombing. Fuck - not even a bombing. You. Just. Can't. Do. It. You have to target those responsible, and not destroy the whole fucking nation, indiscriminately bombing innocent civilians.
But, as I say, I'm absolutely no expert on this. I have an opinion based on limited knowledge. I'm just saying it as I see it.

Thanks again.

And if you want a perspective that is different from the majority, check out these two blogs, as well as the Wikipedia link above:

Monday, July 17, 2006

That thing going on in the Middle East right now...

Despite it being headline news on both sides of the Atlantic as well as in mainland Europe, the conflict currently under way between Israel and Lebanon has received very little attention on any of the blogs I frequent.

Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe not. Am I the one to break the silence? Is the silence intentional? Is there fear in the blogging community in being seen to side with one country over the other?

It's a funny thing. I'm not going to dwell on it, but I am going to say that Israel is being a prick. And I say this because all of this -- these hundreds of innocent Lebanese citizens dying under aerial bombardment from Israel, which has said it intends to set the Lebanese infrastructure back 20 years -- is over the abduction of two soldiers. We don't even know that these soldiers are dead; all we know is they have been abducted. I know Israel has a compulsory military service, but I don't know how old the abducted soldiers were. If they were career soldiers, then surely this is one of the perils of the job. If they weren't, then it's certainly unfortunate.

I am also speaking out because today I read a post on this subject that made me feel ill. It was from someone who until now has had some space in my sidebar but no longer does. I haven't removed this person solely for this, lest you start thinking I'm some sort of thought fascist. There have been several things that have annoyed me on that blog of late, but this was the last straw.

I know America loves Israel. Maybe some of my readers do. Maybe some of my readers are Jewish. This is possibly what has gone through the minds of other British bloggers. No one wants to lose readers over some war that barely affects any of us in the first person. Perhaps I should just shut the fuck up right now and delete this post before going any further. Perhaps.

I'm not a Muslim. I'm not anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic. But I am
anti-disproportionate response. And this is a fucking hugely disproportionate response from Israel. Not surprisingly, it is a response supported by that cunt in the White House and that other cunt at 10 Downing Street. A bigger pair of idiots I've yet to see in such democratically elected positions.

So, there you have it. In part, at least, I have broken the silence. At any rate, I have broken my silence. Because this Israel/Lebanon thing has been bugging me for days. And now I've spoken. Make of it what you will.

Final update on that subject

Wow, yesterday I didn't post anything. That's the first day I've missed in aaaaaages (apart from holidays). It's like a landmark in my blogging. Why didn't I post? Well, my dad and his ladyfriend were here until about 2.15pm, and after that, Wife and I just chilled and watched some TV. Stuff like that. Kind of mulled over the previous two days. (Oh yeah, we also painted some sort of protective coating over the decking in the back garden, allowing us to hear some more lovely karaoke -- details here.)

It was nice of you all to leave comments. The traitor thing... Well, without getting into it too much, I dare say my mum will think I'm a traitor! It's all still very raw for her, and for me to say that I liked this person will undoubtedly be seen as a betrayal. Indeed, not only by my mum, but probably by my sister and my brother too.

I'm the sensible offspring: the one who moved away from his hometown and has seen the real world and had to stand on his own two feet. I understand that these things happen, and as such I am willing to accept (if not be entirely happy with) the current situation. But, regardless of the circumstances leading up to my this moment in my parents' history, it would be untruthful of me to say that I think this woman is not nice.

In the short term, everyone is happy. Wife and I feel that we have now been able to make up our own minds about this woman. A woman about whom we have heard a lot of bad stuff and nasty names. Dad's happy that we made them both feel welcome. And ladyfriend must be happy, I'm sure, that we were very accepting of her. She knows the sort of names she's been called. She's been called them to her face, so she must realize she's been called them behind her back. We told her that we couldn't see how the real her and the her that we'd heard about were the same person, if you know what I mean. She was quite teary-eyed when they left. I think she genuinely felt that she had been given a chance, rather than being judged on what we'd heard and the indisputable fact that she is partly to blame (along with my dad) for my parents' break-up.

I say "in the short term", because I will have to speak to my mum soon. She will ask what we thought of our visitor. And I will have to be honest -- that's my nature. She won't like the answer, I assure you. But she needs to look into herself and see that she and this other woman used to get on quite well, so she can't actually be a horrible person. My mum used to like her ... before all this. So did my sister. They were kind of friends.

Oh well. That's pretty much all I'm going to say on this subject for now.

There's a phrase I've seen on lots of blogs recently. Maybe it's the changing of the seasons; maybe it's the heat that so many of us are being subjected to. The wording changes from person to person but the message remains the same. "Normal service will resume shortly." Thanks.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Thanks for all your well wishes on the dad thing. Will update fully later, but in the meantime I can report that it went okay. She's all right. And I apologize to my mum for being a traitor...

Friday, July 14, 2006

I hope this cunt dies a horrible death, and soon, along with his cunt friends

I've lifted this directly from the BBC news story.

Teenager detained for cat cruelty

A teenager has been detained for four months after a cat was hurled from the fifth floor of a tower block.
Christopher Lees, 18, provided running commentary as a mobile phone was used to film the cat being repeatedly thrown 60ft from a balcony. [NB: It is thought that the cat was thrown at least four times.]

The cat had to be put down after its ordeal in Druids Heath, Birmingham.

Lees, of Wilsford Close, Druids Heath, who admitted animal cruelty at an earlier hearing, was also banned from keeping animals for five years.

Three other teenagers involved, aged 14, 16 and 17, will be sentenced next month.

The cat, called Kharlo and owned by a local student, was put down by a vet after suffering brain damage and multiple fractures last October.

The footage of the cruelty was passed around on mobile phones before it was reported to police and the RSPCA, Birmingham Magistrates' Court heard.

Sentencing Lees, chair of the bench Richard Trengrouse said: "The cat was hurled from a fifth floor balcony and there was untold fear and harm to the animal.

"You were not satisfied with this, you videoed and commentated on it. Your comments in the video were callous and you showed no compassion or decency."

As the oldest member of the group, Lees should have stopped the cruelty from taking place, said Mr Trengrouse.

RSPCA Insp Rob Hartley said: "I'm delighted with the sentence being passed by the magistrates today.

"This was a sick and cruel act on a defenceless animal. It is hard to imagine the suffering this animal was put through by this individual."

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The guests haven't arrived yet, so with a few minutes to spare I stumbled upon this.

Click the pic to try your hand in a penalty shootout against the best goalie in the world. The best I did was 4 out of 5, as you can see from this screengrab.

NOTE: You gotta be quick to get a screengrab; they don't stay there for long!

A big day...

Longtime readers and archive browsers may remember that my folks split up recently. They kind of told me and the missus that they were on the outs just under two years ago. He'd been seeing someone else blah blah blah.

Well, today, after all this time, Wife and I are finally meeting "the other woman". They're visiting for the weekend. We are the only two in the family who have never met her. We have never even seen a picture of her. I've only spoken to her on the phone. Must say, I'm feeling a bit ... uneasy? scared?

They're not staying at our place; they're staying at a B&B. First time meeting her and all, it would have seemed a bit odd. Last time my dad visited he was with my mum. So...

Probably won't post again today: tidying up to do, y'know. Hide the porn, dust the skirting boards, wash the cat's bowls...

Wish me luck.

My trip to London, part two

Note: You should probably read part one first. Oh, and it's not like I was visiting London for the first time or anything (unlike my next-door neighbour); I did live there for ten years.

After our delicious lunch we headed down towards Leicester Square tube station. For all you Americans out there, Leicester is pronounced Lester, not Lie-sester or Lie-chester, or any other of those crazy variants you come up with!

Of course, we had to go via Old Compton Street. We love Old Compton Street. It's got a bunch of excellent shops, an amazing patisserie, and Ed's Diner at the end of it. It's the gay centre of London, which means it's also very smart, stylish, and pleasant to walk down. In addition, it's kind of like the Italian heart of Soho. We figured there might still be some evidence of celebration - y'know, what with Italy winning the World Cup and all. This is what we saw, just outside Bar Italia. Check out the Italian flags and the Forza Azzurri banner!

On we went...

This pic is of the crossroads where Charing Cross Road meets Shaftesbury Avenue, a few hundred yards from said tube station. It's probably one of the busiest bits of London, and no fun when you're trapped behind people who don't know where they're going. (Or, arguably, when you're stuck behind us taking pictures for our blogs...)

Going down Charing Cross Road I was intending to pop into Comic Showcase and pick up OMAC, as highlighted by The Wanted Man, but it had closed down. Gutted!

Anyway... I didn't buy the comic book, but we did get on the tube, heading to London Bridge, via Waterloo. Here we are at Waterloo station, waiting for the tube.

Once at London Bridge it took a surprisingly long walk to get to Vinopolis itself, but it's nice to have a leisurely wander through these parts. I'm not that familiar with this bit of London, but Wife knows it a bit, so she was my trusted guide. She done good and got us to Vinopolis safely. Once there, I exchanged my tickety voucher thing for two tickets proper. They counter girl also gave us a little map of where we were going and offered us a headset each. The tour, it seemed, would be self-guided. Fortunately the headsets were free; otherwise we probably wouldn't have taken them. This is because we had a terrible headset experience at the Pinacoteca di Brera, a major art gallery in Milan. But that may or may not be another story. We took 'em and off we went.

Those bloody headphone guides do a damn good job of taking the fun out of stuff. All the info was skewed. Stuff they said was there wasn't; stuff they said was to the left was to the right, and vice versa; and most of what was said was written up on the walls, so we could have just read it anyway.

But the point of the exercise is to sample (read "drink") wine. As part of the admission price, you get five tasting tokens, which you use to pay for whatever you fancy sampling from the three tasting tables scattered through the tour. You also get an extra tasting token for The Bombay Sapphire Experience, which apparently used to be an experience, with its own little room, but is now just a table where you can drink gin cocktails.

Wife isn't much of a drinker, so at table 1 she said I could probably drink most of her wine and stuff. "Oh, okay then. Y'know, I'll make that sacrifice..." We stopped at all the tables, obviously, and used up all our vouchers. I finished most of Wife's choices, except the Sherry from table 2, which she finished herself and enjoyed. I'm glad about that, cos I thought it was rank. But I've never really liked Sherry anyway, so that's fine.

And the gin cocktails (above)... I was feeling drunk adventurous, so I went for the one that had cranberry juice in it and something I'd never heard of: crème de mure (blackberry). It's the red one. It was a bit bitter. Wife's is the green one: it had kiwi fruit and apple. It was much sweeter - too sweet for my taste. She couldn't finish hers; I couldn't finish mine. Plus if I had finished even one of them, I think I'd have been quite ill.

Between the second and third tables was the Italy bit. It was funny because there were Vespas with little video screens in the windshield making it look as though you're riding through Tuscany. Here are the scooters. They all had one mile on the clock. What a waste of four good scooters, we thought.

Then at the last table we used almost the rest of our vouchers on Chilean and Chinese wines. I was interested in trying Chinese in particular, since I never have; and Chilean I like anyway. I had one left so I went back for a bit more from table 2.

And finally we had a shot of absinthe. There are two types on the market, apparently: absinthe and absinth. The one with an "e" on the end is the more original type and is still outlawed in France, the US, and some other places. It's very like Pernod, and nice.

Anyhoo, that all done and dusted we went and sat beside the Thames for a few mins then walked back to London Bridge station for the train home. I normally fall asleep on train rides home, but I successfully battled Morpheus to the last this time around. I was a bit tipsy, though. Still, didn't stop me finishing off the day with a nice beer at dinner.

All in all, it was a lovely day trip and a great excuse to spend some quality time together away from work and our computers. We have a busy time coming up, so it was good to take advantage of what may well be one of our last quiet days of the year.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Syd Barrett

I'm sort of banned from talking on this subject at home. Wife thinks I'm hating on him. It's not that.

I'm sorry he's died; it's a shame when anyone dies, especially quite so young. I just don't like Pink Floyd. Never have; likely never will.

But all the press is saying "death of an icon". But Elvis is an icon; Monroe, Dean, Hendrix. Overused images, yes; the commercial faces of pop and film, undoubtedly; but isn't that what an icon is? Coca-Cola. Something that is so familiar that almost everyone in the world will recognize it.

Syd Barrett, RIP, is not an icon, surely. Am I wrong? And, really, I'm not hating. It's just, I am so anti-Floyd, anti-Zeppelin, that I perhaps cannot be objective on this topic...

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Note to self

* (asterisk), dear boy, it seems that damn blogroll thing in your sidebar is getting a bit out of hand. Because not only do you visit everyone on it at least three times a day, but you also have another 14 blogs in your bookmarks that you check out almost as often. Is Wife right? Is blogging - and all its associated shenanigans - taking over your life? Are you ... perish the thought ... addicted?

HNT #6

Click here for this week's HNT pic. Why is it that the nice guys always end up bruised?

The story of my trip to London, part one

Yesterday was a bit of a wash-out for me on the blogging front. All I managed to do was 20 Comments Wednesday; no time for posting at all. That's because yesterday was one of those days when Wife and I decided to do something other than sit at our desks all day. We both love our blog-errific ways, but sometimes you've got to get out, haven't you? (No?)

First, some background. As part of my job, I often do some work on wine-related books and magazines. I like wine - like, duh, it's alcohol... of course I like it! And I enjoy reading the text I'm working on and learning more and more about the stuff. So, for Christmas, Wife bought me a Wine Experience at Vinopolis in London.

We don't drive into central London. Apart from the Congestion Charge, driving into London would be plain silly. Traffic is crazy, and parking costs £73 per second. So we left our humble Kentish abode at about 10.45 and walked to the railway station to take a train to Old Londinium Town. We left so early because our trips to London as a couple are rare. Now and again, one or the other of us has to go for a meeting or a little bit of work, but going together for fun is not commonplace. This being the case, we decided to make the most of it and go for lunch at one of our old haunts.

En route, we went down Carnaby Street. Proof here. It, apparently, used to be hip and cutting edge and swinging once upon a long ago. Now it's not. Here we are:

And here's me just falling off the left edge of this pic. The Cappuccino Kid might like the Lambretta shop on the far right.

We popped into the David & Goliath store, and Wife bought a T-shirt. I was tempted by one that said "Liquor in the front, poker in the rear", but they didn't have my size. Next time...

Melati used to be one of my favourite restaurants before I met Wife, and so it was one of the first we went to together, back in the day. It is probably the restaurant in London that I have been to more times than any other. In that dim, distant past, I used to be greeted with a handshake. I was a recognized returning customer. Not so these days, unforch. Still, the food was just as wonderful as I knew it would be. Sadly we forgot to take any pictures (dummies), but we had satay starters (tofu for Wife, chicken for me), followed by sambal sotong (squid in a spicy tomato sauce) for me and stir-fried king prawns and vegetables for Wife (sorry, forgotten the Malaysian name), both with boiled rice. Officially, Melati is still an excellent restaurant.

It was here that I started my drinking for the day, with two bottles of Tiger Beer. (I love Asian beer, but none more so than Singha Beer, which so reminds me of our Thailand honeymoon.) And drinking was, of course, to remain a common factor over the coming hours...

~ end of part one ~

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It’s 20 Comments Wednesday...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

MySpace or yours? Or ... theirs?

A real-world friend (well, truth be told he's more a friend of my brother, but that's by the by) recently sent me a link to his MySpace page.

Now, I don't know much about MySpace. I read bits of a Vanity Fair article about it a few months ago, and about the same time I also read about it in Kerrang! magazine. The latter made it sound quite cool; the former made it sound a bit like a place for getting laid.

Anyway, a few days ago, I decided to take five minutes to set up a MySpace account. I didn't know why then, and I still don't know why now. Wife, who had read more of that VF article than I had, took this as a sign that I was looking to get laid by all and sundry. As many of you know, she is Italian, and those Italians have that passion-and-jealousy thing going on, and I don't mind that. Mind you, she thought the same thing when I started blogging, but now watch her go! She sees that it's just good fun and a bit creative, too. I just hope the missus doesn't end up thinking like Fall Out Boy: "I liked you a lot better before you became a MySpace whore".


So I set up my profile and put a little linky thing to this blog. At the very least maybe I'll pick up a bit more traffic, right? And people use it to stick their music up and get people hearing it, and since I've got a wealth of my own recordings gathering dust here, I thought I could - maybe - put some of those on my MySpace space.

But then my NUJ magazine and Freelance newsletter dropped through my letterbox. Wife looked at it first. Then she said, "If you're considering putting music on MySpace, you probably ought to read this first."

So I did. I don't even know quite what to make of it all, but it doesn't seem good. Whatever, I just thought I'd share, because clearly there are some dodgy copyright and ownership issues that people ought to be aware of. Click here to see what I read. Essentially, anything on MySpace is fair game for the owners of MySpace to sell on to third parties. As a user of MySpace, you grant them licence to do whatever they want with your work. Scary.

UPDATE: MySpace has changed its terms and conditions, seemingly in part due to pressure from Billy Bragg, hero that he is. The revised contract includes the following words: " does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, 'Content') that you post to the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain all ownership rights in such Content, and you continue to have the right to use your Content in any way you choose." Bravo, Billy Bragg!


Going Googley-eyed

These are the most recent Google searches that have brought people to my blog, newest to oldest.

gattuso tattoos
tattoo Fish Gills
temple dogs tattoos
gennaro gattuso tatoos [misspelling is searcher's own]
bloke pube
Camoranesi hair
c'mon c'mon hurry up harry come on
bob holness saxophone
Camoranesi hair [again]
gattuso tattoo
cannavaro tattoos
italian azzurri tattoos
azzurri come on
gennaro gattuso tattoos
the youngest beatle? er bono
lyrics + "I put my hand on her thigh"
toto i eat cannibal

I must say I feel a bit bad: people are obviously coming here looking for info on the Italian squad's tatts, and all they're getting is info on mine! (Well, that's not all they're getting. They're getting seriously entertained by me, obviously, but that's a side effect.)

Maybe I need to have a look around for myself, so future searchers can find what they're looking for... I'm nothing if not obliging. (And candid, if you believe what some people say.)

One of these searches upsets me slightly... Can you guess which one? Leave your answer in the comments box please!

My busted lip


That woman of mine! A darkened room, my lip, her elbow. Which do you think came off best? Hint: Something beginning with "elb". Good pout, though, huh?

Anyway, apropos of nothing, a friend said to me the other night, "I dunno how you do it, mate. How do you live with someone who supports a team in the World Cup that's not England?"

I was flummoxed. Not because I was offended in any way, but just because I'd never even thought it important that Wife wanted Italy to win. She and I have the following arrangement: she'll be sad if England go out (she's been here 20 years, for God's sake, and has a British passport!), and I'll be sad if Italy go out (one day I'll get an Italian passport, dammit); equally though if one of the teams win, we can both be happy bunnies.

And... I can't remember if I mentioned it... Italy did win! So, that's how I do it. How I can be with her. I knew there was something: I get TWO teams to support!


Monday, July 10, 2006

For Fatfiz: a farewell post

On Big Brother's Little Brother this morning, they asked BB housemate Mikey to name one of Paul Weller's previous bands.

He said, "Paul Weller? Isn't he a hypnotist? Uh, U2?"

Geeeeenius! And another nail in the coffin of British youth.

For more BB idiocy, click here.

Note: Non-UK types might be interested to know that Paul McKenna is a hypnotist.

Italy winning the World Cup rocks!

And you can check out my Six Line Review by clicking here.

Go on - you know you want to!


Campioni del mondo!

You know what'll make this trophy look better? A hat, that's what!

Look at Barthez. You ain't gonna get that by acting like a turtle.

Portiere del torneo, Buffon.

That black mass at the top of the pic? That's Camoranesi's hair, which was ceremoniously cut off after the match. What better way to celebrate winning i Mondiali.

Umm, Marco, your shirt's on back to front...

Gennaro, where's yer troosers?

Totti goes all Befana on the trophy...

Sunday, July 09, 2006


NOTE: This isn't an apology, but readers will find a fair amount of usages of the word "cunt" in this post. Sometimes it is just the only word for the job.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like proper karaoke as much as the next cunt. Y'know, in a pub or social club with a decent sound system and a load of mates.

But there is a trend in my neighbourhood at the moment for karaoke parties in the back garden or - even more ridiculous - in the house.

What this means is that we get to suffer a bunch of drunken chavs singing along to some of the worst music imaginable. What makes this even worse is that the so-called karaoke system probably cost about £4 from a car-boot sale and has an output so weedy that I can't even hear the backing track. (Perhaps that's a good thing...?)

These are some of the songs that Wife and I have been forced to endure under these most trying of conditions.

• That one that goes "Heeeeeeeeeeeeey baby. I wanna know-oh-oh-oh-oh, will you be my girl" (No I fucking won't);
• "Is This the Way to Amarillo" (No, you cunt, it's not, so fuck off);
• "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" (And hell is you singing this fucking shite, you fat cunt");
• "Stop" - y'know, "You better stop before you go and break my heart". (No, you better stop before I come and break your cunting face);
• "Atomic" (Your fucking thighs are atomic, you bastard);
• "The Greatest Love of All" (You're the greatest cunt of all, you fucking tone-deaf wanker).

Who said the great British summer wasn't full of loveliness?

A successful complaint

Further to my post about complaints, I thought I'd share part of my recent correspondence with my bank. The following are excerpts from an e-mail I sent to them.

"I opened my [name of bank] account last year using your switching option, and a mistake was made by the team when setting up one of my standing orders. [...] As soon as I realized that you were overpaying (in March 06) I got in touch with the team. By this point the amount overpaid had reached £106.92.

"I have now spoken with four different people [in the switcher team, but I have now been told] that there is no chance of getting the money back because the S.O. was set up [by me] online. However, this is patently untrue. I set up the account [...] as described at the top of this correspondence, and the mistake is [the bank's], not mine. [...].

"I believe I have been supremely patient thus far, and I am appalled that after three months, someone is trying to shift the blame for this [bank name] blunder on to me. I demand a response. I demand my money be recalled. And I demand compensation for the interest lost. If this matter has not been settled to my satisfaction by the end of June, I shall be taking further action via the banking ombudsman and the small-claims court. I look forward to hearing from you."

I thought that was quite a good e-mail. And it worked. I had a letter from them dated 30 June (my deadline date). But they still claimed that it was I who had set up the standing order incorrectly.

I phoned the sender of the letter and calmly explained that this was not the case. I told her that the account may have been set up online, but if so, then it had been done by an employee of the bank. This flummoxed her. She took all the necessary details. Two days later another letter arrived, apologizing and admitting that "it would appear the switcher team did set up the Standing Order [...] incorrectly. [...] this has highlighted a training requirement, which will be addressed."

She went on to say that £10 would be paid to me in lost interest and a further £30 "for the distress and inconvenience we unintenionally caused you".

So, dear readers, there you have it: a good complaint can yield results. This is my good news of the week!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Believe it or not, there are times when “cunt” just isn’t the right thing to say

I can complain with the best of them. I moan, I rant, I bitch.

But most of this moaning, ranting, and bitching ultimately leads to nothing. It's just a venting of spleen about this work project or that neighbour or some other annoyance, be it TV shows, parking problems, or Blogger acting up.

Sometimes I complain to people/organizations about a service that they have offered yet failed to deliver.

One such time was a number of Christmases ago. Wife and I had booked a hire car to drive up and see my folks over the festive season. Back in the day we didn't have a car, so this expensive option was our only one. Knowing cars would probably be in hot demand, I booked plenty of time in advance. Even so, being the cautious type that I am, before setting off on Christmas Eve to collect (it was a half-hour Tube ride away), I phoned the company to make sure the car was ready.

"Oh, we don't have a car for you," I was told.

"But I've booked it," I said. "Several weeks ago."

"Yes, we have a record of your booking, but we just don't have a car right now"

"Okay... so when will you have one."

"I'm afraid I don't know, sir."

"Well, will it be today?"

"I don't know."

"Because I've booked it for today. I need it today."

"I understand that, sir, but I don't know that we'll have a car for you today."

... You can imagine that I didn't like the way this conversation was going. I got a little stressed in fact. So stressed that, before I knew it I had called the bloke a cunt and slammed down the phone.

"Now what?" asks Wife.

"I don't know," I replied.

We sat. I vented and moaned. Told her how they shouldn't be able to get away with this sort of thing. "But," she reminded me, "we need a car. And we certainly won't get one anywhere else today."

"I've got to phone back, haven't I?"

"I think so."

Five minutes later...

"Hello, I phoned a little while ago... "

"Sir, I think you should speak to my manager."

So I speak to the manager, who tells me that it is not very nice to speak to his staff that way.

"Fair point," I say, "but you have to understand my frustration." I was very contrite. I did apologize. Said that I was very stressed because they didn't seem to be honouring their side of the bargain. He said I could come and get a car now. So we did. It was a little embarrassing. I did the right thing and apologized again. Sometimes you just have to, even if you're not in the wrong.

This is the true and accurate story of how I learned that there are times when "cunt” just isn’t the right thing to say.

And these days, before I phone to make any complaint, Wife always reminds me, "Be calm. Don't call him a cunt."


Friday, July 07, 2006

“Empty Cans”: the end of youth

A couple of nights ago, while cooking dinner and washing up, I put on a CD. Often I put on A Grand Don't Come For Free by The Streets for this. I've always liked the last song, "Empty Cans", but I think I've never really given it the attention it deserves. The reason for this in part is that it follows the anthemic "Dry Your Eyes", which itself sounds like an album closer. But the album needs another song after "Dry Your Eyes"; it needs a final chapter. This is what "Empty Cans" delivers -- and more. It is not only the final chapter, it is also the epilogue.

The great majority of the song's running time is funny and features a navel-gazing Mike feeling a bit sorry for himself and something the worse for wear from drinking too much Super Tennants. This leads to his having a fist fight with a TV repairman who he believes is trying to rip him off. However, it soon becomes the happy ending that we hoped for all along.

Finally, though, the song turns inward on itself and becomes something of an ode to the end of youth. For the first time I really listened to it. And it gave me just a goosebump or two as our protagonist comes to realize that he is about to embark on a new period in his life, as are his friends, and that it's time to "man-up" and start taking care of business.

Here's the last chorus-verse-chorus. Stirring stuff.

It's the end of something I did not want to end,
Beginning of hard times to come.
But something that was not meant to be is done,
And this is the start of what was.

About 2 this afternoon the last of the people left my house,
Cos they never stop chattin' till all the racket's gone.
I really feel like things clicked into place at some point,
Or maybe it's the fact that me and Alison really got on.
Or maybe it's that I realized that it is true:
No one's really there fighting for you in the last garrison.
No one except yourself, that is -- no one except you.
You are the one who's got your back till the last deed's done.
Scott can't have my back till the absolute end,
Cos he's got to look out for what's over his horizon.
He's gotta make sure he's not lonely, not broke.
It's enough to worry about keeping his own head above.
I shut the door behind me, huddled up in my coat,
Condensation floating off my breath, squinted out the sun.
My jeans feel a bit tight -- think I washed them a bit too high;
I was gonna be late, so I picked up my pace to run.

It's the end of something I did not want to end,
Beginning of hard times to come.
But something that was not meant to be is done,
And this is the start of what was.

You can find the rest of the lyric at Lyrics on Demand.

And in case you think I'm not being objective enough, you can read my thoughts on some of The Streets' other work by clicking here.

7/7: one year on

I know some Muslims.

I know some people from Yorkshire.

But I don't know any Muslims from Yorkshire.

They don't have a very good reputation.

This is because a year ago four of them decided to carry out what has become known as "Britain's 9/11".

Of course, 7/7 was not on the same scale as 9/11. There were no aeroplanes involved. No buildings that were legendary in their design and size and silhouette. No targets that were obviously "capitalist" or "governmental".

No, 7/7 was ordinary.

Four ordinary boys taking ordinary modes of transport: buses and Tube trains. With explosives.

7/7 was 9/11's little brother.

No exaggeration; no frills.

The low-budget version of the Hollywood epic.

But it was ours.

The faces of those killed in the attacks can be seen here.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

HNT #5

For those of you wishing to take a look, you can find it here. It's all very tasteful: smiles and everything.

Sout Pok

I did this a while ago but have only now decided to post it. Just a bit of fun really. The pic on the left is how I see myself, and the pic on the right is how Wife sees me. Bizarre, really.

Make your own South Park character by clicking here - you know, if you want to, like.


Foreign Film category changes

I, for one, am glad to read the news that the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the people behind the Oscars) has changed the rules governing entry for the Foreign Film category. [Source: BBC News]

It has always seemed ridiculous that a foreign film had to be in the language of the country that was submitting the film. This has recently led to the Italian film Private being disallowed because it is set in the Middle East and all the dialogue is in ... well, "Middle Eastern". You know, like Arabic and Hebrew. (Incidentally, Private wasn't half bad. Check it out if you get the chance.)

I think there was also some controversy recently over a Palestinian film, because Palestine is not recognized as a country. Or something. (I get very confused about all that stuff.)

Anyway, the rules have changed, and now any language can be used by any country, as long as the film's dominant language is not English. "If the Taiwanese want to send us a picture with exclusively Portuguese dialogue this year, we're ready for them," said Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy, in response to a situation that "didn't seem fair". So that's all good, then.

He looks happy about it anyway

Now all they need to do is address the problem of only one entry being permitted for each country and we might be getting somewhere.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Doctor’s new assistant named

We all know Billie Piper is soon to be leaving Doctor Who (oops, sorry if some of you didn't!), but today the BBC has named her successor. Find out who it is by clicking here.

20 Comments Wednesday

Azzurro is the colour

How great were Italy last night? Okay, so Germany were good, too. But at the end of the day, Italy raised their game and Germany didn't. I'm no football connoisseur, and I don't have a great sporting memory. Indeed, my interest in Italian football dates back only about ten years, but I've never seen Italy play better than they did last night. Fantastic.

I must go on record, too, though, and say that I really don't like Alessandro Del Piero. When I saw him come on, I though we were in for 15 minutes of diving from the dive-master. At best I thought that even that old, played-out motherfucker had quarter of an hour of good football in him. But to go on and score that second goal in the last minute as he did... Sheer magic.

Normally when Italy score, be it in the first minute or the last, you can expect them to stop attacking and go into defence mode. But last night to score two goals - no, two great goals - in the last two or three minutes of the game... Unheard of. Un-Italy. Unadulterated genius.

And still no team has put a goal past Italy in the whole of the World Cup. The only goal they have conceded is the own goal against the USA.

Best commentating moment? "It's lovely to see two strikers playing with each other."

Let's hope the French get a caning tonight and that we see an Italy v Portugal final.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Been shoppin’

I've never really considered myself a shopaholic. Apart from the fact that to be a shopaholic it's almost implied that you have to be either a girl or gay, I've always just found the idea of shopping boring: the searching out good things in overcrowded shops and then queuing to part with your cash has just never really held any appeal for me.

Then along came the Internet and all that changed. Well, not quite all. Most of my music, movie, and book shopping is now done online, but when it comes to clothes and shoes, I really have to get out to the stores and mingle with real people.

I went shopping this morning. The intention was to pick up a pair of lightweight long trousers to keep myself protected from the sun. I don't want a repeat of my recent sunburn episode when next I venture out.

In the event, I bought the following.

Three DVDs: Man on Fire (as kind of recommended by Candy), Minority Report, and Barton Fink.
One CD: Rage Against the Machine.

(To be fair, the above haul came to £10.96 [US$20.22], which is a total bargain.)


Two T-shirts from the David & Goliath shop for £20 each;

and two pairs of lightweight long trousers (one beige; one navy pinstripe) and one pair of lightweight three-quarter length trousers from Next, which came to about £83 I think.

And all I went out to buy was one pair of lightweight long trousers.

As we were leaving the shopping centre, Wife said, "I wish I found it as easy to shop as you do."

I think she thinks I'm a shopaholic. But I'm not a girl. Nor am I gay (despite the fact that I bought a pair of lightweight three-quarter length trousers). I also spent about £30 online yesterday on a CD (for Wife), the Season 3 box set of Quantum Leap, and a book (that Salaryman one that A.C.T. has just finished reading).


"Hello, my name's * (asterisk), and I'm a shopaholic."

Happy 4th of July

Monday, July 03, 2006

Let’s talk to Bernard Pivot

A few weeks back, Red posted what she would respond to the Bernard Pivot questionnaire that James Lipton uses on Inside The Actors Studio. You can find her answers by clicking here. I never took the bait and ran with it, and I should have, because I love these questions (and the show). This week, Sue Ellen Mischke has done her answers, too, so I figured I'd best jump on the bandwagon before it's too late!

So here are my answers as of today. They might change tomorrow. But here goes:

01. What is your favourite word?

02. What is your least favourite word?

03. What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

04. What turns you off?
Loud children and parents who can't control them.

05. What is your favourite curse word?

06. What sound or noise do you love?
Kurt Cobain's voice on "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" from the MTV Unplugged show, though I hate to hear it. The way it breaks is both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

07. What sound or noise do you hate?
The spine of a paperback book cracking. I try to keep mine as new. Freak.

08. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I'm too old to be a pop star now, so acting.

09. What profession would you not like to do?
Telesales, or telemarketing.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"Wow, no one's ever lived this long before!"

Now what are your answers?

How to avoid the sun when it’s 32°C (90°F) outside and you really don’t want to risk burning again

Yep, it was something of a scorcher over the weekend down here in the southeast of England. But those of you who know that my superhero super power is to turn into Lobster Man (thanks, 4D!) as soon as the sun takes his hat off will understand why I needed to keep a low profile.

So what to do when the sun prevents you from venturing outdoors. No, this isn't that sort of site, you know (not yet anyway, but who knows what might happen if and when desperate measures are needed).

Wife (ever obliging when I must remain indoors) and I turned to the gift of television to entertain ourselves. That is, once we'd got bored of working and had done about as much blogging as one can reasonably do before the realization that it's taken over you life and turned your brain to mush. (Actually that last bit is a tad unfair, since "studies" apparently show that blogging increases your IQ. I imagine that's probably true, but the fact that I read it on Blogger leads me to at least be uncertain until I've done my own investigating.)

Apart from the copious amounts of Big Brother and footie that had to be consumed, we also had a couple of movies from LoveFilm sitting on the side costing us money. So I'll put some notes here about what they were and how they were.

First up was an Italian movie, The Consequences of Love. I'd heard quite good things about this. Unfortunately I was disappointed. The concept was good, and the ending was good, and there were even some good bits in it. I chuckled a couple of times (although it's not a comedy; I just laugh at everything). Wife has a theory that Italian films are all head and no heart. That's often the case. Shame. To be fair, though, there is a lot of good stuff that has come out of Italy in recent years, but often these films star young actors in the lead roles - people like Luigi Lo Cascio and Giovanna Mezzogiorno (pictured here for no good reason) are good names to look out for.

Next up, it was Candy Minx country and - about 17 years too late, I know - Jesus of Montreal. Having recently (ish) watched both The Barbarian Invasions and The Decline of the American Empire by the same director, it seemed the right time to give this old movie a go. I loved The Barbarian Invasions; I found it really quite stunning, and I'm glad I watched it before The Decline of the American Empire, even though it is the sequel and should have been watched after. Why glad? Because Decline suffers the same problem as Jesus of Montreal: looking old before its time. And of course, movies of that period (mid- to late 1980s) often also suffer from what I call Michael Mann syndrome, with terrible terrible incidental music à la Miami Vice. Indeed, I had to reach for my air guitar on more than one occasion.

That said, Jesus of Montreal was quite fascinating; at least for the first 90 minutes. It started to drag a little then. I was still going with the flow, but out of the corner of my eye I noticed Wife reaching for Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide to check the running time; I knew right then that we'd lost her. Still, as I say, good till then. The ending not so great. And a couple of scenes just weren't that well directed. In one in particular, the two actors seemed as though they were playing in totally different films, so incompatible with one another were their performances.

So one duff film with a good ending, and one good film with a duff ending. To paraphrase Maurice "Bosco" Boscorelli (right) in Third Watch, "together they make one good film".

Then, at last, the Survivor tape came out of its box and restored our faith in videokind...


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