Sunday, 30 June 2013

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

DYK?

Europe is the only continent without a desert.

His & Hers Brats

Photo: Susanne Enz

Edeka supermarkets are selling men's and women's sausages. The gents' meaty treats are described as "hearty, strongly-spiced," while the ladies' sausages are "lean."
In a marketing move ignored by the German press - but described in a blog post from feminist journalist and political scientist Antje Schrupp - the women's sausages were made half the size of their masculine counterparts, and are significantly more expensive.

To further catch the eye of male and female sausage-lovers respectively, the packaging is also gender- if not particularly sausage- appropriate.

The male sausage features an alluringly-clad woman - in front of a flaming background - while lady shoppers are being drawn to part with their hard-earned cash by a topless gentleman with excellent muscle tone in front of a serene, cloudy background.

In her blog post, Schrupp quoted a long letter of complaint sent to the Edeka Group by journalist Susanne Enz, outraged by what she called "dull sexism."

The sausages' marketing, she said, implied that "men eat a lot and heartily, while women mainly want to be thin… Women are there to please, while men are allowed to enjoy."

"Of course it's not the end of the world, it's just a sausage," her letter continued.

"Of course you can react to it as if it's just a joke, and presumably most sausage-buyers will do that. But your choice of name and accompanying advertising is still the expression and promotion of a - in the best case - thoughtless normative sexism, which gives each gender a 'right' role to play, with a built-in hierarchy."

"And that affects the perceptions of people, even in small, seemingly trivial, playful contexts, and stands stubbornly in the way of gender equality."

"I found the whole thing really quite unbearable, and I showed it to my partner, and she got really angry," Enz told The Local in an email.

"So I said to myself, if these sausage-sexists make my partner so angry, I can't just let it go! I wanted to at least tell them my opinion."

"I think it's important to talk about everyday sexism and its consequences in as level-headed a way as possible if you want to raise sensibilities to it in broader society," she added.

"Otherwise the criticism isn't taken seriously."

"It's a general problem," Schrupp told The Local. "I've seen women's and men's mustard as well. Often for children, of course."

Two different Edeka representatives responded to Enz's letter, but refused to address her central point: one would only "what he understood of her letter," - the question of why the ladies sausages were more expensive, (because they contain "particularly lean meat, high-quality vegetables" all packed in an "especially delicate skin").

The other said the matter had been referred to "the responsible regional official."

The Local

Cool Cinema Gadgets

As per SL:

LIGHTSABER - STAR WARS (1977-2008)

Surely the Daddy of all cinematic gadgets - it's already been voted the most popular weapon in film history - gadgets seldom come any cooler than the lightsaber. A laser sword - yep, that's definitely cool - it can cut through any substance without resistance (apart from, of course, another lightsaber). The iconic accompanying sound effect was created by combining the humming of motors in old movie projectors with interference between a TV and a microphone; of course, many talented people can produce this using purely their own voice.


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HOVERBOARD - BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II (1989)

This amazing gadget - which, let's face it, everyone wants - was found in the year 2015. Engineers of the world: YOU HAVE TWO YEARS LEFT TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN. Director Robert Zemeckis did not help matters by claiming that they were real when the movie was originally released; you got our hopes up Robert, now you need to sort it out.


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MAGNETIC WATCH - LIVE AND LET DIE (1973)

Ah yes, Mr Bond, do come in. The man with more gadgets that you can shake a radio-transmitter-meets-rocket-launcher stick at. The first of his on this list is a classic from 1973's Live and Let Die - a Rolex timepiece fitted with a fast-spinning bezel enabling 007 to cut through ropes and cable, together with a strong magnet to deflect bullets (in the unlikely event that any of the baddies actually managed a straight shot). Naturally, Bond used this to aid in the unzipping of a lady's garment. Oh James.


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NEURALYZER - MEN IN BLACK (1997)

If only this were real. The Neuralyzer handily wipes the memory of your target, enabling you to replace what they've seen with a suggestion of what they saw instead. The Men in Black used it to delete sensitive information, we'd use it to pretend that that abject 6-0 defeat never happened.


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POINT-OF-VIEW GUN - THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (2005)

One of many great gadgets from Douglas Adams' epic stories, the point-of-view gun is the Ronseal of gadgets. Simply point and shoot, and your target will see things in your shoes for a change. We still don't think this would alter Richard Littlejohn's opinions though.


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TELEPORTER - THE FLY (1986)

Now, we know what you're thinking - is a device that, when an insect accidentally finds itself inside, having a rest, at the same time as a human is trying to use it, causes said human to then combine DNA with it, resulting in a truly horrifying transformation to some kind of man-insect beast, necessarily one of the best gadgets in film history? Yes, of course it is - it's a teleporter! Just remember to check thoroughly inside before using. Simple.


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UNIVERSAL REMOTE CONTROL - CLICK (2006)

A patchy film, but what a gadget. A remote that enables you to control the universe; in particular, aspects of time. Skip over those boring meetings, replay your wonder goal, or slo-mo those wonderful family moments so they go on a little longer. Be careful though, if you accidentally do the latter on a baseball game it could create several years of unimaginable suffering.


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EMOTION PLAYER AND RECORDER - STRANGE DAYS (1995)

A seriously cool invention, this gadget is named SQUID - or Superconducting Quantum Interference Device. It records straight from the wearer's cerebral cortex - thus allows that experience - good or bad - to be experienced again, or by others. The best thing about it is that none of those scientific elements have anything whatsoever to do with a potential device like that - they just wanted to call it SQUID.


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WIRELESS COMPUTER CONTROL - MINORITY REPORT (2002)

You might argue that this gadget can now be seen in real life, with the release of the Xbox Kinect, but that doesn't make it any less cool. And, regardless, you still can't quite do as much with it as Tom Cruise does in Minority Report. One day we'll be able to point at the toaster and a slice will butter itself, then jump straight into our mouth. Until that day, scientists need to keep on working and not take any holiday at all.


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ALIEN WEAPONRY AND EXOSUIT - DISTRICT 9 (2009)

When it comes to weapons, the aliens really know what they're doing (although the humans always seem to overpower them in the end, usually via nuclear weapons or Will Smith flying a plane, which is a bit unfair); they can always be relied upon to put a bit of design flair into their arsenal. District 9 exhibits this perfectly as Wikus finds himself able to operate the 'prawns' machinery: first using some brutal pulse guns; before finally controlling a battle suit to aid the aliens' escape to the mothership.




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FLYING CARS - BLADE RUNNER (1982)

Much like the hoverboard, we were promised flying cars a long time ago, and science has woefully failed to deliver. It's simply not good enough. Press kits for the film stated that the "spinner" was propelled by three different engines: "conventional internal combustion, jet, and anti-gravity". Well chaps, we've had the first two for ages - all you need to do is crack anti-gravity and we're away - what's stopping you?


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TIME MACHINE - BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

The classic. There have been a few time machines in movie history (including, of course, a hot tub and a phone booth) but this is surely the best, coming in the shape of a DeLorean DMC-12 that simply requires a flux capacitor powered by plutonium, 1.21 Gigawatts of energy and an unimaginably high speed of 88mph to operate. After that, the whole of history is your oyster.


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JET PACK - THUNDERBALL (1965)

Many have tried to create a functioning jetpack, with perhaps the only success being with astronauts - hugely aided by their zero-gravity environment. Naturally, therefore, it fell to 007 to demonstrate the only successful earth-bound voyage in Thunderball. Also, naturally, his smooth piloting leaves him neither shaken, nor stirred.


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SHRINK RAY - HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS (1989)

This could have been a brilliant gadget if it had been used correctly. Miniature toy elephant? No problem. Real-life table football? Easy. Just don't go too mad, or chaos will ensue. Thankfully redeemed its somewhat soiled reputation by shrinking a giant baby back to normal size in the sequel. As you do.


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MEMORY CLOTH CAPE - THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

There are many, many great gadgets to choose from that aid the Dark Knight; there's probably about ten in the utility belt alone (it's basically a brilliant version of a swiss army knife), and the classic grappler gun was a close second. But we're going for the memory cloth cape, being as it enables the Bat-one to effortlessly glide through the sky and it looks ridiculously cool by forming his trademark Batwings. The clip below shows the actual (sort of) science behind it - amazing.


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POWERED EXOSKELETON/JARVIS - IRON MAN (2008)

The clip below really reminds us of taking our second-hand Renault Clio for a test drive.


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TRANSPORTER - STAR TREK (2009)

There are few gadgets that are so famous that they have their own catchphrase which is widely used in society (apart from perhaps the Television's "turn it over, quickly, turn it over!" when Loose Women comes on), but Star Trek's "Beam me up Scotty" is definitely one of them. A fully-functioning teleporter; just the thing when you need to escape from a tricky situation. In August 2008, physicist Michio Kaku predicted that a teleportation device similar to that seen in Star Trek would be invented within 100 years - we really hope we live to see it, simply to watch Ryanair immediately go bust.


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TALKBOY - HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK (1992)

Not a hugely advanced gadget, but this "non-working prop" was so popular with moviegoers, who wrote letters demanding its creation, that it forced Tiger Electronics to bring them into production. And with it came this truly brilliant TV advertisement. Hours and hours of fun: every home should have a Talkboy to ruin your brother's love life.


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CONFINEMENT STREAM GUNS/GHOST TRAP - GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)

Admittedly a set of gadgets borne out of necessity - a mysterious increase in paranormal activity in New York City - but the Ghostbusters really knew their way around advanced ghost-related technology. Very few children of the 80s grew up without at one point pretending to use their proton beam guns to remotely wrestle with a ghost, kicking out the ghost trap, and then unleashing its power to trap it. We don't really understand why they don't use these for real on ITV2's Celebrity Ghost Hunting with Yvette Fielding.


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INVISIBLE CAR - DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002)

You really can't argue with an invisible anything as a top, top gadget (as Jamie Redknapp would say). We could have gone for Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, but frankly an invisible car tops it for us. The only downside is that when the actual car is that beautiful, you'd kinda want people to see it. Still, useful for escaping villains wielding an orbital mirror satellite and impressing Halle Berry.


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HOME ROBOT - ROCKY IV (1985)

Paulie wanted a sports car, but got a robot. And still complained. One of the more bizarre gadgets featured in cinematic history, due to its complete incongruity with the film. However, judged on its merits, this is a very cool gadget and, just like the hoverboard, the time machine, the invisible car, the teleporter, the shrink ray, the jet pack, the flying car and all the rest, in a few years every good home will have one.

Clever Gag

Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness.  He says to the waitress:

"I'd like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream." 

The waitress replies: 

"I'm sorry, Monsieur, but we're out of cream. How about with no milk?”

:o)



Sartre believes that an absence of something is still something...

Waste of Time

People who buy extra virgin olive oil could be wasting their money.  It costs a lot more than sunflower or vegetable oil and is recommended by top chefs because it is supposed to be healthier, but these benefits are lost when it is heated, say scientists.

Chemicals in the oil that help protect against cancer lose their power when cooked in a frying pan, baked in the oven or heated in a microwave.  Researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal recommend that extra virgin oil should be reserved for drizzling on salads or adding to already cooked pasta dishes.

For ordinary cooking, they say it could be “economically advantageous” to use basic olive oil instead.

Too Busy

God has declared that he is hearing all the prayers for Nelson Mandela, but has yet to make his mind up on whether he’s going to listen.
The great deity told reporters that the incessant pleading from the African content and beyond is starting to get a bit ‘samey’, and that frankly he hadn’t given Mandela’s survival much thought.
He told an enthralled audience, “On the one hand lots of people want him to live, but on the other he’s a black African.”
“I also heard that he’s sometimes perfectly pleasant to the gays, and you know what I think about them – well, actually you don’t – because I’ve never said anything directly about them, but don’t let that stop people telling you what I think about them.”
“I’m just very busy at the moment, you know? What with helping all those millionaire footballers at the Confederations cup.”
“Just because I’m omnipotent doesn’t mean I can do everything. No, don’t look that up in a dictionary.”

Mandela prayers

God went on to defend his ambivalent stance towards Mandela.
He said, “Let’s be honest, the plight of black Africans has never been that high on my list of priorities.”
“A cursory look around West Africa would tell you that – but with all these prayers I thought I’d take a quick look seeing as I was in the areas giving Aids to starving black babies.”
“But I’m really not sure I can bothered to help – I guess you’ll find out soon enough.”
“It’s not like he’s a white member of the Royal family – I was happy to step in and help there, obviously.”

Dilbert

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Letters of Note

For your enjoyment, two beautifully contrasting reactions to the original airing of Orson Wellesadaptation of H. G. WellsThe War of the Worlds. For the uninitiated, on the evening of October 30th, 1938, the CBS Radio Network broadcast what sounded (to some) like a series of genuine news bulletins depicting the unfolding invasion of Earth by Martians. In fact, the public were listening to an episode of the radio drama series Mercury Theatre on the Air, directed and narrated by Welles himself. Despite warnings and announcements during the show, the airing caused widespread panic.

Here are just two of the 600+ letters sent to the FCC regarding the show. The first is from a city official, the second from a listener.

Transcripts follow. Images courtesy of the National Archives.



Transcript
October 31, 1938

Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D. C.

COMPLAINT - WABC BROADCAST

Gentlemen:

To avoid a reoccurrence of a very grave and serious situation that developed in this community last night, due to the public's misinterpretation of the broadcast through WABC at about 8:15, dramatizing H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds", which completely crippled communication facilities of our Police Department for about three hours, I am requesting that you immediately make an investigation and do everything possible to prevent a reoccurrence.

The situation was so acute that two thousand phone calls were received in about two hours, all communication lines were paralyzed and voided normal municipal functions. If we had had a large fire at this time it could have easily caused a more serious situation. Tremendous excitement existed among certain areas of this community and we were receiving constantly long distance phone calls from many states making inquiries of relatives and families thought to have been killed by the catastrophe that was included in the play.

I can conceive of no reason why the name of Trenton and vicinity should have been used on this broadcast. The State Police were equally handicapped and it is indescribable the seriousness of this situation.

Your prompt attention will be appreciated.

Very truly yours,

(Signed)

PAUL MORTON
CITY MANAGER




Transcript
Aberdeen, S. Dak.
November 1, 1938

Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D. C.

Gentlemen:

I have read considerable concerning the program of Orson Welles presented over the Columbia Broadcasting System Sunday evening. I suppose that by this time you have received many letters from numerous cranks and crack-pots who quickly became jitterbugs during the program. I was one of the thousands who heard this program and did not jump out of the window, did not attempt suicide, did not break my arm while beating a hasty retreat from my apartment, didnot anticipate a horrible death, did not hear the Martians "rapping on my chamber door," did not see the monsters landing in war-like regalia in the park across the street, but sat serenely entertained no end by the fine portrayal of a fine play.

The "Mercury Theatre" has been one of the radio high-lights of the week for me this fall. The program Sunday, I felt, was one of their better programs.

Should your commission contemplate serious measures toward the Columbia Broadcasting System my suggestion would be that the "Mercury Theatre" be directed to re-broadcast this program and the reaction of all the listening audience be solicited.

In the interest of a continuation of the fine things in radio today, I am,

Very respectfully yours,

(Signed)

J. V. Yaukey

P.S.- I am in the State Administrative office of the South Dakota State Employment Service and every member of our staff who heard the program subscribes to what I have had to say.
Letters of Note

Keep on Trekkin'

Happiness Factors

Studies collated by the database say you tend to be happier if you:
  • Are in a long-term relationship
  • Are actively engaged in politics
  • Are active in work and in your free time
  • Go out for dinner
  • Have close friendships (though happiness does not increase with the number of friends you have)
And there are some surprising findings:
  • People who drink in moderation are happier than people who don't drink at all
  • Being considered good looking increases men's happiness more than it does women's.Men tend to be happier in a society where women enjoy greater equality
  • You tend to be happier if you think you're good looking, rather than if you actually, objectively speaking, are.
  • Having children lowers your happiness levels, but your happiness increases when they grow up and leave home.
BBC

All Smile

Top 10 happiest countries

Countries ranked in order of "satisfaction with life", according to the World Database of Happiness:
  1. Costa Rica
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Norway
  6. Finland
  7. Mexico
  8. Sweden
  9. Canada
  10. Panama
BBC

Depressingly Consistent

England have been knocked out of the Under-20 World Cup at the group stage following a 2-0 defeat by Egypt.

Peter Taylor's side needed to win to reach the quarter-finals in Turkey but were beaten by late goals from Trezeget and Hassan Ahmed.

Their exit follows a disappointing performance from the Under-21s, who lost all three games at the European Championship.

England drew their first two matches - 2-2 with Iraq and 1-1 with Chile.


My Photo
Mini Team Eng-er-lnd have now gone 16 matches without a victory at the Under-20 World Cup- their last win was in 1997.
BBC

Grammar is Still Way Off Though

Rock Bloody Hard

If Lorenzo hadn't got off the operating table to race, Pedrosa would have had a much bigger lead.  He'd also have been further in front if he hadn't come fourth, mind.

MotoGP title standings

Dani Pedrosa - 136 points
Jorge Lorenzo - 127 points
Marc Marquez - 113 points
Cal Crutchlow - 87 points
Valentino Rossi - 85 points

A Day Early

I am so pleased I remembered to watch the Assen MotoGP yesterday, it was the best race I have seen in years.  Bullet points:

  • Crutchlow, the first Brit to take a pole position went from first to fifth by the first corner.
  • Rossi took the lead in the second third of the race and went on to win his first race in two and a half years.
  • Lorenzo, who had a 120 mph crash resulting in a broken collar bone on Thursday was on the operating table Friday morning and back racing on the Saturday.  He made an incredible 5th...
  • Crutchlow began to compete and went into third where he nearly took Marquez  in the final lap for second.  They clipped bikes and he had to settle for third.
  • Marquez was also riding injured- broken toe and finger
  • All football players are tarts

Netherlands MotoGP results:
1. Valentino Rossi (Italy) Yamaha 41:25.202
2. Marc Marquez (Spain) Honda 41:27.372
3. Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Yamaha 41:29.275
4. Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda 41:33.034
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Yamaha 41:40.712
6. Stefan Bradl (Germany) Honda 41:52.721
7. Alvaro Bautista (Spain) Honda 41:56.800
8. Aleix Espargaro (Spain) Aprilia 41:57.607
9. Bradley Smith (Britain) Yamaha 41:58.953
10. Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Ducati 41:59.003

Word of the Day

  • decoupage
  • audio pronunciation
  • \day-koo-PAHZH\
  • DEFINITION
noun
1
: the art of decorating surfaces by applying cutouts (as of paper) and then coating with usually several layers of finish (as lacquer or varnish)
2
: work produced by decoupage
  • EXAMPLES
Her eye was drawn to a small table that had been decorated withdecoupage.

"Prized among vintage scouters, antique luggage is a common thrift store find and family hand-me-down. Give them a fresh coat of paint, maybe experiment with decoupage and you have your very own stylish night table and room accent." — From an article in The Ideal Home and Garden, May 1, 2013
  • DID YOU KNOW?
Decoupage originated in France in the 17th century as a means of artistically decorating pieces of furniture with pictures. It took a few centuries, but by the mid-20th century "decoupage" became a household name in American interior decoration. The word is fashioned from Middle French "decouper," meaning "to cut out." "Decouper," in turn, pastes together the prefix "de-" ("from" or "away") and "couper" ("to cut). Other descendants of "couper" include "coppice" (a growth of small trees that are periodically cut), "coupé" (a horse-drawn carriage for two with a driver outside and whose name is thought to be from French "carrosse coupé," literally, "cut-off coach"), and the clear-cut "coupon."


M-W

Mobile

Wifey has now picked up her "new" car and says it's good fun being behind the wheel again.  She'll take it easy for a bit having been off the road for over seven years but it's fairly rural where the m-i-l lives and so plenty of opportunity to practise and get back into the groove.

Pictures to come, as and when.

Take-Away Tattie

In the MBK shopping mall there is a small restaurant/diner called Santa's which does an array of fast food options.  I always enjoy a baked potato (cheese and cheese, don't ask) but I wasn't hungry and so I asked if they could do me one to take away.  Of course it wasn't a problem and I took mine alone for later.

It was so big that I couldn't even manage to eat it in two goes- I have the final piece to finish off for lunch today with a small steak.  THB 79 for three meals can't be bad.  :o)

Quote/Unquote

"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong."

-- Voltaire

Welcome to the Blog

But Here's One That Wasn't

Ollie Reed doing what he does best.  Shame it's not the entire episode and we have some commentary, but the infamous scene of the original wild man getting into Wild One.  Love the dance steps and his reply to Clive James's question.

Pulled From YouTube

Sadly the interview has been pulled on YouTube but here's the article from TG:

Bruce Willis has apologised for a "boring" interview on the BBC's The One Show, blaming jetlag for appearing listless and disinterested while promoting the latest film in the Die Hard series last week.
Willis was introduced with a dramatic fanfare by the magazine show's hosts Matt Baker and Alex Jones but struggled to work up much enthusiasm in response. The interviewers invited him to comment on the real-life asteroid currently threatening to pass close to the Earth in a reference to Willis's planet-saving exploits in 1998's Armageddon. The Hollywood star was apparently unimpressed. The pair even posed for a Die Hard-style mock-up poster, carrying plastic guns and wearing white vests, but Willis remained non-plussed.
A Good Day to Die Hard, which is released today in the UK, has so far received terrible reviews, and Willis himself appeared to be unsure about whether the title was helping much. "It's a difficult title. A Good Day to Die Hard? It's like, have a sandwich and let's go shopping – then Die Hard," he said in a rare moment of energy.
The actor later told UK radio station Xfm he was jetlagged. "I have to apologise," he said in an interview with Jon Holmes, to be broadcast today. "I didn't get very many compliments about it. They said it was a little stale. But I was so jetlagged. I'm very sorry, you kids on The One Show."
Willis added: "I'm sure it's not their problem. I was a little bit boring, I think. I had a little sinking spell, that's all."
Viewers were quick to voice their own lack of enthusiasm for Willis's performance on the BBC's Points of View forum. One wrote: "It's not often that I feel sorry for Matt and Alex but this was torture. They desperately tried to ask questions and get something of interest out of him whilst he mumbled and hesitated and was generally incoherent."
"They obviously thought that they had a major coup getting a Hollywood A-list star on the show but Willis showed himself to be little better than a mumbling moron."
Others compared Willis's appearance to Michael Parkinson's famously excruciating 2003 interview with Meg Ryan, which the talkshow host later described as his most difficult TV moment. Meanwhile, Jones tweeted, post-interview: "Bruce Willis has tired me out. It was a bit of a challenge, to say the least."

A Good Day to Die Hard

WTF was I thinking?  As soon as I touched the box I got a nauseating whiff of shit, yet I still dumbly picked it up.  More fool me.

I can't think of a much worse filum in decades.

Utter dross, diabolical dialogue, deadbeat "acting" (seen more life on a zombie flick), appalling clichés, hackneyed sound bites and macho swaggering toss.  Pointless, dark explosions and gun fire, this is as good as sitting on broken glass while swallowing razor blades.

Excuse me, you have a chemical spray that neutralises nuclear radiation?  Of course you do, why didn't they thin of that before...  Let's drive to Chernobyl from Moscow in a few hours, you say?  Sure, no problem- it's only 12 hours away.  On and on this bullshit bollocks trundles and no one feels ashamed of producing such dross.

I missed the Bruce Willis interview where he was either "jet lagged", stoned, drunk or disinterested.  Had I been in such an awful movie I'd have been all four and I would not have left my home for a couple of years.

So bad it's not even worth watching for a bet.  I want my 60 pence back.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Hrvatska

Croatia joins the EU on Monday- but this Adriatic nation has been tempting British tourists to its shores for years.  TInd finds out why:

Viewed from a mile above the Adriatic, the Makarska Riviera is barely a terracotta thread stitching the silk-smooth sea to the pines and rock of the Dalmatian Coast. The bathers on its pebbly beaches have disappeared in the early summer haze. So, too, has Italy. On a clear day, they say, the ankle of its boot is visible more than 150 miles out, far beyond the green islands of Hvar and Brac.
I was sweating as I reached the summit of Sveti Jure (1,762m) the highest peak in the Biokovo National Park. And I had driven up, albeit via a pot-holed road that got steeper and narrower as it wound through forests and alpine meadows. I'm told the even more precipitous hike up is stunning, but I had the wrong shoes and a sun lounger to get back to.
A stone chapel with medieval foundations looks out over a country braced for change. On Monday, Croatia shifts, politically at least, closer to Italy and its continental neighbours when it becomes part of the European Union. As suits descend on Zagreb, the capital, for fireworks and glad-handing, a debate still rages about the sense in joining a troubled club. Twenty years after it shook off the dust of war and the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia is in deep recessionary trouble – and not everyone sees salvation alongside bedfellows such as Greece.
Tourism, though, long ago emerged as a big earner here, and now accounts for 15 per cent of Croatia's GDP. In seaside towns such as Makarska, hulking Soviet-era hotel blocks loomed over beaches to offer cheap packages. The war of independence in the early 1990s blew away much of that trade but Croatia has cannily planted its flag back on the map, luring visitors with beaches but also food, wine, architecture and a more sophisticated hotel scene.
There is fear of further economic decline (Croatia is not adopting the euro for now) and red tape. Wine growers are spitting corks about plans to ban the word "prosek", a delicious dessert wine, because of its nominal likeness to Italian prosecco. But many others welcome membership if it brings more outside investment, a challenge to corruption and, ultimately, more tourists.
The number of Brits coming to Croatia has almost recovered to pre-war levels. To find out what any new visitors can expect, I travelled last week to "the Mediterranean as it once was", to quote the tourist board posters. The drive up "sweaty" Jure (seriously, stay on the beach if you're scared of heights) came on the last day in a week of wine, islands, seafood, factor 20 and a strange encounter with a pig hunter.
I started in Split, for good reason among the biggest tourist centres here along with Dubrovnik (I didn't go there – you probably will). At its heart lies Diocletian's Palace, named after the Roman emperor who built it in around AD300. Pretty old, then, but it could not be more alive. There are no locked gates or closing times: the palace is the city, its marble columns and gleaming white stone enclosing museums, the Cathedral of St Domnius, about 3,000 residents and multiplying restaurants and bars. If it's hot, go in late afternoon and get lost until your hotel room beckons.
Croatia is arguably an unlikely seaside destination, despite its 1,000 miles of coastline. Minimal tides and geology make beaches narrow and almost always pebbly, creating a thriving micro-industry built on jelly-soled shoes (perhaps the lack of sand appeals to the large number of nudists who like to hang out on certain strips of coast here).
First impressions were poor at Bacvice beach, a few minutes east of the Palace. It boasts a Blue Flag to denote cleanliness but I encountered several fag ends floating in a Piz Buin slick as I lowered myself from a concrete wall. My tip: save beaches for after Split – they do turn out to be wonderful.
Millions of visitors here still do the resort thing – same sun lounger, empty suitcase, forget about life – but a network of car ferries linking the islands and mainland of the Dalmatian Coast make it a joy to explore at your own pace (apart from anything, the air-conditioned boats weirdly do the best coffee I found here). My first departure was to Supetar, the biggest town on Brac, the largest island in the region. Its quarries produced the white stone used to build the Diocletian Palace and, the literature falsely claims, the White House in Washington DC.
The island is best known for Zlatni Rat, a bizarre double-edged beach that hangs like a sun-bleached tonsil from the south coast near the town of Bol. An old Roman cistern lies ruined in the shade of pines at the base of the pebbled protuberance, lapped on both sides by cool azure waters. I realised three things as I wallowed: beaches here are stunning after all; Croatia is good value but not cheap (we paid 50 Kuna (£6) to park near Zlatni and £17 to sit on plastic sun loungers with a parasol); and you must have a strange fondness for crowds and the heat tolerance of a lizard to even think about coming here in July or August (if you can, stick to mid-June or September).
Next island: Korcula. I went the long way round to reach it, taking the ferry off Brac to Makarska for the stunning mainland drive towards Dubrovnik. It winds through a five-mile stretch of Bosnia and Herzegovina that hits the coast, a reminder of the region's complicated history. I turned right for Ston, a town known for its great wall with Chinese characteristics – and plentiful seafood. Here, I realised a fourth thing: good food in Croatia comes to those who do a bit of research. After several disappointing dishes, I found Stagnum Restaurant, a hidden delight with a terrace shaded by vines. After a delicious lunch of mussels in boozy breadcrumbs and a jet-black seafood risotto cooked in cuttlefish ink, I continued to the end of the Peljesac peninsula – big wine country here – for the short ferry hop to Korcula.
A coastal citadel crammed within palm trees and thick defensive walls, Korcula Town rises to a peak at the cupola of St Mark's Cathedral (climb it for a fee via a dizzying staircase). Below, a museum claims Marco Polo as the town's son and a medieval maze of restaurants teem with tourists. A cocktail bar occupied by Australian students notwithstanding, the crowds were again totally bearable. I got tables easily at two more restaurants worth seeking out, the pricey Lesic Dimitri with its sea views and tasting menu, and the family-run Adio Mare, which boasts a charming roof terrace.
Despite its booming popularity and bewitching coastline, Croatia remains in places quaintly underdeveloped. In Lumbarda, a village at the eastern edge of Korcula, I asked a local if there were anything worth seeing other than the beach (a rare sandy one). She couldn't have been less enthusiastic, which would have been fine had she not been managing the tourist office. Previously, in Brac, we repaired from the heat to Vidova Gora, a rocky outcrop with wonderful views south and down to Zlatni Rat. Anywhere else, it would house cafés and gift shops. I arrived alone to find flies circling animal skins drying in the sun at a spooky farmhouse. Nervously sipping on a Coke, I asked the woman serving me who the skins had belonged to. "The wild pig," she replied, while scrubbing a plastic tub I imagined had been used to collect blood. "Yesterday, my boss, she shoot more than 100kg." I didn't hang around.
Makarska, my last stop, lies at the opposite end of the development spectrum. But even there, for all the resort hotels, tacky wares and puce Germans of a certain age, there is charm – and none of the worst excesses that have so transformed other bits of the Med. In the morning, I swam alone before breakfast in sea so calm that scullers sliced through it far beyond the shore. And anyway, I thought later on my sun lounger at the ritzy Park Hotel, easy access to ice cream, half-decent wine and pedalos with built-in slides is no bad thing.
On my last night, at a table perched at the end of a stone pier, I ordered the grilled seabream and a bottle of Peljesac rosé at Il Golfo Restaurant. Elsewhere I had learned about concern over what EU membership would do to those who depend on Croatia's tight tourist season. At Stagnum, the owner said business had picked up every year since he set up following the war and a 1996 earthquake that severely damaged the town. While stoking the fire for that night's grill, he said he worried that membership might end up costing him more in tax. But, he hoped, it might also compel curious visitors to discover a new member. If Croatia navigates an EU tourist map as smartly as the one that unfolded after the war, no one will be disappointed.
Travel Essentials
Getting there
Simon Usborne travelled with Essentially Prestige (01425 480400;prestigeholidays.co.uk/croatia), which is offering a week's fly-drive departing on 27 September with easyJet flights from Gatwick, car hire (collecting and returning to Split airport) and B&B at the Hotel Park in Split, the Villa Adriatica in Brac, the Hotel Marko Polo in Korcula, and the Hotel Park in Makarska for £663pp.

Arse

Wanted to watch Skyfall again and hired it from our local shop.  Wrong move, I didn't notice it was a Thai version and it didn't even have subbies.  Perhaps another night?

Harsh Life

Ex-pat pensioners have asked how they are supposed to afford to keep cool if they can’t use the money set aside to keep them warm.
With ex-pats in warmer climates set to lose a benefit designed to stop them freezing to death in winter, some have said they might have to stop using their air conditioning all together.
Retired Francis Williams of Spain told us, “I don’t see why I should have to lose this money just because I’m not going to turn into a popsicle any time soon.”
“There are worse things that can happen to an old person you know! Like, like profuse sweating and, and a difficult night’s sleep in your sea-view villa.”
“What if they just changed the name to ‘summer air conditioning allowance’? I could live with that.”
“Honestly, it’s like this government has a thing against old people who are living a much, much better life than anyone at home.”

DYK?

As a world commodity coffee is second only to oil.

Pointless


British Airways mobile phone policy change
British Airways is to stop shouting at people who turn on their phone the very moment the wheels hit the tarmac, according to reports yesterday.
In a move the airline described as ‘responding to consumer demand’, critics have suggested they had no bloody choice in the matter.
Traveller Simon Williams told us,some”We’ve all been on a flight where a self-important office middle-manager launches his Blackberry whilst the plane’s wheels are still screeching.”
“But now it’s everyone from suit wearing pricks to teenagers desperate to pick up their latest snapchat firing up their mobiles whilst we’re still bouncing in our seats.”
“How endearing it is of British Airways to pretend this was actually their decision.”

British Airways mobile policy

Travel industry analysts have said the move will be copied by other airlines sick of having rules that absolutely everyone completely ignores.
As one analyst explained, “What is the point of a policy that is not only ignored, but is totally unenforceable and completely impractical.”
“It’s such a poorly thought through set of rules I could almost believe they were written by the same people who devised our corporate tax system.”

Like a Duck

Everyone at Glastonbury is busy rehearing the stories they will tell people about how the rain didn’t affect their experience one little bit.
With rain predicted for this weekend since early in 2011, experts have said every attendee will currently be preparing to lie through their teeth about how good as a time they had.
Glastonbury attendee Simon Williams told us, “I’m piss wet through in a tent that smells like a Syrian refugee camp – but when I get to work on Tuesday I’ll tell everyone it was amazing – obviously.”
“I’m essentially on a brief camping holiday in a shitty farm surrounded by people I despise – so yes, my tales will be epic.”
“By five past 11 this morning Liam Gallagher had told me to fuck off.  It really doesn’t get better than this.”
“I feel obliged to come to every festival since I told everyone what an incredible time I had here in 2005 despite nearly drowning twice.”
“My therapist I should just admit I hate it, but I like the superior feeling I get when I make up all these tales about how wonderful Glastonbury is.”

Glastonbury 2013

Music journalists have explained the phenomenon of bullshitting festival attendees should come as no surprise to anyone who has spent an afternoon being rained on to the noise of people they’ve never heard of.
Writer David Matthews explained, “Of course it’s all lies.  No-one has actually enjoyed themselves in Glastonbury since the Abbotts were given the land by the king in 1191.”
“Everyone else is full of bullshit.”

Dilbert

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

Letters of Note



In 1919, at which point he was just 9-years-old, Samuel Barberwrote the following letter to his mother and left it on his desk for her to find. She did, and a year later Barber began to compose his first opera, “The Rose Tree.” He was still only 26 years of age when, in 1936, he finished his most famous work, “Adagio for Strings.”

Samuel Barber went on to win worldwide acclaim for his work and numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Music twice.

(Source; Samuel Barber: The Composer and His Music, viaFutility Closet & Shaula; Image: Samuel Barber, via.)

NOTICE to Mother and nobody else

Dear Mother: I have written this to tell you my worrying secret. Now don’t cry when you read it because it is neither yours nor my fault. I suppose I will have to tell it now without any nonsense. To begin with I was not meant to be an athlet [sic]. I was meant to be a composer, and will be I’m sure. I’ll ask you one more thing.—Don’t ask me to try to forget this unpleasant thing and go play football.—Please—Sometimes I’ve been worrying about this so much that it makes me mad (not very),

Love,

Sam Barber II