Friday, 28 January 2011

warhorses of newsflash

In a top-level-technology-synchronised-newsflash, I am pleased to announce that Warhorses of Letters, the prancing baby brainfoal of me and Marie Phillips, has been commissioned by Radio 4. It will be broadcast during the fourth quarter of this year. They've asked for four episodes.

Tall Tales regulars have already seen five episodes and will not be able to imagine how anything could possibly be cut, especially with Copenhagen and Marengo on the eve of Waterloo. Marie and I will resolve this issue or not, as the mood takes us. (At the moment, our mood is good.)

closing tabs

1. William Gibson has a great op piece at the NYT discussing digital vandalism. He says he regrets having missed the way hackers were going to be bored kids, not criminals. They don't want money, it's 'simply vandalism, as dull as someone smashing out the light fixtures in a bus shelter.' He timelines malicious programs from 1986 to Stuxnet, and points out that the next generation of vandals can nick expertise from that incredibly effective program...

2. Nate Silver does a stats-breakdown on who will win the Best Movie Oscar under the Instant Runoff voting scheme the Academy instituted last year.

3. I am re-posting something that would have originally come from Light Reading or Marbury, but it's so good that I'm putting it here in case you don't slavishly click onto everyone I follow. Until 1969 (!!!), Cornell University used orphan babies to study and practise mothering skills. This piece is about a novelist who learnt about this and has made it the premise for her book: what happens to one of these babies when he grows up?

4. This is my favourite of the confused, first-generation 'Egypt Disappears From Internet' stories. It will be outdated in five minutes, I suppose.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

it's not a small island. stop it

It drives me nuts when people call Britain a small island. If it is one, then there are only eight large islands, and seeing as seven and eight on the list are similar to Britain, then it means there are really only six.

My favourite 'get a grip, there are larger, and more populous, countries, but Britain is a large country' fact is that (about) one in every hundred people on earth is British.

Monday, 24 January 2011

i do not speak italian

, and therefore it would be wrong of me to take the mickey out of an Italian's English.

Portofino World Dot Com has a piece on Marconi, who spent a lot of time there. It opens:
Only out of respect for chronological order have we waited until now to remember in this review of personalities connected with Portofino, the scientist of world importance and genius of physics, Guglielmo Marconi and his mythical yacht the “Electra”.
What's not to like about this? It doesn't get worse, either.

In other wireless news, my mobile phone's screen has gone on the dodgy. This is annoying but doesn't affect you unless you are trying to contact me. Then it does.

In other news entirely, Marie and I have finally written Episode 5 of Warhorses of Letters. Be afraid. (Don't be afraid.)

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Dan Bell, BBC

I'm hoping Dan Bell Googles himself and comes here, because I've just read his piece on Amanda Knox, who is in prison for murdering Meredith Kercher. Almost all pieces on this have researched it, basically, on Google. Almost none have any kind of understanding of how the Italian system can utterly screw something like this up.

If Dan Bell has read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston, which is a horrifying description of a comic opera murder investigation led by the same guy who's led the case against Knox, I would be shocked. I have not met anyone who has read the book who had any sense of how police investigations might take place in Italy. Everyone I know who has read it, many of whom went in sceptical, came out utterly convinced of Knox's innocence.

(This is not me asking you to persuade me that there might be two sides to the story. Unless you have read the book. I am totally willing to listen to counter-arguments form people who have, but I've never heard any. Until you have, or unless you can convince me you know what you are talking about for some reason, I'm not interested in your view. Everyone who has done so when I have raised this before has had no idea of the lies and crackpot evidence manipulation possible in these cases in Italy, and has produced an argument which comes down to 'no smoke without fire'. The fire has been lit, fanned and photographed by the police. It really makes me angry. You probably can't tell.)


I bought some new jeans yesterday. I did not buy a pair from the wind-proof range. (This was, as you would imagine from knowing me, in a high-fashion outlet, not some kind of outdoor wear shop.)

The labels on the jeans I bought said, variously:

'...the new generation of innovative global jeans' - ? (They are definitely not global. I am thin.)

'STAY COLOR: Every fiber of this product has been specially treated'

'Please note that the color may transfer to other clothing and items through contact due to the characteristics of the dye'

Thursday, 20 January 2011

darwin's dogs

This is one of the books we're swapping tonight (see below).* One fun tangent: the Darwins loved Pepper, the badly-behaved dog of their son, George. But it looked like they'd have to put him down for biting gardeners. They couldn't settle him in Leslie Stephen's household (father of Virginia Woolf) but eventually went to live with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

* Good cover, no? And the whole design is fun, and unusual.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

keep up, keep up!

This is an exhortation to self, not you.

1. Keen viewers will note from the list of better blogs than this over there on the right that I have been locked in mortal combat with one of my many Nemeses, Jenny Davidson. I started my novel before her, but was very busy last December and so was only 500 words per day for a chunk. She remorselessly caught up with me for a while. Since Christmas, I have been staying a thousand or two words ahead of her. Except you will not have noticed, because I haven't mentioned it. Anyway, I have 50,000+ words of a first draft. I stopped today and am going to do an audit before writing the denouement and adding in the last voice, during which I will discover, among many other terrible things, dozens of bolded notes saying: 'check this with an expert you idiot'.

2. When you are writing a historical novel (by some definition) featuring an almost-unknown protagonist who wrote a not-well-known book about an obscure subject, it gives you a pause when someone else has borrowed it from the British Library.

3. Bookswap, Windsor Firestation, Thursday. I'll be co-hosting with Scott Pack. Authors are Emma Townshend and Elizabeth Buchan. I have very nearly finished both of their books.

4. Tall Tales, next Thursday. As per usual. Marie and I are two-thirds of the way through Warhorses of Letters, episode 5. Some people will like this news.

Monday, 17 January 2011

whither bivin?

I have recently gained access to this book (in English). What I have learned is that some time before there was really a Capetian dynasty, there was Bivin, who was born and died but Wenzler is unsure when.

Wikipedia is sure when. Wikipedia says he was not just any old Bivin, but Bivin of Gorze, who lived from 810-863. His children included Richildis, who married King Charles the Bald of France (which is where the whole Capetian thing eventually comes from, I suppose); Boso, later King of Provence, who had excellent relations with the papacy; Richard the Justiciar, Duke of Burgundy; and possibly Bivin of Metz. I bet the last is a red herring. You probably couldn't move for Bivins.

Boso was the forefather of the Bosonids.

I will, in future, be investigating this extract from Wenzler's book: "Charles I the Great* - or Charlemagne (742-814) Wives: Himiltrude, Desirade, Hildegarde, Fastrade, Liutgarde, Madelgarde, Gerswinde, Regina, Adelinde."

(Charlemagne's parents were Pepin the Short and Bertha Big Foot. You know that, right?)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

bickering giants

A few weeks ago, some homemade sex videos featuring Rex Ryan, the larger-than-life Head Coach of the New York Jets, appeared online. In them he talks a lot with his wife about feet. He has asked for privacy.

This week, the dead-pan Wes Welker of the New England Patriots (no love lost between these two teams, who are about to meet in the Play-Offs) gave a press conference. As the NYT reports: In Welker’s 10-minute news conference Thursday, he referred to feet 11 times. It began with the first question, about Tom Brady’s value, to which Welker responded that Brady makes sure everyone is “putting their best foot forward”. When he spoke about young players in the playoffs, he said “You can’t just stick your toe in the water.” He called the Patriots “good little foot soldiers.” Darrelle Revis and Deion Branch both have “great feet.” The last question was about how important communication is when dealing with the Jets’ blitz packages, which naturally elicited a comment from Welker that included the phrase “be on your toes.” Welker even talked about how difficult it was to have his “foot up in the air” when he was injured last season.

Hard not to like that. last night, on Twitter, Nick Mangold of the New York Jets responded on Twitter: Welker's gr8 player. Hes taken advantage of watching film If we dont keep Spy him he cud really open the Gate, which is fighting talk in the world of the Patriots, who tarnished their reputation by filming opposition practice sessions in a scandal called Spygate a few years ago. It's a pretty puny response, but I like the precedent.

song on saturday morning

(Song for people who don't like sport. Among other things.)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

all the right moves

I'd very slightly heard of this film, and only watched it because I love high school sports movies. Even then, I held out little hope.

I don't really do reviews, but I was really impressed by the fact it was a morally grown-up film about trying to get out of a dying steel town, and how people get trapped, and so on. Tom Cruise is good. Lea Thompson is good and really cute. I wondered what had become of her, since I half-recognised her. In a political act, this picture is of her as a very attractive woman, rather than the very attractive girl she was in the movie.

She's the sexy mum in Back to the Future. She was also Caroline in the City, which I watched an episode of a long time ago, but couldn't really tell you what it's about. She was also in AIDS romcom Casual Sex?, which sounds conceivably as if it might have been as politically ambitious as All The Right Moves, but might have been dreadful, and a film called The Wizard of Loneliness, based on the book of the same name. The first line of which reads: JOHN T. sat easy on his motorcycle, and he wondered if his nephew, soon to arrive on the afternoon train, was really as big a pain in the neck as certain relatives had painted him up to be.

Cal Poly features in All The Right Moves. Among Cal Poly's alumni is Donald Turnupseed, who was driving the car which hit James Dean's. Another is Dean Karnazes, who once ran fifty marathons in fifty states in fifty days.

Anyway, All The Right Moves. Like I say, I don't do reviews, but it's not very different from The Last Picture Show in theme. It's less pretty, and elegiac, if that's what you want, but I think it's as good psychologically, especially about teenagers in a dying town. I really would love to know what happened to the characters. I wish it had been successful enough for a nostalgic sequel to be being made right around about now.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

careful of the shark

I just posted a link to the below on Twitter (you can see why erosion might work). Someone (@midwifesarahlh, thank you) came back at me with a report including the line, re a town counciller in Ipswich, just near Brisbane: 'He has also warned Ipswich residents to stay out of floodwaters after a bull shark was spotted in the main street of Goodna.'* I wouldn't need warning twice.

* I'm not being flippant, but 'Goodna' sounds like a sort of echt-Australian joke. 'What do we need a name for our suburb for? It's good'n'u' without one. Wait, that'll do mate, if we have to name it: Goodna.'

Monday, 10 January 2011

someone has never heard of stephanie meyer

A slightly diverting, if rather Japan-centric, blog post about sex idioms from around the world. I like 'the autumn breeze begins to blow' for falling out of love.

At number six, though, we have:
batuta ni Drakula.
Tagalog for a powerful penis (literal: Dracula's nightstick) I never really thought of Dracula as being a sexual icon (nor as a nightwatchman?) but I guess 25 million Filipinos can't be wrong. On the evil creature sexual rankings, I'd think that Dracula finishes somewhere in the third quartile, way behind Frankenstein and the Yeti, far ahead of the Mummy, and probably around the same as the Loch Ness Monster.
Really? Is this really what popular culture teaches us about Vampires?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

the world turns

What's really changed in your lifetime? Some people say mobile phones. Some say the internet. Some say luggage with wheels.

You're all wrong. Three years ago, maybe even two, you could walk around London and the streets would not be knee-deep in red rubber bands dropped by postmen. Deny this if you can. You can't.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

been a while

Bicky Bickersteth is in NY. He has been trying to find a way to get money out of his Uncle, the Duke of Chiswick. He'd have settled for very little, and had briefly considered all kinds of schemes, including chicken-farming.

Suddenly, he gains a hold over his Uncle in the form of a scandal the Duke would not like to see printed. The Duke offers the post of secretary. Bicky says he'll take nothing less* than £500 per year, paid quarterly. The Duke prevaricates.
'Five hundred a year!' said Bicky, rolling it round his tongue. 'Why, that would be nothing to what I could make if I started a chicken farm. It stands to reason. Suppose you have a dozen hens. Each of the hens has a dozen chickens. After a bit the chickens grow up and have a dozen chickens each themselves, and then they all start laying eggs! There's a fortune in it. You can get anything you like for eggs in America. Fellows keep them on ice for years and years, and don't sell them till they fetch about a dollar a whirl. You don't think I'm going to chuck a future like this for anything under five hundred o' goblins a year - what?'

* fewer

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

don't panic, don't panic

It's been a while since I wrote anything about the NFL. As you rightly assume, this is mainly an excuse to write about funny names. There is a proud tradition of aspirational names in the African-American community that produced the Kansas City great Priest Holmes and the less great but not bad Lawyer Milloy. The one I am loving at the moment is Carolina's Cornerback, Captain Munnerlyn. I think it's partly funny because I can't help thinking Captain Mainwaring when I hear it. Captain Munnerlyn's father was murdered when he was a kid, and both of his brothers sold drugs. When asked about his name, he said all his family had crazy names. His oldest brother is called Timothy. I suppose when everyone else is DeSean and LeGarette, Timothy can sound a bit odd.

Other news: Arian Foster was undrafted last year, and won the rushing title this year. He was a philosophy major and did pretty well at it. And this is the sort of corny story I love. Morgan Cox is the Baltimore Ravens' long-snapper, who is a guy who basically just chucks the ball between his legs when they need to kick it and that's all. Not quite all, obviously, but nearly all. He got mashed in a pile-up and is going to need a lot of surgery. But he carried on playing because he was the only long-snapper. Next time he was up, his massive team-mate Mike Oher (main guy in The Blind Side) hissed at the oppo that they were to leave the snapper.

After the snap, Cox was left alone, then he started to fall, and he braced himself for more agonising leg stuff. He felt a big hand, and he assumed it was a teammate, but it was Shaun Rogers, who was on the oppo and had also been part of the pile-up and knew Cox was graunched.

I am going to post this video one more time. I say one more. I am going to post it until I am absolutely certain everyone who has ever visited my site has watched it.

Monday, 3 January 2011

new year's resolutions

If I have ever made any of these before, they were so long ago that I was more or less a different person. But this year, I have made one:

I am going to end every phone call on my mobile at the exact second corresponding to the overall time of day. I really like it when the display of my phone has 9:32 in both corners, and the funny thing it doesn't know is that one of these is in HOURS and MINUTES, but the other one is in MINUTES and SECONDS.