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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

On high alert

I am a fundamentally friendly sort, though a bit shy in real life. Online, though, this just translates to being a fundamentally friendly sort. Result!

I always like to hear from people, particularly my friends. People who like to hear from strangers more are weird and you probably shouldn't trust them with any of your valuables: house keys, children, hymen, wallet etc. As such I have things set up to tell me when I have a new email (it's up there in the corner, see?) and things that flash up from Tweetdeck when I am mentioned or direct messaged on Twitter. It's a good system. Mostly.

Because when I'm not scratching away at a bit of paper with my tongue stuck out of the corner of my mouth, I am doing things to the digital image I have taken with my scanner-ma-bob thing (it's there, look). I have to tweak things here and there. Tidy bits up (mostly because I am both too lazy and too stupid to just CLEAN THE SCREEN), tweak the contrast, sort out sizes and filenames and just generally be hugely autistic about the whole thing. This is when being firmly plugged in to the seething currents of electronic communication begins to properly stress me out.

LOOK! THERE'S AN EMAIL! BETTER ANSWER IT, SLACKMUND

Yesterday I was scanning my picture of a dog when I noticed that the previous picture, (C is for crocodile), had been wrongly sized. Because I am an idiot, the printable version was A5-size rather than A4. So I had to re-scan that one too, which meant just a little bit more work. But then the flashing messages and the little mail notifier are not so welcome. In fact they drive me mad. "PROD PROD POKE, come along dotmund, there's a message here, why aren't you answering me? Do you have any idea how precariously balanced all your friendships are? You are a fucking arsewit".

Luckily, as a grown up, I have been able to take a step back and work out what the problem is, so that I can take steps to solve it. The problem, as I see it, is that I'M A FUCKING FANNY. So, my solution - which I will now be trying to implement forthwith - is to STOP BEING A FUCKING FANNY.

This may well work.

Monday, 30 January 2012

D is for dog

Dog

If you want to download this to print out and colour in, you can do so here: CLICK

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The America Project - Massachusetts

Massachusetts (MA) size 10,554 sq.m population 6.5 million



Bordering states New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut (5)
State capital & most populous city Boston
Other notable places Worcester, Northampton, Springfield, Lowell, Cape Cod
Notable landmarks and natural features American Antiquarian Society, Worcester; Cole's Hill, Plymouth; Springfield Armoury; Harvard University, Cambridge.

Statehood 6th February 1788 (6th)

Twelve famous Bay Staters
John Adams (politician, 2nd President of the USA; born Braintree (now Quincy), 1735-1826)
John Quincy Adams (politician, 6th President of the USA; born Braintree, 1767-1848)
Susan B. Anthony (social reformer; born Adams, 1820-1906)
George H.W. Bush (politician, 41st President of the USA; born Milton, 1924 -)
Bette Davis (actress; born Lowell, 1908-1989)
Benjamin Franklin (politician, author, social philosopher, inventor and founding father of the USA; born Boston, 1706-1790)
Theodor Seuss Geisel (cartoonist and author; born Springfield, 1904-1991)
John F. Kennedy (politician, 35th President of the USA; born Brookline, 1917-1963)
Jack Lemmon (actor; born Newton, 1925-2001)
Christa McAuliffe (teacher and astronaut; born Boston, 1948-1986)
Donna Summer (singer; born Boston, 1948 -)
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (artist and painter; born Lowell, 1834-1903)

Three important events

1. Boston Tea Party (16th December 1773)
A hotbed of intellectuals, liberals and revolutionaries, Boston played a major part in the American Revolution. With tensions already running high over British taxes on paper and printing, an additional tax - that on tea - became the straw that broke the camel's back. A group of rebels known as the Sons of Liberty snuck on board an East India Company tea ship moored in Boston Harbour during the day of 16th December 1773. Come nightfall, they chucked all the tea into the bay. The British responded with further economic and military punishments for Massachusetts. By 1775 the situation had become a tinderbox, finally ignited by an armed confrontation in Lexington, MA which sparked the War of Independence.

2. The Boston Strangler (1962-1964)
Between 1962 and 1964, 13 women in and around Boston were murdered in their own homes, sexually assaulted and strangled with a silk stocking. There were no signs of forced entry into any of the homes, and panic quickly spread amongst Boston's female inhabitants. The victims were of all ages - the youngest, the final victim Mary Sullivan, was just 19 whilst the oldest, the second victim Mary Mullen, was 85. In October 1964, a man entered a young woman's apartment and raped her but then left. The victim identified her assailant as Albert DeSalvo. Quickly arrested, DeSalvo confessed to a fellow prison inmate to being the Boston Strangler whilst in custody. Tried for the offence, he was sentenced to life inprisonment in 1967. Doubts persist in many quarters, however, that the crimes were committed by DeSalvo or even the work of just one man.

3. September 11th 2001
On Tuesday September 11th 2001, two groups of hijackers boarded planes at Logan International Airport, Boston. American Airlines flight 11 was bound for Los Angeles International and departed at 7.46 a.m.. Half an hour later the Boeing 767 was hijacked by a group of five terrorists led by Mohamed Atta. It was flown into the North Tower of New York City's World Trade Center at 8.46 a.m., killing all 92 people aboard.

United Airlines Flight 175, another Boeing 767 bound for Los Angeles took off from Logan International at 8.14 a.m. At around the same time that AA Flight 11 was striking WTC 1, UA 175 too was hijacked by five men, led by Marwan al-Shehhi, and flown into the World Trade Center's South Tower at 9.03 a.m and killing all 65 people aboard. It was the beginning of the single biggest and most lethal terrorist attack in human history. In all, over 3,000 people lost their lives.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The America Project - Maryland

Maryland (MD) size 12,407sq.m population 5.8 million



Bordering states Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware (4)
State capital Annapolis
Most populous city Baltimore
Other notable places Hagerstown, Ocean City, Towson, St. Charles
Notable landmarks and natural features Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore Inner Harbor, Backbone Mountain

Statehood 28th April 1788 (7th)

Ten famous Marylanders
Spiro Agnew (politician, 39th Vice-President of the USA; born Baltimore, 1918-1996)
John Wilkes Booth (Presidential assassin; born Bel Air, 1838-1865)
Divine (actor and drag queen; born Towson, 1945-1988)
"Mama" Cass Elliot (singer; born Baltimore, 1941-1974)
Philip Glass (composer; born Baltimore, 1937 -)
Linda Hamilton (actress; born Salisbury, 1956 -)
Dashiell Hammett (author; born Saint Mary's County, 1894-1961)
David Hasselhoff (actor and singer; born Baltimore, 1952 -)
George Herman "Babe" Ruth (baseball player; born Baltimore, 1895-1948)
Frank Zappa (musician and composer; born Baltimore, 1940-1993)

also from Maryland are my friends Sarah (b. 1982) and Jonathan (b. 1985). Hello both!

Three important events

1. Quasi-War (1799)
During the Haitian Revolution, America got a little twitchy about the colonial-minded French naval presence in the Caribbean. As such it commissioned and built its first six warships. One, the USS Constellation, was built and launched out of Baltimore. As tensions between the United States and France grew, the USS Constellation became the first US warship to capture an enemy vessel, L'Insurgent, in 1799. It was later renamed the USS Insurgent where it sank with flying colours in a storm at sea in the West Indies the following autumn.

2. The Great Baltimore Fire (February 7th-8th 1904)
As you may already have guessed, this was a great fire that struck Baltimore in 1904. Starting in the John Hurst and Co. building, It raged for over 30 hours, as a lot of the fire brigades sent to fight the blaze found that their hosepipes didn't attach properly to Baltimore's fire hydrants. 35,000 people were left unemployed by the fire, which destroyed 70 city blocks. It provided major impetus for the standardisation of fire-fighting across the United States, as well as the rebuilding of Baltimore in more flame-retardent materials.

3. Racial integration (1935)
Maryland was the first state to overrule 1896's Plessy vs Ferguson ruling which stipulated separate accomodation for whites and blacks, the 1935 Murray vs Pearson et al ruling demanding the desegregation of the Law School at the University of Maryland. It set an important moral precedent in the civil rights movement, albeit one which had no legal jurisdiction beyond the Maryland State borders.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The FIFA status of the two-headed Brazilian baby

As you may well be aware, just before Christmas last year in Brazil a mother gave birth to a healthy baby boys, who - fairly unusually it has to be said - has two heads. Of course, these twins are by no means the only conjoined twins in the world, but as they were Brazilian boys and completely medically inseparable as they share a heart, I got to thinking about football.

Milton and Dingus, the only other conjoined twins to play
football for Brazil. They shared a body and one ear.
Brazilians are known worldwide for their footballing ability and there doesn't seem to be any reason that I can see that these twins should be any different. Many conjoined twins are connected in such awkward or ungainly ways as to completely preclude their participation in any form of professionally sanctioned sporting activity, but Jesus and Emmanuel are lucky enough to be pretty straightforwardly joined. As they share one set of organs, the body is a fairly anatomically standard, it just has two heads. There doesn't seem to be any bio-mechanical reason why Jesus or Emmanuel (actually, they'd probably both have to do it, or neither, when I think about it) couldn't become a professional footballer.

However, at the professional level things are a bit more complicated. Why people have to make things complicated, I will never really understand, but they do. You can't just chase a bladder around and score some goals. There is PAPERWORK.

Every professional player is registered and contracted to their club, so that they cannot play for anyone else. You can probably see where I'm going with this.

What constitutes a football player? Is it number of heads? If so, Jesus and Emmanuel are two players. But if it is number of hearts, livers, lungs, kidneys, arms or legs, then they are one. Does it come down to number of surnames? If so the Neville brothers could have counted as one player as long as they could get shorts big enough. Maybe it's kit. One kit means one player.

But Jesus and Emmanuel have two brains, two backbones. If they were to be classified as just one player, this gives them an advantage of one brain over all of their fellow players and in the majority of cases this is a bare minimum figure. Also they'd have an advantage in going up for headers. If Emmanuel missed it, Jesus could sneak in.

The other issue is, if they were - as many Brazilian talents are - snapped up by a top European club, they would be subject to EU Employment Law. If Sampdoria decided that Jesus was the very player for them but Emmanuel's registration was being retained by Montpelier, could the EU Employment Tribunal sue Emmanuel's heart or winky for restraint of trade?

Personally I believe that they should be allowed to play as one player, because they have one body. And this goes for any other sporting or physical activity. Come the day a baby is born with two heads and four arms I might have to question whether or not they should be playing singles or doubles tennis. Likewise, if Jesus and Emmanuel were to become chess grandmasters, I would have to reconsider my position.

Legal issues are not my strong point.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Heroes of tennis: Monica Seles


The story of Monica Seles is one of the saddest stories in the recent history of sport. Although she won nine Grand Slam singles titles, who knows how many more it could have been were it not for the shattering knife attack by a fanatical fan of her greatest rival, Steffi Graf, in Hamburg in April 1993? Graf went on to win 22 Grand Slam singles titles, unrivalled in the Open Era. But at the time of Seles' stabbing, there was little doubt that it was Seles who had the upper hand. Graf, 4 years Seles' senior, had by April 1993 won 10 Grand Slam singles titles to Seles' 8, but after Seles' maiden triumph (at the 1990 French Open aged just 16), Graf had added just two Grand Slams to her tally - at Wimbledon in 1991 and 1992 (the latter being the only time in four Grand Slam finals between the pair where Graf prevailed) on Seles' least-favourite surface. Seles, in the meantime, won 3 out of the four available titles in both 1991 and 1992.

Seles returned to the sport in 1995 and promptly won the 1996 Australian Open title, but it proved to be her last. Were it not for the actions of one maniacal fan, the history of modern women's tennis would, I think, look very different.

A controversial figure during her playing days due to her characteristic grunting style, now to watching footage of Seles playing one realises that to complain about her vocal exercises would be akin to asking a man with a leaf blower to switch it off whilst a jumbo jet came in to land. The modern day ladies players have taken their own grunts, hoots and hollers to a whole new level of volume and absurdity. Perhaps one could argue that Seles started this trend off. However, not one of the whooping howler monkeys that have followed in her stead have been able to match the quality of her play or her overwhelming dominance of the sport.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Stuff falling off other stuff

Everybody has got to go sometime. If you are a character in a film, though, your chances of doing so by falling off of something quite high whilst sat in some form of vehicular conveyance are very much higher than most. People dying often proves a narrative necessity, and here's the thing: in the language of film you've probably pretty much witnessed people survive more or less everything. Everything except ploughing off of a cliff in some form of transportation. This is the go-to visual "they're not getting out of that shit" device of filmmakers everywhere.

Every form of media has its own language, its own set of signifiers and codes. Luckily for us, the language of motion pictures tends to lean fairly heavily on propelling people off stuff as they are sat in other stuff to signify death. Come the day that John McClane finally shoots over the edge of the Grand Canyon in a golf buggy, we can pretty well be certain - for all his scrapes and bullet dodging - that Die Hard 18 will be the last installment.

I am a big fan. Being someone with experience myself of falling off of stuff, it's always cathartic to watch other people do it. The only reason that I don't suggest someone making a compilation film of all the best bits of stuff falling off other stuff in vehicles is because of another key factor which has made this such an important filmic device: use of stock footage.

Want to kill off a character without wasting any more film? Shoot them getting onto a train and then toddle off to the film library. Old horror 'B' movies are wonderful for this. There is one particular sequence in the Universal canon of which I am particularly fond. It has levers moving, train tracks dividing and a train shooting off of a sheer cliff into a ravine. It also features in at least two Universal films that I know of, and both of them are favourites of mine. Here is Jack Griffin, The Invisible Man, getting up to no good:

The Invisible Man (1933) dir. James Whale

Meanwhile, here is shocking REAL-LIFE footage of the results of railway points sabotage, by the insidious pro-Nazi group of fifth columnists led by Heinrich Von Bork, on a passenger train containing a leading British diplomat in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror:

Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942) dir. John Rawlins

Two very different circumstances, two very different perpetrators, two very different sets of victims. One train. The Grim Reaper is satisfied, and so is the studio accountant.

The Invisible Man is notable in fact, as it also features a scene where the film's titular character kills off his erstwhile colleague and confidant Doctor Kemp by running his car off of the side of a steep hill. Explosions, death and pain ensue. It is a bold film that has more than one stuff falling of other stuff scene, especially given its running time of a mere 71 minutes. Sadly for Universal, the pace of development in car design far outstripped that of train design, meaning that within a matter of years that footage would be unusable for other films.

It doesn't just have to be trains and cars. They are popular due to their ubiquity, of course. It doesn't have to be cliffs or hills, either. In Steven Spielberg's brilliant directorial debut Duel, the thing that falls over the hill is a mean old truck. In the magnificent RKO horror film The Body Snatcher, Henry Daniell meets his maker as a result of ploughing over a ledge in a horse and cart. And in The Blues Brothers, the leaders of the Illinois Nazi Party's Waterloo is an unfinished road.

The simple and the classic will always be the most likely to prevail. The future may yet bring us Segways tootling off of the top of skyscrapers on the moon pursued by ATOMIC ROBO-SHARKS of course, but the results will always be the same. I asked Twitter yesterday morning for the film that contains their favourite stuff falling off of other stuff scene. The resulting top 5 list is particularly telling, I think. Its mainstays: internal combustion, natural hazards, death.

The Official Top 5 Films Containing the best stuff falling off of other stuff scenes:

5. Duel
4. Groundhog Day
3. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
2. The Italian Job
1. Thelma and Louise

Stuff falling off of other stuff on the silver screen. Long may it thrive. I'd say long may it live but that very much depends on the extent of the drop and some Newtonian physics.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

C is for crocodile

One of my favourite things about doing this animal alphabet so far is that after every new addition, speculation has been rife as to what the next animal will be but no-one has successfully guessed yet. Incidentally, I do have a list which is set in stone, because I am a very well-prepared young man.

I knew you were going to say that, for instance.

Crayons out, because today C is for CROCODILE.

Crocodile

As ever, those among you wanting to download a printable version may do so by clicking HERE.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Dotmund illustration sale

Today is one of those sad and unfortunate times where I have to bring an air of reality to proceedings. Drawing pictures is the thing that I do and as much as I enjoy doing all that and doing all this, every time I do an illustration for a blog post it is theoretically a completely insane waste of my time, effort and materials.

Unless, that is, I at least make an effort to sell them off at LOW, LOW PRICES!

So think of this as a January sale. If you have enjoyed reading all this waffle, please take a look at these pictures and consider investing in the future of my sanity by perhaps buying one (or more) of them. You won't find cheaper actually-quite-reasonable-quality artwork anywhere on the internet (probably).

Thank you.

Pirate (17.11.2011) 20 x 21cm; pen, ink, pencil and watercolour on white card. £15.

Female tennis player (30.6.2011) 14 x 20cm; pencil on cartridge paper. £10.


Sherlock Holmes and The Scarlet Claw (2.2.2011) 14 x 22cm; pen, ink, watercolour and acrylic on cartridge paper. £25.

Earl of Rosebury (20.1.2012) 15 x 21cm; pen, ink, pencil and watercolour on white card. £15.
Wild west scene (16.12.2011) 19 x 29cm; pen, ink, pencil and watercolour on white card. £20.

Nuclear explosion (29.11.2011) 20 x 29cm; Acrylic on black sugar paper with collage (pen, ink and watercolour on white card). £20.


Click any of the pictures to have a better look. All prices listed are inclusive of postage and packing within the UK and discounts are negotiable for bulk buyers! If you are interested in one or more of these, please get in touch by emailing me or if you are a bold sort you can do things in public by adding a comment to this post or sending me a tweet: @dotmund.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Sunday evening round-up of new things

Hello. Today is one of those days that I am spreading myself thinly, like the serving suggestion on a jar of Marmite. I'm everywhere, folks.

Firstly, I have collaborated once more with 5olly and Betsy on another podcast. However, unlike our previous efforts which were to be honest the outpourings of purely diseased maniacs (plus Betsy), this new one has a theme and a structure and 5olly even did some editing on it. It's a bit rough and ready as many first things can be but given the fact that we refuse to even contemplate doing any project until we're good and drunk, that's only to be expected.

It also features: a technical hitch which, due to dumb luck, probably proved to be the best thing that could have happened; 5olly and Betsy's cat Jerry asking to be let out; me receiving a text message, the unmistakable sounds of me eating tablet, 5olly cracking a tube of amber fluid and Betsy demonstrating once again that the world of librarians gain is the voiceover world's loss.

Anyway, our podcast addresses the thorny issue of how to decide which film to watch if they are both rated the same as each other by the esteemed organ, IMDb.com and is called Versus Sexboat for reasons which will become tragically apparent very quickly.

You can listen to and download our efforts here: Grease Vs. Sexboat.

We are sorry. But not sorry enough to not be planning more episodes in the future.

Edit: Versus Sexboat now has its own exclusive site, which you can see here: Versus Sexboat

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Also this weekend saw the launch of the new online art phenomenon, Draw Me A Daltrey. Anyone ever wanting the definitive gallery of Roger Daltrey portraits need look no further than this collection. As well as perusing their site and submitting your own Daltrey, you can also follow them on Twitter here.

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In a final magnificent twist, today also say the publication of this mighty anthology of questions and answers to which I contributed in varying states of sobriety last weekend. But as it is on Pleasing To A Mollbird and I have now told you several times you should be reading that blog, you will surely already know this, yes? Anyway, please read that and add your own answers to the questions in the comments section. Be warned, though, many of those questions are actually deceptively simple, and in fact represent deeply philosophical and existential quandries.

The America Project - Maine

Generally speaking, the Sundays here on my blog are a dead loss, as I wake up in whatever ditch I fell asleep in and then try and buy a passing stranger's shoes that I may return home to sleep one off. So I came up with the winning idea of resurrecting my America Project for just such eventualities. I am clever. Anyway, on with the show.

Maine (ME) size 35,385 sq.m population 1.3 million



Bordering states New Hampshire, Massachusetts (2)
State capital Augusta
Most populous city Portland
Other notable places Eastport, Fort Fairfield, Bangor, Alfred
Notable landmarks and natural features Moosehead Lake, West Quoddy Head, Old Sow whirlpool, Appalachian Mountains

Statehood 15th March 1820 (23rd)

Ten famous Mainers
Anna Belknap (actress; born Damariscotta, 1972 -)
Myrna Fahey (actress; born Carmel, 1933-1973)
John Ford (film director; born Port Elizabeth, 1894-1973)
Edwin Hall (physicist; born Gorham, 1855-1938)
David E. Kelley (writer and television producer; born Waterville, 1956 -)
Anna Kendrick (actress and singer; born Portland, 1985 -)
Stephen King (author; born Portland, 1947 -)
Judd Nelson (actor; born Portland, 1959 -)
John O'Hurley (actor; born Kittery, 1954 -)
Victoria Rowell (actress; born Portland, 1959 -)

Three important events

1. New Ireland (1779)
Good losers as ever, the lovable colonialist Britons took the American Declaration of Independence with great equanimity and promptly invaded Maine in 1779 with a view to establishing a new colony called New Ireland, to serve as a base for all the British military and a safe harbour for more reinforcements to arrive by sea. The British proved stubborn, too, remaining in New Ireland until two years after the end of hostilities in 1781.

2. Aroostock War (1838-39)
Britain was once again responsible for some funtimes in Maine, although this time there was no actual armed conflict - although over 500 people lost their lives nonetheless. The problem was a dispute as to the exact location of the border between British North America, now Canada, and Maine. Principally because the verdant, forested disputed landscape proved a very tempting proposition for either side. As such, each side believed the other to be sneaking over with an axe and pinching all their trees. With tensions rising and beavers everywhere finding themselves out of a job, in 1830 the King of the Netherlands was even asked to mediate in the dispute. Eventually the US and UK governments stepped in and diplomacy prevailed. The 1842 Webster-Ashburton treaty decreed a border line acceptible to both parties - the USA gaining 7,000 square miles of disputed territory, the British 5,000.

3. Tourism (1850s)
Maine has a very pleasant mild climate and attractive landscape, ideal for the wealthy to swagger about in while all of their American brethren sweat and fart in the broiling sun of the southern and western States. With Maine's population falling significantly in the early 19th century thanks to war and the allure of gold rushes in Ohio and California, it left gaps open for migrant workers and summering tourists. Some of America's most notable families - such as the Bushes and the Rockerfellers - have established holiday retreats in the State.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

B is for bear

I must confess that I was somewhat bewildered by how popular the first entry in my animal alphabet colouring project was. Not least because it meant that people were quite unlikely to forget I'd started it and that I now needed to draw 25 more pictures. However, now it is only 24! Because B is for bear (and also for bee).

Bear

As before, if you would like to download this picture in A4 size, you can do so here: CLICK

Friday, 20 January 2012

The Corinthian spirit (imaginary)

Let me tell you about the perils of drink. Over the Christmas holidays, a period of the year I generally spend entirely intoxicated, I happened upon Celebrity University Challenge. I enjoyed it because the alumni representing their alma mater were obviously all earmarked as probably being thickies so the questions were a bit easier. This meant I could answer loads of them and look clever and perhaps not as drunk as I actually was (which was 'quite').

It was not all wine and roses, though - although ironically it often was wine and Roses - because there was An Incident. The Incident happened somewhere in the area of space between Jeremy Paxman's mouth, my ears and the bit of my brain I use to remember things.

"Who was the British Prime Minister who won the Grand National whilst serving his term of office?"

I could not remember what the name of this gallant and wonderful man was, but I squirreled away the date I thought he said - 1894. "Now there's something worth blogging about!", thought drunken me, and I wrote it down on a piece of paper. (Yes, I plan this stuff in advance).

What a triumph of the Corinthian ideals of the Victorian era! With no immediate threat from ICBMs or Trades Unions to occupy him, the Prime Minister got on his horse and won the bloody Grand National! Now that is a story. Other Prime Ministers should ride the Grand National. In fact, they should be entered into the race every year as one of their prizes for winning Prime Minister Idol or whatever the hell it is we call it these days. The public could then vote on what horse they get to ride. Popular PMs, such as Lloyd-George, Churchill or Clement Atlee (these are the only ones, let's be honest) would get to ride Red Rum probably, while John Major and Sir Alec Douglas Home would have had a skankmule. David Cameron could ride Gideon.

But, alas...

When Wikipedia stopped making Britain well aware of the fact that we don't have a lot of say about American political issues on Thursday morning I looked it up. The British Prime Minister in 1894 - Archibald Primrose, Earl of Rosebury - was indeed a racehorse man but it was as an owner that his horse Fat Nev won the 1894 Derby at Epsom. My brain and liver had conspired to ruin everything.

But I am not one to be discouraged by such a thing, so I now present the blog post as I wanted it to be written, complete with accurate illustration. 

Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebury (1847-1929)

One of Archibald Primrose, Earl of Rosebury's first acts as Prime Minister of Great Britain was to win the 1894 Grand National at Aintree. In a triumph of the Corinthian Spirit, he cast aside his dispatch boxes and sat astride the unfancied mare Manky Mave. In spite of starting odds of 60-1, he lapped the field, a stunning achievement in a two-lap race on a horse that had whooping cough and was, it was later discovered, quite heavily pregnant.

Stepping off his horse, Primrose attributed his thrilling victory to a triumph of Liberal ideals and dedicated his win to the baby Jesus, whom he had met in a dream. Primrose, who didn't remove his top hat throughout,

(that's enough of that)

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Things to make and do

I had high hopes for this post. Hopefully this post - the one in my head - will emerge on Friday or next week or something. Unfortunately it proved very difficult to research on Wednesday evening thanks to the anti-SOPA blackout. Could Dotmund be the first casualty of this crass lump hammer piece of legislation?

The answer, of course, is no. But possibly yes.

So I thought that instead it would be a good idea to make a start on another idea I have scrawled here in my own blood, namely "colouring in". I think children like to do this, as indeed do some adults. To be honest, I've always hated colouring in and I still do. Is it not enough that I've drawn a picture?

However, that may just be me. So I thought it would be nice for my blog to give something back to sort of make up, in some small way, for the hours and hours of your life that you simply won't be getting back. My chosen method is to make 26 pictures, one for each letter of the alphabet, for your children or husband to print out and colour in. Hopefully this will shut them up for upwards of five minutes at a time - ten if they try and keep within the lines - allowing you to have some much needed peace and hopefully staving off that nervous breakdown for another hour or two.

Today, 'A'. 'A' is for Anteater. And yes, I know it is technically a Giant Anteater and that Giant Anteater begins with 'G'. If you're going to get pedantic with me about nomenclature then this is going to be an insufferably long year. As this project develops I will be using the label "Animal alphabet" so you can easily gather them all together and rip me off.

Anteater

Note: Blogger is a bit exotic about the way it displays pictures, and it has re-sized this one rather too much to be much use. So here's a the full-size image to download or print or throw poos at: CLICK.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Guitar heroism

I hate guitar solos. Whenever some wisp-haired ninny takes a step forward to take a solo on their god forsaken AXE I just want to stick knitting needles in my ears and be done with it. Of course, given this fact it is inevitable that all of my favourite music - give or take one or two exceptions - was and is made by performers who conform fairly religiously to the old Buddy Holly and the Crickets 'three guitars and some drums' template.

This is not contradictory. Because a guitar can't be blamed for the nobwipe that it is attached to. It is only the conduit for the vision of the person who wields it. With a bit of sense and balance, you can RIGHTEOUSLY WAIL ON YOUR AXE, DUDE without it ever sounding like a case of, "RIGHT, HERE IT COMES, GONNA DO A BIG SOLO, THE BASSIST AND THE DRUMMER WILL JUST PLOD AWAY, HERE IT COMES, OH MAN I AM THE BEST". Jimi Hendrix is a good example of this. He spent a (short) career exploring the sonic capabilities of his instrument (snuk) but never lost sight of the ensemble.

He didn't do a load of dreary, pretentious old bloody guitar warbling, is what I'm driving at. And when he did, it wasn't so obvious that, "Oh This Is The Solo, Oh Hooray".

Reign in your worst exhibitionist tendencies, though, and as my iPod will confirm a guitar can be a magnificent and wonderful thing. A machine that kills fascists, even. However, keeping your playing held back and restrained should not be mistaken for not bothering with any showmanship.

Modern rock 'n' rockers are shamefully slapdash in this regard. When was the last time any of them really developed a top new guitar playing move? 1950s right up to the 1980s there were guitar playing moves left right and centre, as the following diagram demonstrates:

Three classic Guitar Moves (click for bigger)

Since the nineties, though, nothing. I blame Britpop. Bunch of middle class art school dropouts (or, in the case of Oasis, school dropouts) just standing there strumming away. Often it was the front man who had to pick up the slack, hence Jarvis Cocker's elaborate peacocking lope, Damon Albarn pricking about, Brett Anderson rubbing his nip-nips, or Liam Gallagher standing there looking mean. Let's make 2012 the year that Guitar Moves return! Let no lead guitarist leave the stage at Glastonbury this year without having sprained their ankle!

As ever, as a free service, I have decided to suggest a few possible new moves to get you all started.

The Heron
1. The Heron
Play your guitar whilst stood unflappably on one leg. May not be immediately impressive but you just watch everyone gaze on in wonderment after a full hour as your ankle fills with fluid and you get varicose veins.

2. The Turbo Who
Smash your guitar up in between bars. Why wait for the end of the song, or the show?

3. The Shave
Multi-tasking is always a welcome characteristic, so why not perform your ablutions as you perform your latest number 38 smash hit single?

The Shave
4. The Get Your Dick Stuck In The Strings
OK I've done too many of these now.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

On the future of the internet

Whisper it folks but, I think this internet thing might get quite big. Already people are talking about doing business on it and this blog itself gets upwards of three readers per year. This is clearly the boomtime for the world wide wireless web wob. But as with all booms, some people are forecasting that bust could be just round the corner.

The problem is that the internet is still so young as to be largely unregulated but has grown so quickly as to be ubiquitous in Western life. And this makes important people very, very, nervous. Already we've seen I Am Spartacus style mass demonstrations of super-injunction busting prurient information sharing which has aggravated The Famous. But it's The Rich who are the real problem because they own stuff and they don't like thinking about people getting it for free. Democracy is a wonderful thing to aspire to, until the terrifying day that it actually takes hold.

What with the madness of the US Stop Online Piracy Act ongoing and similar initiatives in the pipeline all over, I think filling your boots now is probably for the best. The internet will inevitably one day bow down to the same regulation and censorship as everything else. It's a concern, as any other thing which doesn't yet have a face is a concern. However, as long as the internet of the future contains email, blogs, Twitter and the following three videos, I will be fairly content.

The Three Most Important Videos* on the Internet, by Dotmund (aged 31¾)†

1. HOT TUB POO GIRL

 

 2. DOG SHAGS OTHER DOG AND THEN DOES A SICK AND EATS IT

 

 3. FAMILY OF TOTAL FUCKING IDIOTS TRY AND FELL A TREE WITHOUT ANY UNDERSTANDING OF THE BASIC LAWS OF PHYSICS OR EVEN OF CAUSE AND EFFECT

 

I mean, honestly. What more could you actually ever need there to be on the internet?

* Things 
By the way, I am sorry about this. I shouldn't write blog posts at bedtime.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Facebook: what would Jesus do?

Today's post has been inspired by THIS post from the weekend by my friend Moll. You should already be reading her blog if you're the sort of intelligent person I like to credit my readers as being. But if you're not, then I will be displeased.

Facebook. I don't know if I like it. I enjoy it when I'm drunk, I suppose, and there is much truth in drunkenness. If everyone was drunk all the time then the world of subtexts and self-delusions would quickly give way to a higher plane of truth and obesity and vomiting. But during moments of clarity, Facebook and my continued involvement with it troubles me. Not a lot. But enough.

For one thing, I distrust anything that it is so difficult to leave. When I sign up to any free account - call me old-fashioned - I sort of assume that deleting that account will simply be a matter of clicking on a button. Facebook is more like a prison. There IS a way to delete your account properly, rather than just "deactivate" it, which I believe I have bookmarked somewhere come the day THAT BASTARD PUSHES ME TOO FAR. But until then, I'm banged up. Doing BIRD. PORRIDGE.

Actually, Facebook is worse than a prison. When you are released from prison, I don't imagine that you are stopped in every doorway by someone saying, "if you leave prison, your cellmates Knuckles, Rimjob, Brutus and Slasher Harris will miss you...". Being guilt-tripped by a website fucking SUCKS.

Another object lesson of Facebook's angsty teenage need to make me feel bad: my friend's twin brother does music. He is very good and everything. He must be, because I LIKE him on Facebook and I am hard to please. But in doing so I become part of a group who are all automatically invited to his gigs, which are mostly in north London, where he lives but I do not.

I am extremely well-brought up so feel it's a little rude to not respond to an invitation, even if it is just to decline it. So I go to do that. A dialogue box poppeth up. "YOU ARE NOT GOING??!? Say why here..." or suchlike. The wording was less hysterical, I was more so. And yes, OK, you can skip doing so. But fucking hell, really? Talk about a needy website. I'm surprised it didn't then automatically email me saying that 'Tom Peacock Contact ISN'T TALKING TO YOU ANY MORE, harrumph'. Up yours, Facebook. Up yours to all hell.

My actual real-life Facebook page with a few subtle redactions

Here's another thing. Being a rather socially awkward person with crushingly low self-esteem, I find it hard to say no. If I say no, people will stop liking me and I will have no friends and die alone in a pool of my own tears and then my mortal remains will be used for medical experiments or very low-grade pies. (Yes, I know that this is patently absurd, but it's what my brain does automatically. Stop judging me. Or continue, just please don't stop liking me!)

Back in the day on the Wide Wide World of Webs, it was all messageboards. People could see what you wrote and you could see what they wrote. Sometimes you didn't WANT to, frankly. Some people are DICKS. Then, saints be praised! Twitter came along. Now you can build your own messageboard, a timeline of things being said by people who you want to hear from and nothing from people who bore you, or have uncomfortably exotic ideas about the Raj. Other people, too, can subscribe to your own ramblings. You don't have to do anything. People interested in your words can come and go as they wish, without your ever needing to know about it if you don't want to. The system works! Apart from obviously when it doesn't and that whale appears.

With Facebook, you get the dreaded thing. Friend request. Lionel Hhoops, the college roommate of the sister of your best friend when you were 7, wants to hear what you have to say. For a well-balanced person, that is easily dealt with. But I'm sat here now thinking, "listen pal, it's a miracle anyone tolerates you as it is, you arsehole... so who are you to reject the Hhoopster? One day it may just be you and Lionel once everyone else realises what a loser you are, up yours".

This is why I kind of hate Facebook but am still on it. Because it's not really Facebook's fault that I'm mental. All I'm saying is, it doesn't necessarily do anything to help me to reduce the amount of mental. Facebook is all right, but it makes me twitch.

*Twitch*

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Nom de nick

Tonight is the BDO World Darts Championship final and a good time to reflect on how, outside of sports traditionally associated with British pubs, or the large scale wearing of Spandex, there's a bit of a dearth of nicknames. In darts, the nickname is everything. There are few sadder sights than the darts player without a preposterous moniker emblazened on the back of his frankly massive polyester shirt. It looks like he's got no friends. They may as well give him a bell. Maybe they do. But even then he could have used it to his advantage. Step up to the oche, Trevor "The Leper" Jones!

They're useful for the commentators, too, who as I have mentioned before here generally tend to struggle to find much insightful to talk about in watching two overweight middle-aged men throwing darts. In between moments of tension they tend to comment on the man in the crowd dressed as Elvis carrying 22 pints of lager back to a table entirely draped in Dutch flags. But when those moments of tension arise, the nickname is the first thing they reach for, and the first thing to be stretched and tortured to the kind of extent you'd normally associate with the Spanish Inquisition.

THEM: OH! He's just missed... Wolfie will be HOWLING about that!
ME: He's not a real wolf.
THEM: And now the crowd are getting behind his opponent, have they all left the PACK?
ME: He's not a real wolf... (continues for eight days)

For all of the crimes against language and sanity they cause, though, I just adore darts players' nicknames. Most of them are descriptive, some of them are even witty and some go over and above that, achieving a kind of perfection of synergy between object and signifier that would have even Noam Chomsky nodding his approval.

So let's celebrate the darts player and their nicknames! Here are my pick of this year's BDO championship draw, plus a tip of the hat to the greatest sporting nickname ever bestowed on a human being.

MARTIN "WOLFIE" ADAMS
Much can be made of Adams' love of wolves, or films with wolves in them, or Wolverhampton Wanderers, or whatever it is. But the simple fact is, this name stuck because that beard gives him a slightly lycanthropic air.

TED "THE COUNT" HANKEY
Ted Hankey loves his gothic films and vampires. Dressing up as a big fat Count Dracula and flinging rubber bats to pounding techno beats as he wanders up to the stage is the natural step to take. And, I might add, one still preferable to the Twilight saga.

ALAN "CHUCK" NORRIS
Alan Norris has the same surname as martial arts lunatic Chuck Norris, you see. Although as he himself sagely points out, you also chuck a dart.

MARTIN "THE ASSASSIN" ATKINS
Occupational nicknames are always a favourite in a sport where semi-professionalism is still fairly common. Whether or not advertising the fact that you are an assassin for your day job is a wise idea is another question entirely. Although it may actually be a hollow boast regarding his accuracy, who knows?

TONY "THE SILVERBACK" O'SHEA
Anthropomorphic nicknames are very popular in darts. Although it's infrequent that ones like "The Gazelle" or "The Cheetah" come out.

GARRY "THE COUGAR" THOMPSON
He's only fooling himself

PAUL "JENNO" JENNINGS
If in doubt, stick an O on the end of your name, British public school style. Which brings us to:

DEAN "O" WINSTANLEY
Surely he could have tried harder than that?

and now to the two heroes of the hour:

CO "THE MATCHSTICK" STOMPE
The Netherlands' Stompe was never the match of his great contemporary Raymond "Barney" van Barneveld at the oche but he had the edge in the nickname stakes, taking advantage of the fact he was the only man ever to play the sport at World level to be thinner than his darts. However, even the noble Stompe can't hold a candle to the ultimately nicknamed sportsman, so please step forward...

LES "McDANGER" WALLACE
This is beautiful beyond all words. The 1997 World Champion was Scottish, which explains the kilt and also the Mc. But McDanger! As if that were a thing! McDanger! I could analyse this forever but I'd only get tangled up and besides, it's the sort of thing you're better off pondering by yourself. Let your mind wander. McDanger.

McDanger!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Oh yes they are

It's the close of the pantomime season and this can only mean one thing. Whilst the rest of the actors disband to their familiar pastures of local radio and BBC 1's Doctors (when was there last a pantomime poster in the UK not featuring the words "... from BBC 1's Doctors"?), pantomime cows disappear entirely from view. Make the most of them this week, folks: you won't see another one until December rolls around again.

For generations, the normally high standards of scientific inquiry have been unusually content to just accept this state of affairs. It's baffling really, considering the investment in terms of money, time and intellect that the British nation are capable of - just look at their input at CERN, for instance - that no-one has ever really tried to study where the pantomime cows all go between January and December.

A lot of people will tell you that they are not real cows.

I say, let's not make any definitive statements until we know things for certain. Facts - DATA - is what we need, not hokey old conventional wisdom.

So it was at this point I decided to catch a pantomime cow. Here's my plan.

To catch a mocking cow

As with all good science, you have to have a hypothesis. My hypothesis is that the pantomime cow is a migratory species. Britain in the months of February to November is, on average, too warm an environment for it. So, my belief is that they majestically sweep northwards once the pantomime season is finished, most likely at night as to my knowledge this great migration has never been witnessed.

Of course, in order to test my hypothesis, I need a pantomime cow, which I intend to capture according to the above in-depth scientific diagram. A basic tiger trap should prove sufficient, although the pit required does need to be large enough to contain a pantomime cow: an animal that is, on average, the size of two adult men. To tempt the cow I'm using food as bait. Again, no-one is exactly sure what a pantomime cow eats - cynics will tell you that it's green room Pringles - so a small amount of trial and error is going to be required. Capturing my pantomime cow could well take some years and a bit of luck, but it's time I'm willing to invest.

Once I have a pantomime cow I plan to electronically tag it so as its migratory patterns may be precisely tracked and traced and we can finally know for certain where the pantomime cow summers. There is a chance that after years of digging holes, testing different food combinations and countless court appearances that my budget won't extend to electronic tagging equipment, in which case I plan to put a small hole in a pot of paint and hang it off the pantomime cow's udder, creating a trail I can then follow.

There's no need to thank me.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Godzilla - your questions answered

I am an expert on Godzilla. I have seen at least three different Godzilla films, not including the fact I've seen both the original Japanese and the updated original with added American scenes starring Raymond Burr as a scientist called Steve Martin. Also, I decided this morning that I was an expert on Godzilla. These days becoming an expert really is as easy as that. As long as you tick the right box on Wikipedia, you can be an expert on anything.

Being generous of spirit, I decided to use my newfound expertise on Godzilla for good and answer any questions that my loyal readers may have about Godzilla, plus the definitive answers to some more standard and basic questions. Thanks to all those who asked questions. Bigger thanks, in many ways, to anyone who didn't. I can only apologise in advance for what is about to happen.

What colour is Godzilla?
Many people believe that Godzilla is green. However, when in doubt, I always think you should return to the original source material. It's fairly clear from that that Godzilla is in fact dark grey.

What sex is Godzilla?
Opinion is largely divided on this thorny issue. Godzilla-watchers everywhere eagerly watch Godzilla's undercarriage to see if Godzilla ever does an egg or pops a boner. Until then, it's hard to make a definitive call. I think of Godzilla as female, like Mother Earth.

How does Godzilla get such powerful thighs?
Step aerobics.

Godzilla: HONK

And now onto your questions:

What was the name of the bloke in the rubber suit in Godzilla Raids Again and what did he have for lunch on the third day of filming? (@NobbyNobody, via Twitter)
The actor essaying the role of Godzilla has changed many times, but in the early Toho Co. films it was almost always Morris Woodman, a British-born character actor who found himself working in Tokyo following World War II. On the third day of filming his wife made him a bento box but he forgot it and was forced instead to bum a Billy Bear luncheon meat sandwich off of his co-star Minoru Chiaki.

What is Godzilla's view on Scottish Independence? (@ajholman, via Twitter)
Godzilla is in fact of Scottish extraction, Godzilla's grandmother having been Agnes Godzilluch. Godzilla believes that, whilst independence is broadly speaking a good idea, it would be better as a graduated process of devolution rather than a clean, sudden split.

Does Godzuki prefer Dairylea or real cheese? (Neil Porter, via Facebook)
Like all Godzillas, Godzuki is not fond of any dairy products. But if pushed, Godzuki favours a Dairylea Lunchables with a tram for dipping.

How much Um Bungo can Godzilla consume in a single sitting? (Chris Leate, via Facebook)
As with many of us, not as much as Godzilla used to be able to. At Godzilla's peak, Godzilla could happily drink up to 800,000 gallons in a single sitting. But bladder capacity is a variable thing and drinking that much now would have Godzilla having to get up every twenty minutes all night to pee. Also, Godzilla's dentist advises against too many fruit drinks. 300,000 gallons.

How large are Godzilla's testes? (Nina Tame, via Facebook)
This of course begs the question re. the sex of Godzilla. However, there must be a male Godzilla somewhere or there wouldn't be any more Godzillas, so... Testicle size is inversely proportional to the fidelity of the species. The greater the monogamy, the smaller the testicle tends to be. Given the relatively small numbers of Godzillas, monogamy is rather thrust upon them, meaning Godzilla has surprisingly small testes considering Godzilla's huge stature. The left one is the size of a Ford Iveco lorry, the right one is slightly smaller.

What is Godzilla's morning hygiene and style routine? (@gazbeirne, via Twitter)
The key thing to remember is that Godzilla lives in the sea. It's a harsh environment for the skin. So the first thing Godzilla does in the morning is to apply moisturiser and then a natural mud pack whilst Godzilla brushes Godzilla's teeth. After that Godzilla favours a shower to a bath and prefers Original Source Mint shower gel if Godzilla can get it. Godzilla usually can. What many people don't know is that Godzilla wears a subtle amount of eyeliner to bring out Godzilla's cheekbones. Godzilla favours Black Magic 161 by Rimmel.

When Godzilla is playing football, does he like the ball to feet or is he more of a stick-it-over-the-shoulder-and-I'll-chase-it kind of guy? (Colin MacKenzie, via Facebook)
Godzilla has lost a yard of pace over the years, but Godzilla's natural attributes of height and atomic strength make Godzilla an ideal target man, so Godzilla is generally more comfortable with the ball in the air.

Am I right in assuming that, as a reptile, Godzilla owns the largest cloaca on the planet? (@ricomonkeon, via Twitter)
Yes.

Did Godzilla get on with Gamera behind the scenes? (@sinistergiraffe, via Twitter)
No, Godzilla did not. Whilst Godzilla's friendship with Mothra when the cameras were not rolling is fairly well-known, with many stories of over-indulgence in the bars and clubs of Tokyo to attest to it, Godzilla and Gamera had an at-best thorny relationship. It was not helped when Godzilla loaned Gamera 1000 Yen to pay off a gambling debt and Gamera was slow to repay. Towards the end of their time together, many of the fights between Godzilla and Gamera that made it to the screen were in fact largely unscripted.

Gamera: Gambling problem
How much wood would a Godzilla chuck if a Godzilla could chuck wood? (Jason Burt D'arcy, via Facebook)
Twenty wood.

Who would win in a fight, Godzilla or The Iron Lady? (@robmanuel, via Twitter)
In spite of Godzilla's many advantages - height, weight, atomic strength, continued radioactivity, laser eyes and fire breath - The Iron Lady would by no means be a pushover. Her handbag contains a pretty weighty volume of the writings of Hayek, plus egged on by Keith Joseph and Willie Whitelaw, she is likely to fight dirty and exploit any weakness in her opponent. Godzilla, on a split judge's decision.

Is he a dog or a cat sort of monster? (Nina Tame, via Facebook)
Like many solitary, creative, people, Godzilla really prefers cats to dogs. Godzilla does not enjoy the forced socialising in parks that dog ownership can often entail.

Does Godzilla have any swaps for the 1996 Panini Football album? I'm missing Ian Rush and a couple of shinies. (Andy Lancaster, via Facebook)
Godzilla has little time for sticker collecting what with Godzilla's charity work taking up most of Godzilla's evenings. Also, Godzilla finds that Godzilla's album gets wet under the sea. But Godzilla does have a foil Coventry City badge sticker if that's any use?

Does Godzilla keep his ketchup in the cupboard or in the fridge? (Sarah Carter, via Facebook)
Godzilla is always mindful of food safety and favours the fridge once Godzilla's ketchup has been opened. Although during spells of cold weather, Godzilla doesn't mind moving the ketchup to a cool cupboard after it has been opened if there's no room in the fridge. Before it's been opened, a cupboard will do.

Does Godzilla want a cuddle? (Edward Peacock, via Facebook)
Yes.

What would be his preferred make of car to use as rollerskates? (Iam Mudrock, via Facebook)
Godzilla used to favour Hondas, as a result of a long-standing marketing tie-in. Since that expired, however, Godzilla favours the Kia, which Godzilla claims has the softest roof.

How thick is the shell of a Godzilla egg? (@5olly, via Twitter)
Half an inch.

Mothra: unpredictable

How many teeth does Godzilla have and what toothpaste does he use? (@5olly, via Twitter)
Most Godzillas have 48 teeth. 26 on the top jaw and 22 on the bottom jaw. However, Godzilla lost one in a fight with Mothra, so Godzilla only has 47 teeth. Godzilla favours Colgate, which offers Godzilla 24 hour protection from plaque.

Who does Godzilla think is the best expert on Godzilla? (Must be human) (@5olly, via Twitter)
Until his death, Russell Harty. Since then, me.

How big are Godzilla beans? Does Godzilla get beaned? (@davidwhittam, via Twitter)
Godzilla, unlike the domesticated horse, does not accumulate "beans" of smegma in Godzilla's urethral opening, as it is better designed. Godzilla did get beaned until 1984, when Godzilla was forced to reveal that there was no need for it to be done and Godzilla just liked it.

Does Godzilla lie about his tea? (@5olly, via Twitter)
Once Godzilla claimed that he'd eaten Yokohama for his tea when in fact it was Chiba. However, this may well have been a geographical misunderstanding rather than an outright lie.

What word games does Godzilla like to play? (@alicestronaut, via Twitter)
Many of the monsters of movieland favour Scrabble but Godzilla is very much Godzilla's own Godzilla and instead prefers the card game Lexicon. Godzilla also likes Boggle and joining Mothra in a game of consequences between takes.

When battling Mothra why doesn't Godzilla turn on a giant booby-trapped bedside lamp? (@matsimpsk, via Twitter)
Godzilla has a keen sense of fair play. However, if Godzilla ever felt that Mothra had itself fought in an underhanded way, then Godzilla might do just that.

What does Godzilla think about GM foods? (Caroline Marshall, via Facebook)
As one might expect from any creature woken from a state of deep sea stasis by the meddling of man and his atomic bombs, Godzilla has great misgivings about GM foods and feels that whilst the prospect of increased yields and less spoilage is very alluring, there needs to be sensible caution exercised in the use of GM.

If Godzilla were a girl, who would her favourite designer be this Spring '12 season? (Anna Forster, via Facebook)
Godzilla keeps surprisingly well-apprised of all of the latest trends in ladies fashion, although Godzilla decribes Godzilla's own style as being more smart casual than dressy. Godzilla expects the 1970s look to be in and expresses particular fondness for Michael Kors.

Was Godzilla circumcised? (Megan Belcher, via Facebook)
Yes, but not intentionally.

Which Beatle, Muppet and Star Wars character was Godzilla's favourite? (Megan Belcher, via Facebook)
John Lennon, Fozzie, Han Solo.

Thanks once again to everyone who asked questions, to which you now all know the answers. If you need to know anything else about Godzilla, just make it up.


Addendum:
I've had some COMPLAINTS. Well, one. That I didn't answer all the questions. So here goes.

What is Godzilla's favourite biscuit? (@5olly, via Twitter)
Abbey Crunch.

When Godzilla last watched Titanic, did he wish he could rise up and bite Leonardo di Caprio's head off? (@5olly, via Twitter)
Godzilla has never seen Titanic, Godzilla does not really enjoy films with happy endings. Although Godzilla has seen the actual Titanic, on Godzilla's summer holidays.

Can Godzilla confirm or deny if Carol Klein sticks her parsnips up her bot-bot? (@5olly, via Twitter)
No, Godzilla cannot.

What does Godzilla think about last minute questions? And pies in lingerie? (Kev Beeley, via Facebook)
Godzilla is not crazy about either. Although Godzilla has designed a bra with mini Melton Mowbray pork pies covering the nipple.

What is Godzilla's opinion of the cartoon about him created in the 70s? Does he feel he was portrayed objectively? (@5olly, via Twitter)
Godzilla was not initially consulted about the cartoon being made which made Godzilla pretty angry. However, Godzilla's Agent and Godzilla managed to find a satisfactory deal where Godzilla had a veto over scripts and got to meet Scooby Doo. As such Godzilla was happy with Godzilla's cartoon portrayal.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Cultural analysis: Waylon Jennings on The Johnny Cash Show

Today I am looking at my absolute all-time favourite country music performance, Waylon Jennings's magnificently louche rendition of the classic Chuck Berry song, Brown-Eyed Handsome Man on the Johnny Cash show, probably from c.1969. The whole thing appeals to me: the colour, the outfits, the music and the song. All put together it's 110 seconds of your life very well spent. But why only spend 110 seconds on it? Using my helpful in-depth guide, you can waste away even more of your precious time!

Let's delve deeper.



0:01 - 0:09 Here's Waylon, playing us in. One thing that will immediately strike you as somewhat incongruous (and, therefore, brilliant) about this whole performance is that it has rather more velvet and ruffled shirts than you might expect from country music as a genre. To the left of Waylon's set was probably Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys warming up to play next, surrounded by hay bales, bull horns, milk urns and live goats. Waylon Jennings is doing it differently. Lounge style!
Waylon Jennings: handsome man

0:10 Our first wider shot of the action shows the full extent of the set. It's quite magnificent. The band are all stood on plinths which are like the caricatured country and western buildings in Yosemite Sam cartoons. Behind them, though, is anyone's guess. Brasso tin? Snowflake version of the Union Flag? Vengeful wife ruins set man's plywood cupboard with jigsaw? We'll probably never know.

0:22 Waylon is ably assisted in his strumming by his group. Perhaps the most striking member of this happy band is GuitarBot 2000, the world's first guitar-playing cyborg. Any human guitarist is normally fully occupied just handling a six-string or a twelve-string guitar, so GuitarBot was created to be unintimidated by the cacophonous all-wood eighteen string behemoth MULTI-AXE. GuitarBot is favouring the 12-string for this performance, but rest assured that should he have needed to, he could have played Purple Haze with his feet alone on the six.

0:26 Here we see the full band. Every band, when supporting an artist billed as a solo act, should always be dressed the same. That's just the rules of rock 'n' roll. So here they are, bedecked in a colour best described as "nuclear teal" and keeping it funky farm fresh. In the immediate foreground is an organist keeping a beat chugging along in dashing Ray Manzarek style. The drummer is keeping himself to himself, maybe anticipating his big moment is yet to come. The three guitarists, in the meantime, are exhibiting three different axe-wielding techniques. The bassist favours keeping it low slung, perhaps to disguise any unfortunately timed erections. Or perhaps to encourage them, who knows. GuitarBot continues to wrestle with his 18-string leviathan in the standard (or "Western") stance. Waylon Jennings, meanwhile, handles his guitar as if it is a shotgun primed and ready to get rid of a troublesomely persistent mole in his front lawn.

GuitarBot2000 - brown eye
0:42 Waylon Jennings is only flesh and blood like all of us (well, apart from his guitarist) so it's only natural he'd have a Paul McCartney and Wings moment. Appearing now in dazzling red velvet and frankly enormous hair is his new wife, Jessi Colter, on electric keyboard.

0:54 Waylon Jennings - as you may remember - is only flesh and blood like all of us (well, apart from his guitarist) so it's only natural that, with his new bride just off to his left dressed as a Regency page, he'd allow his eyes to wander. He's singing a song about Brown-eyed Handsome Men. He's a brown-eyed handsome man himself. It'd be easy as Britain's most single man to resent such things but Waylon pulls it off with such aplomb and cool. It's hard to begrudge a man for doing things that you yourself would do if you had their talent, looks and timeslot on American network television.

1:01 The drummer's big moment! As the song moves towards its climax, it is heralded by a spirited drum fill. It's one of my favourite parts of the whole song so it's a wonder that the director didn't see fit to show us the drummer in close-up, even just briefly. Then again, when the whole studio looks like Kula Shaker's debut album cover and Vishnu liable to be summoned at any moment, such distraction is perhaps understandable.
Jessi Colter - sponsored by static electricity

1:14 As any fool know, cyborgs are liable to attain sentience if they are good cyborgs like Robocop. Could it be happening here before our very eyes? It's possible, as GuitarBot 2000 is beginning to show signs suggestive that he has indeed managed to gain some degree of self-awareness. Specifically the awareness that he needs to go and urinate.

1:25 Jessi Colter's keyboard stylings are on display here, gently prodding the keys like a nervous medical student palpating a tender abdomen on her first day in the paediatric appendicitis ward. Waylon Jennings likes what he sees, unaware of the ongoing rise of GuitarBot 2000. Specifically the ongoing rise of his need for a widdle.

1:47 As the song winds to a close with a final flourish and a deserved round of applause, we get to have a final look at the shininess of Waylon's hair, which is truly remarkable. In keeping with country music traditions, this was greased up earlier using the over-run from the rear axle on a John Deere tractor. Meanwhile, GuitarBot is being hurried back to the workshop to be catheterised.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

No-one likes a saxophonist

I've been listening to a lot of jazz lately. Particularly Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. I had a Damascene moment the other day during Miles Runs The Voodoo Down about the nature of life. Such moments stick with you and make you more keen to include albums in top 10 lists when you're asked by The Record Mirror or Sounds.

I like Miles Davis records particularly because Miles was a trumpeter. Jazz is haunted by the spectre of the saxophonist and, as I was discussing with my ever-wise friend Ed at the weekend, no-one likes a saxophonist. "I find that knowing there's a saxophonist in a band's line-up actually puts me off wanting to listen to that band's output," he argued. He is not wrong.

ADOLPHE SAX (1814-1894) -
in many ways this is all his fault
I don't think there's anything particularly objectionable about the saxophone from the point of view of the way it sounds. Well, who knows, maybe there is. But I don't think so. However, there's something about saxophonists that is surely bound to set the teeth of any clean-living citizen on edge. Something about their hunched-over, eyes-closed, self-satisfied concentration that just makes you want to put a fish in their embouchure or a potato up their bell-end. Of their saxophone.

It's a pretty British attitude, I suppose. The saxophone is a bit of a peacocky sort of instrument and there's nothing us Brits like more than taking showy people down a peg or two. Nevertheless, the saxophone's COOL reputation continues to precede it. It's hard to know what is best to do. In fact it isn't. There's no problem with the timbre or range of the instrument itself, merely with the people who play it - so the only rational conclusion is to build an automaton, bellows up one end to make the sound come parping out and some hydraulic fingers to control the keys and the notes.

But what a bloody smug machine that would be. Another job lost to mechanisation and now the sodding thing is playing the saxophone!

No-one likes a robotic saxophonist.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Let's darts!

Did I write a blog post last year about the BDO World Darts Championship? And the year before that? I probably did*. Am I going to do another one anyway? Of course! It's one of the great traditions of my year so I may as well make reading this old rubbish one of yours.

I love it. I love the whole thing. The visuals, the excitement, the noise, the characters and the futility. I love the reigning World Champion Martin Adams, a man of such good humour, honesty and moral scruples that he is by far and away the professional sportsman for whom I have the most respect. But most of all, I love the TV coverage and the magnificence of the commentary.

The simple fact is, there's no way to make darts any more than it is - two fat-bellied men throwing darts at a board. Even the legendary Sid Waddell, who has a double first class degree in English Literature from Cambridge University can't elevate it. When he compares Eric Bristow to Alexander the Great, the brilliance comes from the humour of the juxtaposition. No matter how much anyone loves darts, it's always only darts.

Which brings us to Tony Green, a man who loves darts so much it can often leave him completely tongue-tied. This is his burden, particularly as he is a commentator on the game of darts. Every year Tony Green commits crimes against the English language, twisting it into a Möbius strip of a Möbius strip and back again. Last year he was waylaid by illness (I think maybe he sat on his darts) and unable to commentate on the final. The loss was palpable. I would like to BBC to release Tony's entire commentary output from each year's Championship as a podcast. It would be so starkly beautiful I think it could win the Turner Prize. If you listen to enough Tony Green as a stream of consciousness, I think you may well be able to achieve a higher state.

BEST OF ORDER PLEASE

I don't like the PDC. Great brassy whore of a thing. It's pretty easy to avoid it, I don't have Sky. But even if I did, I think I would give it a wide berth. There's an unpleasantness to it. The whole thing was built out of players wanting more money, nothing more or less noble than that. Where the BDO has history, honesty and the growth of the game at its heart, I see nothing but an aggressive air of proletarian menace and the celebration of spending new money in the PDC, the sporting equivalent of a man just out of prison winning the EuroMillions. Whenever I've seen the PDC on television, it's terrified me. OK, there's little doubt that it attracts many (well all right, most) of the game's top talents, but the crowds are like a baying mob. As if Unicorn had plonked an oche in the middle of the Tottenham riots. Game on!

So another January and another heap of praise for the British Darts Organisation and all they do. Christmas is never really over for me until I've spent a little time in the company of Martin "Wolfie" Adams, Ted "The Count" Hankey, John "Boy" Walton and Garry "The Cougar" Thompson (no man has ever looked or moved less like a cougar, but then again a cougar isn't as proficient at darts). Every year is the same, every year is slightly different, just like a colourful, eight-day long microcosm of life itself only with higher consumption of lager and more gold. There's some old faces, there's some new faces (I'm particularly excited about a new referee this year who looks about 14 and speaks.... very.... slowly.... and.... deliberately.... one.... hundred.... and.... eighty) and there's many more words of wisdom to be had from Tony Green and Bobby George.

This year, I'm hoping to learn fundamental truths about space and time from them. Also you get an Elizabeth Duke voucher by watching.

* turns out I didn't, but I did do one in 2009. Time flies when you're watching darts.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Klaatu Deetu

1950s science fiction films are the best, there's absolutely no doubt. OK, the ambition and the special effects of their 1960s, 70s and 80s cousins may be superior, but they can't match their forebears for their scope and philosophical understanding. The 1950s was the first decade where science had started to become FACT rather than anything else. The early explorations of the new world order of the atomic age were destined to be the most profound and influential films of the lot.

If you watch enough 1950s science-fiction films you can learn how to live your life! Now we all know that Things are not to be trusted and Blobs can be destroyed with a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher. But one of the most significant films of the lot is The Day The Earth Stood Still, a moralistic fable about an alien coming to earth in a spaceship to warn humanity about the futility of its warlike tendencies. It is unquestionably one of the absolute classics of the genre, a film that people should and do come back to for inspiration time and time again.

The thing is, I don't like it.

It makes a number of very good, very honourable, very sane points. But I don't like it. The basic tenet of the film is that, when viewed from outside this small marble floating in space we call planet Earth, our internal squabbles are completely trivial and self-defeating, our ability to destroy ourselves a joke. Which is. of course, true. But by god this film labours the point. We all get it! Honestly we do. It's one of the great ironies of life. No matter if every single citizen of Earth knows deep down that something is a universal truth, it doesn't have any ultimate bearing on government policy. We get it Klaatu. Stop making vague threats at our intellectuals! Talk about a preachy alien!

It's an engaging enough film. It's worthy, too, of its reputation and critical acclaim. But for anyone with ever half a brain it's so self evidently truthful to be an irrelevance. Let there be no doubt, if you are profoundly stupid this film may yet save your soul. Maybe that's the point of it. And yes, obviously it was made during a very different era. Supposedly at least. Is the world really a safer, more stable, place now than it was during the bipartite Cold War struggles of the 1950s?

Nevertheless, it's hard to dislike The Day The Earth Stood Still. The world was beginning to find itself in such a to-do that really, only such remedial, primary school, action seemed like it would do any active good. Start from the bottom and work up. Maybe we are better off now, now that buffoons like me can complain about this that and the other? I hope so.

I hope so mainly because the valedictory speech of the film, where Klaatu extolls the virtues of having a race of unthinking, indiscriminate, massive robot peacekeepers on your home planet, is philosophically troubling to the point where I honestly believe both Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau may have been script consultants. People forced into peace-loving freedom and law abidance through fear of instant death! It's a big intellectual quandry (it probably isn't). But hey, maybe being forced to be peace-loving under pain of TITANIUM DEATH (the logical extension of Rousseau's The Social Contract, perhaps?) is the way to go. There'd be no wars.

Just a great, big, love-in.

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