February 24, 2014


George Monbiot does nature documentary narrations?

How Wolves Change Rivers

The most important thing you can take away from that video is that deer are jerks (no but seriously didn’t someone once describe deer as being the pigeons of the wilderness or something?) no but seriously wolves are cool.

Curtsy: Vanderleun

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February 22, 2014

It’s All Greek

I love this. It’s one of the funniest and best-written things I’ve read in a while. I spent the whole time reading it wanting to print it out so I could highlight all my favourite turns-of-phrases.

But there’s also a lot going on in it: As soon as I started reading, suddenly all that stupid obnoxious annoying stuff about college came flooding back. Then you get to the section where the college students start falling from the sky. There’s history, there are the evil-doings of the Baby Boomers, there’s the hypocrisy of modern liberal college campuses; something for everyone on your list!

And, btw, I’d never even heard of a “sleeping porch”. (I also thought Wesleyan was an all-girls school.)

Also: The photographs are inspired.

The Atlantic – The Dark Power of Fraternities
A yearlong investigation of Greek houses reveals their endemic, lurid, and sometimes tragic problems—and a sophisticated system for shifting the blame. By Caitlin Flanagan

(I won’t quote any of it but in the couple of days it took me to finish reading it, the passages beginning “The entire multibillion-dollar, 2,000-campus American college system” and the one beginning “Moreover, fraternities tie alumni to their colleges in a powerful and lucrative way”, neither of which sentence gets to the hearts of those paragraphs but they’re the paragraphs that really stood out over time.)

(Oh, and bit after the line “I’ll assume you are sitting down.”)

Chickens! In Versailles!

A la Française | Graduation movie from Supinfocom Arles 2012

A la Française from à la Française on Vimeo.

By Julien Hazebroucq, Emmanuelle Leleu, Morrigane Boyer, William Lorton, and Ren Hsien Hsu. I just think it’s wonderful.

(This would have been a Funniest Item but I’ve had it open for more than a week. Got it from Lileks, originally.)

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February 15, 2014

I’ve Invented a Cocktail!

So, as everyone knows, there’s the Whiskey Mac:

1 part blended Scotch
1 part green ginger wine

And then there’s the Ginger Mac:

1 part Scotch
1 part King’s Ginger Liqueur

But now I’ve invented this:

1 part King’s Ginger Liqueur
1 part Gin

I’m calling it… The Ginger Jack!*

* No research has been done into whether such a thing already exists.

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February 13, 2014

Sid Caesar

Well, we seem to have come to that point in history where all my new discoveries are from people dying. Before it was classic movie stars, and I knew all about them, but now it’s the TV stars that came after the classic movies, and I’m terrible with classic TV (except Get Smart and F-Troop, Mary Tyler Moore, Dick Van Dyke, Dragnet, and bits of Carol Burnett). So now Sid Caesar’s died, and I’ve never heard of him, but then there’s this amazing photo of him with Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, who wrote for him. Anyway, this is pretty darned good, in our modern Gwynnie-infused times:

Sid Caesar- Health Food Restaurant

February 12, 2014

Absolutely the Funniest Item of the Day CCCVIII

I heard this for the first time yesterday, and it’s just fantastic. Play it loud so you can hear:

Flanders And Swann – The Gnu Song

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February 8, 2014


Oh, Russians (that is, actual people, not the politicians and the elite): I do love your strange relationship music.

NBC provides video of the Police Choir singing (with admirable gusto!)

Which necessarily means posting this:

February 7, 2014

Already These Olympics Are GREAT

And no I’m not watching, I’m just on Twitter.

But to illustrate in more than 140 characters (less the short url for an epic photo), Mark Steyn posted this, written during the Salt Lake City Olympics what with the corruption and vote rigging and whatnot:

For all that pious guff about not tainting the “Olympic ideals”, the best Games have always been those infected by politics: a racially inferior Negro driving Hitler nuts by whupping the Aryan boys and taking four medals in ’36; the mad-as-hell Magyars who, a month after the Hungarian uprising, trounced the Soviets in a brutal water-polo match in Melbourne in 1956. Alas, the USSR went belly up and those genetically modified east bloc lady shot-putters with facial hair even Mullah Omar might find a tad excessive faded from the scene. And, to be honest, in the last decade the Olympics hasn’t been what it was.

Yeah no kiddin’. (Unless you take the absolutely throbbing good will and positive energies coming out of London, but that was London, the town, let’s be honest.)

So, to drive home the point, all the journalists of the Western World are descending on a hicksville little hole-in-the-wall in Russia, where the only journalist who would have written about the situation has been thrown in a gulag or poisoned with radioactive tea a decade ago, and all the PR from Putin about how great everything is is being shown up for what it really is: A corrupt, tasteless, shoddy little place. And to defend themselves, the Russian authorities are blaming the journalists, based on the security footage they have of the showers in the hotel rooms the journalists are staying in. I mean, really. Even Google’s rainbow doodle and the Canadian luge ad are making this incredibly entertaining, for once. And I haven’t had to sit through a single McDonalds ad yet!

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January 31, 2014

Tsunami, Death, and All That Stuff Westerners Don’t Get

The LRB – Ghosts of the Tsunami, by Richard Lloyd Parry

An early representative snippet:

A cab driver in the city of Sendai picked up a sad-faced man who asked to be taken to an address that no longer existed. Halfway through the journey, he looked into his mirror to see that the rear seat was empty. He drove on anyway, stopped in front of the levelled foundations of a destroyed house, and politely opened the door to allow the invisible passenger out at his former home.

But if you’re not in floods of tears at the last few paragraphs, then I don’t know you. It’s a #longread, if you know what that means, but it’s beautiful.

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January 27, 2014

Happy (One-Day Belated) Australia Day!

(Even if to Australians it’s been at least two days by now but never mind all that)

koala glow

January 24, 2014

Young Man’s Fancy; Young Girl’s Blaring Klaxon of Change

This was linked to on Lilek’s work blog a week ago or so, I think, and it is amazing:

Young Man’s Fancy – 1952 American Consumers & Family Values Documentary

Sitcom-style film produced for the Edison Electric Institute. The film encouraged increased consumption of electricity through the ever increasing number of ‘must have’ household appliances. The plot pits a starry-eyed teenage girl against a geek whose main interests happen to be engineering and time study.

Absolutely amazing. I thought I’d click on it and watch the first 30 seconds or so to get an idea of the joke being made but, err, ended up watching about 15 minutes, then another 8 minutes the next day. Then it all got too excruciating and I had to stop. With five minutes to go.

Basically, this girl’s brother brings home a friend from college and obviously romance blossoms. Sort of.

The girl hates her brother and has absolutely nothing in common with the friend, but absolutely throws herself at him trying to impress him. The friend barely notices her and has nothing in common with her, and honestly I didn’t get far enough to find out if he ever notices she exists as a human being.

But, see, the thing that I wanted to post this for is because this family has had this Newfangled Electric Kitchen installed for about a week (since they’re all talking about it, it must be new, eh?) and already this poor kid is just begging for a feminist revolution. I mean come ON.

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January 24, 1984

Steve Jobs introducing the Macintosh, 30 years ago today. GOD I’m old.

So this is something I just noticed about a week ago, and yeah apparently it took me thirty years to notice:

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 7.12.04 PM

Before a file is actually created, it says it’s from Jan 24, 1984. Apparently it’s always done that.

The Apple website is pretty adorable today, too.

January 17, 2014


Thanks and curtsies to Wheat & Weeds for posting this picture I found on Twitter the other day, because it reminded me that I really need this saved on my hard drive (I can’t count the number of times I’ve needed something from Twitter but was too lazy/distracted to have done the responsible thing and posted it here in the ol’ External Memory Drive):

arctic explorer

He is Peter Freuchen (full name: Lorenz Peter Elfred Freuchen), and of course he’s Danish. She is his third wife, Dagmar Muller-Freuchen-Gale (née Cohn), he is her second (of three) husband, and of course she was an artist. The photo is by Irving Penn.

People used to be so cool.

January 7, 2014

American Minstrel

Better-reader-than-I Brett McS left this in the comments last week in response to my little rant about reality TV and all the crap therein:

WorldNetDaily – ‘Duck Dynasty’: A decoy for dummies, by Ilana Mercer

I just think this quote from one of her Facebook friends is exactly right:

“The [Ducksters] were selected for the show because they are how you describe them. Duck Dynasty was meant to be a redneck minstrel show. They were supposed to be objects of ridicule for cosmopolitan America. They are what blue-state America imagines religiosity to be.”

So, yeah, there’s your American television, ladies and gentlemen. I totally get now why so many of us are so eager to man the ramparts to defend them as the center of of all that is worth preserving. /massive sarcasm voice

January 6, 2014

The Books of [2012 and] 2013!

(2012 is getting included as I skipped out on doing this last year)

Unlike virtuous, self-improving people with social lives like RC2, I tend to stick to novels, and I tend to be a pretty easy mark on books so if I read something about one or read an interview with an author suddenly I find myself on Amazon ordering it. I don’t actually get many as gifts, and I hardly ever get recommendations. So anything I read is very much a product of my own rather scattered online influences. In fact, I’m even on Goodreads, and hardly ever go after something one of my friends reads (says something perhaps about my limited social circle). (Incidentally, if you know me in Real Life and you’re on Good Reads, I’m pretty good at keeping that up.) Some of you who may pay attention to these things or have a keen sense of the passage of time as marked by book reviews might sense a theme, but really there isn’t much. It’s all over the place.

Once again, the rules: I don’t include here anything I’ve read before (although my rereading abilities have dwindled DRASTICALLY since those halcyon days of my youth (you may think I’m referring to time before The Child, but I think we all really know I mean time before Twitter)) or cookbooks or the sort of thing you pick up for reference, rather than read cover-to-cover.

I’m actually kind of excited about this list, because I feel like in 2012 I discovered foreign literary awards shortlists, which I would buy and add to my to-read pile, which, I might add, is HUGE, and I still have stuff there that I ordered when this list begins. But, here we go:


Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending
Fiction, 2011

Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English
Fiction, 2011

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (treated here as a set since I read the all at once and, really let’s face it, don’t see a point in actually owning them (borrowed from a coworker))
Distopian Young Adult Fiction, 2008, 2009, 2010

Ali Smith, There But For The
Fiction, 2011

Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles
Fiction, 2011

George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons
Historical Fantasy Fiction; 1991, 1998, 2000, 2005, 2011 (yeah I read them all at once and yeah it took me about six weeks of HELL) (I recommend reading them, I don’t recommend buying anything better than the Mass Market Paperback)

Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame
Fiction, 1954


Hillary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
Historical Fiction, 2012 (rarely for me, I didn’t read the first one first, but it had just won the Man Booker Prize)

Kate Mosse, Labyrinth
Historical Fiction, 2005

Geraldine Brooks, Caleb’s Crossing
Historical Fiction, 2011

India Knight, Mutton
Fiction, 2012

Winifred Watson, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Fiction, 1938

P.D. James, Death Comes to Pemberley
Historical Mystery, 2011

Tracey Thorn, Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star
Memoir, 2013

Jilly Cooper, Jump!
Fiction, 2010

Jane Harris, Gillespie and I
Historical Fiction, 2011

Giles Coren, How to Eat Out
Memoir, 2012

Compton Mackenzie, Whisky Galore
Fiction, 1947

Hannah Kent, Burial Rites
Historical Fiction, 2013

Ian Rankin, Standing in Another Man’s Grave
Mystery, 2012

Agatha Christie, Poirot’s Early Cases
Mystery Short Stories, 1937

Agatha Christie, Hallowe’en Party
Mystery, 1969

Agatha Christie, Three Act Tragedy
Mystery, 1935

Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (I usually get my Agatha Christies from a used bookstore so mine has a different title from the one on Amazon because it’s very much of Yore)
Mystery, 1939

Barbara Pym, Excellent Women
Fiction, 1952

The Awards!

Best Book of 2012: Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

Best Book of 2013: Hannah Kent, Burial Rites

Best Nonfiction: Tracey Thorn, Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star

Most Funniest Like OMG: Giles Coren, How to Eat Out

Most Funniest Fiction Like OMG (but the above was funnier so wins overall): Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame

Most Irritatingly Spotty But Could Have Been Good With A Decent Editor Damnit But I Mean Really What Were They Thinking And Yet I Still Want To Complete The Series: Kate Mosse, Labyrinth

Most Depressing Because Oh Lawdy The Lives Of The Puritans Were Unrelentless But Come On It’s A Novel Innit But Hey Still Totes Worth Reading: Geraldine Brooks, Caleb’s Crossing

I Don’t Do Cookbooks But Honourable Mention Goes To:

• Jamie Oliver, 15 Minute Meals
I bought this via Amazon from the UK over a year ago and I recommend getting it now before the Americanized version comes out (the show is due to broadcast here soon and they can’t have been using those 18 months for good). If you don’t have it and use it basically all the time, you’re just plain doing it wrong.

• Gwyneth Paltrow, It’s All Good
I know, it’s Gwynnie, but I bought this pretty soon after it came out last spring (Caitlin Moran convinced me since she was tweeting pretty endlessly about how it was actually good) so I gave it a shot and honest to god I’ve barely made anything else from outside of it since. Again, I know it’s Gwynnie, but it’s a really good cookbook.

And just to wrap up the Desert Island Food and Drink Category:

• Harry Craddock, The Savoy Cocktail Book
I bought this from Anthropologie years ago, actually, but then a couple of years back Peter went on a cocktail-course at a swish bar in SF for a work fun thing which happily coincided with us moving into a place with an actual ice maker and it got dusted off. It is SO good. There are other cocktail books which are really useful and lovely but this one is basically the totes-best-evs-I’m-not-even-joking perfect.