Friday, October 30, 2009

Film Review - Zombieland

By Guest Writer Dr. P

If you only see one monster-themed movie this Halloween, make sure it's Zombieland. Big G and I plumped for this spoof zombie comedy and boy were we glad we had. By the end of the opening credits we were in hysterics, and that pretty much continued throughout.

The premise is simple (do I write that in every review!?) - the world has been overrun by zombies and the human race is virtually extinct. However tiny groups of survivors remain, and the story focuses on one pocket of these and their attempt to find some last pleasures amidst the carnage surrounding them.

The central character is "Columbus" (Adventureland's superb Jesse Eisenberg) - the movie opens with his summary of the best ways to avoid being zombiefied (these include some hilarious scenes where we are told to avoid public toilets, make sure every zombie gets a "double tap" and make sure you're always wearing a seatbelt (this bit made me laugh out loud WAYYYY too loud - the first clamp hand over mouth moment of the film)). Columbus has devised a number of ways to stay alive, and we're quickly introduced to them. The name Columbus refers to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, to where he is hoping to escape and meet up with his parents.

On his way out of his home, he meets up with another lone survivor, "Tallahassee" (all the characters are named after places). Wonderfully played by Woody Harrelson, he's a psycho zombie ass-kicking machine who wants nothing more than to amusingly dispatch any zombie he comes across ... and find a twinky bar. Having teamed up, there's an intensely funny scene where the duo discover a confectionery delivery machine and raid it ... only to discover there are no twinkies left ... just sno-balls ...

Tallahassee: Sno-Balls? Sno-Balls? Where the f*ck are the God damn Twinkies?
Columbus: I love Sno-Balls.
Tallahassee: I HATE coconut. Not the flavor, but the consistency.

Despite their strong survival instincts, the duo soon run into trouble - not zombies or other marauding creatures, but two other survivors, the delicious Wichita (Superbad's Emma Stone) and her 12 year old sis "Little Rock". They manage to fool our heroes by pretending the little one has been zombiefield, and in the process steal their weapons and their transport!

It doesn't take long for the boys to acquire more weapons and a new truck, and they decide to follow the girls, who are headed to LA and a zombie-free amusement park! They soon catch up with the girls, who yet again try and outwit them ... but this time they all decide to team up and rely on strength in numbers.

The next phase of the movie surrounds their adventures in LA - they decide to crash Hollywood Hills and party it up in a celebrity mansion - plumping for that owned by Bill Murray, who turns out to be alive and disguised as a zombie! Having spent time there, the four head off to the amusement park for the movie's final act, where the girls get stranded on a ride and surrounded by zombies, leaving the boys to attempt a daring rescue against overwhelming odds.

This is a mightily funny and entertaining movie. Much like Shaun of the Dead, this features some outlandishly gory moments, but very much played for laughs, and some of the ways that the group come up with to mash the zombies are fabulous. These include toilet seats, hedge clippers, falling pianos and all manner of other devices. Lovely!

Big G and I must have laughed almost constantly throughout this film - if you're in need of a good giggle, and like your monster movies, this is most definitely the movie for you. The four central characters are terrific, with Woody Harrelson stealing almost every scene. Eisenberg puts in another understated and super performance too, following his terrific role in Adventureland.

Highly recommended!

Watch the second trailer here
Gandhi's Seven Deadly Social Sins

Click for animation.
Buy The Rammstein Box Set

Comes complete with rubber dildo of each band member's, er, member

I'm quite glad I didn't go for the box set.

(Thanks to James H for finding this)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A young boy was sitting outside his house crying.
A passing neigbour sees him and says
"Seamus, what's wrong? Why are you crying?"
Seamus replies "'Tis a terrible t'ing. Me mam's dying"
"That's awful" the neighbour says "Would you like me to fetch the priest?"
"No thanks", says Seamus, "I'm not in the mood for sex"

I'm going to Hull for that one.
More Dangerous Fun With Fireworks

Vijay Singh's Astonishing Hole In One

Big Surprise for Nick Griffin

By Evasion27 over at B3ta.
Minority Political Groups To Get Regular Spot On Question Time

The BBC Director General has announced that in future, minority political parties will get at least an annual chance to appear on heavyweight programmes such as Question Time.

Gordon Brown, who will be leading just such a party after the next election, is said to be looking forward to seeing Jack Straw on QT less often.

Doorway with barriers in Assisi.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Farewell David Shepherd

Who has died following a long struggle with cancer. Shepherd was a good cricket umpire, and was much loved for his theatrics when the score stood at Nelson, or 111.

I'm sure I won't be alone amongst cricket fans in standing on one leg for a moment this evening.
Is Nick Griffin Gay ?

I just found this piece written by Johann Sari....The strange, unexplored overlap between homosexuality and fascism.
Local Man Devoured By Man Eating Bog

Although I loved walking with the mini-hikers on Monday, I fancied doing a few miles at a better pace yesterday so I set off from home, up to the Cow and Calf rocks, up the Dales Way to the trig point, then across to Keighley Gate and back home.

All was going swimmingly, until I accidentally went, well, swimming. I rather misjudged the depth of a bog which straddled the path and as my right leg sank into it I tipped forwards and plunged into the cold, wet, sloppy mud pool. Approximate depth of bogs atop Ilkley Moor = 4 feet, I was soaked in foul smelling peat ooze up to my chest which also instantly tripled the weight of my boots, trousers and shirt.

Sod's Law Of Hiking states that if you either injure yourself or plunge into an evil smelling mud pool, this will happen at the furthest point of your hike, giving you the maximum time possible to hobble back home.

I walked back home, through the centre of Ilkley a mud soaked troglodyte with small children pointing and laughing at me. Back home, I had to get chef Phil to bring me buckets of soapy water and had a sponge bath outside before I even dared to step foot inside.

I think that's me banned from hiking before we go on holiday.

Still using our money to line their own pockets. I like this bit of creative vandalism.
Pet Owners Are Weird

Yes that's right, it is a guinea pig dressed as a dragon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thou Shalt Always Kill

Thanks to Holly W for finding this.


Thou shalt not steal if there is direct victim.
Thou shalt not worship pop idols or follow lost prophets.
Thou shalt not take the names of Johnny Cash, Joe Strummer, Johnny Hartman, Desmond Decker, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix or Syd Barret in vain.
Thou shalt not think that any male over the age of 30 that plays with a child that is not their own is a peadophile… Some people are just nice.
Thou shalt not read NME.
Thall shalt not stop liking a band just because they’ve become popular.
Thou shalt not question Stephen Fry.
Thou shalt not judge a book by it’s cover.
Thou shalt not judge Lethal Weapon by Danny Glover.
Thall shalt not buy Coca-Cola products. Thou shalt not buy Nestle products.
Thou shalt not go into the woods with your boyfriend’s best friend, take drugs and cheat on him.
Thou shalt not fall in love so easily.
Thou shalt not use poetry, art or music to get into girls’ pants. Use it to get into their heads.
Thou shalt not watch Hollyoakes.
Thou shalt not attend an open mic and leave as soon as you're done just because you’ve finished your shitty little poem or song you self-righteous prick.
Thou shalt not return to the same club or bar week in, week out just ’cause you once saw a girl there that you fancied but you’re never gonna fucking talk to.

Thou shalt not put musicians and recording artists on ridiculous pedestals no matter how great they are or were.

The Beatles - Were just a band.
Led Zepplin - Just a band.
The Beach Boys - Just a band.
The Sex Pistols - Just a band.
The Clash - Just a band.
Crass - Just a band.
Minor Threat - Just a band.
The Cure - Just a band.
The Smiths - Just a band.
Nirvana - Just a band.
The Pixies - Just a band.
Oasis - Just a band.
Radiohead - Just a band.
Bloc Party - Just a band.
The Arctic Monkeys - Just a band.
The next big thing - JUST A BAND.

Thou shalt give equal worth to tragedies that occur in non-English speaking countries as to those that occur in English speaking countries.
Thou shalt remember that guns, bitches and bling were never part of the four elements and never will be.

Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music

Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music

Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music

Thou shalt not make repetitive generic music

Thou shalt not pimp my ride.
Thou shalt not scream if you wanna go faster.
Thou shalt not move to the sound of the wickedness.
Thou shalt not make some noise for Detroit.
When I say “Hey” thou shalt not say “Ho”.
When I say “Hip” thou shalt not say “Hop”.
When I say "he say, she say, we say, make some noise" - kill me.
Thou shalt not quote me happy.
Thou shalt not shake it like a polaroid picture.
Thou shalt not wish your girlfriend was a freak like me.
Thou shalt spell the word “Pheonix” P-H-E-O-N-I-X not P-H-O-E-N-I-X, regardless of what the Oxford English Dictionary tells you.
Thou shalt not express your shock at the fact that Sharon got off with Bradley at the club last night by saying “Is it”.
Thou shalt think for yourselves.

And thou shalt always kill.
Cassetteboy vs. Nick Griffin

I think that's made the BNP's stance much clearer.
Perspectives of the World

Optimist - The glass is half full.
Pessimist - The glass is half empty.
Fatalist - The water will evaporate.
Feminist - All glasses are equal.
Realist - Glass is half drunk.
Engineer - Glass aint big enough.
Narcissist - Look at me in the glass!
Polygamist - The more water the merrier.
Evangelist - The glass must repent.
Capitalist - Sell the glass.
Anarchist - Break the glass.
Psychologist - How does the glass feel about the water?
Mowgli's Road - Marina And The Diamonds

I like this, poppy and slightly mad.

It was another Mountain Monday, but this time I had company for the hike in the shapes of my sister and her wonderful children Joseph and Ellie.

Flossie the dog came along as well, how we laughed when she ran and played in mud, and how we moaned and choked on the smell of wet, dirty dog on the car journey home. Horton-In-Ribblesdale station with Pen-Y-Ghent rising behind.

The early part of the hike was steady rather than speedy, the weather perfect for this time of year, warm, along no wind and no rain or hill fog.

Passing through Sulber Nick, Joseph leading the group with Ingleborough the hill on the left, Simon Seat on the right.

Liz and Ellie at Sulber Nick.

Ellie and Liz crossing the last stile on Simon Seat Breast, Ellie took one look at the summit of Ingleborough and decided she'd had enough mountain for one day. Joseph, aka Mountain Goat Boy, was keen to complete his set of Yorkshire 3 Peaks, so we pressed on.

Jo sets off for the summit.

It's busy on the summit plateau, lots of walkers and many families have reached the top and were sat around picnicking and admiring the view.

The view from the summit, looking across Southerscales to Whernside and the Ribblehead Viaduct. I remember doing Ingleborough a few years ago in heavy fog, where the view all day was the wall of mist ten feet in front of you, it's great to be up here on a clear day where you can see for miles.

On the way down I said to Joseph that now we had done the Yorkshire 3 Peaks we needed another challenge, and what would he like to do next.

Scafell Pike was the answer. Right you are Jo, we may as well aim for the big ones

Monday, October 26, 2009


No, not the sound of hippies ruminating, but the sound of feet pounding the hills and valleys of Wales, the OMM, or Original Mountain Marathon, is the sort of competition that only the seriously nuts would take part in. Two marathons, run orienteering style from point to point up and down the mountains around the Elan Valley, over two days, who would do that ?

Mr. Moosehead did this weekend, and with his running partner they managed to place themselves in 23rd overall position in the Elite Class of the event. Well done Adrian, I think it is a quite fantastic achievement just to complete the OMM, nevermind being placed so well.

Today I shall be climbing Ingleborough, at a much more sedate pace, with Jo and Ellie and Squirt, to the hills !

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Book Review : Broad And Alien Is The World - Ciro Alegria*****

One of the best things about reading, and especially about really good authors, is that you are transported into places and situations that you could never experience otherwise, and Alegria's 1941 novel about the destruction of Indian communities in Peru at the start of the 20th Century does exactly that, he takes you into the heart and soul of an Indian community and allows you to live alongside them.

Broad And Alien starts off in a gentle pastoral manner, the Indians (always represented as a community and never as a tribe) live in harmony with the land, growing what they can, raising animals and trading with other communities. Rosendo Maquis is the wise elected leader of the community, he dispenses his well considered wisdom for the benefit of the community and in a style that reminded me of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Maquis leads the community, asking for nothing except the continuation of what they have always had. The Indians though are threatened by the greed of the ranchers who hold the lands around them and resort to various underhand and illegal means to expand their own holdings at the expense of the community.

Maquis employs a lawyer to assist them, but he is weak and avaricious and does little to halt the rancher's dubious legal land grab and eventually the community are forced off their ancestral lands into a much smaller and less fertile area.

Broad And Alien Is The World also refers to the diaspora that happens as the Indians are driven from their homes, many of the young men decide to go out into the world to seek a better life. Alegria gives graphic and brutal descriptions of the lives that many Indians led as debt slaves in coca plantations, mines and searching for rubber in the jungles of Peru.

This story is endlessly sad and stirring, Alegria was a political activist who squarely blamed the white land owners for the misery that the Peruvian Indians endured, he was twice jailed and eventually exiled to Chile. His deep understanding of Indian community life shines through in this splendid novel, the Indians are presented as real people, there and both good and bad amongst them, they live hard lives and want for little except to be left alone with their lot.

BALITW is as harsh a depiction of injustice and greed as you will read, but mostly told in a pastoral manner with many interludes as community members add their own memories and stories. In Rosendo Maquis, Alegria has created a great character, full of necessary common sense and wisdom, calm and peaceful, a man who is is strong in his community yet frail and lost in wider world.

A very good book, it is on the 1001 Books list so I'll reserve it for anyone else doing the marathon reading project.
Last Week's Listening

1) Monster Magnet 78 - riff heavy stoner metal
2) Staff Benda Bilili 76 - yes, play that crazy one string lute
3) Leadbelly 62 - the real hard man of blues
4) Tigertailz 56 - Welsh glam rock
5) Onipa Nua 52 - Happy happy Ghanian afrobeat
6) The Beach Boys 47 - love those melodies
7) Marshall Law 43 - NWOBHM also rans, but good
7) Michael Jackson 43 - Black or white ?
7) Cotheria 43 - Bradford boys with impressive EP
10) Megadeth 42 - new album, different line up, very heavy

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bored Of Life ?

Then make yourself a firework sledgehammer.

WTF Rating = Quite High.
World Champion Anvil Launcher

You mean there is more than one bloke mad enough to do this ?

"We'll light the fuse and then run away " No bloody kidding !

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Damaging the Places We Love

Click the link to read a great article by Guy Newbold who lives and works in Wasdale, starting point for climbing Scafell Pike, England's tallest peak and part of the national 3 peaks challenge.

Three Peaks Challenge - A Local's View

The article touches on a number of issues close to my heart. Littering in the wild is a bloody disgrace, I just cannot get my head around the sort of muppets who walk miles away from the nearest road and then throw their plastic coke bottles on the ground or poke their empty crisp packets into dry stone walls. Toilets are a more difficult issue, we all need to go sometimes when we're in the wild, and the nearest loo is 2 hours and 8 miles away, if the village pub is open that is.

Paths are a problem as well, if a route becomes popular, then we do indeed damage the places we love. Hikers do damage, mountain bikers cause more damage, and bloody idiot trail motor bikers, well, birching's too good for them.

People might look at the hills and moors and think, backbone of the earth, strong stuff, impervious to harm, but the truth is very different. The ground ecology and soil of the hills is very fragile, often the soil is only inches deep and is bound together by the close knit plants that cover it. If the plants are removed by foot damage, then the thin soil below begins to erode rapidly down to the bedrock, one the rock, shale or sand below are uncovered then that strip of land will not recover without intervention.

This is a small section of the path up Pen-Y-Ghent, the path goes out to the right then turns back sharply to the left, and you can see that a large number of lazy hikers have cut the corner and are making a new trail. If people continue to damage the soil on the shortcut it will eventually wear down to the rocks below, and it won't come back, and seriously folks, on the ascent to the summit, are you really going to notice that you took ten steps less to get there ?

On the other issues that Guy mentions in his article, organised charity challenges can be a danger to themselves. Four years ago on Ingleborough, in foul weather conditions with visibility down to a matter of yards, we encountered a group of ladies doing a 3 peaks charity hike, they had no map, no compass, no supplies beyond a packet of sandwiches and very little experience of hillwalking, instead they had printed out a set of written instructions from a website on the 3 Peaks route and were trying to follow that. We helped them away from Black Shiver and down the path, shaking our heads at the madness of their actions. On the same day we met a couple doing the 3 Peaks for their first time, they had purchased a posh GPS device, but had no map and couldn't work their GPS properly, again we guided them back to a road.

I really want to encourage people to get out on the hills, but to do so safely. Look at the weather forecast, learn to use a map and compass, really, even on seemingly benign hills in the Dales weather can change, visibility can drop to nothing and you can get in deep trouble if you don't take basic precautions. Be fit enough for the walk you are planning to do, you know, if you have 12 pints a night, smoke 30 cigs a day and the most exercise you do is walking from the pub to the kebab shop then signing up with your mates to do the 3 Peaks the week after next probably isn't a brilliant idea. The Mountain Rescue will help you, but they'd rather you weren't in trouble in the first place.

(By Edward Frizzerhands over at b3ta)

Looking down into Wensleydale.

Shooting buts on Middleton Moor.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Holiday, San Francisco

When we go to San Francisco in a few weeks we thought we might view a game of American footy, now, I know that San Francisco is very gay friendly, but really lads....
Talent And Its Nemesis

This load of old rubbish, oh my fellow Brits, you are so very easily pleased, so quickly appeased by the same formulaic, talent stifling drivel warmed up and re-hashed on the X-Factor week after week. Don't you ever yearn for something a little more edgy, more interesting, more stimulating and exotic than cover versions of well used comfortable songs ?

I don't just like music, I love music, I am passionate about music. I like numerous different genres, and hundreds of different artists, but amongst all the artists I listen to and enjoy you will find a common thread, none of them appear on the sort of unoriginal, unremarkable 'talent' shows currently blocking up the tv schedules.

This man to me is a musical demon, he represents all that is bad and worthless in the music industry, his factory produced one shot mass market acts lack all credibility and hold not a shred of interest. Simon Cowell's main interest is not talent, it is money, and he continues to increase his vast personal fortune by foisting generic singing acts of mediocre talent upon a public whose musical senses appear dulled and sated and who will happily accept almost anything so long as they have to make no effort to receive it.

This really is not what good music is all about, and I'm actually quite sorry for the people that have not experienced really good music, I mean, if your total knowledge of music is Radio 1, dj's in nightclubs and X-Factor then you really are missing out on a wide world of aural and sensual pleasure, of real excitement and proper entertainment.

I'm an old punk, and a rocker, I love pretty much all forms of rock from prog to speed metal, I love ska and reggae, blues, folk, classical, afrobeat and world music, I really do a bit of everything, and I like it live. Live music is not best experienced sat safely amongst 50,000 others at a vast arena show where a choreographed show goes through its well rehearsed routine. No, live music is best experienced down in the front rows of a rowdy rock gig, getting too hot and sweaty in the crush and with music so loud your eyes will ring for days afterwards. Or, it is best experienced in the silent contemplation and appreciation of a fine orchestra, or in jigging around badly to a lively folk duo, or in grooving madly to the afrobeat group onstage and letting the music rise up through you.

Simon Cowell's exploitative X-Factor is the very antithesis of the passion, creativity and drive that I love in music. I do not want to hear safe recitals of common or garden songs, wannabe pop stars imitating people with real talent, I want to hear new bands with their own ideas, people who write their own music, compose their own lyrics, play instruments and create real music. X-Factor is an insipid shadow of real music, but one that seems to be endlessly alluring to a lazy and jaded public.

I'm not saying that the people who appear on these 'talent' shows are not talented in their own right, some of them can certainly sing, but I do object to the whole process by which they are made into, albeit sometimes rather transient, pop stars. Many, if not all, of the acts that pass into the actual knockout stages of the competition are already signed to Syco/Sony BMG. These acts also sign confidentiality clauses preventing them from talking about their money and earnings, or rather, lack of earnings. Some acts that have chosen to break these contracts claim that were were signed up to deals offering a return of a single penny for each album sold, and that after a year on tour with the X-Factor stage show they earned £8-10k for a year's work, hardly the fortune that they were expecting to come with their fame. Cowell though is estimated to earn well in excess of $50m annually.

I am 42, heading into middle age, perhaps the age in life at which many people will spend their time listening to the music that defined their youth, and so do I, I still love The Clash, Marillion, Magnum, Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker, Led Zeppelin, Ramones, The Damned and all those other great bands that made such an impact on me as a young person, but I have kept, and indeed improved, my desire for new music. I still have that passion to be one of the first fans of a new band, to find obscure new releases, to see bands that no-one has heard of playing third support to a tiny audience, because down at this level of musical appreciation there is real talent and enjoyment to be had.

Over the past few years I have added a number of brand new, or new to me, bands to my canon of favourites, they are in a variety of genres, but they're all well worth a listen and a try, and if you don't like them then move on and seek out something that you do like. In music, as in many other areas of life, the pleasure that you get back is often in direct proportion to the effort you put in. You had a nice time watching Strictly Come Dancing from the comfort of your settee, I had a bloody amazing, hot, loud, bouncy, shouty time down the front at The Wildhearts. I guarantee you, I was having more fun that you were.

Here are a few bands you might like to check out, download and listen to, or make the effort to see live, put some effort in and get some real fun and enjoyment in return.

The Unthanks.
Rachel and Becky Unthank perform hauntingly beautiful folk music, they are now on their third album and all three are worth shelling out for.

The Fratellis.
Chart friendly upbeat indie rockers with a hint of The Beatles about them.

Enter Shikari.
A dance/rave rock band who have released two albums, the new album Common Dreads demonstrates political awareness combined with great music.

Stone Gods
Formed from the ashes of The Darkness, expect their second album next year.

The Answer
Irish classic rockers with all the right riffs and songs to be really big.

Bat For Lashes
Indie-pop strangeness with lovely melodies and vocals.

Bradford area modern metal band with one EP on release.

Eden's Curse
Melodic power metal from a multi-national line up.

New Device
Very impressive melodic/classic/stadium rockers, debut album now on release.
"Belladonna, n. In Italian a beautiful lady; In English a deadly poison. A striking example of the essential identity of the two tongues." - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary.

Another doorway, this one to an interesting looking house in Niagara, Canada.
Destroy The BBC

Here we go again, pressure is building in political circles and in the media, well, in those parts of the media owned by News International, to dismantle the media monster that is the BBC and sell of its anti-competitive assets to the highest bidder......News International perhaps.

Various MP's have weighed into the argument claiming that the £139.50 Licence Fee that the BBC gathers is an unfair tax and should be abolished, forcing the BBC to fend for itself. Of course, our current batch of MP's know all about unfair tax systems as many of them have been manipulating the same things to feather their nests for some time now, and MP's are glad of pretty much any issue to deflect public attention from their own numerous shortcomings.

I would to present a defence of the BBC though, because I think that the BBC is absolutely on of the very best things about the UK. Nowhere across the world, and I have travelled quite a bit and experienced media in many other countries, do we have a public broadcasting service of the breadth and quality of the BBC.

My personal usage of the BBC is as follows.... - I click on the website daily for news and sports results, plus taking in a few science articles, magazine articles and music reviews when time allows.

Radio - I listen to the news on R5 most days, and I enjoy the more in depth news pieces and magazine programmes on R4 as well, and then there is Test Match Special of course, that most English of programmes and perhaps the most wonderful thing that sports radio has ever accomplished.

Downloads - I download news and programme podcasts from R4, music news from R6, folk music from R2

TV - I don't watch a lot of television, but BBC News, 24 or not, is always worth catching up with and for a few specific programmes that I love, the Licence Fee is always going to be worth paying. I will always willingly shell out my hard earned money for the well researched and beautifully made nature programmes made by the BBC, Life On Earth, Wild, Blue Planet, Nature's Great Events, Spring/Autumn Watch, all are fantastic.

The BBC do drama brilliantly as well, I'm a big fan of Waking The Dead, Mrs YS loves Eastenders which has millions of loyal fans, they do wonderful one off or short series drama and of course nobody else does costumed / period drama quite as well as the BBC.

i-Player - As an offshoot of the BBC TV this is a brilliant idea, I work a lot of evenings and I'm quite absent minded, so I often miss programmes that look quite interesting, but now I can watch them at a time of my own choosing on my PC.

All this costs me (and each of you in the UK) £139.50 a year.
£11.63 a month
Just 39 pence a day.

The BBC is a national institution, and one we can be justifiably proud of. It produces a wealth of high quality programming across the broadest spectrum of interests and demographics, no matter what your age, political or religious persuasion or specific interest group, there will be something on the BBC that appeals to you.

I do worry that with the groundswell of moaning about the Licence Fee and the size and scope of the BBC that we run the risk of damaging beyond repair something that works extremely well for the widest part of the community. What is it in the future that we want our broadcaster to be ? Do we really want to break the BBC up and have each part of it reduced to a share owned business competing against all the other media interests ? Just have a look at today's programmes on Sky 1....

Malcolm In The Middle
WWE Experience
Oops Tv
Project Runway
New UK Border Force
Modern Family

And over on BBC 1

The Big Questions
Country Tracks
The Politics Show
'Allo 'Allo
Points Of View
Sport - Grand Prix
Film - Good Will Hunting

This is a fairly typical pattern, whilst the BBC schedule is largely made up of programmes produced by the corporation, Sky's schedule is largely made up of foreign (and by this I mean US) imports with only a tiny fraction of the material shown being made by Sky for a British audience. I am not arguing against the quality of Sky's shows here (except in the case of the number of cheap reality police shows currently proliferating, across all channels), indeed I am fan of Lost and I am getting into the (Lost-a-like) Flash Forward, but the fact remains that other channels tend to buy in rather than produce. I also accept that this buying in to pack out the schedule may be partly as a result of the BBC's funding, but I do not see it as an argument for dismantling the BBC itself.

We also run the risk of damaging another strand of our cultural identity, programmes made by, featuring, and intended for the British are a vital part of what we are. I feel that already there is far too much American influence in the media, in mass market films, tv and music, let's not have this influence extended further into the UK's consciousness, be proud of what you and what you can be as a Brit, don't be constantly looking to the US as more glamorous and interesting.

Sometimes people say you don't know what you've got until it's gone, and this really could be the case of the BBC, we have a wonderful service in the Licence Fee funded broadcaster, let's not ruin it.
Film Review - Days Of Glory****

Spoilers ahead.

This film was retitled as Days Of Glory for the English speaking market, on its original release in France it was called Indigenes. Film makers continue to uncover WW2 true stories that have remained unknown to most of us, in this movie, director and writer Rachid Bouchareb tells the story of of group of Algerian men who sign up for the French army to liberate the motherland.

The men experience war much as you may have seen it in numerous other WW2 films (Saving Private Ryan, Enemy At The Gates etc.), it is harsh, cruel, dirty and painful. The Algerians though come to realise that all is not fair in war on two fronts, and that although they fight alongside forces from mainland France, they are not being given the same treatment and respect.

Early on, Corporal Abdelkader, played by Sami Bouajila, notices that in a mess line the African soldiers are not allowed fresh tomatoes when white French troops are, he loudly demands parity and nearly causes a revolt. The unit's white sergeant (and everyone of sergeant rank and above in the African forces seem to be white French) Roger Martinez (Bernard Blancan) is a man caught between a rock and hard place, he shouts down Abdelkader's protest, but then out of sight of the men he carries the protests to the colonel, demanding that his men be treated fairly. Later in the film we discover that Martinez has a North African mother, he reacts violently when one of the African soldiers discovers this and forces him to remain silent.

Bouchareb uses a clever artifice in the scene changes, each scene begins in black and white but then slowly changes to colour as the director reminds a young audience that although most of the reporting of the war you have seen is without colour, this actually happened in the same world that you and I see, a clever touch.

The film does not gloss over the horrors of war, but nor does it do the sort of war-gore porn that Saving Private Ryan revelled in, men get killed in Days Of Glory, but mostly the special effects wounds department are kept quiet so that the film can focus on the characters.

The Algerians continue to discover they are are treated much differently from the French regulars, Abdelkader is arrested after publicly demanding leave when they discover after 20 months of training and combat that the regular French forces have regular leave as well. They are forced, after promises from the colonel that they will be well rewarded, into a mission to deliver ammunition to the Americans. The US troops are never seen, and a prolonged firefight decimates the Algerians.

At the end of the film we see the aged Abdelkader 60 years after the war, he is living in a squalid single room in housing block, obviously in poverty. Before the credits roll we are told that the French Government froze the pensions of soldiers from outside mainland France, and that despite the soldiers finally winning a long series of legal battles, their pensions have not yet been paid.

This is a powerful and very moving film, it takes on the harsh realities of combat and the more tricky issues of racism and discrimination with a deft touch. The Algerians are all played well, and they are certainly not made out to be ill used angels either, just men who thought they were fighting for a common cause, well worth seeing.

Days Of Glory/Indigenes is in French and Arabic, but is subtitled in English throughout.
Film Review : Fame

By guest writer Dr. P

Well if there's one movie guaranteed to provide an enjoyable night out, it was sure to be Fame. The original movie and 80s series was a classic of its time, focusing on the students and staff of the New York Academy of the Performing Arts - cue classic music, cheesy dance routines, singing and general camp mayhem. So how would the 2009 version stack up?

I was accompanied to the flicks by my best friend and twin, Nicky ... who decided to pay homage to the original by garbing up in a mass of pink accessories and leggings ... I did think that this was a little odd given the film had been updated to be set in these more "urban" times, but it certainly looked the part! We were giggling away like little kids as we got to the big screen ... cue some silly dancing on the way in ... unfortunately my recently-knackered ankle precluded full-on spins and silliness, but it was still fun.

We entered the vast open spaces of screen 7 to discover ... ONE other person present! Some weird chap sat about half way up! I was surprised as I was expecting a decent crowd. Anyway we decided to sit right at the back, which would allow for plenty of dancing and silliness - even more so when the other chap left after about 20 minutes (prompting Nicky to shout "do you want it pausing?") :)

Now I'd been demonstrating my own patented butt-slapping dance move in the foyer and said how hilarious it would be if anyone did it during the film. Hilariously it appeared not once but TWICE in the trailers!! First Vince Vaughan did it in the trailer for Couples Retreat (which looks hilarious), and then the King of Pop himself, Wacko Jacko, pulls off the move in the trailer for his dance flick!! Magnificent! Please do approach me and ask for a demonstration anytime ...

The film essentially follows the 4 year life and love cycles of one group of students as they initially auditioned and then made their way through their courses ... we followed the story of about half a dozen key characters, including the the angry young streetwise black actor, the shy, reserved girl (who you just knew was going to burst out of her shell at some point), the classical pianist who just wanted to get down and dirty with some rap, and their colleagues. Cliches galore throughout, and did we care? Did we heck! It was fun fun fun!

The teachers list reads like a who's who of classic American sitcoms, with Megan Mullally (Karen from Will & Grace) particularly entertaining as the almost-succeeded-on-Broadway-but-never-quite-made-it singing tutor. Kelsey Grammer is also good as the piano coach, and his Cheers screen wife Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith Crane) also features in the dance studio. At one point I expected George Wendt to stroll in, with all the students suddenly stopping and shouting "Nooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmmm".

We kinda got a sense of the cheesiness of the movie early on, when a cafeteria lunch scene suddenly turned into an all-dancing, all-singing spectacular, with pots and pans subbing for drums and the tables seeing some pretty spectacular dance moves - a bit like our work kitchen to be honest, although we go more for the comedy routines than singing ... so yeah really camp and cheesy - perfect!

The students' stories weren't particularly riveting, and we did spend most of the film a) laughing and b) wondering when Leroy was going to appear - now that would have provided the icing on the cake! Sadly he didn't ...

If you are expecting a musical spectacular to rival Mamma Mia, you might be disappointed - that said, the kids themselves are super talented. Some wonderful voices (particularly the black girl who started as a pianist and ended up as a rapper), a couple of particularly brilliant dancers, and some excellent musical numbers, but the weak and cliched storyline lets it down quite a bit. If you ignore the filler and just wait for the performances, this is excellent - and no annoying little Irish twins either!

The highlight of the night then came as we were making our way out and Nicky decided to jump down about 6 steps and pull off a street dance move or two. This was going brilliantly as she went airborne ... and slightly less brilliantly as her bag strap got caught on a seat rest and brought her smacking down to the ground. How we tittered ... there followed some more silly moves on the way out to end a most enjoyable and amusing night!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"My wife's gone to Poole."
"In Dorset?"
"Yes, she'd recommend it to anyone!"
The young men at porn picture-palaces
have no time for psychoanalysis,
And though Dr. Freud
gets distinctly annoyed,
They cling to their long standing falacies.
I had a mate who was suicidal.
He was so depressed, I pushed him in front of a steam train.

He was chuffed to bits.
NaNoWriMo 2009

I'm going to have a go again, having 'won' Nano 2008 and finished a 50,000 word novella in the one month time limit I am rather keen to make it 2 from 2.

The essence of Nano is to get people to write quantity and not to worry too much about the quality, which along with many thousands of Nano participants I'm very grateful for, I don't think my completed sci-fi effort from last year would really stand up to much literary criticism.

I began last year's Nano a few days late, and without a clear idea of what I wanted to do, this year I have a vague outline for my project ready. This year I want to have a go at a specific genre that has always interested me, I have read many novels in the post-apocalypse field and I am intrigued by the thought of vanished society and vacant cities, plus zombies. I've always found the walking, stumbling dead to be the most terrible of all the horror genre creatures, and the 28 Days style running, screaming, gibbering dead were even worse, so a zombie apocalypse it is.

You will be able to check on my progress over on the NaNoWriMo site.

If anyone else is doing Nano this year, please do get in touch and we can be writing buddies on the site, encouragement is always good.

Fencing at Buttertubs on the Hawes-Muker pass.
Album Review : Here's The Tender Coming - The Unthanks****

Both a change of personnel and name of the band have preceded this third album from Rachel and Becky Unthank. The two previous albums have established the sisters as firm favourites in the British folk scene, so this third album should cement their reputation.

I found HTTC to be a slow burner when compared to The Bairns and especially Cruel Sister, I was more immediately grabbed by both of those albums than I was by the release. Persevering though, The Unthanks open up their layers of music and lyrical weavings. The Unthanks may now have expanded their numbers by one, but their music reamins as sparse and textured as before, they have not suddenly become Bellowhead.

HTTC has 13 tracks, also in the style of previous albums these range from very short (and amusing) ditties like Where've Yer Been Dick, to the much longer and much darker epics Annachie Gordon and Nobody Knew She Was There. Many of the traditional songs that The Unthanks have selected for this album are dark and cautionary tales, but this is where Becky excels, her quiet breathy vocals almost whispering the narratives of failed love, mourning and despair.

The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw, developed from the real life interview with a working pit girl, tells a harrowing tale of a young woman forced into the harsh underground world of mining to support herself, it is both lyrically and musically one of the strongest songs on the album. Nobody Knew She Was There chronicles the life of a wife and mother taken utterly for granted by those around her, and Flowers Of The Town charts the loss of young manhood from a small village during the Great War.

You won't finish listening to Here's The Tender Coming and end up with a big happy smile on your face, the road The Unthanks tread is a dark and foreboding path, but it is possessed of such incredibly beautiful melancholy that you will want to return to it time and time again to marvel at how the band can produce such gorgeous music whilst being so sparse and restrained in their playing. Beautiful, haunting, in places exquisitely forlorn, but with enough touches of life and humour to make it not an entirely downbeat experience.
Book Review : Fables, The Dark Ages - Bill Willingham*****

Note - Some spoilers ahead.

A quick recap, the war has been fought and won, the vile and blood drenched tyrant Gepetto overthrown and taken alive because of a last minute plea by son Pinochio, many good Fables lie dead or wounded, but at last it appears that the Fables can live in peace, and that after many decades they can begin to return to their homelands.

Much like Mike Carey's Lucifer, it did rather appear that this 12th volume of Fables would be a wrap up issue in the style of Lucifer : Evensong, tying up the loose ends and doing a short 'lived happily ever after' selection of stories. For fans of the Fables series though, it appears that Bill Willingham has no intention of laying his creation to rest just yet.

As the Fables work their way through the aftermath of the way, two Fables on a distant world (who are an almost undisguised Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) come across a locked box in a treausre hord, reasoning that a secure box in a pile of gold must contain treasure beyond imagining they hack open the chest, but the chest does not contain treasure, it was a holding place for an ancient, dark and terrible evil.

Willingham's 12th part of the Fables series is as exciting and well crafted as any part of the story arc so far. Like many of the really great comic writers, he doesn't get too attached to major characters, so be prepared for a tearful farewell to a long running favourite or two in this book. Willingham also works major changes to the power structure of the Fables, and with an implacable enemy approaching whose own power was used in tiny fraction to aid the Fables in the war The Dark Ages ends not in the flush of hope and victory that marked the end of War And Pieces, but with a deep sense that the next chapter might not go at all well for many of our favourite characters.

Since the end of Lucifer, Fables has become easily the best written graphic novel going. Willingham has a fine and deft touch for emotion, politics and humour, for love and loss and honesty. If he can keep up this level of writing I would be happy if Fables were to follow Hellblazer and become a really long lived title.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chavs, A Scooter, Some Bad Dancing

Ha ha, what the hell lads ?
Book Reveiew : The Road - Cormac Mcarthy*****

The world has almost ended, some life destroying event (which remains undescribed) has killed the plants, the birds, the animals, all that remains are a few scattered humans surviving on the last food supplies of their decade dead civilisation. Walking through this post-apocalyptic nightmare are a man and a boy, the man's son. They are following the road south to escape the bitter winter, the man's stated aim is to reach the coast where he feels they might have some chance of survival. Along the way they have brief, terrifying encounters with other survivors, armed militant gangs, people reduced to cannibalism, the desperate dregs of humanity in a dying world.

It is also no co-incidence that the only other living thing that the man and the boy encounter is a patch of mushrooms, fungus, a thing that that only exists by feeding from death and decay, it's a powerful metaphor for the remaining humans in the world.

The man has become hardened and inured to the horrors around him, although he does everything he can to ensure the boys survival, there is nothing in him that speaks of real hope and it is often the boy who, as children do, expresses empathy for others.

McCarthy has written a strong post-apocalypse sci-fi novel in The Road, for fans of this particular genre there are echoes of other novels in the book, John Christopher's Death Of Grass, Stephen King's The Stand and The Postman by David Brin all contain themes similar to McCarthy's novel. The Road though is altogether bleaker and more desperate than any of it's forerunners.

The physical structure of the prose has been deliberately designed to add to the feeling of the dead, grey world. Along with everything humanity has lost, their names have gone as well, not once do we learn the boy's name, and although father and son possess a map, the names of roads, towns and rivers are never referred to. There are no quotation marks to denote dialogue in the book, not a single 'he said' or 'the boy replied' and the flat feel of the writing on the page deliberately mirrors the lifelessness within the novel itself. This might sound as if the novel itself is flat and lifeless, but I found myself instantly drawn into the world of the man and the boy and their awful, desperate struggle for survival.

The Road has been acknowledged as a modern classic, winning the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction and garnering positive reviews from many heavyweight literary critics, and it is a strong and gripping novel. The themes of love and humanity examined under the most terrible of circumstances are equally captivating and horrifying, you can't help but be transfixed and held by The Road's forlorn and wretched journey.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walking Yorkshire : Great Shunner Fell, Lovely Seat

Monday again, the weather is nice, cool with only a light breeze, so I set off for the Hawes - Muker pass and parked up at Buttertubs.

Great Shunner Fell seen from the road.

And facing in the opposite direction, Lovely Seat. Both of these hills are Marilyn's, that is, they have at least 150 metres of relative height (above the last connecting contour line to any other hill regardless of absolute height), hikers and climbers you see are statistics geeks of the very worst order. The Scottish mountains are called Munros, named after Sir Hugh Munro who compiled a list of all mountains in Scotland over 3,000ft in 1891. That's the Scots then, serious folk.

The English are obviously a bit dafter, and because Scotland has nearly all the really big peaks in the UK, the English decided to name their taller hills Marilyns, just for a bit of silliness really. Geeks being geeks though, there are more named lists of hills classified by location, absolute height, relative height or who originally described them in the case of the Lakeland Wainwrights. You walk the hill, then write it down in your notebook and thus you have walkers who collect, or bag, Corbetts, Donalds, Fells, Munros, Marilyn's, Grahams, Nuttalls, Wainwrights, Hewitts and Murdos, and to make the matter more confusing, many peaks fall into more than one category.

That aside though, it was a nice morning, slightly wet underfoot and a little chilly, but a swift stroll up and down Great Shunner Fell soon got me warmed up.

The view across to Muker and Swaledale from the flanks of Great Shunner Fell.

The summit of Great Shunner Fell, the Pennine Way passes over the peak here so there are often folk around. The Pennine Way is so popular that large scale erosion was occurring along the route here until the path was flagged across large parts of the hill, the flags make for easier walking and limit damage to the land, but they don't have quite the challenge of the giant bogs I remember from climbing this hill with Cubs and Scouts.

A ewe amidst the slightly alien eroded peat landscape on Great Shunner Fell.

The summit of Lovely Seat, where some wags have indeed built a lovely seat. It is a bit like Amon Hen from Lord Of The Rings, you can perch here and have a commanding view of the Dales.

Great Shunner Fell as seen from the summit of Lovely Seat.

Brother in Law mk.3 and girlfriend please note, Australia pffft, this is Yorkshire !

Monday, October 12, 2009

A bit of rain last week and the ponds are taking over the paths, and the top of the moors are turning to sucking bogs again. This was above March Gill Reservoir, I'd had to take an alternative route (via nettles and brambles) after a bull decided that the gate I needed to get through would make a nice resting place.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I saved a drowning MP this morning.

As a .jpg
"Ambition, n.
An overmastering desire to be vilified by enemies while living and made ridiculous by friends when dead." - Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Film Review : The Invention Of Lying**

By guest writer Dr. P

Another big screen vehicle for the comic talents of Ricky Gervais, the Invention of Lying has been surprisingly successful at the box office on both sides of the pond. I say "surprisingly", for while this is a likeable enough film, it lacks the laugh out loud moments of many of Gervais' works.

I was accompanied to the film not by usual comic sidekick Big G but by the infinitely more glamorous "Foxy F"; on the positive side ... added wow factor, better girly giggling and a tremendous ability to get crotchety with the kids constantly running about during the film; on the negative side ... nothing whatsoever :). I did manage to get her to spit drink at one point, something Big G generally avoids ...

OK, the premise is straightforward. In a world in which lying has not been invented, everyone tells the truth, however brutal and honest that might be. There's little subtlety, either in day to day life or indeed in advertising (most of the bits I found funniest were background adverts, particularly the one for pepsi - "pepsi ... for when you've run out of coke". Gervais plays Mark Bellison, a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who is about to lose his job, and who has a fairly mundane life. We see him have a most unsuccessful date with the lovely Anna (Jennifer Garner) - "no, I won't be sleeping with him", and discover that without his job, he has little left to fall back upon.

Fast forward a short time, and there is a eureka moment where Mark suddenly learns how not to tell the truth - the world being the way it currently is, everyone believes everything everyone else says (every time, ever) - that sentence was sponsored by ever ready - and so he is able to use this power to attract girls, get money and win back his job.

Having started to gain the affections of the aforementioned Anna, Mark is suddenly confronted with his critically ill mother. He lies to her on her death bed, promising her all kinds of happiness after she dies, and saying that he knows this because he talks to "the man in the sky". He's overheard saying this, and of course within hours the whole world believes him to be some kind of prophet. It's at this point that the whole story grinds to a shuddering halt and the jokes with it ...

What started as a decent enough opening half hour then turns into a kind of preachy pseudo-religious second act, with Gervais passing on wisdom from the imaginary MITS while simultaneously continuing to try and win over Anna and keep her away from the lecherous, yet much better "genetically matched", Brad Kessler (played very well by Rob Lowe). We got quite disappointed with the remainder of the film; though the ending is quite twee and a lot fo potential themes, both comic and serious, are left unexplored. Why, for example, is Mark the only person who can lie and, more to the point, why doesn't he use it in any sort of creative way? Getting his job back and winning over the girl hardly seem massively great achievements with that sort of power.

Overall, maybe 2 stars out of 5; it was a decent enough hour and a half of a film (in lovely company), but Gervais has, can, and will do far better than this average flick. The lack of obvious chemistry between the two leads doesn't help, and their romantic relationship seems completely fake. It feels more like a dullish American sitcom episode stretched out over 90 minutes than a big screen comedy, and the experience is all the worse for that.
In Favour Of Free Downloading

"Being a child of the 70s, I clearly remember a time when popular music was alive. Radio playlists weren’t limited to 10-12 tracks endlessly played over and over. Yeah kids, there was actually a time when FM radio was relevant. You could easily dial into your favorite station(s) and catch something new and interesting or even old and classic being played. Because stations were more independent and DJs were able to make playlist decisions instead of some corporate “radio consultant” dictating it, there was diversity being broadcast over the airwaves."

Read the rest of Michael Gregoire's excellent and informed article here on Free Music Archive.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

In The 80's

You might not have been stoned in the street for dressing like this.

Seriously lads, what were you thinking ?

I gather this is a Finnish band called Bogart Co., but that's still no excuse.
Happy Birthday To Me

I havn't gone mad, my birthday was way back in July, but Mrs YS gave me a voucher to spend at Backcountry and I didn't get around to spending it until this week. None of my hiking gear really needs replacing, and there's nothing I desperately need, so I could spend it on things that I wanted, a new gadget for one.

A Petzl Tikka 2 Headlamp took most of my birthday pennies. It's not something I really need as it is very rare that I am out on the hills very late in the day, but I did fancy one as a just in case measure. It has a pretty powerful beam which also doubles as a flashing warning beacon for if you should happen to get into difficulties.

The rest of my voucher I spent on the Harvey Map of the Dales Way, how good is this, I have already been replacing my battered set of OS maps with the new laminated versions, and now the map companies are going one better and printing maps on Polyethylene, incredibly lightweight, about one third of the bulk (and weight) of a laminate map, 100% waterproof (tested in the kitchen sink already), what a great idea, I hope the OS catch on and start putting their bulky laminate Active Map series onto this material.
Wolf Goes Vegan, And Raw

Alex, who is undertaking a number of interesting / strange / off the wall projects as part of an ongoing life experience / 1001 day long performance art project, is at the moment having a raw vegan month. No no, calm down you nutters, that doesn't mean she's going to roam the streets with a carving knife looking for pasty faced sandal wearers to devour, rather she is going to eat nothing but raw food, and vegan food at that, for a whole month.

Alex is providing daily coverage of her experiment over at Raw Food Wolf and you can catch up with her numerous other projects on 101 Of A Wolf

I'm very interested in this without having the slightest inclination to follow it myself. I'm also, despite being a devout meat eater, hoping that Alex finishes the month in good health and having completed the project. I do have a slight worry that she may not find enough protein in a raw vegan diet, and also that the amount of calories she requires might be hard to get, but there wasn't a girl yet who wouldn't mind dropping a dress size or two.

Good luck Alex, and it's got me thinking, how about the opposite, 31 different animals eaten in 31 days ?
This Month's E-Music Downloads

Tongue N'Cheek - Dizzee Rascal

A Loud Call - Holly Throsby

Highball Roller - Sorry And The Sinatras

Beggars - Thrice

Today Is A Good Day - New Model Army

The Paths Of Glory..... - Pig Iron

Spine Of God - Monster Magnet

Heart Of The Congos - The Congos (half the album, out of credits now)

From grime to alt folk via stoner metal, post hardcore and roots reggae, well that's a normally eclectic month for me.
More Free (And Legal) Music Downloads

I wrote earlier in the week about the rather wonderful WFMU radio station and their plethora of free downloadable and streaming music, and I forgot to mention that they have yet another free music site, the aptly named Free Music Archive. All the music on this site is free to download and it is all legal.

Free Music Archive

Someone on (whose account has since been banned by the site) sent me a link to a website called mp3Panda, this appears to be one of those illegal Russian/Far East sites, I wouldn't enter my credit card details even though they offer downloads for an incredible 5 cents. Still, there is a free album on the front page, today it is Ursa Major by Third Eye Blind, I have downloaded that and it seems to playing fine and hasn't come with any nasty surprises.

At your own risk, mp3Panda
A motorist stopped at a country ford and asked an Lancastrian sitting nearby how deep the water was.

"A couple of inches." replied the Lancastrian . So the motorist drove into the ford and his car promptly disappeared beneath the surface in a cauldron of bubbles.

"That's odd" thought the Lancastrian. "The water only goes halfway up on them ducks."
Arooga ! Larpers !

(Thanks to James)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mafia Wars

First, an apology to all my friends who do not play Mafia Wars on Facebook and so have been subjected to a spam storm on their friend updates as I expanded my mafia. All feeds can be turned off, so if you still want to hear from a friend who is gaming on Facebook, but you are heartily sick of his/her Mafia Wars / Yoville / Age Of Castles updates, just hover your cursor to the right of an update and an option box should appear with a "Hide Mafia Wars" option on it.

Like many millions of Facebook users, I have become addicted to Zynga's click game Mafia Wars. The game is very easy to play, you just click on action buttons to perform tasks which earn you points and raise you in game levels. You can invite all your friends to play, and then when your mafia has reached a total of 35 members and you keep on getting iced by Don Big Bully and his super mafia of 501 players, you decide to grow your own mafia a bit so you can hold your own, or preferably, do a bit of arse kicking yourself.

There are numerous pimping groups on Facebook which you can join and then post your details on their noticeboards to ask people to become your friends. The downside of this for many people is that by accepting people as friends just to play a game, you are giving up what little security Facebook offers for the private details you have filled your profile with. Having run a blog for seven years on which I regularly post details about myself I was slightly less concerned about this.

I found the pimping groups to be a little slow for gaining members no matter what they promise, a far better tactic was to post the message "If you can read this, friend request me and I'll join your mafia" in the comments section after my real friends Mafia Wars posts, this started an avalanche effect. The first few posts brought a handful of friend requests, reposting the same message to my new friends MW posts brought a flood of requests, with perhaps 20 invites posted, I logged on the following morning to find 128 friend requests waiting for me. A couple of hours of spamming comment boxes took my mafia from 78 members on Friday afternoon to 520 members on Monday morning.

The advantages of a large mafia in the game are numerous, you will always get lots of help when you ask your mafia to attack someone, there are lots of opportunities for you to assist on someone else's jobs when you have run out of energy so you can keep on earning money and experience.

The downside, especially if you work in an office and can access Facebook at work is that you can get glued to the game. In any big mafia a posted job opportunity will be snapped up by the maximum ten players in moments, inter-mafia wars turn into brief one sided slaughter when you're backed by 500 other players, and you're always sneaking a peek at the FB front page in order to get in on the "Break up a campaign rally, violently" job before all your friends jump in.

Anyway, this is Don Spike signing off for now, some fool with a mafia of 25 has attacked me, and my 500 friends and me are going to ice him, ciao.
My Father Is Now On Teh Internets

So I thought I'd better warn him......

Book Review : The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce***

We are staying in Ambrose Bierce's old house when we visit California later this year, so I thought I would read the man's work before we went.

It is said that Bierce wrote his horror stories in a style well ahead of his time, and for horror fiction penned around the turn of the 19th Century his work does have a more modern Roald Dahl like Tales Of The Unexpected feel to it. The big downside to his horror work though is that he really only has one or two ideas, and these are constantly recycled.

Every story features a death, so either at the end of the story the protagonist dies, or his shade drifts around a while believing itself to be alive, or the protagonist kills someone he did not mean to. I did find that the horror stories got a bit wearing after twenty or so of them.

Bierce was a soldier and mapper in the Union Army where he fought at the Battle Of Shiloh and the second part of his short story oeuvre, the war stories, paint a dark picture of the confusion, chaos and fear of battle. Some of the war stories are pretty good, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge is his most famous short, but to be fair it follows the same pattern and ending of many of his horror shorts.

Where Bierce really shines is his humorous writing, this is sadly the shortest section of the compilation but by far the most enjoyable. Bierce also wrote The Devil's Dictionary, an occasional newspaper piece which satirised definitions of words and his humour follows a similar vein, he unleashes his spleen upon those he obviously dislikes, and the legal system and lawyers come in for a relentless pounding. Bierce's wit and imagination are really let loose in his 'World Of Tall Tales', I would have enjoyed more of these, and slightly less formulaic horror.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Free Music from WFMU

WFMU are an eclectic New York radio station that also provide a lot of internet content, how eclectic ? This might give you a clue......"WFMU now has two brand new webstreams for your listening pleasure. WFMU's Rock & Soul Ichiban and Ubu Audio. Ichiban features the best in obscure hits from the 50's and 60's mixed with vintage commercials, jingles and monster movie trailers; all selected by Debbie D. Plus, you get short radio sets from Mr. Finewine, Rex and Dave the Spazz with all of the tracking and none of the yakking. Visit the Ichiban blog for more information. The Ubu audio stream consists of sound poetry culled from Kenny G's amazing site. Stream on!"

Main webpage, you can read about WFMU's eclectic programming here.

The WFMU Beware Of The Blog, movies, music, downloads, all nicely tagged and ordered.

WFMU's On The Download, this is wonderful, a hug sound archive packed with all sorts of goodness, it isn't all songs either, there are vintage news clips in here, alongside interviews, soundtracks, and downright oddities, it's a real cornucopia.

"WFMU's On The Download collects MP3s from the fringes once a month: new sounds, obscure audio, found sound, and other sonic stimulants unique to WFMU."
How Is Australia ?

Mother and Father in law flew to Australia on Sunday, I hope you are both having a good time, and I would just like to make a few comments about events at your house last night...

1) The party was not my idea, it was Rob's.

2) Indoor golf was not my idea, it was Chris.

3) I don't know who brought the goat.

4) The chandelier, was it like, really expensive, or just normally expensive ?

5) Your kitchen knives are rubbish, you need some better quality knives for really big work, slaughtering goats for example.

6) The Police said that Andy will probably get off with a suspended sentence as it was his first offence, they also said it was the most original use of a black pudding they had ever seen.

Anyway, hope you are having a lovely holiday, don't worry about us, and if you could just remind me what colour your car was painted as I'm not certain that it began the night as tartan then that would be great.
Tesco - A Minor Victory

Hurrah, a new era of common sense has dawned at Tesco and they have decided that as they are a shop, they would like to sell things to their customers after all.

I complained last month that Tesco would not allow anyone to purchase more than 8 of any item, well they have overturned that decision. I gather that they have not reversed their decision because of customer complaints, but because of staff complaints, apparently the check out staff were fed up of fielding constant grumbling from customers (and grumbling customers hold up the check outs leading to LOSS OF POTENTIAL PROFITS) and so persuaded the management to change their minds.

Either way, it's a good idea.

Some people asked why I don't support some local business, and why I shop at Tesco, well, it's a question of price and quantity. We do buy from other places, our meat comes from Doric Game and David Lishman's, our fruit and veg from Strawberry Fields, fish from Ramus, dried goods from Haworth Wholesale and Makro. I do use Tesco though for bread, some fruit and veg, and all the small items that we might need for one of the numerous 'one off' menus that we do for guests at the golf club.

Price is obviously very important, if we spent 20p more on a loaf of bread, that would equate to spending a couple of hundred of pounds extra in the year, on one single item, if you multiplied that across a couple of dozen of grocery items we could be spending thousands more on products, and with no possibility of making the money back.

If someone wants, for example, fillet steak, well then I'll buy from Lishman's and charge accordingly, but bread to make toast from and similar high volume items, we need to buy at a reasonable price.
The Dead Are Rising, And I'm One Of Them !

Zombie yourself over at Zombieland.
6 Things For 6 People

Four down, Squirt's story has just been sent, just Shan and Terry to do for now.
Album Review : A Loud Call - Holly Throsby***

For Fans Of : The Unthanks, Ephemera, Noah And The Whale

A Loud Call is a bit of a misnomer, there is absolutely nothing about Throsby's softly sung and delicately played music that you apply the adjective loud to. I downloaded this album by mistake, I had already pressed the button to buy the album when I realised the text said "Featuring Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" and not "by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy", oops.

Throsby has a nice voice, although raising it above a breathy whisper would be nice once in a while, and the musical accompaniment is similarly pleasant but sparse, everything is very delicate and fragile sounding.

A couple of tracks raise themselves from the rest, The Time It Takes with its "Oh well, oh well" refrain and painfully beautiful lyrics is a really nice track, as is the duet with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, 'Would You ?'. The rest of the album though, is just too nice, it just lacks a little lift and force. Still, if you like breathy vocals and placid music, this could be your thing.

A bull, he was standing close to a wall on the south flank on Pen-Y-Ghent, very docile and placid even when I was leaning over close to him to get his portrait.