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I love weather!

Eh. This scan didn’t come out too good. It’s from one of the local newspapers (that line across the middle is a crease in the paper — photo credit to Chris and Jon Hayes). But I was delighted to see the picture anyway, since I didn’t get one.

I was in the garden when this monster reached inland a few days ago. It was sunny, seventy degrees. The chickens were pecking around and I was reading a book.

Suddenly the wind got up. I stood up and looked in the direction it was coming and saw this thing. The clouds below were ragged and low — just higher than the treetops — churning and boiling. Way up above was a smooth, curved bank of clouds, like a shockwave.

Honestly, my first thought was an industrial accident somewhere blowing a cloud of something nasty.

It moved in faster than a man could walk. Suddenly it was dark, gusty — 60 or 70 mile an hour winds, they said — lightning, violent rain. Wild.

And then, half an hour later, it was sunny and mild again. Must be an English Channel phenomenon. It was a hell of a thing.

Anyhoo — thanks for the booze recommendation, folks. I have checked them all out. Have a good weekend!

sock it to me

July 16, 2010 — 11:25 pm
Comments: 14

Okay, who brews?

This is a seriously, seriously expensive country to be a lush in. To ease the burden, one of my goals this year was to get some hootch production going. I got Uncle B to buy me some basic gear for my b’day — containers, siphon hose, thermometer, hydrometer, and like that.

I started with elderflower champagne. It’s a pleasant tipple, but very low in alcohol. How low, I couldn’t say, as apparently I am too retarded to operate a hydrometer without poking an eye out or setting fire to myself.

Next, beer from a kit. That has probably finished fermenting about now, ready for bottling when I get a chance. I know, I know…a kit. Lame. But I figure I’ll start easy and learn as I go along.

After that…ummm…pass. I have very poor sense of taste, so the world is my crustacean. Probably a fruit wine, as we’ll soon be up to our eyeballs in elderberries and blackberries.

I figure some of you bastards probably homebrew. Any recommendations? Recipes? New forums to hang out on?

sock it to me

July 15, 2010 — 10:57 pm
Comments: 31

Camacho’s teleprompter is more persuasive than Obama’s

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho utters those inspiring words in Idiocracy. But when the camera panned down to show them scrolling across a teleprompter, I ’bout died.

What the heck — I’ve done Mary Poppins and bad cartoons this week.

I remembered Idiocracy as being a mildly funny, one-joke movie. But I rewatched it with Uncle B last night, and…I dunno. Maybe I was just in the mood for it. Or maybe it seems a lot truer four years later.

Idiocracy is a 2006 film from Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Beavis and Butt-Head, Office Space) and it’s a real blunt instrument of a comedy.

A dude and a hooker are locked into high tech pods and put into chemical hibernation in an Army experiment that is supposed to last a year. Instead, they lie forgotten until the pods are accidentally opened five hundred years later. For five centuries, dumb people have been breeding like bunnies, until dumb people are all that’s left.

That’s the joke, and he manages to spin a whole movie out of it. But it’s a better movie than I remembered. I didn’t realize until second time through how many clever sight gags are going on in the background.

There’s some mystery surrounding its release. Fox owned it, and didn’t advertise it at all. Didn’t release a trailer. Didn’t pre-screen it for the critics. Released it in a fraction of the usual number of theaters. Basically sat on it until the DVD. Nobody’s quite sure why.

It is savagely nasty about several actual corporations, including Fox itself (the most popular program of 2505 is a Fox offering called “Ow, My Balls!”), Starbucks (which vends handjobs instead of coffee) and Carl’s Jr. (whose new motto is “Fuck You! I’m Eating!”). But Fox has certainly allowed many of its programs to poke fun of it in the past, so I dunno what the deal is.

The scary part? We watched it on a commercial channel and the ads seamlessly blended into the movie, so dumb were they.

sock it to me

July 14, 2010 — 10:48 pm
Comments: 20

Clever premise, stupid premise

Into cartoons? Oh yes. And thanks to an art department gig that put a TV at my desk, I got a huge dose of daytime television, right through the Eighties and Nineties.

My goodness, how most of it sucked.

I loved the premise for Thundercats, though. This planet of martial-artist-cat-people blows up, and everyone evacuates by space ship. Except, only one ship makes it out, and it’s the ship with the royalty on it — including the boy-cat who’s destined to be king.

Finally, the ship lands on a planet (Earth, as it happens), and it turns out their suspended animation thingie was gefukt. They’ve been asleep, but they’re decades older. Including the king, who is now unimaginably huge, powerful and in charge…and still has the mind of a seven-year-old.

So the others have to grow him up, without pissing him off too much. Must have been fantastically appealing to seven-year-olds who weren’t impossibly powerful.

On the other hand, there was Captain Planet. Brainchild of Ted Turner, with voice talent from every famous person who ever lived and surely one of the dumbest cartoons EVARRR.

See, there are these five children with power rings: an African boy in tune with the earth, a Malaysian girl with a deep understanding of the ocean, a South American Indian shaman boy with the ability to communicate with animals telepathically, a Russian girl computer genius, and an American boy whose special ability is hitting on the girls and being an irritating retard.

I’m loving this already.

Together, they can summon this warty superhero guy of indeterminate powers, to fight pollution. His one vulnerability? Pollution.

Oh, but the best bit is the cartoon’s complete and utter fail as propaganda. The villains aren’t greedy capitalist bastards whose money-grubbing activities cause environmental damage — an eco-villain with some kind of real-world meaning. No, the bad guys pollute for the sake of polluting. It’s their whole deal, no reason given. Hey, let’s pour shit in the ocean, ha ha ha!

It never ceases to astonish, how large pools of money and talent can come together and make infinite suck.

sock it to me

July 13, 2010 — 10:34 pm
Comments: 36

Mary Poppins was a commie

I was four when Mary Poppins was released, and I was obsessed with it. I made my mother take me to see it, like, five times — and I might have gotten a sixth out of her, if I hadn’t made the grandmama of all mother/daughter faux pas.

“Mother,” I asked dreamily, “if you died, what are the chances Papa would marry Julie Andrews?”


Oh, don’t worry. I paid. Yes, I did.


I watched Mary Poppins again last week, and it…really, really doesn’t hold up. The special effects are horrible, the dream sequence in the middle is long and boring and…I didn’t remember it as an anti-capitalist message movie. Three years before the Summer of Love, while the Beatles were singing I Wanna Hold Your Hand, the movie gives off a definite whiff of “fuck this Victorian work ethic shit — let’s get high and fly kites.”

Take the tuppence sequence, where Michael’s father and Mary P offer competing visions of what a little boy could do with two pennies.

Mister Banks the banker advises him to put it in the bank (ooooh…subtle):

You see, Michael, you’ll be part of
Railways through Africa
Dams across the Nile
Fleets of ocean greyhounds
Majestic, self-amortizing canals
Plantations of ripening tea

Mary Poppins offers him a bag of crumbs.

See…even at four, I wasn’t sure Michael chose well.

Many years later, I lived the tuppence-a-bag experience, sitting in London’s Victoria Station flipping bits of my sandwich to the pigeons. “Technically,” Uncle B told me, “those are vermin. You could get arrested if anybody sees you doing that.”

Everything looks sparklier in the movies.

Anyhow, the point is, bad ideas are like bad diseases — you usually have to go WAY back further in time than you think to find Patient Zero.

sock it to me

July 12, 2010 — 10:37 pm
Comments: 65

Paging Meester Bunny, Meester Bugs Bunny

You ready for this? This is the contents of one ten-inch pot. Huh? Huh? Any closer together, and I reckon these carrots would have facets.

Uncle B spent a lot of years in an upstairs flat smack in the middle of London. That’s where he developed the ability to grow whole fields of waving wheat in little teeny pots.

We’re going to fire up the chimenea, sit under the stars and get quietly snockered. It’s Friday. Have a good weekend, all!

sock it to me

July 9, 2010 — 10:03 pm
Comments: 21


In my own garden! In broad daylight! I was sitting in the shade reading a book with the chooks around me and out he popped from a gap in the hedge — not twenty feet away — with his back to me. Didn’t look around. Hopped a few feet in a leisurely way (for a stoat), paused and stood up again (which is when I saw the black tip of his tail that marked him a stoat, not a weasel). Slinkied to the end of the hedge and popped back in again.

I couldn’t have been more astonished if a tartan plaid unicorn had popped out of the hedge and farted “God Save the Queen.”

Explains why I haven’t seen a stoat in the field, anyhow — they’ve been using the hedgerows as a highway. And probably killing runnybabbits in there, too.

Hedgerows are used as field boundaries much more often than fencing in Britain. Or were — in the mid-20th, farmers began to dig them up so they could use modern farming techniques with huge agricultural machines.

Mistake. There’s a whole ecosystem dependent on hedgerows. Lots of little birds and creatures live in them and off them and use them to travel in relative safety from one habitat to another. There are now laws in place to protect hedges and encourage new planting.

Some hedges are ancient. Ours is certainly very old. One rule of thumb is to count the number of kinds of shrub — the more the older — though a hedge around a house is planted for show as much as keeping the tups out of the garden, and so would have always more variety than a purely utilitarian hedge.

Ours is like a firework display in slow motion, with one thing flowering and fruiting after another, from Spring to Fall. Blackberry bramble, honeysuckle, some sort of thorn (hawthorn or blackthorn — you know them by the burst of white flowers in May), elder, several kinds of roses. Spectacular. And alive with bird nests.

And down below, a network of dark tunnels the little animals use to get around. And the not so little animals — I’ve seen the cat dive in the very hole the stoat disappeared into. Must be many a dark murder done in them green corridors.

And now you know why the chickens don’t ‘free range’ unless one of us is watching them. Though if old Stoaty had popped out twenty feet closer and nabbed a chook, there’s not much I could do about it.

sock it to me

July 8, 2010 — 11:27 pm
Comments: 28

Now *that’s* a funky chicken

It’s a breed called Modern Game and it’s endangered.

There’s an article in this month’s Practical Poultry — or as Uncle B calls it, Chickens and Chickening — about Britain’s vanishing chicken breeds. According to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, twenty species of British domestic animals went extinct between 1900 and 1970.

I never thought about that before. It’s not like plants; you can’t stockpile seeds in some cryogenic warehouse. It’s even more precarious than wild animals, for whom you can only provide the habitat and hope for the best.

For domestic stock, somebody has to be out there actively keeping the line alive and not letting it get fatally outbred or dangerously inbred.

Funny you never hear of endangered livestock breeds — considering all the howling and handwringing about endangered wildlife, where the number of actual modern extinctions approximates zero.

That’s because the eco nuts think domestic animals aren’t “real” animals somehow. Or, worse, they’re some kind of evil species traitors for cooperating with sinful humans.

Stupid hippies.

I just finished Temple Grandin‘s Animals in Translation — which I can definitely recommend if you find animal behavior interesting. She’s the autistic PhD who designs abattoirs.

When asked how someone who loves animals can build slaughterhouses, she points out — no slaughterhouses, no animals.

Or as someone else put it, if you want to get an animal off the endangered list, convince humans it tastes good.

sock it to me

July 7, 2010 — 11:00 pm
Comments: 14

The Scarlet “L”

Oh, the shame.

The humiliation.

The sheer, uncut pain-in-the-assery.

I have now flunked my driving test THREE TIMES (and boneheadedly showed up on the wrong date a fourth time, forfeiting the fee). At over £100 a pop (£64 for the test and £40 for two hours of instructor time) this is no longer amyooosing.

First time, I cut in front of somebody a bit too sharply. The second time, I stopped when the repeater lights turned red (what are repeater lights? Exactly!!!). The third time, somebody topped the hill behind me as I was pulling away from a parked position, and I kissed the curb at the corner.

It’s probably just bad luck and nerves on test day, but the problem is that I can only get test appointments every couple of months. Between time, I don’t get any practice at all because I’m not insured to drive our cars as a learner. Two months is plenty of time to sink back into teh sux0r, when you haven’t completely mastered a skill.

Coincidentally, it costs £64 to put me on the policy until October. So, what the hell? That’s three one-hour lessons. Or one more flunked test.

But I have to slap these big red magnetic LOSER plates on the car — front and back — whenever I’m driving it. And if you think other drivers go easy on you when they see you’re a beginner, you live in a magical, mystical land where people aren’t assholes.

sock it to me

July 6, 2010 — 9:33 pm
Comments: 30

Rockin’ the Chicoms

One of the great things about being an artard — I can have a whale of a time just looking at stuff. Give me stuff to look at and I’m a happy weasel.

I love the internet.

I don’t know what led me to this site, but they sell reproductions of Chinese propaganda posters from 1925 to the present. Hours of wholesome, snarky amusement.

Most of them have titles like “let us strive to forthrightly repel the foreign invader through Mao Tse Tung Thought.” The artwork ranges from really very good to “yikes!”

And then there’s this.

Published in 1986, titled Youthful dancesteps. The description: “Disco is a huge craze in the 1980s. The poster shows that it is accepted and should no longer be condemned as a form of Western decadence.”

There is so much wrong with this picture. His mom jeans. Her capri pants. The finger snapping. The fact that their “disco” band includes a flute and somebody sawing on a bass fiddle with a bow.

Man, what I wouldn’t give to listen to whatever they’re playing back there. (Listening to stuff is my other great pastime. I really, really love the internet).

Anyhow, start at the beginning and have a browse through their gallery. If that doesn’t make you happy to be a Namerican, I don’t know what will.

sock it to me

July 5, 2010 — 9:44 pm
Comments: 13