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IT BOGGLES the mind to think that computers which literally filled rooms a few decades ago couldn’t come close to the computers that easily fit in the palm of our hand today. That phone in your pocket can do much more than the giant whirring behemoths brought in on a wench in 1973… It’s an amazing advancement when you stop and think about it.
Old science fiction movies and television shows which attempted to depict the computers of tomorrow never predicted anything coming close the compactness of an iPad. They definitely overshot the artificial intelligence aspect [HAL from 2001:A Space Odyssey (1968), Colossus from Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), Proteus from The Demon Seed (1977), etc.] but seemingly overlooked the possibility that these things might get small. In other words, we knew they’d get smarter, but we always assumed they’d stay big.
DOLLS die in Xochimilco, Mexico.
They’re in the trees and on the ground, bunched together on wooden fence posts and hanging from clotheslines like laundry left to dry. Their dead eyes stare at you from half empty sockets, their dirty hair hangs like cobwebs. Their skin is scabbed and peeling away, and their plump limbs are scattered everywhere—arms and legs strewn about haphazardly, decapitated heads impaled on stakes.
This is not a nightmare. It’s La Isla de las Muñecas, a real place located in a southern borough of Mexico City, on a man-made island, which for decades has been home to hundreds of dilapidated dolls.
The island was once the property of Don Julián Santana, a local farmer. Legend has it that in 1950, he saw a little girl drown in the canal and her spirit began haunting the place.
THE late Keith Moon was once asked whether he thought he was the greatest drummer in the world, he replied: “I’m the greatest Keith Moon-style drummer in the world”, and no one can argue with that. However Moon is just as famous, even today, for packing in far more than his fair share of convivial nights during his short eventful life. He died in September 1978 just two weeks after his 32nd birthday when he fell unconscious, never to wake up, in the Mayfair flat of his close-friend Harry Nilsson. Coincidentally, it was the very same bed where Mama Cass Elliot had died four years earlier.
Mic Wright’s Remotely Festively Furious: Doctor Who Raised By Moffat, Caitlin Moran Raised By Wolves
WRITING a convincing family unit for television is a tricky one. There are only a few series that manage it over a significant time period. Sgt Wilson, Private Pike and his mother in Dad’s Army are perfectly dysfunctional, the Gallagher family in Shameless was brilliant for at least three series and the Trotters are the gold-standard for sitcom families. Go back further and you get the delicious cocktail of hate and love embodied by the Steptoes and the constructed screwed-up family of the Hancock’s Half Hour.
IN Huddersfield in 1977, the Sex Pistols held a Christmas party for the children of striking firefighters.
A documentary about this party and the extraordinary times in which it occurred, when the band were hounded from pillar to post and banned in most towns, will be shown on BBC 4 at 10pm on Boxing Day (and subsequently on the iPlayer).
By rock’n’roll standards the party was tame, but Johnny Rotten’s antics – including diving face first into the cake – deserve a modest place in the Celebrity Party Tricks Hall of Fame. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
The Tao of David Coleman
He was born at Alderley Edge, the place now famous as the luxury location of choice for the gated homes of multi-millionaire footballers. But Coleman is a man synonymous with the blurred black-and-white ‘soccer’ of a more simple, if not innocent era.
NIGELLA Lawson v her now former personal assistants Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo was pretty entertaining for anyone not directly involved in the matter. Nigella did enjoy being pulled apart in court with no right of reply; and the sisters look too stressed to morph their new-found fame into a stint in the celebrity jungle.
IT’S inarguable that Christmas has snowballed into a giant hulking materialistic bezerker over the past few decades. However, it wasn’t all poinsettias and candy canes back in the day either. I’d like to highlight just a few things that are perhaps better nowadays…
1. No More Christmas Tree Flocking
If you have a vacuum cleaner attachment specifically for purposes of flocking, there’s a very good chance you’ve taken holiday tackiness to new heights.
ON October 12 2013, the Daily Express told us to expect the “WORST WINTER FOR DECADES“:
Worst winter for decades: Record-breaking snow predicted for November
CHASE High School in Westcliff, Essex, is offering students ‘man days’. An Ofsted inspection found achievement among male students was “inadequate”. Victoria Overy, head teacher, says this is down to male students lacking a “positive male role model at home”. This lack of manliness has created a “barrier” to the boys’ learning. So. There are to be “man days”. These will teach the feckless lads how to be manly. They will taught things like – get this – “asking girls out and fine dining etiquette“. It’s the kind of useful stuff that will help them get cracking scores in their GCSEs and impress the female teachers.
FREEDOM of Speech is under attack on your student campuses. The London School of Economics (LSE) banned Chris Moos and Abhishek Phandis, of the student Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (LSEASH), from wearing Jesus and Mo cartooons at the SU Freshers’ Fair on 3 October.
It’s not the Islamofascists and funny, dangerous foreigners eroding our free speech; it’s us.
But it’s all about equality, isn’t it? Only, if everyone gets to be equal, who gets to be free?
The University of Birmingham’s code of practice on freedom of speech on campus is long. A nine-page list of codes for being free and saying what you want in public. Because free speech needs a lot of explaining when it’s not free.
The University of Bolton actually wants students to debate what can be talked about before any event:
Anyone involved in organising a meeting or other activity, or processing a room booking should consider whether there is a possibility that the speaker may not be able to enter or leave the building safely and/or have the freedom within the law to deliver their speech; or that a breach of the civil or criminal law may be committed. The following is an indicative list of circumstances which might give rise to a reasonable apprehension that disruption or disorder may occur.
You know, the kind of things students might want to talk about are only allowed to be talked about with official approval lest the sensitive be upset. This is great:
(a) where the subject-matter of the meeting or activity includes in whole or in part Animal experimentation Immigration and nationality policy The supposed superiority or otherwise of racial/ethnic/religious groupings Blood sports Genocide A current or recent war (or revolution) Sexual abuse of children and paedophilia Abortion Drugs policy Terrorism Other local or national controversial matters
(b) when the guest or visiting speaker includes Any current Member of the House of Commons or Lords A present or former representative of any political party which has put forward candidates at a British or Irish Parliament election in the last 20 years Any member of the British or an overseas Royal family Any diplomat or the representative of a foreign power Any person who has previously been prevented from delivering a speech or whose presence has threatened a breach of the peace at the University or any other Higher Education Institution
(c) where the subject matter might be considered to be of a blasphemous (3) nature (not just in respect of Christianity), obscene or defamatory. This list is provided for guidance and is not intended to be exhaustive. If there is any doubt whether the Code applies, the guidance of the University Secretary and Clerk to the Governors should be sought.
Bolton then explains: “‘Blasphemy’ is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘irreverent talk about God or sacred things’.”
And get this caveat to free speech from Exeter University:
The University expects students, staff, governors, the Students’ Guild and visitors to ensure freedom of speech within the law is assured. Whilst there is no legal prohibition on offending others, the University nevertheless believes that discussion that is open and honest can take place only if offensive or provocative action and language is avoided.
Talk about anything you like. But you must not offend anyone.
The LSE Code of Free Speech includes the gem: “The Conference and Events Office will normally screen bookings from within and outside of the School.”
Students, Give up now. Ideas are set in stone. Forget that speech is how we communicate ideas – both good and bad; how we shape lives; and just stick to the talking about the things the officials approve of. What ideas can be discussed has been decided upon. Free speech means freedom not only for the thoughts you approve of but those you despise. Don’t ban it. It just makes you look weak.
Last year, we noted that the LSEASH wanted to feature a picture of Muslim Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ “sitting in a pub having a pint” on its group Facebook page. The LSE Student Union was upset enough to call an “emergency meeting”.
WHAT makes a memorable, quotable quote, the kind of thing you slap in an essay at school to earn a tick, or include in an article to illustrate a point, your theories backed up by a person of note’s wit and wisdom? Like you, we have no idea. But Phil Lucas has nailed it. It could be anything. He’s taken Facebook status updates and attributed them to famous faces. No longer trite, the words are injected with meaning and depth. Well, maybe:
Martin Luther King
Madame Arcati’s Six Best Books of the Year 2013
Who isn’t trying to flog a book these days? Independent publishing is fracking vast quantities of creative gas long ignored under our nose. Kindles everywhere are growing slow on free and cheap literary downloads, perhaps one day to be read when the kids or pets have flown and the only alternative to a heart-warming phone chat with one of Esther Rantzen’s Silver Line Friends is that book you meant to read 20 years ago.Excellent books are there to be found, and here’s Madame Arcati’s brief guide to the six best this festive season (all titles hyper-linked to Amazon):
Madame Arcati’s Most Excellent Book of the Year
A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof by Roger Clarke
Divine, darling. Or, as Craig Revel Horwood might say if not too busy eyeing up male dancer buttock curvature, ‘fab-u-larse!’ Published last year, the paperback released a few weeks ago, this is by far the most fascinating survey of paranormal sightings and encounters I have ever read.
Ingenuity starts at concept stage. Clarke sets out not to debate whether ghosts exist. He is much more interested in the anthropology of spectral experiences and research – or put another way, in relating true-life ghost tales, the ‘scientific’ attempts to understand them and in classifying the different types of spook: elementals, poltergeists, etc.
This is clever and fortuitous because Clarke knows he’d lose most of his mainstream critical audience if he entertained the notion, even for a moment, that ghosts exist as sentient post-mortem entities. One feature of secularism and atheism is the absolute conviction that life starts and ends with synaptic crackle ‘n’ pop. But there’s no question people have ghostly liaisons. I have seen a ghost. You probably have. Pliny wrote of a haunted house in 100 AD. The materialist will flesh out any unscientific explanation-away provided no concession is made to afterlife drivel. The winner is not rationalism but a replacement irrationalism.
Clarke knows all this as a veteran Poirot of psychical inquiry. So instead he sits us down by a log fire, creeps us out with weird tales, documents the countless vain attempts to solve the mystery of hauntings and treats the topic (of ghosts) as an aspect of immemorial human experience.
Clarke writes tremendously well – an essential component of any effects-driven tale both to satisfy the Bunsen burner know-all and trembly Susan Hill addict. The slightest hint of irony here and there gives sceptics their calorific fill while oo-ee-oo narrative pleases the rest of us. He is unafraid of the plodding nature of prose, the focus on patient set-ups – Gore Vidal called this vital writerly process ‘grazing’. The cow’s temperament is vital to story-telling.
I also commend Clarke’s end notes which combine scholarly learning with a sly sense of humour. At the very least you end up sceptically well-informed and enthralled.
Madame Arcati’s Most Promising Foreplay Read of 2014
The View from the Tower by Charles Lambert
One of the joys of reading is the foreplay. Before immersion I like to examine covers, read blurbs, savour hints in reviews or previews, gaze at the author pic (if any), perhaps tantalise myself with a glimpse of the first and last pages (I am intolerant of sequence and secrets – no author will control moi). Charles Lambert is new to me, I have not read his fiction yet; but we are engaged in foreplay (one-sidedly I hasten to add). I am sampling his work at present. I intend to go all the way with his novelThe View from the Tower, published on 2 January 2014.
This is the second in a Rome-set trilogy, so really I ought to consummate with the first in the series,Any Human Face (published in 2011). ‘A dark and fast-paced literary thriller about love, sex, art and death,’ is the terse description. I have the book in front of me. On the cover, a slim man in a black suit gazes warily up an ancient alleyway. An old-style pale blue motor scooter before him startles the period monochrome. Is the man hunting or being hunted? I don’t know.
I may read Any Human Face first. It has Malaysian nuns killing time at a second-hand bookstall – a sufficiently kinky observation to grab my attention. I suspect Lambert notices much that is surprising. I can smell his curiosity and his taste for the perverse.The View from the Tower is ‘a psychological thriller about love and betrayal, and the damage done when ideals and human lives come into conflict.’ But I suspect it’s rich in peculiar detail, too. That’s what I want. Isn’t foreplay fun?
Madame Arcati’s Best Poppet Book of the Year 2013
Sleeping With Dogs: A Peripheral Autobiography by Brian Sewell
I just know I would hate art critic Brian Sewell in person. That face, fixed in a state of appalled shock. That voice, strangled to last-breath whine by an odd form of hostile genteelness – the sharp chip in the Whittard of Chelsea teacup rim. In death his visage will slowly, ineluctably draw into one final pull of grotesque disapproval, perhaps impossible in life, now achievable by the new physics of rot. Not even Tracey Emin’s art could trigger such a look.
Yet even a glorious c**t has his good side. Should you have a tail, a long tongue and a readiness to shit in public – Brian’s all yours. Preferably, you will not bore him with actual speech but simply advertise your wants with a growl and a howl. Brian has loved 17 doggies and there’s little they can do to sour his canine fetish. One bark and I’m already thinking of RSPCA extermination. But Brian loves the constant music of dog – and the relentless me-ism, the diva presumptions, the bad breath and foul turds. Why, he has four dogs at a time in his bed.
Brian is probably correct in thinking that dogs share with us the same range of emotions, hence the peculiar show that is Crufts. What perhaps he adores about them is their immediacy and lack of guile, that unmediated need for a cuddle and a scoff and walkies that requires nothing more from us than basic delivery followed by unconditional gratitude (the dog’s).
How can one fail to be ensorcelled by evidence of the total collapse of Brian’s default snobbery and disdain in the presence of his best friends? Meanwhile, dog walkers should continue to place street dog turd in plastic bags. Such sights please me no end.
Madame Arcati’s Most Wondair Book of the Year 2013
The Mitford Girls’ Guide to Life by Lyndsy Spence
I reviewed this delightful book back in August (clickhere) and am not in the least surprised at its success. It’s quirky, quintessentially English (which is odd because Lyndsy is Irish – I think), a guide and etiquette book of sorts but also a wallow in 20th Century interwar eccentricity. Daffy is another word that comes to mind.
Lyndsy has gutted the lives of the Mitford girls and turned them into parables, bullet point social codes and how-to guidance to live this life successfully. From Unity’s fixation on and pursuit of Hitler we learn: ‘Don’t rush head first into an encounter with your idol as this will label you as another fan. Edge your way in slowly and discreetly.’ This example does raise a question over the precise location of Lyndsy’s tongue at times (in cheek, perhaps?) but there is sufficient quantity of information on the Mitford lives to reassure on overall deadpan purpose. Certainly I learnt a great deal more about the Mitties.
Lyndsy Spence is an author to watch. She is very young – and driven by a passion for old school glamour and style. Not only has she founded The Mitford Society with a large following but she has found time to release the first of the The Mitford Societyannuals which comprises many features and essays on the aristocratic clan. One piece is authored by me – I take you to the Arcati Horoscope Revue Bar where we learn more about the astrology of the gels as stripper potential is appraised. It’s all done in the best possible taste.
Madame Arcati’s Most Peculiar Novel Award 2013Death Flies, Missing Girls and Brigitte Bardot by Kenneth George King
Quite the oddest book I ever did read is this outré and outrageous nugget which bears the name Kenneth George King. Call me a spoilsport but one may as well know that the author is Eurovision’s very own bastard son and general vile perv, Jonathan King – the man who gave us Everyone’s Gone To The Moon. This fact alone will cause certain flowers to wilt. But hardier annuals and the odd cactus or two will be rewarded in their staying power. By the end of this book you will be dreaming about flies, naked boys and sex stars and other causes of ruin. JK has well and truly gone over to the surreal side – and the result is something most interesting.
Now that we live in a world of Twitter and gnomic ejaculation, King has produced what seems like a cut-up novel thrown together kaleidoscopically for attention deficit consumption. This is not quite Burroughs cut-up style but the many autobiographical bits strewn through the narrative have a snip-snip-paste quality. We learn quite a lot about prisons, Arab straight boys who like homosex, Barbara Windsor, a bit about Bardot of course and her right-wing husband, and, oh, glam hot places where JK goes for his hols. And about police procedure.
But what’s it all abaht? Well, yes. Good question. There is indeed a car accident in Morocco. And girls go missing in England, as the blurb promises. A killer lurks and plots and an old ‘superb’ detective sniffs. Flies offer clues of sorts. Different voices tell us what they see and do, not all of their perspectives entirely relevant; but always fascinating. That’s what it’s all abaht.
We are told on the cover that the novel has been submitted for the Man Booker Prize 2014. If an astrology novel can win, so can this.
Madame Arcati’s Novella of the Year 2013You’re Never Too Old by Fiona Pitt-Kethley
The world could do with a few more Fiona Pitt-Kethleys. Here’s a woman who could give Boudicca a run for her money. I love her poetry. I adore the stories about her. Non-payers will soon discover what I mean. You cross Fiona at your peril. She lives in Spain with her chess champion husband and family and cats. She cooks.
Here’s the thing about her very short novel, available only on Kindle at 77p. It’s not about James Bond – it can’t be because the Ian Fleming estate wouldn’t permit it. No siree. No, let’s get this straight. It’s not about Bond, James Bond. It’s about James Round – a retired spy. The sort of ‘feisty oldie’ Fiona worships. Perhaps Round sees himself as a latter-day Bond. We all have our dreams. In another universe I’m a pop star. Friends with Michael.
Anyway, Round is ancient. He’s stuck in some cold hovel in Scotland. He longs to get back to his old life of action, double agenting and leg-overing nubile pin-ups. A chance meeting re-opens up his life and before you know it he’s on a spying mission to a spa in Israel with senile drunken secretary Penny. Oh the fun we have. Round ain’t passed it. It’s treble dry Martinis all round.
I love Pitt-Kethley’s droll, throw-away humour, the teasing satire and the hopeful moral for the silver surfers. Saga magazine should serialise this tale. You’ll smile and you’ll laugh.
THE current top bid for a George Zimmerman original painting is US $97,700.00. That’s the same Zimmerman who shot dead Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager. And walked free from court. A jury acquitted him of second-degree murder and of manslaughter charges.
Now he’s famous.
TODAY, Keith Richards is 70 years old! We have to admire him, seeing as he’s about 1% blood and the rest is made up of cigarettes, drugs and urinal cakes.
The NME placed Keef on top of their list of rock stars most likely to die in 1973 and yet, somehow, he’s proven them all wrong by still being alive. We assume.
Of course, with such celebrations, most people would compile a list of Keef’s most scandalous moments, or maybe he’s greatest songs. They may even nerdgasm over his Top 10 Riffs.
However, those people are boring.
We’re going to look at ten interesting things that Keith Richards is older than. Yes, he may have looked like he was going to die on numerous occasions, but here he is, older than…
1. The atomic bomb, first detonated in 1945.
CHRISTMAS is pretty much here and you’ll no doubt be going out and getting drunk and dancing and all that fun stuff. However, hate to break it to you, but you’re a nightmare.
You need teaching how to interact with the world when you’re partying through the Yule. So, with that, here’s some helpful tips that will ensure you’re not absolutely loathed by all of humankind through the festive party season.
Chances are, you’ve been complaining about Christmas music on Facebook and Twitter solidly since mid-November. Suddenly, drunk, you get the urge to listen to a classic Christmas pop hit in a pub or bar. There might be a DJ on. You’re hammered at it is only 8pm so the DJs barely got their headphones on. Don’t bellow ‘PLAY SLADE!’ at them because, you terrific berk, they’ll be keeping that in the box ’til around midnight, when everyone is nicely drunk and game for something daft. It is a peak-time song. You peaked too early. Whatever you do, don’t get your iPhone out and offer to play it from that, especially if the only soundtrack is the pub jukebox. This makes you a dreadful arse doing no-one a favour.
WE’VE all heard the arguments why vinyl or digital music is best – no need to beat a dead horse. It is this author’s humble opinion that vinyl wins by a landslide due to analog sound superiority and the customer satisfaction of owning something tangible. But that is neither here nor there. Instead, let’s look at a few minor points that belong in vinyl’s “win column”.
1. The Joy of Looking
Nothing can beat the joy of perusing the shelves of Ye Olde Record Store. Whether you were on a mission, or just hoping for a serendipitous find, it was an enjoyable endeavor all around. Plus, the record store was often a hangout and so there was a social element to the process as well.
Turin-Lyon Train Riots: Nina De Chiffre Charged With Sexual Violence For Kissing Policeman’s Helmet (Photos)
“I WANTED to make fun of them [the police], and I would say that we were successful,” said Nina De Chiffre, a 20-year-old protestor from Milan. She was demonstrating in Turin against a high-speed train link between Turin and Lyon. During the protests, De Chiffre kissed the helmet of riot officer Salvatore Piccione.
IT’S Christmas! Time for a rip-off…
The historic album charts are full of magnificent Christmas Number Ones, including runs by the Beatles from 1963 to 1965 and 1967 to 1969. Ironically, however, the one year they didn’t manage the feat was 1966 – when their record label released a greatest hits collection specifically for the Christmas market.
The album was something of a rip-off, in that it consisted of pre-released hits, plus one song that had not been yet released in the UK. Thus fans wishing to hear the boys’ cover version of Larry Williams’s Bad Boy were forced to shell out for a full-price album.
ON March 4, 1966, John Lennon, 25, was talking to Maureen Cleave, reporting for the London Evening Standard. The article was entitled How Does A Beatle Live? John Lennon Lives Like This. It was behind-the-scnes look at John. The article spoke of his status:
When John Lennon’s Rolls-Royce, with its black wheels and its black windows, goes past, people say: ‘It’s the Queen,’ or ‘It’s The Beatles.’ With her they share the security of a stable life at the top. They all tick over in the public esteem-she in Buckingham Palace, they in the Weybridge-Esher area. Only Paul remains in London.
DISCO music started with a fair amount of street cred; it wasn’t until it was marketed to oblivion that it fell out of favor. Like other counterculture movements (i.e. the hippie, psychedelic, punk, and grunge) it found its way to the mainstream whereby it was diluted and force fed to the masses. Disco, once an underground movement, flooded pop culture in the latter half of the 70s to such an extent that a backlash was inevitable.
AFTER a man, stood onstage at Nelson Mandela’s memorial waving his arms around wildly, making up sign language as he went along, leaving deaf South Africans wondering if they were watching someone being attacked by invisible wasps, it got us appreciating what those who do sign-language can do.
They appear on TV, at press conferences and as groups of children during emotional renditions of songs at opening ceremonies. They even have sign language at some festivals now.
And, with absolute and maximum respect for what they do, they can be very amusing sometimes. With that, let us look at the Top 5 signing moments.
No. The massive charlatan at Nelson Mandela’s gig doesn’t count this time round.
Sign Language Meets Donk
Donk took over small towns for a summer and, due to the nature of such a heavy beat, it could actually be perfect for deaf people. However, they shouldn’t be denied the hilarious lyrics of ‘Put A Donk On It’. One signer on TV impressively kept up with the rapid fire lyrics. A lesser human would’ve been doubled up with body cramps one verse in. This is probably the best video on the internet.
THE Times of Israel reports:
A Romanian public broadcaster aired a Christmas carol celebrating the Holocaust.
TVR3 Verde, a television channel for rural communities, presented the carol on December 5 during its maiden transmission.
Sung by the Dor Transilvan ensemble, it featured the lyrics: “The kikes, damn kikes, Holy God would not leave the kike alive, neither in heaven nor on earth, only in the chimney as smoke, this is what the kike is good for, to make kike smoke through the chimney on the street.”
In a statement, TVR3 (Romanian Public Television Channel 3) distanced itself from the broadcast, saying it did not select the carol but only broadcast songs that were chosen and compiled by the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture, which belongs to the eastern county of Cluj.
TVR considers the selection “an uninspired choice and therefore notified the Cluj County Council of this,” the broadcaster’s statement read.