Tuesday 26 June 2007

Very well respected family, the Vincehires.

Another sign that you are, in fact, a grown-up now:

The example birth date on forms is now sometimes more recent than your own.

Another sign that you, despite your newly discovered 'grown-up' status, are nonetheless watching far too much 'Sopranos':

You see a van with VINCEHIRE written on the side, and read it as 'Vinch-e-hiray'.

Thursday 21 June 2007

And now a message on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Philistines

Also whilst in Amsterdam, I visited the city's major art gallery, the Rijksmuseum. Unfortunately, it was being refurbished, and almost all of the collection was closed off - only a small selection of 'masterworken' were available to view in one wing of the gallery. Fortunately... this was perfect! Come on, any grown ups inexplicably reading this, please avert your eyes, but the rest of us... isn't this precisely what we want? There were two floors of exhibits; it took me about an hour and half to get round it - I could have done it in an hour if I'd been in training- and when I left, I'd seen everything there was to see. No hang-dog feeling of guilt about those rooms full of medieval madonnas and childses guiltily scuttled past to get to the good stuff. No shifty memories of just looking at the first and last panels of the 24 canvas Hideous Martyrdom of St Antifreeze, and telling myself I'd probably got the gist. No, I spent half an hour downstairs warming up with pen and ink drawings of naval battles and silver ewers in the shape of bottoms, then upstairs, and Wam! - Vermeer!; Boom!- Franz Hals!; Kapow!- Rembrandt! and I'm on my way rejoicing.

I therefore hereby recommend the following two point plan to all the major art galleries of the world: 1) Go into "refurbishment" immediately, and permanently, and put your greatest hits into a modest bungalow next door. 2. More bottom-shaped ewers.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

I mean, if it was a seasick dragon, I could understand...

I went to Amsterdam this weekend. I hadn't been before- what a lovely place it is. Whilst there, I read this:

'According to legend, Amsterdam was founded by two fishermen and a seasick dog, which ran ashore and threw up on the site of the city when their ship ran aground. The reality, sadly, is rather more mundane.'

More mundane than a vomiting dog? Crikey.

Friday 15 June 2007

Frequently Questioned Answers.

  • It wasn't me!
  • Nothing's the matter.
  • I had to work late at the office.
  • It fell off the back of a lorry.
  • I'm almost sure it's the red wire.
  • Because I say so.

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are we nearly there yet?
  • What time do you call this?
  • Is anyone sitting there, mate?
  • What do you call a man with a spade on his head?
  • How do you do?
  • Where have all the flowers gone?
  • Can I help you?
  • Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
  • Where's the loo?

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Free Bees

Today's book of choice is the excellent 'Proceedings of the Sixth European Bee Conference'. Now, you might think any organisation able to submit this title to their publishers would be entitled to sit back with a feeling of a job well done. It's a very good title. But not the International Bee Research Association. They went the extra mile. 'Proceedings of the Sixth European Bee Conference' is merely the sub-title of this great work. The title is... 'Bees Without Frontiers'.

IBRA, I salute you.

Monday 11 June 2007

They don't, though. They DON'T jar.

I don't understand the Maestro credit card ad campaign. I mean those black and white posters with slogans like: 'There's a reason machines spit out coins', 'R.I.50p' and 'Coins Jar'. What are they trying to get us to do? Stop using coins? Coins are really useful! How do Maestro think they're going to brainwash us into not believing coins are useful? Is their advertising agency's dream that one day, I'll fancy a Kit-Kat, and thanks to their clever indoctrination think to myself: 'Oh no, here comes that dreadful and laborious business of getting a fifty pee out of my pocket, and giving it to the man! I can hardly bear the sheer tedium and difficulty of it... Ah, but wait! I've just remembered - Maestro, so I am reliably informed by those helpful posters, is the new cash! No more terrible coin-handing-over ordeal for me - all I have to do is produce my Maestro card, watch the assistant sigh, put it in the chip and pin machine, wait for it to be recognised, no luck, take it out and rub the magnetic strip with the corner of my shirt, put it back in, ah, that's better, enter my pin, wait for that to be recognised, enter it again because I absent-mindedly put in my credit card pin not my debit card pin, wait for it to be recognised.... oh dear, slow connection today... Ah, there we go, take out my card, wait for the reciept, and the Kit-Kat is mine! R.I.50p indeed! Sorry, mate, what was that? Big Issue? Yeah, ok! Where's your chip and pin machine?'

Sunday 10 June 2007

Don't tell anyone I told you this.

Banner strapline on the front page of the Evening Standard yesterday:

'Win Tickets to Secret Paul McCartney Gig!'

Oh, Paul, Paul... this mania for secrecy will surely destroy you...

Thursday 7 June 2007

Things I learnt today about legal contracts in China during the Tang dynasty.

Illiterate signatories signed contracts by drawing lines indicating the place of their finger joints on their middle finger. Men used the middle finger of their left hand; women the right.

'Ambulance chaser' clerks who went round villages persuading peasants to file suits or amend contracts were known contemptuously as 'Men With Brushes In Their Hats'.

A man could divorce his wife if she committed any of the 'seven outs': failed to bear children, committed adultery, stole, disobeyed his parents, was jealous, contracted a fatal disease, or... talked too much.

Wednesday 6 June 2007

Turns out you're supposed to take that triangular thing off the balls before you start...

Yesterday, a friend and I went to a snooker hall in Camden, and played, of all things, snooker. At the table next to us were a big fat guy in his sixties, and a little wiry guy in his twenties - possibly, but not definitely, father and son. As the session went on, the younger guy was getting more and more furious at the older guy's refusal to compliment him on his good shots. What was great was how his tactics evolved.
First he tried querulousness: 'Ain't you going to say 'nice shot' then? Ain't you even gonna say it?'
Then he tried over-compensation 'Oh! What a brilliant shot! The boy's on FIRE tonight!'
Then he tried sarcasm 'No... please... all these compliments... really, it's too much... I'm embarrassed'
Then he tried retaliation 'Oh no! What a terrible miss! You must feel so stupid! That was an awful shot!'
Finally, he tried getting us involved: 'I'm sorry... did you guys hear something just then? Did someone say 'good shot'? I couldn't hear it myself...'

And all the time the older guy played stolidly on, creeping up on the younger guy's lead until eventually, right at the end, the younger guy sunk the cue ball whilst trying to pot the black - and the older guy, without saying a word, started replacing the balls on the table for the next game. It turned out the younger guy had automatically forfeited the game. I didn't know about that rule. Neither, it turned out, did the younger guy. And if we hadn't been there, I'm sure fairly sure the older guy would have wound up in Camden Hospital A and E, for surgical removal of a snooker cue.

Meanwhile, at our table, it very quickly became apparent that there was a violent mis-match between the serious, professional, 'Fast Eddie' look of this dim hall full of huge snooker tables, and our - particularly my - utter incompetence at snooker. It was like watching someone on the centre court at Wimbledon, playing Swingball. Badly. This is not false modesty - I really am dreadful. It's not just that I can't do it, it's that I have no idea what I'm doing wrong, or how to try to do it better. I'm basically just a monkey with a stick. But- and this is what I found funny, at least afterwards - none of this stopped me, every so often, picking up the chalk, and thoughtfully chalking my cue. As if that was my problem...

Tuesday 5 June 2007

If you go down to the woods today, be sure of a big surprise...

Sometimes, the Klan just wanna have fun.

I'm sure a couple of you must be short story writers. If this isn't inspiration on a plate, I don't know what is. Remember, this actually happened. Every one of those men is in that photo; in that costume, and on that ferris wheel for a good reason, which, if we could only ask him, he would be able to explain, and wouldn't find in the least unusual or absurd. I would dearly love to know what that (those) reason(s) is (are).

I dedicate this blog entry to Nelson Mandela. I hope he's grateful.

Kudos to Joseph Alessi, an actor in the new comedy musical The Drowsy Chaperone (which is fun and funny, and recommended so long as you like That Sort Of Thing) not only for being very good, but also for putting the following in his programme biography, after a long list of theatre credits: 'Television includes: the usual array of cops, robbers, medics and patients'. That's the way to do it.

Not so sure about one of his castmates, who ends his biog 'He dedicates his performance to his gorgeous Rebecca'. Which is the sort of thing you can just about get away with if the performance in question is as Romeo or Mark Anthony- but when it's as one of a duo of comedy New York gangsters disguised throughout as pastry chefs... not so much. (And if you didn't know what I meant by That Sort Of Thing before, you do now.)

Friday 1 June 2007

Samuel L Jackson IS Joe Bowel, the cop who don't take no shit...

Here’s a game you can play on IMDB. Think up eight common two-word phrases or expressions which are not, as far as you know, film titles… but which easily could be. Then make a list of eight more which you think really probably couldn’t. Then check them all on IMDB. Award yourself one point for every title on your first list which has indeed been used, and five points for every title on your second list. (Yes, I realise this scoring system rewards failure in the second list, but don’t worry, it’s not going on your permanent record.) Here’s how I did.


  • Storm Warning - No.
  • Last Words - Yes, in 2002
  • Coming Home - Yes, 1978
  • Danger Money – No, astonishingly.
  • Cat’s Cradle – Yes, not once, not twice, but six times, between 1903 and 2009.
  • Night Terrors – Yes, a treat we have in store this very year, apparently.
  • Learning Curve - No. ‘The Learning Curve’, yes, but not ‘Learning Curve’.
  • Extreme Prejudice – Yes, 1987

Probably Not:

  • Curly Kale – No.
  • Mucus Membrane – No.
  • Cub Camp – No.
  • Machine Washable – No.
  • Kennel Cough – No.
  • Human Resources – No. A Dutch TV documentary, but not a film.
  • Irritable Bowel – No.
  • White Lightning - Yes! Twice – once in 1953 and once in 1973! I suppose if you take away the My First Cider connotations it has in Britain, it’s quite a macho phrase. Just how macho you will appreciate when I tell you that the 1973 release starred Burt Reynolds playing a character named… Gator McCluskey. Now that’s a name. To family and friends reading this: I hereby announce that I wish from now on to be known as ‘Gator McCluskey’. I will respond to no other name. Thank you.