Right! I've decided it's not fair that this one way insulting goes on, the common world view being that America isn't really aware that other countries exist, other than as places to put their spare bombs and soldiers..
However, I've discovered something trying to plan this whole trip thing. The rest of the world appears to think that the US consists of a handful of cities and about 3 states. There are any number of books and the like published about New York, Chicago, Florida and Nevada but piss all about Pittsburgh. I figured I would pick up a rough guide or some such, so that Maria wasn't forced to do all the leg work showinig me about, would be good for her to be able to set me free without worrying I'd end up on a one way train to Deliverance. I was mooching on the interweb, and no such guide exisits. I could understand it if there was nothing there but I have been checking out the net and it looks liek there is at least enough to fill a mini-guide of some description. There are a couple of e-guides but nothing that will make me look like the hopeless, lost, easy target for petty theft I will clearly be.
Now the petty thief in New York has an easy time of it, he can probably rate the relative wealth of his mark by the quality and variety of guide book being quizically read by the said victim. What hope for the yinzer felon? With no Rough Guides, or tourist maps are available for the city of Pittsburgh, he will have to rely on observing poor dental hygeine and misplaced air of superiority in order to rob me of the cheap tat that I will no doubt end up buyinjg, that no self respecting yank would be caught dead with.
With all the death, violence and persecution in the world how can I stand by and let Pittsburghg be forced to sit at the bac of the bus? Those Anti-Yinzer separatists at the Rough Guide will not get away with it you hear me?! So I am going to write my own online guide to Pittsburgh after I get back and it will be available for free I tellsya! Granted it will likely only contain a few bars, a Target store and the India Garden, but it's a start right?
OK, yes I am looking forward to my first holiday abroad in years. Yes I am short of material. Yes, perhaps I should eb working instead of looking at things to do on holideay in over two months. I don't care, it's my blog and I can ramble all I like so Nerrrrr! [Stamp foot]
Incidentally, MJ does attend the India Garden so I definitely have somewhere to go if I get homesick for a bit of curry - the bar beneath it apparently has bands too and, looking at the site, they have about 24 World and American beers on sale.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Right! I've decided it's not fair that this one way insulting goes on, the common world view being that America isn't really aware that other countries exist, other than as places to put their spare bombs and soldiers..
OK so I did it. I booked my flights to Pittsburgh this morning. On a side note, I also intend to do some grocery shopping on the net today. I believe the official term is 'Achieving a work/life balance'.
Anyway, Pittsburgh. I have no idea about the average American really, I only have real experience of ones over here when at Uni. All of whom were generally cool with the odd wanker - just like everyone else. However, as I like my stereotypes I think it would be a good idea for you all to guess how quickly I get beaten up because I got drawn into an argument about something I disagree with.
This could be anything; the ludicrous nature of gun laws, the barely simian chimp that runs the country with the mental agility of a sea cucumber, banana republics, The GAP, the continued success of FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robinson, the continued refusal of the country to apologise for New Kids on The Block, the use of the word Aluminum, Barney the Dinosaur..... the list is endless.
In an effort at international brotherhood I have compiled some responses for any yinzers (thanks Kt) who feel the need to shoot/stab/slap me after a drunken ramble; The ludicrous nature of weapons brokering laws, the lying self serving lying liar who oozes deceipt and lies with every breath that runs the country, Indonesia, the GAP, the continued success of the Daily Mail, the BNP, UKIP, Michael Howard, Michael Portillo (Port-a-loo), the continued refusal of the country to apologise for any number of 'pop' acts - most notably the Spice Girls, the Telly Tubbies, constantly whingeing about another country changing a language that is constantly in a state of change like we are the only ones who have the right to change it....... the list is endless.
On a lighter note I have compiled a list of American brews I am going to give a whirl when I am over there. Top of the list is Iron City as it is truly local to Pittsburgh so i will be sinking them regularly whether I like it or not, it's a habit I have - always drink the local brew! I've also had Sam Adams recommended to me by the flatmate. I was looking at Yeungling's (or something like that!) but I've been warned off it. I was told, basically, that there is more alcohol in a breath mint.
I should point out I may be over egging the pudding about my cantankerous nature, I'm generally very nice to new people - the ranting creeps in after you get to know me, so I should be relatively safe. Probably.
Posted by MattJ at 12:28 pm
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Here's some photos that I took over the last month or so with the new camera. As you can see I am still getting the hang of things!
Tried to blur out the back ground and just have the flower thingy in focus. My only attempt at video editing, I messed it upa little.
Tried to blur the forground to have the berries in focus.
This and the next lot were taken at Painshill Park.
Attempt at an Arty shot hehe!
OK, that'll do you for now. Now I've worked out how to do this I'll put up the amazing temple of Bacchus another time ;)
Speaking about the proposed moving of the Burberry Factory at his home in Essex yesterday, Burberry boss Terry 'Mosh' Duncan had this to say:
"We have listened to our customer base, they have spoken! They demand that the clothes they wear reflect the lifestyle that they lead. We have always managed to provide ugly and repulsive clothing with our patented 'Beige Tartan Vomit' Burberry pattern but always at a relatively high cost. By moving the site of production off-shore we can add Cheap to that heady mix!
Customers reactions have generally been very supportive of the proposed move. Father of 42 Mick 'Broken Bottle in the Face' Johnson (14) of Hull had this to say 'Yeah! I fink it's real good! Viss way ah can do out me whole family in burberry at half der price! I mean, I know I nick it all but it's the wotsit - princey-thing of it! An' I 'eard vat dey were gonna do a special line of gear that comes pre-worn so you don't even have to wear it for 3 weeks to get that special stale B.O. mixed with cheap Lager and chips smell!''
Mosh Duncan outside his local off license.
Posted by MattJ at 10:02 am
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I've been home to Wales this weekend and i actually remembered to take the odd photo of people, not just the scenery! So here they are in Glorious Technicolour, some family, some friends and some random gay people in their underwear at Jonny Shaw's house.
Exhibit 'A' depicts Jonny shaw and his Antipodean better half (Re)Becca. The photo is a bit fuzzy, but it's OK because so were they by the time this photo was taken, thanks in no small part to the Absynthe that Mr Shaw brought back from Prague.
The reprobates from left to right - Jane - friend of Michelle and Becca, Michelle (Jonny Shaw's housemate), Becca - Inebriated Ozzie Other Half of Jon, John and Adam - random gay friends of Becca in their pants, and finally on the right - a slighly balding Monkey that got into the house, often mistaken for Andrew Farrell but answers to Jon Shaw.
And now some family:
From left to right: Methuselah - instrumental in discarding the Rhombus and the Trapezium as viable shapes for the original wheel, all his good work was undone during the Sliced Bread Wars of 1203 when he joined the ill-fated 'Length-ways' faction. (It's lucky for me my dad can never ber arsed to read this).
Next is Pedr, who claims one of the 'best mate' positions on my permanent staff. I should have mentioned that Jonny Shaw also occupies one of these positons. It's a voluntary positions which they occupy with glee. Honest. Incidentally Pete has lost about a person in weight over the last 6 months, so much so that when he came to visit last I was caused to exclaim 'What the f***ing hell has happened to your head?!'. 'Well done' is so over used in my opinion.
Next to Pedr is Mike, another of my longest serving and best friends*. As you can see he loves nothing more than having his photo taken. Mike probably has the coolest hobbies of all the people I know. He has a Harris Hawk called Sparky which he flies regularly - he and his friend karl have caught rabbits and pheasants and all sorts of stuff with them. He is also a keen frowner and enjoys curmudgeoning.
Next along is my brother Martin, also known as the Waffle. Now I can talk a hell of a lot, and I do. At length. Whether you want me to or not. But my brother........how to put this delicately.....errrm....he talks so much he has to breathe through his arsehole. He's a lovely chap but I am convinced he consumes the oxygen of 10 men and may very well be a viable option for solving the energy crisis. Martin is sat next to his fiancee Katherine (though she may spell it Kathryn, I am not sure :s). She's lovely and completely oppostie to Martin in that sge is very quiet, though that may just be lack of opportunity. Basically she is taking one for the team I think so all you ladies out there need to be writing some cheques.
Finally is 'She Who Must Be Obeyed' as my dad affectionately calls her. She phones me every few weeks or so to make sure I am alive and has a go at me for not calling, but that's basically her fault. I've inheritted the 'I can barely remember to breathe, let alone make a bloody phone call!' gene that appears to affect my whole family. This is a woman who lost a purse, but not in a conventional way. We eventually tracked them down. She had put her purse in the freezer where the peas were meant to go, the peas in the fridge where the milk was supposed to go and the milk in the oven for reasons best known to herself.
So there ya have it! Piccies of wale goin on Ringo soon, only a couple as didn't have much opportunity.
Posted by MattJ at 9:27 pm
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Is it just me or are we devolving? In an age of increasing Scientific discovery it appears that primitive and superstitious bullshit is gaining more of a foothold. Far from evolving to stage of greater understanding, we are entering a stage of increasing religious bigotry and violence. Bigotry and violence powered and driven by religion.
I've traditionally been ranty against religion but pretty much left people to their beliefs so long as they don't bother me with them or try and get me to believe them but I've had enough. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu - I don't give a toss. You're all wrong. Stop killing each other over who has the hardest imaginary friend. Stop using a random passage out of a text book to justify acting like reprehensible pricks. Lets take the Bible as an example - Thou Shallt not Kill. Fairly sure that's clear isn't it? But no, they have to take a 3 line quote from some obscure passage which they then interpret to mean 'It's OK to kill people so long as they aren't White Christians'. 'Cos you know Jesus was white, white people were rife in the Middle East 2000 years ago.
Basically it's cowardice - people don't have the courage of their convictions. Turning the other cheek is hard. Loving your enemy is Hard. Forgiveness is Hard. Much easier to kill those who tresspass against us, rather than forgive them.
I am focussing on Christianity as that's what i ahve had the most contact with, but another thing that is hard from another religion: Jihad - this is supposed top be conflict with oneself, not with others. And That's hard.
It's easier to ignore the message and interpret the words as you choose than to have the courage to follow the actual message.
And that book? The one that is the 'Exact word of God'? (this goes for pretty much any religion in one way or another). It isn't - you're idea is that God is infinite right? Ergo God's word is infinite, therefore you can't write it down you idiot. I have to refer to the bible again as it's the one I have the most knowledge about (by no means massive knowledge). This is a book written 1200 or so years after the event by a bunch of mysogynistic wankers who selected the gospels that best fit the world view of the Church and state. How is that the exact word of God?!
Anyway, I've digressed. Devolution. There is now an argument whether or not it is OK to torture someone if it could reveal information to save lives. OK< I'll make it easy for you. No. If you disagree with me you are not only wrong, you are morally bankrupt. Let me explain why I think this. You start off with definitive proof someone has done something, you torture them to find out information to stop people dying. This goes on - then you find out someone has probably done something - do a bit of torture and you probably get some useful information. Eventually you end up in a virtual Theocracy where people with the wrong coloured skin, in the wrong place at the wrong time get shipped off for a 'world torture tour'. There is no evidence to speak of, no trials, no lawyers - just abuse of power. What you have is a paranoid religious fervour that matches that which it purports to oppose.
This post wasn't meant to be this long, I just wonder how we are becoming more religious and how it is the question 'Is it OK to torture another Human Being?' could ever come up while we still claim to be civilised?
Posted by MattJ at 10:33 am
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
This channel infuriates me. Garth Marenghi has finally arrived on DVD (or DeanVD as the case says, hehe!) after about 3 years waiting. This is a hilarious show and anyone who doesn't think so is clearly an idiot. When it was on Channel 4 the advertising for it was woeful but it has enjoyed massive success as a cult show since its airing. On Friday night on Channel 4 is a spin-off series called 'Man to Man with Dean Learner' which looks great too, what little has appeared of it.
It's another terrible advertising campaign by C4, the only intelligent thing they've done is release the Garth Marenghi DVD to coincide with it. So why am I so upset?
The IT crowd.
At best this show can be described as 'Watchable'. It has some comic genius in there, including Chris Morris (who did the amazing Day Today and Brass Eye shows) and Richard Ayoade (Nathan Barley, Mighty Boosh, and the indescribably ace Garth Marenghi's Dark Place_. But the show itself is just OK. But C4 advertised it like it was the funniest show that would ever grace the Earth. It was advertised in between every show, on the London Underground, Billboards and hoardings. It was ridiculous. In the 80s it probably would have been an OK show because sitcoms with lame and obvious jokes were popular then, and it is done very well. It just isn't very clever or funny. If it was set in the 80s even, that would be something! But the stereotype it plays on is so hopelessly out of date that it just doesn't work.
So. In much the same way that I pray for the day when lazy, talentless Hollywood directors remake crap films, instead of 'remaking' (for remaking see despoiling) classics (Nicholas cage in the Wicker Man? Are you fucking insane?! Why are you remaking perfection you toad?!), I want Channel 4 to advertise the good stuff and ignore the stuff that is just 'OK'.
Won't happen. On the plus side it means I got the Marenghi series for a mere 12 quid. Every Cloud.
"Maverick Doctor - Rick Dagless MD(2nd Right), his Best Buddy Lucian Sanchez (Left), Fiery hospital Boss Thornton Reed (2nd left) and Woman, Liz Asher (right)"
Please buy this, borrow it from a friend with taste - anything! Anything with lines like this: "I'm one of the few people who's written more books than he's read" - Garth Marenghi, and episode names like "Skippy the Eye Child" deserves a place in anyone's collection.
Posted by MattJ at 11:36 am
Monday, October 16, 2006
Went to see this yesterday which was pretty cool. Astrid was visiting so was glad I was able to entertain her, or at least have her entertained! Also Nick and Kara were present along with the lovely April (I have to say lovely in case she is reading, even though she has some bizarre ideas when it comes to cheesecake).
Anyway, I hope to get some pics up later this evening, until then I have them all on Ringo (anyone know how to link Ringo pics?). I was expecting to love the 'Shaolin Warriors' etc. but they were a little disappointing to be honest as they were clearly not genuine Shaolin or Wu Shu guys. They were pretty cool but not all that. What I was really impressed with was the clown guys and the contortionist. And the lions, they rocked!
Now I have to put a note in here about clowns before Pedr jumps in. Clowns suck, they aren't funny. They've never been funny and they never will be funny, they are rubbish. People who are told by their mothers that they are 'really funny and bubbly' become clowns, even though no one else agrees. I don't like clowns.
These guys were kind of the equivilant - they did some funny running about, tumbling, some rope walking stuff. But they did it incredibly well and with skill, the slapstick wasn't over done and they didn't wear stupid outfits with 'funny' face paint. So they weren't clowns, they were funny acrobats.
More later when I can upload pics ;)
Posted by MattJ at 3:00 pm
You blew it my friend. You were the most popular thing because you were so lame and didn't notice it you see? You're music is terrible, as are allyour TV shows and films. What made them unique is the way in which they were terrible.
That way was the 'Hoff' way! So convinced of your own talent that you didn't notice that most of the people who like you do so because you're a big, permed, orange caricature of a man and, frankly, it was really funny to like you. Now you know you're popular, and while you are still convinced of your talent, you are now aware of your cheese factor and this takes all of the fun out of liking you.
You're now fully exploiting your lameness and using it to full commercial effect so now I don't have the same amount of fun. I'm sorry David, but it's over. You know I've equally divided my time between you and someone else, now I have to throw my support fully behind that someone else. He's a far greater man than you will ever be, he is involved in a very worthwhile charity and despite being an outspoken Christian, is a generally nice bloke. He also isn't a dick to his ex-wife.
I used to say there was an immovable object and an unstoppable force in the world David but, like Samson when he lost his hair, your powers dissipated with the loss of your blindness. Chuck, my friend, would roundhouse kick you into a badly permed grease stain.
Posted by MattJ at 8:45 am
Friday, October 06, 2006
Before I start I should mention that I shifted over to Blogger Beta yesterday and there was an issue where I couldn't figure out how to upload photos. Rob discovered the way of getting the options back up on the new Blogger. I knew he was good for something - just goes to show it's worth perservering with people. Even if they are mindless thralls to Evil Feline Overmasters.
Anyway. Gift Shops. It's easy for the laymen to be deceived by this simple phrase when seen in the context of a retailer at a Theme Park/Country Park/Museum/Stately Home or other such attraction.
Your average English-Speaker would take these words to mean 'A place from which to purchase Gifts'. Perhaps, they think, to purchase memorabilia to remember the visit by. Maybe a thoughtful present for a loved one or family member.
They are, of course, wrong in these assumptions. What is not explicit in these signs is that the words, while resembling that of the normal vernacular, are in fact a throw-back to an earlier civilisation that held beliefs and values different to our own, yet still reflected in many areas of modern society. It is because of this increase in followers of these ancient beliefs that these establishments, oft mistaken for shops, have sprung up more and more.
It's been speculated that the words 'Gift Shop' in this context originate from a small tribe of now extinct garishly clad midgets of Malaysian descent, specifically from the Kualar Lumpur region. The midgets were often beaten by their larger cousins. This wasn't cruelty, merely that myopia was rife in the area and the midgets were sadly mistaken for hardened orange fruit due to their portly shape and bright body paint. The other natives would beat at then in the hope of reaching the Juicy Goodness in the centre of what they thought was fruit. The midgets would make 'oof!' and 'oomp!' noises, leading to their commonly used name 'Ooomp-uh! Lumpur'.
These creatures created low quality effigies of animals that were only loosely associated with the area in which they lived and worshipped them as Deities. Well, for about a week - at which point the stitching would come apart and the stuffing would come out, or they would combust or perhaps the head would fall off the small statue they had built. Another practice was to take the sap from the rubber trees of the region and fashion them into different shapes - perhaps to resemble some of the low quality effigies, or the trees from whence the sap came. The reasons for this are lost in the mists of time but what is known from archaelogical digs is that they were placed with reverance down the back of a large Altar, which itself resembled a sofa. It is thought these rubber shapes were then never retrieved, no matter how hard they looked in the places they thought they had left them.
The effigies and rubber objects, along with sketchy written histories produced by the Oompa Lumpurs fetched a high price at the time but no one has been able to fathom why, or indeed who would buy them. But buy them they did, from the priests of the tribe. The traditional Temples contained all of the Ghiffths (as the effigies etc. were known) and were called Ch-orrpths. The priests, not holding themselves greater than those around them, merely distinguished themselves by wearing a variety of the items of worship that they sold - badges, clothing, hats etc.
It is from this small tribe of people, then, that the words we know as Gift Shop originate. Gift, from Ghiffth, meaning : items made from the Pap, Tat or Pulp of available materials and Ch-orrpth meaning: Place from which to worship Pap
I apologise for the incompleteness of this explanation as I am at work but I hope this goes some way to helping the layman understand the deeper meaning of the words and why it appears there is a growing number of people that thrive on purchasing overpriced, low quality pieces of shit.
Posted by MattJ at 12:21 pm
Thursday, October 05, 2006
That's right folks! I have achieved this heady state of being!
Well.....Ok. I have a RSS reader for Outlook now. While IE7 has an RSS feed function on it that is very easy to use and configure, I wanted something to plug into Outlook so it looked like work. And now I have RSS Popper. This means I can keep a better eye on you slacking bloggers out there while at work! mwahahahahahahahah!
Incidentally I ought to say this right now and face the consequences. IE7 is better than Firefox. I'm sorry, I really am! But it is true. I really hope Firefox 2.0 is better again but I don't think it will be - IE7 does everything useful that Firefox does. The only people that need Firefox now are the 1% that use the full extendable stuff, IE7 is just really nice to use. I switched from IE to Firefox for 2 reasons:
1) Firefox has a cooler logo.
2) Internet Explorer was pants.
Now Firefox looks dated and IE no longer sucks arse, so I swithced back. What Firefox need to do now is exactly what Microsoft did - nick good ideas off someone else and make their browser look cooler again.
Anyway - RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication) for those of you that don't know are really cool things that allow you to check updates on websites without actually having to go to them. Saves checking all your favourite blogs to for updates, instead you can see direct from a list which have new entries etc.
OK, doesn't sound great but when you are a Geek like me and you read a lot of news, technology updates and blogs it is very useful. Engadget for example update regularly throughout the day so it's a good thing there. Right I am off - promise the Gift Shop post and Temple pics later tonight!
Posted by MattJ at 1:16 pm
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Basically me and Nick wanted to play with our cameras. Anyway, it all starts off well enough, we buy our tickets from the Gift Shop* and begin our tour of the grounds. Now for the most part it all went very well, I took quite a few shots of the Bronze statue 'The Rape of the Sabine Woman' in various ways I considered a bit Arty. Now I can' work out if it's possible to link photos from Ringo or not yet but it doesn't look likely. I have started a Flickr account but the upload limit is useless. The long and short of it is that I can't upload pics right now cos they are all at home.
So anyway, Arty photos of cool bronze. Then we mooched and looked at the ruined temple, the Grotto and loads of other stuff that ranged from the really quite impressive to the 'Gee, that's amazing. No, really - look at my face, I'm truly taken aback'. Nothing, however, prepares you for the Gothic 'Temple of Bacchus' experience at Painshill Park.
To be more specific, nothing prepares you for the fact that it isn't actually there.
Seriously, there is a past tense slant on the literature but nowhere does it tell you that it isn't there. There are pictures of it all of the place, it's part of the route on the map. Not until you walk through the 'Elysian Landscapes' does the true awesomeness of the absence of the Temple of Bacchus become realised. There is a little sign telling you all about it and how it may have looked - it's at this point you realise all those pictures were cunnning CG Images. There is an excavation where you can see the foundation stones. But no Temple.
Fear not though, that isn't all they give you. They have spared no expense in attempting to bring to the observers eye the majesty of the once mighty monument. I don't want to spoil it for you, I will upload the picture of the vision later this evening. You'll just have to wait.
Posted by MattJ at 3:25 pm