Saturday, December 29, 2007

Zebra in Hot Tub

Does anyone else get that frustrating feeling when you can't respond to major news events beyond making anagrams of the names of people involved?

No? Maybe it's just me then.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Songs 8 - Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

What's Christmas all about then? Is it a message of peace and hope for the New Year? Is it a time for religious reflection? Is it a chance to spend all our leftover money before it expires at the end of December?

Of course it's all of these and much more, but the most important thing we should remember at this time of unusual night visitors is that elderly relatives and too many glasses of eggnog can be a dangerous combination, so effectively summed up by this Dr Elmo song:

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Songs 7 - Sleigh Ride

I was looking on YouTube for the hilarious version of Sleigh Ride by the Three Tenors, but unfortunately it's not on there. Presumably since the passing of Pavarotti, attempts are being made to erase his more embarrassing recordings from the public consciousness.

That was a shame, but short-lived, because I found this version instead, by Dennis Weaver! Anyone, who like me, loves Spielberg's early classic, Duel, starring Weaver as a man being chased by a nasty, noisy truck, will surely appreciate this duet with Amy Grant. If you look and listen closely during the video, you'll see our Dennis looking nervously over his shoulder and just about make out the sound of a growling artic in pursuit:

p.s. If you want an even better version, try this (no embedding - booo!).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Songs 6 - Mele Kalikimaka

Posting this from the airport, will soon be home in chilly England again. Hurrah!

Today's song is a bit smoother and more gentle than some I've posted so far. The video is taken from that holiday classic, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, with Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) fantasising about how he'll spend that year's bonus. The singer, I think, is Bing Crosby, and the song title is the Hawaiian way of saying, "Merry Christmas".

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Songs 5 - Santa Claus and his Old Lady

For many people of a certain age in the UK, Christmas comedy is summed up by a particular double act who would entertain the festive TV viewers in their millions. Whether accompanied by Angela Rippon's improbably fine legs or Andre Previn's gurning at the pianoforte, Morecambe and Wise were the undisputed kings of their trade.

Across the pond, though, the comedy duo schtick has always been a bit more competitive - one thinks of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Bob and Bing, Martin and Lewis almost immediately.

However, despite the fame of the aforementioned, I think no-one can come close to the antics of these two, who supply today's Christmas track (What have you been smoking? - ed.). Not really singing, but hey, it's Cheech and Chong:

As an interesting footnote, Cheech Marin is now a major patron of Mexican artists in the USA. Whodathunkit?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Songs 3 & 4 - The Australians

Going south for today's Yuletide selection folks, and what dichotomous treat it is.

First up is Aussie legend and adopted Maidonian, Rolf Harris, with his touching (and catchy) tale of the "Six White Boomers" (old man kangaroos) who pull Father Christmas' sleigh when he visits the lucky country.

In complete contrast, I also offer Aussie legend, Kevin "Bloody" Wilson and his, er, paean to the lost innocence of Christmas, wistfully reflecting in his inimitable unprintable way on the greed that dominates young people's thinking these days. NSFW, of course (indeed, not really suitable for anyone - Mum, please don't watch this), it's "Hey Santa":

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Songs 2 - Christmas at Ground Zero

The second in a seasonal series. Following the sublime (2000 Miles), we come to the ridiculous.

You don't see this on TV or hear it on the radio much these days. I wonder why?

All Wierd Al Yankovic was doing when he recorded this in 1986 was wondering what Christmas would be like after the bomb had been dropped (remember in those days a nuclear war was our biggest fear):

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Songs 1 - 2000 Miles

In the absence of anything better to blog about, here's a seasonal tune that I like. Probably to be followed by others over the next few days.

Monday, December 10, 2007


The best thing about Portugal, at least a definite advantage it has over several countries, is that imported TV shows are subtitled, rather than dubbed.

This is a huge boon for the Brit abroad, as all he has to do is open his ears to the telly, while he can focus the rest of his mind on something else (such as writing a blog post). It's also a useful way of picking up some Portuguese - I'm always intrigued by the way things are translated and learning while watching TV is always to be encouraged.

However, I am a little worried that corners are being cut in the subtitling programme and that the Portuguese viewer is not always getting the real message. The occasional rephrasing for reasons of brevity can be excused, with unnecessary details omitted so that the main message can be conveyed quickly on the screen. Some things, though, ought really to be universally recognised with no difficulty.

I ask you, in a documentary about the Beatles, can this really be excused?

"Lionel Rigby"

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Hoff

What's the definition of a mid-life crisis? Dancing with dachsunds has got to be pretty close.

Thanks to Michael.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Little missed

A quote from Liam Byrne, Immgration Minister, about the things people would miss if they left Britain:

"And so are the little things that sometimes mean everything; a cup of tea, pubs, cider, the BBC, queuing, proper chocolate, fish and chips, darts, fashion, the seasons and countryside, walks and clubbing."

Well, I've left Britain (more than once) and I take issue with some of this. Okay, I'll grant you a cup of tea, fish and chips, pubs and even darts. No-one does these better than the Brits, although with darts many would ask why they'd want to.

I'll also allow the seasons and countryside and walks, because there is something green and pleasant about Britain's land, and a summer's afternoon at a village cricket ground, or a ramble down some quiet dale is an experience rarely exceeded.

At a push we can include the BBC in things that we miss. Not because the TV series are always outstandingly brilliant - most of them are total rubbish (ever watched the Beeb during the day? Don't bother) - but because foreign TV really is awful and the only good things on most European channels are the expensive American imports (CSI, 24 and what have you). The BBC's real advantage comes in radio, which I do miss, although I listen online quite a lot.

But is Liam Byrne really suggesting that in Britain people eat "proper" chocolate? Has he been to Belgium? Or Switzerland? Those two countries know a thing about cocoa-based confectionery beyond the dreaded Dairy Milk. British chocolate is cheap by international standards, and there is a wide variety available, but let's not kid ourselves it's better than everyone else's.

And fashion?? Brits are terribly dressed, most of the time. You don't see thongs peeping out of the top of jeans in civilised countries, you know. Go to France to see fashion. Crikey.

What surprises me most, though, is that anyone could miss clubbing in the UK (I'll add queuing to this because at so many tacky British clubs, you need to queue for ages in the freezing rain at the whim of some jumped up doorman.). Perhaps if you go to a really classy joint (you don't see Liam Byrne in Chicago's) the experience in Britain is OK, but generally it's sweaty and unpleasant. The grisly attempts of every crew-cut drunk to pull the lariest secretary from the inevitable hen party pervade the atmosphere, the unpleasantness of which is only exceeded by the underlying booze-fuelled sense of violence and aggression, which generally spills over outside some nasty kebab/fried chicken shop. All to bloody Dancing Queen and assorted other "cheesy" favourites. Most people in Britain (i.e. those who live in soulless provincial towns and cities) only go to clubs because they're the only places you can get alcohol after midnight. The whole thing is ghastly: go out for a good time, come back with chlamydia.

Abroad, people actually go to clubs to listen to music, and dance, and have fun. And generally they succeed. No-one who's tried a decent night out in Lisbon would be seen dead in a club in the UK.

As for me, the thing I miss most is the British notion that every silver lining has a cloud. You know, making the worst of a situation: the Olympics will be a an expensive failure; all our politicians are sleaze-ridden fools; it doesn't matter who's the England manager, the players are overpaid and lazy anyway. It's as if British people have a masochistic streak, and are enduring life, rather than enjoying it. If Britain was a fictional character, it would be Eeyore. Everone else is Tigger, bouncing enthusiastically, except Scandinavian countries, who are Owl. And cos I'm a bit curmudgeonly, I quite miss that.