Tuesday, 31 August 2004

a monk doesn't play football at this level

To mark Bobby Robson's sacking by Newcastle United, the BBC have put together a page of his remarkable sayings, of which this is the finest:

'We don't want our players to be monks, we want them to be better football players because a monk doesn't play football at this level.'

Cactus Flower

Videoed and watched Cactus Flower recently. Goldie Hawn won a supporting actress Oscar for it, which is the reason I noticed it and watched it.

(One of my various lists is of Oscar winners in the main categories each year (in the back of a freebie I got with the Guardian years ago). Is that so terrible? The only 1969 one I haven't now seen is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, for which Maggie Smith won an Oscar. My list doesn't have best foreign film - lowbrow!)

Also starring Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman, it was an inconsequential late 60s groovy comedy; pleasant enough, but I wouldn't have anticipated it attracting any Oscars. My main thought watching it was, 'Casablanca. She was in Casablanca.'

Saturday, 28 August 2004

Give us an 'F'

'Forbes Phillipson-Masters was an amiable lumbering carthorse of a centre half who smiled as he fouled; a man who comes second only to the immortal Wayne Wanklyn in the "Footballers' Silly Names Contest". On near deserted away terraces from Carlisle to Chester in the early Eighties we would embark on a ritual which occupied most of the first half. '"Give us an F... F! Give us an O... O!" Not forgetting of course the obligatory "Give us a hyphen...".'
- Rupert Metcalf, article on Plymouth Argyle; Offside - the When Saturday Comes special; 1989, p57

pew cushions

'At the close of that day's service [first day in their new church building, 1878] he referred to the comfortable place in which they were now met, and said, 'We read in the New Testament that our Lord made the five thousand sit down "because there was *much grass* in the place." That is why we have provided cushions in the pews. We believe the Lord Jesus is not indifferent to your comfort.'
- Andrew Bonar, Diary and Life; Banner of Truth, 1960; p426

In the churches I grew up in, the only seats with cushions were those in the area where the elders sat; this is probably still the case.

As for there being a special area at all where the elders sat, an elevated level in front of the pulpit, well that's something else peculiar.

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

fun with dates

An article (about The White Stripes) in the current issue of Word magazine (dated September, I guess) says 'Joplin, Hendrix, Morrison and Kurt Cobain all died in their 27th years.' No they didn't. Between your 27th and your 28th birthdays - as they were - you are in your 28th year. We start at 0; our first birthday marks the *end* of our first year.

(It was Cicero, our Latin teacher, who first alerted me to that, congratulating someone on their birthday in such a way as to make us think he'd got their age wrong, but he hadn't. He was, is, a fine man.)

Conversely, because there was no year 0, 1 January 2000 marks the *start* of the 2000th year. Which is why this millennium, and this century, began on 1 January 2001.

Furthermore, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

fortnum and mason's

When my mum was down we all went into Fortnum and Mason's to see the food hall, which was very busy. We took the lift upstairs to another floor to see how the other half shopped, and found the upper floors virtually deserted. The ground floor full of tourists like us, I guess.

Having started in the children's section looking in amazement at mighty price tags, we (my mother, that is) in fact ended up buying something - a long (6ft-ish) segmented material caterpillar, each segment having a letter of the alphabet and relevant animal on it. It was thirty pounds, which we (granny, specifically) thought not unreasonable. Some of the animals we are yet to tie up with their alphabet letter, however - it was manufactured somewhere where Spanish was the first language, which might have something to do with it.

Also there saw a nice cushion in another department with the motto (Italian proverb, it said) 'When a baby is born, so is a grandmother'. Now that *was* too expensive, which was a shame.

Tuesday, 24 August 2004

seil weblog

This lady was the wife of my scoutmaster. Now she's the minister on Alison L's 'home' island. Small world.

scottish hill panoramas

A set of nice Scottish hill panoramas here, including quite a number on Lewis and Harris.

more on cover cds

The new Mojo has two different cover CDs 'to collect', which is a bit of a swizz (all Beatles covers - I'll have to decide which one to buy). At least it's a significant step up from having two to four different covers on an otherwise identical issue of a magazine 'to collect'.

I once did a questionnaire which asked if I'd ever bought a CD on the strength of a track I'd heard on a cover CD, and I couldn't think of a time when I had. Not the kind of feedback designed to encourage labels to deliver up tracks for such CDs.

Monday, 23 August 2004

hello dolly!

Hello Dolly was a big disappointment. The first scene, post-titles, featured Walter Matthau with his barber ('Stop moving about; if I cut your throat now it would be practically an accident') and his niece's suitor ('That's an insult!' 'Every fact about you is an insult!'), and was excellent, setting up high hopes for the rest of the film, but it was really very dull and empty. Still, I've seen it now. ('Why? Because it is there.' Easier than climbing Everest, at least.)

is it easier to get an A?

Is it easier to get an A in school exams these days? The main answer is, surely, that it doesn't matter. There's no context in the real world in which my school results from twenty years ago will be compared to someone's school results of today in order to make a decision. What's important is that exams differentiate between those who took them in that year, so that they're an effective tool in making education or employment selections.

The question of whether people are coming out of school less well-educated than they used to can have a variety of answers depending on your definition of what constitutes being well-educated. A better guide than the school exam results might be to look at a range of professions and ask if they have declined in standard in the last twenty years. If they haven't, then is it reasonable to assume that school education hasn't either?

strachan on souness

'Souness was the tidiest man I've ever met. I'd throw my underpants into a corner but he'd have them lined up on hangers.'
- Gordon Strachan, FourFourTwo, September 2004, p61 (quoting issue No 4).

Tuesday, 17 August 2004

Word magazine sub-titles

Issue 1-7: Music and Entertainment Now
Issue 8: Music and Entertainment
Issue 9-18: Music and More
Issue 19: The Quality Music Magazine

Thus ends the journey from its original multidisciplinary intentions to being just another music magazine, which I'm sorry about. I had high hopes.

It's amazing that there isn't really a proper book magazine. Ink saw the gap in the market, but the issues I've seen have been disappointingly shallow and 'now' - mostly articles about and interviews with people who have a new book out. There are two centuries of back catalogue waiting for genre/era/career overviews and analysis.

Where did it all go right?

I read this lovely book by Andrew Collins and really enjoyed it. He's two years older than me, so many of the memories (and diary entries) about growing up normal in the 70s were resonant. Communicates the simple happiness of childhood, as well as being funny.

My favourite diary entry was from Saturday 24 February 1973, when he was 7: 'I had a smashing tea, it was the best tea I've ever had.' If I was the crying type, that would have made me cry.

There's an associated website too, which, among other things, has photos. I think the first photo is my favourite. No, it's alright, I've just got something in my eye.

blogger - from ads to navbar

Posted Notes still has the ads bar (has been different every time I've looked today, currently advertising Highland Lochside Hotel and Loch Lomond hotels), but it looks like blogger are instituting a rolling change from ads to a navbar. Do they no longer need the money? The navbar has already appeared on The Legram. The facility to do a search on the website alone is a handy one. The 'next blog' button is like Russian roulette, but very hard to resist. I can't work out what 'next' means in this context, though.

Monday, 16 August 2004

barbra streisand

'In a series of rare television appearances in the United States, Streisand has repeatedly complained that she grew up thinking she was ugly because her mother never told her that she was pretty. (Julia Roberts, one presumes, had exactly the opposite experience.) From this we can learn one thing: Whatever other crimes Streisand Senior may one day have to answer for, bald-faced lying is not one of them.
- Joe Queenan, Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler; Picador, 2000; p178.

cover cds

Deciding which tracks to allow a magazine to put on their cover cd must be tricky, I guess. You don't want to put your best track on, in case you kill it through overexposure or people decide that's the only one they need so don't buy your album, but if you put a lesser track on people might think if that's what you really sound like then I'm not interested.

A recent Uncut cover cd - themed on 'influences on Jimmy Page' - had a cover version of Summertime with the writer's credit listed as the (obscure) artist rather than the Gershwins, which was either a) extraordinarily sloppy or b) a tribute to the author-assuming practices of groups like Led Zeppelin in relation to old folk/blues songs.

The recent Word cover cd had a track on it by Mylo (Myles MacInnes) which was based almost entirely on samples from Judie Tzuke's Stay With Me Till Dawn. Writer? MacInnes, of course. Most unfair. 'Best new music', indeed. I am an old fogey.

'Mylo' spent some time growing up in Skye, and there was an interview-based article on him in a recent West Highland Free Press on the strength of that. Might have been less well-disposed towards him if they'd seen the item I read recently in which he was thoroughly scathing about Skye.

PS John commented, 'Good Nick Cave track on the Word CD though. Mute (Cave's label) seem please with it to the extent that they've flagged it in a new email newsletter.
'I had a clear out at the weekend and dropped a large pile of freebie CDs into my charity shop box. I'm enjoying the freedom that iTunes seems to be bringing to my record collection. Must buy an external harddrive soon to back it all up onto though.'

pink and blue

'Pink was a boy's colour while blue was thought better for girls - a "generally accepted rule" according to The Ladies Home Journal in 1918, which described pink as "more decided and stronger" while blue was "more delicate and dainty".'
- BBC Online.

PS John commented, 'In Disney's Peter Pan (1953) Wendy wears a blue nightgown while her youngest brother Michael is dressed in a pink sleepsuit. I was thinking about this just the other day on my 10,000th viewing of the Mermaid Lagoon scene.'

Wednesday, 11 August 2004

'Anything can happen - and probably will!'

A line usually associated with 'zany' events, theatrical or otherwise. How I hate it.

So, a cow will probably fall through the roof?
A cast member will probably turn into a frog?
A mad child will probably come in and machine-gun the audience?
John Lennon will probably make a guest appearance from beyond the grave?
Everyone there will probably be flown to Disneyland?
My licence fee will probably be refunded?

I don't think so.

Tuesday, 10 August 2004

tom gordon

Tom generates the most genuine search engine hits of anyone I know. Here are a couple of pages with his picture in:
The Ray Gelato Giants.
Rebecca Hollweg's band.

witch hunts, dolophine

'Ergot is a fungus called Claviceps purpurea. It attacks rye. In the middle ages, people who ate rye bread or gruel could develop a disease called St Anthony's Fire: their hands and feet blackened and turned gangrenous. Sufferers experienced hallucinations and some scholars have matched 17th-century witch hunts with the cold, wet summers that produce ergot infection in ripening rye. ...

'Around 1850, average annual consumption of opium in Britain was 5g per person: it only became a "dangerous drug" with the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1920. In fact, morphine tested at St Mary's Hospital in London in 1874 was one of the first drugs made by modifying a natural molecule. German scientists modified morphine once again to make diacetylmorphine, and brandnamed it Heroin. During the second world war, German chemists came up with a morphine substitute, originally called Dolophine, after Adolf Hitler. It is now called methadone.'

- from a review of Pills, Potions and Poisons: How Drugs Work, in the Guardian of 8 July 2004.

Monday, 9 August 2004


I noticed the absence in one of James's dinosaur books, and here's the confirmation: one of the key dinosaurs of my childhood, the brontosaurus, didn't really exist - it was an apatosaurus with the wrong head on.

Highland Youth Theatre

An article in the Scotsman about playwright Henry Adam, which mentions his being the writer at one of the Highland Youth Theatres which I attended. 'He started out writing songs, then poetry, then drama for Highland Youth Theatre. "That was the first time I’d ever come across theatrical people, a bit of a shock for an 18-year-old from Wick! We were doing an adaptation of Cu Chulainn, all you had to do was take the dialogue from the book and fancy it up, it didn’t seem so hard to me!"'

the shiants

Interesting website about the Shiants, which appears to be by Adam Nicolson, owner and author of a book about them.

Wednesday, 4 August 2004


In 1953, amateur lepidopterist HBD Kettlewell announced that he could show the process of natural selection occurring in peppered moths over periods of mere months rather than tens of thousands of years. Supposedly the moths evolved into a darker variety in industrial areas where blackened trees were the norm. Kettlewell proved that this "industrial melanism" was an example of natural selection with data showing how much larger numbers of the lighter moths were being eaten by birds. There was just one problem. The light-coloured moths were eaten in huge numbers because Kettlewell was actually gluing them to the trees.
- from a book review of Of Moths and Men, by Judith Hooper, in the Guardian of 26 April 2003.

Tuesday, 3 August 2004

exploring lews castle

There are people whose hobby it is to break into and explore derelict buildings. I don't think this guy is one of them, but he did poke about in Lews Castle during his visit to Stornoway.

bedtime sounds

When we were up in Lewis, the sound we could hear in bed were the massed terns on Loch an Duin, which kept up their row all day and night.

Down here, among other things, we hear Big Ben as we lie in bed (more so in summer with the windows open). I set my watch to it the other night.

Each sound has its attractions.

compactor-worm combo supplementary

Douglas said, 'As regards the Death Star, remember reading something similar in the mid-eighties. Another point that he has missed. Given the mass of the Death Star and its high density, it would have the gravity of a medium sized rock moon. Therefore anything ejected into space would not drift away but would make a gentle arc until it landed back on the surface of the Death Star. After about 20 years or so it could make for effective camouflage.'

Monday, 2 August 2004

photos of Iain MacDonald 9

Here I am, completing my ascent of all the Munros (the 2,998th person recorded as having done so), on 5 July 2003, on Mullach Fraoch-choire, accompanied I guess by my loving family. Well done.

assassinations foretold in Moby Dick

Michael Drosnin, author of the bonkers but money-spinning Bible Code (hidden messages in the Bible now revealed by computer analysis), said 'When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them.' Our hero did just that, and more. A splendid thing.