Archive for January, 2011

Coast to coast with Salvador Dali and Christopher Moore (or: Let’s melt down Mickey and set fire to Donald)

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

So, to start things off, here are a few Christopher Moore quotes.

On ringtones in California:

“Theophilus Crowe’s mobile phone played eight bars of “Tangled Up in Blue” in an irritating electronic voice that sounded like a choir of suffering houseflies, or Jiminy Cricket huffing helium, or, well, you know, Bob Dylan.”

On Christmas in California:

“Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe.”

On sanity in California:

“The problem with being nuts, she thought, is that you don’t always feel as if you’re nuts. Sometimes, in fact, you feel perfectly sane, and there just happens to be a trailer-shaped dragon crouching in the lot next door.”

On some of the wildlife in California:

“The bat was looking at Theo and Theo was having trouble following his own thoughts. The bat was wearing tiny sunglasses. Ray Bans,Theo could see by the trademark in the corner of one lens.”I’m sorry, Mr.,uh- Case, could you take the bat off your head. It’s very distracting.”
It’s a him. Roberto. He no like the light.”

On zombies in California:

“Well they’re pissed off and they’re hungry. I was kind of busy trying not to get my brains eaten. They seemed pretty adamant about the brain-eating thing. Then they’re going to IKEA, I guess.”

All of the above serving as a demonstration that it really is a pity that we have to move to the other coast for the following story:

“ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A new museum showcasing a leading collection of works by Surrealist master Salvador Dali is set to open in Florida.”

Also, I seriously doubt that Dali would have liked to be in the same neighbourhood as Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse…

unless he could have set fire to the former and melted the latter, I suppose.

Fiery rhetoric, fired football coaches and fiercely feathered Gods

Monday, January 10th, 2011

The best political cartoon of the day was the one above, by Morten Morland, in the Times.

Silliest headline of the day came courtesy of Times columnist Michael Burleigh:

Political violence is an un-American activity”

Most beautiful quote of the day, care of Simon Barnes, also of the Times:

“Football is overwhelmingly about failure, but no one in football can be seen to accept that. In the same way, life is overwhelmingly about death, but there’s no fun in living that way. Instead, you rage against stuff. And in football, you express that rage by sacking the manager.”

Finally, my very own Thought For The Day, inspired by a disappointingly bland main poultry dish in one of Prague’s fancier restaurants:

‘If it looks Heavenly, like something you never had before, but tastes like a Tesco chicken, it’s probably the corpse of some fiercely feathered God that got blackballed from a Mount Olympus skiing lodge for being really, really boring.’

(Well, it IS Monday, you know…)

Piers Morgan in Manhattan (or: Mister King, put those scissors down now!)

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

If you’ve never ever heard of Larry King, this post is not for you.

It’s also not for the squeamish – or for those with discerning tastes.

Anyway, Larry King is a very long-serving (and long-winded and obsequious) television talk show host on CNN…

and he’s going to retire and will be replaced by Piers Morgan – who is a long-serving and short-tempered and obnoxious celebrity TV export product from England.

The (vaguely) human equivalent of a BP oil spill, if you like.

Those who care about these things have some doubts about the wisdom of this decision and many wonder what the reaction of the American public will be after Morgan’s first appearance.

The following news story might give us a clue:

A prominent Portuguese celebrity chat show host has been found castrated and bludgeoned to death in a Manhattan hotel room.”

Well, one can hope.

(Yeah, yeah, I know: bad taste…)

Why the pyramid of Giza won’t be Playboy bunny of the month

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

(A man is only as leathery as his wallet…?)

Isn’t it amazing, the things scientists can do, these days?

It isn’t that long ago – let’s say, when Hugh Hefner had his first wet dream – that doctors still bled their patients and the earth was as flat as a the most flatulent Dutch landscape painter.

Not that Hefner will be all that impressed with the latest bit of scientific research:

“Marrying someone much younger only makes you seem older in the eyes of everyone else, according to academic study.”

Which, obviously, misses the point of the whole ‘Look-I-married-my-great-granddaughter’ enterprise.

Rich old men don’t marry (or hire) these young girls to look younger but to show to the world that they are rich and powerful enough to do so.

Another amazing fact from this latest scientific study:

Anyone who wants to look younger should try to be seen with older colleagues, friends or family, the research suggests.


Well, I’m sure old Heff is rich enough to buy the pyramid of Giza dinner in one of Hollywood’s trendiest restaurants but somehow I don’t think he will bother.

(When posing with Hugh Hefner will do more for your image than a nose job…)

From JFK to talking cats (or: Better one skull in the hand)

Friday, January 7th, 2011

First, this:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no fucking good will come from any sentence (or column) starting like that.

Also, this:

You cannot be a dithering prince in Denmark, or a president in a limousine in Dallas, or some anonymous miniskirted girl hitchhiking through Hollywood B country, without – mostly very much sooner than later – learning that things that start with ‘Once upon a time’ almost invariably end with a variation on ‘They couldn’t hit an elephant from this distance.’

So, you could say it’s a truth that should be universally acknowledged that, as a species, homo sapiens is pretty stupid and unwilling to face facts, forever shouting “Is anybody there?!” when they open the creaking door of some Victorian, vampire infested mansion – which should have any discerning God, watching from above, irritably munching His popcorn and rooting for the monster…

or, in the case of a certain cretinous kitty litter manufacturer, have Him shouting “Get a fucking life!” before thinking better of this and reaching for His lightning bolt quiver instead:

A cat litter manufacturer is suing a rival for running TV advertisements in which clever and chatty cats reject its product in favour of the competitor’s, stating in court papers: “Cats do not talk”.”

(Non-talking cat making its feelings crystal clear…)

What’s in a name: When is a democracy (dys)functional?

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

(The new logo for ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’)

Let’s talk politics, for a bit. There’s still nothing much in the papers I care to talk about, so let’s have another Thought For The Day, to wit:

‘A multi-party system is not necessarily more democratic than a one party system.’

I’ll explain.

In the West we equal democracy with a multi-party system. In first-past-the-post settings this favours a two party system. In countries that use the proportional representation model, this favours coalition government and often a proliferation of (small) political parties. Both these systems have their admirers and opponents but both groups also hold the one party system in contempt, the perceived wisdom being that a one party state is, by definition, undemocratic.

This idea is, of course, nonsensical.

Consider this: In the USA you need a massive private fortune or the backing of very rich sponsors to even become a candidate for one of the two main political parties (or as an independent.) Which automatically excludes the vast majority of citizens. Until very recently, in Holland, our most influential politicians, from a variety of political parties, all attended one smallish university (called Nijenrode.)

In other words, what is democratic about a multi-party system when access to power is restricted to a tiny percentage of extremely rich and/or well-connected individuals. If you have the freedom to vote for party X or Y but cannot actively influence events, how democratic is that?

In contrast, if a one party state would welcome all citizens to become active party members within a open system, in the sense that every man or woman, rich or poor, well-connected or not, would have an equal opportunity to rise through the party ranks and to help (re)shape its policies: what could be more democratic than that?

As far as I know, none of the one party states, throughout history, have, in fact, even come close to being democratic but that does not, automatically, make other systems more so.

(Political health warning: Don’t try this at home…)

Putin catches Sarah Palin in bed with Berlusconi (or: Going to Waterloo in a death taxi)

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

(Waterloo: Very much from bad to verse…)

Yesterday, I was talking about the difference between theft and inspiration, in the world of art, which also led to the mention of ABBA tribute bands.

An aside I did not add then was my doubt that Napoleon would have been in any way relieved to know that the Waterloo he met would lead to ABBA’s breakthrough success at the Eurovision Song Contest.

It does make for an interesting topic, though: political or historical (f)acts being immortalized in pop songs…

or even better: existing pop songs being adapted to pay homage to certain politicians.

Take that old Doctor Hook song, ‘Sylvia’s mother’. With just a few small changes you could turn it into a perfect Berlusconi tribute song:

Sylvio’s mother says, Sylvio’s busy, too busy to come to the phone

Sylvio’s mother says, Sylvio’s trying to grow some new hair of his own.

Sylvio’s mother says, Sylvio’s banging a few new young models,

so why don’t you leave him alone?”

You may have heard that Boney M’s frontman, Bobby Farrell, died on tour in St Petersburg, at the end of last year. So, why not kill two birds with one song and pay tribute to him and Russia’s latest homegrown tsar, Putin, by slightly changing the lyrics of one of Boney M’s biggest hits, ‘Rasputin’?

Da, da, that’s Putin

baddest elf you’ve ever seen.

There was a cad that really is gone

Da, da, that’s Putin

head of the new mob machine

It is a shame how he carries on”

Come to think of it, you could even use Rod Stewart’s old dirge, ‘I am sailing’ and give it an almost futuristic make-over:

“I am Palin, I am Palin,

cross the water I can see

Mother Russia, Mother Russia

hailing an Obama death taxi”

God tells Rembrandt, Cézanne and Wordsworth: “I’ll see you in court!”

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

You know you’re in trouble as a topical news blogger if the most entertaining piece you’ve seen in three days is an article about the making of a nice cup of tea (by Christopher Hitchens) which is, essentially a rehashing of another article about TMOANCOT from 1946 (by George Orwell.)

Which is why we are having another Thought For The Day post, today – or Idle Musing Of The Day, perhaps but I’m damned if I will make that an entirely new blog category, so I’ll stick with TFTD. So, what I was thinking, yesterday, in my little thinking bar round the corner, was, more or less, the following:

In art, what’s the difference between stealing from someone and being inspired by them?

Let’s, for simplicity’s sake, say that there was a God Who created the world and Who could prove it, in a copyright kind of way. That would mean that this God created the mountain that Cézanne would later paint so obsessively, the daffodil that Wordsworth would be quite tedious about and the human form that Rembrandt, in his late self portraits, would transform into the most luscious of prayers.

It’s fun to play the judge in a court where God would be the complainant and Rembrandt one of the defendants but it wouldn’t take much in the way of good judgment to rule that, in all the above cases, ‘inspiration’ would be the only possible verdict…

and even though it goes against the very vengeful grain of all the wanna-smite particles in my offended body, I’d be forced to say the same of ABBA tribute bands and Jane Austen zombie novels.

I suppose (still sticking with a G©D) that even Dolly the sheep could be seen as a rather awkward tribute rather than a blatant bleating bit of plagiarism.

All of which does not excuse things like Mamma Mia or the terrible double whammy that is the Wordsworth rap but it may get the makers off the hook in a legal sense…

which means that I can only pray that the irrational and often psychotically violent God of the Old Testament did indeed create the Heavens and the Earth and that He would smite the offending fuckers anyway, with a “So, sue Me!” insouciance.

The invisible elephant

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

I just finished working my way through half a dozen newspapers but found nothing I cared to comment upon. From austerity preaching Republicans to GM crops hit lists, every bit of news was more than a bit blah.

So, I’m afraid this will be another Thought For The Day post; the second one in three days – which makes for a very thoughtful start of the year (so far.)

Today’s thought concerns religion – or, to be more precise, the one thing all religions have in common – but first, consider the elephant.

Just the one metaphorical elephant that most of you will have heard of. Here’s the Wiki recap:

[A] group of blind men touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.”

Which is supposed to teach us the relative nature of the truth…

… which, if you only look at this long yet partial list of the world’s religions & spiritual traditions, it clearly doesn’t.

There may be many truths out there but each of its adherents is pretty sure his or her truth is the only true version…

… which is pretty pathetic, really but even a blind elephant would not have much trouble recognizing that we are a pretty pathetic species.

Anyway, back to religion – and the one thing all of them have in common – and so, on to today’s TOTD, which is:

‘All the Popes, vicars, mullahs, rabbis and other assorted shamans are like that group of four men who disagree about the nature of the elephant. They do, on the other hand, agree about one thing: that they are absolutely sure that the invisible and untouchable and unprovable elephant they describe in such minute detail does, in fact, exist.’

(That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight, losing my white elephant…?)

One flew East with uncle Jack and one flew with elves into the West

Sunday, January 2nd, 2011

I couldn’t sleep, last night, so I decided to watch some movie. Over the past few years, I downloaded quite a lot of films but I almost never watch any, since I prefer to read and make movies in my head.

On the other hand, sleeplessness comes with the kind of lethargy that is more suited for watching than imagining, so, I searched through my files for something that would be neither too tedious nor too demanding…

and I remembered how, in my late teens, I’d once read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (all three books) in one go, one after the other, only getting out of bed to make more tea or open a new package of that round and very hard Swedish knäckebröd. Now I think of it, I might have finished that reading extravaganza with The Hobbit as a light sorbet – but that might be more embellishment than actual memory and I can’t vouch for it.

Anyway, since I do, in fact, have all three of the LOTR movies on tap (or, to be pedantically precise, on a big memory disk) I decided to watch those – in one go, yes, the whole 10 hours, 56 minutes and 31 seconds.

Hey, I’ve never claimed I am sane.

So, though I almost did fall asleep during the sheer endless title roll, I’m wide awake now but much too jittery to spend more time inside – let alone sit in front of this bloody computer and read (and comment on) newspaper stories.

In other words, you’re on your own, today. I’m off for a long walk. Most of the snow is gone from the streets, here in Prague but it’s still a perfect town for walking, so, that’s just what I’ll do.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back for a new instalment but that, as another famous book & movie character said, is another day…

but I will leave you with this. Enjoy:

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