Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday

I almost didn't write anything today. I had intended to, but a box arrived with some early Hitchcock films, including two I haven't seen (Pleasure Garden and Downhill), and a decent copy of The Lodger.

Pleasure Garden was the first film directed by Hitchcock (in 1925), and it tells the story of a chorus girl, her room-mate, and the men in their lives. Like a lot of his early films, it's not a thriller, but it was entertaining enough.
Pleasure Garden (1925)

The Lodger was his third (his second is lost), and is about a Ripper-style serial killer rampaging through fog-ridden London, and the concerns of a landlady that it's her lodger. The lodger is played by Ivor Novello, who was a famous "matinee idol", and the original intention was for him to be the murderer, but they had to change the ending because The Powers That Be wouldn't let a hearthrob film star be a serial killer.
The Lodger (1927)

Helena and the robot dog have arrived back here this evening. Apparently the dog was not a great hit with their cat, and amazingly the batteries still haven't run out. So I'm in for a fun New Year.

Talking of which, the Champagne's cooling in the fridge, and there are another six hours to go. I'm not going to get away with just watching the Cypriot New Year, because Helena wants to see our one - apparently they have a spectacular firework display on the TV. I'm sure it'll be fun.

I hope you all have fun too. See you next year...

Monday, 29 December 2008

That Was The Year That Was: 2008

As the present year nears its end, it's that time to go through the thrills and spills of 2008, as seen on this blog:


I began the year extolling the advantages of celebrating it in another time zone - Eastern European Time being 2 hours ahead of UK time, and noting the passing of the Cyprus Pound as they entered the Eurozone. The transition over the next few weeks was painless, though they only got the Pound in 1960, so some of the older people there still think in Shillings...


The seemingly endless Presidential campaigns did actually come to an end when Dimitris Christofias was elected President of Cyprus. He's since entered into direct negotiations with the Turkish Cypriot leader on the reunification of the island - although it doesn't seem to be going smoothly. Here's hoping for progress in 2009.


I got a laptop, which was faulty and was quickly replaced by the one that Bee brilliantly christened "The Silver Surfer". I also converted my desktop machine to Linux, though it was another two months before my flat became a Microsoft Free Zone.


This month saw the beginning of Wordy Wednesday, which was partly an attempt to complement Jean Knee's "Wordless Wednesday", and partly a poor imitation of Tracy's rambling style. I've pretty much managed every week since, using timed posts on the odd occasion when I've not been around. It's great because it gives my blogging week some structure, and I think helps keep me regular (with my posts, that is).


Instead of attempting to travel on a Bank Holiday, I spent the time off writing a blog post about the pointlessness of going anywhere on such an occasion. Which was all very well, but what the hell am I going to write about next year?


I bought a new rugged mobile phone. I think I've used it only a handful of times in the last six months. And I've not dropped it on concrete yet. The best thing about it is that it has a more advanced display, so I've been able to put a picture of Aimilia Kenevezou as its wallpaper.


I did have a near miss with the phone, though, when I left it in a hotel in Scotland. A much bigger problem was the fact that I also lost my keys on the journey home. Looking back, I'm slightly ashamed that I got so stressed about this, but not being able to get into your home is somewhat disconcerting.


Not content with a trip to Scotland, I went abroad again this month, spending a family day in Wales. I hardly ever see my sister, so this was a really special event. And, I actually remembered to take my camera and get some photos I could post up!


I had a go at writing a horoscope. Although my predictions were frighteningly accurate, I decided not to give up the day job after all. I think in hindsight that this was a good move, as it would have been terrible of me to put all of those charlatan psychics out of work in the current economic situation.


The supermarkets started to get tough on the issue of reusable bags. I have to say that it's rare nowadays that I forget to take mine.


My old piano broke down, and was replaced almost straight away by a new one. Just in time for my annual tradition of playing Christmas carols. The other aspect of this tradition is that I don't get any better at playing them from one year to the next.


I participated in Bee's Secret Santa, and had fun faking up a picture, though looking at all of the flaws in it, I wish I was better at that sort of thing.

The absolutely best thing about this year, though, has been those of you who have been good enough to read and comment on my idiotic ravings. Because without you I wouldn't still be doing this.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

I, Robot

As with last year, Christmas was delayed a day until Boxing Day, when Helena arrived. Considering that nothing was open on Christmas Day, meaning that I had to plan ahead and have been faced with ever dwindling food supplies, I think I did well to resist the temptation to start on the Stollen Cake before she got here.

I had to get up early as well, so that I could wrap her presents. This year she had asked for a robot dog. His name is Wrex the Dawg, and he's certainly a character.

Of course, this is the robotic equivalent of a dog, so instead of Pedigree Chum he eats batteries - lots of them in several different sizes. He also talks, breaks wind, urinates noisily, and does more tricks than your average mutt.

For example, he can play dead: "I've been hit... it's okay... you go on ahead... don't worry about me... ahhhh...", before asking whether or not his performance rates an Oscar. He can identify obstacles so that he doesn't bump into anything. Unfortunately, this doesn't work when he's reversing.

After Helena had been here an hour I was praying that the batteries would quickly run out. Unfortunately battery technology has progressed a lot since I was a lad, and they still haven't. I've been a bit less irritated by him since she let me have a go.

There's a lot to be said for the mechanical version. It doesn't smell, it won't run up huge bills at the vet, try and steal whatever you're eating, and in a few weeks when the novelty has worn off and it's forgotten about it won't matter.

A dog really can just be for Christmas...

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday: Christmas Special

No Escape

The above picture is of a Christmas tree. In my flat. This is a first, but Helena was insistent that I should have one, and decorated and brought this one with her when she visited last weekend. It adds an otherwise absent festive feel to the place, which I must admit is quite nice.

There should be a star on the top, but it keeps falling off, and now I can't find it.

Cooking Book

I had two seperate deliveries of books yesterday. The first was Chris' "Ingredients of a Good Thriller", which Amazon had given an ETA of New Year's Eve, so it was nice to get it before Christmas.

I spent some time reading through it a little quickly. Disappointingly the Greek translation is not yet available, but that aside it's very readable and is the sort of thing that may well inspire you have a go at that writing lark. Though I'm going to wait until his "Ingredients of a Good Blog" comes out...

Good Thrillers

The other parcel contained several months of reading. Four crime novels - two Agatha Christie and two Greek authors. One of them is an Inspector Haritos novel by Petros Markaris. I know I keep raving about him, but his books are available in English, and I'd recommend anyone who likes crime fiction to try them.

And Finally

I hope that all of you and your families have a great Christmas.

Monday, 22 December 2008

One Careful Owner

Nasa have announced that they're selling a couple of their Space Shuttles. Although I wasn't planning to change my car in just yet, it has got me thinking. There would be definite advantages to owning your own space ship:

Pulling Power: Women think the stars are romantic, and now you can take her to see them. Just don't get too geeky and start naming them all. Oh, and goodbye Mile High Club, Hello Zero Gravity Sex.

Easy Commute: There's very little traffic in space, and no speed limits. Sell your house, live in a really cheap part of the world like a millionaire, and still be the first in to the office each day.

Handy for Shopping: There's a roomy boot (trunk in American), which will hold up to 24,000 kilos (53,000 lb in American). Even Bee can't buy that many shoes in one go, surely?

The Ultimate SUV: It uses an astronomical amount of fuel, holds eleven people and won't fit in your garage. Your average SUV freak would part with vital organs for one of these. It's amazing that they only think they'll be able to sell two of them.

Of course, as with all "bargains", there's usually a catch. Otherwise the current owners wouldn't be so eager to part with them:

Zero Gravity Sex: This is likely to take some practice and care. Fluids have a nasty habit of floating around. Also, be careful not to inadvertently knock any of the guidance controls - it's a big universe, and there's no GPS up there.

Expensive Commute: At a cost of $1.5 billion per journey, you might want to consider a private jet instead.

Not Handy for the Shops: Parking is going to be a little bit of an issue, even in the US. Most shopping malls don't have their own 2 mile-long runways.

Poor Safety Record: Although most 4x4 nuts don't mind the fact that their vehicles are a lot less safe in a crash, even they may be a little dismayed by the fact that the shuttle has blown up twice in 100-odd journeys.

Anyway, I'm still wondering whether or not they'll give me a good enough trade-in on my Skoda to make the monthly payments bearable...

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Death of a Jelly Baby

I never could get the hang of chemistry at school. You'd mix together two innocuous substances, burn them, get a funny smell and that would demonstrate one thing, then you'd do it all again with two other substances, get much the same result and that would prove something else. Then you'd repeat this for several years and have to sit an exam at the end of it all. Which I failed, of course.

Maybe all the teachers needed was to make the subject more relevant to real life. Apparently some of them have already begun this, as exmplified by the "Screaming Jelly Baby" experiment. Supposedly this demonstrates respiration - the use of oxygen to transfer energy, and involves giving a jelly baby an oxidising agent.

It just looks like any other incomprehensible chemistry to me, but at least the one here is entertainingly filmed:

Have a good weekend!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Kill or Cure

You know Dawn of the Dead, the classic film where zombies go on the rampage around a shopping mall? It's one of my all time favourite films. I don't know if they've remade it yet (I seem to remember they might have done), but just in case I thought I'd rehearse for a part while I was at my local supermarket.

I'm full of cold, and feeling sorry for myself. I'm not actually ill, but I can't sleep, I'm sore from coughing and sneezing, and I'm doing an even better than usual imitation of a zombie.

Perhaps driving to a supermarket in this state wasn't the best of ideas - I ought not to be half-undead in charge of a dangerous vehicle, where a split second loss of concentration could cause injury or death. Having said that, I still think that my trolley manouevering skills are better than a lot of the mums. They're so distracted by any "Special Offers" that they don't even notice their screaming kids, so they're not going to realise that they're seconds away from crippling someone. It's not as if I'd ever get distracted...

Anyway, you'll be pleased to know that no major mishaps befell me today. Which is just as well, as I'd hate to deprive you of a post.

One of the symptoms of my current debilitating condition is that I'm ravenously hungry. There's a handy guide to whether or not one should attempt to eat anything. It's either "Feed a flu, starve a cold", or "Starve a flu, feed a cold". I can never remember. I hope it's the latter, otherwise I'm doomed.

It's definitely important to take care of myself. So I've bought things that I don't normally ever have, such as Jelly Babies, chocolate, Pringles. As well as Lucozade and four boxes of tissues (which just about lasted me the trip home). Oh and some brandy. For medicinal purposes, of course.

And I've bought some extra spicy pickled onions. And some anti-indigestion medicine, which I'm expecting to need...

I also got £2.50 off my bill, due to points that accumulate on the loyalty card when you buy things and, now, when you reuse bags. Something that I've been doing fairly regularly. Unfortunately my loyalty card isn't really mine. It's my ex-wife's. So I never know when I should take money off. I should do sometimes, since I contribute to it. What I really ought to do is end four years of moral dilemma by getting my own card, but this only occurs to me when I'm at the checkout. By which time I want to get home, not stand around waiting at the Customer Service desk.

So now I've got an evening of Jelly Babies, pickled onions and Brandy to look forwards to. If that doesn't kill this bug, nothing will...

From recent experience, I'd advise against eating jelly babies whilst blogging. You get that white icing sugar stuff all over the keyboard.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday


As the song ought to go: "Tis the Season to be Sick". Anndi and her family have been suffering lately, and Helena had the puking lergy at the weekend. It didn't last that long, thankfully, and it manifested itself before she came to visit me, so I didn't get to see her, and hopefully I won't get whatever it was either.

However, on Tuesday morning I woke up with a cold. How does that happen? I was okay when I went to sleep. Where did viruses come from in the middle of the night? I'm hoping it won't be too bad, especially since a group of us are going out for a Christmas meal, which I'd rather not miss.


Last week, on Friday, former President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos died of small cell lung cancer, having been seriously ill in hospital for about three weeks.

He was an important figure in the Island's political history - having been involved in most of the major events of the last 50 years or so. When the Island got its independence from the evil Imperialist Brits in 1960, he was made Minister of the Interior. He was 24 years old.

When I was 24, I was given 3 members of staff to manage for a few months. I did such a great job of this that I've never been given (or wanted) that particular responsibilty again. I can't begin to imagine being in charge of the police, public order, etc, even of a relatively small country.

Being President is presumably a whole lot worse. I bet you spend most of your time crisis-managing, reacting to events, and trying to stop a total disaster, whilst pretending that it's all part of your carefully thought out and well run plan. I don't envy Obama.

Ghosts of the Past

The other evening I watched "Sunset Boulevard". This is a black comedy about Hollywood. Gloria Swanson plays a has-been silent film actress who hopes to make a comeback and work once more with Cecil B DeMille. Some of the characters (such as DeMille and Buster Keaton) play themselves. Others, like Swanson and Erich von Stroheim play people similar to themselves (Swanson was a has-been silent film actress making a comeback, and von Stroheim really had directed films starring her in the good old days).

It's a good enough film, and I can recommend it, but I expect that real film-buffs who know all of the people would appreciate it even more.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Satanic Posts, The Number of the Beast, and Superstitious Blogging

This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six.
- Rev 13:18 (NRSV)
What's in a number? Tracy was so worried about her post number 666 that she got Bee to write it instead. Other people avoid 13 (especially in the US, it seems). The Chinese are famous for their belief that numbers can be lucky or unlucky.

Over the years, people have been very interested in turning names into numbers, and this is one possible interpretation of the Biblical 666.

In addition, numbers were written using letters in Latin and Ancient Greek. So 666 in Latin could be DCLXVI. The New Testament was written in Greek, and 666 could be written χξς´ , and is in some ancient Biblical manuscripts.

I once read a book on numerology. It said that you were supposed to write A=1, B=2, and so on, and then you could calculate the values of people's names. For example, "Polka" gives 55, "Dan, The People's Blogger" 206, and "Rambling thoughts of the Neverending Mind" 405.

Looking at the title of Tracy's post, and converting the numbers and symbols into what Bee actually typed you get: "TRACY HAS ASKED ME TO DO POST [POUND SIGN] SIX SIX SIX [THREE DOTS]", which adds up to, erm, 666. Coincidence? Or are there dark forces at work?

Actually, I have to confess that I tried a large number of variations (for example "Six hundred and sixty six dot dot dot", etc) until I hit on one that made the magic total. Incidentally, the title of my post also adds up to 666.

In any case, 666 might not be the Number of the Beast. According to Biblical scholars, various manuscripts of Revelations, including one dating back to the 5th Century, actually give the number as 616. And Tracy's 616th post certainly contains a number of beasts...

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Sercret Santa

Bee asked us to come up with a gift for a selected blogger, which we would buy them if we had the time, money, or whatever.

So, if I win millions in the lottery before Christmas, I will be buying Petra the following wonderful gift.

You will get a fully fitted IKEA kitchen to your specifications. No expense spared, and with all the latest clever Swedish technology. It will also come, appropriately enough, with The Swedish Chef, the ultimate in labour saving devices. As long as you're not too fussy about what you eat.

Before you get your hopes up, though Petra, it's only fair of me to point out that I don't actually play the lottery. But it's the thought that counts, right?

And Many thanks to my Secret Santa, Chat Blanc at Wit's Bitch for her wonderfully thoughtful virtual gift!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday


I bought a box set of Charlie Chan films at the weekend. I've never seen any, so I thought it would be worth a shot. The only problem is that the box is good value (£30) for six films, but if you end up not liking them, it starts looking a bit pricy.

Helena and I watched the first one. It was okay, but I was a little disappointed. The story was a bit lame. It turns out that these are a set of the later films (starring Sidney Toler and made in the mid 1940s), which aren't considered as good. However, I think we will end up getting through them, and I will keep a look out for the earlier ones.


This week I've been following the Athens riots on the news. You've probably heard about them. The police shot dead a 15-year-old youth who was part of a group who may or may not have attacked their car. This appears to have been used as a pretext for anti-establishment trouble makers to start wrecking the place.

The violence has occurred all over the country, turning streets into war zones. In Athens hundreds of shops, banks and other properties have been smashed up, burnt out, etc. As of yesterday evening, they were saying that while there were still episodes, they appeared to be easing off a bit.

Probably the least economically damaging piece of violence, but very symbolic, was the burning of the large Christmas tree in Constitution Square - this is a bit like destroying the tree in Times Square New York.

No Tree

As usual, I won't have a tree, or indeed any decorations. Bah Humbug! I did, however, rashly agree to do Bee's Christmas Exchange thing, so there will be a special "Wordless Thursday" post tomorrow.


As you know, I'm not a follower of football. However it's been impossible to ignore the Cypriot Anorthosi team, who have got further in the European something-or-other-league than ever before, and have become national heros. Last night they were beaten 1-0 by the Greek Panathenaikos team, and are now out of the league. Or something.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Tragic Life Stories

Quite by chance, Kat's post today is about books as well. I won't do her meme, as my answer to most of the questions would probably be "Erm, don't know."

I went into a bookshop at the weekend. This isn't something I've done much of since I decided to limit my reading where at all possible to Greek. For some strange reason, my local literary retailers still insist on selling the English versions of their products. So I wasn't there to buy books.

In a rare display of brilliance, or at least common sense, someone realised that WHSmith (a British newsagent and bookseller) had a section full of DVDs which probably wasn't making much money, since they didn't have a large enough variety to compete with the likes of HMV, so they moved the Post Office there. This caused me a lot of confusion the last time I wanted to post something, since the old premises was surrounded by boards and signs telling me that a building society was coming soon, but not giving me any hints about where the Post Office had gone.

Whilst I was waiting in the long queue, I noticed that next to the "Biography" section, WHSmith now have "Tragic Life Stories". It seems strange that they have enough books to go into this section, and enough readers who want this particular specialism.

Funny Picture By
A tragic story

I can imagine that a lot of biographies contain tragic elements, and I can also imagine a lot of people who like reading biographies, but tragic ones? "So, what type of books are you interested in?" "Oh, I always read tragic life stories." Why? Do some people feel better about themselves by reading about others who've had really shitty existences? Or are they masochists? Or people looking for a reason to reach for the razor blades?

Talking of which, years ago there was a character known as "Suicide Sid" in the area where I used to live. He earned this title after taking an overdose of paracetemol, and living to tell the tale. I suspect that he was more interested in attention than in actually doing away with himself. I used to spend a lot of my time in the local pub drinking with a retired friend, sadly no longer with us. "Suicide" came over one evening and remarked that he often saw us both in there. "Are you father and son?", he asked. My friend said that we were. "What do you do?", was the next question. "We're both out of work balloon pilots." I don't know whether or not he believed this - nor did he find it funny - he just moped his way to the next group of people at the bar.

I've no idea what became of "Suicide Sid". Maybe he's the subject of one of those tragic books? I hope not...

Saturday, 6 December 2008


I've been feeling the cold this week. Not because it's been particularly Arctic here, though according to the news they've had snow in Chris's end of the country (see picture above - Chris is third from the left). And not because I'm getting old. Simply because I've been driving to work.

Normally I'm able to walk, but because I was away, I had to drive to and from the hotel. This wasn't massively time consuming - about 5 or 10 minutes, but because the hire car was outside in the carpark, it was necessary to de-ice it.

Even when I do have to drive my car, it's usually kept in its garage these days, so it's about 4 or 5 years since I've had to worry about ice. Luckily there was a service station next to the hotel, so I was able to get some de-icer spray and a scraper on the first cold morning.

I remember the days before they invented the de-icer stuff. Or maybe no-one had told me about it. When I was doing teacher training, the second term (between Christmas and Easter) was spent in a school in Windermere, which was quite a long way from where I was living in Lancaster. Another two of my house mates were doing their teaching practice in Kendall (where they make the Mint Cake), and since I was the only one with a car, I used to take them to their school.

So the three of us would go to my car, scrape the ice off the windscreen, prise the doors open, and set off. By the time we hit the first roundabout (about 30 seconds), everything would be freezing up again, and I would be swerving round it reassuring my housemates by yelling "I can't see a f**king thing!". Perhaps I should have been an airline pilot. "Hello this is your captain speaking. Say your prayers, folks!"

My car was rather old and the heater had long since stopped working. Visibility was usally restored by the time we hit the M6. I think that my passengers would have preferred not to be able to see at this point in the journey, as my tendency to overtake police cars at 80 MPH unnerved them somewhat. I never got done for speeding, which I think proves that they were wrong to be so worried.

In any case, it never got this bad:

Have a great weekend, and if it is icy in your part of the world, please drive carefully.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Wordy Wednesday - Talking Shit

Okay, so how many of you have just read the title of this post and said to yourselves, "Same as always, then?". Please don't answer that.

Years ago, they had two designers on a TV programme re-designing the toilet. They looked at why current models are so, em, crap. One problem is that the British Standard that addresses the ability of Water Closets to send whatever one has deposited on its way to the sewers is possibly not demanding enough.

They use something that is the size and shape of a ping pong ball. If they pull the chain and ball is propelled out of the pipe at the back, then the crapper in question is deemed fit for purpose.

A piece of shit, apparently.

This is perhaps TMI, but I personally do not shit ping pong balls. If I did, I would be seeking immediate medical advice. Or giving up eating spag. bol. at the local sports centre (the food there's tasteless anyway).

All of which explains why I seem to spend so much of my time armed with a toilet brush. Again, TMI, I suppose.

The designers decided to check out the state of the art in Dunny Design (as our Australian friends would say), by going to Japan. There they perform more realistic tests, including cramming huge amounts of toilet paper into the bowl. Having said that, I suspect that using the facilities there would be rather scary:

This is a Japanese Lavatory Control Panel. The ones they have in NASA for launching rockets are probably less complicated. Though I bet they don't have such entertaining symbols on their buttons.

Talking about NASA, my cistern has started making noises that sound like it's about to lift off. Presumably this is something to do with air getting into the water filling mechanism. Maybe I could tune it to play specific notes, and make it an honorary member of the Blogger Band - ideal for performing Latrine Dance music.

Sheet Music

On which fragrant note I'll leave you.

I'm away again this week - back at the weekend.

Friday, 28 November 2008

The Sound of Music - Almost!

Spot the Difference

Well, the piano van arrived with a new piano this morning, and I assembled it this afternoon. Even though I've never learned to play properly, I'd be really lost without a working instrument - it was awful when the other one stopped being useable.

Apart from the different colour, it's a similar model - the bottom of the range Yamaha imitation piano, only 6 or 7 years newer.

These things are a bit like cars. Even the basic models have better features over time. It feels different to play - whether this is just because the other one was getting old, I don't know, but it's more responsive and sounds better.

The "weight" of the keys varies across the keyboard, as it does on the real things, which will take some getting used to (when was the last time I played an acoustic piano, I wonder?). The sustain pedal responds a bit differently too, and I can actually notice the difference when I use the "soft" pedal, which I couldn't with the old one.

It's almost December, which means that I'll soon be getting out my book of Christmas carols. Maybe one year I'll actually be able to play them competently. Maybe sometime in the distant future real music will be heard on this instrument. Or maybe like the old one it'll have worn out long before then...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Wordy Wednesday

Four Years On

I've been so busy this week that I only noticed part way through the day that it's four years since I moved out of what is now my ex-wife's house and into the flat where I currently live. Consequently, I had to go shopping after work to get a bottle of something sparkly by way of marking the occasion.

26/11/2004 was a Friday, and my ex and I spent the day moving my stuff by the carload. There is no lift here, so we had to take everything up the stairs. My stuff did not include a lot of furniture - no sofas or beds, and the bulkiest item was my electric piano.

I've had the piano for 6 or 7 years, but it has started to go wrong. Some of the keys are beginning to stick to the point where it has become unplayable. I could perhaps get it repaired, but repair costs would probably be a reasonably high percentage of the replacement price. So on Friday (hopefully) a new one will be arriving.

I'd like to have a "real" one, but I suspect my neighbours wouldn't, and an electric one is close enough in feel and sound. The new one will have a cherry wood finish, and should be a slightly better approximation, but otherwise will be similar to the one above.

I've got a busy weekend, so I'm not sure how much time I'll get to play it, but as I'm not a Country Music fan, I won't be playing songs about the old one. The first sounds that come out of it are likely to be Bach - probably the Aria to the Goldberg Variations.

At some point I'll work out how to record my efforts and post them up. I think it's just a matter of getting the right cable to connect up the computer. Don't worry, I'll only do it once so that you can marvel at the nice sound the instrument makes, and cry at how badly it's being played. I'm sure you're all looking forward to this.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Ταινίες της βδομάδας

Films of the Week

Pensioner Defeats Commies

After reading Chris' rave review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I spent £15 on the Special Edition. This is something I wouldn't normally do - I usually wait and buy DVDs at no more than £10. However, Chris was right, so I don't mind too much that he cost me £5 - the film was as silly and as fun as the others in the series. I still haven't found the masturbatory easter egg that he was talking about, but that's probably due to my lack of a Catholic education.

"Where did you get that hat,
Where did you get that hat?"

Man Kills Spider

Whilst I was in HMV getting the Indy film, I picked up a box set of classic 50's Sci-Fi. One of them was Tarantula, which I already have, but at £30 for seven films, it's still good value.

We watched The Incredible Shrinking Man. Scott Carey is on a boat with his wife, enjoying a bit of Sun, Sea and S... San Miguel, when the boat sails through a radioactive mist, which his body absorbs. It serves him right for being lazy and sending his wife below to get the beers. If he'd gone himself he'd have been okay.

Months later he is exposed to some pesticide which reacts badly with the radioactivity and makes him gradually get smaller and smaller. His wife must be less than satisfied by his ever decreasing size, but she does stay with him. Eventually he gets so small that the cat tries to eat him. This should serve as a warning to pet lovers everywhere.

He escapes into the cellar, but his wife, finding a bloody shred of clothing and a contented looking cat assumes the worst, puts the house up for sale and goes to stay with her in-laws.

Meanwhile Scott is managing to survive on stale cheese (kept in the cellar for mousetrap bait), but he has also found another deadly foe - a spider. It's a battle to the death, and human ingenuity wins out in the end.

"I always knew those needlework classes would come in handy some day"

The film was better than I thought it would be. The special effects are a little dated, but they did a pretty good job given the technology of the time. The designers must have had fun building giant sets.

USAF Cook Alien Vegetable

The Thing From Another World is a story about an alien invasion. Scientists at an American research base in Alaska see what appears to be a new type of aircraft crash landing in the ice. They are worried it might be an enemy invasion, and since it doesn't seem to be Canadian, decide that it's probably Soviet. The United States Air Force is sent to investigate.

They quickly realise that the craft is round, which means it's a UFO. I'm not sure about their logic - after all, humans have been making circular objects for thousands of years, including flying objects such as frisbees. Nevertheless, it turns out that they are correct.

They end up digging out and defrosting an alien, and discover that it is actually an intelligent humanoid vegetable which feeds on blood. The vegetable bit means that to reproduce it simply has to plant and "water" some seeds (with blood). It also means that bullets make holes but do no actual damage.

"How many kinds of deadly creatures grow,
In an Alien country garden?"

It's a good film, and they made a wise decision only to show you the alien at the end. However, even for the 1950s, the alien is a disappointment. Why is it wearing boots and clothes? Maybe it was trying to disguise itself as a human?

I can recommend all three of these. They're great adventures, and the car chase in "Indy" is truly breathtaking. You wouldn't find anything like those special effects in 50's Sci Fi films, but the best film makers of that era were careful and used what effects they had sparingly, which means that although there are a few moments where something is obviously fake (travelling mattes are no match for CGI), most of the time you'll be more interested in the story.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

In Space, No-One Can Hear You Scream...

We really do just about live in the Space-Age. Human beings are no longer restricted to living on this planet. At any one time, there are always at least two people on the International Space Centre. Okay, it's not that far away, but it does apparently count.

You'd think that going out there for a six month tour would be a great opportunity to get away from everything that might be bugging you - family, friends, the daily commute, not to mention those other evils that plague humanity, such as telesales (even Bangalore doesn't have direct dial to space yet) and spiders.

After all, there's no way a spider would get into space, right? And no-one would be stupid enough to take some with them, and then lose one? It seems that NASA have done exactly that. Oops.

Is there no escape from the evil buggers? I can't help feeling that they are really in control, and that they somehow duped people into taking them on board by pretending to weave psychadelic webs in zero gravity. The reason that we, or at least some of us, are so terrified of them is that somewhere hidden in us all is one of those race memories. Remembering a time when they ruled the world.

Maybe they're now trying to conquer the Universe...

Friday, 21 November 2008

Wordy Wednesday - In My Dreams

I know, I know, it's Friday, but I had this post programmed to go off on Wednesday. Only I picked the wrong Wednesday...

I'm going to tell you about a couple of my dreams.

I'm not talking about the kind of dreams that I'm saving for when I find a brass lamp containing a genie:

1. Becoming massively rich without even buying a lottery ticket.

2. An idyllic and idle life in a Greek-speaking part of the Mediterranean, with Aimilia Kenevezou tending to my needs (assuming she can cook).
My favourite food (afelia)

3. Being able to play the piano as well as Les Dawson.

4. Writing a blog post that everyone else finds as hilarious as I did.

I know you only get three wishes, so I'll have to forgo one of these, but I'm still trying to choose between 3 and 4.

Anyway, I don't mean those kind of dreams. I'm thinking of weird dreams. The sort of thing that Kat was talking about last week.

I have these every so often. They are generally not very exciting, and they'll only get included in the film of my life if ends up being directed by someone like Bergman or Fellini.

The only distinguishing feature that they tend to share is weird geography. I'll be in one place, walk through a door or down a corridor, and be somewhere totally different.

The other week I dreamt that I was in one of the coastal towns in Cyprus. Larnaca, I think. I walked into a large hall where a conference was just about to start. Someone told me that I'd better sit down while I could still get a seat. And sure enough, moments later hoards of people arrived, most of whom were forced to stand. To listen to the conference of... metallurgists.

A conference about titanium

Now, I don't know any metallurgists, and I knew absolutely nothing about metallurgy. I didn't pick up any useful information from the conference either, because I woke up before it actually began. If I'd stayed asleep, I could have become an expert, except of course that you only remember the dreams that end half-way through. It's so unfair.

The day before Kat's post, oddly enough, I had some more weird dreams. Sadly, I forgot all but one. This involved a bus ride. The bus was a little odd, though. There were several seats in front of the driver, and when I walked to the rear of the bus, and to the right, there were seats and tables arranged a little bit like a cafe or pub, and it was more like a large room than a bus. The carpet and seat coverings were wine-red, and there were a lot of passengers, mainly old people.

I kept walking, until I had done a full circuit of the bus. Other things happened. People got on and off, and someone had some kind of package. Ot was very bulky - I think it might have been furniture, and there was a discussion with the driver about whether it should be thrown off the bus whilst it was moving. I think in the end it was. I hope that whatever it was didn't hit a passer-by - I wouldn't like to end up getting sued.

These are only what I remember - I bet the other ones I don't know about are far more exciting...

I'm away this week, but I'll catch up on all your blogs in a few days time.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Several Round Tuits Later

I'm not very good with those round tuit things. I never seem to get any. I have lots of good intentions, but I never seem to follow them up. It's taken 25 years for me to get round to learning Greek, which has been number one on my todo list for all that time.

I'm not entirely sure about the other things on that list, since it'll take at least another round tuit before I actually make one. However, you can get some idea of what it might contain by looking at unread books on my shelves:

  • Italian in Three Months (Hugo Publishing). I bought this in 1992, which is quite a lot of three months ago. Greek's going to take me a lifetime, so I suspect that the Language of Love will remain forever a mystery to me.
  • On The Good Life, Cicero (Penguin Classics). When I got this in 1989 I had actually read Hugo's Latin in Three Months, and was starting to look at Cicero.
  • Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott. I've read the first couple of pages of this about 3 or 4 times in the last 20 years. So I know all about the difference between Anglo-Saxon and Norman names for animals.
  • Garbage Land - On the Secret Trail of Trash, Elizabeth Royle. Bought at Baltimore airport, presumably because my bags didn't weigh enough. I never manage to read much on planes. One day it will become part of that trash trail, probably still unopened.
  • The Maya, Michael D Coe. The Maya are interesting. They left behind writings which have been solved like crossword puzzles by scholars, and they had an amazing culture, including horrible sarcificial ceremonies and stuff. Which is probably about as much as I'll ever know about them.
  • Arctic Dreams - Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, Barry Lopez. I think I'd been listening to Glenn Gould's old Canadian radio documentaries about the solitude of Northern Canada when I came across this in a second hand bookshop. I did start it, and it's very poetic and fascinating. I should have left it in that shop for someone who might have appreciated it.
  • Step By Step Esperanto, Montagu C Butler. 1989 (I bought a lot of books that year, it seems). What was I thinking? A quick flip through this book will convince you what a sad waste of time Esperanto was. Mr Butler explains that English speakers find it difficult to learn other languages because our vowel sounds are so rubbish, and that Esperanto is the answer to all modern ills. He has little verses slagging off English. What they've got to do with learning a soulless language that no-one uses, I don't know:
We speak of a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
You may find a lone mouse, or a whole nest of mice,
But the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Whey shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
When I speak of a foot and you show me two feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
We speak of a brother, and also of brethren,
But though we say mother we NEVER say methren!
  • Τα Πρωτοβρόχια μου [My First Rainfalls], Sofoklis H Andreadis (Published in Manchester). This is one of those books that an author has paid to have printed (nowadays you'd just start a blog), and I got it in Manchester when I was a student there. I bought it because it was in Greek, but it is a book of this guy's poetry. I can't get into poetry. This is another one I should feel guilty about - someone has been through with a biro and corrected various printing errors. A labour of love languishing on my shelf.
That lot should keep me busy, for at least another 10 lifetimes. If any of you feel like learning Esperanto, or reading some trash journalism, you're welcome to borrow these, as long as you return them before I need them.

Friday, 14 November 2008


Don't worry. The title isn't meant to describe this blog, which I hope is kept clean and reasonably hygenic. However, Anndi is under the weather with the lergy, Bee's computer has a nasty dose of something, and now Tracy is worried about hers.

I suspect that we could all do with cheering up in these times of plague and pestilence. So my musical offering this weekend comes from Tom Lehrer, and is a song that he used to perform in the 50s, but didn't record because it was considered a bit risque at the time.

There'll be a proper post in the next day or so, but in the meantime, try not catch anything (else)...

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Word Wednesday

The Swedish Chief

I'm currently reading "The Fifth Woman", by Henning Mankell. It's a Swedish crime novel about Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team, who are trying to catch a serial killer. I don't know too much about Sweden, except that it's cold, but I always imagine everything to be clean, with pine self-assembly furniture in light, airy houses.

The Wallander books give this impression too. Everyone is very friendly (apart from the murderer and some vigilantes), the trains run on time, and the police don't attempt to rough up suspects during interrogation. Nor is there any corruption, or undue pressure from politicians, unlike in the excellent Greek "Inspector Haritos" series.

Anyway, I'm 4/5ths of the way through it, so hopefully soon they'll catch the killer and stop the carnage, and peace and tranquility can once again return to the town of Ystad. Until the next book, of course.

Film Review

Talking about Swedish things, I finally managed to watch the whole of Ingmar Bergman's film "The Passion of Anna". It's in Swedish, but luckily there were Greek subtitles on the DVD. I've attempted this several times (in fact, I think I mentioned trying to watch it once before), but always manage to fall asleep, or lose the will to live, about half way through.

The plot, such as it is, is about a reclusive chap who's wife gave up and left him some years previously. His neighbours, who live so far away that he's never met them before, are an architect with a love of photography and his wife, who spends a night with our hero. The next thing you know (or did I fall asleep and miss a bit?), he's shacked up with Anna, who was staying with his neigbours while she recovered from a road accident that killed her child and husband. Then she leaves him. The end.

There aren't many laughs in this, and there are another three DVDs in the box set. I only got it because it was on special offer in HMV. One of them is apparently full of explicit sado-masochistic sex. I'll attempt to provide reviews, if I manage to watch any of them.

Brian's Verdict: Like the characters, drink copious quantities of whisky throughout. Keep the razor blades locked away.

The Matrix on Windows

And finally. I thought this was hilarious and very well done.