January 31, 2007

Mind Your PQs

From BBC News | World | Americas: No stoning, Canada immigrants told
Herouxville, which has one immigrant family in its population of about 1,300, is 160km (100 miles) north-east of Montreal.

Its council published [its] new rules [governing acceptable behaviour] on the town's website.

"We wish to inform these new arrivals that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here," the declaration reads.

"We consider it completely outside norms to... kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them etc."
The author of the new rules, councillor Andre Drouin, denies they are racist, saying "I eight racist stereotypes. Some of my best friends, dey are Muslehm. Pretee progresssif, hein?" Mr Drouin then excused himself, explaining that he was needed urgently at a pea soup eating contest taking place at the local church-cum-grain silo.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, a police officer is under investigation for writing a song called 'That's Enough Already', a hip-hopera ballad featuring the lines "We want to accept ethnics, but not at any price . . . If you're not happy with your fate, there's a place called the airport." The police department are apparently concerned that the officer may have plagiarised the lyrics from an early Celine Dion B-side.

Also, the legally-mandated-when-discussing-Canada pot joke: immigrants are told no-one can be stoned in Canada? That's a laugh!

My work here is done.

January 30, 2007

Mother of All Disclaimers

You're all blogophiles, so I expect you've heard about Stephen Colbert's (easy, Mariana) newly planned website called IntegrityJustice.com. Essentially, it will be a 'news' site where bloggers can submit 'news' stories that Colbert will then treat as gospel truth and report on during his show. He will also be posting his own 'news' stories on the site, which you can then link to and expand upon in your own blog to raise the item's profile.

For the moment, though, the site has been having some teething problems, and until this morning was just a simple form for emailing the webmaster along with the lengthy terms and conditions, which include the most impressive example of legalese I have ever seen:
6. You hereby agree not to sue and irrevocably and unconditionally remise, release, waive and forever discharge Company and each of its respective parent and related companies, subsidiaries (whether or not wholly-owned), affiliates, divisions, and their past, present and future officers, agents, representatives, employees, successors and assigns, jointly and individually (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Releasees"), from any and all manner of liabilities, claims and demands of any kind or nature, whatsoever, in law or equity, whether known or unknown, which you (or your assigns, agents and/or representatives) ever had, now has, or in the future may have against the Releasees including, but not limited to, claims arising out of or related to the uses described herein, the Submissions and/or your decision to provide the Submissions to Company.
I particularly enjoy "past, present and future officers, agents, representatives, etc.", and "demands of any kind or nature . . . whether known or unknown". I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that if you submit something to the site, neither you nor anyone acting on your behalf can ever sue Viacom, or anything connected to Viacom, for anything, ever. Even if, say, they repeatedly pummel you with a tire iron. Is that really worth the possibility of getting your blog URL read out on the Colbert Report?

I think we all know the answer.

January 29, 2007

Fun de Semaine

Lack of blog this weekend reflects a total lack of free time, not to mention a monster hangover.

Friday was the office annual "Christmas" party (Christmas is cheaper in January), so I went straight from work to the football pitch for the London office vs Edinburgh office five-a-side match (we lost), and straight from there to some poncy club in Mayfair where I drank liberally from the open bar and stood around with rich investment banker types smoking cigars. It was, perhaps, the manliest night of my life.

Saturday I got up at ten to go meet my mum before she left town on the noon train. I was still drunk. Then dim sum with one friend, a hurried nap, and dinner and a movie with another. We were meant to be seeing The Pursuit of Happyness, not because it looks like a good movie, but because I have been so aggravated by the incorrect spelling in the title that I needed to go just for an explanation. It was sold out, though, so we ended up seeing Venus instead, which, though I will admit warrants Peter O' Toole's Oscar nom, was otherwise a frustratingly plodding muddle.

Sunday I finally got back on the improv wagon, in the form of a three hour musical improv workshop with none other than Montreal's most life-like futuristic killing machine, MDR. It was really great to get back on stage again, though musical improv lies so far outside my comfort zone I would have preferred a slightly gentler re-introduction. At one point, my singing was going so badly that the workshop leader had me finish up the song in gibberish, leading to the surprisingly catchy chorus: "Shmulack! Ma-reep-da-peep SHMULACK!"

Shmulack means 'toffee', by the way.

And Sunday night I settled in for a very British evening of fish and chips and Fawlty Towers with my friend Helen. She, incidentally, told me that my 'Waiting With Dan' post was one of the funniest things I'd written in a long time, which surprised me (because I didn't think anyone who didn't know Dan would get it), and also leads me to believe that I should try and be like Dan Beirne all the time. I'm going to go straight out after work and pick up a nineteen-year-old.

Now, though, another gruelling Monday at the office (made all the worse by the large gaps in my memory from Friday night's boozefest. What did I say to the CEO?).

January 26, 2007

January 25, 2007

Just Don't Touch Their Nuts

From Newsvine: NJ Warns: Don't Eat Squirrel Near Dump
TRENTON, N.J. — [New Jersey] has cautioned Ringwood residents . . . about their squirrel intake, said Tom Slater, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Senior Services.

A lead-contaminated squirrel was found in the area two months ago, prompting the agency, along with the state Department of Environmental Protection, to send out letters advising that adults eat squirrel no more than twice a week . . .

"We've known for a long time something was wrong here, we just didn't know what it was," resident Myrtle Van Dunk said.
Um, maybe it was the fact that YOU'RE EATING SQUIRREL!

How much meat can you even get from a squirrel? I would imagine you'd have to eat at least two a DAY in order to get any kind of significant nutritive value from it, never mind two a week. And how would one normally prepare squirrel? I don't remember seeing it mentioned in The Naked Chef.

Best part about this story? The toxic waste that's contaminating the squirrels comes from an old Ford factory in the nearby town of . . . Mahwah. It's the amazing self-punchlining town!

Also, Myrtle Van Dunk? Almost as awesome a name as Raphaelle LaFramboise.

January 24, 2007

Jaded

Perhaps some of you have heard about the row that has been sweeping Britain lately over ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother. If not, let me boil it down for you: an ignoramus, who is so blithely naive as to almost escape being contemptible (and who is a celebrity in the first place only because she was on Plebeian Big Brother a few years ago), started calling one of the other contestants ‘Poppadom’, in an extremely subtle reference to the target’s ethnicity. Much scandal ensued (weighed in upon by both Tony Blair and Tony Blair II, aka David Cameron), and Jade, the ignoramus in question, got voted off the show with a walloping 82% of the vote.

Now, some people have looked at this and said, “Wow, 82% of British people hate racism!” For example:
The 82% who voted to eject Jade Goody are testament to the work already being done by schools to develop respect, understanding and tolerance.
Which I’m afraid I need to call mighty large bullshit on.

(No offense, Sean, this is just my attempt to better articulate what I was trying to say the other day.)

(Wow, did I really just begin my attempt at “better articulation” with the word “bullshit”?)

I won’t even bore you with my usual methodological quibbles about the nature of the sample and whether or not we can actually draw any conclusions about ‘Britons’ per se; because, in fact, the social psychology behind the whole thing is far more interesting.

See, one of the things that gets beat into you at sociology school is that questions of the type “Do you hate racism?” tend to yield remarkably invalid results. When you publicly put someone on the spot and ask them to declare an opinion, they’re less likely to give you the truth and more likely to declare the opinion that they think will make whoever’s asking happy. This is true even when the “public declaration” is an anonymous response (I have a feeling I’ve used this example before, because it really is one of my favourite pieces of social psychological research, but here goes): when researchers insert questions about fictional political issues into surveys (eg. “What do you think of the proposed Penniweather Bill?”), the majority of respondents claim to either strongly agree or strongly disagree with it. They do this, most likely, because they don’t want to appear foolish in the eyes of others – and it’s that driving desire for positive self-presentation that lies behind a lot of what we publicly profess to believe in. (Rick Mercer’s Talkng to Americans is another good example: when a Canadian with a camera asks you to congratulate Canada on something, you’re not very likely to say, “No, get lost, you stupid Canuck!”).

Anyway, let’s look at the whole Big Brother thing from Joe Bloggs’s point of view:

Woman says racist thing on TV; papers publicise woman’s racist statement in growing public scandal; leading public figures come out condemning woman’s racist statement; a record 40,000 complaints are made to the industry regulator about the woman’s racist statement; the international press pick up on the story, and woman’s racist statement is made into a global disgrace; public vote is announced pitting woman who made racist statement against woman towards whom racist statement was made.

Now, I ask you, who, after all that, is going to vote for the Indian woman? The underlying question isn’t really “Do you hate racism?”, it’s “Do you agree with the rest of the country?” – and because you have to see the rest of the country again tomorrow, you’ll tend to go along with it.

I would also point out that the argument “82% of viewers voted Jade off, therefore 82% of the country are not racist” is completely one-sided. I haven’t seen anyone make the logically complementary statement, viz., that 18% (one fifth!) of the country are racist – because who would be silly enough to make sweeping judgements about a person’s socio-political views based on how they voted on a TV show, right?

Anyway, long story short, I don’t buy it. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I think British people are racist; it just means an impromptu TV poll doesn’t really prove it one way or another. Please reserve your angry flame comments for another time.

January 23, 2007

Snow Business

I was planning to blog about the whole Celebrity Big Brother fiasco tonight, but that will have to wait for another time because today Southeast England was gripped by SNOW CHAOS!!!!!
Wintry weather in southern and eastern parts of England is expected to worsen over the next 24 hours.

Snow and ice has already led to travel problems in the South East and London, with rail services severely disrupted and heavy congestion on some roads.

Sixteen flights from Heathrow and Gatwick airports have been cancelled.
I got into work my customary five minutes late this morning, only to find the office practically deserted. It seems that all but one of London's Underground lines were experiencing at least slight delays, with others suffering major meltdowns and one even being suspended completely.

Now, you might rightly ask what kind of gargantuan snowfall must have prompted such disruption, and you might also rightly be gobsmacked to learn that the answer is: two centimetres.

I'm not sure whether to be thrilled that I now live in a climate where two centimetres is considered "heavy snowfall", or appalled that England is so poorly prepared for inclement weather. I mean, if they can't even handle two centimetres of snow, what does that say about their ability to handle more complex tasks like the economy, public safety, remembering to change their underwear regularly or, well, ANYTHING?!

And will someone please explain to me how the London Underground can be so badly affected by snowfall of any degree? Is English snow in fact composed of evil, hyper-intelligent nanobots that can bore through concrete and dissolve railway track? Is Transport for London afraid that people will descend into the tube, forget it's snowing, and then suffer violent heart attacks upon the shock of stepping back outside? Is the majority of Underground staff made up of recovering cocaine addicts who fall into debilitating withdrawl fits at the very mention of the word 'snow'?

On the bright side, I can now enjoy playing the role of smug Canadian git, and torment my co-workers with phrases such as, "You call this snow?", "Do you know how cold it is in Montreal right now?", "Isn't public health care great?" etc., etc.

January 21, 2007

Waiting With Dan

Dan Beirne comes over every Sunday to the flat to watch TV, or just chat with Andrew. Andrew found these little chats so interesting, he decided to tape-record them and tell the world all the neat things Dan had to say about TV and stuff.

Sunday, January 21st, a clear winter’s day.

Me: Hey, look, a documentary about the Montreal ice storm.

Dan: Yawneroo.

Me: No, come on, let’s watch it. I don’t really know anything about the ice storm.

Dan: What’s to know? Ice. Power cuts. It all got worked out in the end.

(Dan brushes his hair into his face)

Me: You’re unusually morose today.

Dan: No I’m not.

Me: Wow. Five days. And there was only one power line for the whole city? Yikes.

Dan: ‘And there was only one power line for mlah mlah mlah, I’m Andrew.’

(Dan is wearing a black t-shirt with the outline of a white t-shirt printed on the front)

Me: I’m ignoring you.

Dan: You’re not doing a very good job.

Me: I didn’t realise they were going to evacuate the whole island.

(Dan arches his eyebrows, as if he’s having his picture taken).

Me: Come on, you must have some kind of opinion about this.

Dan: I think it’s lame that the best stock footage they could find was some old lady hobbling around an emergency shelter.

Me: Why do you say that?

Dan: Well, like, you know... It’s lame.

(The back of Dan’s t-shirt has the words ‘First Lady’ printed on it)

Dan: Why not show something actually covered in ice somewhere in the city?

Me: Like cars, or buildings or something?

Dan: Yeah, or like, a discarded umbrella.

Me: I think it’s interesting that when they’re doing voice-overs for the Quebecois speakers, they give them Brummie accents.

Dan: What’s a Brummie accent?

Me: Like, a working class English accent.

(Dan is reading from a dictionary)

Dan: ‘Brummie. A native or inhabitant of Birmingham.’

Me: Oh. Well I think it’s interesting they give them working class accents, anyway.

Dan: Why is that interesting?

Me: Well, it’s like, sociolinguistics, right? Quebecois Hydro workers are pretty working class, right? So when they dub them into English they hold that constant.

Dan: Now that is some stock footage.

Me: What?

Dan: You missed it.

Me: What was it?

Dan: It’s hard to explain.

Me: Hey, are you leaving?

Dan: Yeah.

Me: What? Why? The show’s still not over.

Dan: I just remembered I have to do something.

Me: What?

Dan: Just... stuff.

Me: Can I come?

Dan: Sorry. Brent and I are going roller-skating. It’s a, you know... cool people thing.

Me: I’m cool.

Dan: Right. But like, not Brent cool.

Me: Oh.

Dan: I’ll see you next week, though. We’ll have pasta salad.

Me: Don’t forget your gloves.

(Dan closes the door behind him)

[end transcription]

Notes:

Brent broke his glasses while rollerskating.

Dan Beirne is a celebrated film director and comedian. He is friends with Nathan Lane, and to a lesser extent, Andrew.

January 19, 2007

January 16, 2007

Summer Reading, Pt. 2

On the way back from Sydney I bought myself a copy of Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down. I'd never read Hornby before (though I have seen most of his film adaptations), and ALWD had sounded interesting to me ever since I'd read its initial reviews.

Well, what an enormous disappointment. I can honestly say that this is the most insipid piece of writing ever to have had a compliment from Johnny Depp printed on its cover – not to mention the bafflingly enormous array of obsequious British newspaper reviews that litter the first few pages. How much did the publisher pay these book critics?!

My biggest issue was the narration. The book is divided between four different narrators: a disgraced middle-aged TV personality, a devoutly Catholic single mother, a rebellious teenager, and a washed-up amateur musician from the States, and Hornby draws these characters with masterfully subtle strokes: the devout Catholic disapproves of people swearing (imagine!); the American says “man” all the time (never!); the TV presenter is bored of being recognised (surely not!).

Teenager Jess’ characterisation is particularly tenuous: she in general likes to act like an uneducated prole who doesn’t understand big words (which is, of course, hilariously ironic, as she’s actually the daughter of the Junior Minister for Education); and yet she has a fleeting ability to trade French quips with the other characters, which comes and goes according to Hornby’s whim (or hangover, or whatever).

Essentially, with the exception of a few overused stylistic watermarks to indicate ‘voice’, they are all quite palpably Hornby, which would be fine, if there were only one narrator – but having four people all maundering and prevaricating about the same events in more or less the same way becomes intensely irritating. Here’s how pretty much every idea is set out:
It’s like [X]. Well, I mean, obviously it’s not exactly like [X] because that would mean [absurd extension of the analogy for comic effect]. But if [X] were more like [Y], that’s sort of how it would be.
Which would be aggravating enough every five pages, but, even worse, the analogy is usually just there for a cheap laugh because the idea being ‘clarified’ is something blindingly straightforward like “I was unhappy because my boyfriend broke up with me.”

That’s symptomatic of my other big problem with the book: it’s about 20% plot and 80% pointless exposition. Between every interesting story movement, you have to get through pages and pages of flat, plodding, train-of-thought soliloquys. It’s like Hornby just threw up on a manuscript. Well, obviously it’s not exactly like that, because then you’d just be buying a book of vomit-stained paper! But if people threw up typed, asinine rambling, that’s sort of how it would be.

See? Kind of grating, isn’t it?

The last big problem is that any dramatic tension that might exist in the book is efficiently deflated within the first fifty or so pages. The plot, if you don’t know, is that these four people meet by chance on a rooftop on New Year’s Eve, because they’re all planning to kill themselves – and the rest of the book deals with how they develop friendships in the course of persuading each other not to go through with it.

But for some reason Hornby makes repeated reference to the fact that they’re all writing this long after the fact, so it’s clear almost immediately that none of them are actually going to kill themselves, and in that case why do we give a shit? Not that a story needs to include a suicide in order to be interesting, but if you’re going to premise a book on four characters contemplating suicide, it might help to leave open the possibility that, I don’t know, at least one of them might actually commit suicide in the end, don’t you think? The whole book just feels like Hornby going through the motions to illustrate, in painful detail, why they’re not going to do what he’s told you they won’t from the start.

Basically, the problem is that Hornby (and everyone else, apparently) is so masturbatorily obsessed with his own coolness, that he can just write two hundred pages of weak jokes stitched loosely around a interesting concept, and have it accepted as a valuable contribution to contemporary British literature. But it’s a dull novel, and its few meagre flourishes in form can’t make up for an utter lack of empathy for its characters. Boo, hiss, and heartily unrecommended.

Conversations With Plagiarism

The McGill Sociology Students’ Association, bless ‘em, can’t seem to get me off their mailing list, and as a consequence I am still getting their newsletter in my inbox every so often. Imagine my shock upon opening it this month:



Now, I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that, but I’m not sure how I feel about this outrageous and unauthorised use of my idea. The first answer sounds a little stiff (putting ‘Engels’ in brackets? Ugh); and talk about preachy! “Try using an agenda and setting deadlines for yourself well ahead of the actual due dates”? Karl Marx is not a vehicle for propounding better study habits, dammit!

I do like the second answer, though – it really captures the tone that I like to give Marx, sort of obliviously full of himself. I particularly enjoy “Marx, Marxists and Marxism: A Survey”. It’s the “A Survey” part that really does it, I think. And the little dig at MUAR 211 at the end is a nice touch.

Also, why was there nobody called “Raphaelle LaFramboise” in the SSA while I was there? What an awesome name! If she is also the one who now writes Dear Marx, I think I may have found my wife. I will gladly be Mr Andrew LaFramboise.

Hey, anybody with an understanding of intellectual property law: would I ever be able to actually stop anyone from using “my” characters? I mean, I can’t exactly copyright a historical figure, can I? I guess I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that nobody else ever wants to write a comic strip in which Marx and Engels bicker with each other. That’s probably pretty likely, eh?

January 14, 2007

Stealing Alice's Bit

I had an overnight layover at “Tokyo” International Airport on my way home from Sydney, and was determined to use the time to experience some of that kooky Japanese culture that everyone is always talking about. I’d had high hopes of making it into Tokyo proper, but the airport is actually in Narita, which is about an hour and a half from Tokyo (and that’s by expensive high-speed train, too), so I would have had precisely enough time to get to the train station in Tokyo, say, “Ah, so this is the train station in Tokyo,” and then turn around and go back to my hotel by the airport.

Instead I went into “downtown” Narita, which MetaFilter (thanks, Sean!) had made sound almost exciting. This was, in fact, liberal use of poetic license, and in the end I spent only the mandatory hour between buses there before going back to the hotel. I was also, honestly, feeling totally overwhelmed. It’s a very unsettling experience to be surrounded by writing that you just cannot read; plus there are so many pernickety items of Japanese etiquette that I was so sure I was going to get wrong, I was afraid to talk to anyone lest I be set upon by a gang of angry ninjas.

Still, I really did want to do something uniquely Japanese, so I went to a convenience store and bought myself the weirdest looking drink I could find:



I mean, what the hell, right? ‘Qoo’? It sounded unnatural, and looked unnatural, and is apparently most highly endorsed by one-eared cats; so I figured it would be pretty crazy tasting. Sadly, it was just apple juice (admittedly, the apples on the label should probably have tipped me off to this), and in fact some of the best apple juice I’ve ever tasted. Go Qoo!

My weird-o-meter still unsatisfied, I went back out to a different convenience store to see if I could find something more bizarre. This is what I came up with:



Now, this, I thought, had to be awful. The only English on the label (apart from the obligatory “Refresh and happy!”) was “water”, but it was clearly closer to the colour and consistency of breast milk – and “Pis” was right there in the brand name, too, which seemed like it was just asking for trouble.

In fact, it tasted almost exactly like non-alcoholic Smirnoff Ice (talk about a marketing nightmare), which wasn’t gross, exactly, but hardly Refresh and Happying. Luckily I had also bought myself some of these to get rid of the taste:



Mmm, Meltykiss!

Oh, and speaking of Japanglish, I was looking through the TV guide in my room, and I think this is possibly the most amusingly gloating porno title, ever:



And finally, on a completely unrelated topic: welcome to London, Marc!

January 13, 2007

Sydizen of the World

DSC00008

So here it is, proof that I was actually in Australia instead of just using that as an excuse to call people in the middle of the night. More pictures will also be gradually available on my newly established Flickr account.

A few things I learnt about Australia while there:

Australians’ love for Steve Irwin is eclipsed only, evidently, by their inefficiency and/or laziness. Steve still makes a chilling plea from beyond the grave for environmental isolationism, in the short customs regulations video that all visitors are shown on entry, and which the government apparently hasn’t yet managed to replace.

Australia was at one point a land of giants. Everything is subtlely but noticably larger in Australia: the yoghurt cartons, the soft drink containers, the barbecues, and so forth. The fifty cent coin could in a pinch double for a shuriken. I can only assume that this is because the original colonisers were hulking mesomorphs who fashioned Australian material culture to their scale, and then died out (perhaps in some kind of tragic accident involving needing to hide from velociraptors in grass that was, alas!, not quite tall enough), leaving behind a population comically out of proportion with everything else in the country.

When pedestrians in Australia get a green crossing signal, this is accompanied not by a beeping noise, as in most countries, but rather with a breakneck drumbeat sound that was almost certainly taken from the opening of a Propellerheads song. Anyone wishing to actually cross the street must then speed mosh to the other side or face a hefty fine (see below).

The Australian police will fine you for pretty much anything. There are signs everywhere threatening to fine you for something, like smoking, putting your feet where they’re not supposed to be, refusing to exercise your right to vote, and so forth. Strangely, I never saw anyone being fined, though I did see plenty of people who were fiiiiine!

Because The Ashes were on while I was there, I watched enough cricket that I finally managed to work out what the rules are. Essentially, both teams run around at random trying to pass the time between meal breaks, and then at the end of the match Australia are declared the winners (this is the case even and/or especially when Australia are not actually playing).

Tomorrow: adventures in Japan!

January 12, 2007

Conversations With Greatness CXIII



Back in London, safe and sound. What time is it? What day is it? What freakin' season is it?

More tomorrow.

January 09, 2007

Does This Count As Nominative Determinism?

Over the weekend the papers were reporting on some "scandal" involving Sigmund Freud. It appears that some historian has found some piece of paper that makes it pretty undeniable that Freud probably had an affair with his wife's sister (which everyone pretty much believed was the case anyway). You'll forgive me if I don't choke on my merlot.

Says the Kansas Star:
The evidence is persuasive enough for Peter Gay, the Freud biographer and longtime skeptic on what he called "the Minna matter," to say he is now inclined to revise his work accordingly. "It makes it very possible that they slept together," he said.
Wait, the biographer of Freud is named Peter Gay? That is priceless! (You'll forgive me if I choke on my merlot.)

January 08, 2007

Superhighway Information

Now that I'm back on the web tracker wagon, I thought a review of 2006's (largely alarming) trends was in order.

Between 18 May 2006 (when I started measuring) and 31 December 2006, my blog received 4,138 hits. At least half of these were me, frantically refreshing to see if anybody had commented on anything. (Not really; although we can reasonably assume that about half were related to my ridiculous arguments with various unsavoury internet characters and/or Dustin.)

In general, my visitors tend be serial offenders, with only 25% viewing the blog once and never returning. About half of all visitors returned nine times or more. A dedicated ninety-six people viewed the blog over two hundred times; roughly one visit a day. I think ninety-six constitutes enough to form an official fan club-- can someone please get started on that? The idea of my blog having a fan blog is too delightfully meta to even fully contemplate.

A little over half of all my traffic comes from Canada, and that largely through click-throughs from Sillytech. Predictably, the top three providers used to access the site are Bell, Videotron and McGill; the seventh most-used provider was Stikeman Elliott, accounting for 3.38% of my total traffic. I sure am popular with the resource-misappropriating Canadian lawyers!

I also have regular readers in the places you would expect (Vancouver, New York, Boston, Edinburgh), as well as a number you wouldn't (Oxford, Slough and Toulouse, to name a few); and I've had hits from places as kooky as CBS (GIVE ME A TV DEAL!), Oxford University Press (GIVE ME A BOOK DEAL!), the BBC and the Boston Globe (GIVE ME JOBS!), the USDA (GIVE ME... FRESH PRODUCE?) and the Texas Legislative Council (DON'T GIVE ME THE CHAIR!).

And then of course there's all the Google searches that bring people to the blog. Far and away the most frequent search term to yield a hit was "exbostonian" (with or without the space), which made up 25% of all search referrals. Sadly, after that, the second most popular search term (comfortably eclipsing even my own name) was the always potent "cock in pussy" (15.71% of all search referrals), which in fact topped the monthly tables twice.

A few of the other interesting ones:

"johnny knoxville naked" (It's no "Colin Farrell's cock", but I guess it'll do.)
"macgyver jokes" (Sweet!)
"jiggles, portland OR" (A strip club on Interstate 5.)
"cornellephant" (Not even close to being a real word.)
"is chad kroeger married?" (Sorry, yes.)

And, I think possibly my favourite one of all:

"hasidic porn" (You don't want to know where that dreidel has been.)

January 07, 2007

Jamais Vu

Speaking of movies, when I was at the cinema the other day for Night At The Museum, I saw a poster for Jerry Bruckheimer's latest bowel movement, Deja Vu. The tagline for it is:
It's thought that deja vu is just a trick of the mind . . . But what if it's not?
Which I think could probably serve just as well as a summary of the film's entire script development process.

--

PS. I finished Time Traveller's Wife. Its ending was, in fact, quite good.

January 05, 2007

January 04, 2007

Summer Viewing

One of the advantages of having to spend three days on a plane is that you get to catch up with a bunch of movies you'd been meaning to see. On my flight over here I watched several that I was curious about but hadn't really wanted to pay for. Namely:

World Trade Center (two out of five pundigrions). This actually wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting, with two caveats:

1. The "unexpected moment" underneath the rubble that will "leave you shaken" was indeed that the two men say they love each other. I sure can call 'em.

2. That is, unless the "unexpected moment" referred to the heart-stoppingly schmaltzy moment when John Leguizamo has a vision of Jesus, which was frankly too ridiculous for words.

Otherwise, though, despite a few other moments of over-earnest melodrama, it actually bordered on restraint for much of the time, which was a pleasant surprise; and Maggie Gyllenhall was excellent, as usual.

You, Me and Dupree (three out of five pundigrions). This also, believe it or not, bordered on restraint. Owen Wilson played it over the top, as usual, but Matt Dillon's wrenching descent into quasi-insanity was both unexpectedly straight-faced and fairly compelling; enough, anyway, to keep me interested for the entire movie, even in the absence of any other depth.

Dirty Harry (four out of five pundigrions). I'm not really sure why this was being shown on the plane, but I was glad to finally get the chance to see it. Even better, unlike Bullitt, that other "classic" cop movie set in San Francisco, this was one was not excrutiatingly dull from start to finish. It was, in fact, excrutiatingly entertaining, in that completely unhinged from reality way that only Seventies cinema can really pull off.

Night At The Museum (three out of five pundigrions). Actually, this wasn't on the plane, it was in a movie theatre in Sydney that I decided to patronise in order to escape some summer rain. It was certainly good fun, though aimed too much at kids with not enough sly grown-up jokes slipped in (though Paul Rudd as a bond trader is almost sufficient on its own). And despite a Who's Who of buzzworthy comedians for a cast, the best are under-used (especially Steve Coogan as a petulant centurion) and the rest are given pretty flat material. Still, for a family fun movie, you couldn't ask for much more, and my inner geek appreciated all the museum gags immensely.

I'm sure you're all dying to actually hear about Australia, but I'm still collecting my thoughts. In the meantime, I believe there are a few brief and stoic words written on the topic at Josh's blog.

January 01, 2007

Speaking Ill of the Dead

Does anyone else find it a little sad that 8,500 people attended James Brown's funeral, while Gerald Ford's had a line of only twenty people by mid-afternoon? And the only administration member to turn up was Cheney? Ouch.

Also, does anyone else find it a little suspicious that Gerald Ford, Saddam Hussein and James Brown "all" died in the same few days? Or does it seem more likely that all three were in fact different facets of the same, shape-shifting super robot sent from the future to fight Arnold Schwarzenegger? Think about it. All three were rulers in their domain (the US, Iraq and soul, respectively). All three were made rulers of their domain without a democratic election. All three were at one point in control of weapons of mass destruction (James Brown's tight pants left little to the imagination). All three could take shotgun wounds to the chest and still chase down a car. It makes sense for so many reasons.

Once again, I like to keep my first post of the new year fairly tony.