Sunday, December 29, 2013

Speak you're branes revisited

Alas, the website spEak You're bRanes, otherwise known as "If you love Iraq so much...why don't you go live there?" is no more. I always enjoyed its skewering of nincompoops on the interwebs. He could have had a go at this one, for instance.

Under the headline Officer sentenced for blowing off man's testicles with stun grenade, UPI reported on a man who was awarded money after a cop blew his knackers off by throwing a stun grenade on his lap as he sat in a car.
A Spanish court ordered a Barcelona policeman who blew off a suspect's testicles with a stun grenade to spend one year in prison and pay the victim $231,000. 
When the suspects refused to get out of the vehicle, the defendant threw his stun grenade on the 25-year-old victim's lap. The detonation caused the victim to lose most of his testicles, and he will now be infertile for life, TheLocal.es reported.
This apparently egregious verdict was protested by commenter MannyMHo who thoughtfully asked,
The squadron command officer authorized the arrest, the suspect refused to get out of the vehicle, and the use of a stun grenade. Why should the policeman be penalized ? I don't get it.
No, I don't get it either, Manny - may I call you Manny? - The only possible response to someone who doesn't instantly obey an "officer" is that said officer should throw an explosive device onto the citizen's lap, despite it being in the tiny enclosed space of an automobile. So, it resulted in a little dismemberment? The perp should have realized that could happen and surrendered his rights earlier, is what you're saying.

You assholic imbecile.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dumbo Octopus revisited

Five years ago I put up a picture of Grimpoteuthis, the Dumbo Octopus, so called because it can 'fly' using its large 'ears' like Disney's Dumbo the Elephant.

It was so freakin' cute that it remains one of my most popular blog posts.

Recently Stephanie Bush put a picture of an octopus she photographed on Facebook, with the caption We found THE CUTENESS.  And so she did - and it appears to be another Grimpoteuthis, not 'flying' but sitting on the ocean floor looking as cute as a button.




Awww.

(Via Stephanie Bush)

Edit Jun 2015 to add: For video of Octopus adorabilis, see here. :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas fiction: Hotel Aperio

Time to repost my 2009 Christmas story Hotel Aperio, I think.

The short story is mostly about food, chiefly British food. It's based on real life, too. My parents, who often did not want to "do" Christmas, would book the Christmas week at seaside hotels, which offered to provide sufficient food, drink, companionship and fun to make the season go by with minimal effort on the part of the 'rents. My parents would be able to drink without driving, eat without spending hours undercooking the turkey, dance without buying any K-Tel Christmas Hit albums and so forth.

This was all true, but there was a darker side to the endeavor. You had to drive through half-frozen brown slush a hundred miles to a semi-deserted 70's seaside resort (think of a sort of English ocean-side Detroit) in the middle of winter. A desperate hotelier, soon to be immortalized by John Cleese in the far-too-close-to-reality Fawlty Towers, has thrown open his failing hotel to people who can't be bothered to "do" their own Christmas, which means he and his staff have to schlep all through the holidays without a minute for themselves and their own families.

Sometimes the resulting holiday was fine, and sometimes it was ludicrously bad. At this remove I can't even remember which towns, never mind which hotels, but I assume Whitby featured - I can remember the steep hills - and Scarborough, and Bridlington. One (the one with the reconstituted instant potatoes) was so bad that I vaguely recall my parents left, or got their money back, or somesuch. And then there was the one with the famous cricketer's daughter, hogging the dim limelight provided by being booked into a two or three star hotel for Christmas.

So, here's the story.

There were lions lying incongruously at the foot of the stairs. The staircase, fifty feet broad at the base, arched and narrowed at the top like the train of a lady's gown reproduced in local rock. The steps were of blackened sandstone which had weathered to expose a robust oval grain, and the same acid rain had etched the concrete lions, but these having no inner texture, the lions had merely weathered into grinning doglike caricatures. At the top of the stairs there were red-painted doors, glossy and chipped, inset with windows frosted with leaves and berries. It seemed rather a small entrance for such a magnificent red-brick Victorian edifice, five storeys tall and – I determined later when I could get far enough back to see the extent of it – almost ten windows long and four deep. I estimated that Hotel Aperio was larger than 150 rooms.
As an alternative to the stairs, one could go up the wheelchair access ramp, cheaply and latterly introduced at the side of the stairs and far too steep, which made the hotel's formerly grand entrance look like a that of a crazy municipal hospital. I went up the ramp, dragging sullen luggage behind me and almost toppling backwards as my high heels met the unnatural pitch. Inside the double doors, the lobby was the size of a generous Punch and Judy Show, and a man sat behind a tinseled hatch, watching television on a portable about the size of a toaster, which despite its diminutive size loomed large on the cluttered counter. I rang his bell, a classic desktop bell, silver and with a commanding ding. Although he had seen me, he ignored me until he heard the ding, acting out his own part perfectly. One assumed he had plenty of chance to practice over the years.
"Can I help you?"



Sunday, December 15, 2013

Edweird Cybridge presents WildCat

Google has bought Boston Dynamics, the makers of very, very sinister robots.

This is WildCat.



This has led to a number of online jokes about Skynet now having the ability to make Terminators, but my mind went in a different direction.


 

WildCat in the style of Eadweard Muybridge, the photographer whose breakthrough technique at the turn of the century ushered in the study of animals in motion.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snow at the pyramids

It's snowing at the pyramids. 

I was in Egypt in late December 1981 and I can vouch for the fact that there was no snow in those days. It was shirt-sleeves weather, apart from the fact that women couldn't wear shirt-sleeves without getting hissed at for being under-dressed. This is apparently the first snow in 112 years.



Picture from here. 

I've just got back from Denver, which was really cold. All the locals assured me it's never this cold - but it was below freezing the whole time I was there.

Weather is weird.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Tripe and Elder Gods

My brother, moved by my post on brains, insists on telling me in comments about the Tripe Marketing Board.

I'm a little suspicious as to whether the Tripe Marketing Board is what it says on the tin, but as a tripe eater, I have to say the website is persuasive.



The site includes the following testimonials to the enduring beauty of tripe.

"Growing up near Bradford, we used to get it served cold with lots of malt vinegar and salt and pepper, usually on a Friday for some reason. We had white tripe and brown tripe (called elder) served together. The horror of it still lingers." 

"It's absolutely disgusting. I'll eat pretty much anything else from an animal but not tripe."
"The texture, the ghastly alien patterning of the dead flesh with its smooth slimy reverse side, is profoundly repulsive." 

"Though vegetarian now (for reasons of principle rather than taste), I was a meat-eater and far from fussy as a child, and cheerfully ate and enjoyed black pudding, liver, kidneys, tongue, haggis and even stuffed and roasted ox hearts. But I ate tripe on only one occasion, when given it by an uncle who regarded it as a delicacy, and of whom I was completely terrified - so much so that I couldn't do otherwise than finish every mouthful. I can't remember exactly what it tasted like, only that it was the foulest thing I have ever eaten. I have absolutely no intention of repeating the experience."
My mother (who is also Bruv's mother, that's the way it goes) bought tripe from the marketplace every couple of months. The honeycomb tripe (served with vinegar) was so clearly NOT FOOD that I had no trouble refusing it under any circumstances but there was a brown tripe called elder that was soft and tasted like a fatty meat. That I was able to swallow. As far as anyone knows, elder appears to be cow's udder. Somebody has to eat it, I suppose.

 When I had my first ever job - which was at Fox's Biscuits in Batley - at break time, the firm's cafeteria served bread and dripping. I feel like such a Real Yorkshireman even though I've lived away from there for most of my life. One serving of elder and one serving of bread and dripping is enough to make anyone a 'onarrery Yorkshireman and I had that in spades

Friday, November 22, 2013

Brains

Boing boing has a piece on the softness and fragility of the brain, which we'd already know if we'd grown up in Yorkshire, like I did, where various odd organs were sold on butcher's stalls in the market.



I grew up somewhere where offal was always on the menu, so I remember seeing a pile of sheeps' heads in the back of the butcher's station wagon on numerous occasions. I've always loved liver, and kidneys (preferably lambs' liver and lambs' kidneys) and my mother was big on tripe and elder (I believe elder is cows' udder, but I've never met anyone who could corroborate that).

However, the brain was always right out. Ditto heart and tongue.

Yorkshire joke:
Lancashire man, walking in to a Yorkshire butcher's: "I'd like a sheap's 'ead."
Butcher (to boy in back): "Ian! Ian! Bring us a sheap's 'ead."
Lancashire man: "Mek shooer it's a Lancashire sheap!"
Butcher (to boy in back): "Ian! Ian! Tek t'brains owt!"

To be fair, that was first told to me by a Lancashire man, with the counties reversed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Roy Harper - in the dock - Same Old Rock

You know, if I were whoever is webmaster at jimmypage.com, I would be kicking myself for having programmed the front page picture for November 16th to be this one:



(It says, "On this day, 16th November 1984, I appeared with Roy Harper on the Old Grey Whistle Test.")

Why?

Because this was the major music headline for November 15th:

Veteran Folk Singer Charged With Child Sex Offences - The Telegraph, 15th November.

Roy Harper, of County Cork, Ireland, is due to appear at Hereford Magistrates' Court on Monday accused of nine sexual offences charges in total, West Mercia Police said.
A spokesman for the force said: "The summons relates to two counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under 13, three counts of indecent assault on a girl under 14 and four counts of gross indecency with a girl under 14. 
"The charges are in connection with offences alleged to have taken place in Herefordshire between 1975 and 1977 and relate to one victim."
I can't argue that the track's a cracker - I've written about the recording of it, and the legends about it, before, here, but blimey, Roy, 12 is a bit young, isn't it?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Interplanetary, interstellar, intergalactic

The Financial Times proves that familiarity with the upper classes and a dedication to enabling companies to make giant piles of cash is not synonymous with literacy.

This article, entitled, We Should Not Be Too Excited About Intergalactic Neighbours, is by Anjana Ahuja, who is a science commentator.  She's writing about a planet that's 12 light years away from Earth.

It's quite probable that the headline was written by a sub-editor, not the science commentator, but even so, believing that twelve light years away is "intergalactic" means the person is either dull and uninterested in things or is in such a hurry that it was impossible to look it up. Neither of those possibilities makes me inclined to trust the Pink 'Un. Except on stocks.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Thor: Chinese cinema accidentally uses fan-designed slash poster

Best movie poster ever.

That is all.



"Chinese movie theater uses "Thor" fan poster by accident".

I'm always a fan of the villains, so seeing Loki swooning in the arms of the mighty Thor is quite acceptable. I believe that more cinemas should "accidentally" use this eminently superior poster over the official one where Thor holds Natalie Portman, the skinny person. Loki is obvs his one true love.

Dying of exposure - why writers and musicians should be paid

Who fills up the intertubes? 

It turns out that a lot of "content providers" are unpaid writers - for example at Huffington Post, where they can pump out articles on how the meanie Atlantic doesn't pay writers. Often, the editors or owners of these sites use a line - "What a new writer needs most is exposure. We can offer you thousands of eyeballs."


Blue Dog, New Orleans ca. 1992. Art in its natural environment: being sold

Recently Dangerous Minds ran a piece from another kind of creator - a musician. A TV company asked Whitey, also known as NJ White, to allow the use of his music in a program, for free.  He not only said no, but hell no. Whitey mentioned on his Facebook page that he wanted to spread the word, so here it is.

I am sick to death of your hollow schtick, of the inevitable line “unfortunately there’s no budget for music”, as if some fixed Law Of The Universe handed you down a sad but immutable financial verdict preventing you from budgeting to pay for music. Your company set out the budget. so you have chosen to allocate no money for music. I get begging letters like this every week - from a booming, affluent global media industry. 
Why is this? Let’s look at who we both are. 
I am a professional musician, who lives form his music. It me half a lifetime to learn the skills, years to claw my way up the structure, to the point where a stranger like you will write to me. This music is my hard earned property. I've licenced music to some of the biggest shows, brands, games and TV production companies on Earth; form Breaking Bad to the Sopranos, from Coca Cola to Visa, HBO to Rockstar Games. 
Ask yourself - would you approach a Creative or a Director with a resume like that - and in one flippant sentence ask them to work for nothing? Of course not. Because your industry has a precedent of paying these people, of valuing their work. 
Or would you walk into someone’s home, eat from their bowl, and walk out smiling, saying “So sorry, I’ve no budget for food”? Of course you would not. Because, culturally, we classify that as theft. 
Yet the culturally ingrained disdain for the musician that riddles your profession, leads you to fleece the music angle whenever possible. You will without question pay everyone connected to a shoot - from the caterer to the grip to the extra- even the cleaner who mopped your set and scrubbed the toilets after the shoot will get paid. The musician? Give him nothing. 
Now lets look at you. A quick glance at your website reveals a variety of well known, internationally syndicated reality programmes. You are a successful, financially solvent and globally recognised company with a string of hit shows. Working on multiple series in close co-operation with Channel 4, from a West London office, with a string of awards under your belt. You have real money, to pretend otherwise is an insult. 
Yet you send me this shabby request - give me your property for free… Just give us what you own, we want it. 
The answer is a resounding, and permanent NO. 
I will now post this on my sites, forward this to several key online music sources and blogs, encourage people to re-blog this. I want to see a public discussion begin about this kind of industry abuse of musicians… this was one email too far for me. Enough. I’m sick of you.
Hooray for Whitey.

I recently wrote something for free. I was approached by someone at work and asked if I wanted to contribute a chapter to the big technical manual that covers our profession. It would be "good publicity for the company." (They couldn't use the line about "exposure" for me as I was not making my living as an author.) My name in lights! Oooh, yes, obvs!

So I wrote it. I don't feel particularly put-upon by that incident as I was earning a salary at the time. But if that's how books get written these days - and webpages filled, and recorded music leased to TV companies, and art browsed and borrowed off Deviant Art - then no one is going to get paid. So, now, I know to say no.

 Tim Kreider in the New York Times recently wrote:

Slaves of the internet unite! 
NOT long ago, I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money. As with stinkbugs, it’s not any one instance of this request but their sheer number and relentlessness that make them so tiresome. It also makes composing a polite response a heroic exercise in restraint. People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing.
 He goes on to say:
This is partly a side effect of our information economy, in which “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom, like calling people after having sex with them. The first time I ever heard the word “content” used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, “content providers” — were essentially extinct. This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called “art” — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads. 

And there's the rub, I think. It's fine for a website owner, like Ariana Huffington, or the guy who started IMDB, or Twitter, or a book publisher, or a TV producer, to make money on their output - but the content is expected to be free. Aggregating, or collating, or building, is rewarded these days, but the building material is drawn from some sort of commons - just out there for taking whenever Mr. Capitalist gets an idea on how to fit them together.

Curation is a creative activity in itself, and has always been a paid function. It's new that it's the only paid function. Particularly now, where bandwidth is cheap and the curation itself is done by the "eyeballs" themselves, or at least their owners' fingers, pressing "like" buttons until bad content is invisible and the good content automatically floats to the top. In the old days you had to build the rep of Max's Kansas City or The Marquee and find the hip bands yourself, or read through a five-foot slush pile to find the few gems that would actually sell your book. (And even then, you mostly paid your musicians/writers.)

As several articles have pointed out to me, "exposure" isn't something that will pay the rent. On the contrary, it's something you die from.

 Work Made for Hire, a blog for creatives has a piece on how to say no, politely, and get the word out that creatives need to be paid:
So let the client know how many hours of work are involved in what they’ve requested from you — the research, preparation and execution. Explain why all of those steps are important to produce a good quality piece of work. An easy way of doing this can be to explain a bad experience you’ve had where one of the steps wasn’t done or was rushed through and how it hurt the project in the end.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Healthcare in the US - twice the price

I often hear people saying, "Healthcare is too expensive!" Sometimes they mean it costs a lot, and sometimes they mean it is dragging the US down.  Both of those are correct. What they usually propose to do about it is ration it, largely by not allowing poor people to have any health care. This is not correct.

The US spends twice as much per capita on healthcare as countries like Canada, The UK and Australia. The US government spends as much per capita as the UK government spends on socialized medicine. And then private payers spend about as much again.

Life expectancy is no better in the US that in similar countries.

So, 50% of healthcare costs are for no reason - just structural inefficiencies. Build a proper healthcare delivery system and half of the costs vanish. It doesn't seem hard, and yet it brings out the crazies en masse. My opinion is that this is because in the US it's more important to punish the poor for being, y'know, useless than it is to build a society that can take care of its own. Mostly I think because "society" is obviously socialism. It's practically the same word!

I recently had a boss who had run big hospital groups and health systems and he predicted that when US healthcare hits 20% of GDP (i.e. one in every five dollars is spent on healthcare) the country would collapse. It's currently around 17% of GDP. The rise is slowing a bit, but not it's not going in the right direction.



(Cropped, originally from Top Foreign Stocks.)




Cost rising out of control in the US, not so much elsewhere. (From Daily Kos.)


 One healthcare outcome - life expectancy. (From UC Atlas)

Or maybe it's the fat people they want to blame. Whatever, it has to be someone's actual fault, not a structural weakness in the system, hasn't it? (This is sarcasm.)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

An even more modest healthcare proposal

Whilst writing my rant on healthcare this afternoon, with its special attention to the Libertarian "don't tread on me" line that goes "Why should I pay for healthcare? I don't need any healthcare so all my money will be spent on you," I vaguely remembered an old science fiction story.

I contacted James Nicoll, of the rather wonderful science fiction LiveJournal blog More Words Deeper Hole with three half-remembered concepts from it, and literally four minutes later he wrote back to let me know it was Michael G Coney's The True Worth of Ruth Villiers, from New Writings in SF in 1970. (It was a relatively obscure British magazine.)

It is, amazingly, online.  Mr. Coney's utopia is a little more strict than my own modest proposal. In mine, if you have no money you are not treated to healthcare. In True Worth, if you have no money, you are not treated to health care or any other services, and it would be an unfair advantage to allow relatives or friends to give or lend you that money. Never fear though. In the story, the establishment recognizes you can incur some costs before you earn enough to pay, so it gives each individual a certain amount to be going on with - specifically a "Birthright" of 600 credits.

Here is an excerpt:
Suppose someone is in the hospital, awaiting an expensive operation. The obvious question poses itself: is the patient worth treating, bearing in mind his value to the community? So the hospital sends me a claim based on the estimated cost. 
Then I call the National Bank and find that the patient has accumulated savings totaling (say) Cr. 2,000 to date. 
And I consult my own punch-card index and find that he has a Social Value Cred Rating of (say) Cr. 1,500. 
That person, therefore, is worth Cr. 3,500 to the community. Nothing more; nothing less. 
So if the operation costs up to Cr. 3,500, the scalpels will flash and he will be healed, presumably. 
But if the operation (including pre- and post-operational care and treatment) is estimated at Cr. 3,501, his flesh will remain uncarved. He can, however, receive lesser treatment and drugs to the value of Cr. 3,500, at which point he will be discharged from the hospital. What he does then is up to him; but assuming he is able to start work again he must repay the loan of Cr. 1,500 on his Social Value Cred Rating before he can start to accumulate any personal savings again. In repaying this amount, he will be allowed the bare minimum of his wages for living expenses. In fact, he will probably be fed and lodged by his friends, provided they are not caught doing it.
The story gives an example of how well this works in practice. The eponymous Ruth is trapped after a mineshaft collapse. Her social worth is not enough to pay the rescuers to dig her out, though it does pay for an airshaft to be drilled. And yet, months later, Ruth is rescued, proving that the system works and wishy-washy liberal "compassion" and "social responsibility" is not needed.

How can this be? You can learn the answer here.

(It's a very quick read.)

Men and women paying the same premiums: but It's GUY-necology, not GAL-necology!

Under Obamacare, men and women will pay the same premiums. Fox News has decided that this is unfair on teh mens, as they don't have babies and therefore go to the doctor less.

Let's get over the libertarian hurdle first. There may be libertarians who believe that the babies are for the woman, rather than for society as a whole, and therefore the woman should pay. I would ask all three of you who believe this to consider an even more libertarian view, which is that the baby isn't a project for the individual woman, but for itself. Babies should pay for themselves. And since 51% of them are boys, that's a lot of OB-GYN costs per boy they need to make up when they start earning the dough.

Stephen Colbert supports Fox in this issue, of course. If women go to the doctor more, then they should pay more. He showcases some choice Fox talking points. I have had to remove the video from this blog as it autoruns in an annoying loud fashion, but you could check it out at his website http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/430200/november-04-2013/obamacare-s-gender-blind-premiums

Partial Transcript:
8/27/2013:
DR. DAVID SAMADI: That's not a really fair system.  She sees her doctor all the time.  When was the last time you went to see your doctor?
BRIAN KILMEADE: Two years ago.
DR. DAVID SAMADI: Exactly.  And you?  Last week.
GRETCHEN CARLSON: I've had Lyme disease for the last 10 days, so....
DR. DAVID SAMADI: That's what happens.  So you're basically paying for her.
Yeah, that's what happens.  Women get bitten by an insect, they get Lyme disease.  A man gets bitten by an insect, he becomes a superhero. [Shows picture of Spiderman.]
Jokes aside, I love the breathtaking insouciance with which the talking head dismisses Lyme Disease as a woman's issue. I don't know if he didn't hear her, or whether he just assumed that she would say "OB-GYN checkup" and marched on, or whether he just didn't care as long as he could talk over her to make his stupid point.

I also loved the earlier remark that free birth control only benefited women - it had no utility for young men. If this is true, young men have changed since I was a young woman.

One major problem is, of course, that it isn't "health insurance". Insurance is like earthquake insurance. 10,000 people buy it for $100 each, a quake happens and two houses fall down. The insurance company gives them $250,000 each and pockets the rest.  Healthcare doesn't work like that - it isn't, and can't ever be, a Free Market, as you can't vow to just do without it, unlike a Lamborghini or a second home in the Catskills. You also can't shop for best prices, particularly in the back of an ambulance after a car goes straight through a crossing and breaks your legs without deigning to stop. Healthcare costs will eventually eat all the money going into it, which is why a single-payer system works best.  Somebody is going to pay, and it's better to endow that body with sufficient clout to negotiate for standard prices and monitor for better outcomes - like a government.  Calling it "insurance" and forcing everyone to buy it on their own behalf is a silly, mixed system.

But it's oh-so-much better than the previous system where some people got "insured" and some people didn't. And the ones who didn't quite often ended up bankrupt - and their remaining bills were paid by us, in the guise of increased premiums. This is quite literally the worst of all worlds.  Untreated sick people, bankrupt people AND other people have to pay for it. The mind boggles as to how this ever came about. Obamacare is such a win compared with the baseline.

Some people are going to say, "Of course you think that way - you're old, and you want me to pay for you. I don't need insurance." Well, first, Mr. Chivalry, thanks for the assessment. Second, I would be happy for my "insurance" to coexist with your literal pay-as-you-go service - which I believe the US had a hundred years ago. I have a modest proposal. If you go to the doctor, you pay him or her. If you don't go, you don't pay. But to avoid the I-don't-need-no-insurance brigade from becoming scroungers dependent on my money, this system would have to include hospitals. If you turn up at the emergency room either because you didn't take preventive care, or because you developed an acute condition, or because of an accident, the hospital should first x-ray your pockets. If you have either an insurance card or a credit card, they admit you. If you don't they push your gurney into the parking lot and phone your next of kin. Next of kin arrives with a bag of cash, and you're admitted, assuming you're still alive. Treatment continues until bags of cash/and or credit card runs out and then you're discharged - into the parking lot, sans gurney.

I think after a few evening news items featuring dead telegenic young mothers, handsome young motorcyclists with soon-to-be-fatal brain bleeds and little children with skunk bites banging on the hospital doors to no avail, and a single payer system will be well on its way.

Edit: For a description of an even better way to ensure no-one has to pay for other people's healthcare, here's an update.


Traditional English Christmas Cake recipe

For Christmas 2012, I baked a traditional English Christmas cake using a recipe from my Bruv's cookbook "The Cookes' Cookbook".  It was delicious, so here's the recipe for all.

Note: Americans hate fruitcakes. I always wondered why, but after reading some recipes I decided it's because American fruitcake recipes include pineapple. Why in hell anyone would want pineapple in a cake is beyond me, and the proof is, as it were, in the pudding. Your pineapple containing cake, Americans cook them, and then give them away and laugh at the person left holding the hot potato, or cake. The recipient has to find a way to pass it on quickly. And so forth.

Now, if you bake a proper cake, and ice it properly, it's a thing of beauty.


The Cookes' cookbook
CHRISTMAS CAKE
2x7", 2x3 1/2 lbs. or 1 X 10"

All tins must be lined with greaseproof paper or greased foil, preferably double. Cover top of cake with piece of foil during the last few hours of cooking to prevent burning.
Oven 150C for 1-1 /
2 hrs, reduce to 130C for 3 - 3 1/2 hrs. Bake in centre of oven.
12 oz S.R. flour
1/2
tsp salt
l dsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 lb ground almonds
1 lb currants
1 lb raisins
1 lb sultanas
1/2 lb glace cherries
1/2 lb mixed peel
1 large lemon
12 oz unsalted butter
10 oz soft dark brown sugar
9 large eggs
8 tbsp. brandy (extra to add after cooking/before Xmas)

Sift all dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Mix in all the finely chopped fruits. Blend thoroughly.
Cream together, in a separate bowl, the sugar, butter and grated lemon rind until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir into the flour and fruit mixture, followed by the lemon juice and 6 tablespoons of brandy. The mixture should be soft and moist.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins, level the top and bake. The cake is done when it begins to shrink away from the sides of the tin.  

(c) My brother



Reminder: You'll also need, closer to the holiday, 24 ounces of marzipan, more than a pound of confectioners' powdered sugar, an egg white, either some glycerin or some lemon juice, and a jar of apricot preserves.

This does indeed take 3 1/2 hours to bake and the paper lining on the bottom is essential because burning on the bottom is a distinct possibility.  I used a 10" springform pan because I couldn't find a non-springform one, and it worked quite well (though I was worried the batter would drip out of the bottom). The way to line the tin is to first make two circles of greasepoof paper the same size as the tin and place one in the pan. Estimate the circumference and cut a piece of paper four times the height of the tin and one times the length of the circumference. Triple fold the paper and then (this is the important bit) make lots of half inch cuts from the bottom of the paper towards the top. Grease the lower circle and grease the tin, then line the sides by pushing the long piece down onto the circle at the same time it's being pushed on to the greasy sides. Use the pastry/grease brush to push the paper down into place. The little slits will allow thin fingers of paper to 'fan' towards the center of the circle, and the whole deal will be much more stable than if you just placed upright paper around the edges. Grease the inside of the circumferential piece of paper, then drop the other circle on the bottom. The little fingers will sandwich between the two circles and anchor everything.

Grease this new circle and mix the cake batter. (I used an ordinary Cuisinart onion-chopping-whirly-bladey thing to cream the butter and sugar and mix in the eggs - I don't have a cake mixer and it works, so why not.)

Pour the batter into a tin. Use a spatula to ensure the middle of the batter is lower than the edges, or you will get a domed cake. Bake it.
Once it's cooled, take it out of the tin and punch five or six holes in the top and pour in a couple of table spoons of brandy. Don't remove the paper! Cover it (e.g. in a tin, or in foil) and keep it for four to six weeks to become soft and moist.  You can uncover the top, add extra brandy every week and re-cover it - this always helps.

A week before the holiday, buy sufficient marzipan to cover the cake. (This one used 25 ounces.) Soften the marzipan in your (clean) hands and use a rolling pin to make the cover pieces as though they were dough.  Make a circle for the top, and a long piece to cover the sides. You can use confectioners' powdered sugar to keep the marzipan from sticking to the work surface. Take the papers off the cake. Heat sufficient apricot preserves, and brush the goo across the cake surface to make it sticky and remove crumbs. Encase the cake in the marzipan sheets and press them on to the sticky apricot. Pinch the edges together (the idea is to seal the cake). Put it aside for a couple of days.

Two days later, make Royal Icing and ice the whole deal. (The Cuisinart makes icing just fine - no need to have a cake mixer or use elbow grease if you don't want to.) If you want hard icing, use the recommended amount of lemon juice. If you want it a little softer, use a little glycerin instead.

If you watch YouTube videos on the subject, you'll see that some people use a ruler to scrape the icing dead smooth. This must be some sort of Photoshop deal. It's not actually possible in real life. The best normal people can do is use the icing spatula to make irregular "snowy peaks" and then claim you did it that way to be all Xmassy.  You can sprinkle little silver balls on it, or if you're my mum, you'll have a collection of small plastic snowmen on sleighs and Santas you can stick into the icing. Icing takes two to three days to go rock hard (the preferred way of eating icing).  (Fondant icing, while edible, is definitely not Xmassy.)

This is not a cheap cake. I reckon I spent close to $70 on ingredients, although not all of them ended up in the cake. (But what are you going to do with the four ounces of currants, four ounces of candied peel etc. left over?) Also, the pan wasn't cheap and neither was the giant plastic "work pot luck style" cake carrier I ended up buying to keep it in, since I didn't have any large enough old popcorn tins lying around.

However, it was worth it to see the smiles on the faces of my British cow-orkers as I brought them traditional Chrissy cake. (I didn't even suggest it to my American cow-orkers. They ate "hard tack" and "salt water taffy" and other enticingly-named treats of their own design.)


Monday, October 28, 2013

Sweat of his brow, lift of her face

I get an email of Groupons every day. I very rarely buy anything from them, but it's worth opening up the daily email to see what advice the grumpy cat has in the Daily Engagement Module.

A lot of their offers are tangible enough - a meal, a boat trip - but many are the evanescent phantasmagoria of "beauty products". Today I got one for a "non-surgical facelift" which is a code phrase for "a bunch of creams and stuff". This Groupon reduced the price from $525 to $75, which is a bargain.

But what does it actually do, and how does it do it? I looked at the details. Among other things, it said:
Though Dr. [redacted]'s signature treatments use special technologies, much of her skincare approach is rooted in tradition. She's committed to using natural and safe ingredients, such as organic and chemical free skin care, instead of harmful chemicals such as the bottled sweat of one of pro wrestling's most-loathed villains.
I honestly can't parse that. I think there's a glaring punctuation error in it, but it's perfectly possible, I suppose, that the bottled sweat of one of wrestling's most-loathed villains is a harmful chemical. Even putting the comma in the other spot, do I really want my face "lifted" by the sweat of a wrestling villain, however loathed he may be? What is it going to achieve? Should we just assume the relevant clinical studies have been done, perhaps pitting the sweat of wrestlers' stage-girlfriends as a placebo against hero wrestlers'sweat and that of loathed wrestlers in a four-year double-blind study?

Yes, let's assume the latter.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

RIP Lou

Lou Reed dead at 71.

It's hard to believe that someone I listened to so much back in the day could be gone. Not that I ever met him in the flesh, but having a living connection to the music makes it seem more...editable. Unfinished, still flexible. Now it's just a bunch of catalog numbers.

But exceptionally influential, rocking catalog numbers.



Lou playing with the Raconteurs at the VMAs in 2006.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nest o'shrooms

I found this cluster of mushrooms growing in my yard today. It had just sprung up, as they do, in a section of what we call "badger damage" - one of the many holes dug by the motherlovin' raccoons as they search for grubs around the roots of plants in late summer. (I'm glad I'm not a raccoon.) I put some sort of kill-o-zap powder on the lawn to stop the grubs developing and prevent the kind of damage we had last year, but it didn't occur to me to put it around the shrubbery and the raccoons are handily digging up all the bare areas. All in all, it's probably doing the garden some good.

The earth in that area was topped-up a few months ago with commercial compost, but none of it has grown a mushroom anywhere else in the yard. I assume the mechanical damage of the little vermin's claws is similar to 'casing' commercial mushrooms, where you break up the mycelium and give it a bit of fresh substrate to induce pin (baby mushroom) formation.



I don't know what it is, so I'm not going to eat it. At least one moth larva appears to be tackling it with gusto but that doesn't mean it's non-poisonous.

I once grew oyster mushrooms and blogged about it a couple of years ago. I didn't eat them either. Nasty things, fungi.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

IKEA or Death


Is it a piece of IKEA furniture or a Death Metal Band?

I scored 15/20.

Congrats you are...
Kvlt.

You know that Furkantig means “square” in Swedish to describe the candles that you have on your altar. And above it? The raddest picture of Euronymous ever. Seriously, you scare children and their parents alike, all while wowing them with your design sense. Please check out our agency site. We’d be honored.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Decimalisation

I just followed a recipe which called for 2 cups of flour, 2 ounces of butter, 1/2 cup cheese, 1 pinch of something, 1/4 cup cream, 1/4 cup some other liquid. Cut butter into flour using two knives (what? I'll just cut it and rub it as usual), add other stuff...and then drop the dough on a greased cookie sheet in one ounce portions.

But I don't know how much the dough weighs! We've just used a combination of the weirdest measures known to man. And if I did calculate the weight it would probably be in pounds/feet or kilowatts or Imperial Gallons. The US weights and measures system is a complete mess.

Wikipedia gives the "cup" style table. 

Liquid volume
Most common measures shown in italic font
Exact conversions in bold font
UnitDivisionsSI Equivalent
minim (min)~1 drop or 0.95 grain of water61.611519921875 μL
US fluid dram (fl dr)60 min3.6966911953125 mL
teaspoon (tsp)80 min4.92892159375 mL
tablespoon (Tbsp)3 tsp or 4 fl dr14.78676478125 mL
US fluid ounce (fl oz)2 Tbsp or 1.0408 oz av of water29.5735295625 mL
US shot (jig)3 Tbsp44.36029434375 mL
US gill (gi)4 fl oz118.29411825 mL
US cup (cp)2 gi or 8 fl oz236.5882365 mL
1 (liquid) US pint (pt)2 cp or 16.65 oz av of water473.176473 mL
1 (liquid) US quart (qt)2 pt0.946352946 L
1 (liquid) US gallon (gal)4 qt or 231 cu in3.785411784 L
1 (liquid) barrel (bbl)31.5 gal or 12 hogshead119.240471196 L
1 oil barrel (bbl)42 gal or 23 hogshead158.987294928 L
hogshead63 gal or 8.421875 cu ft
or 524.7 lb of water
238.480942392 L
The "cooking" table has another set of them.

Most of the rest of the world gets along with things that work in multiples of ten, and are based on each other so that calculations are much easier. It's not surprising that the Mars Climate Orbiter crashed
due to ground based computer software which produced output in non-SI units of pound-seconds (lbf×s) instead of the metric units of newton-seconds (N×s) specified in the contract between NASA and Lockheed.
Pound-seconds? In an interplanetary vehicle. I think it's really time to get with the SI program. Bite the bullet, USA.

England did, officially going from the arcane LSD monetary system (20 shillings in a pound, 12 pennies in a shilling, 21 shillings in a guinea, 2.5 shillings in a half crown) to a nice clean 100 pence in a pound.



It wasn't easy.



Since then, I gather from remarks British people make, that the rest of the SI system has more or less arrived (kilograms, liters etc.) with the traditional hold-out of the "mile" (which is 80 chains, or 8 furlongs, or 5280 feet or 1760 yards).

Mind you, a country which has to teach its kids how many drams in a hogshead instead of how many milliliters in a liter might explain the education gap in my last post.

Edited: typo


Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Edjukation

Yay, I'm number one! Or number 3 when I'm being British.




Kids ain't doin' so well, though.




What the hell happened to you, USA? (And UK?)

The OECD Education study looked at literacy, numeracy and problem solving in 16-24 year olds and contrasted them with 55-65 year olds to see if countries are improving their education and fitting themselves for the future.  The US and the UK aren't. The rest of the report is just as grim for us - and it isn't speaking English that's doing it, as Australia and Canada are doing okay.

The Beeb's take on this: The grandchildren have many more qualifications, but fewer actual skills.

I can't help thinking that this dumbing-down is purposeful. I realize I'm degenerating into a conspiracy theorist, but the anti-facts, anti-science astroturfing brigade do seem to be aimed towards keeping the youth down on the farm.

The full OECD reports and interactive graphs are here.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Where thoughts go to die

Yesterday, in Hard Cases Make Bad Law, I wrote about the comments sections of the interwebs. I do read comments a lot, and there are comment sections out there that make YouTube look like a temple of higher education. And these are the ones that are nominally "on my side". I truly hate to think what the opposition's comments sections look like. (The Wall Street Journal is enough for me.)

Another example of a hard case almost deliberately designed to make bad law came up a few days ago, and got a predictable work out through the internet. It's a letter from a granddad to his daughter, saying goodbye to her for disowning his grandson - for being gay.



Dear Christine: I’m disappointed in you as a daughter. You’re correct that we have a “shame in the family,” but mistaken about what it is.
Kicking Chad out of your home simply because he told you he was gay is the real “abomination” here. A parent disowning her child is what goes “against nature.”
The only intelligent thing I heard you saying in all this was that “you didn’t raise your son to be gay”. Of course you didn’t. He was born this way and didn’t chase it any more than he being left-handed. You however, have made a choice of being hurtful, narrow-minded and backward. So, while we are in the business of disowning our children, I think I’ll take this moment to say goodbye to you. I now have a fabulous (as the gays put it) grandson to raise, and I don’t have time for heart-less B-word of a daughter.
If you find your heart, give us a call

Not entirely fluffy rainbows, as saying that the worst thing a parent can do is disown a child, while you're disowning a child, is slightly problematic, but it's all in the cause of anti-bigotry, and it's been settled for some time (on my side at least; still puzzles some on the right) that lack of tolerance for intolerance is not, in itself, intolerance.

The letter was initially presented as a heart-warming story. But port this letter and its message over to Freethought blogs, the home of  one (or more!) of the biggest comment sewers in the world, and it magically becomes a hate-screed written by a screaming misogynist.  See, he used the "b word", a gendered slur. Well, he didn't, he actually used the circumlocution "B-word" but that's enough, it kicks him right out of the human race.

I'm not going to link to the "discussion" as I'm sure you could find it if you needed it. There are 168 comments about this letter before the blog owner shut down comments. We get eight comments of mild "assuming this is genuine, good for you granpa" stuff and then comment nine harps on the "b word". Discussion begins. Isn't saying "B-word" specifically avoiding the misogynist slur? Doesn't "b word" mean "bastard' (non-gendered) in your family? But soon the digging in starts and anyone who is on the "good for you granpa" side is obviously a deeply doubleplusungood pusher of crimethink, abusing the oppressed female masses by their whole-hearted support of this evil woman-hating misogynist. Within a very short time, the commenters are metaphorically at one another's throats, complete with swearing. Rules of debate are flourished, and broken. Someone pretends to be a mod when he or she isn't. There is a reference to a scholarly journal on morality. There are regrets that grandfather is not here at the blog so he can be told why he is wrong. Flounces are performed, in one case repeatedly, which rather ruins the effect. Another is advised to walk away and think about it for a while.

When I first came to the states, I thought it was funny that people didn't swear. Living in London, everyone, including myself, swore like sailors. The Americans, not so much. I read a couple of people last week who were shocked at how sweary the American Youth Of Today has become, and various cesspool blog comments sections seem to bear this out. And they are swearing at their peers and allies as well, in a free-for-all fight that routinely stops to check the forum rules and discuss the logical fallacies of the arguments before carrying on with the fuck fuck fuckity fucks.

One wonders what these vicious anklebiters do for a living. I assume they are in college, mostly, ones which do plenty of gender studies courses but don't assign any actual work. Or maybe they are at work, doing this *during* lectures, iPhoning comments filled with peer-chastising vitriol while ignoring the grad student giving the lecture as the nominal prof phones venture capitalists about his start up back at his apartment. In hot pursuit of an ideological purity few initiates can attain, this modern-day Junior Anti-Sex League chases its own lagging members down a PC hellhole.

Or maybe it's like professional wrestling. Fake but glittery enough that you can pretend to be invested in one side or another, and reliably switch without cognitive dissonance when a plot twist makes the good guy the bad guy. Just something to while away the day with.

But these kids(?) scare me, even though I'm nominally on their side.

Marc Bolan - The Final Word (Video 2007)




Not sure why I hadn't heard of this before, but thanks to BP Fallon's twitter, I now have:



A 2007 BBC Documentary on the life of Marc Bolan called The Final Word. Remarkably, it's on YouTube apparently unmolested by copyright takedowns.

This is a show that appears to have been put together with genuine love for its subject. Narrated by Suzi Quatro, it starts, as they inevitably do, with Marc The Mod, but unlike most goes deeper into fashion further on, beginning with the odd factoid that Marc read a book about Beau Brummell as a child. Beau Brummell being, of course, the first dandy in the underworld. The program then illustrates Marc's influence on clothes and appearance. Zandra Rhodes talks about the clothes of her line that he wore.  There's a short history of glitter make-up and the rather sad detail that his brother Harry has a little vial of his glitter to remember him by. It's interesting to see again the fashions of that time - there's a sort of pastel, monotone quality to seventies clothes that I don't think you can duplicate nowadays. Whether it was the use of natural dyes (or more likely in the seventies, completely unnatural dyes that are now banned because they were poisonous) or a trick of the TV cameras, I don't know.

After Marc the Mod, we get to hear friends', musicians' and Marc's brother Harry's thoughts on Bolan accompanied by clips of many songs. (One thing I dislike about most documentaries is the use of clips instead of full songs. I assume that it is a cost issue, but playing the introduction and first chorus of a catchy song and then cutting away from it is just teasing.) In particular I must track down the sensationally heavy version of 20th Century Boy from an appearance on Germany's Musikladen, the preservator of many, many great seventies performances.

George Underwood, the artist responsible for several of his covers, gives away the secret of the crowded, fulminating cover of My People Were Fair - he ripped off figures from the Gustave Doré bible, and now, armed with this link, so can you! Tony Visconti says that Marc asked him to read Lord of the Rings in order to understand him, and Visconti believes that Marc really did see LOTR as somehow true, and himself as a sort of reincarnated bard from the days when elves walked the earth.


My People Were Fair cover


One of Doré's illustrations

The phrases "selling out" and "went electric" feature prominently as Marc switches from pleasing the hippies to pleasing the pre-teens, which was the bridge he built for me from my brother's music (my brother's back at home with his Beatles and his Stones, we never got it off on that revolution stuff) to music for my generation, which my brother can't stand and will probably be along to say so in comments shortly.  (It's a mystery to me why the world calls us both Baby Boomers, given the fundamental split between coming of age in the sixties versus the seventies.)

BP Fallon talks about the word T.Rextasy appearing to him in a flaming font floating just within reach of his outstretched left hand, a new word shrewdly summing up the zeitgeist.  Several speak of Ringo Starr's film Born to Boogie, the Beatlemane passing the baton to the Rexstatic. There's the split with June Child, the musical and life partnership with Gloria Jones, the Godfather of Punk thing and of course Supersonic, and Marc falling off stage to David Bowie's wide grin on his show Marc.


Marc on Supersonic. The interviewees are not kind about this performance.

And then of course Marc meets a tree, and it's all over, except the memories. Which this brought back in droves - not just seeing T. Rex at Bradford St. George's Hall, but the clothes (and their tones, see above), the Three Day Weeks, the Rolling Blackouts (not, alas, a band), the hot summers, the fairground rides to T. Rex songs.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Hard cases make bad law

There's a saying, "hard cases make bad law", which means that an extreme example is not the best thing to react to - it is better to consider moderate examples, because the consideration will cover so many more instances.

On the internet, the hard cases make angered click bait. There is an infinity of issues that don't have a mathematical, provable solution. The big ones include abortion, whether welfare is a moral hazard or a necessary safeguard for the temporarily inconvenienced, and whether quantitative easing will lead to a recovery or to hyperinflation.

Apart from these major arguments (and the perennial evolution vs. creation, which is obviously well settled and totally over, but is refought on a daily basis), there are a million minor arguments with no right answer. On boing boing yesterday, for instance, a post on Miley Cyrus' response to an open letter from Sinead O'Connor dived into circularity within a few comments. At issue, such fundamental concepts as defining saying "Don't be a prostitute" as slut-shaming and individual viewpoints as data points, such as whether Miley Cyrus is being cynically exploited by others for money, or whether she is expressing her young and apparently thrush-tongued sexuality. Now we are 163 comments in and there's no sign of agreement.

For what it's worth, my own opinion is that Miley Cyrus is an operative of the media, and wiggling her arse and sticking her tongue out are not protected speech, because they are not either "an expression of her sexuality" (which is, according to the posters on the boing boing thread, inviolate, at least to feminists) or an artistic expression (which has freedom under the Constitution), they are advertisements for a product, which are regulated as commerce and also subject to the usual common decency rules. (And the "if you don't like it, don't watch it" rule, which applies to me, but less so to minors, who are not considered capable of making some decisions.) As such, asking her to consider not being a prostitute is not "slut-shaming" - and since when was a slut a prostitute anyway? - it's the modern equivalent of appeal to the hippy concept of "not selling out", man.  Although authenticity is a loose and slippery concept, the opposite, the antonym, is generally "doing something for the money" and it appears that O'Connor is asking Cyrus to stop selling out.

I'm a big reader of comments. I sometimes reply in comments, too, and then wonder why. Obviously no one will ever read it, with the possible, but not guaranteed, exception of the person I'm replying to, and after years of comment-reading experience I know that minds are rarely ever changed. Blogs/Papers that carry them use them as either free-content providers or as a source of repeat eyeballs for advertising.  More serious outlets like  Popular Science are against them because fighting in the comments section leads to polarization; which is to say, the angrier and more abusive the comments get, the more people's minds stay made up, and the less learning and understanding takes place.

Comments sections are where thoughts go to die. I read them because occasionally a couple of self-aware people have an exchange, but that's becoming more and more rare. YouTube is considering requiring real names on comments. Might make a difference. Doesn't on Facebook.

And I think I read them because I grew up on Usenet, where all posts were technically comments. One gigantic world-spanning mega-thread of comments, most of which were actually relevant in those far-off pre-astroturfing days.  Obviously, part of me wants to get back to the Golden Age when everyone who wrote into a thread about load carrying capacities of German WWII planes was an expert, not someone who wanted to remark that it was Obama's fault, or that Ron Paul was the solution or that they made $36 an hour following this one weird trick.

As the monument of these arguments, carved and modeled into consensus reality, Wikipedia is the Old Usenet set in stone. It's offspring are the toxic whims of the perpetually peeved.


History of twerking part 95



At this moment, if you type just the word "what" into Google, "what is twerking" is the first suggestion.


Thursday, October 03, 2013

David Bowie's reading list

According to Open Book Toronto, this is a list of David Bowie's Top 100 must read books as discussed with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Let's see how I'm doing with the list.  If I read it, it's in bold, if it's on my reading list it's light, and if I have no interest, it's in strikethrough.

David Bowie's Top 100 Must Read Books:

The Age of American UnreasonSusan Jacoby, 2008
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoJunot Diaz, 2007
The Coast of Utopia (trilogy)Tom Stoppard, 2007
Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage, 2007
FingersmithSarah Waters, 2002
The Trial of Henry KissingerChristopher Hitchens, 2001
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of WonderLawrence Weschler, 1997
A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924Orlando Figes, 1997
The InsultRupert Thomson, 1996
Wonder BoysMichael Chabon, 1995
The Bird ArtistHoward Norman, 1994
Kafka Was The Rage: A Greenwich Village MemoirAnatole Broyard, 1993
Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical PerspectiveArthur C. Danto, 1992
Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily DickinsonCamille Paglia, 1990
David BombergRichard Cork, 1988
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of FreedomPeter Guralnick, 1986
The SonglinesBruce Chatwin, 1986
HawksmoorPeter Ackroyd, 1985
Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul MusicGerri Hirshey, 1984
Nights at the CircusAngela Carter, 1984
MoneyMartin Amis, 1984
White NoiseDon DeLillo, 1984
Flaubert’s ParrotJulian Barnes, 1984
The Life and Times of Little RichardCharles White, 1984
A People’s History of the United StatesHoward Zinn, 1980
A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980
Interviews with Francis BaconDavid Sylvester, 1980
Darkness at NoonArthur Koestler, 1980
Earthly PowersAnthony Burgess, 1980
Raw (a ‘graphix magazine’) 1980-91
Viz (magazine) 1979 –
The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, 1979
Metropolitan LifeFran Lebowitz, 1978
In Between the SheetsIan McEwan, 1978
Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed. Malcolm Cowley, 1977
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes, 1976
Tales of Beatnik GloryEd Saunders, 1975
Mystery Train, Greil Marcus, 1975
Selected PoemsFrank O’Hara, 1974
Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920sOtto Friedrich, 1972
In Bluebeard’s Castle : Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of CultureGeorge Steiner, 1971
Octobriana and the Russian UndergroundPeter Sadecky, 1971
The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillete, 1970
The Quest For Christa TChrista Wolf, 1968
Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn, 1968
The Master and MargaritaMikhail Bulgakov, 1967
Journey into the WhirlwindEugenia Ginzburg, 1967
Last Exit to BrooklynHubert Selby Jr. , 1966
In Cold BloodTruman Capote, 1965
City of Night, John Rechy, 1965
HerzogSaul Bellow, 1964
Puckoon, Spike Milligan, 1963
The American Way of DeathJessica Mitford, 1963
The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The SeaYukio Mishima, 1963
The Fire Next TimeJames Baldwin, 1963
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, 1962
Inside the Whale and Other EssaysGeorge Orwell, 1962
The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieMuriel Spark, 1961
Private Eye (magazine) 1961 –
On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the ObviousDouglas Harding, 1961
Silence: Lectures and WritingJohn Cage, 1961
Strange PeopleFrank Edwards, 1961
The Divided SelfR. D. Laing, 1960
All The Emperor’s HorsesDavid Kidd,1960
Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse, 1959
The LeopardGiuseppe Di Lampedusa, 1958
On The RoadJack Kerouac, 1957
The Hidden PersuadersVance Packard, 1957
Room at the TopJohn Braine, 1957
A Grave for a DolphinAlberto Denti di Pirajno, 1956
The OutsiderColin Wilson, 1956
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, 1948
The StreetAnn Petry, 1946
Black BoyRichard Wright, 1945
The Portable Dorothy ParkerDorothy Parker, 1944
The Outsider, Albert Camus, 1942
The Day of the LocustNathanael West, 1939
The Beano, (comic) 1938 –
The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell, 1937
Mr. Norris Changes TrainsChristopher Isherwood, 1935
English JourneyJ.B. Priestley, 1934
Infants of the SpringWallace Thurman, 1932
The BridgeHart Crane, 1930
Vile BodiesEvelyn Waugh, 1930
As I lay DyingWilliam Faulkner, 1930
The 42nd ParallelJohn Dos Passos, 1930
Berlin AlexanderplatzAlfred Döblin, 1929
PassingNella Larsen, 1929
Lady Chatterley’s LoverD.H. Lawrence, 1928
The Great GatsbyF. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925
The Waste LandT.S. Eliot, 1922
BLAST, ed. Wyndham Lewis, 1914-15
McTeagueFrank Norris, 1899
Transcendental Magic, Its Doctrine and RitualEliphas Lévi, 1896
Les Chants de Maldoror, Lautréamont, 1869
Madame BovaryGustave Flaubert, 1856
ZanoniEdward Bulwer-Lytton, 1842
Inferno, from the Divine ComedyDante Alighieri, about 1308-1321
The Iliad, Homer, about 800 BC

Not doing very well, am I? The article says it proves David Bowie is a genius, so I guess I'm not one. 

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