Friday, December 31, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
Leslie Nielsen is mourned on eight continents, including one from Altair IV that ended up in orbit around the Star of Knöchbant. His passing reminded me of another fine but unsung actor, my Uncle Voltaire.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Jana Bennett has quit as Director of Vision (meaning TV, film and, in Wales, the magic lantern) at the BBC, and Mrs Boyo is thinking of bidding for her place as part of her own long stomp through the institutions.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Text of report by Welsh official Taffinfform news agency
Boyograd [formerly Cardiff] 1 December (Taffinfform): Welsh government spokesman Griff [Gruffydd ap Gruffydd, fab Gruffydd] reacted with customary bemusement to revelations on the WikiLeaks website about levels of corruption and imaginative violence in Welsh official institutions.
"These revulations has totally and utterly come as a surprise to us, and to me, though but," he told punters in an impromptu press conference at the Martyr Dr Phil Williams Memorial Institute of Tantric Studies, Boyograd.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Exiled pedagogue Matthew Ward once proposed a two-fisted actionfest to the BBC, based on the sort of wish-fulfilment even Robert Fisk enjoys. His synopsis ran thus:
"TEFL teacher in Latin America joins the Cymru Rouge, rises through the ranks and is eventually sent as ambassador to Rutheria with his Ukrainian spouse, where he gets involved in cachaça-induced japes and sinister episodes of physical and mental torture. Maybe Timothy Spall would take the lead? I imagine a twenty-first century Citizen Smith meets Zorra Total."
My response as his agent was to aim higher and sketch out a trailer:
Sod the BBC, that's got Hollywood treatment written all over it:
"(Rumbling Voice, over Rio scenes): Far from the Copacabana (cut to snaggle-toothed peasant riding a goat in a top hat) deep in the forests of Ruthenia, there's monkey juice that needs drinking (close-up of cachaça bottle slamming down on a table surrounded by sweaty men in ill-fitting uniforms).
"And here's the mouth that's going to do it (crash-zoom from across a cellar deep into the throat of a screaming man tied to a Medieval dentist's chair).
"(Clanging noise over smoky screen, with male silhouette slowly emerging) Sean Penn is MC Ward.
"(Unhinged woman, stomping towards camera) Helen Lederer is his made-up scary Ukrainian wife who's nothing at all like Mrs Boyo.
"(Gurning thugs yell in close-up) Keith Allen, Ray Winstone and Ralph Brown are the population of Ruthenia, in..."
I took my 12% and, at Madame Boyo's Hegelian insistence, let The Dialectic do the rest.
Three years later to the day, I've come up with the High Concept.
What makes Matt Ward different to other sheath-rending action heroes?
- Eastwood is carved from teak
- Jack Bauer is Dick Cheney in a wig
- Monk is a mental
So here's some sample dialogue:
(LA police precinct, a uniformed cop hustles the standard pair of remonstrating whores past an office where some sweaty men in bad suits are discussing their new boss)
Will there be more in the next three years? Like the French Revolution, with me it's always too soon to say.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
This time round I can honestly say that I'm looking forward to discharging my duties, and not just because Princess Katherine's pile at Bucklebury is only a 20-minute drive from my place. I could fit her in one lunchtime and still have time for a swift couple of jugs of Champion's Freckled Johnson down the Tethered Goat before heading back to my desk.
Friday, November 05, 2010
A pronunciamento from the Prif Sasiwn of the Cymru Rouge (Commissariat of External Relations and Instant Rebuttal):
"President George W Bush saw little virtue in either pursuit, and so the Internet remained empty until some Dutchmen found it and filled it with porn.
"This was the Golden Age of the Internet. Since then use has decayed, and the current inventory of Internet content is as follows:
- 89% porn
- 4% pictures of cats
- 4% people blaming Israel
- 2% German cannibals seeking dinner dates
- 1% the Scaryduck publishing empire
- 2% creative accounting."
On the basis of this, the Cymru Rouge has devised a reach-around so that any patriotic Welsh can achieve his goals without entering a modem. We have categorised the above categories into three categories:
1. Porn, pictures of cats, and people blaming Israel. A girlfriend from Newport, incontinent aunt and television licence will suffice.
2. German cannibals. We assume that anyone who wants to be stuffed in a Pfälzer Saumagen will have already bought the one-way ticket on the Kürten Express by now.
3. Scaryduck. Media projections suggest that Scaryduck will acquire controlling shares in all British newspapers, commercial radio stations and works of fiction by 2015, so sit still and all will be well.
5. Creative accounting. Over half of all legally employed Welsh are involved in this industry - Wales's second largest - and are therefore exempt from the Intern Net ban in the workplace. Instead they will be expected to undertake an indefinite strike in support of our cause.
For the plutocrats who control the Intern Net, the pressure will be unbearable.
Huw Samphan - Brawd Rhif Dau
Ta Moc Tudor - Brawd Rhif Tri
"H" (out of Steps) - Groyw loyw
Prif Sasiwm y Cymry Rouge.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
To live in Wales is to be unaware of Halloween, as it's like that most evenings, and every village pub is a werewolf pub. So I was delighted to find these establishments existed in England too. Perhaps they still do.
When I lived in Oxford I ventured into the Kite Inn, on Mill St. The sort of place that could easily have been called The Spread Eagle, with a graphic, swinging sign to make the spatchcocked point, The Kite was my near local. O how my heart sang when I pushed open that creaking door and every Morlock within stopped talking and looked at me with a combination of mistrust and hunger. It was just like home.
To be Welsh is at various points in your life to meet some onion-breathed bore who once walked into a pub in North Wales - well, it was a friend, actually - no, the friend of a friend, come to mention it - and no, he can't remember where - anyway, they were all talking English and suddenly they switched to Welsh.
To be Welsh is to point out the extreme linguistic improbability of natural-born Anglophones switching to anything but spirits as the evening wears on. What the mythical traveller heard was not Welsh but bat-hooting mockery - they sound similar.
It is true, however, that people in matching shoes and perpendicular teeth still get stared at. That's what made The Kite so special. In a city like Oxford, where soap and vegetables trickle down from the 'Varsity like syrup in a scholar's navel, there are few corners of crabbed and cussed rusticity left.
I'm not sure where The Kite's customers came from, but their's were faces you could imagine on Cromwell's men. You would not ask them for a latte. An eminent historian told me his father once visited The Kite during the War. "Do you do sandwiches?" he asked. "Only fur 'em as wants 'em" he was told with a mahogany finality.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I once provided readers with a sheath-bursting tour d'horizon of Central Asia, in which I characterised the Kyrgyz thus:
The Kyrgyz are the Welsh of Central Asia. They're jolly, profoundly democratic, and inhabit a beautiful, mountainous country that no one visits and which has no natural resources at all except for some gold and clapped-out mining.
They are divided north and south in lifestyle and geographical orientation, and are widely associated with sheep-related activities.
They still practice droving, and have the worst cuisine in the world. Their southern valleys are home to heroin connoisseurs.
They have never ruled anything, not even Kyrgyzstan, and don't really seem to care. They think their neighbours are soft and that they secretly wish they too were Kyrgyz.
Their neighbours rarely think of them at all, except in a comic context, but if pushed will say they distrust them as sly and two-faced.
Russian spittle-licking suits them just fine, and hey, Ivan, why don't you buy some of our lovely smack while you're here?
Prophetic words, you'll agree, and compassionate too. But not, I'm ashamed to say, entirely truthful. For there is another political factor at play in Kyrgyzstan beyond the Russo-American strategic rivalry, beyond the scheming Uzbeks of the South and the patient Han of the East.
Some chap from Dubai took time out from driving his Mercedes round and round to pen a few hundred cheerily uninformative words for The Guardian's web-based Comment is Free rubric on why the bold ouster of Kyrgyzstan's tawdry Mr Bakiyev was not likely to be repeated with the Arab world's sullen satraps.
It's difficult to read past his endorsement of Noam Chomsky, but Mr Al-Qassemi deserves praise for not indulging any of the conspiracy theories common in his part of the world - for that you'll need to read the remarks on his article by the Jocelyns of the Comment is Free crew.
The fact is that the Assads and Al-Sa'uds can rest their rectangular heads, for they do not have to contend with the most occluded factor in Kyrgyz politics - the Yeti Lobby.
Some background: The Soviet conquest of Central Asia only really took off after the various inept and insane White Generals had been dispatched to the four corners of emigration, execution, incarceration or promotion.
Commander Mikhail Frunze, a native of what is now the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, took the Red Army with him on his trip back home. The corpulent pederast Alim Khan sought to shore up his Bukharan throne by casting gaggles of gap-toothed dancing boys before the advancing Bolshevik hordes, only to see the bacchás shorn, shod and shown how to shoot sodomites.
(The Emir himself fled to Afghanistan, and his pragmatic decision to transfer his affections to young girls prompted peasants to cake their daughters' faces in dung as he passed. A fashion that has not died out entirely in the Zaamin area, I can testify.)
While Frunze was shriving Tajiks at the head of the terrier-shaped tyranny that would soon become Uzbekistan, one of his officers was busy sorting out the Khan of Khiva's troops under its Khwarezmian tail.
Divisional Commander Morgunov's method, in an eerie pre-echo of Comrade Stalin's quondam Nazi allies, was to line up the captured mingbashis and fit their skulls into types of fruit - a round, watermelon match marked the bearer as a subtle urban Sart, while a Mr Punch honeymelon profile meant a Turcoman desert nomad.
The latter were instructed in the ways of Leninism, given fresh horses and sent against the British Dunsterforce on the Caspian. The former were drowned in buckets or something.
This policy of gourd-based divide and kill took on a new, hairier dimension in High Badakhshan, where the questing Bolshevists faced Alim Khan's last line of defence - the sepâhe 'âliye kojâkân (the Noble Host of Abominable Snowmen).
Yetis remain elusive in the Himalayas, as they resent being scalped by monks, tracked by Germans or mounted by lonely sherpas, but they rub along nicely with the chilled Isma'ilis of the Pamirs.
Alim Khan's ancestor, the debased martinet Nasrallah Bahadur Khan, had regimented these loping vegetarians into a fearsome phalanx in return for their exercising droit de seigneur over the monobrowed maidens of Soghd. Frunze's commissars, however, persuaded them through the media of mime and crude surgery that Socialism offered a chance to build a new world, one fit for all bipeds.
The Yetis donned the Red Army budenovka and drove the Last Manghit across the Jaxartes. Stalin granted them regional autonomy, an alphabet, and the right to send delegates to the Grand Soviet in Moscow, but as ever there was a catch.
In order to prevent a powerful Yeti presence in still-volatile Central Asia, the Bolsheviks partitioned their historic uplands between the emerging Kyrgyz republic and Tajikistan.
On the Kyrgyz side of the frontier was the Lower Abominable Snowman Autonomous Region (Нижняя cнежнe-человеческая автономная область), and on the Badakhshani plateau stood the less-developed Upper Abominable Snowman Autonomous District (Верхний cнежнe-человеческий автономный округ).
The result was that the Yeti of Tajikistan were subject to institutional speciesism, and soon embarked on the Great Lollop (Yettish: Tümőnt'z Nyi'ařl) - a mass migration across the cordillera to British India. Their spiritual leader, Yebhamoth the Marmot-Slayer, shaved closely and enlisted in the 5th Baluchi Lancers, with anti-Soviet vengeance on his single-lobed mind.
He quickly rose to the rank of corporal among the mainly Welsh troops, but General Sir Anthony"Bracing" Shower had him court-martialled and shot for sloppy kit. The whereabouts of his grave are unknown, although his manhood was used as the parade-ground flagpole in Quetta until it vanished after a visit by Lady Mountbatten in 1947 (see Maj Gervaise "Neither Know" Nacquere: "The Abominable Snowman - A Frightful Consequence of Miscegenation", HMSO, Quetta, 1947).
Meanwhile, the Yetis of Kyrgyzstan embarked on a long shamble through the institutions of Soviet power. Their position was strengthened during the Great Purges of the 1930s - not through collaboration with Stalin and his henchmen, but because Russian-made bullets merely bounced off the back of their heads. Uncle Joe admired that, and promoted Yetis to all major party and government posts in the republic.
Khrushchev's policy of de-Stalinisation eclipsed the Abominables who, in an exquisite example of Marxian anti-thesis, then became the literal backbone of the dissident movement. On the fall of Soviet power, the ethnic-Kyrgyz and Russian party leaders were swept away by a liberal faction led by a close-shaven Yeti physicist who used the nom de l'homme of Askar Akayev.
The new Yeti elite ran independent Kyrgyzstan better than their human peers managed in the other Central Asian states. As cryptozoological creatures they were able to rise about the seething ethnic, religious and musical divisions of the land, but tensions soon emerged that doomed their hirsute hegemony:
- The Kyrgyz in their bigoted way thought a country called "Kyrgyzstan" ought to be run by Kyrgyz;
- Russian men complained that their russet-haired, slatternly wives were discarding their greasy housecoats and running off with sober, upwardly mobile and downwardly endowed Mi-Go;
- Tajikistan complained that their own downtrodden Yeti were seeking secession in order to create a Great Yetistan astride the Ferghana Valley; and
- Muslim clerics were appalled at the staunch secularism of the Snowmen and the prospect of anyone having a good time.
This coalition of the insulted and injured toppled Akayev from his eminence, and ushered in the recent Time of Troubles where crowds of men in piss-stained brown flares struggled to find the keys to the presidential drinks cabinet.
The Yetis bided their time. They quietly built alliances, promising Uzbek irredentists, Russian militarists and cosmopolitain drug barons a fair deal. And now they're back.
I shall not speculate on the likely policies of the second Yeti administration, although the abolition of VAT on hair-removal products, nail-clippers and extra-strong mints is a fair bet.
I will only suggest that we cast our eyes southwards. The success of the Snowmen of Bishkek may galvanise the Yetis of Tajikistan - where they largely work as street cleaners - Kashmir and Ladakh.
Above all, we ought to consider Nepal. The fall of the monarchy and the recent outbreak of Maoist syndicalism have created an atmosphere in which the mountain men may decide to intervene. A Yeti-led state literally atop the world and on the borders of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan is not a matter that Russia or China can regard with equanimity.
I leave you with this item that I translated from Vatanparvar, the entertaining organ of the Uzbek Armed Forces (16 September 1995, p 4).
The border-violator was a yeti
An unusual occurrence took place at the M. Strelnikov border outpost. At night, a border patrol saw a two-metre-tall creature, moving ahead on two legs, similar to descriptions of the yeti - the abominable snowman.
Its eyes gleamed in the dark. The leader of the patrol there and then made a report by telephone to the outpost. A search party, sent promptly to the scene, found half-metre-long human-like footprints. A dog caught the trail, which crossed into the border demarcation zone.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Gorilla Bananas has catalogued the disappointing career of sunny Swede Ulrika Jonsson. I shuddered - not because I've met Ms Jonsson, but because she cost me my fleeting Cool.
- Jazz - yes; jazz fans - no.
- World music - yes; your own folk music - no.
- Unthinking Left - yes; any sort of Right - no.
- Tea is cool; coffee is for those who can't cope.
Monday, August 30, 2010
The BBC autumn television schedules will shortly sidle up, chalk an ominous "M" on our overcoat and move on unnoticed through the broadcast spam.
1. Pride or Prejudice. You, a bigot, have a choice. Either set out your views to the audience, possibly armed and made up of the object of your ill-considered scorn, or tell it to a pride of lions.
Episode 1: The Whacker Man. Filmed on Anglesey. "We'll be loving the both of you".
4. Shmooks. The BBC's hit spy series "Spooks" goes to the real Middle East, where Alexei Sayle, Tom Paulin, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Lauren Booth are kidnapped from the Beirut Book Festival by al-Qaeda bad hats who nonetheless have a refined sense of irony.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
This is a momentous day for all Welsh and conspiracy theorists, not to mention the free people of Australia. For in that mulleted land on the outer edge of the earthly disc has the fearsome Welsh Lobby faced its sternest task.
He joined the US Marines, gathered his documents and, when the moment came to sabotage the Anglo-American plot to impose social democracy on the happy helots of Herat, Bradley unbuckled his belt.
What other evidence is there of Cambrian confusion abroad? Consider the following:
2. Somalia had the makings of a successful state, believe it not. Unlike much of Africa it has an homogeneous population, convenient location on modern trading routes, decent ports, a proper alphabet and a thriving market in the export of glamorous models. The plucky Somalis even managed to oust their dictator Siad Barre all by themselves.
Then along came General Hersi Morgan, who combined the military efficiency of his father-in-law Barre with a devotion to famine and pestilence to rival that of any Horseman of the Apocalypse. The Somalis have not managed to hold a government together since, too preoccupied are they with avoiding al-Qaeda, the Ethiopian Army, pirates, Ridley Scott and one another.
3. Staying in Africa, take a look at Zimbabwe. Comrade Bob is no Welshman, as far as I know, but our ways are more subtle than that. Knowing what it's like, we assumed the International Community would press President Mugabe to cut a deal with the opposition rather than send in the brace of French paratroopers it would take to topple him.
Enter Morgan Tsvangirai and the rather obvious Welshman Ncube. Don't expect Mr Mugabe to be retiring any time soon.
4. Indeed, you could say that Africa's entire ghastly colonial experience came down to a Welsh. Dr Livingstone was as lost as a fisherman in Fortnum's and faced certain death by Mau Mau when he was rescued by Henry Morton Stanley, a hack from Denbigh who specialised in being a literal bastard on three continents.
The ensuing publicity stoked the Scramble for Africa, blighted the place with Bibles, and gave Stanley the chance to resume the career of killing black people that his capture and defection from the Confederate side had cut short during the American Civil War. His sole act of humility was to cede to King Leopold II of the Belgians not only the whole Congo but also the title of Worst White Man of the 19th Century.
5. We have not neglected the lesser continents, either. South America seems relatively Waliserrein, apart from the agrarian simpletons of the Chubut Valley in Argentina. These religious pastoralists resented the way science, the telegraph and life-long teeth were ruining their traditional ways in Bala, and so set off for what they thought would be a verdant Eden in the Pampas.
They managed to turn the shrieking rocks and numbing desert that Buenos Ayres had sold them into a fair copy of Cardiganshire, but hopes of autonomy met the same fate as any attempt to rule Latin America that didn't involve ridiculous peaked caps and misuse of the power supply.
Monday, August 02, 2010
"Civilisation is an exercise in self-restraint," intoned Senator William "I hate you, Butler" Yeats, Irish poet and statesman. Wise words, and rich ones too coming from a man who wrote marching song for Franco reject Eoin O'Duffy's Blueshirts and spent his last years having unnecessary surgery, monkeying around with young ladies and dying, predictably enough, in France.
Yeats's ghost was knocking at the door of The Tethered Goat the other day as we sat down to lunch. I offered the Dog of Decei(p)t and Hypocrisy his usual Steppenwolf measure of red wine, but he quietly declined and opted for a Diet Coke.
"That's not even a proper mixer!" complained Dazza. The K Man was lost for printable words.
The Dog mumbled something about "health concerns", also known as being a middle-aged bloke, and pledged to buy his own beverages for the duration.
We've all known the Dog for many years and have grown accustomed to his ways. Indeed, we all have our oddities:
- The K Man likes French lager;
- Dazza insists on eating at table;
- I wear "gay" shirts; and
- The Dog drives a BMW.
But none of us has ever ordered a soft drink, not even for a girl who specifically asked for one ("Here's a spritzer, love, it even sounds like Sprite."). The next couple of lunchtimes were spent debating whether there were any historical precedents for this behaviour among normal people. We found none.
The closest we came was the case of "Young Young" Magurn, an ex-colleague and epic ale-whalloper, who would switch to Diet Coke and a regime of running around a lot for a fortnight when ever he lost sight of his feet or mistook them for someone else's. Once contact with his loafer tassels was re-established, he would resume his campaign to drain all South Coast breweries by the nearest church festival.
"That wasn't giving up, that was getting in training," I explained to what we thought would be a chastened Dog. "That's what I'm doing," he countered, picking lemon from his teeth. "I need to get into shape for the International Berlin Beer Festival."
It was like that moment in American films when everything you've seen hitherto turns out to have been a pungent red herring, elaborate conspiracy or the dream of a hedgerow mammal. We rushed our apologies - apart from the K Man, who disapproves of festivals that don't involve getting monged in a field in Wiltshire while "some Fenians" try to steal your tent - and considered a new point of philosophy:
What is more manly - the Dog Trend or the Dazza-Boyo Stance? The Dog Trend is:
- To drink vats of all sorts of stuff, eat pies, climb onto the roof of your house and hurl night soil at the neighbours' dovecotes.
- To cease this activity, substituting soft drinks, omelettes (there is an option without chips, apparently) and a stroll around the garden for a few weeks.
- To visit a world shrine of booze, where adepts from all corners of the Earthly disc gather to insist that they don't really want a girlfriend anyway.
- To return home with a novelty tankard, the phone number of an ambiguous Belgian and a renewed commitment to The Drink.
The Dazza-Boyo Stance is to drink fairly large amounts of certain stuff, eat things that aren't just brown, and sit on the sofa criticising the telly.
The case for the Dog Trend is that it requires the collective willpower of the Rolling Stones (minus Bill Wyman) to refrain from this life of Neronic excess, only to plunge back in after a fixed period.
The case for the Dazza-Boyo Stance is neo-Yeatsian, in that it involves self-discipline to keep your drinking within the bounds of the just-about unacceptable.
We are genuinely unsure which is the maler, as both approaches have gods on their side:
Friday, July 16, 2010
The Radio 4 reading of Hellhound on His Tail has brought home to me one of the many differences between myself and the late Martin Luther King.
- I read in Michael Balfour's biography of Wilhelm II that the Kaiser frittered away his evenings in witless badinage with drones and poseurs. I do the same pretty much all day;
- Eisenstein's October suggests that epic loser Alexander Kerensky spent much of 1917 stealing into dowagers' boudoirs in over-elaborate footwear - a college past-time of my own; and
- Along with the benign Emperor Ferdinand of Austria, I like dumplings.
Friday, June 25, 2010
This Rorschach horror of glaciers and dung pits, wedged sourly between Afghanistan and the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Testing Range, was emerging from 70 years of Soviet literacy, pavements and buttons into the awareness that its Afghan neighbours had spent the intervening period cheerily hacking off one another's heads and using them for mountain-top semaphore. It was time to catch up.
The 201st (Gatchina Twice Red Banner) Motor-Rifle Division had spent the 50 years since its glory days in the Second World War watching with dismay as non-Slavs basked in the benefits of Soviet bounty without having their geography, economy and womenfolk repeatedly ransacked, Berlin style. It was time to catch up.
- The paleo-Communist government of Tajikistan was a bootleg recording of a live Mariah Carey concert.
- The armed Islamic opposition was a teenage girl singing along to said concert with a fucked Walkman on a hot train, stranded at points near Swindon.
- The 201st Motor-Rifle Division was a snarl of Cardiff City supporters on said train, returning home from a thrashing at Brentford. And the buffet car's closed.
Either way, you will have shared a moment with Igor Nikolayev, scholar, soldier, a man at peace.