Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Celery of the gods

In the middle of a Billy Bragg interview, an incident that sounds like a fully-formed Half Man Half Biscuit song:

I Keep Faith also boasts backing vocals by fellow Red Wedger Robert Wyatt, whose services he enlisted after running into him while buying rhubarb. Bragg was recording the album in Lincolnshire - "the rhubarb basket of England", he explains - and the women catering at the studio agreed to make rhubarb crumble and custard, which Bragg regards as "the pinnacle of desserts", only if he could find the fresh rhubarb. "Rhubarb," he adds as an aside, "is the celery of the gods." Off Bragg went to Louth market. "And as I was parking in the town square, who should be sitting there with his missus, on a bench smoking a cigar, but the grand old man himself, Robert Wyatt! Who I hadn't really seen since Red Wedge, and who welcomed me like a long-lost son." Bragg handed him a demo and invited him into the studio. "For a Stalinist," he smiles, "he really knows how to sing like an angel."

Monday, March 10, 2008

007, meet FAT32

"Give me a hostname and target directory, I'm in but I'm lost."

"One sec... try 'auto slash share slash fs slash scooby slash netapp slash user slash home slash malcolm slash uppercase-R slash catbert slash world-underscore-domination slash manifesto.'"

-- a spy seeks help in cracking a computer, in Charles Stross's The Atrocity Archives


[The Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross, 2003. Confident, stylish and accomplished mix of Cold War thriller, IT-desk humour and multidiminsional SF/horror. But it comes with a laudatory third-party preface, acknowledgements ahead of the text and a somewhat self-congratulatory author's afterword, a combination that in most genres - maybe this one, I don't have a strong sense of the local norms - would be counted on the smug side. Good job he's good, eh?]

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Epigraph for an essay on regret

And what could be greater fun,
Once one has chosen and paid,
Than the inexpensive delight
Of a choice one might have made?

-- W.H. Auden, from A Permanent Way

The essay is, of course, unwritten. But it may be too early to regret that.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Obscure anniversary watch

Happy hundredth birthday, glutamate flavourings! Discovered in Japan, 1908. Monosodium glutamate, the same New York Times piece reports, was invented a year later, is now considered completely safe on most scientific evidence, and has returned to the world of processed foods under a variety of ingenious names; the most brilliantly wholesome-sounding is "vegetable broth". The Times writer also says that Marmite is glutamate-flavoured, which I may have heard before but had forgotten, and goes on to give further evidence of the ways "molecular gastronomy" overlaps with industrial cooking.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sub-editors notice these things

Selected headlines from the Guardian's build up to the New Zealand-England Test series:

Time for Panesar to learn from Vettori

Time for Bell to turn elegant fifties into mighty tons

Time for England's batsmen to knuckle down

Time, in short, for the sort of performance that would make "Time for..." headlines redundant. Failing that, time for a new way of expressing disappointment.