Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Life imitates art

Many people will know of Terry Pratchett, a man regarded as a minor deity by many readers of the Fantasy Genre for his Discworld series of books.

One of the characters who makes appearances in several of the books is Detritus the Troll, an upstanding member of the Ankh Morpork city watch. Trolls are made of stone and not generally noted for their quickness of wit... This isnt because Trolls are intrinsically stupid, rather, it's down to the speed of thought in a silicon based life form - which decreases as temperature increases. Thus a warm troll will be reeeaalllyyy stooopid. In Men at Arms, Detritus wears a clockwork hat which uses fans to cool his head down, thus keeping him relatively intelligent.

Given that Terry Pratchett himself is reported as having been diagnosed with an early onset form of Alzheimer's disease, it was breathtakingly ironic to read on the BBC website recently that an infra-red hat (known as a cognitive helmet) has been developed which may slow, if not reverse, some of the symptoms of that unpleasant affliction (which TP refers to with characteristic aplomb as an 'embuggarance'). The picture shows a hat with fans on it... One assumes that Mr Pratchett is aware of this odd example of life imitating art.

I personally have an awful memory. I cant afford a cognitive helmet, but you may, on occasion, see me with a pair of mini-maglights - one stuck up each nostril, in a desperate attempt to re-grow some brain cells.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Disabled Parking Public Information Film

This morning, breakfast TV reported on a subject close to my heart - the misuse of disabled parking bays.

This is a real trigger for me, guaranteed to set me off on a rant. Every time I see an able bodied person 'steal' a disabled space and saunter into a shop without a care in the world my blood boils, just as it did with the obnoxious fat git on my screen this morning.

Still, it reminded me of a conversation I had with the fellows at work a while ago, when the BBC was running a competition to produce a 'public information film' in the style of the ones that the UK used to have in the 60's. These peculiarly British oddities were a short film, maybe a minute or two long, which advised the public on things they shouldn't do... Like play with matches while wearing clothes soaked in petrol, shut children in fridges, or cross the road with a bag on their head. Things that wouldn't otherwise strike you as odd, unless the kind government told you they were - d'you see what I mean?

My film idea was about the dangers of parking in a disabled bay, when you don't have a disability...

The scene, outside a supermarket, there's one disabled bay free, and it's clearly marked. A big shiny red car screeches in - probably a Beamer, and out jumps a salesman in a sharp suit. He's talking loudly and self importantly into a cellphone as he strides towards the supermarket entrance.

Suddenly, Off from the left, a wheelchair appears. Its moving at a tremendous speed, and there's a little old lady sitting in it, clutching a sawn-off shotgun. As it hurtles past the rep, she lets him have both barrels, one in each leg.

The guy falls to the ground, screaming, and the picture slowly fades to one of those 'crime scene' silhouettes that we are all familiar with from the TV.

I've got this really great idea, too, about a film to discourage attractive single young women from parking in mother-and-child spaces....

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sorry Russell...

Today, Pete Cogle, the famous babbling pseudo-Tibetan Dave Gilmour look-nearly-alike podcasting nutcase was 200 years old. I'm sorry, I mean issued his 200th podcast (an easy mistake to make - Pete's almost Yoda-like presence makes him strangely difficult to age, though I have considered sawing off one of his legs and counting the rings, just to be sure).
As a part of the celebrations for this and other notable centenarian podiversaries (for messers Cool Clitheroe and Dark Cutler), we met in London last week as I have already noted. So why am I harping on about it again now? Well, the thing is, he recorded quite a bit of our conversation...

That's not a dead mouse you see him holding here, its a microphone. I have it on very good authority that the 'wind shield' (for such it is) that adorns the microphone is actually made from werewolf-fur which Pete's good lady wife was keeping in a box in the attic[1]. Its possible that something of the terror that the fur's previous lycanthropic owner could inspire still clings to this rather pathetic remnant. I have seen grown men and women turn pale, or flinch when Pete thrusts his rather scruffy and moth-eaten appendage towards them in search of a juicy quote (and the same goes for the microphone, ho ho!). Anyway, the dratted thing may no longer be attached to a man-eating monster, but its still bloody dangerous because it can still pick up an injudicious comment from twenty feet away.

After a few beers I have been known to talk a fair amount of bollocks (qv 'Testiculator'), but the thing is it doesn't usually come back to haunt me. Well, obviously sometimes it does, otherwise there is no earthly way I could explain my first marriage[2]. On this occasion, though, I had the chilling experience of hearing it all played back to me, and to make matters worse, there was some good music in the podcast, so I couldn't even turn it off.

To be fair, I have absolutely no-one but myself to blame for the awful 'Julian and Sandy' impersonations to be found at the beginning of Ourobouros Podcast #36. (Ooooh, Isnt he bold!) I'm not even too bothered about having claimed to live in a shed (after Mrs Grumbler reads this, there's likely to be more than a grain of truth in that assertion). Its almost impossible to hear what I said my favourite long word was, and even if you can make it out, I can weather that storm too.

However, just in case anyone gets the wrong idea (particularly any warped publicist who reckons it might make a good stunt) I need to take the opportunity in these pages of pointing out that I don't really have any intention of stuffing Russell Brand's Booky Wook where the sun shines not, in a manner of speaking. No. I don't want to be within six feet of either object, thank you very much.
[1] No, I don't think he knows why, either.
[2] This is a cheap shot and entirely unjustifiable - its only in for comic effect. And in any case, chronologically speaking, the first marriage involved a goat in a prehistoric Mongolian village (they made me their chief!) after I accidentally fell into a time warp in my local supermarket last Easter while reaching for a packet of Frozen peas, but I've been trying to hush that up.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Wail of a Time!

It’s a grim Tuesday morning, and I’m huddled in a crusty, rusty, freezing-cold and rattling old train – peering through the steamed-up windows I can see sheets of rain lashing mercilessly against the steel grey landscape. I’m heading towards London, and I’m assaulted by a wave of memories of a score or so years ago, when my younger and less curmudgeonly self dragged itself into the capital for work every day. I thank a veritable host of deities (including Jah, Shiva and Catweazle) that I don’t have to do that any more – the very idea makes the tarnished remnants of my soul shrivel inside me. I wonder if Beelzebub likes prunes?

There’s another difference in the journeys now and then… 20 years ago I was comfortably numbed by cassettes of Pink Floyd played on my trusty Walkman. Now, I’m being shocked awake by a bewildering assortment of fantastic new music via a series of Podcasts on my iPod.

This journey has an undeniably more palatable purpose than work. I’m going to meet with my old mate Pete ‘Codger’ Cogle, host of PC Podcast, and three other podcasters - Peter ‘the Kid’ Clitheroe from Suffolk ‘n Cool; Rowley Cutler from Dark Compass and Colin Gazely from Ourobouros.

I’ve not had the chance to meet these last three guys before, but I’ve been listening to them for long enough that they already seem familiar to me – an odd situation, because (even if they’ve been reading my blog) I’ll likely be an unknown quantity as far as they are concerned. By lunchtime, this is no longer a concern to me; we’re all sitting comfortably in the Sussex in Covent Garden, each with a pint of (hideously expensive) Spitfire ale, yapping away like we’ve all known each other for years. I venture to suggest that if a bunch of whales is called a ‘pod’, then the collective noun for podcasters ought to be a Wail - and this meets with general approval. Mind you, with the amount of cackling going on, an external observer might have chosen a ‘coven’.

I wont bore you with a transcript of our drunken ramblings, though I have to award quote of the day to Mr Clitheroe who, when I told him I had listened to his entire ‘back catalogue’, informed us that he’r rather go through the Codger’s back passage than through his back catalogue…

You can see us at the top of this post and, provided that the Codger managed to hit the record button at some point during the day, you can probably hear us on PC Podcast (Wednesday 23rd, I would imagine).

A little review of the podcasts themselves won’t go amiss here…

Dark Compass – despite Rowley’s site getting a vast number of hits from people searching for ‘Golden Compass’ and ‘Dark Materials’, his compass is more like Captain Jack Sparrow’s – it's useless if you want to find North, but it will point you at your heart’s desire (no, its not Pirate Radio). Try it, you’ll like it. Rowley’s been at this the longest of this wail, and he’s soon coming up for show number three hundred.

PC Podcast – an eclectic mix of music presented by a sixteen year-old music freak trapped in the body of a forty-something year old beermonster. Living proof of the restorative effects of Adnams Broadside (or was it vodka and creosote?), Pete’s been delighting his listener(!) with some great tunes, twice a week, for two years now. He’s dragged me kicking and screaming into to French-Canadian Punk gigs and calmed me down again with Cornish bagpipe dub reggae amongst other things, and was once silly enough to let me hijack his podcast (though he didnt actually tell me until afterwards - trust me, it was complicated, and I was drunk). I’m not sure if his listening figures have recovered yet…

Suffolk ‘n Cool (cultural note for American English speakers: say it fast, and remember that ‘Suffolk’ might be written phonetically as ‘Suffuk’) – a similar mix to PC Podcast, musically, with the occasional ‘curve ball’ as a result of Peter’s Puckish Podcasting Personality (sorry, can’t resist a bit of gratuitous alliteration). Peter C has been ‘at it’ almost exactly the same length of time as Pete C (oh bugger it - see why it’s the Codger and the Kid now?) the two having presented their first episodes within a day of each other. Now, heaven forbid that I should pshychoanalyse, but I wonder if the Kid’s compensating for Codger having gone live a day before him when he trumpets all those Suffolk ‘n Cool first plays? Peter’s autobiographical notes on his website tell us how he preogressed from ‘rodie’ to ‘knob twiddler’. Fittingly, he’s about to knock out his 100th emission. In a manner of speaking.

Colin’s Ouroborous Podcast is named after a legendary Greek serpent (no, NOT Phillip) which swallows its own tail – a symbol for infinity. Colin says (quite rightly) that there’s an infinite amount of good music ‘out there’ and has made it his mission to bring you some of it. His podcast is the youngest of the four, but it’s no less likely to deliver you some sounds that you’ll love – his own enthusiasm for that music certainly shows through.

You know, there are days when I’m quite happy having nothing to grumble about!

Just not that many ;-)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hopping Mad

In the Grumbler houshold, the inevitable result of Christmas, coupled with the January sales, is a mountain of refuse which may be recyclable (Cardboard, boxes, wrapping paper) or not (plastic bags and expanded poly-bloody-styrene).

All of this stuff needs to be carted to the local refuse centre - even if the bin-men could be bribed to take it away, you don't want to leave a pile of boxes outside your front door which advertise what presents you got. Imagine the neighbours trying to work out what exactly you're going to do with 25 gallons of custard in catering packs and a wetsuit?

So, I piled all the rubbish into the back of the car on not one, two or even three occasions. No less than four times was I forced to patronise the 'dump'. Our own facility has a height restriction set at about 3 feet six inches to prevent anyone coming in with a van because that would be 'trade refuse' and a bunch of yellow jacketed, power-crazed 'assistants' who are there to ensure that everything is put in the appropriate recycling area.

So, despite the minor feeling of triumph I'll have experienced after having Limboed in, avoided the rabid free-range council-sponsored eco-mentalists and manoeuvred myself to the 'devil-may-care, bung it all over this wall, I love landfill' section of the facility, at some point on one of these trips I have managed to scoop up and throw away with the rest of the crap one of my perfectly good, nicely broken-in hiking boots - kept in the back of the car for dog walking expeditions.

As I remember it, this was a £150 pair of boots, meaning that trip has cost me £75, dammit. Obviously, this is some kind of karmic retribution to my gleefully hubristic gloating over outsmarting 'Stig of the Dump' and his mates.

Oh well, there's nothing I can do other than make the best of the situation. Later this year I intend to take the family on a hopping holiday in the lake district. If anyone has any recommendations, lemme know?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy new year

Tired of all those other snacks? Just cant get enough? They're everywhere, but they still don't satisfy?

Now available from the United States and all-new for 2008, its the 'Credit Crunch' bar!
A gorgeous melt-in-the mouth filling, so light you'll wonder if there's really any substance at all, shot through with bitter-sweet chunks of northern rock to give it that authentic adrenalin-packed crunch! A great collection of flavours all consolidated into one easy-to-swallow snack - the whole bar covered in chocolate thicker than a brace of sub-prime mortgage applicants.
Its the taste that folks have been queueing hours for, they literally cant get enough! Try it yourself, and see what the hype is all about.
* Remember, your future is at risk if you bite off more than you can chew.