Sunday, December 31, 2006

And So ...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Meed-ja Frenzy ...

Cast your minds back to 1991. Does anyone remember 5-yr old Stuart Lockwood? He was paraded before Iraqi television cameras as a human shield - a guest of Saddam Hussein. Stuart must be about 20 by now. I wonder how long it's going to take the western press to dig him out of his private life and parade him in front of their cameras ... just for a reaction to his former gaolers execution, you understand.

The clock's ticking chaps ...


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Look And Learn ...

I received a certain pressie this year, something that was originally published in 1941 and something very few could do without. At that time aircraft recognition was far more than just a pleasant pastime, it was often a matter of life and death. R.A. Saville-Sneath set out to classify and catalogue all planes of both the friendly and enemy stables. Basically, anything you expected to find over British skies during the Second World War. For a pocket-sized handy guide, with many diagrams, a full glossary and some useful mnemonics, each type of aircraft can be identified quickly and easily.

Schoolboys would have found this fascinating - as do I. With scraped knees and a conker in their pocket, a snot-nose would have spent many happy hours atop a grassy hillside spotting the difference between Albacores and Ansons, Beauforts and Blenheims, Heinkels and Hurricanes, Spitfires and Wellingtons. The Observer Corps in a half-pint.

However, modern recognition hasn't changed. In fact, it has continued in the same vein - cross-sections, plane-sections and silhouettes. The only thing that has changed is the height at which they fly ... you're not likely to spot a modern-day fighter-bomber with the naked eye.

But for those who lived through one of the most glorious episodes in the history of air combat, Saville-Sneath's guide is evocative of those extraordinary days way back when ...

Quick ... the French are headed back into their basements!


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hello, Goodbye ...

In the early 90's, back in the UK, I was working as a tape editor at one of Murdoch's news organisations. All the edit suites were situated along a corridor adjoining the newsroom and, as is the case with 12-hour shift patterns, once you were there you generally stayed within the confines of the suite - a head would pop out at times and take a look up and down the corridor, either looking for the next job or trying to avoid it. With a regular and steady flow, journalists and producers would drop in to get one of the 6 lab rats on duty to cut, re-jig or craft a new piece out of freshly shot or library news footage. It was the fastest I have ever edited - it simply didn't get any faster on tape. In all, it was a fun place to work. Except, that is, for nightshift - 6pm until 6am.

Before Christmas came around, we would have a small wager as to which celebrity or world leader would take his or her leave and pass away. The list was, predictably, made up of some old favourites; The Queen Mother and The Pope. As it happens, Her Maj hung on until March 2002 and Karol Wojtjla (the man in the hat) until April 2005. The two favourites stumped the lot of us and, individually, could have made a bit of cash had they been in on the sweep.

As the last days of 2006 countdown their own demise and we prepare for a fresh crop of 365 on 'planet unpredictable', a number of people have bid their final farewells to terra-firma - and in a way that could have earned someone more money than God, had there been a bookmaker around to take the bet.

On Christmas Eve, English comic Charlie Drake decided that enough was enough at the age of 81 and slipped away. The poor old chap had been ill for some time and the stroke he suffered in 1995 forced him into retirement. On Christmas Day, James Brown wound up his sex machine, put it in Papa's brand new bag and checked out once and for all. The 73-yr old's heart just couldn't take it any more. Then, on Boxing Day, former US President Gerald Ford took his final salute at the grand old age of 93. Ford was the only man to serve as both Vice President and President without being elected to office. Trivia buffs might also like to know that Ford died on the 34th anniversary of the death of another US President, Harry S Truman.

As I look back at 2006, what can I say about it?

Well, in no particular order; I had a blast on the French Helicopter Championships, turned 45 years old, forged new working relationships, was locked up by the cops for 24hrs, photographed 2 fantastic weddings, got into panoramic photography, bought an Apple Mac (superb machine) and (most importantly) am still with my beloved, her daughter and I are getting along much better and the 3 of us have started negotiations along the lines of "living together".

If I start thinking positive about the New Year then all should be well ...


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

While No-One's Looking ...

In the days running up to Christmas, here are a few off-the wall stories have brightened up my day ... and a sad one;

Let's start with the news that Joseph Barbera, one half of the Hannah-Barbera team who brought us cartoon classics as The Flintstones, Yogi Bear and Scooby-Doo died yesterday, aged 95. Most news organisations are running with this one - which only goes to show how popular culture still holds dear childhood memories.

Then there's the frankly odd story of a Devon man who hoped to get into the record books by eating the most Brussel sprouts in a minute. Richard Townsend, 24, of Exeter in the UK, fell seven short of the target of 43 which was set back in December 2003. Mr Townsend, who had eaten a plate of sprouts every day for the last six months, said he just "lost it". Open a window, for heaven's sake ...

A word about next year's French Presidential Elections ... veteran rock-and-roller Johnny Hallyday and staunch high-profile supporter of little Nicky Sarkosy has decided that French taxes are too high and is upping-sticks and running off to Switzerland. To avoid French taxes, Hallyday, who has sold around 100 million albums during his 40-year career, must spend six months and a day each year in Switzerland. Earlier this year, Hallyday made a bid to aquire Belgian nationality - they refused him. Meanwhile, back in the smoke, Francois Hollande, leader of the rival Socialists and husband of political sex-kitten Segolene Royal, joked that it was "a really nice way to support his chosen candidate". Mr Hollande went onto say "If he really thought Nicolas Sarkozy could win, and was so convinced by his policies, he only had to wait four months." He's got a point. Ta ta Johnners ...

However, the man who first started the commercial side to Bungy Jumping, AJ Hackett, did get into the record books. He leapt off the Macau Tower in, err, Macau. He fell 200 meters in 8 seconds. He should have called Richard Townsend - he could have rocketed down ...

In the good 'ole US of States, a portly gent paid a visit to Disney World. James Worley, 60, just hapens to have white hair and a fluffy white beard. Soon children were stopping him and asking if he was Santa Claus. Not wanting to disappoint, Mr Worley played along for the kiddies with a few "ho-ho-hos". Disney officials soon descended and told him telling him to "stop the impersonation or get out of the park". They said they wanted to preserve the magic of Santa.

Now, rug-rats, we wouldn't want that Disney Magic to ruin Christmas for you, would we? ... well not unless they had total control.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lost Weekend ...

Oh crap.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

I'm Sorry, We Haven't A Willie Rushton Anymore ...

Before we bully-off, I should warn you that today's entry is about another of my comedy favourites who has since died. So, if this is not your thing and were expecting a side-swipe at the Americans or a dig at the French, then you'd best click Google on your browser and go and look up something like 'the world's funniest penis jokes'. Only those who remember 'That Was The Week That Was', 'Private Eye' or 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue' will find this of any interest.

So, off you go ...

Willie Rushton was born in Chelsea, London, in 1937 and his parents sent him off to Shrewsbury School (though not immediately, you understand). Whilst growing into a young man, Rushton met Christopher Booker, Paul Foot and Richard Ingrams. The schoolboy 4-some began writing and editing the school magazine. After the best days of their lives, they went off to do their National Service and in the mid-1950's, the famous 4 teamed up again in London to start the weekly satirical rag, 'Private Eye', which is still going strong. Initally, Willie was in charge of the magazine's layout.

He enjoyed the fringe comedy shows and was often found on the circuit doing impressions of the Prime Minister of the time, Harold Macmillan. It was at one of these fringe shows that Ned Sherrin watched Rushton go through his routine and immediately snapped him up for the BBC show 'That Was The Week That Was'. It was the beginning of a relationship with the BBC that was to last for more than 30 years.

Willie was a cartoonist, a writer, lyricist and top-class satirist with an unmistakable voice used for trotting out the driest humour. During his time at 'Private Eye', he fought the the Kinross and West Perthshire by-election. Under the banner of "Death To The Tories", he stood as an independent candidate. On the eve of poll he decided to retire from the election to endorse the Liberal candidate but it was too late to take his name from the ballot paper - Rushton received 45 votes.

Over the years, Willie illustrated many books and, after the 'Spycatcher' controversy, wrote a piss-take Spy Thatcher: An Insult to British Intelligence. He became a voice-over artist on claymation shorts, read children's stories on television and, more than anything, spent 22 years on the BBC panel game 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue' (ISIHAC).

Willie was working right up to his death, on December 11th 1996, recording an episode of ISIHAC two days before he was admitted to hospital. He had gone in for a heart operation and subsequently died from complications. ISIHAC, which is also still running, have never replaced Willie with a full-time panelist. Opting instead to partner Tim Brooke-Taylor with a different guest for each edition. The most famous game played on ISIHAC is 'Mornington Crescent' - an underground tube station in London. Such was the game's popularity that after his death, Willie was honoured by a blue plaque on the station's wall.

BBC Radio 7 are currently playing a week's worth of 'Willie Rushton ISIHACs' in tribute. Go and listen ... unless, of course, you've found that long-lost penis joke ...?


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Flickr Of The Wrist ...

Hello fellow villagers.

It's not often that I find people with the same warped, and frankly odd, sense of humour that I have. After trawling through a number of daily news pages, I found myself linked to a particular site. It started with a report about people in the UK who have been caught not paying for train fares or those drop litter and divorced or separated fathers who do not keep up their child payments. Individuals names and part of their addresses are being published on the net (and on public posters) so that others may heap shame on them.

One article had used an image from the site I am about to direct you to and, as you will soon find out, should you continue through the image site you will find that the owners have a particular sense of humour. This I enjoyed. They may not be the best photographers in the world but they do possess a keen eye and a knack of finding things that some would simply not notice. I'd like to drop them a line to congratulate them but I cannot be arsed to sign up for a free account and suffer a constant flow of ad-filled spam mail from the Flickr site administrators. Whatever happened to 'to leave a message, click here'. Now it's 'to leave a message, click here and we'll send you hourly unwanted crap telling you you cannot live without our product and the only way you will ever be able to get away from us is by changing your email address and moving to Alpha Centauri'.

But that's another story.

Cut and paste this link into your browser:

and flick through the photos ...


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Behind Bars ...

Fancy a change this Christmas? With the 'pigging out' season just ahead, I thought I'd bring you news of something just for you. None of this bloody sharing crap. No, this is something just for the adults and for them alone - no kids involved. Besides, they wouldn't appreciate it. On a recent trip to the supermarket, my beloved discovered a bar of chocolate, the likes I've not seen on the shelves before. I'm not saying that it's going to turn the chokkie world on it's head, but it tastes delicious and is very more-ish.

From the Callier factory in Vevey, Switzerland, comes FRIGOR - in both milk and plain varieties. As the bar we munched on over the weekend was so good, I bought another one on my way into work yesterday. I am pleased to say that my friend and colleague, TS, also put his stamp of approval on it (mind you, he's a bit of a cullinary pushover at the best of times).

I am sorry that all I have to talk about is a bar of chocolate, but the rest of the world is far too miserable right now. Pinochet is dead, the report on the death of Lady Diana comes out on Thursday (and we all know that the driver was pissed), Segolene Royal cannot speak in public (if you heard her 'speech' yesterday, you'd agree), Baghdad is still a mess, the Lebanon is on the brink of civil war and the Palestinian child-killers have gone nuts.

Talking of which (and taking a leaf out of an earlier entry in this blog), *WARNING* - Frigor chocolate contains nuts.

There, you've been told.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Get 'Em Off ... Including The Tax ...

The French have a knack of finding reasons to tax you - I'm talking about financially. Wasn't it Chirac himself, who insulted the great Northern European nation over their food? The French have a tax for everything, you name it. Not only a high rate of TVA (VAT) but a wide range of civil and social charges, levied on the individual and companies alike. However, those happy Norwegians have recently changed the way people look at naked women - especially those who peel off their outer garments for money. Yes, I'm talking about stripping.

Earlier this week, a Norwegian appeals court ruled that striptease is an art form and, therefore, is exempt from value-added tax (VAT). The overbearing tax authorities had demanded that the owners of the Diamond Go Go Bar in Oslo had failed to charge and subsequently declare 25% VAT on entry fees. The tax authority then took the bar to court over the issue but lawyers for the bar argued that striptease artistes were stage performers, just the same as sword-swallowers and comedians and, thus, deserved the same status. The Diamond Go Go Bar, who are to be found on the 2nd floor of Tollbugt 8 B, Oslo, were delighted at the outcome - especially when the court ordered the state to cough-up for the bar's court costs.

For all those weekend fun seekers, entry to the bar will put you back a mere €12 but a private dance will lessen your wallet by €123. In total, the tax authorities loose €3 per person. Any reason to deny a government their cash should be celebrated - and now with value-added Nordic beaver.

One return ticket to Gardermoen International please Miss ...


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ridi-Yule ... Part Deux ...

Yes, it's finally happened! As my tail-out of the previous entry said (this is a direct quote which you can check for yourselves): "next, they'll be saying we can't put up festive decorations because it'll upset the non-Christians."

Before you could spell the word 'bauble', Christmas decorations have been banned by almost three out of four UK employers. Why? Well, for fear of offending staff from other faiths.

So, as a white European from the Christian world and, in say India, do you think that the locals would keep Diwali (a national Hindu 5-day holiday) under wraps just because they thought it would offend me, would they? Would they f**k! If I went to live in any Arab country and on April 10th, the Prophet’s Birthday, would they tone-down their festivities because of the thought of upsetting someone from another faith? Would they f**k - again.

I agree that this is a right-wing view (but that's free-speech for you) but I have to say that people 'of other faiths' now live in a country which is Christian-based and has the right to celebrate their national holidays. What next then ... no more Easter eggs? The UK puts up public and private decorations once a year - at Christmas. Take a look at any 'other faiths' national holiday and you'll see regular colourful decorations and huge public celebrations.

Fine, if there's discontent in the UK among the immigrants and those of 'other faiths', then put a cap on Diwali being celebrated in Southall - if the Brits have to limit their national holiday in their home country, then you lot can go and have a knees-up back where yours came from.

There was I thinking that the UK was a model nation for multi-faith tolerance, but a joke is a joke.

Agree or disagree? Suit yourselves.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ridi-Yule ...

A Christmas beer brewed by an Oxfordshire brewery has been banned in parts of the good 'ole USA because, on the label, is a picture of Father Christmas. Official loonies in New York State told the English brewers, Ridgeway, that the image on bottles of 'Santa's Butt' could encourage under-age drinking. Although the ban was challenged by the beer's American importer and lifted (all good chaps, we understand), it has now been imposed in the state of Maine.

Ridgeway say that the decision is "ridiculous". Ridgeway continued; "They said the label is attractive to children but you cannot go into a shop there that sells alcohol until you are 21." This is now the third time that Ridgeway has fallen foul of state authorities in the good 'ole USA. Last Christmas two of its beers - Seriously Bad Elf and Warm Welcome were banned in Connecticut on the same grounds.

So it has nothing to do with the fact that a large majority of American beer-guzzling males look like the pictured Santa?

Most boxes of Christmas Tree lights have some form of Santa-realted imagery upon them ... shouldn't they too be banned in case they attract underaged electricians?

This is all getting out of control ... next, they'll be saying we can't put up festive decorations because it'll upset the non-Christians. But how out-of-character would that be?

Give Us A Bloody Break ...

Do you remember the good old days days when we weren't being cosseted by those in the public service industry or the government? The days when we just got on with things? As daft as it may sound, let me run this by you:

A long long time ago, when television really WAS television, there was a famous comedy series, "Only Fools And Horses". In it's heyday it drew millions of viewers and went straight into the 'classic' drawer of unforgettable television. Today, it's showing it's age somewhat but the re-runs are still a joy to watch on BBC Prime. Which is where I draw the comparison. Back in those fun-filled 80's, "Only Fools" was enjoyed by the entire family - from kids to grandparents. Everyone could relate to it. When Del Boy and his brother Rodney were selling all sorts of crap out of a suitcase, the language used on the box was regulated and word 'bloody' was in everyday use. Bloody-this, bloody-that ... and no-one raised an eyebrow.

Now along comes the age of 'being overly PC'. On BBC Prime the other night, the continuity announcer began with "the following programme may contain language that some viewers may find offensive". The announcement was then followed by the theme tune to ... "Only Fools And Horses". But hang on ... what language in that show could possibly upset anyone? Plonker? Wally? Dipstick? Nope, the word "bloody". This is beyond a joke, no? I don't remember any continuity announcer in the 1980's telling us that the word "bloody" might cause nationwide horror as women covered their children's ears and beer-swilling navvies dropped their tankards in shock. Anyhow, later the same evening Prime showed a medical drama entitled "Bodies". It contained a liberal sprinkling of the words f**k and w**k, yet the only 'warning' that was given prior to the programme being shown was "this programme contains close-up medical procedures which may offend some viewers".

What next? "This programme may contain everyday language, including verbs, pronouns and adjectives that some viewers might find offensive".

In the picture-postcard Yorkshire Dale village of Embsay, poor Steve Dobson is trying to organise a free Christmas Party. He applied to the local council to use a municipal car park for the event and received a daunting reply from the council offices. He has been told that the organisers must carry out a risk assessment of their mince pies or their festivities will have to be cancelled. Council loonies have insisted that posters will have to be displayed warning the villagers that the mince pies, made by the Embsay and Eastby Women's Institute, may contain nuts. They have also advised his that the cocoa content of the hot chocolate and it temperature must also be checked. There's also a fireworks display, mulled wine and a Santa's grotto.

"It is bureaucracy gone mad", Mr Dobson said. "Everything we do, from putting tinsel up to providing refreshments has to be assessed. We have to consider the dangers involved, that someone might choke on their mince pie or have a nut allergy. I also understand that Santa may need a Criminal Records Bureau check." Mr Dobson added that he was now considering moving the party to private land elsewhere in the village.

Craven Council's director of community services said "We support these community events and we try to help local communities organise them and make sure they are as safe as possible."

I'm off for a coffee and yes I KNOW it's likely to be bloody hot and got bloody caffine in it! OK?


Friday, December 01, 2006

Fancy A Quickie ...?

So, the photo exhibit is up and today is the start of the Paris Boat Show. It's also World Aids Day. Now, which event am I going to cover?

Oh, and the Christmas lights were switched on the other night ... anyone feeling in the mood?

Nah, didn't think so ...