Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trollied Tuesday: Festive Cheer

By now many of you will be feeling sated, bloated and generally over-indulged. Some of us will still be working away when everyone else is over-indulging (NB: I am not fishing for for sympathy here, I don't mind it in the slightest - albeit I would rather like to balance it out by idling throughly when everyone else is hard at it).

Whatever your circumstances, at this time of year there is a greater than normal need for a proper pick-me-up. Here's one I have shamelessly lifted from Kingsley Amis's invaluable Everyday Drinking. It has an even more illustrious literary pedigree - it is, Amis claims, Evelyn Waugh's own noonday reviver.

What you do is the following:

Pour a strong shot of gin into a pewter pint pot. (The pewter improves the taste, maybe, it certainly improves the sensation of drinking the thing - the combination of coolness and solidity is important).

Add a half pint of Guinness.

Top up to the brim with ginger ale.

Try one of these on New Year's Day. You will no longer mourn the passing of time, nor lament the waste and indulgence of the past. What better way to greet a new decade?

PS: Amis's own warning bears repeating. "I should think two doses is the limit."

PPS: If anyone wishes to try this with Foreign Extra Guinness (the strong stuff they make for the Nigerian market, I can hardly stop you. Do let me know what it's like.)

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

In which Facebook users put the LA police department firmly in its place

You hear that sound of cash registers ringing? That's the sound of cash registers ringing at Sony HQ after half a million people who didn't want whatever it was from the X Factor to be number one at Christmas decided to buy some mediocre rock-rap from a subsidiary of the same major record label instead.

And so it came to pass that Rage Against the Machine reached number one; Simon Cowell and the LA Police Department have doubtless been put firmly in their places and the man has had it well and truly stuck to him. It is not clear whether all those who bought the record celebrated by slamming their bedroom doors shut, turning up the volume and refusing to do the washing up and indulging in other forms of adolescent rebellion.

Much as one applauds the desire to kick out against the particular brand of simpering vacuity that Cowell peddles so effectively, one does wish the people leading the campaign against him had put a bit more thought into the effort. Ignoring the blighter rather than ensuring he got even more damned publicity would have been ideal; failing that a better choice of record would have been ideal. Not only can Rage Against the Machine be blamed for abominations like Limp Biscuit (as they would be called if they could damned well spell), their music was used by the CIA to torture terrorist suspects, which rather serves them right.

If one feels the need to indulge in noisy, Californian, teenage rebelliousness it might be best to go back to the source of that sort of thing with the Dead Kennedys. Kill the Poor, would have a nicely festive feel to it; while Too Drunk To Fuck would be perfect for the party season.



However, had the anti-Cowellites asked me, and you may well question why they did not, I would have suggested the song posted above: Wreck A Buddy by the Soul Sisters. A fine example of the innuendo (and obscenity)-laden Slack genre of reggae, set to the tune of The Little Drummer Boy. Happy bleeding Christmas.

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This really has nothing to do with the above except a vaguely musical theme. But the following Washington Post cock-up has, quite rightly, been chosen as correction of the year.

A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Santa Claus is coming to Thomastown

Here's something from Ireland that it is even more preposterous than its politicians: the claim that Santa Claus is buried in Kilkenny.

[St Nicholas] was buried in the cathedral church in Myra, which became a pilgrimage site, but Irish historians claim the early crusaders brought his remains back to Jerpoint Abbey.

Riight. Medieval Europeans were, as anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the era knows, mad keen on relics. As such religious institutions and individuals were often making extremely fortunate discoveries of particularly prestigious (and lucrative) relics. So it was that when St Regulus, so the legend has it, landed in Fife with what he claimed were the bones of the apostle St Andrew, the hitherto undistinguished settlement of Kinrymont became St Andrews, later the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, on the strength of these bones.

A more famous example was Santiago de Compostella, which became one of Europe's leading centres of pilgrimage, a status it still enjoys today, when in 800 a local bishop suddenly discovered - through some miracle or other - that a previously obscure grave was, in fact, the last resting place of another apostle, St James. (There are cynics who have suggested the grave was, in fact, that of a heretic named Priscillian who was executed for sorcery in the fourth century; but where's the fun in that?)

Europe is full of charming antiquarian legends of this sort. The idea that the bones of St Nicholas, after they were looted during the fourth crusade, ended up in Ireland for safekeeping is a great story. But the chances of it being true are somewhat remote.

Another, even more portentous legend, was revived recently: that Jesus had indeed visited Britain in the company of Joseph of Arimathea. This old story is, of course, the inspiration for Blake's poem (And did those feet, in ancient times/Walk upon England's pasture green)?

I think the same rule applies for both hymns and headlines. If it's a question the answer is no. But not according to Dr Gordon Strachan who finds it a 'plausible' theory.

Coming this far wasn't in fact that far in the olden days," Dr Strachan told BBC Radio 4's The World At One. "The Romans came here at the same time and they found it quite easy."

Dr Strachan added that Jesus had "plenty of time" to do the journey, as little was known about his life before the age of 30.

We do know the Phoenicians had made it to Cornwall, so it is just about possible that the young Jesus hitched a lift on a tin-trading ship and used the opportunity to visit Glastonbury (it's just the sort of place one could imagine a long-haired drop-out and troublemaker like Jesus visiting).

Set against that is the fact that the Romans, as you might recall, found themselves doing quite a bit of fighting with the heavily armed and savage natives. They regarded Britain (we''ll ignore the anachronistic habit of talking about England at a time the Angles et al had never set foot in the place) as the furthest ends of the earth; a barbarous and sinister place, that was notorious for the savage mysteries of the druidic religion - most notoriously the practice of human sacrifice. Not, in other words, the sort of place an impoverished Jewish carpenter from the other end of the Roman world would chose to visit for a lark.

However, the story would explain the pagan and sacrificial elements to Christianity - and the cannibalistic aspects of the ritual of the Eucharist – I suppose (others have put this in the context of the cult of Adonis or the dying god; but I am not sure if this is quite Dr Strachan's intention.

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Most unparliamentary language


Various Irish journalistic connections have drawn my attention to this elevated exchange so, for those of you who have not seen it, I draw it to yours. Sadly it is not quite on a par with the John O'Donoghue masterclass in statesmanship that many readers of this blog so enjoyed, but then the Bull himself as moved on from the Ceann Comhairle's chair (something to do with his unfortunate expense claims). It does give the unfortunate impression that the TD in question, Paul Gogarty, is channeling the spirit of Father Damo from Father Ted.

A curious fact emerges from Paul Gogarty's possibly premeditated stunt: under the rules of Dáil Éireann, 'fuck you' may not explicitly fall into the category of unparliamentary language. There is a blue book that covers banned insults. It is forbidden to refer to a deputy as a fascist or communist (quite how this works in the case of Trotskyists like the the once and, probably, future TD Joe Higgins is unclear); terms such as brat, buffoon, chancer, corner boy, coward, gurrier, yahoo and guttersnipe are banned, but four-letter words are not.



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Friday, December 11, 2009

Declining Standards

Here's a way to put an optimistic slant on something. Roy Greenslade, writing in the Guardian about the Evening Standard (for which he also writes a column)

The fact that newsagents are willing to pay to ensure they receive supplies of the London Evening Standard is heartening...

Several people who used to be regular Standard readers have been frustrated by not being to get hold of copies since it went free. They tell me: "I'd pay for it if only I could find it."

An alternative view is that the Standard has managed to become the only newspaper in the world that has managed to find people who would pay to a read a newspaper and then ensure they cannot even get a free copy. (And then there's the question of how many news agents are willing to pay to give the paper away).

When out and about in areas of the capital outwith the major transport hubs I've found it hard to track down a copy; a few people I've spoken to have made the same complaint. If you can't get a copy of what is now London's only evening paper in Bloomsbury, of all places, it does rather suggest that Standard has managed to blast its own feet to pieces rather spectacularly.

But then I'm somewhat sceptical that free journalism is a good way to make money (which can then fund some proper journalistic digging). The old maxim - if you're giving it away for free, it's worth nothing - might apply here.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Trollied Tuesday: 1788 and all that

Reason, if reason were needed to visit Paris.

In an auction that has wine-lovers around the world salivating, La Tour d’Argent will sell off part of its cellar under a plan to restore its declining reputation.

David Ridgway, the restaurant’s British head sommelier, will put up 18,000 bottles under the hammer in an attempt to create space for new wines and to raise at least €1 million (£900,000). It is the first time that the restaurant has sold its cellar since opening in 1582.

Among the items going on sale are a "1788 Clos du Griffier cognac, estimated to be worth €2,500, and an 1895 Corton, a red burgundy, estimated at €1,000". That almost sounds like a bargain. The idea of sipping a cognac that dates back to the era of the fall of the Bastille is - even before one considers such factors as taste - particularly appealing: a form of sensory time travel if you will. There are tasting notes, though, according to Ridgway: "The cognac's still very 'young' in the sense of being almost fiery – at least when I last tried one 15 years ago."

Sad as it is for the restaurant to be clearing its cellars in this way, though, there is another problem with all this. Its the suspicion I have that some of the rarest vintages will be bought as "investments" by someone who understands money but does not appreciate life. (It's similar to people who buy expensive artworks and then lock them in a bank vault. I don't really object to rich show-offs who buy the things to put them on display).

Admittedly, keeping a rare vintage locked away in the cellar will see it increase in value; but come on. These things are meant to be drunk. You might as well give the bottles away to some tramps rather than lock them away for ever.

I'll let David Ridgway have the last word here:

"Wines for me are meant to be drunk with people you love preferably. There are too many hoarders."

Quite.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Trollied Tuesday: boozenomics

I've long been an advocate of the science of boozenomics: understanding society and economy through the prism of a beer glass. In that spirit the following news report fills me with horror.

Pub operator JD Wetherspoon has announced it will open 250 pubs over the next five years, creating 10,000 jobs in the process.

The new pubs represent a slight increase in the group's current rate of expansion.

Apart from the average Wetherspoons being a bloody awful place, what this announcement tells me is we can expect to see many more long-term unemployed people, drained of all dignity and self-respect, seeking nothing more than cheap booze and oblivion.

Never mind Dubai's woes; the advance of the cheap booze barn is a portent of economic doom.

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