Posts from 27th March 2005

Mar 05

THE FT TOP 25 ANIMALS – 12: Stick Insects

Blog 7Post a comment • 567 views

It is an insect. That looks like a stick. And the punchline of the sorely under-used joke “what’s insectile and sticky?” That would be enough for its greatness status. But the true story of the stick insect is even more unbelievable. It is a story of evolution gone wrong, and mankind making things even more difficult. Even today mankinds inadvertent meddling is endangering the long term existence of stick insects. A story which proves that they may deserve to be even higher that number twelve.

Keeping insects as pets seems a bit rubbish. But stick insects with their apparent great camouflage give the pet owner the odd “hunt the insect” moment. It also gives us a chance to marvel at the wonders of nature, evolving this perfect disguise. Little do most stick insect owners realize that the natural habitat of the stick insect is the frozen tundra of Siberia and Alaska. A habitat that barely has any sticks at all.

So why did stick insects develop such camouflage? Would you believe coincidence? You see the stick insect has some of the worst eyesight of any insect, much like a ladybird. And like a ladybird, to attract the attention of the amorous other insects it had to stand out. And in an environment without sticks, looking like a stick makes you – well – stick out.

And what does mankind do with them? Stick them in a glass tank full of sticks. To find the poor insects constantly shagging twigs because it cannot find the female insects. We may not mean to be cruel, but we are systematically destroying the Siberian Stick Insect, and the strong numbers of the Alaskan is only due to a local educational drive. Evolution turned the insect into a long, gangly stick to make it visible, and mankind hid them in a heap of twigs. Its like keep zebras in a room full of Mondrian’s. To atone for this cruelty alone, the stick insect should be in this list.

TV Diary: everything I watched on 26/3/05

Do You SeePost a comment • 259 views

TV Diary: everything I watched on 26/3/05

Top of the Pops (taped yesterday): It’s only a couple of hours, but I have forgotten most of what was on. I think Basement Jaxx was the only thing I loved. The Snoop/Timberlake/Neptunes/someone else (Charlie Wilson?) single is good.

Soccer AM: not paying that much attention (reading Essential Dr Strange 2, then catching up on ILX and email), but the usual good Platoon and Showboat moments.

Football Focus: I watch this less regularly nowadays, as there is often live premiership football on Sky at the same time. I always feel guilty when I skip it. Mostly about the England game today, of course. I am feeling very confident. The presenter here, Manish (sp?), whom I like, stumbles a bit. The cult hero feature is a bit of a decline from last week – George Best can hardly live up to the standards set by Bristol Rovers’ Ian Holloway.

England vs N. Ireland: John Motson described one Irish player as “an Iain Dowie lookalike,” which has to be actionable. Dowie, in the studio as a pundit, starts talking about his lookalike getting modelling work. The current Tony Christie #1 has been adopted by the Irish fans, giving Motty a chance to talk about the ‘hit parade’. (I’ll leave talk of the match for others on TMFD.)

Dr Who: I’ve been less excited about this than, it seems, nearly all of my friends, but I am watching with interest, and enjoying it. Lots of good lines, best of them “Lots of planets have a North!” I expect others will write about it at length.

The Last Samurai: I guess I might have a problem being fair to most anything starring Tom Cruse, but I also wasn’t expecting so many subtitles and didn’t intend to just sit and watch this, so I can’t be remotely fair at all as I missed lots of it. It has some very silly bits, as far as I could gather.

Jeepers Creepers 2: I know this logic doesn’t make any sense, but I appear to be watching this because I thought Traffic ran too late (I’m videoing that). No, it doesn’t follow. #1 wasn’t particularly good, and I am surprised there is a sequel, but I have a strong tolerance for third-rate horror. This may turn out not to be even that good, however, and I am popping in and out while grilling some cod in batter. Which I overcooked a touch, and that has made rather more of an impact on me than this film, which featured a monster and some teenagers running around screaming. I’m sure that narrows it down for you.

I caught a news flash at some point in the evening saying that James Callaghan had died, which is sad. An undervalued PM, I think, probably because he was a cautious, conciliatory type, but I suppose dying will bring out the most positive angles on his leadership.

The collected edition of Mick Farren’s DNA Cowboys trilogy

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 281 views

The collected edition of Mick Farren’s DNA Cowboys trilogy is a fascinating social document. You can tell a lot about a time from its bobbins gonzo fantasy novels. And here we have a trilogy, steam written fuelled by drugs, coffee and an urge to write a modern fantasy for its day. It makes very little sense, is narratively uninspiring, and has a shockingly casual misogeny and yet seems much more imaginative and rewarding than 95% of current fantasy fiction. Farren himself is quite unclear why it deserves a reprinting, but I reckon if I had stumbled on it aged fourteen I would have loved it.

The story. Um: after some unspecified disaster the world is split into small communities separated by impenetrable (almost) “nothings”. All of humanities needs are supplied by “stuff central” so the communities are self sustaining. Our heroes (never referred to in the text as the DNA Cowboys) get bored and seek adventure. And find some. And then end up with a sadistic thirteen year old girl looking despot for sex and world taking over.

The whole thing mutates wildly book to book, and its morality is never really clear. And yet the prose and brevity of each of the books (with names like Synamptic Manhunt and The Neural Atrocity someone was reading JG Ballard) makes them a quick read. As does the death toll, incidences of weird sex and attempts at grafting some sort of rationale on it after the fact. It is almost disappointing that it ends with so many loose ends. Almost: as you know any continuation would be in the same vein, but you do get oddly sympathetic to these doofus?s wandering the world and trying to save it. A toking Tolkein then?

An Open Letter To Trailer Producers Of British Comedy Films:

Do You SeePost a comment • 515 views

An Open Letter To Trailer Producers Of British Comedy Films:

It has come to my attention that nearly any time a British comedy act make a film, for the big screen, there is only one trope that trailer makers seem fit to exploit. Namely how unlikely it is that a British comedy act should be making a film in the first place. Hence we get the “Ultimate Disaster Movie” tag for Bean. A long, drawn out meaningless intro for the Kevin & Perry Go Large movie to be punctuated by Kevin’s –ahem – catchphrase: “Oh Mum, you’re so embaressing”. And coming out of exactly the same place is the thoroughly uninspiring trailer for the League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse. Complete with “In a time…”. Take a leaf out of the Shaun Of The Dead trailer. Show some of the jokes from the film.

Oh, and this means you too Trey Parker & Matt Stone. Just cos you are American, it does not mean you have not been guilty of this too.

I used to go to school with a girl called Saffron

Pumpkin Publog1 comment • 315 views

I used to go to school with a girl called Saffron, whose family was not from the sub-Indian continent. This is apros of absolutely nothing, except that I went to the worst Indian restaurant I have ever been to in my life the other day, and it was also called Saffron. I do not want to link the idea of my childhood friend Saffron with rubbishness, and yet if she had been the owner proprietor it might have made some sense. Let’s get listin’:

1) The reason we went to Saffron was the service in Chillies (my Crouch End usual) was sluggish. Well we had waited for a minute to be seated so to show them we went to the new looking joint over the road. It appears they had spent of the budget on a nicely backlit sign. Nevertheless we were made to feel welcome by the offer of “free popadoms” when we entered. Only when three popadoms turned up did we think that the first of many cultural misunderstandings had occurred. 3 popadoms were indeed on the bill.

2) Starters: My father fancied the curried chicken livers. I wanted aloo chat. Unfortunately neither were available. A suitable replacement for curried chicken livers, it was suggested, was the entirely dissimilar prawn puri. Even more surprising, considering the lack of aloo (potatoes!) was that they did indeed have chicken chat available.

3) Drinks: I ordered a 660ml Sunny Beaches. They did not have, however the 660ml Cobra was a fine replacement. Except what was actually brought to my table was a small glass of beer and a 330ml bottle. It is possible that the first beer had been decanted from another 330ml bottle of Cobra ? except it tasted different.

4) King Prawn Biryani seemed to lack any of the crustacean monarchs and seemed happy to make a meal of the more lowly subjects of said dominion.

5) Near the end of the meal a member of waiting staff engaged my father in conversation regarding his disability. My father had a larengectomy a few years ago due to cancer of the throat. He can still be a bit shy in public, but will answer basic friendly questions. What we were not expecting was a query about his voice vibrator turning into a five minute parable of woe regarding the poor state of our waiting staffs sinuses (complete with hacking noises). Especially when I was eating a dansak.

On the bright side neither of us got food poisoning. And at least it made me think upon my old friend Saffron again. Which is a good thing: unlike this particularly lousy Crouch End Curry House.