Archive for the 'Things I Have Learned' Category

Film Review

Yesterday I went to see the new Walt Dinsey [sic] film Beauty And The Beast. (I know, I know. Don’t ask.) A more fitting title would have been Feisty Bookworm And The Prince With Bad Table Manners. Belle, the Beauty, as played by Emma Watson, is feisty, and a bookworm. The only other thing to note about her character is that she has a rather problematic relationship with her father’s horse, but we shall come to that.

The putative Beast (one Dan Stevens) is hardly bestial. I was expecting something like the Grunty Man, that awful figure of children’s nightmares. Other than being a bit hairy, sporting a pair of goaty horns, and growling occasionally, this so-called Beast seems perfectly civilised. He speaks in a mellifluous RADA-trained voice not unlike that of the late Alan Rickman, and has a well-stocked library. The extent of his bestiality seems to be that he slurps his soup straight from the bowl. Franz Kafka had worse table manners (his father used to hide behind the newspaper when dining with FK).

Now, about that horse. Its name is Philippe. The Feisty Bookworm arrives at the castle astride Philippe. We then see neither hide nor hair of the horse until, after an indeterminate period – days? weeks? months? – the Beast frees the Bookworm so she can rescue her father from imminent incarceration in a lunatic asylum. Suddenly, there is Philippe, fit as a fiddle, ready to gallop back to the village. Where has he been all this time? The Feisty Bookworm has expressed not a jot of concern for him, and we have seen no sign of a stable, nor even a trough. It is all very mysterious.

Hooting Yard Rating : Three stars for tiptop soup-slurping.

Sporting Glory

I often receive letters from readers crying plaintively “Mr Key! Mr Key! How can I become a tiptop sporting champion? If anyone can give me a top tip, it is you!”

Actually, it is not me you need to ask, but Hooting Yard’s tiptop sports correspondent Fatima Gilliblat. This is what she has to say:

The best way to become a tiptop sporting champion is to ensure you were born on 23 March. It was on this day of the year that champs such as Roger Bannister, Mo Farah, Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Steve Redgrave, and the bobsleighing Olympian Shelley Rudman dropped from their mothers’ wombs, as did the cricketer Mike Atherton and the pugilist Joe Calzaghe. If you were born on any other day, I am afraid that the road to sporting glory will be steep and pitiless and you will almost certainly fail.

Burgess

I once saw the novelist Anthony Burgess settle down at a concert grand, put a reproduction of ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ on the music stand, and play the picture in a camp, but straight-faced, demonstration of synaesthesia. As ever with Burgess, you were not quite sure if he was taking the mick.

Stephen Bayley, reviewing books about colour in The Spectator.

anthonyburgess

Blind Girls Brass Band

Spotted at beyond the coda:

Blind Girls Brass Band

Shooting At The Moon

From the ever-intriguing J F Ptak Science Books blog:

6a00d83542d51e69e201b7c8d1e4c4970b-500wi

The Orgasmatron On Wheels!

What on earth is going on in Stroud Green? Mick Hartley spotted this mysterious vehicle.

6a00d83451ebab69e201bb096d9af1970d-550wi

For an account of a home-made Reichian orgone accumulator, see here.

Slow Djinn

There was an item on Radio Four’s Farming Today this morning about a slow djinn. I have no idea why, in the run-up to Christmas, the BBC’s premier agricultural radio slot is banging on about a dull-witted Arabian demon, but I suppose it must be something to do with “diversity”.

Critical Insight Of The Year

There are startling similarities to be found in the film characters John McClane in Die Hard and Ellen Ripley in Alien. In particular,

both have formative traumatic experiences in air ducts: arguably, both heroines are born within the air ducts.

Just one of many nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout “Making fists with your toes: Towards a feminist analysis of Die Hard”, an essay by Zoe Stavri, aka Another Angry Woman. Make sure you read it before watching that magnificent film for the umpteenth time.

Thanks to Roberta Mock for drawing this to my attention.

Government Chicken Directive

I learn from the BBC that chickens are to be kept indoors to create a Bird-Flu-Free-Zone. This prompts a little song we can all sing as we round up our chickens (if we have any):

Bring in your chickens!
It’s Indoor Poultry Week.
Pop your chicken on the couch
And pat its little beak.

Apparently we should also be on the lookout for dead or debilitated swans, and report any sightings to the police.

Eel Zzub

An occasional feature of my dreamworld is the appearance of a nonsensical word or phrase which – within the dream – takes on huge, if intangible, significance. Previous dreams have revealed to me the crucial importance of Bomba, the Glove of Ib, and the startling yet compelling realisation that my milieu is that of Dr Ludwig. All these things are of great import until I awake, at which point their utter stupidity becomes apparent.

The latest manifestation occurred a few nights ago, when I was made aware of the ancient chivalric code of Eel Zzub. By following the precepts of Eel Zzub, I would become a person of great honour and probity. The fact that such precepts were not in any way made clear in the dream was irrelevant. Eel Zzub was the way to go – at least until I woke up.

I would add two points, which may or may not be pertinent. First, it was resoundingly clear, in the dream, that the Eel of Eel Zzub was nothing whatsoever to do with eels. Second, in my waking state I could not help but recall that Zzub Books was a wholly fictitious publisher of slim volumes of twee verse, invented by Ed Baxter and listed in one of the Small Press Yearbooks circa 1990.

Encounter With A Swan

One consequence of my recent problems with my eyes is that I am less inclined to visit art galleries and exhibitions. Peering myopically at blurred canvases is not entirely rewarding. Spending a few days in Amsterdam, however, I felt impelled to visit the Rijksmuseum, and I am very pleased that I did. For it was in the “Golden Age” galleries that I encountered the most magnificent painting of a swan that I have ever seen.

Jan_Asselijn_-_De_bedreigde_zwaan;_later_opgevat_als_allegorie_op_Johan_de_Witt_-_Google_Art_Project

This is The Threatened Swan by Jan Asselijn, painted in 1650. As so often, the reproduction barely does justice to the original, which has a gleaming, translucent whiteness even my poor eyes found spellbinding.

I saw many actual swans swanning around on the canals of Amsterdam, but none was quite as magnificent as this one.

In Dubrovnik

Learning that the cathedral in Dubrovnik houses a holy relic of Christ’s nappy inspired me to write the first verse of a brand new Christmas carol.

Baby Jesus
You make me happy
In Dubrovnik
They’ve got your nappy

Readers may wish to add further verses in the Comments.

Eye Eye (Again)

Last week I went for my first appointment at the Tuesday Injection Clinic (which I think of as the Tuesday Injection Club). I learned a number of things. One, that I would be attending every fortnight, rather than every month, until at least the end of the year. Two, that the entire procedure passes off efficiently and painlessly.

But the most important lesson I have learned is that I am now armed with a stupendously effective conversational gambit. Let us imagine, just for one wild moment, that one of these days I actually get invited to a swish sophisticated cocktail party where I can lean insouciantly against a mantelpiece. Now picture various other guests approaching me to engage in conversation with what they fondly imagine will be impressive anecdotes.

Let me tell you about the time I met John F Kennedy”, would say my ex-employer Elkan Allan (were he not late and lamented). Or, “One of my blog posts was picked up by the Huffington Post”, would say my sister Rita Byrne Tull. Or it might be someone telling me they had climbed Everest, or swum the Channel, or discovered the Fab Four, or any number of thrilling facts.

And now imagine a moment of silence, while I pause and play that pause for all it’s worth, and I then say, “Well, that’s very interesting”, and then I declare, in resounding tones, “But every two weeks I have needles injected directly into my eyeballs!”

I can assure you that the effect is electrifying. I have already tried it out a few times – though sadly not in the context of a swish sophisticated cocktail party – and I can report that jaws drop, eyes boggle, and questions are fired at me. I, of course, retain an air of insouciant calm.

I tell you what, as medical issues go, this one certainly beats water-on-the-knee or mad cow disease when it comes to mopping the floor with rival anecdotists.

Irresponsible Shepherds

The problem is not the sheep. The problem is irresponsible shepherds.” Thus spake – on the radio this morning – a spokesman for the majestically-named Irresponsible Shepherding Task Force in the Forest of Dean. Apparently, that rustic paradise is riddled with irresponsible shepherds who, among sundry enormities, allow their sheep to bleat in the middle of the night.

Personally, I am not surprised to learn about outbreaks of nocturnal bleating. Sheep are highly neurasthenic creatures who spend their entire lives in a state of fretfulness and nervous tension, and as a result they rarely sleep. This is probably one reason why, as has been observed by several country persons, a sheep’s ambition in life is to die.

Kaka

Back in 2007, and then again in 2010, I wrote about Kaka. Although I did not mention it specifically, I was at the time under the impression that Kaka was a foopballer. I have now learned that Kaka is, in fact, a bird. This sheds an entirely new light on things, and I fear I must go back to the drawing-board.

id1753535_27263407343_a7a546f2cb_n