Thursday, 25 October 2007


I'm on holiday next week so expect postings to be non-existant. There's plenty of entertainment to be had from the links on the right, however.

I'll be back before you notice I'm gone.


I'm not sure you can read anything into the report that, since it's downgrading as a drug, cannabis use has gone down.

If you were of a particular bent you might argue that it suggests that if you treat people like adults then they tend to act all adult-like.

Or, though maybe not mutually exclusively, you could argue that the less "criminal" a drug is the less lustre it has for certain people.

One might also note that decriminalising the weed has not sent the youth of Britain spiraling into reefer madness. Far, it seems, from it.

It's probably nothing to do with any kind of legislation, I mean, the youth of Britain spend some much time binge drinking it's a wonder they find time to do any drugs at all.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

More Government Propaganda From The Guardian

Stuart Jeffries is sent to Liverpool to sneer at drinkers having, mostly it seems, a good time. And sneer he does:

Enticements to drink are at every corner. If I ordered two salads at the pub outside the Tate, I could have a bottle of Pinot Grigio Blush for only £4.95. Of course, I would have to ask the barman to pour the wine down the sink if I was to truly enjoy my salads, but still.

"Lads," says a small boy, trying to lure us into a bar on Concert Square. "Bud's £1.50 a pint, yeah?" I'm getting old: even the booze jockeys seem pre-pubescent.
The Raz's barmaid offers a bottle of Special Brew for only £1.80. If I had only plumped for that I, too, might be playing air guitar to Bryan Adams' Summer of 69 like the circle of friends to my right. I catch the eye of one of them as his hand slides up the imaginary fretboard. Oh dear. I opt for a soft drink instead.

There should be a drinking game that goes with this article: everytime Jeffries comes across as an insufferable snob, take a swig, you'd probably pass ot before the end.

He sort of lets the cat out of the bag early on. He's there on one of Liverpool's busiest drinking days; the local Derby, Everton vs Liverpool, is on and a couple of other events are swelling the coffers of landlords all over the city. A taxi driver tells him that last week the place was dead. He's gone to Liverpool with one thing in mind and stacked the deck to make sure he gets a full-house. He goes to busy pubs looking for drunkards and, lo and behold, easily spots the guy who's had ten pints. Investigative journalism at its finest.

He also, though, let this little gem out:
[L]ast weekend's papers reported that the 20-year-old Department of Health limits had no firm scientific basis, but were rather, according to Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party who produced the guidelines, "really plucked out of the air".

That's right. All those warnings about binge drinking and middle-class wine consumption aren't based anything remotely scientific, they're guesses. And, as I've repeatedly stated, guesses that make it easy to ignore the advice being offered. And, despite my disdain for the way the message is presented, it is fair advice; drinking less is the healthier option, drinking to excess regularly is doing nobody but the breweries any good, drunks can be dangerous and unpredictable.

Anyway, I'll give the last word to one of the patronised:
I interview a swaying but beautiful woman in a nightclub queue who is dressed in a low-cut, short-skirted parody of a nurse's costume. We're getting on until I suggest that alcohol-fuelled narcissistic display is one of Liverpool's chronic diseases. She takes it personally. "Don't fucking judge me," she snaps. "This is the best party city in Britain, probably the world. I love it here and I wouldn't live anywhere else. So if you don't like the way I dress or the way I drink, you can fuck right off to wherever it is you come from."

Quick Shout Outs

Doherty's Bar. The website is, finally, up and there are all sorts of embarrasing pictures there.

Also, Pirata Rossa, a local band doing that ska thing rather well.

See, it's not just about me.

Friday, 19 October 2007

DVD Round Up

So, I'd been enjoying a Buñuel week on DVD (well, except for Tristana which I didn't enjoy so much, The Milky Way, though, I enjoyed immensely for a road movie about catholic heresy) and I need to watch something blow up so I visited my local DVD store and tried to catch up on some more mainstream fare. I don't really want to review these, there's plenty of places out there for that, and I'm not planning on making this a regular feature, it's just that a few things struck me and I wanted to share:

  • Ghost Rider I actually quite enjoyed this. Nic Cage was likeably goofy and the action was reasonably well-staged. I don't quite get why the reviews for this were uniformly rotten. As a popcorn movie, it does the job just fine.

  • Gridiron Gang The Rock teaches football to a bunch of young prisoners. It's obvious and emotionally manipulative. I cried all the way through and cheered at the end, just I was supposed to. And there's nothing wrong with that.

  • The Prestige I got the "twist" fairly early on in this (and it's all but signposted with flashing neon) and it then annoyed me that the film thought it was being so clever about it. Probably a decent movie but I just wanted it to end.

  • 300 Fun. There was some argle bargle about the politics of this when it first came out, as I remember. No questions are really asked about the Spartan lifestyle and their war-loving ways so I guess that is tacit approval of something. The film is such a Boys Own fantasy of men sticking things in each other (and occasionally women, too), however, that any political message it may have is confused at best. Armoured rhinos, though, cool or what?

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Taking Tacos To Tijuana

Via The Accidental Hedonist comes a report that Taco Bell are trying to set up shop in Mexico, selling itself as an "American" fast-food place.

They're trying to present themselves as authentically inauthentic giving their "tacos" a made up name and creating a new slogan meaning "It's Something Else".

"It's like bringing ice to the Arctic," said pop culture historian Carlos Monsivais. "Taco Bell wants to take advantage of the perception that if something comes from the U.S., it tastes better, that a country that has been Americanized is willing to Americanize food that is central to its cuisine.

"It is an absurd idea, and given that it's so absurd, it may just be successful in upper-class areas," Monsivais added.

One thing that struck me this article was the comment from the Yum spokesman that was so comically empty of meaning while being precisely verbose that it verged on parody:
"What we are bringing to Mexico is not Mexican food, it's our exciting quick-service restaurant brand," said Rob Poetsch, a spokesman for Yum Brands. "We feel the timing is right, and we've done quite a bit of consumer research to validate that this goes beyond product. It's about value and convenience – that's the universal appeal."

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

One For The Ladies

The BluesBerries All Dressed Up and Raring To Go!

Harmful Middle Class Drinking

According to the Guardian, the middle-aged, middle class like a drink too. Of course this gets a respectable appellation: "habitual wine-drinker". You know, nothing as sordid as "binge drinker".

The habitual-wine drinker is endangering his health by drinking between 22 and 50 units of alcohol per week, which, assuming 8 units per bottle works, out at somewhere between 2 and 7 bottles per week. Or a glass while cooking, a glass or two with dinner and a couple more while watching TV or whatever. The sort of innocuous drinking that only the strictly teetotal, headline seeking doctors and maybe your mother would comment upon.

There are, of course, other problems with drinking, but if we look at the health problems purely in terms of related deaths then National Statistics Online say that there are roughly 8,000 alcohol related deaths each year across all age groups. Over double the number of fatalities in road accidents, but way, way behind the 106,000 attributed to smoking. Shockingly it's pretty similar to the number of deaths, 5,000 to 20,000 depending, caused by hospital-acquired infections. Physician, clean thyself, or at least pay the cleaners a decent wage.

Monday, 15 October 2007

This Week! 100% Less Me!

OK, so blues week is over and, well, the feedback I got, if not the hits, was overwhelmingly positive, though not without some good advice on what to improve. But it's over now and what do I get on my first day back to normal blogging? A gift from the Independent:

Legalise all drugs: chief constable demands end to 'immoral laws'

The article makes an number of good points, but it essential boils down to a Bill Hicks quote "there's a war going on... and people on drugs are winning it", the difference this time being that it's the Chief Constable of North Wales saying it (it's not reported whether he went on to do Bill's "Suck Your Own Dick Bit"). The Indy helpfully gets all the good bits ordered into a bullet-pointed list at the end, which can be shortened further to:

  • Prohibition isn't working

  • More & more people are taking drugs

  • Classification is made to look silly by not looking at alcohol & tobacco

  • "If policy on drugs is in the future to be pragmatic not moralistic, driven by ethics not dogma" then "Such a strategy leads inevitably to the legalisation and regulation of all drugs."

  • British drugs policy arises from from "a wholly outdated and thoroughly repugnant moralistic stance."

  • However, until we get what's needed I'll do as I'm told.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Sugar Babe

Sugar Babe by Mance Lipscomb. A simple song about a woman beating pimp. Ironic when you learn that Mance is short of emancipation.

Stream it here:

Or download it here.

It's all over now.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Rollin' & Tumblin'

First recorded by Hambone Willie Newbern this song has since been covered or adapted by Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Cream, Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Bob Dylan.

So of course we had to have a crack at it.

Newbern, by the way, is yet another blues player whose history isn't all that clear. It seems he was popular around Tennessee and that he recorded six existing tracks, one of which was "Roll and Tumble Blues", in Atlanta in 1929. According to the All Music Guide he was "by all reports an extremely ill-tempered man, Newbern's behavior eventually led him to prison, where a brutal beating is said to have brought his life to an end around 1947."

Our version harks back to some of the earlier versions, trying to avoid Muddy's influence. I was never quite happy with the way I'd been singing this in practice so this time I tried a lower, growly style and, although it's not quite perfected yet, it fits this song quite well. Obviously, though, this had to be one of the last recordings of that particular session...

Stream away, stream away!

Download it here.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Good News Everyone! Now With Trailer!

Yes, the trailer for the new Futurama DVD, Bender's Big Score, is on YouTube.


That'll Never Happen No More By The BluesBerries

More of a ragtimey feel on this one. And, yes, a little ragged at the edges, but it's a different sound to my voice and the guitar playing is rather lovely.

Apparently it was written by Blind Blake who was, indeed, "The King Of Ragtime Guitar". He's a somewhat mysterious figure. To quote wikipedia:
Very little is known about his life. His birthplace was listed as Jacksonville, Florida by Paramount Records but even that is in dispute. Nothing is known of his death. Even his name is not certain.

Searching for the lyrics to this song on the internet, I discovered that a folk singer by the name of Dave Van Ronk had added a third verse. Since I like the song but felt it didn't go on long enough I incorporated that in to our version.

So, stream away, and let me know what you think...

Download it here.

I'm also putting these on a fairly spare myspace page here.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Criminal Mastermind

Just to break up the mp3 posts (yes, there will be more this week), Mediawatch over at Football365 was alerted to a story of alleged murder in Ireland. The murder itself is sad and disturbing, the alleged gunman, though, was not the most powerful shotgun in the rack:
Sgt O'Riordan said that when Crowe was interview he asked gardaí what evidence they had against him. They told him he had been identified at the scene. Crowe replied "that's bullshit. Nobody saw me. I had a balaclava and gloves."

99 Secrets Blues By The BluesBerries

So, we've recorded some stuff! And some of it was good enough to share. And that's what I'm going to do.

This first track is called 99 Secrets Blues. I took a text I'd found on the Internet called "99 Secrets" and I took the attitude, if not the exact words, of the piece to form a blues around with Markus providing the music.

The original was 99 lines mostly on failing relationships of which the following is representative:
once she told him a story about a white knight, and a princess that didn't need saving. am i the knight? he asked her. no, she answered. you're the person i'm telling the story to.

The third line in the "99 Secrets" is:
stay, he asked her, not meaning forever.

This forms the basis of my first verse:
When I said you could stay, I never meant forever
When I said you could stay, I never meant forever
And now it's no secret that we can't be together

Anyway, enough waffle from me, here it is:

Or, if you want to download it,you can click here.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Film Classics

In The Guardian Joe Queenan concisely explains the use of Classical music in movies:

As a rule, film score classical music is used as a shorthand: Handel indicates that the snobs have arrived, Mahler that someone is about to die, but not before pouting about it, and Wagner is a sure sign that big trouble's a-brewing. This cultural semaphore system was established in the silent-film era, when no monster worth his salt would dream of making his entrance without the accompaniment of Bach's Toccatta and Fugue in D or something equally theatrical by Liszt. The tradition continues today: Vivaldi's ludicrously overplayed Four Seasons invariably indicates that the stuffed shirts are having brunch; Beethoven's Ode to Joy announces that Armageddon may be just around the corner; and anytime an aria by Verdi, Bellini or Puccini is heard, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone is going to get raped, stabbed, blinded, buried alive or impaled.

It Sounded Like A Train

A Fark member asked fellow members to take his image of a Santa Fe railroad boxcar (with Super Shock Control) and edit it in any manner they felt fit, so long as the edges fit together.

For something collaborative and open to messing about and, well, on Fark, I think it turned out rather well...

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Slow Week I Guess

So when not passing on simple movie gossip, it seems this week I shall be just lazily copy links from The Morning News (still, good news about Serenity 2, eh?). This time it's a quirky series of photos from the perspective of someone's tongue.

It seems to me, though, that there's at least one missing...

And, speaking of photos, I suppose I should pass this on:

I feel that not explaining it is the best course of action.

Serenity, Though, Not So Much...

Alan Tudyk remains hopeful:
"They had to put [the new DVD] out because they’ve been selling out of the other one and so Universal’s like 'So, let’s do another one'. And now... there’s now a chance there’s going to be another movie".

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Deadwood Deader Than Ever

Ian McShane says they're dismantling the sets, so no movies:

"Everything has to come to an end, babe"

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The Economics of Screwing Over The Poor To Keep Your SUV Running

The summary of this article, How Biofuels Could Starve The Poor, says it all. The rest is detail:
Thanks to high oil prices and hefty subsidies, corn-based ethanol is now all the rage in the United States. But it takes so much supply to keep ethanol production going that the price of corn -- and those of other food staples -- is shooting up around the world.

Via TMN, again.

Von Neumann In Las Vegas

Tim Harford wrote an article, The Poker Machine, about applying game theory to poker, and those who have succeeded in doing so, for the Financial Times Magazine last May. I've only just discovered it, though, via The Morning News.

It's quite informal, there's no maths in it at all, but it seems game theory has come up with any number of interesting strategies. Even strategies for when the strategies don't work:
Howard Lederer, broad-shouldered and standing well over six feet, is nicknamed "The Professor" for his studied game and demeanour. When I buttonholed him at the Rio, he told me there were too many bad players around for game theory to be the main asset of a professional. "Pure game theory only comes into play against another great pro in a very pure situation. Basically, it's the psychology of the game. You need to have a feel for the game theory, but psychology trumps game theory: dominating people at their moments of weakness in the tournament, getting to them."

If Lederer is correct, the flood of new players is undermining the usefulness of game theory. Game theory tells you how to avoid losing to perfect play, not how to beat the weak players - known as the fish. The more fish enter the game, the less relevant game theory becomes. The poker legacy of von Neumann may therefore rest with an unusual new breed of players.

Monday, 1 October 2007

How To Find A Decent Drummer

You could just get in touch with Ten-Bob Dylan, but The Morning News manage to find almost new ways of telling any number of hoary old drummer jokes. I still found it funny...
In rock and roll, no one except other drummers can tell the difference between an excellent drummer and a terrible one. It’s a fact. The greatest rock band in history, the Beatles, had a drummer who couldn’t tap out the Frasier theme on a Pringles lid. At the height of their popularity, Def Leppard’s drummer lost one of his arms in a car accident and nobody even noticed. The White Stripes’ drummer is a nine-year-old girl.