Friday, 22 April 2011

the egyptians discovered scotland


I didn't know this, but apparently Mohammed Al-Fayed was taught it at school, leading us inexorably to tomorrow when I go to spend the week of the Royal Wedding on his highland estate in a fit of rather pointed pique at not having been invited to the party at the palace (I was invited to the formal lunch, but I wasn't part of the inner circle, so nuts to them I say).

Other things you can learn from Al-Fayed's website is that no one knows where kilts came from, but maybe it was from the Egyptians.* The source for the Egyptian arrival is a fifteenth century text called the Scotchichronicon. This sounds like a joke. I don't have time to research it because I haven't packed yet.

Al-Fayed has a tartan, as per picture.

Normal service will be resumed in May.



* Interestingly, Wikipedia's kilt page doesn't mention the likely (or at the very least highly possible) origin of kilts in the romanticisation of the highlands in 19th century England. That's celtic nationalists for you.

god should have seen it coming

Another:

Harrison, Harry and Malzberg, Barry N., "The Whatever-I-Type-Is-True Machine"

Harry Harrison receives a powerful typewriter whose text becomes true. He decides to use it to get money, get health, and get rid of Malzberg. However, Malzberg has received a similar typewriter and the two of them write each other out of existence. God decides to withdraw this model from the market.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

grr, argh


In 1731, so the story goes, Frederick of Sweden got a lion from the Bey of Algiers (where I get all my lions). The lion died and he had it stuffed. It's in Gripsholm Castle. Not the best taxidermy ever, though it doesn't look at all bad from the side, if we're thinking heraldically.

The other highlight of any trip to Gripsholm is the hen picture, featuring a load of ladies-in-waiting in the guise of hens:

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Wagner's Frankenstein

It will surprise some people to know that a) there are plenty of people who have done crazier things with the Frankenstein story than Susannah Pearse and b) I myself am not finished with the Frankenstein story. It will not surprise anyone to learn that I have not tired of recursive science fiction - quick biogs of characters who appear in sci fi stories about sci fi. It takes a long time before I tire of things. From the Fs...

Falconer, Stuart, "Fugue and Variations"

The frame is the story of a librarian who is working with notes and books from his grandfather's private library. There is a world in which Mozart did not die in 1791, but rather in 1825. Near the end of his life, he visited the Shelleys in Switzerland and told them a "ghost" story that served as the basis for Mary's novel. However, his attempted collaboration with Percy Bysshe Shelley on an opera Prometheus comes to naught and only notes and sketches are left. These serve as the beginnings of Richard Wagner's opera Frankenstein, written between 1871-74, and first performed in 1879. It is not often performed because the soprano must take the triple roles of Mary Shelley, another Englishwoman, and the bride of the monster.


Not worked out what next Tall Tales story will be about. Have not ruled out something based on recursive sci fi in the way I once wrote one based on Everything's Ducky. Maybe this one:

Finlay, Charles Coleman, "A Game of Chicken"

Edward Bango, editor/publisher of a science fiction magazine is invited to Griffin Farm to view some biological and/or genetically engineered products. The specific items are paper produced from bison feces and ink from chicken urine. The developer wants him to print an issue of the magazine using these products to gain acceptance. Ed decides that he does not want to do this.

Friday, 15 April 2011

the least respectable job in global journalism

We're huge fans of Michael Lewis at Plenty More Fish. He's currently writing a book about the financial crisis in different countries. The most recent thing he's published on it was in last month's Vanity Fair, on Ireland. It's crackerjack, like you'd expect. Two highlights:

Patrick Neary, Ireland's financial regulator, went on telly in October 2008, wearing 'an insecure little moustache'. Lewis hands over to University College economist Colm McCarthy, who says, 'What happened is that everyone in Ireland had the idea that somewhere in Ireland there was a little wise old man who was in charge of all the money, and this was the first time they'd ever seen this little man ... And then they said saw him and said, Who the fuck was that??? Is that the fucking guy who is in charge of the money??? That's when everyone panicked.'

Bertie Ahern screwed everything up, and he's a hangdog backbencher. To fill the empty hours, he's taken a job writing a sports column for the Rupert Murdoch tabloid News of the World, which might just be the least respectable job in global journalism. Ahern's star, such as it was, has fallen.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

book manipulation

I'm sure I've written about this before, but I love the way publishers finagle the sizes (thicknesses) of books to meet perceived audience desires. This week's examples:

1. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. I loved this book. I read it in a very thick volume, and it was published in a box as three books for a while. It is now in a surprisingly thin single volume, of well over 600 pages. It feels dense when you pick it up, and it is.



2. Parrot and Olivier in America. I love Peter Carey and I've been waiting for this in paperback. It is appreciably - a good fifth - thicker than Skippy Dies, but it's about fifty pages shorter. It could have been much thinner, too - it has really quite large print and a lot of white space on the paper.



Honestly, have a look at this in bookshops. Honestly, it's fun. Honestly. (Rule of three.)

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

angry birds

You may have played the ubermegahit game Angry Birds. I, as it happens, have not, but I did watch a demo video so I'd know what everyone was banging on about. If you want to find out too, you can here.

Why bother? Well, if you don't, you won't find this funny, and it's really funny. Someone mentioned it on Twitter. Can't remember who. The first of the letters from the front lines reads:
Dearest Martha,

It has been some time since I've had the opportunity to write you, perhaps seven or eight levels. The green pigs have fortified their defenses and there seems to be no end to this madness. They are an industrious lot who have remarkable construction skills in spite of their lack of arms or legs. They're a formidable enemy but I still envision the day we can bring our eggs home safely.

Keep the nest warm for me,

Yellow Bird
I love 'perhaps seven or eight levels'.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

a kilburn tragedy

I went to the shops earlier. On the way, I saw this beautiful scene:



On my way home, half an hour later:



Note the heartbreaking way snail B can't bear even to look at Snail A's crushed remains. As a Snail Scene Investigator, and judging by the distance between the snails, I can conclude that the murder took place not less than nine minutes ago. That's a 21 minute window. Someone must have seen something.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

my place in history

Earlier today, via my friend Alan Wray, I heard about this story. It's gone very slightly viral, and the story on the website has been changed. This is the original, with the first few comments, which I was able to preserve for future generations.

Crowd gather at town bridge

A CROWD gathered at Town Bridge in Bridgwater this afternoon to check out an unidentified object.

Coral Pople said: “I’ve been here for 45 minutes. Everyone was saying it was a turtle – but it looks more like a pig to me.”

Police officers also attended the scene.

Have you seen the object? What do you think it is? Leave your comment below.

Comments

sweetcow, bridgwater says...
5:04pm Mon 4 Apr 11
my stepdad said it look like a calf or pig.
my stepdad said it look like a calf or pig.

cedarbox, Bridgwater says...
5:14pm Mon 4 Apr 11
If it's a pig it could still be alive but very tired - I hope someone has been sensible enough to get the rescue services or RSPCA.
If it's a pig it could still be alive but very tired - I hope someone has been sensible enough to get the rescue services or RSPCA.

sheldoncooper, bridgwater says...
5:37pm Mon 4 Apr 11
i saw the picture and thouht it was the opening of some new public toilets to replace the bus station ones !
i saw the picture and thouht it was the opening of some new public toilets to replace the bus station ones !

MelodyMan, Bridgwater says...
5:51pm Mon 4 Apr 11
How the bloody hell can you not differentiate between a small turtle and big fat pig?! Hahahaha
How the bloody hell can you not differentiate between a small turtle and big fat pig?! Hahahaha

lovelysunshinefluffybunny, Yarp says...
6:17pm Mon 4 Apr 11
perhaps its a wale or a dolphin washed off corse by the sunami in Japan?

@cedarbox, pigs float so I don't think its one of those. Pigs are lighter than water I saw a program about it on Sky3
perhaps its a wale or a dolphin washed off corse by the sunami in Japan? @cedarbox, pigs float so I don't think its one of those. Pigs are lighter than water I saw a program about it on Sky3

ms ratty, bridgwater says...
6:22pm Mon 4 Apr 11
There was a dead sheep in there the other day, maybe its that
There was a dead sheep in there the other day, maybe its that

lovelysunshinefluffybunny, Yarp says...
6:25pm Mon 4 Apr 11
no thats in langport now. I saw it at the weekend. It was definely dead. No breathing.
no thats in langport now. I saw it at the weekend. It was definely dead. No breathing.

s.a.m, bridgwater says...
6:47pm Mon 4 Apr 11
if it was a pig then it will just be left just like the cow last year which was reported to many people who didnt wanna know it was then out at steart rotted and even then the stinking carcus was left there.

how to get drunk and stay classy

People are always asking me what is the coolest bar I went to in Chicago last week. It was Longman & Eagle, by a country mile, which also had the coolest bedroom and made the best brunch, also by country miles. It has a Michelin star. Longman & Eagle is one of those places which everything could be arch or annoying done one tiny unit differently, but in which they've got it right.

It serves dozens of whiskeys, and presumably whiskies, and delicious cocktails, and it has a hundred artisanal beers. It also serves cider. What cider? Strongbow. In a can.