Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Two Faced
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
A rare picture of my naked face(s) to wish my dedicated readers a Happy New Year. I just hope the black to red progression of the years is not too prophetic!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Less Is More

Thanks to my friend Julie (sungazing on Flickr) for pointing me in the direction of this video clip about a guy that makes sculptures small enough to fit in the eye of a needle. I must admit I still find the story hard to swallow, not least the punch line about how much the artist has sold his collection for.

The story has been investigated by, and is apparently genuine.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Clever Stuff...

Here's another amazing animation from Vimeo. It's made up of 26,000 photos and took about a year to make:

Ten Thousand Pictures of You from Robin King on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Merry Christmas To All Our Readers!

Just in case you all (?) thought I had died (and gone to Heaven), here is the Christmas Picture from me and the missus.

Hope you had a great Christmas. You never know I might start blogging again in 2009.

You just never know...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Amazing Piece of Animation

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

This is an amazing piece of animation from Argentina. I have no idea how they did it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

High Tech Noon

I'm not a great fan of cowboy movies, but this video is really clever!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Big Mac, Anyone?

I see from this article that the US Department of Agriculture is going to recall 143 million pounds of beef "processed" by a slaughterhouse accused of mistreating animals. That amounts to 2 hamburgers for every man, woman and child in the USA! When I read this, I was starting to get a bit giddy trying to get my head around how much meat this slaughterhouse must produce in a year, but it seems the recall dates back to February 2006. It appears that "the great majority" of the meat has probably been eaten already. It's unclear from the article whether all the meat was distributed within the USA

It seems that in January, the Humane Society of the United States accused Hallmark/Westland of abusing "downed" cattle, releasing video that showed workers kicking cows, jabbing them near their eyes, ramming them with a forklift and shooting high-intensity water up their noses in an effort to force them to their feet for slaughter. Cattle that have lost the ability to walk are not supposed to enter the food chain unless they have been examined to rule out chronic illnesses.

All this reminded me of a post I wrote a long time ago about Kentucky Fried Chicken. I'm proud to say I haven't had a carry out from them since.

I'm not so proud to admit that I'm still a carnivore and telling myself that the animals "don't feel a thing".

Sunday, February 17, 2008

There Will Be Blood

Went with Wosog last night to see "There Will Be Blood". I had heard so much about the film and Daniel Day-Lewis's performance. I thought I knew what the story was about, but it took a rather different turn from the one I expected. Wosog and I both agreed that Day-Lewis's performance was impressive, but Wosog didn't think he was a believable character, and she didn't really enjoy the film. I suppose it comes down to whether you think someone could be as driven as this man undoubtedly was, and so ruthless in pursuing his ends. Personally, I thought the film was probably, in general, a pretty accurate account of the rush for oil in those days, and I'm sorry to say that I do think people as amoral as Daniel Plainview did (and do) exist.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Learning the Lessons of History

Thanks to The Huffington Post for pointing me in the direction of this video. Given the lack of evidence for overall benefit from the US-led military intervention in Iraq, it amazes me that right-wingers in America can even suggest a military strike against Iran.

The video reminds us that the UK and the USA have previously interfered with the government of Iran. Then it was supposed to have the aim of stemming the march of Communism, but it was really about oil and money. This time it's supposed to be about preventing the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction (does that sound familiar to you?), but again it's really about oil and money.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

It Makes You Think 3

Three quotes on the subject of ageing:

"The really frightening thing about middle age is that you know you'll grow out of it." Doris Day.

"I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there." Herb Caen.

"You know you're getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you're down there." George Burns.

Which is your favourite?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

That Ole Devil Called Love

Wosog and I went to the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow to see Alison Moyet in concert last night. Gdog had given her mum the tickets for Christmas. It was a very enjoyable performance with a good mix of newer stuff (most of which I'd never heard before) and old favourites.

At one point, in the middle of the concert, a woman in the crowd shouted "Alison, please sing 'That Ole Devil Called Love.'" and the band instantly switched from their planned play list to the song requested: really quite impressive.

The concert seemed a little short, but I'd certainly go back and see Ms Moyet again.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Magic Boomerang Hits Grand Central

One of my favourite tv shows as a kid was an Australian programme called The Magic Boomerang. In this show the main character, Tom Thumbleton (I kid you not), had a boomerang that, when thrown, had the power to freeze time and allow our hero to foil the plans of any sinister baddie: of whom there appeared to be many in that part of Australia! For some reason, it appealed to my childish brain that someone could chose to freeze the people around them.

In a brilliantly executed exercise, an improvisation group recently decided to plant 207 people in Grand Central Station in New York and get them to suddenly stay still and remain so for 5 minutes. The reactions of those not "in" on the exercise is fascinating, including one guy who decides to prod one of the "living statues" and the little bloke in the electric cart who is unable to move and calls for assistance.

A list (with links) of Improv Anywhere's other pranks is given here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Snouts in the Trough

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any) will know that I am not a great fan of politicians. Any of you living in the UK cannot have failed to be aware of the case of Tory MP Derek Conway who paid his student son £40,000 of taxpayers' money for, it seems, rather ill-defined work to do with his parliamentary duties. Conway has been suspended from the Commons for 10 days and ordered to return £13,161 of the money he paid his son. According to this article, he claims that he is "not a crook", and says that numerous other MPs are doing very similar things. Another wonderful quotation from the non-crook is "A lot of students do part-time work. He was working for his father rather than working in McDonald's.". I wonder how many student workers in McDonalds are paid £40,000 per year?

Gordon Brown must be quite enjoying Mr Conway's discomfiture, which has successfully diverted media attention from the various Labour scandals about undeclared campaign contributions, although I see the same article mentions the fact that former cabinet minister Peter Hain has been claiming that his 80 year old mother works for him as a part-time secretary and she was paid £5,400 last year. You really do wonder what other amazing revelations are going to crawl out now that the MPs' Expenses can of worms has been prised open!

Recently, we had the unedifying spectacle of MPs apparently agonising over whether or not to give themselves a sub-inflationary pay award this year---like the ones they were expecting other public sector workers to swallow. They finally seemed to accept that not to do so could have very serious consequences. If these are the sort of fiddles they get up to with their expenses, though, you can see why they could afford to be so magnanimous!

We are regularly told that politics in the UK is much less corrupt than in many other countries. I wonder if it's more the case that we are a bit more subtle about our corruption in Britain?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Shed of the Year 2008?

The New Shed 2
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
When we moved to our current house 15-16 years ago the shed in the garden was in an advanced state of decrepitude. We did store some stuff in it, but the roof started leaking and the whole thing just went from bad to worse.

I've wanted to get a new shed for a while, and the opportunity arose at the end of last year. I was hoping to avoid maintenance, so I looked at various metal sheds, some of which were very expensive. We had some work done in the garden at the same time and I asked the guy in charge if he and his men would be prepared to build a metal shed for me. He said that they had previously agreed to construct a metal shed for a lady in a nearby town, but it had turned out so complicated that his men were still mentally scarred as a result! They really didn't want to get involved in the process again. Hence, I ended up getting this lovely wooden shed supplied and constructed from an excellent firm in Kilmarnock.

Although I'm very pleased with my shed, I don't have the emotional attachment to it that some men seem to have. This, for example is a shed made to look like a Roman Temple, and owned by a guy called Tony. The bizarre structure won the title of Shed of the Year 2007. While my shed is new and shiny I was thinking of submitting it for the 2008 competition, but looking at the contenders, I don't think I'm in the same league as these guys.

To be honest, though, I don't think I want to be!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Every Car Should Have One

I'm not a great fan of gadgets in cars. To me things like electric sunroofs and heated seats are just more things to go wrong. It was one of my favourite blogs, Bifurcated Rivets, that made me aware of the Trunk Monkey.

Now I wouldn't go anywhere without my little furry friend.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cutting Remarks

Wosog and I went to see the film Sweeney Todd last night. We've been to see quite a lot of movies recently. I've said before that we often have difficulty choosing films to go to together because our tastes differ. I like horror films, but Wosog doesn't. Wosog likes musicals, but as a rule I don't. This film has had such good reviews that I decided I had to see it. I really like Tim Burton's style of film-making, and for Wosog I think the fact that Mr Depp was in it might have had an influence!

I was under the impression that Sweeney Todd was a real person, but it seems this is not actually true. The Wikipedia entry on the subject is very informative. He certainly fits in with the modern obsession with serial killers, probably best exemplified by the Hannibal Lecter films. The theme of cannibalism is another one they share.

Anyway the film is a superb bit of cinema, and may be the one that finally gets Johnny Depp his Oscar. Helena Bonham Carter is great too as Mrs Lovett, and Sacha Baron Cohen has a surprisingly impressive cameo role. The whole look of the film is superb, as you would expect from Tim Burton. It even has the best film website I have ever seen!

As you will gather, I was pretty impressed! I suggest UK readers go and see this film while it is still in the cinema.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Down in the Mouth

I must admit I have never fancied being a dentist. When I was a medical student we shared pre-clinical classes with dental students, and I could never understand why it was felt that dentists, who are solely concerned with affairs above the neck, required a training as long as that of a doctor. Most medical students are driven to at least a small degree by a spirit of altruism, but as far as I could see most dental students were motivated by a heart-felt desire to make as much money as possible and retire as early as possible. I may be doing them a disservice here, but somehow I doubt it!

Even though I have always felt that most of the dentists I knew were financially better off than I, I really didn't envy them. Several decades of poking around in mouths afflicted by halitosis does not appeal to me, and I don't think I would find the work very varied. I hadn't, however, thought of the degree to which these guys were exposed to litigation as well.

In the usual way that trends tend to flow across the Atlantic from the USA, litigation has been increasing in medical practice in the UK. So far, general medical practice has not been affected too badly, although my Defence Union subscriptions have increased a fair bit over the years. According to this article, however, legal claims against dentists have increased dramatically in recent years. Much of this seems to relate to increasing amounts of private dental work.

I wonder if the people making these claims care about the fact that their successful litigation will inevitably lead to escalating costs for them and everyone else in the future? I suspect not.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Celebrity Beliefs

There can be few Internet enthusiasts who have not seen or at least heard of the infamous video showing Tom Cruise talking about his belief in the Church of Scientology. I must confess I haven't been able to watch it all the way through because I am pathologically impatient and have little tolerance of someone who uses hundreds of words to say very little. This is especially true if the "very little" makes no sense at all. Cruise has been mocked to varying degrees for his beliefs for a number of years, but this video seems to have stimulated a frenzy of criticism and numerous parodies including:


This article in Gawker describes how various Internet-based groups are mounting a concerted opposition to the Church of Scientology, which most of its opponents would describe as a dangerous cult. I can't say I have a detailed knowledge of the subject, but it does seem a somewhat sinister organisation and I would not like my family to have anything to do with it.

In the interests of balance, and just to show that I have reservations about forms of religion other than Scientology, I present to you this quotation from Richard Gere, who I believe is a Buddhist:

"I know who I am. No one else knows who I am. If I was a giraffe, and someone said I was a snake, I'd think, no, actually I'm a giraffe."
I rest my case.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Big Yellow Taxi

There are apparently over 12,000 yellow cabs in New York City. Certainly any tourist in The Big Apple can hardly fail to notice them.

Don't you think, therefore, these taxi booties for your infant are a great way to commemorate your visit to NYC?

Well maybe not....

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Emperor's New Laptop

Hot on the heels of the sexy MacBook Air comes the even more orgasmic iNvisible iBook.

Our Hero Steve Jobs has really surpassed himself here, but I'm not sure if I'm cool enough or smart enough to even see today's ultimate gadget. I would certainly agree it's a steal at $2,999.

It could be enough to make me forsake the joys of Windows Vista: and that is serious!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Talking with your eyes shut

Grouchofied Version
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
I recently came across this collection of freaky images so I thought I'd have a go myself. I'm afraid my Photoshop skills are not good enough to blend the skin colour around my mouth with the colour in the area of my eye sockets.

I don't think any of the transformations make the subject look more beautiful, but some are relatively inoffensive. I must admit, though, I didn't think any trick photography could make Hilary Clinton look more scary or Vladimir Putin more sinister!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It Makes You Think 2

Here are two similar quotations on the subject of parenthood, especially with reference to the dreaded teenagers:

"By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong." Charles Wadsworth.
"Few things are more satisfying than seeing your own children have teenagers of their own." Doug Larson.
So true, so true...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

People in Order by Lenka Clayton and James Price

This is a video of people from 1 to 100 years old beating a drum with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It was featured on Boing Boing. Although the idea may seem a strange one, it is a fascinating 3 minute film that speaks volumes about the general behaviour of different age groups but at the same time shows that age is not a good indicator of a person's physical and mental fitness.

There is just something very heartwarming about it, I think.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Another Wonderful Product of Canada

As a teenager I was a great fan of Joni Mitchell, so I suppose you could say I have a longstanding penchant for Canadian singer-songwriters. I first came across Leslie Feist when I saw the video clip for the song 1 2 3 4 on Bill Adams' blog. I subsequently made the decision to buy her latest album, The Reminder, and I think it's excellent.

Her songs are amazingly varied and she has a simply superb, haunting voice.

Why not check her out?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Simply Alsome

I never cease to be amazed at the range of things people, particularly women, talk about---often in surprisingly public places. I wonder if you, like me, love the experience of coming into a room and catching the bizarre-sounding tail end of a conversation? Isn't it a joy to mull over in your mind what the participants might have been discussing?

If I've got you sussed, Overheard in the Office is the website for you. Although the flavour is distinctly American, many of the themes covered are basically universal: fetishes, penis size, and whether or not to start a career as a stripper (to name but a few). The most popular section is a riot, although I'm sure that first one was made up!

Alsome, indeed!

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Scourge of Overprotectionism

Wosog got me a great little pair of Nikon binoculars for Christmas. Like many Japanese products they came with a surprising amount of documentation. This included admonition to read thoroughly the safety precautions before use. Alongside sensible advice about not looking through the binoculars while walking, I was amazed to find instructions such as:

"Do not swing the binoculars by their straps. They may hit someone and cause injury."

"If you use the rubber eyecups for a long period of time, you may suffer skin inflammation. If you develop any symptoms, consult a doctor immediately."

"Be careful not to pinch your finger when adjusting interpupillary distance or diopter."

"Do not leave the polythene bag used for packaging witihin small children's reach. Children may put it into their mouths and suffocate."
I am a great fan of TED Talks, and I spotted this one today that seemed to be on a similar subject: namely the irresistible rise of overprotectionism. The speaker advocates, far from protecting children from every conceivable threat, that we should be deliberately exposing them to activities that could be dangerous:

The activities recommended include exposure to fire, using a pocket knife, throwing a spear. dismantling electrical equipment and driving a car: all under appropriate supervision, of course. It's surprising how wild these suggestions appear to a modern audience, including myself, but then I remember how many of these things, as well as even more hazardous activities I actually did when young!

The comments on the TED site are almost universally supportive of Gever Tulley's suggestions, so why are we and our American fellow parents still overprotecting our children, and why do manufacturers feel obliged to put this ridiculous advice on their products?

Fear of litigation is undoubtedly part of the explanation, but I don't think we can lay all the blame at the feet of the despicable lawyers!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

It Makes You Think 1

I've always loved quotations, and I've planned for a while to post occasional quotations that hopefully will provoke thought, and entertain at the same time. I recently came across this quotation, and I wasn't sure if I should call this post "Our Wonderful Political Readers 2" as a sequel to the preceding post about the up-and-coming American Election.

The statement is from US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, just to show that, even if we have reservations about our future World leaders we can have confidence in the current administration:

"I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."
There, that made you think, didn't it?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Our Wonderful Political Leaders

I don't know as much as I probably should about American politics, but I think I know enough to be sure I would vote for the Democrats. That said, I don't think I trust Hilary Clinton with her annoying cackle. I like what I have seen of Barack Obama, although I think he is a little naive when pinned down to specifics.

Just as I would never vote for the Conservative Party in this country, I suspect I would never vote Republican in the US. Apart from their right-wing views the Republicans also have the major turn-off (from my point-of-view) of rampant religious fundamentalism. It may not be politically correct to say it, but the idea of having a Mormon American President in the form of Mitt Romney fills me with horror. I am put off Mike Huckabee for two reasons: firstly by his known illiberal views; and secondly by evidence to suggest that he may be an idiot:

But don't think I reserve my scorn for US politicians. At the moment, I don't think there is any UK political party I would vote for!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Shock Tactics

On this date in 1903 Thomas Edison electrocuted an elephant called Topsy. He was making a lot of money from the patent for direct current and this was threatened by the proposed use of the new-fangled alternating current. He had embarked on a series of staged electrocutions of various unfortunate animals in an attempt to show how dangerous alternating current was.

Topsy the elephant had squashed 3 handlers in 3 years, and park officials at Luna Park on Coney Island decided that enough was enough. They considered hanging the poor beast, but the SPCA vetoed this. Edison was only too glad to provide an alternative means of execution.

In order to ensure that Topsy definitely died, she was fed cyanide-laced carrots moments before a 6,600-volt AC charge. Officials needn't have worried. The elephant was killed instantly and Edison, in his mind anyway, had proved his point. The "event" certainly provided a lot of publicity: a crowd put at 1,500 witnessed Topsy's execution, which was filmed by Edison and released later that year. Ultimately, of course, alternating current proved superior and became the standard.

Greed is a terrible thing, isn't it?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

More Frightening than the Average Rollercoaster

This video represents US house prices from 1890 to the present day adjusted for inflation and plotted as a roller coaster. The equivalent graph is given here. The question is "Where to next?"

The sub-prime crisis that has already started to affect US house prices is very well explained here. The article suggests that the the effects of the crisis are likely to play out over the next 2 years. Who was it that said that "When America sneezes the World catches a cold."?

What did I say about Happy New Year?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ready for my Close-up?

According to an article in the latest EOS Magazine (the mag devoted to Canon's EOS camera system), research has shown that 86% of Brits believe they are unphotogenic. The survey of 1,700 UK residents also showed that the increasing used of digital cameras and social networking sites often meant that these subjects were being reluctantly thrust into the public gaze and their images preserved on the Internet forever.

  • Body weight was an issue, with 52% of people admitting to holding in their stomachs in photographs.
  • Having a double chin was perceived to be a problem too, with 25% of people happier to look slightly odd by thrusting their heads back when pictures are taken.
  • Apparently, 19% won't be photographed in direct sunlight and 3% insist on being lit from below.
  • Twenty percent of people admit to digitally retouching pictures to make themselves look better.
I actually love photographing people, but I do find that many folk are unhappy about being photographed. Partly for this reason, many of my Flickr photographs are only visible to friends and family. I'm sure a lot of these problems result from media images of the "beautiful people" (enhanced in many cases by Photoshop, sophisticated make-up, or even cosmetic surgery) making the rest of us feel inadequate for some reason.

Why can't we just celebrate the variety of humanity, with all its many imperfections, and above all be happy?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

It runs in the family...

Star Quality
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
This is my great nephew Charlie who visited me at Christmas. You can see the family resemblance, can't you? Charlie has asked me to wish you/ you both/ you all a tremendously Happy 2008.

Off now to eat even more food...