Saturday, February 3, 2007

Laughter is the closest distance between two people. Victor Borge

Today's Daily is dedicated to comedy. I feel like I need some uplifting as the arrival of February has dampened my sense of humour - where is the year disappearing already??

Last week Kit Kat and I watched a documentary all about comedy called the Aristocrats. It's hard to describe, but if you don't like swearing, do not ever, ever, ever, EVER watch this film. It will probably kill you. There were parts of this film that freaked me out and I have very few boundaries when it comes to finding stuff offensive, as some of you may know. I can clear a room in about two and a half minutes with my graphic descriptions of smear tests (and, as Hicks said, I am available for weddings, bar mitzphahs....).

I didn't enjoy all of the Aristocrats, but it did really make me think about how what we find funny is as much a reflection of who we are as our tastes in art, music, or books. I think comedy is often a less-appreciated art form, assumed to be a less sophisticated form of art. But it's not easy to make people laugh, and it's definitely not easy to make people laugh for a living. Our favourite comedians reflect our own personalities back at us, which is why I usually introduce potential new friends to Bill Hicks quite early on, because if they don't like him, they will probably find me wearing after a while...

Hicks is definitely my favourite comedian of all time and some of my other favourites are featured below. But I would love to hear from people about what makes you laugh, and who. And if you have a favourite joke, I would like to hear that too. My favourite joke of all time (it varies, really - for a long time, it was a three-legged donkey, and then a fish without an eye):

A man walks into a bar.
He says, 'Ouch.'

So, a selection of some of my favourite comedians of the moment, courtesy of YouTube.

Eddie Izzard, Dressed to Kill Tour

David O' Doherty - filmed off the telly from someone's mobile phone, from Rob Rouse's new Comedy:Shuffle

Frankie Boyle. I would hump him for his CD's. He could even keep the CD's. Fact.

David Armand miming as Johann Lipowitz.

Women love men who are funny, but is it true the other way round? Maybe not so much. Maybe this could explain why stand up comey has to be one of the last vestiges of male professional protectionism. There are many talented and established comedy actresses, but stand up is an area that can still be very hard for women to break into.

Michelle Gomez. Green Wing is funny, but she is funniest.

Smack the Pony. Obviously. Where Green Wing was born.

Finally, Jessica Stevenson in Spaced.

As you were.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Chasing Freedom

Chasing Freedom: The Royal Navy and the Suppression of the Transatlantic Slave Trade
A special exhibition at the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Oops, late post alert, late post! I can only apologise as it has been a bit of a crazy week. Last night I went to bed at 8.15, although I didn't go to sleep until about 2am, but that's another story (and not one that's as exciting as it sounds - I was watching a documentary. Twice). I wanted an early because I was so excited about today.

Today is the Official Opening of Chasing Freedom: The Royal Navy and the Suppression of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, a special exhibition at the Royal Naval Museum. I was very excited and more than a little bit nervous about it. The launch was a formal affair, with readings about slavery, and a minute's silence to honour all those who suffered the horrors of the slave trade and fought for its end.

Lots of posh bods from the Admiralty attended, but best of all was meeting Miss Rosa Lee, who is Henry Binstead's grand-daughter. Binstead's diary has played a central role in the creation of the exhibition and Miss Lee and her family were absolutely charming.

On Saturday I'm going back to the Chasing Freedom exhibition with my family to show them the fruits of all our hard work, and soon I will be able to announce the launch of our accompanying webpages, too. I keep releasing happy sighs of contentment at the whole thing. Get yourselves down there for a look. Go on, it's only £4.50.

Last night, I watched a documentary called The Corporation. You know I don't say this often, but I mean this one:


I mean it. It's not dull, you'll learn things you never knew. It will shock and horrify you (and if it doesn't, come see me, I have a Rolodex full of great therapists on my desk here at the Heights) and, I hope, it will make you ask some important questions about what our responsibilities as individuals in this world, to act mindfully and with clear, consistent purpose: and to balance the right to live freely with the responsibility to do no harm. Here's the trailer.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Goodnight and Good Luck, or Where the ?£$! Has All the Money Gone?

Today's image is Man in the Moon, by Lloyd King at AhaPuzzles

I'm feeling very politically engaged at the moment here at the Heights, for many reasons. I saw the picket line at the gate of the Historic Dockyard yesterday morning, as the women on strike stood shivering and cautious in the morning cold. When I went to speak to them, they protested that their reasons for being there was nothing like "what they're saying on the news!" to which I grinned and replied, "No, it never is!"

I watched the coverage on the news last night and I still cannot fathom why the BBC would report so negatively about strikes? Other than that they sit squarely in the pocket of the Government, but that's just ludricous. Then again, I saw Andrew Marr interviewing George Galloway the other night on the BBC and could not believe how slanted the journalism was. I'm no follower of Galloway - I can tell you that he's controversial, and there my knowledge sputters out like a candle in the wind - but I know that good journalism does not involve asking meaningless questions like, "Do you love your country, Mr Galloway?" I thought I was having a flashback to Senator McCarthy.

Anyhoo, I digress. The women on the picket said that they were striking because of the ongoing cuts in public services, of which the Naval Base Review is a part. Whichever way the Naval Base Review goes, Portsmouth will - and is already - face cuts. Just like the public services are, year on year. As I stood at the gate talking to the women and apologising profusely for crossing their picket line (which they were very nice about, but if I'd have been better organised, I could have taken the day off), I had a Carrie Bradshaw moment. I pondered the cuts in public services, the Naval Base Review and I couldn't help but wonder, Where in the name of all decent people Has All the Money Gone?

If any of you know the answer to this, please let me know. I'm not kidding, I'm genuinely interested. Because I must admit, at first I thought it was just here, in this city, and that maybe that bloody Gary Spinnaker overspending, lousy-contracts fiasco was why Portsmouth City Council has a funding shortfall of £6 million for this year and next. But then I read on a library site yesterday that Cornwall has a shortfall of £10 million!

Are we bad councils? Do we spend too much at the tuck shop or something? Or is this actually a broad national phenomenon? And why? Is it the money we've spent on Iraq? Is it the impact of a global economy in which it is harder for nation states to protect their economic interests as money moves more freely around the globe? Can we genuinely not afford our public services anymore? Is there actually less money in the national pot than before?

Does anyone reading this understand these issues enough to explain them to me over a cup of coffee?

You may say (if you're still reading) that it's too dull for anyone to care about, and normally my feeling on the economy is fairly similar. But I'm starting to see a genuine trickle-down effect (as opposed to Thatcher's theoretical one) from these issues in my daily life, which is starting to make me care very deeply about the answers. For instance, the Naval Base Review and the impact that losing or further reducing our base may have on the city. As someone who has lived here her whole life (not that that makes my feelings on the matter more important than anyone else's), it scares me to think of losing the base. So much of the identity of the city is tied to it and I wonder about the city's ability to sustain such a hit to the local economy.

And then there are the stories about the Council closures and the yearly pre-budget hysteria that helps no one. Stories emerge about services closing down or being lost and departments are forced into a phony debate, whereby PCC is placed in a defensive position of saying - as has happened in the past -

'Of course we won't be closing this library/museum/surgery/residential home, we wouldn't do that to the local community'

instead of going on the record about the real issue -

'We don't want to close any services - we're a council, after all, running services is kind of our raison d'etre - but all the money seems to have gone and we don't know how to keep all of these services open without it - any ideas?'

Following which we could all sit down over a nice cup of tea and ask questions like -

But where has the money gone, and why does it keep disappearing and why is this happening in so many places?

And here I come full circle. Any ideas?

Oh, and here's Mika in session singing Billy Brown. This is a blog about culture you know.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Well, tickle me tits til Friday!

Tonight's image courtesy of Floridata

Tonight, we're going for the ground-breaking eclectic, bit of everything post. What do you mean, what's new?

I would like to clarify for the record that I am not addicted to Viagra and that my friends on the comments page are slurring my reputation when they imply that I am, although I have heard a rumour that Viagra works just as well on women (ok, I saw it on an episode of House - although I know I am risking the permanent mocking of my friends and the nickname Sarah 'Viagra' Cheverton. As I write that last I'm hoping that that may be the only result you culd get on a Google search for that nickname), so never say never. Apparently the stimulus may work just as well on the clitoris as it does the penis, so there's your fact for the day.

Oh, and my Counsel has just advised that I am not responsible for any Viagra induced illness or mishap that takes place as a result of you trying it.

And while I'm talking of the comments war, I don't fancy my dentist! There's nothing wrong with him - in fact he really looks a lot like Locke from Lost, but that's by the by, I don't fancy him either - besides, I think the very specific intimacy we have shared kind of clinches the fact that other than small silver mirrors, and the (hopefully) occasional drill, I don't want him to put anything in my mouth, especially not his tongue. Sorry Mr Dentist, but I'm quite certain you feel the same way.

Poem for the Day

An Immortality, by Ezra Pound

Sing we for love and idleness,

Naught else is worth the having.

Though I have been in many a land,

There is naught else in living.

And I would rather have my sweet,

Though rose-leaves die of grieving,

Than do high deeds in Hungary

To pass all men's believing.

I was at the Ministry today and highly productive, as I was trying to make up for the time I lost yesterday. The Chief was out for most of the day and sorely missed by all, I suspect. I feel very virtuous this evening because I have achieved great things today:

I have hit all my Friday deadlines AND a job that wasn't even on my list that I fielded from the Chief.

I have come home and worked on my short story, AND posted the blog in time.

Best of all, I FINALLY received my copy of Think Pink from Kidneystones the book shop, AND I had it signed by the Princess of Pink herself, the exceptionally beautiful and freshly mod-bobbed Lisa Clark (it's a hairstyle, silly, she's not just a life guru - she's a fashion and style queen, too). Moreover, it was such a beautiful dedication that it made me cry and I had to leave a gushy message on her ansafone because I was too distrait to check it during the day.

Something that you are going to have to witness and I won't even attempt to describe - Shlomo.

All of which talk of clitoris' - should that be clitori? - and fabulous women makes me think of Shirley Valentine, one of my favourite films and one of G's too. Time for some of my favourite quotes from Miss V? I think so.

I mean, most fellas ya know, they've got no idea how to talk to a woman.....No. They feel they have to take over the conversation. I mean, with most fellas if you say something like, like my favorite season's autumn, they go oh, oh, my favorite season's spring and then you've got 10 minutes of them talkin' about why they like spring and you weren't talkin' about spring, you were talkin' about autumn. So what do you do? You talk about what they want to talk about. Or you don't talk at all. Or you wind up talking to yourself.

Jane divorced her husband. I never knew him, it was before I met her. Apparently she came home from work unexpectedly one morning and found him in bed with the milkman. Honest to God, the milkman ! But from that day forward I've noticed she never takes milk in her tea.

I'm not sayin' he's bad, my fella. He's just no bleedin' good.

Monday, January 29, 2007

If my heart isn't in it, where is it?

Montmorency Falls, Quebec
Today's image is from the Daily Dose of Imagery site,
which you should add to your daily surfing,dudes.

Back to the dentist this morning. This will be the last time I book a dentist's appointment for a working day. I had a crazy dose of anaesthetic first thing this morning and I have spent the rest of the day fast asleep. Is that normal?

I rang in to the office to let them know I had entered a temporary, dentist-induced coma, and the lovely Anne-Marie made me promise to ring the dentist and check if this sort of reaction was ok. I couldn't get through to the dentist (and was too sleepy to persist) but I did call my most reliable authority on life, the Universe and everything - my mum. She agreed that the sleepiness was unusual, but pointed out that allergies to anaesthetic present more commonly as rashes or, in the extreme, more similarly to anaphylactic shock. I relaxed a little about it, and went back to sleep. I don't think I've slept this much since I was a teenager, or since I was last depressed.

So, my jury is still out - was my sleepy day linked to the dentist, a psychological thing or something else? Do I have a periodically active lazy gene? I'm open to theories and suggestions, but if you suspect it's a fatal condition, I'd prefer not to know....

Now I'm awake, I'm worried that I won't sleep for the rest of the night - I've even been considering going into work for a few hours after I've had dinner. I just read a lovely email from my friend Bridget, who has sent me a website that I'm definitely going to join: Read It Swap It. The basic concept here is that you put your unwanted books on the site and other readers can swap their books with you. It's also got some great forums, where reading groups can swap entire book sets (great idea, that), writers can most their material for feedback, and readers can get together to discuss books online.

I've only spent ten minutes on there and there are loads of people in the UK who have books that I am keen to read - including several by Jodi Picoult that I haven't been able to get here through the shops or the library. Plus, I have been planning to have a major weed and cull of some of my books that have sat unloved on the shelves here at the Heights for years, and the thought that I can swap these for others is awesome! I figure that all the ones I haven't sold within a month can go on ebay (which my brother is a huge fan of and has recently been raving about) or be donated to the library, although I'm not sure more secondhand stock is what they need. Even quality books such as those found on the Daily's Library shelves.

My favourite PostSecret today reads:

I avoid social situations because happy people depress me.

'The time has come,' the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax -
Of cabbages and kings -
And why the sea is boiling hot -
And whether pigs have wings.'

Lewis Carroll