Posts from 8th March 2005

Mar 05

Tally ho, vatos, or, um, something

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 325 views

Tally ho, vatos, or, um, somethingThe Cat and Fiddle on Sunset in Los Angeles is a somewhat unusual spot, really. The location itself isn’t unusual, in fact it’s pretty prime as it goes — some notable venues nearby, theaters, corporations, stores, it’s part of Hollywood as such. Logically enough other ventures have been located there in the past, as noted here. But for twenty years it’s been a vague English pub of sorts on Sunset.

I hadn’t been there in years but the good Spencer Chow of ILX-and-elsewhere fame suggested it as a location for our joint birthday celebration with friends last Saturday night, so why not indeed? The man knows his bars and I was not about to deny him. A good night was had, old and new friends met with and plenty of good talk. Weather was great too. Still, it was all…unusual. An English pub with an outside area set in a Spanish/Mexican-styled patio, surrounded by buildings with tile on them, is a nicely dissonant image and I’m sure Momus will have something to say about it if he hasn’t already.

Do not go for the food. Drinks, yes, they were fine, but not the food. No point. If you need something to fill up your stomach, by all means order the chips, they’re cheap and starchy and will take care of that problem easily enough. Everything else is somewhat curious (aside from the desserts, which looked good enough) or overpriced, even for that neck of the woods. And if you show up too late on a Saturday evening you have to pay for a cover charge to get in, which does nobody any good.

Still, it was all worth it to be able to have a beer comfortably outside on a warm Saturday night in March. Honest-to-god London resident Stevie Chick told me the following day what the weather was like in the UK at present and I smugly counted my blessings. Yay for evil!

Hamsters I have known

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Hamsters I have known — when growing up I wished to have a hamster, as I thought them cute and furry. And so over the course of about five years, from 1980 to 1985, I owned three hamsters in succession, the first two of which passed on peacefully and the third of which was given away prior to a move and the realization that I think my phase had passed. I still like the little buggers but I think I’m not patient enough to deal with all the cedar chips and odoriferousness and all that anymore.

Still, cheers for all three of them, each named Tory. I was going to name my first hamster Jon, stuck as I was for a name and thinking somehow of my uncle’s name as being a good choice. But the hamster turned out to be female and so my aunt’s name was substituted, happily she didn’t mind and met her first namesake once in 1981 or so. Tory I (so named in retrospect) was short-haired, multicolored and a touch wild when I first got her, but she calmed down a bit and was a sweetie. When she passed I was extremely bereft, and still remember with sorrow reaching into her cage to check on her and realizing she was cold and dead. Not a pleasant situation for an eleven year old.

The third one was a shorthair as well, all brown, and I didn’t feel much of an emotional connection though she did provide a great story when I woke up one morning to find her happily sitting on my pillow, having apparently escaped the cage in the night. The second was my favorite in the end, a ‘teddy bear’ hamster with long tufts of fur. Hamsters don’t do much in terms of entertainment value, perhaps, but Tory II had a certain way about her rodent-scaled self, looking as soft and pettable as she indeed was, and very unafraid of humans.

I suppose hamster cages these days are extremely involved affairs, and that hamster chow and chew sticks are still manifold in pet stores. So long as there are tons of the critters out there still, that’s all that matters.

RIP Tommy Vance

Do You SeePost a comment • 603 views

All the papers yesterday were stuffed to the gills with their tributes to cricketing god-bothra Davey Sheppard, they missed out the death of one of our most loved broadcasters. Perhaps “just” having a distinctive voice seems a bit of a minor skill, but what a voice. “Gravel voiced” is a lazy appelation to tag on to Vance’s rounded vocal skills. Sure it was deep, and it had a rasp, but gravel suggests your grandma’s nice sedate flower beds. If Tommy’s voice was to be compared to any garden feature it would have to be crazy paving. Just imagine him saying “Crazy Paving”. See!

If nothing else, his contributions to Dumber and Dumber will be soerely missed. All together now : “Now what’s THIS idiot doing.”

The earth is down one great larynx. Meanwhile in heaven the Metatron must be worried about its job…


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 226 views

by Bradley K. Martin

You gotta love the title. I mentioned it to my dad and he said, “Sounds like something from North Korea” — which in fact it is. Martin’s huge-as-heck book is his take on the history of the North Korean state, as much as anyone can attempt to tell it. All the stereotypes one can think of apply to the place, and the fact that American reactions cover everything from intense and weird diplomatic dances to Team America: World Police perhaps says something.

This is an enjoyable read, the more so because it’s not entirely formal — in fact its informality allows it to be both more varied than a straightforward take and in its own way more informative. Martin’s journalistic experience with North Korea stretches back to the 1970s and his interactions with the regime and country range from being at the center of tightly organized guided tours to numerous interviews with defectors and escapees; his essentially chronologically organized book takes various diversions as it goes, steps ahead and back as necessary, feels chatty and indulges in quick blasts of humor (perhaps all the more necessary for the truly bleak and horrifying aspects of the country’s history, which he reports with an eye both concerned and removed).

Still, it’s a bit unwieldy in the end, a compelling read that drags, if that doesn’t sound too strange. The amount of detail can be a bit much, and his habit of occasionally going to straight transcripts of lengthy interviews in the core of his text breaks the flow and leads to a fair amount of unavoidable repetition — not every defector’s story is the same, but the general circumstances play out again and again. In part that’s the point but I have to think that the future will mean publications where websites act as repositories for full interviews of that kind while the core ‘text,’ in whatever shape it takes, will draw from them as needed.

One of the best history books about something in our day and age out there, though, also serving as a good study of the people on either side of the border. At the least, good food for thought at a time when the world’s political attention is focused on the opposite side of Asia.

Heavens, i kill IE with guns

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 244 views

Heavens, i kill IE with guns pt yada yada yada
Thanks to this blog for letting me google a long-standing bug in the appearance of FT on IE.

“Combining the border-left or border-right parameter with a padding-top or padding-bottom parameter, and then repeating that <div> causes the text in the enclosed region to creep to the left or right at a rate of twice the thickness of the border. The fix here is to either avoid combining these parameters, or to also specify a border-bottom value. Apparently, a variable used for region sizing is not initialized at each <div> tag open/close”

full gen here

for the boxes like this one with borders on the right (look –>) I have added an invisible (white) border on the bottom to stop text creeping right and being clipped off at the box edge. Seriously how do “pro” web designers cope with this crap?

sorry for another dull IE-is-crap post. i shut up now

Somersault is a female coming of age drama.

Do You SeePost a comment • 343 views

Somersault is a female coming of age drama. Of course in the cinema no-one comes of age like people in real life. For us it was a few weekends hanging around phoneboxes with three litres of MAX cider and then a fumble at a mates party. In the cinema coming of age always comes with a price. Here the price is sexual assault, ostracism, homelessness and… you get the idea. Its nothing we haven’t seen before except, well its all rather nice (even considering what is said above).

Somersault as a film plays on the audience expectation of tragedy. Bad stuff happens relentlessly to the lead for the first twenty minutes of the film, and then she finds her feet. She manages to survive. She occasionally almost seems happy.

As an audience we are just waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under her. Is this cruelty of some sort of Pavlovian reaction, something we are used to? It is drama after all, stuff has to happen. Well stuff happens in Somersault, but it is not the stuff you expect to happen. Which is why Somersault is good. It does not however even explain why the film is called Somersault. Which is, also apposite for the film, and also good.

stick with the beasts we got plz #3

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stick with the beasts we got plz #3: the ANT LION

so this lion and this ant got it on and hey presto! The cub-larva has big cat’s face, insect’s thorax, eats only that which is both meat and grain, hence ie starves STRAIGHT AWAY!!

i. i assume started as a half-man half-biscuit style “bit of fun” at the expense of the guy who made up centaurs
ii. …but features importantly in FINN FAMILY MOOMINTROLL, where it is classed as (along with moominvalley’s GIANT RAT OF SUMATRA the legendary “pig-swine”!!) an “ENEMY”, and (unlike the pig-swine) inveigled into the hogboblin’s hat hurrah!!

conclusion: the “pig-swine” is shunned by m-valleypeople bcz a. it is said to be too large, b. it is presumably self-compatible diet-wise


TMFDPost a comment • 260 views

Teams: Boavista vs Leira
League: Portuguese Superliga
Entry Price: EUR 20
Programme: Dunno, guv
Stadium Architecture: Sturdy EURO 2004 Refurb

My new year’s resolution is to visit a new football ground every month. New means new to me rather than some newly-constructed soulless concrete box. But for February I combine the two, a newly-constructed soulless concrete box, but one I haven’t visited before.

Boavista are one of only two teams to win the Portuguese league outside the ‘big three’. A history that makes the Scottish league look like a free for all. They are the city of Porto’s second team and squarely in their shadow again after winning the title in 2001.

The stadium gleams on the outside, but inside is a little grim; anonymous backstairs, unpainted corridors, all drained of colour. A miracle at the bar, beer cans! But what the lord giveth, the dude taketh away. Sin Alcohol says the label and I howl into the night.

Electronic advertising hoardings delimit the entire pitch. They are thick and sturdy and attached to boot-up units, blinking furiously behind. I wonder if they distract the players and remember a Soccer AM third eye showing a sub warming up as an electronic car advert raced him down the touchline. I’ve never seen them from the back before and find them fascinating.

Boavista play in black and white checkerboard shirts in a stadium of white and black checkerboard seats. Perhaps when full, it wouldn’t matter, empty it makes your eyes dizzy. Euro 2004 came along with a big bag of cash and Boavista bypassed any architect fees and spent the whole lot on concrete and paint. It seems to have created a white elephant, albeit one with black checks.

The game is a nothing nil-nil and I try to remember the last time I went to a football match and could still feel my fingers and toes at the end.

THE FT TOP 25 ANIMALS – 21. Rabbits

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The rabbit occupies an unusual position in the animal kingdom. Some people keep pet sheep, cows or chickens. Some people eat guinea pigs and dogs. But only the rabbit enjoys widespread popularity as companion and comestible. I’m quite lucky in that I’ve never liked rabbit meat that much so there’s no cognitive dissonance involved in my owning two bunnies as pets (l-r: Mymble, Goat). It’s a fair bet that cat owners don’t have to put up with “YUM YUM” style jokes all the time, though.

But why a rabbit? House rabbits (ones who live indoors and – in theory at least – get to run around a lot) are the third most popular pet in the US after cats and dogs: the days of supine hutch-dwelling are largely over. Rabbits aren’t exactly low-maintenance, though: as well as regular cleaning out you need to keep your house rabbit-proof, feed them a lot and give them as much playing time as possible. They’re friendly creatures but not generally in a pick-up-and-cuddle sort of way. So what, beyond obvious cuteness, is the appeal?

I like owning rabbits because they’re intelligent enough to be curious, to play and to do interesting things but not so complex as to be wholly alien. You can work them out without having to anthropomorphise them. There’s a satisfaction in understanding rabbit stimulus and response and then engineering their environment to keep them happy. I’m also a hands-off pet owner so I’m quite happy with the rabbit style of play, which is generally to run up, nudge, and run away again (with many variations on this).

It’s also pretty much as cheap to keep two of them as one, and there’s a special pleasure in watching them play together, socialise and groom. It may not be quite as magical as seeing a pair of kittens romping but rabbits seem to bond quite strongly and these bonds last throughout their lives.

The Woodman is a nice pub in Battersea

Pumpkin Publog4 comments • 727 views

The Woodman is a nice pub in Battersea, not completely ruined by its recent refurbishment. It is odd though when you end up drinking with a local who has been going to the pub for twenty five years and you get a more than thorough overview of pub fashions over the last quarter of a century. He admits we are at a lowish ebb Woodman-wise at the moment, mainly because the food is indifferent and a number of locals seem to have drifted away (the Fullers pub over the road is also pretty good). On the food issue, I can concur:

I ordered the beef casserole with thyme and mustard dumplings. I was asked how I would like the beef done. Not unsurprisingly I replied “in a casserole”. No, the young lady countered, rare, medium or well done. “Um” I replied not quite sure haw a lovingly prepared casserole of braising steak would work if the meat were rare.

But okay, I put her naivety down to the fact she was waiting cum bar staff cum potman. However my disappointment grew when, halfway through the perfectly acceptable casserole I still had not discovered any dumplings.

I let this slide but the final straw was the dumping all of my tonic into my G&T. The Woodman is a nice pub, but they really need to sort out the service.

But on the bright side we won the quiz.