Moab Is My Washpot – Reviewed

Moab Is My Washpot (Memoir #1)Moab Is My Washpot by Stephen Fry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fry lays prone on this particular edition’s front cover, with his legs crossed in the air smiling at the reader, reminding me of a scene from American Crime Story where Andrew Cunan malevolently does the same.

A strong start and end but quite dreary in the middle, like a parobolic U-shaped curve depicting lifetime happiness. When I was thinking of what to write for this review, I thought I’d mention that Fry is the anti-hero of of his own autobiography. I was quite pleased to see that Fry himself had written this in the afterword. It’s hard to like someone who is a compulsive liar and thief, no matter how funny or clever they are. These traits were exacerbated by his largely unreciprocated love for Matthew. It’s not all bad. The opening paragraphs, paint the picture of a young Fry who is going out of his way to console a bereft newcomer, Bunce, unaccustomed to being without his family. Fry also earns my admiration for being an early adopter of Usenet and to have done some phreaking in his time. Though the Bunce-Sweet affair did make me loathe Fry more. Here he got a school chum who looked up to him take the rap for something Stephen did, and had promised not to do but did it anyway. Of course, he got found out and was punished for it. He was very manipulative. In defense, I’m sure there are aspects of all our childhoods that we are ashamed of.

Having said all that, there are parts which are highly entertaining. Especially the hijinks he pulled on the poor school staff. Like when Mr Brewer presumed that the children were stealing and had an unceremonious dufflebag load of disgusting paraphernalia, dumped onto his counter at his own request. Evil genius. Or when he cleverly mocked a master for criticizing his vernacular, by using words like “pleonasm” and “sesquipedalian” as he was chastised for using too many words to describe something.

There are gems like:

My mother has an absolute passion for sour fruit and can strip a gooseberry bush quicker than a priest can strip a choirboy

It does turn into a gay romance novel towards the end which was surprisingly entertaining.
An interesting bit of trivia is, that his grandfather (a jewish man) may have given Hitler the coat off his back as an act of kindness. Of course then ironically Hitler ended up massacring his people. His writing is heartfelt, verbose, and bombastic (could have used magniloquent here for irony…). What annoyed me about this book was Fry’s copious use of french words. My dictionary didn’t have many of these phrases in it and I had to perform web searches to find the meaning, sometimes to no avail.

I am impressed at his lack of filter, his entire early life is laid bare to the utmost detail. From suicide attempt, to deflowering by buggery to rather outré (to borrow Fry’s own word) paraphilia which I’ll detail now. Watching fellow pupils take dumps in the woods (playing ruddies), running around naked at school with a friend (also being watched slamming his dick in the door), shoving a finger up his arse in front of others. Last but not least, wanking off pupils as morning fag.

Fry says jokingly that, he knew he was gay the moment he exited the womb. This hyperbole aside, he goes on to say that the public school system should not be held accountable for his sexuality. I do agree with him to a certain extent. He’s right when he says many people including his brother attended public school and did not turn out to be gay themselves. True. But I think it’s Fry’s public school experience itself, which may have been a factor (see above).

Fry advocates corporal punishment with the old hackneyed “Didn’t do me no harm!”. Essentially here telling children that violence is the answer. He also argues that for him the cane was more humane than detention because it was over more quickly and it gave him battle scars to brag about. The cane did not stop him from being expelled or repeat offending. And for that reason you can see that it was totally ineffective. He is also bizarrely pro fox-hunting arguing on a traditionalism basis. I’m sure you could argue that female genital mutilation, paederasty and slavery are all traditional and we should carry on with those too eh?

This book explained the abhorrent fagging system to me. I’d always wondered why there were these gay clichés and other jokes surrounding public school children, now I know. Put simply, aspects of it are akin to slavery. I hope this practice has been largely abolished to date. I know that it has been watered down extensively over the years.

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2018 in Films – Part 1

Rambo First Blood Part 2 – Usually, I only watch films with a rotten tomato score of 50% or better. But after being compelled by friends I watched it anyway. I don’t remember much, but I think I can understand why this film has been rubbished. Let’s forgive the bizarre numbering system of the franchise and concentrate on the plot. Rambo gets selected for a phony mission, during which his parachute snags on a moving helicopter, that he survives this is totally unbelievable. It just seems weird, why they couldn’t use thermal imaging instead of infantryman or satellite photos. Overall I don’t think it’s as bad as the critics say it was though it does have its faults. 6/10

Alien 3 – Why does this film get so much hate? I liked how it was different to the first two films in the franchise and was in a different setting i.e. not a spaceship. 8/10

Lincoln – Daniel Day Lewis pulls off a stellar performance as Lincoln. A bit dull early on but it does entertain and inform. It plugged holes in my knowledge about 19th century American politics. Namely that it was the democrats who opposed abolishing slavery and in the end, the amendment was passed by bribery and corruption. I did find the audio a little hard to hear sometimes. 8/10

An American Werewolf in London – I watched this because Richard Herring kept banging on about it. It was ok, the special effects were a bit goofy but what do you expect for the 1970s. Jenny Agatha phwoar! 7.5/10

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Points for originality but not much else. I’d say I enjoyed this more than Episode VII but not by much. This film had several problems. My biggest gripe is how goofy the dialogue is. Did they get AI to write the script, based on instant messenger conversations between pre-teens? Don’t know what I’m talking about? There’s a “Your momma” joke in the first 5 minutes. There’s other shitty humour of this level throughout. The humour of the original Star Wars films felt a little more shrewd and sophisticated. Not like this banal infantile drivel. Then there’s the goofy animals. Are they just including these for merchandising potential? Are they the 2018 E-woks? It certainly feels so and not in a good way. Remember when everyone felt awful when they revealed the force is generated by metachlorions? That’s how I felt when the showed the Jedi religious texts. A pointless addition adding nothing to the film, ruining the magic of the Jedi by comparing them to religions on Earth. This film cemented in my mind that Star Wars has jumped the shark – or should I say leaped the void. General Leia is aboard a starship which gets blown up, she alights dramatically, traversing space, onto another vessel. How could she survive this, let alone convalesce? She also miraculously survives further assault of the hanger, without taking damage. I still don’t understand the reasoning behind the tracking technology, the explanation was hastily garbled. The sub-plot on casino land was boring and unfruitful. At times, the story was too predictable too, I foresaw the hyperspace ramming and the assassination of Snoke. Having said that, the initial fighting sequence was good as was Luke’s projection fighting Kylo Ren. I’d already had Luke’s demise spoiled for me (thanks internet), so him being a projection was a nice twist. Overall, it felt like an amalgamation of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi but nowhere near as good. I am looking forward to the next film, as I think the spin offs may be better than the main franchise as a rule of thumb. 6.5/10

Supersonic – Life story of Oasis. So Liam got his musical ability after being violently bonked on the head with a hammer. Who’d have thunk it? It’s a shame that the two brothers can’t get on but I don’t blame Noel. 8/10

Annihilation – An original film about aliens, these are few and far between. A slightly slow start but picked up well after that. 8/10

Die Hard 4.0 – Faultless and captivating. I thought I’d seen every stunt possible, that you could have in an action film, but this film proved me wrong. I also learned what a “firesale” is. The film was strangely prophetic about future events and culture. I liked how the mobile phones they used now seem antiquated. Loses a point for being a de facto money making gimmick for Hollywood 9/10

Paradox – Reviewed

Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in PhysicsParadox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics by Jim Al-Khalili
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“He’s quite a man, he is. In his spare time he studies the universe.”

– Sid Waddell on Raymond Van Barneveld.

I used to find this funny, then I realised it was me too.

Paradox, a great read that leaves you begging for more. Al-Khalili explains complicated scientific concepts without patronising.

The first chapter wasn’t really about paradoxes at all, more counter-intuitive mathematical problems which I have read about umpteenth times elsewhere, so I skipped through them. I didn’t like the second chapter, it was about Zeno’s so called paradoxes. Read: silly ideas that do not represent the world but take a bit of reasoning to disprove. They do have their own place in the world – think “The Quantum Zeno effect” (observation can affect particle state), I just didn’t enjoy reading about them.

Obler’s paradox was my favourite chapter. Why does it get dark at night, given that there an infinite number of stars and galaxies? I reasoned it was the inverse square law. Al-Khalili counters, if there are an infinite number of stars, then that wouldn’t matter. Turns out, it is due to the expansion of the universe, and light from distant stars has not yet reached us and perhaps never will. I really liked the chapter on time travel too. Einstein’s theory predicts wormholes, so time travel is theoretically possible. How do we consummate the paradox of going back in time and killing your grandfather? Or the fact that we have never met any time travellers? Multiverse theory plays the deus ex machine here. I’m not a fan of this theory, but I have to admit it ties things up quite nicely. The chapter on Fermi’s paradox is also excellent.

My criticism of this book, is that the author never explains why time dilation or length contraction occur at or near the speed of light. He only says, that this has been seen experimentally. Al-Khalili shows us his brazen anti-semitism, when he titles a section “What’s the final solution?” I think this was an innocent mistake.

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Fire and Fury – Reviewed

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White HouseFire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book’s greatest failing, is that it is a victim of its own success: the most salacious details have already been publicised in the media. Nevertheless, despite a slightly boring middle, it starts fiercely and ends very entertainingly.

The veracity of Wolff’s work has been questioned. From what I’ve read, Wolff’s overarching narrative is correct, however he seems to have embellished certain information to make the work more tantalizing and gratifying. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, but if he’s putting this book forward as an accurate portrayal of the West Wing, then it casts doubt on which parts to believe. One peculiar example is the correct term for the portmanteau, of the boy wonder and Trump’s wife daughter. It is widely reported that Bannon referred to them as “Javanka” not “Jarvanka”, Wolff later asserted he picked the latter, because the former sounded too much like a Scandinavian caveman. Make of that what you will. It does feel like we’re splitting hairs at this point. Wolff writes well overall but at times he seems to be using overly flowery language, perhaps to give his work a greater air of importance. Continue reading Fire and Fury – Reviewed

Universal Car Wanker Index

I drive a lot. In my time on the road, it is often easy to make rules of thumb, stereotyping car brand for driver personality. For example, all BMW and Audi drivers are wankers. Now, you may accuse me of flagrant automobile racism, however I can back up my capricious pseudo-scientific claims with a straw poll painstaking research.

Behold a graph that I totally didn’t influence:

It clearly shows that BMW drivers are the most repugnant dickheads (or more accurately wankers), closely followed by Audi drivers ,who are in the end, just ‘wannabe beamers’ as an esteemed colleague once said. These two are the ying and yang of twat and arsehole. These are the drivers who will tailgate you for doing the speed limit, they will honk at you for not speeding, they will pull off dangerous manoeuvres to overtake. They are powerful cars but they have their weaknesses. During snowmeggedon, I witnessed a BMW driver doing donuts in a car park. I thought he was getting his kicks but once he lasted 3 minutes and was stationary in between, I realised that the rear wheel drive system is piss-poor for these situations. I almost offered to help, almost. Anecdotally, Audis also seem to be unreliable.

4 x 4 drivers also seem to believe themselves invincible – presumably due to their height off the ground, as though they’re regally sitting on a throne, giving them divine rights to command the road, to do the driver’s bidding. Inevitably, it’s a middle aged woman giving you road rage for not bowing down. Why do you need a modern Jeep to pick up the kids after school or go to work? Enjoy your poor fuel economy too.

Thankfully, some white van men are hampered by speed limiters, presumably due to their cantankerous nature. Was this the only way they could get company car insurance? Unfortunately, the others are not and drive like mad men. No, not the hit TV show but like lunatics. They take risks, speed, tailgate, you name it, they’ll do it. I had the displeasure of meeting one myself, when our vehicles embraced intimately on the road. Fortunately, he drew a diagram incriminating himself.

Expect to see this piece verbatim, in a peer reviewed journal soon.