Archive for the ‘humour’ Category
I had high hopes for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I really did. The previous series by creator Aaron Sorkin, The West Wing, is at the top of my favourite TV show list, even surviving Sorkin’s departure, lasting a full seven seasons. Studio 60, on the other hand, was cancelled after just one season. As with The West Wing, Ireland is not far behind the USA; there, the last episode went out about ten days ago, while I’ve just seen the penultimate episode here. The following might be considered a “spoiler”, so stop reading if you expect to see it later.
There is still one episode after tonight’s episode K&R Part III, and I’ll watch it, but it’s over for me. It was refreshing to see a Christian character on a prime time show who was not some holier-than-thou stereotype, the character of Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson). With Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet) in surgery after pre-natal complications, and Danny Tripp frantic in the hospital waiting room (Bradley Whitford, another West Wing veteran), the show was already treading uncomfortably close to soap.
That was only half the drama, because the brother of show star Tom Jeter (Nate Corddry) is being held hostage in Afghanistan, and the press are camped on the studio doorstep, prompting colleague Simon Stiles to launch a Quixotic rant in their direction, and almost lose his job as a result.
Enough drama? Not quite: in this episode, the aforementioned Harriet pushed the “no atheists in foxholes” button I had hoped the show was canny enough to avoid. Danny is tearing out what remains of his hair, as Jordan suffers complications of her complications. What does Harriet do? She offers to “teach him how to pray”.
Why do I find this offensive? It’s a modern Hollywood cliché: treating religion as a “down home” value, something “real” in comparison to the “glamour” of modern life. It encourages the kind of religiously-intrusive behaviour I’ve seen for myself: preying on people in their time of need, offering delusional comfort and a distraction from their immediate concerns.
And Lo! Jordan doesn’t, well, “cross the Jordan”. She pulls through, and all is right with the world. To me, this was Studio 60′s Jump The Shark moment. If you follow the link, you’ll see how many other reasons other have to say it Jumped, but for me, that was it. I just cast my vote against “Harriet”.
(Image courtesy of Mingle2‘s Blog Rating Tool.)
Why? They’re doing some keyword matching, and the reason given was:
- bomb (4x)
- dangerous (2x)
- drugs (1x)
All the “bomb” references must be those in my recent post slagging off the bombers, which was about another plot to bomb London, after the July 2005 bombings. Indeed, the front page (today) has two uses of the word “dangerous”: the first examining the risks of capture that terrorists expose themselves to, in their drive to publicise their acts; the other was regarding the religious indoctrination of children.
The drugs? Well, if I’ve passed all the tests, I will be engaged in a trial of a new Multiple Sclerosis therapy, FTY720 (fingolimod). I also have some other plans in the pipeline, but (like the trial) it’s too soon to talk about them here.
The trial is an unnecessary risk, strictly speaking, as are my other plans; way to live dangerously, dude! I don’t believe I say anything here that is unsuitable for kids, but then I wasn’t brought up in the USA, where kids would grow up totally unprepared for the real world, if their parents had their way. (Not that they always do – YouTube has many examples of failures of parental control.)
No, I’m British, from a previous generation, and all is not lost there, either. This year, the winner of the prestigious Galaxy Book Of The Year Prize was The Dangerous Book for Boys; designed to get them out from behind their computer games and out in to the world, climbing trees, fighting battles, falling into streams, and generally acting like healthy boys should. The book has just been released in the USA, with some modifications: baseball instead of cricket, General Grant instead of Lord Nelson, etcetera.
Can you tie a Reef knot? I can, but that’s about all I remember about knots. A Bowline was about as far as I got, and (I recall) the Sheepshank defeated me utterly. Granny knots, on the other hand, are not a problem.
A strange sight from Fort Collins, Colorado, on my walk last Saturday. I didn’t go inside the “Bible Superstore”, out of respect… who am I kidding? I didn’t go in because I knew I’d be at risk of falling down laughing, and making a fool of myself. How could there be such a thing as a Bible Superstore? I can just imagine the layout:
- Aisle 1: Bibles
- Aisle 2: Bibles
- Aisle 7: Bibles
- Aisle 8: Bibles
- Aisle 9: Bible Study
- Aisle 10: School Books (Intelligent Design)
On Sunday I moved to Denver from Fort Collins, and on Monday I took a flying visit to Colorado Springs by Greyhound Bus. From the bus station I grabbed a cab to my company’s offices; the cabbie looked like Jerry Garcia, and we got talking about Colorado Springs, since it was my first time there. When I asked about Springs’ reputation as a very Christian town, with churches visible everywhere, it was like setting a fire under him. He was what you can call a pantheist, meaning he had a general belief in a “universal power”, but he’d given up on organized religion many years before that. The recent scandals in the town, involving Ted Haggard of the 14,000-strong New Life Church, had made world headlines (such as CNN), and to the cabbie this was just the latest confirmation of his opinion that organized religion is morally bankrupt.
I spent the day with my North American counterparts and their manager, who are about the only people left in a cavernous office floor. Cubicle after cubicle of beige and brown, desks gathering dust, chairs upended, the carpet in the aisles grubby and faded. It was a beautiful day outside, so we all walked down the hill to a barbecue joint, where I had another huge but tasteless sandwich. (If the bread, meat and cheese have no taste, no volume of condiments can make a great sandwich!)
My presence seemed to bring out the worst in my colleagues, in a good way – if that makes any sense. They had a new face to pour out their troubles to, all the while keeping up a brave sense of humour that would not be out of place in a Dilbert cartoon. I got even more of the same from their manager, who took me back in to central Colorado Springs and joined me for dinner and a beer. (I had a nicely microbrewed oatmeal stout and a huge “Chicken Gringo” concoction, with cornbread and potato wedges, that I couldn’t finish.)
As I Twittered in from the bus station, on the way back to Denver: it was one of those days that confirms your suspicions and fears. My US colleagues feel just as threatened as we in Europe do, and as isolated and frozen out of the “career path” in my company. For most of the day I was just someone to talk to, a role I’m happy to play if it helps, and this time I’m sure it did. The manager treated me as an equal, and clearly needed someone to help him make some sense of what is going on.
My qualms about the my employer’s plans seem to be well-justified. I am not going mad, and neither are those colleagues of mine with similar concerns. I can’t really say any more, but what I can say is that there are changes coming my way this year. I’ve learned things I might not be supposed to know, but the effect will be to give me more time to prepare.
The last couple of days in Denver were a mix of gonzo walks and lazing around in my nice hotel room. I will say some more later, but right now I have an ice hockey game to go to, so I need to get my skates on.
Sometimes a writing idea takes on a life of its own; that is what happened earlier this evening, when I read about the Contrarianism Blog-A-Thon underway at Jim Emerson’s Scanners blog. Jim is a veteran writer and film critic, whose position as editor or RogerEbert.com means he is filling in while Ebert is away recovering from illness. Those are mighty big shoes to fill, so I’m surprised he has time for this. 8)
A few hours later, my Contrarian Contribution is called jackassism: a revisionist re-interpretation of MTV’s Jackass show and its spinoffs as a modern instantiation of the Situationist International, with added Method acting.
It’s as loony and contrarian as it sounds, but reflects my overall position on modern art and culture: there may be madness in the method, but the results can transcend the expected, especially in relation to the intentions of the creator. When there is a direct correspondence between the intentions and the results, it lessens the overall effect. Interesting things can happen in the space between idea and application, between thought and deed, between question and answer.
The link is on the right, under “culture”. If you’re tempted to reply that there’s more culture at the back of your fridge, I’m not going to argue…
News just in: a Christian website has published a list of “gay bands”, here. Besides the grammatical error – some are solo artists, not bands – the list makes for hilarious reading. The author appears to be listing bands submitted by readers, without further examination.
There are artists on the list who are gay, and bands that have gay members, which is to be expected: Erasure, k d lang, Judas Priest, Depeche Mode. Others listed are completely off the mark: Motörhead, Eminem, Björk, Jay-Z, Nickelback. I’m surprised AC/DC aren’t on the list; the least gay band in the world, formed in suburban Sydney, Australia, by teenagers completely unaware what that name meant in the red light district.
Now, while I’m not a fan of “camp”, of the type displayed by the Village People, Erasure, and more recently the Scissor Sisters, I’m still not convinced that has any influence on the listener’s sexuality at all. In other cases, you wouldn’t know an artist was gay unless he or she pointed it out. Certainly, people had suspicions about Rob Halford for years, given his fondness for leather and studs on stage, but I would never have outed k d lang, a singer I quite like, since her music isn’t anywhere near as risqué to my ears as that of her fellow Canadian, Joni Mitchell.
It’s all a little pointless, and a particularly American view of the world. I wish all these Yankee moralizers would stop and read their own country’s Constitution. Take particular note of the part guaranteeing all citizens, of any particular curvature, the inalienable right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
I work at an IT company with multiple divisions that are subject to ongoing reorganisations and reshuffles. They also, apparently, in competition with each other. This year the effective result is that the people in the division I belong to are being given a bonus half the value of that given to the people in other divisions. Poor financial results are to blame.
Never mind that my division, through the work we do, subsidises the other divisions. We provide support to customers even when there is no lucrative contract involved, sold or prospective. That translates to better sales that appear on the bottom lines of the other divisions, not ours.
The bonus will be hitting my bank account just before Christmas, and while I don’t know the exact amount yet, I have a rough idea, and it’s already accounted for. Travel costs for my upcoming trip are a large part of it, along with the phone I bought last month and a couple of other things.
At least I’m not in debt: the reason I’m thinking about money this evening is the following page on b3ta.com: debt pr0n. Various people tell their stories about debt problems, and while most are humorous – it’s that kind of site – there is still something horrifying about the blasé attitude shown by some towards huge debts. I counted at least three who ran up huge student debts and absconded, to Spain or Australia.
On a more serious note the news, here in Ireland and in the UK, carries regular warnings on the levels of debt people are getting in to: this story from BBC News is one example. It’s even becoming a political issue, with the Conservative Party encouraging fiscal responsibility by telling people to “ignore the tosser in you“.
I’m in the best financial shape I’ve ever been in, which makes it doubly ludicrous that I’m a long way from being able to afford a permanent residence in Ireland, at least not in a place that I could actually travel to or from. More debt I’m in no hurry to take on.
I have a roof over my head at the moment; whether I do in a few hours time is a question of a different order. The weather forecast here, tonight, predicts storm force winds of up to 80 mph. Should be quite a blast.
It’s the return of the PlaneMash! More will be uploaded, I just need to convert some images to JPG format.
Ever since my last boyfriend tried to kill himself, robbed a store, and shot at a guy, before disappearing off the face of the earth, (Mom) wants to meet everyone I date.
Claire Fisher, in Six Feet Under, inviting her new boyfriend to Christmas dinner. I’m halfway through Series 2, and eventually expect to see it through to the end, in Series 5. I already know how it will end but, as a self-professed connoisseur of Black Humour, I have to say this is about as good as it gets on TV. It helps that it was made by HBO, the cable-only TV channel in the US, who don’t have to answer to the FCC Broadcast regulations, any more than they did with Sex and the City.
More black humour arrived yesterday in the form of a book, Blood, Sweat & Tea, created from the author’s blog, Random Acts Of Reality. It’s quite hair-raising stuff, based on the author’s daily work as an Emergency Medical Technician in Newham, London. I’m only about 1/5 of the way through it, and the author has already had a HIV-positive patient blow chunks in to his mouth, necessitating two months of “prophylaxis”. So far it appears that most ambulance calls are the result of age, alcohol, and a surprising number of people in diabetic shock, possibly due to being overweight.
Back in the Fisher family funeral home, meanwhile, Christmas dinner is a non-starter: besides Mrs. Fisher’s employer Nikolai, stuck there with two broken legs and a lot of painkillers, there’s a biker funeral that threatens to go on all night, complete with airbrushed casket and cases of JD. What else? Oh yes, it’s the anniversary of the death of Nathaniel Fisher, the first of many cadavers we meet, who refuses to stay down where they put him. Why should he, when there’s so much happening to his family up top? Rest in Peace? Like Hell.
The song Heresy, from the Rush album Roll The Bones (1991), was lyricist Neil Peart’s slightly ironic take on the fall of the Iron Curtain in the previous couple of years. Now all those oppressed people had the chance to become “consumers” like the rest of us:
All around this dull-grey world of ideology,
People storm the marketplace and buy up fantasy;
The counter-revolution at the counter of a store;
People buy the things they want, and borrow for a little more.
All those wasted years…
I couldn’t help thinking about these lyrics last night when I saw a documentary called Czech Dream. Short version: In the 16-or-so years since the Wall came down, the former Czechoslovakia has turned into a consumer paradise, with some of the biggest “hypermarkets” outside the USA. A couple of scruffy film students get a government grant and turn themselves into hypermarket managers, complete with makeovers, Hugo Boss suits, and a slick advertising campaign.
For weeks they build up the hype using reverse psychology – ads saying “don’t come”… “don’t spend” – and build a huge hoarding in the middle of a field outside Prague. There’s some very funny and interesting detail about the advertising industry, market research, and the psychology of shoppers. They get a cheesy jingle recorded, complete with professional singers and a schoolgirl choir, and create prime-time TV commercials. They even follow families who spend whole days inside a frighteningly huge Tesco, to try to get a feel for shopping as a leisure activity.
Then comes the Grand Opening, with thousands of people running towards a storefront with nothing behind it… I can recommend this film both for the build-up to the opening, and to see what happened next. I can say that no-one got killed, at least. The aftermath was quite interesting, with some of the “victims” spontaneously drawing parallels with the Czech Republic’s planned referendum on joining the EU, and the Prime Minister gets involved in the debate. The filmmakers also raised the EU question, asking “are we being sold a dream with nothing substantial to back it up?”
The whole thing really happened, in 2003: you can find real news reports on the “Česky Sen” hypermarket, and none of the above is a spoiler. As always, the devil is in the details. Recommended.
New camera still hasn’t arrived yet. This is getting a little silly. While we’re waiting, how about a few more howlers from the Referer logs? These are the links that other people have followed to get to a page on this site, almost all being the results of searches, so the URI of the referer page includes the keywords they were searching for:
- Nude pictures of Megan Mulally (Karen from Will & Grace)? Perish the thought.
- What happened to Andy Gibb? Does it matter, as long as the Bee Gees stopped singing?
- Cheerleaders, Chloroformed? Huh?
- Why the heck would I be able to describe a speed drinking technique?
- The lyrics to the Jackass Sand Vagina song? No.
- OK, I was a little simplistic in my definition of the word gratinated; it’s not just about cheese, it might involve breadcrumbs too.
- how did this lead here?
- No, I still don’t know whether Matt Le Blanc is circumcised, or where to get samples of Jimmy Saville’s voice!
- Is Jack Ryan, Tom Clancy’s character, a Freemason? Highly unlikely, with his Jesuit education and anti-bureaucratic attitude.
- Billy Connolly, then? I mentioned him in that context back in Feb 2003, after hearing him talk about it on stage. No, he’s not a Mason, he sees the whole concept as ludicrous, i.e. good comic material.
Connolly has been getting a rough ride in the media recently, after some insensitive remarks about Ken Bigley, one of the hostages held in Iraq, was murdered; he was bemused as to why the whole of England seemed to be upset, people with no connection to the family. He may have had a point, but he didn’t have to make comedy material about it, did he? Not that anyone’s going to stop him, of course.
In a survey released today, Connolly’s voice was among Britain’s favourites, and also among its least favourites – I presume he is appreciated more in Scotland than in England. Sean Connery is at the top of the favourites list. In the UK; for some reason, mild Scots accents are perceived as “trustworthy”, and can be heard often in news reports or in commercials for financial products, and more. The accent has to be mild, perhaps Edinburgh rather than Glasgow, and not too broad.
Something in the report led me to wonder about the different words used to refer to my countrymen, Scots, Scotch, or Scottish? I grew up associating Scotch with whisky, and knowing the other verb meanings of the word, such as to “scotch a rumour”, and as a synonym for “squash” or “injure”. Two centuries ago, writers such as Scott and Burns happily used the term Scotch in poems and and novels, such as this excerpt from a Burns poem:
But bring a Scotchman frae his hill,
Clap in his cheek a Highland gill,
Say, such is royal George’s will,
An’ there’s the foe!
He has nae thought but how to kill
Twa at a blow.
– Robert Burns
- The Author’s Earnest Cry And Prayer To the Right Honourable and Honourable Scotch Representatives in the House of Commons.
The Penguin Reference Library has this to say on the change in usage:
Since the second half of the 19th century, the idea has taken root that it is incorrect or impolite to use Scotch, except in certain compounds such as Scotch whisky and Scotch mist, so that Scottish and Scots have become the generally preferred forms. This change of usage is signalled by, for example, the change of name of the Scotch Education Department to the Scottish Education Department in 1918; or by the adoption of ‘The Flying Scotsman’ as the official name for the locomotive plying between London and Edinburgh, whereas since the 1870s trains on this route had usually been nicknamed `The Flying Scotchman’. The avoidance of Scotch originated among Scots who found it derogatory, probably because it was originally a contracted form of Scottish used in England; but Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, among others, used Scotch freely, and some Scots today consider the general use of Scottish affected. (“I’m pure Scotch … the correct term is Scottish but that sounds so pompous” — Margaret, Duchess of Argyll.)
– Penguin Hutchinson Reference Library
Copyright (c) 1996 Helicon Publishing and Penguin Books Ltd
This confirms what I suspected: Scotch was originally an English corruption of Scots, which was only temporarily fashionable. Burns and his kin grew up with the English domination of Scotland’s cultural life, and his use of the “Scotch Dialect” was a more substantial act of defiance than any quibbling over the exact word used to describe it. Is Scottish affected? I’ve been using both Scots and Scottish interchangeably on this site, which shows you how concerned I am in real terms. Some closing quotes, after four hours of on-and-off typing:
- What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others. — Confucius, Analects
- Do unto others that which you would have done to yourself — Jesus, The Bible
- No man is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother that which he desireth for himself. — Azizullah, Hadith 150 (Islam)
- This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you. — Mahabharata 5,1517 (Sikhism)
- Do unto others before they do unto you — the New York Golden Rule
- Do unto others, then Split — the New Jersey Golden Rule
- Do unto others before they undo you — Usenet tagline
- Do not do unto others as you would they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same. — George Bernard Shaw
Five people – an Englishman, Russian, American, Frenchman and Irishman were each asked to write a book on elephants. Some amount of time later they had all completed their respective books. The Englishman’s book was entitled “The Elephant – How to Collect Them”, the Russian’s “The Elephant – Vol. I”, the American’s “The Elephant – How to Make Money from Them”, the Frenchman’s “The Elephant – Its Mating Habits” and the Irishman’s “The Elephant and Irish Political History”.
A joke I found while cleaning up my website Quotations file this morning – and I thought I was alone in thinking the Irish were obsessed with the little history they have? Last night I decided to bundle in the contents of the Linux Fortune files, most of which was an automated process of replacing the pure text formatting with psuedo-XHTML. The file I use is Tab-delimited, and there were stray Tabs everywhere that had to be stripped out. I only want them in there to separate each quotation from its source, and never for formatting. To complicate matters, sources of quotes were delimited with –, but – appears in other places too, so there was a fair bit of manual cleanup to do, and spell-checking. Here’s another fun finding:
I went to my first computer conference at the New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody there predicted the market for microprocessors would eventually be in the millions, someone else said, “Where are they all going to go? It’s not like you need a computer in every doorknob!” Years later, I went back to the same hotel. I noticed the room keys had been replaced by electronic cards you slide into slots in the doors. There was a computer in every doorknob.
– Danny Hillis
Help! I’m pussywhipped!
“The man in today’s scenario not only knows how to listen, sympathize, look after a baby, and leave the seat down, but he can now add baking to his list of female-friendly skills. Yesterday he actually managed to bake a loaf of bread, an essential survival skill in this age of nanotechnology. Never mind that he didn’t knead the dough for long enough, so it almost totally failed to form a bread-like consistency. Never mind that he left the dough to rise for too long, so that it collapsed during baking. Next time, get a mixer with a dough hook, dude: the result can be called a noble failure, falling somewhere between bread and cake, like a light Irish soda bread without the dryness or the bicarbonate-of-soda taste, very edible and rather nice when served warm with corned beef and yoghurt mayonnaise.”
OK, enough of the third-person for one day. Half a loaf is better than no bread, and the remaining half will probably be gone by tonight, after I hit the deli for some pastrami or honey-roasted ham. Apart from the baking, trips to the bank and the centre of Dublin, I’ve spent the last couple of days pottering around, and this weekend I have the place to myself, since my flatmate is off home to Tipperary for a long weekend. Because Dublin centre is now so close to where I live, I’ve already made unnecessary trips, wondering what to do when I got there. There’s an experimental music gig on there later, just the kind of thing I’m in the mood for, and so what if it goes on till late? It’s not like I’ve been getting up early this week.
I found an old MP3 CD of mine while looking through my flatmate’s CD collection, so I have a real nostalgia trip going on while I’m typing this: Hunting High And Low by A-ha, the strange Norwegian pop stars who burst on to the scene with this album just over 20 years ago, starting with the infectious single Take On Me. The album was part of my general musical awakening during the mid 80′s, alongside 90125 by Yes, OMD’s Architecture And Morality, and others. I didn’t know much about synthesis then, but today I hear the Yamaha DX7 all over it, a instrument whose twentieth anniversary was celebrated last year, one as important to synthesis as the Fender Stratocaster was as a guitar.
A couple of years ago I wrote an essay on secure music, about my attitude towards music downloading, and last night on CNBC a music industry representative was asked why it was still so expensive – which it is, in my opinion. He tried to explain the pricing in terms of a shift away from albums back towards individual tracks. I’m not buying that, and I wrote a little more on the topic, enough to deserve a page of its own: see albums vs. singles.