Monthly Archives: December 2003

What’s going on at squid central?

The Tarantella share price has shot up in the last two days, from about $1.20 to $1.73 as I write. This has always happened a few days ahead of some news.

It can’t be a new CEO, as they’ve just played that game. There’s nothing new on the web site. Maybe it’s just the institutional investors messing about before the end of the year.

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BSE USA

Surprise? From Fast Food Nation, p202:

About 75 percent of the cattle in the United States were routinely fed livestock wastes – the rendered remains of dead sheep and dead cattle – until August of 1997. They were also fed millions of dead cats and dead dogs every year, purchased from animal shelters. The FDA banned such practices after evidence from Great Britain suggested that they were responsible for a widespread outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease.” Nevertheless, current FDA regulations allow dead pigs and dead horses to be rendered into cattle feed, along with dead poultry. The regulations not only allow cattle to be fed dead poultry, they allow poultry to be fed dead cattle. Americans who spent more than six months in the United Kingdom during the 1980s are now forbidden to donate blood, in order to prevent the spread of BSE’s human variant, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. But cattle blood is still put into the feed given to American cattle. Steven P. Bjerklie, a former editor of the trade journal Meat & Poultry, is appalled by what goes into cattle feed these days. “Goddamn it, these cattle are ruminants,” Bjerklie says. “They’re designed to eat grass, and maybe, grain. I mean, they have four stomachs for a reason – to eat products that have a high cellulose content. They are not designed to eat other animals.”

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Dumb Britain

From today’s Weakest Link:

Anne Robinson: In 1743, which British King was the last to lead an army into battle: Edward VIII or George II?

Contestant: Edward VIII

From a Celebrity Weakest Link shown over Christmas:

Anne Robinson: What is the sum of the number of sides of a square and the number of sides of a triangle?

Edwina Currie: The hypotenuse.

I’ve sent these to Private Eye for consideration for their Dumb Britain column.

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“When you have been in the business as long as I have you come to notice these things almost instinctively”

From BBC online, Anne’s dog ‘wrongly accused’:

In the latest attack, the Queen’s corgi Pharos had to be put down after both its legs were broken by one of Anne’s dogs.

I know the corgis, like the royals, are a bit inbred, but…

(One housepoint for knowing the reference in the heading without Googling.)

(Update: Bah, they’ve fixed it.)

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Things you don’t expect to hear

One (male) c.16 year-old to another (female), in Borders, on seeing Germaine Greer’s book, The Boy:

Germaine Greer, ooh, I love her.

And he did actually know who she was. The girl didn’t though.

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Bureaucracy at work

I signed on again this morning. My usual Pauline was absent, so I spoke to another. This one more or less told me off for not having rung the Jobseeker Direct phone line (looks like they put notes in your file when you do). I told her I was looking for jobs online, but I don’t think she was satisfied by that answer. She also seemed miffed when I told her there were no suitable jobs on their “Jobcentre Plus” in-office touchscreen system.

(I thought it best not to suggest that the DWP‘s online, phone and touchscreen services probably all used the same job database, so I shouldn’t need to use more than one service. Of course, this is all cobbled together by EDS so who knows?)

After the grilling I mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to attend the next appointment in two weeks, as I’m away all that week. She asked where. Switzerland, I said. In that case, she said, I’d have to sign off, and sign on again when I return from holiday.

I’d been told when I first signed on that a week’s absence can be finessed within the system with a “quickie” sign-off/sign-on without the complete form-filling palaver. This Pauline, however, didn’t seem to think so. So I signed off, grumbling that this was all designed to make it hard for people to stay on the system. She tended to agree. (And I’m tempted not to bother signing back on again after the holilday.)

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Ho ho and indeed ho

A very Merry Christmas to all my loyal readers.

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The Lord of the Rings, Hollywood edition

(Spoilers for the book/films ahead!)

Hmm. What would a Hollywood version of The Lord of the Rings book
be like?

  • Audiences “won’t understand” two enemies, so Saruman and Sauron
    are combined. None of this “eye” nonsense: the enemy is called Sauron
    but looks like Saruman, and is played by Alan Rickman.

  • Nine in the fellowship? Too many characters. Combine Merry and
    Pippin. Drop Sam (“he’s just a gardener!”). Drop Boromir (“another
    enemy?”). Keep Gimli as the comic relief to Aragorn, but drop Legolas
    (“Spock ears?”); in fact, drop the elves altogether. So the
    fellowship is Gandalf, Frodo, Merry/Pippin, Aragorn, and Gimli. Much
    better, and helps save on salary too, considering the star-name cast: Aragorn is Tom Cruise, Gandalf is John Malkovich, Frodo is Haley Joel Osment, Merry/Pippin is Kieran Culkin, and Gimli is Danny DeVito.

  • There’s only one film, so after Frodo receives the ring from
    Bilbo, played in a cameo by Mickey Rooney, we then jump more or less
    straight from the Shire to the passage through Moria (the fellowship
    is explained as a voice-over). This proceeds more or less as the
    book, but Gandalf does something Harry Potter to stop himself falling
    after the battle with the Balrog (avoids all that awkward mystical
    stuff), but is mysteriously unable to do something else Harry Potter
    to catch up with the fellowship.

  • The fellowship breaks up straight away film-time, with the
    journey to the Falls of Rauros explained by a montage of lingering
    gloomy looks at each other. The break-up is caused by an
    argument round a camp fire rather than a battle. No meeting with
    Galadriel, of course.

  • Frodo heads to Mordor alone. He meets up with Gollum, voiced by
    Robin Williams (if unavailable, Mike Myers). Crossing the Dead
    Marshes, Frodo is caught in a bog and rescued by Gollum, in a
    video-game-franchise-friendly way.

  • The Merry/Pippin hybrid walks to Minas Tirith, where he
    meets up with Gandalf who’d gone straight there for some reason.
    No Fangorn Forest (“fighting trees?”), and no Isengard.

  • Gimli and Aragorn go to Osgiliath (Frodo and Gollum don’t), where
    they meet Faramir (played by Sean Connery). There’s a small skirmish
    here, involving Sauron (no Nazgul), of the “You win this time, men of
    Gondor, but I’ll be back… and next time I’ll bring some friends of
    mine” variety.

  • Gimli, Aragorn and Faramir go to Minas Tirith, rejoin Gandalf and
    Merry/Pippin, and prepare for the battle. (No Denethor: Faramir’s in
    charge. No Theoden or Helm’s Deep.) Here Aragorn meets Eowyn, and
    they fall in love.

  • Frodo and Gollum dodge through the legs of marching orcs to reach
    the stairs of Cirith Ungol. Gollum leads him deliberately to Shelob’s
    lair and abandons him, and there’s a hobbit-spider fight, in which
    Frodo kills Shelob before she can paralyse him. Gollum follows Frodo
    secretly, and we know about it through Robin Williams ad libs.

  • In the battle for Gondor, Aragorn, Gimli, Merry/Pippin and
    Faramir beat the orcs, with Gandalf fighting Sauron spell-to-spell,
    wheeling through the skies. On the verge of defeating Sauron, Gandalf
    inadvertently blabs about Frodo and the ring. Sauron immediately
    runs away, and heads for Mount Doom.

  • A chase begins. Gandalf chases Sauron; Sauron rushes to find Frodo.
    Frodo reaches the crack of Doom just seconds ahead of Sauron.

  • There is a hand-to-hand fight between Sauron and Frodo. Frodo
    uses the ring several times, with no ill-effects, to escape Sauron’s
    clutches. Finally Sauron grabs him, snatches the ring, and they
    topple towards the edge…

  • And then Gollum jumps from the shadows onto Sauron, wrestles him
    away from Frodo, and they topple over the edge into the lava,
    destroying the ring.

  • The mountain begins to explode. Gandalf rescues Frodo and they
    fly to safety. “He saved us,” says Frodo. “Saved us all in the end.
    Poor Gollum.”

  • Big party at Minas Tirith. Aragorn marries Eowyn. Gimli catches
    the bouquet. Merry/Pippin is knighted for services to Gondor.
    Faramir crowns Aragorn king. Gandalf organises the fireworks. Frodo
    makes an “I couldn’t have done it without you guys” speech, and emotes
    about Gollum’s sacrifice with an undercurrent of God-Bless-America.
    Fanfares, fireworks, celebrations, fade to black, roll credits.

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Talkin’ Tolkien

Last night I dreamed of quests. Unlike The Return of the King, which
I’d just seen, the dreams had intermissions. I’d wake up, mutter “what the hell was that
about?”, turn over, and rejoin the dream. I think the dream was
marginally longer than the film.

Avaragado’s summary: Return of the King is good.

The effects in the film are, as you’d expect, pretty
staggering. Ten years ago Minas Tirith would have been attacked by a
couple of old men and an alsatian with stuck-on tusks. Now George
Lucas has a new target to beat for Episode III.

The film’s ending has been the main focus for criticism. It’s true,
it’s long. Hollywood would’ve used a different ending; but then,
Hollywood would never have made the film. I think that if you’re
filming the book, then you have to, you know, film the book. To get
ten hours in to the trilogy and then bottle out on the ending would’ve
been awful.

I admit it, I’m a fanboy. But even if you’re not, you have to admit
that Peter Jackson has filmed an unfilmable book, and done it
incredibly well. I never thought I’d see it on screen as I’d seen it
in my head. Time to read the book again, I think!

If you consider the entire trilogy, Jackson should walk away with the
major awards. Not just him: the production as a whole deserves proper
recognition. But will it happen?

Avaragado’s rating: three-and-a-half marrows.

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Tolkathon day 1

This afternoon I watched the special edition of The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD.
Tomorrow afternoon it’s ditto for The Two Towers, which I bought this morning.

Then Wednesday night it’s The Return of the King on the big screen. I haven’t read any reviews, and I stick my fingers in my ears whenever a trailer appears.

Does this make me a Tolkien fanboy?

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