Captain Picard sings!

Patrick Stewart as you’ve never seen – or heard – him before. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jean Luc Picard, Captain of the USS Enterprise, singing A is for alphabet:

Apparently, the song was filmed as a birthday tribute to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbery.

While I’m on the theme (sorry) of Picard singing, I thought I’d also take the time to bring you the rather moving Picard’s Song:

(Can you tell that I’ve spent this evening procrastinating?)

Terror board game offends

War on Terror: The BoardgameWar on Terror: The Boardgame is just about to hit the streets in England. The aim of the game is world domination, with ‘terrorists’ fighting against ’empire builders’.

Predicatably, people are upset – particularly those who survived terrorist attacks:

“If someone had told me that barely a year after the London bombings someone would create a board game like this, I wouldn’t have believed them. It is beyond belief,” said Jacqui Putnam who was injured during the suicide bombings, which killed 52 commuters in the British capital.

“The idea that it can be reduced to a board game … amazing. And they announce the release on the anniversary of 9/11!” she said.

The decision to release it on the anniversary of 9/11 was certainly crass and, doubtless, the game itself will be too.

But, when it really comes down to it, I can’t see much of a difference between this game and Risk. Or any PC wargame.

Blogger hits the big time

Catherine Sanderson, the woman behind Petite Anglaise has apparently just netted a two book deal with Penguin – worth a cool £400,000.  Colin Randall, at the Telegraph Blog, has the scoop. 

No one likes talking figures on these occasions, but I have reason to believe the contract is worth in the region of £400,000 and that more may end up going her way from deals with America and the rest of the world.

An eventual film also seems a strong possibility.

Not bad for the Yorkshire lass who, only a few months ago, was wondering how she would ever keep up payments on the flat she was buying, having been summarily dismissed from her job at an English accountancy firm.

Kudos to her – it’s a great blog, and she deserves every penny.  But I kind of get the feeling I’m in the wrong blogging niche…

‘Politics like you’ve never seen it before’

Britain is to get a brand new internet tv station covering news and politics. 18 Doughty Street – which will broadcast for four hours each evening – promises to “break the mould” . Here’s the trailer:

Having just watched the trailer myself, I must admit, I found it difficult to muster much enthusiasm. Dull, but worthy, was my immediate reaction.

I would be happy to see a new non-mainstream tv news channel, though, so I am keen to see how it develops. And, yes, I’ll happily eat my words if I turn out to be yet another cynic with a blog.

BBC gets lost on the way to al-Jazeera

A bit of a media sandstorm seems to have blown up over a video called Is This the Way to Al-Jazeera, which features BBC staff dressed as Osama Bin-Laden, singing a version of Is This the Way to Amarillo.

The tape was shown only at a private party but someone, described only as a BBC insider, thought that it was necessary to leak the tape, claiming it would be “offensive” to Muslims.

Call me a cynic, but that’s the most gratuitous excuse I’ve heard in quite some time. Let’s just take a closer look at the logic of leaking this tape:

  • This was a video that was to be shown only at one person’s leaving party.
  • It would have been seen by a hundred people at most, of whom probably no more than 10 (at the outside) would have been Muslim.
  • This insider is worried that Muslim’s will be offended.
  • So, in order to prevent this offence, he releases the tape to a global audience of approximately 1 billion Muslims.

What? Does this insider have no brain cells at all?

I simply can’t believe that the person who leaked this tape was motivated by a desire to protect sensibilities of Muslims. Their motivations, surely, must have been more sinister than that – either an attempt to discredit one of their work colleagues, or the BBC as a whole.

To wrap it up in an attempt to protect Muslims from offence is a disgrace.

Moving on – is the tape actually offensive? Well, make up your own minds – the Daily Mail has a copy of the video.

Use the force, moi luvver, and watch out for that droiver.

Yet again, our elected representatives have excelled themselves:

Cyclists in busy urban areas may have to sound a bell almost continually as they cycle along under government plans to force them not only to have bicycle bells fitted, but to use them to warn pedestrians of their approach.

I was going to use this post as an excuse to point out that pedestrians who get run over by bikes should have bloody well looked before they stepped into the road, and to pose the sarcastic question – how long until someone gets fined for noise pollution after ringing their bell constantly?

But instead, I was reminded of David Prowse, a true giant of a man. If there were more people like him around today, there wouldn’t be any need for such stupid legislation.

David Prowse, for those of you not in the know, was the very tall man in the Darth Vader suit in the first three Star Wars films.  His greatest role, however, was the Green Cross Code man, who taught a generation of British schoolchildren how to cross the road without getting squashed.

I’ve never been squashed while crossing the road, so I can confirm that the Green Cross Code Man’s advice really does work.

Anyway, enough of spuriously trying to link this to cycling.  I’m not really interested in making a point about cycling.  I want to reminisce. 

You see, I had the very great honour to meet David Prowse once – he came to my school when I was about eight years old.  As you can imagine, to my eight year old eyes, he was by far the tallest thing I’d ever seen.  (Although, if pressed, I probably would have admitted that he did look a bit silly in a green and white suit).  I was far too shy to ask for his autograph, but I do remember him telling me very nicely how to cross the road correctly. 

That was nothing compared to the highlight of the day, though.  We were allowed to go outside, and gawk at his car.  And what a car it was! 

Prowse was the owner of a very shiny, very low-slung red Porsche, a vision of futuristic metallic coolness the like of which had certainly never been seen before in dull old Bridgwater.  And, to top it all, his license plate was DARTH 1

Upon mature reflection, I’ve no idea how a man so tall managed to get into a car so small, but that will have to just remain one of the great unsolved mysteries of my life.  To the eight year old me, David Prowse was a God.  And, true to my god, I always (well, occasionally) stopped, looked and listened before I ran out into the road.   

Despite all this, I can completely understand why George Lucas chose to get James Earl Jones to do a voiceover of Darth’s voice.  You see, I got to hear him talk when he taught me to cross the road. 

For a frighteningly tall giant of a man, David Prowse speaks with a remarkably soft Bristolian burr.  And, with the very greatest of respect, hearing Darth Vader utter the immortal words…

Use the force, Luke, moi luvver.

… would not have had quite the same impact.

Russian Churches, now and then

Via English-Russia, a series of fascinating pictures of Russian churches, the first taken in 1910, the second just a couple of years ago:

Nilov Hermitage 1906 Nilov Hermitage 21st century

The first picture was taken by Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii, photographer to the Russian Tsar, who developed a revolutionary technique for taking colour pictures.More of his amazing pictures, documenting life in late Tsarist Russia can be found at the Library of Congress website – The Empire that was Russia.

Star Trek remastered

Star Trek Enterprise remasteredStar Trek is 40 this year. And what better way to celebrate than to remaster the original series and put Kirk, Spock, McCoy et al back on syndication across the USA?

So far, so good. But for the geeks at Paramount, remastering wasn’t enough. Oh no. They had to go and get all George Lucas on us, and update the special effects.


Star Trek was classic entertainment. By all means, clean up the picture so it looks a bit crisper – the original film stock is four decades old, afer all. But for God’s sake don’t replace all the cheesy 1960s effects with even naffer cgi graphics. They’re a part of tv history, a part of what made the show great. To replace them with effects that will look dated again in less than a decade is nothing short of sacrilege.

My dad will not be happy. And, frankly, neither am I.

The Marmite revolution is upon us

Tim Worstall has just had his first experience of the new Marmite:

I have, unfortunately, as part of a little mid-afternoon snack, just had my first taste of the new style Marmite.


The time has come, my friends, to fight for our heritage, to break out the pitchforks and rampage through the kitchen cupboards of middle England as we hunt high and low for the last remaining jars of real Marmite…