Friday, May 25, 2007

Does a brownie point outweigh a "You're-Dead" point?

"There is something," I say to myself, as I hear the first hailstones start to pound off the windows, "That I should have done a few minutes back. Now what was it?"

I peer through the slats of the vertical blinds at the darkened back garden. A tabby cat, stung by the first hail, rushes out from under the hedge and after a false start finds in a panic the cat flap in the shed and jumps inside.

I grin.

Then I see the washing hanging on the line.

"Okay. I'm dead."

Then I realise that it is mostly made up of a wash that *I* put into the machine yesterday evening. Yes, I actually turned a dial and pushed a button. Must have earned at least one brownie point for that, eh?

Nope. I'm only fooling myself. I'm still dead.

Youth may be "wasted on the young..."

...but what fun to find this video of two fine ladies who rocked the 80s. Watch their original 1980s video here.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Best. Aria. Ever.

Wikipedia (all bow) tells us:

"An aria (Italian for air; plural: arie or arias in common usage) in music was originally any expressive melody, usually, but not always, performed by a singer. It is now used almost exclusively to describe a self-contained piece for one voice usually with orchestral accompaniment. Perhaps the most common context for arias is opera..."

"Pagliacci (Clowns) is an opera in two acts written and composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It is the tragedy of a jealous husband in a commedia dell'Arte troupe...."

So anyway, this fella, Pagliaccio , finds out his mot is playing away with another clown. (Where have we heard this scenario before, or so perfectly described???). The show must go on. But the heart must also break. The words of the aria are shown in Italian and in English in Wikipedia in this article.

The best rendition, I think, of this is by Placido Domingo in this 1978 version:

UPDATE: The site owner has disabled embedding, so the video won't show now on this Blog. However, please Visit This Page to see the video.

Original Italian
Recitar! Mentre preso dal delirio,
non so più quel che dico,
e quel che faccio!
Eppur è d'uopo, sforzati!
Bah! sei tu forse un uom?
Tu se' Pagliaccio!
Vesti la giubba,
e la faccia in farina.
La gente paga, e rider vuole qua.
E se Arlecchin t'invola Colombina,
ridi, Pagliaccio, e ognun applaudirà!
Tramuta in lazzi lo spasmo ed il pianto;
in una smorfia il singhiozzo il dolor, Ah!
Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t'avvelena il cor!

English Translation
Play a part! While I'm still reeling,
Unsure of what I say
or what I'm doing
Yet you've got to, force yourself!
Or aren't you a man?
You're just Pagliaccio!
Get into costume,
and smear on your makeup
The public's paying to have a laugh or two
If Arlecchino runs off with Colombina
laugh all the louder, the croud will cheer you on.
Pretend your anguish is nothing but clowning,
and hide your sobbing behind a silly grin.
Laugh, Pagliaccio
though your love lies in pieces.
Laugh through the pain, the pain that poisons your heart.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

New recipes for Spam, Part 2

Not much quality in the titles of spam messages received by email this week, but a small few amusing combinations of titles:

  • it's Kristen Or abalone
  • Get Ink from MyInks and save The job you want
  • tell me whether you like it Weird, isn't it

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Whoops of joy


It now being 10.32am on Saturday, I should be expecting around about now to be rolling over and wondering if I will make it to the bathroom on time if I stay just five minutes longer in the bed. Instead, I have already eaten breakfast, rolled up part of a gazebo and stowed it in its tote bag, cleared a moderate space on a dining room table, brought recyclables out the back and plomped them into the green recycling bin, spoken in various tones to one black cat and one tabby cat, and listened to a bunch of politicians and writers on the radio. The reason for this unusual Saturday morning activity is threefold:


1) I awoke to a ding dong. Followed by a ding............................... dong. Then a dingdong, dongdong, dongdong. Obviously someone was trying to get my attention at the front door. I pulled on a robe (as the Americans like to call them) and stumped off downstairs. My father usually calls early on Saturday morning, but I knew he was occupied with getting his new old car ready for an NCT test and wouldn't be visiting. The blue uniform of a post man blurred in and out of the frame of obscure glass by the front door. At least it wasn't a canvassing politician.


"Sorry about that," he said, scribbling on a registered post delivery docket.


"That's okay," I mumbled. "I was just having a wild man lie on."


"What's that?" he asked, still scribbling, then looking up.


"It's when you sleep looking like THIS!"


I thrust my head out the door in full unkempt medusa pose. His jaw dropped a little, but he recovered, gamely.


"Sign here, please?"


2) I returned to the bedroom, sat on the side of the bed, and heard:


"Shag-a-loop! Shag-a-loop! Shag-a-loop!"


Why do cats not move somewhere else when they decide to vomit? Why do they sit in the middle of the bed when they decide to vomit?


"GL-LOCKK...!


"For f**k's sake!"


The cat, having ejected the unmentionable onto (of course) the bedsheet, jumped onto the floor with a bump. Somewhere under the bed came a couple of final Shag-a-loops...


3. Cat puke cleaned up and bedsheet dumped into the laundry basket, I was considering getting back into bed with the top sheet under me when the cat sauntered over to her litter tray and completed the morning's digestive ablutions. This time from the other end.


I opened the window.


I didn't jump out. I didn't throw the cat out the window. I just let some fresh air in and got dressed. I know when I'm beaten.


Herself, who doesn't have to turn up for work today, greets me with:


"Isn't it great to be able to relax on Saturday?"


"Mumph," I said.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Boundin'

Alas, the Boundin' little lambikins is no longer available, so I've removed the movie window for now. It is available in German and in Spanish though over at You Tube. But as I speak neither German nor Spanish, I doubt I would enjoy the same level of charm as the original.

Today on the bus another little boundin' lambikins entertained us all the way from Tallaght as his minder -- Mom or sister, I do not know -- tried to figure out a way to keep him shut up. His feature performance was:

"Eeeeeeee-er eeeeeeeeeee-ek eeeeeee-eeeeeee-er..," in a thin, reedy voice which hardly met the basic standard for a two-year old's whine at all. I'm sure if there was another two-year old on the bus, it would have been embarrassed for him. Although... he had staying power. One had to admit.

Lovely little puddin' headed, ginger-haired boy.

Ah.

An elderly lady with an American accent got off the bus a few stops before mine and waved at him profusely. She turned around and looked me straight in the eye and grinned.

Now, was that a sarcastic Granny, or what?

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-er."

Eurovision 2007 over bar the shouting

Finland's presentation of the 2007 Eurovision song contest started with a new high-production value video of last year's winning group, Lordi, performing the incomparable "Hard Rock Halluljah." Doubtless there will be complaints from those who object to zombies warming up the Arctic with flaming computer effects, but I thought it was a great investment.

I won't add much more about the quality of the commentary on Irish television channel RTE. It remained abyssmally low.

The show itself was disappointing for the average quality of most of the songs. It seems that many of the harder rock numbers which had been entered in the semi-final stages had not been voted through and so the final 24 acts were generally pop acts. The Eurovision has traditionally tended towards pop music and if voting in the semi-final is anything to go by it seems to be going back in that direction.

Ireland's entry, "They can't stop the spring," has had its music score revised since it first appeared on the Late Late Show "competition" from which it sprung (sorry!). One is reminded that competition judge Frank McNamara almost told Pat Kenny how bad the song was at that time. Europe didn't spare the Irish any blushes last night putting the song in its proper place: given 5 points by Albania and not a sausage by anyone else, Dervish's attempt to make John Waters out-of-date political dirge seem remotely entertaining failed utterly. We finished in last place for the first time in the competition. Already the post-mortem denials are starting this morning on Irish radio: the contest is "no longer a song contest, but a spectacle," etc. But the fact is, Dervish's singer is, to be kind, a niche singer and in a contest of this type appeared out of place and in the unforgiving live performance she sounded annoyingly nasal.

The contrived pulp-pop UK entry didn't fare much better and finished joint second-last.

For me, two acts stood out of the ordinary: The Moldovan entry, Fight, performed by Natalia Barbu, who gave a masterly live vocal demonstration, and the entry from Slovenia, Cvet Z Juga, performed by Alenka Gotar. And no, I have no idea what Cvet Z Juga means...

Internet rumour has it that Finnish metal band, Nightwish, may be interested in inviting Alenka Gotar to join them to replace estranged lead singer, Tarya Turunen. I hope it's true.

The interval act was an entertaining mix of heavy rock music played by cello, acrobatic trapeze artistes and circus performers.

Countries whose entries had been eliminated in the semi-final stage were still qualified to vote, and so the competition had the potential for going on interminably at the voting stage. This was avoided by the instant application of the lower votes to the scoreboard and the calling out of the 8 point, 10 point, and 12 point awards of each country. While it meant the logistics of the competition were improved it did require a little mental and visual agility among viewers as the scoreboard rapidly changed.

In the end, Serbia, entering the competition for the first time, won with its ballad, Molitva, performed by Marija Šerifovic. It sounds like a traditional Eurovision winner and it has to be said Marija Šerifovic has some pair of lungs on her... whatever it is she's singing about..(!)

So, all over bar the shouting, the hangovers, the accusations, blame, and most of all the lack of any lesson learned. Will I be watching it again next year? I hope so. Will RTE produce something likely to win? Not without taking the courage to NOT send something sub-standard. Quality WILL win out over bloc-voting.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Marty Whelan's Eurovision comments


Master of commentary, RTE's Marty Whelan, starts the proceedings in Helsinki with the comment:

"Pour more water on me stones, missus."

Hours later, he ends with:

"We never came in this position before."

There isn't really more I can add.

New recipes for spam, Part 1

I've decided that rather than deleting my unsolicited emails, I'm going to combine some of the titles and see if any of them can be unintentionally entertaining. Today, the great oracle of spam tells me:

  • 5 inches in not enough download Photoshop CS3 Extended
  • Impotence meds at best prices! Be leaner and slimmer by next week
  • Why be an average guy any longer This Mothers Day give Mom music
  • Best Russian brides end the obesity now
  • Forget Vista, speed up your XP system we have a huge list of pharmacies
  • Will it be the one on truly
  • an athletic you by macrame is hazardous
  • Home Depot Voucher Inside cheap OS Shirley

Friday, May 11, 2007

How could you dislike Eurovision when songs like this one win?

I'm looking forward to the harder rock that is Eurovision 2007. Well, not exactly hard rock. Kind of a little tougher than talcum perhaps. I've seen some of the entries.... BUT! Lordi won in 2006, so the general trend in '07 is towards a more rock 'n' roll sound, if not a metal approach. I've been humming Hard Rock Hallelujah all day.

The Irish entry this year is a regrettable one. As Mr Gump said: "That's all I want to say about that."

For our non-Euro visitors, the Eurovision song contest is held annually in Europe where original (and occasionally some suspiciously non-original) songs are performed by representatives of most of the countries of Europe and some of the near east. The original idea was to foster peace and harmony. The event is televised in the participating countries and viewers vote by telephone. Viewers cannot vote for their own country's entry.

Songs tend to be light pop or worthy folk in character. The competition is generally considered to be old-fashioned, staid, and unwatchable. Secretly it has one of the biggest television audiences of the year. Somehow we always seem to be "just flicking through channels" and hit on the programme. The song by Lordi, in the video, above, won in 2006, to the surprise of quite a few people. As the winners, Finland gets to host the programme in 2007.

The competition has become so big in recent years that not all countries eligible to perform are allowed to automatically qualify and effectively two contests exist, the first a few days before the final being a kind of semi-final for countries who scored lower in the ranks in the previous competition. Although politics are barred from the event, some songs seem to have some political messages this year. Also voting for neighbouring countries and political partners is rife and makes the task of smaller countries all the more difficult.

The 2007 event final takes place this Saturday night, 12th May.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Dogs Don't Talk II

Gotcha!
No you don't.
Yes I do. Long weekend. Nearly over. Work tomorrow. I gotcha good.
Doesn't count.
Every day counts. The happy days. The sad days. I'm still there.
No, it doesn't count. I'm occupied. I planted seeds last week. I'm watching them grow.
Big deal. You won't have time to weed them and feed them and train them up.
Sure I will. I've learned something about time.
What's that?
Time isn't all it's cracked up to be. I have more time than you think. I have all day and all night too if I want. Nine to five is a myth. Weekends are a myth. Work is just a space in my life where someone else has my attention. If I want to, I can stay up all night. Or not go into work. Or go to work and work late.
And I'll be there when you get back.
Nice doggy. Go fetch. I'm off to bed. Work in the morning.
See you in the morning then.
Maybe.

Grease

Click here. That's all.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Five legs good! Two legs bad!

A colleague ended up -- by a convoluted path -- owning one brand new telescope and two brand new tripods, so I (naturally) bought one of the tripods from her.

"Sure, that screw-in yoke will fit my camera. No bother," I said, as she handed the box to me in the job car park.

I wonder what the security people made of it all. A plain white package emerges from the boot of car and is passed to the fat guy with the ponytail who waltzes nonchalantly back into the building with it turcked under one arm. I'm sure someone was electronically marking the security videos for future reference.

Anyway, the tripod is about six feet tall extended. My camera is about a first-class stamp in size, all ready for action. But the screw-in bit DOES fit, so I'm happy.

When out in the garden yesterday afternoon (see this post), I figured I'd use the tripod to capture old Hover Boots in action. So I unwrapped it from its canvas satchel, unclipped its upper leg lock clamps and extended its telescopic legs. Then I unclipped the lower leg lock clamps and extended the telescopic legs of the telescopic legs. I unclipped the camera plate and screwed it into the base of the camera. I fitted the camera plate back into its groove on the tripod head and locked it in place. Then I loosened the tilt nut and using the pan handle I angled the camera until it was roughly horizontal. Then I tightened the leg lock clamps, which I should have done before anything else. I grabbed a classy, white plastic garden chair and sat down on it. Then I was ready. For anything. I thought.

The subject was hovering about twelve inches from the camera. I could see him flitting back and forth in the viewfinder. Not having many manual controls on the focus, I started tapping at the autofocus until he appeared momentarily in the middle of the viewfinder.

Click.

"Bugger!"

He had buzzed off to the right. I grabbed the pan handle, loosened the lock and panned slightly to the right. A blurr of wings hovered in the middle of the viewfinder. I tightened the pan lock and tapped on the autofocus.

Click.

"Feck!"

I peered over the camera at the hover fly. It stuck out an insect tongue at me and went on hovering.

I picked up the tripod and moved it forward a couple of inches. I looked through the viewfinder. Nothing except green leaves.

I craned my neck around to the right. No sign of the fly.

"He'll be back."

A couple of minutes later, he pinged into view in the middle of the LCD screen.

"Focus... focus-focus-focus-focus-focus-focus focusfocusfocus... Feck!"

The tripod and I marched back and forth across the garden for half an hour until both me and the fly sat panting and wasted.

"Okay," I said. "You don't like formal shots? I'll try informal then..."

I grabbed the camera off the tripod and started stalking about the bushes. In ten minutes more I had 50 or so shots, two of which were really good, the rest useable. My neighbour and his family took turns at looking at me through the back bedroom window. No doubt ehy'll say a little prayer for me on Sunday.

None of the shots taken with the tripod were any good. There were a couple of blurry smudges in the middle of each photo which could have been anything.

The tripod is presently resting back in its satchel. I may take it out for a walk another day.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Good year for hover flies


Don't know if it's because of the warmer weather, or because I haven't cut back hedging too early this year, or perhaps a combination of both, but we have been observing many more hover flies in the garden on the sunny days than we've noticed before.

Today, as I sat out enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, I saw one of them, looking like a bee, hovering over a patch of warm concrete near the shed where we lodge the cats at night. Hover flies are harmless insects who bluff predators by looking like a more aggressive insect like a wasp, or a bee, in the case of my new-found pal.

After a few passes in my direction, he (I'm fairly sure it was a male, as these are the ones which defend territories and try to attract females) got used to my moving about with the camera and would rest from time to time on a sunlit leaf. For my part I practised getting used to the macro focus on the camera. It had trouble locating a particular spider on a web that I tried to photograph unsuccessfully.
Took the above pic among about 70 or so others today. You can view a larger version of this pic and also one of a red-eyed fly I saw today on the Flickr item to the right of the screen.

The Alligator King