The most realistic story ever told.

Author: jasonbmobile (page 1 of 3)

Leaving Mississippi…

That was awesome.
So good to be back. Thanks to all of y’all: especially Bullfrog, Rebecca, and little Miss Callie.

Take me back on down to Dixie…

I got interrupted from my top ten this morning by an airport cab driver who had the gall to arrive early, and my laptop’s currently checked into a baggage hold somewhere so I can’t finish it…
So I’m sitting waiting now for my flight to Jackson, Mississippi to board. This’ll be the first time I’ve been back to Meridian since summer camp out at Camp Binachi in 1996. Really looking forward to seeing Bullfrog, Patsy, Cindy, Tony, Ranger Bill, and whoever else we run into, and going for a trip out to the campsite if it isn’t lashing with rain.

Mmm… Contrasty…

Hello Dolly isn’t typically the kind of musical I’d embrace, in my jaded old age – written in the 1960s, it very much embodies the fanciful & superficially wholesome stereotypical thing which kinda irritates me about the entire genre.  You know what I’m talking about.  As soon as the curtain goes up the scene gets set with a certain presentation of class (in this case, middle-to-upper); a beige backdrop against which the protagonist(s) can introduce their distinction.  See Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Fiddler on the Roof, The Producers for more examples.  The latter two are somewhat less saccharine and therefore bad examples.  It’s the kind of thing that also gives me the willies about Richard Curtis films.

Still, a cheap ticket’s a cheap ticket.  Plus the few stage shows I’ve been to at Regent’s Park had been excellent.

In point of fact I wasn’t intending to write too much about Hello Dolly specifically, but as I’ve started a good summary would be that it was as I had expected: a real-life recreation of the big MGM studio production pieces.  The story of a meddling busybody marriage broker in New York society, and the unlikely scrapes & hijinks that ensue when a couple of working-class lads stumble into a world above their station, whilst the meddler’s past helps her to fulfil a missing part of her life.  The costumes were pristine period-wear, presenting a sterilised version of a caricature of a time.  The performances were wholesome and twee, with plenty of “Well golly-gee!”s and the big first half finale featuring the parochial 14th Street Parade, where everyone’s suddenly sporting US flags and rosettes on their breast pockets.  The restaurant, where much of the second half’s action takes place, is staffed by eunuch-like tapdancers, capering around in that way that the staff always do.

I don’t want to give you the impression I didn’t enjoy it, of course.

In fact, once you looked past all that – which of course you’d need to, unless you were a pointless twat – there was some good fun stuff in there.  The third song in, It Takes A Woman, was the usual kind of chauvanistic anthem that turns up in musicals – I assume to set the scene that the male lead is the sort of hard-nosed, no-nonsense hardass who recognises women only for their utility value and thereby raises the stakes for when he inevitably softens and falls in love with the female.  The girl in the seat next to me sighed with exasperation and was quite tense during this song, and I was hoping she might storm out with frustration at the rampant sexism.

So if the point wasn’t to talk about how good the show was, what WAS the point, exactly?  Well, Regents Park is located very close to where I live, and so the optimum mode of transport is to walk there.  It takes about 15-20 minutes, and this provides an opportunity to have a bit of video playing on the ol’ iPod (the only way I get to watch telly these days).

The show I’m presently making my way through is the gritty, sexy Louisiana-based vampire story, True Blood.  Man, if ever there was a stark contrast with the wholesome antics of Hello Dolly…

True Blood is the tale of waitress Sookie Stackhouse, who has telepathic abilities, in the hick-town of Bon Temps.  It’s set in a hypothetical reality where science has discovered a synthetic substitute for human blood, and as a result vampires no longer need to hunt people to survive.  Vampires have therefore dropped their secrecy and come forward to join mainstream society.  You get everything – the mystical awesomeness of vampires, the tension of small-town prejudice against outsiders set against national-level attempts by one group to make peace with the other, a bit of standard romance & drama, a decent-sized bit of violence (cos it’s a show for grownups after all), and they’ve not skimped on pouring in massive lashings of sex & nudity.

Consequently, my evening went:  BLOOD SEX VIOLENCE SWEARING BIGOTRY SEX VIOLENCE POLITICS UNDEAD BLOOD NUDITY TURMOIL ANGER DESPAIR BLOOD VIOLENCE SWEARING laa dee daa dee daa You’ll get married, I’ll get married, Big parade, tapdancing waiters, I don’t love you, yes I do, happily ever after, dum dee dum dee doo doo BLOOD SEX VIOLENCE SWEARING FLESHEATING SEX VIOLENCE and BLOOD.

What a trip.

Incidentally (back to bitching about musicals for a second): one of the things which reviews of the Regents Park production all seemed to agree on, and similarly be enthused about by punters, was that the full stage dance routine where the cast formed into a big lump, and then transformed themselves into a steam engine, was a triumph of theatrical imagination.  It was pretty cool – the people forming the “wheel-level” section joined some furled umbrellas up and rotated them such that the whole thing had a drive-train feel to it, and somewhat inexplicably the man at the front wearing the stovepipe hat suddenly had smoke issuing forth in a very chimneylike way.

It was pretty neat, but I saw pretty much the same thing carried off (minus smoking hat) in 1986 in the Adelaide Festival Centre when Cats came through (during the song about Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat).

Final analysis: if they can put together a Jane Austen film with zombies in it, then they ought to be able to cook up a version of Hello Dolly featuring vampires.

The Black Stuff

Does anyone know what it is that makes a good pint of Guinness?
I guess it isn’t difficult to assess a bad pint, but what categorically puts a good one over a mediocre or even average one?
The question’s prompted mainly by my meeting in Dublin on Wednesday – in the cab to the airport my distinguished cow-orker said to the cab driver “There’s nowhere at the airport you can get a good pint of Guinness, is there? Can you drop us somewhere near the airport which does a good pint?” (thereby demonstrating that he’s a man of the people who appreciates cultural nuance, and not just some smug English businessman). The cab driver dropped us at a place a short walk from the airport which apparently the air crews all go to when they knock off, which does a good pint. Two black pints duly arrive, and as promised, they tasted a lot like Guinness does.
The thing is, Guinness tastes like Guinness, and my limited understanding of it is that it’s all chilled & dispensed from nitrokeg, and that when brewed under license it has the same ingredient list (with the exception of Nigerian brewed Guinness, whose grain component is sorghum and which has it’s own distinctive taste).
So assuming the starting materials are the same, the variables you would have are: the nitrogen pressure (assuming that’s the propellant gas), the length of time the kegs been there, the line distance between cellar and tap, the refrigeration temperature, the distance between the tap nozzle and the glass when the pint is poured, the cleanness of the glass, the technique of the pourer, and how often and well the lines are cleaned. Height of the bar above sea level may be a factor too.
I can’t quite put my finger on what makes a pint “good” – I used to think that an easy indicator was the structure that the head made: on a good one you could hold the glass up and tip it by 5 or 10 degrees about a fixed point. The top of the head would remain level, and the “wall” of the head would remain intact, giving the head the appearance of a chunk of icecream.
I imagined that a good pint was slightly more viscous than an average one, although I can’t substantiate that.
I’ve heard anecdotal stories about pub landlords so proud of the quality of their Guinness that they’ve taken pub regulars on trips to Dublin to make comparison, although if what the cab driver said was true then the landlord could have preplanned to take his punters to certain pubs which he’d figured out supported whatever his theory was.
As it was, you couldn’t get a good pint of Guinness at the airport: the bars we saw only sold Murphy’s, another local stout, which I find easily as drinkable as Guinness.
Someone out there MUST have an answer to the question, surely? I’m not going to write on it any further however, as I’m stuck standing in a train vestibule, and this is just making me want a pint.

The open button

Appealing, isn't it? You want to press it... but you don't need to.

I know what this is for. Admittedly, it’s not quite what everybody thinks it’s for. However I refuse to believe that the situation is shrouded in so much mystery that people can misinterpret what is going on.

Yes, it’s a button (and it’s found inside carriages on the London Underground, handily adjacent to the doors), and as long as you don’t put up an “improper use” notice people will happily push buttons just for the sheer joy of it (as previously reported, this is known as “frobnicating”).  Some people seem to think that the more often you push a button, the more chance you’ve got of achieving your outcome (for example at lifts, and pedestrian crossings).

Maybe it’s just intolerance on my part – on the Paris Metro the doors are individually controlled.  It’s not so much the button pushing that gets to me – it’s the impatient repeated stabbing before the train’s stopped moving.  If the button really *did* work, would these people really want the doors to fly open whilst we’re still hurtling along?

The correct answer, by the way, is that the doors operate in 2 modes (individual, or driver-controlled), and by and large the default is the latter.  The only time in 5 years I’ve ever seen it switched over is when it’s hissing down with rain and the platform is one of the above-ground sections which doesn’t have shelter, as there’s no point in pelting all of the passengers with weather if there’s nobody wanting to get on the thing.  Of course this mode only comes into play if the driver’s not a total cock.

Nope, no humorous observations here as it turns out.  Just old fashioned straight out whinging.

Bring on the vitamin D

Incredible: 10 minutes of sunshine on a Friday and this is what you get.

It’s impossible to tell whether there’s been a fire drill, or if people have just bunked off early for a pint.

Good job I’m still beavering away in the office in a dedicated way. At blogging, I guess.

Tick tick jingle jingle

It just occurred to me that just over a week ago it was my 5 year anniversary of having moved over to London.
As I was packing my suitcase it never occurred to me that I’d be organising 170 men to Morris dance in central London.
Ain’t life grand.

It’s the indie Indy

Woooo! Hello from Leicester Square for the charity screening of “Raiders of the Lost Ark:The Adaptation” – a fan made tribute to one of the best films ever, shot over 5 years and on a budget of about 5 grand. Co-pilots Neonwombat & HC join me at this exciting event.
The fun part is that even on the miniscule budget, it’ll be better than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Here we go!


For some reason I was recently alerted to a new word for my vocabulary.  Ordinarily this is an opportunity to be relished, and customarily this initiates an intesne but short-lived campaign for me to try to work my newfound linguistic extension into the earliest possible conversational window it will fit into.  Unfortunately options for this word are more restricted than some others.  The word in question (and please don’t ask who I was talking to or how this came up, because I genuinely don’t remember) is “feague“.  Wikipedia cites a dictionary entry from the early 19th century to provide meaning for the term:

To feague a horse is to put ginger up a horse’s fundament, and formerly, as it is said, a live eel, to make him lively and carry his tail well. It is said, a forfeit is incurred by any horse-dealer’s servant, who shall show a horse without first feaguing him.

Thankfully the practice is now frowned upon in equestrian circles, as it’s not difficult to imagine that “lively” is possibly an understatement of the description of the reaction of jamming a hunk of ginger into a horse’s ringpiece.  Apparently the practice is performed by humans in some fairly “specialist” circles, albeit with what I understand to be a smaller piece of ginger.

But it’s not the seasoning of one’s freckle, nor that of one’s horse, that inspired this post.  It was in fact the 18th century term – fundament.  The common meaning is as described above: the arse.

This is interesting when considered in terms of the label “fundamentalist” – now obviously a portmanteau of the words “mentalist”, and “fundament”.  Or to put it another way: someone who is both insane, and an arsehole.

Guess the government here is recruiting lerts now too. Bring on the fridge magnets!

Leaving aside momentarily the whole issue of me being a mavericky fugitive type for taking a photograph in the Underground*: the other day whilst waiting for the usual 3 or 4 minutes until the next train (I love this town!) I spied this particularly unctuous poster, which I hadn’t seen before.

For the benefit of those with dodgy eyesight, the text reads “These chemicals won’t be used in a bomb because a neighbour reported the dumped containers to the Anti-Terrorist hotline”.  There was a companion to this further up the platform, but I couldn’t get my snap taken before the train trundled up, and it hardly seemed appropriate to be late for work in order to gather blog material…

For starters my incredibly flexible and delicate hackles tend to raise at any campaign which I perceive as praising a group of people for being smug busybodies (he says, referring specifically to the Together For London campaign – which seems specifically designed to reassure intolerant wazzocks who don’t have strong enough convictions to actually say something to the person who’s upsetting them so much that they’re in the right – by and large most of the behaviours “targetted” by that campaign are more irritating than inconveniencing, and as easily as getting irritated about something one could easily choose not to get irritated, thus saving everyone stress).


Ever keen to know what it is I’m supposed to be perpetually afraid of, I popped along to the website for the Anti-Terrorist Hotline, and was relieved to see that the police have given some nice clear guidelines as to the sort of thing we ought to be vigilant about:

    • Terrorists live within our communities and blend in. However, behind closed doors they may be storing bomb making materials or meeting others to plan attacks. Are you suspicious of a property where there is unusual activity or strange comings and goings that don’t fit day-to-day life?
    • Terrorists use surveillance to help plan attacks. Have you seen anyone taking pictures or filming CCTV cameras or making notes about other security arrangements? Has it made you suspicious? If you have seen this or know someone who takes an unusual interest in security measures, we need to know.
    • Terrorists need communication. They communicate with others to plan meetings or buy materials and chemicals. To avoid possible detection they use multiple anonymous pay-as-you go mobile phones and swap SIM cards and handsets. If you are suspicious about someone who uses phones in this way, we need to know.
    • Van – Terrorists need transport. If you work in commercial vehicle hire or sales, has a sale or rental made you suspicious?
    • Passport – Terrorists use multiple identities. Do you know someone with documents in different names for no obvious reason?
    • Mobile phone – Terrorists need communication. Anonymous, pay-as-you-go and stolen mobiles are typical. Have you seen someone with large quantities of mobile phones? Has it made you suspicious?
    • Camera – Terrorists need information. Observation and surveillance help terrorists plan attacks. Have you seen anyone taking pictures of security arrangements?
    • Chemicals – Do you know someone buying large or unusual quantities of chemicals for no obvious reason?
    • Mask and goggles – Terrorists use protective equipment. Handling chemicals is dangerous. Maybe you’ve seen goggles or masks dumped somewhere.
    • Credit card – Terrorists need funding. Cheque and credit card fraud are ways terrorists generate cash. Have you seen any suspicious transactions?
    • Computer – Terrorists use computers. Do you know someone who visits terrorist-related websites?
    • Suitcase – Terrorists need to travel. Meetings training and planning can take place anywhere. Do you know someone who travels but is vague about where they are going?
    • Padlock – Terrorists need storage. Lock-ups, garages and sheds can all be used by terrorists to store equipment. Are you suspicious of anyone renting a commercial property?

So we only need to be suspicious about people who take photographs, use mobile phones, have access to vehicles, have passports, purchase or use chemicals on a reular basis, use credit cards, have computers, carry luggage, secure their properties, and of course, who have a different daily schedule to ourselves.

In other words, anybody may have something to hide, so WATCH OUT!

In NLP there is a linguistic model called the Meta Model, which describes how language can be tuned to nudge people into thinking certain things, and one of the tools is known as Presupposition.  An example of this is when you ask a question with your desired outcome implicit as an effect, and merely give the respondent the illusion of choice.  For instance, “Shall we meet at the pub at 7 or 8 tonight?” immediately presupposes that you are coming to the pub with me, and it’s only a matter of what time that has to be finalised.   In fact, in order for you to not end up meeting me at the pub, your brain has to wrench a bit from trying to work out the best time to go to the pub, back across to thinking “Hang on, I’m not going to the pub tonight!”.  Similarly, Led Zeppelin came under fire in the 80s by vocal Christian groups for having included satanic messages in their songs – the idea being that if you play sections of their songs backwards there are hidden messages which subconsciously influence people.  The idea of hidden messages had already gained a foothold in peoples’ minds thanks to the “Paul is Dead” hysteria, so the presupposition here was that these songs must have such messages in them, and then it’s only a matter of looking for them.  Here’s an example – play the following video with your eyes closed to listen to the section of “Stairway to Heaven” played forwards, and then backwards.  See if you can spot what the Satanic message is.  When it’s finished, do it again with your eyes open in order to see it.

The lyric is “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now. It’s just a spring clean for the may queen. Yes there are two paths you can go by; but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on,”.  The Satanic message is supposedly: “Here’s to my sweet Satan. The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan. He’ll give those with him 666. There was a little toolshed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.”.

What’s the relevance?  TERRORISTS HAVE TOOLSHEDS! No, but seriously – every authoritative statement published that tells you how terrorists behave is based on the presupposition that our society is riddled with terrorists, and by making you be on constant vigilant lookout for them implicitly means you have to accept that they’re everywhere.

The trouble with having a confidential service to report potential terrorists and then giving such free-ranging criteria on what sort of thing you should report is that it is an obvious recipe for false positives – 2 anecdotal examples are:

  1. Singer & actor Henry Rollins visited Australia in 2006.  He received a letter from a fan stating that she worked in a government anti-terrorist call centre, and he had been reported as a potential threat by a man sitting near him on his flight over.  The reason for the suspicion was that Rollins had been reading a book entitled “Jihad” – a history of Central Asia, written by a Wall Street Journal, CNN & BBC contributor.  As a result of some anonymous busybody, Rollins had been flagged on the Australian Government’s “persons of interest” list – purely based on having been reading something interesting and informative.
  2. West Indian jazz musician Victor Frederick (63) was incorrectly detained in Cardiff, strip searched, and had his house raided following an anonymous tipoff on his suspicious behaviour to a phone hotline.  According to the news article, “police confiscated apparently suspicious items, which included a video of boxer Muhammad Ali and a ceramic urn containing a traditional West Indian drink”, and “police interpreted soundproofing equipment and wiring from his musical studio as a potential sign of illicit activity”.

An interesting reference to this is the wikipedia article “List of terrorism incidents in Great Britain“.  Since Jan 1 2000 there are 11 listed incidents which went ahead.  All of these were not stopped by police, however one was also listed in the “Prevented, failed or aborted attacks” section, and one attack was partially contained by a baggage handler working at the airport under attack.  In the Prevented/failed/aborted list are 5 incidents since 2000 – 3 of which look to have failed due to ineptitude on the part of the assailants rather than any intelligence-based policing.  In the “Arrests, detentions and other incidents related to the Terrorism Acts” section a further 17 events are listed – of those, 8 incidents resulted in suspects being released without charge, or cleared of wrongdoing in court, and one further one was wrongly shot dead by police.  To total it up another way: of 33 listed incidents, 10 were stopped as a result of police intervention, 9 were false positives, 4 failed due to incompetence or being taken care of by members of the public, and the remaining 10 actually resulted in the terrorist plot being executed.

More than 50% false positives – when you consider that the goal of terrorist activity (although there’s still debate internationally on an agreed definition of the term) is to instill fear in a people and disrupt their ordinary way of life, one could argue that the mentality propogated by campaigns such as this is equally as effective, although agreeably less violent/fatal.  In the campaign poster above, police are asking the public to suspect anyone who might be dumping chemical containers – not only potentially upsetting if you live near a dry cleaning shop, have mopped up a spot on your carpet, or have a darkroom… but also completely ineffective should the would-be bomb makers have had the foresight to purchase garbage bags in which to put their empty chemical containers.

Ultimately though what can be done?  The only thing I can think of other than shrugging one’s shoulders, sighing, and saying “shit, eh?” is to embrace counter-initiatives like the photoshopping contest subsequently run on BoingBoing to remix the posters to send a more rational message – sending that sort of stuff around is the best protest I can think of for we, the powerless.



Oh wow, another tirade.  Sorry folks.  I promise I’ll get back to writing about What I Did On My Summer Vacation soon.  You’ve all been very patient.

* I had always interpreted the instructions as “No flash photography” as it distracts the drivers – clearly the designs of the trains aren’t meant to be any sort of secret, as they run above ground half of the time.

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