June 29, 2007

Conversations With Greatness CXXXV



Hey, would someone with a Wiki account in good standing (*ahem*, Vinny) mind amending the entries for Marx etc. to include a link to the CWG site, please?

June 28, 2007

I Don't Want To Alarm Anyone, But...

I think the universe is beginning to revert back to an earlier state of existence, circa 1995. Consider: Tony Blair is not the Prime Minister of Britain; Paris Hilton does not appear anywhere in US Weekly magazine; The Spice Girls are going on tour. It's beginning to get creepy.

If we're not careful, we might find ourselves flung backwards through spacetime into the mid-Nineties. Plaid shirts will be everywhere! The Republicans will control Congress!! We'll all have to start watching Friends again!!! BLOGS WILL CEASE TO EXIST!!!!!

People, I urge you, we must take action to prevent such a catastrophe! Go, now, and destroy all of your Nirvana albums and DS9 tapes! Burn your Magic: The Gathering cards! Delete all copies of Netscape from your hard drive! The more we annihilate of the mid-Nineties now, the better our chances of remaining safely in the 21st Century! Life as we know it depends on you!!!

[Fin.]

Does anybody appreciate the fact that the only cultural references I can think of from the mid-Nineties are Star Trek, Magic, and Netscape? I was a pretty lonely kid.

June 27, 2007

Taste One To Know One

It’s funny the way my appreciation of Italy has changed since I first started going there.

I don’t actually remember how old I was on my first trip to Rome, but I do remember that I flew there on my birthday and had an enormous tantrum because the only food on the plane tasted (to me, at any rate) like it had been marinated in algae bloom. I spent twenty minutes resolutely staring out the window with a pout on my face until my father shamed me into a good mood by having the captain wish me a happy birthday over the PA system (because what sort of reasonable prepubescent can fail to be in a good mood after that?).

Anyway, I must have been about six or seven when I first went to Italy and consequently appreciated the following sorts of things:
1. Going to the park around the corner.

2. Buying Lego models at the toy store across the street.

3. Playing with Lego models at the park around the corner.
I also remember getting a kick out of the fact that the currency symbol for the Lira was the same as the currency symbol for the pound, so I could walk around casually flinging about £25,000 notes (actual value: £10) to an imaginery coterie of servants and sycophants. I’d probably still get a kick out of it, too, thank you very much European Monetary Union.

The first time I went to Sardinia was in 1992, which would have made me eight and a half. I slept in a corridor in a rented holiday house in Alghero, and read the same Hardy Boys book eight times because it was the only English book I had thought to bring with me. (I still remember several details about the plot: the bad guy had a beard and glasses, that may or may not have been an elaborate removeable disguise; hypnotism was somehow involved; and some or perhaps most of the action took place in an ancient Mexican temple. There may also have been a French-Canadian bit player who added little more to the story than several italicised cries of ’Sacre Bleu!’, though in all honesty that could have been from a different Hardy Boys book. I read most of them.)

That trip I appreciated things like:
1. The prickly pear plants growing alongside every road.

2. The bewildering array of postcards and other touristy shlock, in particular a selection of brightly coloured, dried starfish, that had actually, I think, been marinated in algae bloom, and stunk up everything else in my suitcase on the trip back.

3. The flippers I was bought at the start of the trip that allowed me to slide through the water with such speed as to leave all the Italian kids sputtering, confused, in my wake.
Only rarely did I appreciate Italian food during those early visits, with the notable exceptions of pear juice, my step-grandmother’s homemade cookies, and pizza romana with potatoes on top (and this last one largely because it allowed one to eat pizza and french fries simultaneously, which seemed to me like the sort of genius that really did deserve an empire). Of that first trip to Sardinia I remember precisely nothing of the food.

In Rome there were a couple of cafes near the flat, including one fifteen minutes walk up a steep hill, where my dad would routinely drag me in the mornings and again post-siesta. I would sit and drink freshly squeezed orange juice (spremuta to the locals) and find it pleasant enough, though I couldn’t help but wonder why all the adults felt it was worthwile to trek up a steep hill to slurp desparately at a few thimbles-full of espresso twice a day. It seemed oddly unsavoury.

But over this last weekend in Sardinia, the things I appreciated were without a doubt the following:
1. Sardinian pecorino (cheese made from sheep’s milk), and a bewildering assortment of pig meat (sausages, hams, pancetta) that, alas!, cannot be found off the island because of some bizarre pig blight that forbids export (thank you very much, European Union).

2. Gelato, in a wonderous smorgasbord of flavours.

3. Espresso from the village bar, almost syruppy in consistency and served, indeed, in cups that hold only a few, glorious, thimbles-full.
So I wonder what I will appreciate about Italy in another fifteen years; since I seem to trail the older generation pretty closely (and if current trends in Italian nearly-forties are anything to go by), I am guessing clothes in various shades of brown and beige, sleeping for half the afternoon and, of course, speedos.

I’ll be sure to update you all as it happens.

June 26, 2007

Olbia Monkey's Uncle

Sardinia was, without wanting to brag excessively, blissful – and almost certainly far better than whatever you were doing between the 21st and the 25th.

We arrived at the house there on Thursday afternoon, just in time to stroll down to the beach, then stop for a beer at the village bar and buy a few things for dinner at the local market. Food in Sardinia is ridiculously cheap, especially the stuff grown on the island: a bunch of impossibly ripe tomatoes was only 75 euro cents; a decent bottle of red wine only 3.50; and (and this is definitely my favourite part) the garlic is so abundant that they actually just give it away (well, it's 6 euro cents per kilo, but practically that means that if you're buying it in the sorts of quantities that any normal person would need, it's free).

The rest of the trip was spent doing much the same. A typical day went like this:

Noon: get out of bed.
3pm: eat lunch.
4pm: go to the beach.
9pm: eat dinner.
2am: go to bed.

In between all of these things, of course, were squeezed in a number of very taxing chores, events and outings such as "go to the gelateria" or "play cards". I also spent a good deal of time drilling Adrienne on some simple Italian phrases to use while on the mainland without her handy interpreter (ie. me) this week, which usually went something like this:
Me: Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano. [I'm sorry, I don't speak Italian]

Her: Mi dispiaci, non parlo italiano. [You displease me, I won't speak Italian.]

Me: D'oh!
On Monday, Adrienne had booked a flight out of Alghero (west coast of the island), while I was meant to be flying out of Olbia (east coast of the island). However, my dad helpfully informed me that because of the timing of the flights, I would have just enough time to drive the two hours to Alghero and then hightail it back across to Olbia.

Driving in Italy, if you'll permit me some slightly tired material, is quite unlike driving anywhere else. Although the roads look like your standard two-lane affairs, that line down the middle (that one might presume marks the boundary between two lanes) is in fact meant to mark the centre of one, single lane – a lane which you must doggedly stay bang in the middle of, especially when taking blind corners at 120 km/h. I got the hang of this after just half an hour or so, at which point Adrienne seemed to develop a mysterious case of narcolepsy.

When we got to Alghero airport I abandoned the car directly outside the terminal building at an angle of about 55 degrees to the kerb. Nobody told me to move along, nobody told me there was no stopping, and nobody, indeed, even seemed to work there. One guy actually congratulated me on a great parking job, but I think he had just come from the vineyard next door.

Back on the road to Olbia, I was lucky enough to stumble on to a rare occurrence in Sardinian motoring: a four-lane highway! It only lasted about a mile, and the difference is sort of academic anyway because all you need to pass a slower car in Sardinia is a steering wheel and a well-tuned sense of whimsy, but what a mile! The blood had very nearly returned to my knuckles by the end of it.

Anyway, another hour and a half later I was safe and sound at Olbia airport, and another few hours after that back in the rainy clutches of southern England. I paid the equivalent of half a case of wine (or an infinite amount of garlic) to get from Gatwick back to my flat and that pretty much erased all goodwill that had built up over my five days off.

More Italian reflections tomorrow.

June 25, 2007

No, Prime Minister!

Jesus, I leave the country for five days and you people depose the Prime Minister?!

Well, I promise some juicy posts about my trip to Sardinia in the next few days, but first I thought it would be appropriate to remember some of the highlights of the Blair premiership (and, more importantly, some of the highlights of my blog's current affairs coverage). To that end, please read the following accompanied by Barbara Stresiand's "The Way We Were". If you don't own a copy of Barbara Streisand's "The Way We Were", a stab in the ear drum with a rusty ice pick should do the trick.

--

May 1997: Blair elected in landmark, landslide, Land Rover victory.

May 2000: Blair's eighteenth child, Leo, is born. British tabloids lose several star headline writers to fatally intense orgasms at thought of endless 'Labour' puns.

March 2001: Irate demonstrator attacks Blair by lobbing a rotten tangerine at him during a routine public appearance. When apprehended by police, she gives her occupation as "tangerine thrower", which I think we can all agree is the most awesome thing she could have said.

November 2003: Blair entertains President Bush on his first state visit to Britain. They go to a pub and drink lemonade.

May 2004: Irate demonstrator attacks Blair by lobbing a flour-filled condom at him during a parliamentary session. When apprehended by the police, he does not give his occupation as "condom thrower".

September 2004: ThankYouTony.com continues to offer American support and goodwill to Blair in the post-Iraq fracas.

January 2005: Passionate protester attacks Blair by kissing him full on the lips. Blair responds by raising taxes, probably. Liberal bastard.

April 2005: Blair wins the election. Again. *Yawn*

May 2006: Blair is entertained (maybe) by President Bush on a state visit to Washington that is shrouded in secrecy for security reasons. The two talk about Iraq, discuss their feelings, braid each other's hair.

April 2007: Blair masterfully steers a troubled country through the Iranian Hostage Crisis: Redux, without even a hint of malaise.

May 2007: Blair announces his resignation.

June 2007: Blair is replaced by an uglier, more Scottish man.

Thus ends an era.

June 19, 2007

Beyond Be-Leaf

From Newsvine: Man Says Salad Stolen From Refrigerator
SOMERSET — Someone kicked in the door of a man's apartment, stuck a knife in the door and took a chilled salad from his refrigerator…

Nothing but the salad was missing, police said…

Police said they have a suspect and expect to file charges once they finish their investigation.
In yet another plethoric pundigrions scoop, I can exclusively reveal the identity of the suspect: just click here.

Okay, so that was a joke. The real culprit was obviously a confused kidnapper trying to take the man's daughter. He misinterpreted the instructions of his accomplice: "Okay, just get in there and Caesar!"

Or maybe it was Paul Newman.

Interestingly, 'salad' is a category tag on Newsvine, and if you head on over to www.newsvine.com/salad you'll find a whole host of other greens-related news.

For instance, the most interesting thing to happen in The Hague since Milosevic joined MySpace.*

(*I wrote this as a joke, then out of morbid curiosity Googled "Milosevic MySpace" and, sure enough. Is there anything internet witsters won't do?)

But, without a doubt, the most entertaining sentence involving salad appearing in a news story is the following:
It was the pumping carotid artery in the neck of Warren Steed Jeffs that convinced Nevada Highway Patrolman Eddie Dutchover that he had cornered someone big.

"I knew some type of criminal activity was possibly afoot," Dutchover said after he stopped Jeffs with a brother and one of his wives in a new luxury SUV that had only a paper tag instead of a license plate.

Inside the car on Monday night, Jeffs seemed evasive and started to eat a salad.
Boy! That has 'guilty' written all over it! I hear OJ had a massive cheese board on the passenger seat when they pulled over the Bronco.

--

I'm going to Sardinia Thursday morning, so there may be another long silence until next week...

June 16, 2007

Summary, Not Summery

I wish had an interesting (or even coherent) excuse for why I haven't done my usual minstrel-like job of entertaining you through the medium of blog this week. But basically I have just been so busy and tired that I haven't had even half an hour to sit in front of my computer since last weekend.

So let me condense a week's worth of material into one post.

--

Ocean's Thirteen: better than Ocean's Twelve, still a little flat. Don't know if I would even say that much had I not happened across a London cinema that lets you take beer in.

--

Al Gore calls G8 climate plan a disgrace. Again. Also, bear shits in woods.

--

It's the middle of June. It's Edinburgh. Accordingly it has rained for the last three days straight. Sorry, Adrienne.

--

The City of London Police "Fraud Squad" came to work the other day to keep us up-to-date with new developments in fraud. The presentation was the sort of opaque and uninformative babble that is pretty typical of police officers trying to explain laws to civilians they presume to be idiots. A few of my favourite lines:
“Obtaining property by deception is when you use a deception to obtain property."

“What is false representation? It’s representation that is untrue.”
This one was also nicely surreal:
"If you think you might be suspicious, you should really be thinking about SARS.”
(A SAR, I later found out, is a 'Suspicious Activity Report'. Naturally Wikipedia gave me this information, rather than the policeman sent to explain fraud laws to me.)

And, of course, the Sherlock-Holmes-turning-in-his-fictional-grave shocking truth about police work:
"The first thing we do when we get a tip about someone is type their name into Google.”
--

I am still not on Facebook. The number of people who have joined "my" group appears to have reached a stunningly high plateau of nineteen — which is not going to achieve anything, because it's a level of interest that sits quite nicely between the amount of peer pressure I can comfortably ignore, and the amount of attention that I enjoy getting. So there.

June 15, 2007

Conversations With Greatness

… Is taking its two weeks of annual leave. It will return on the 29th of June.

June 09, 2007

Peer Pressure

Not that I condone this sort of thing, obviously, but it has just been brought to my attention that there is a Andrew Ladd must join Facebook group on Facebook.

--

Nutter For Mayor

He's crazy about politics!

--

I suspect most of you will not have seen Music and Lyrics, Hugh Grant's latest contribution to the Hollywood canon, and I wouldn't necessarily try to persuade you to do otherwise. But I must say, the opening sequence is a pretty fabulous piece of Eighties pop satire.

--

My fifth ever blog post, written all the way back in August 2003, just received its first comment. It is a how-to guide called "OpenSource Vagina: A Lubricant-Free, Mess-Free Design for Humans" and is one of the creepiest things I have ever read.
Tips:
-Consider making two or three Artificial Vaginas to have ready in case one requires drying-out time
Welcome to my blog, folks.

June 08, 2007

June 07, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

Seen on a sandwich board down the street:



Wow, awesome! Finally one of those high-profile City jobs that everyone dreams about is within my reach! I hope there's not some kind of horrifyingly ironic flipside.



Oh well.

June 06, 2007

Like a FOX

In the interest of being fair and balanced...

From CNN.com: GOP debaters keep distance from Bush



The Republican debate on Tuesday was pretty similar to the Democratic one: everybody dumped on Bush, and nobody had any idea who the hell anyone other than the three front-runners was.

For instance, take Tommy Thompson (known to his friends as Tom Tommy Thompson McThomserson), who opened his speech with a growl of, "Boonowa tweepi, Solo!"



Or, rather bizarrely for a conservative political party, Ru Paul:



Oh, I'm sorry, I'm being told that should be Ron Paul.

The one exciting part of the evening (I'm not making this bit up) was that, as Giuliani expounded his view that abortion should be legal, lightning struck the debate hall and cut off his mic.

Otherwise, though, it was a fairly dull debate. So dull that, um, is McCain taking a nap?



If so, he soon woke up when Giuliani decided to woo the crowd with an impromptu display of magic. David Blaine eat your heart out!



And the evening wrapped up, of course, with the now traditional round of The Weakest Link.

June 04, 2007

Blitzerkrieg

Man, it's late and I'm tired and I should really be going to bed, but dammit! The Democrats have inspired me more in one night than I have been in the last few weeks put together.

I should clarify, by "inspired" I mean enthusiastic about blog-writing, not optimistic about the state of US politics. Zing.

From Newsvine: Democrats Clash on Iraq, Health Care

On Sunday night, eight Democratic presidential hopefuls lined up for a spirited two-hour debate and a taping of The Weakest Link.



Moderator Wolf Blitzer didn't shy away from tough questions, grilling Senator Clinton on what role her husband would play in a new Democratic White House. (She said he would be made a "roving ambassador", presumably because he can't stay in any one country for too long without making it unbearably perfect.) Bizarrely, Blitzer went on to ask the same question of all the other candidates; apparently Bill Clinton now comes with the White House in the same way that Fonzie came with Al's.

Most of the other candidates gave similar answers, endowing former President Clinton with titles such as "peace envoy" and "goodwill ambassador". Only Obama declined to answer the question, obviously still smarting from Clinton stealing his title as The First Black President. "I can be just as good a President as Bill Clinton ever was," said Obama. He then proceeded to demonstrate by groping Hillary:



Sadly, however, the debate was overwhelmingly characterised by the negative campaigning, backstabbing, and anal retentive recital of Senate voting records that seems to make up about 95% of American political dialogue these days. All that was lacking were a couple of cries of "flip flopper!"



After the debate, a Tang and Doritos party was proposed by the Democratic Party's equivalent of the high school Chess Club.



Needless to say, each of them received a wedgie from John Edwards, who then went off to smoke weed with Hillary and Obama in the back of his brother's van.

Aah... I feel much better.

Nippon Tuck

From Newsvine: Japanese Cop Stabs Self to Avoid Work
A Japanese policeman distraught by working long hours and weekends for two months stabbed himself in the stomach with a knife to get some time off, police said Monday.
Once his deception was discovered the policeman became so ashamed of his behaviour that, naturally, he committed seppuku.

June 02, 2007

Family Circus

I've been quietly enjoying the vicarious fame of my dad's media circus (his paper's up to about 470 hits on Google since the press embargo ended on Monday, which is a drop in the ocean compared to, say, the amount that's been written about Rosie O'Donnell leaving The View, but more than has ever been written about me, so I'm impressed). My absolute favourite quote about him so far was in the proof for a newspaper article (the line, I was horrified to see, was cut from the published version):
Professor Ladd, who is not a scientist, first had his hunch that the genes were related to tonal languages, after reading an article in the magazine New Scientist.
See! Linguistics really isn't a science!

Mostly though, I've been heartened at the positive response to his media-savvy set of caveats about what his research doesn't show. (And even more heartened that he put together such a set of caveats to begin with, considering this essay I wrote three years ago!)

By the way, somebody at work last week pronounced the word 'caveat' as 'cave-eat'. What the hell?

June 01, 2007