Monthly Archives: August 2008

I’m Trying. Honest.

Too… tired… to… write…

Will… post… something… soon… effort… too… much… right… now…

Busy, oh so busy…

…Sorry!

Have a lolcat while you wait:

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“You, as a penguin, are in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood.”

Ever seen a penguin get knighted? Check out the BBC footage here.

Rise, Sir Nils Olav. May you never need to be picked up.

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Of Platypodes and Puggles

I’m a big fan of Cuteoverload.com, visiting their site every day for my fix of all things cute, cuddly and snorglable (and that’s totally a real word). As if I didn’t love them enough already, a couple of days ago they printed this picture:

Which, aside from being cute as all hell, introduced me to the phrase “tiny velvety platypi”, because that’s what they called it.

Tiny velvety platypi. The more I say it, the more I love it. It’s one of those phrases that gets in your head and stays there, and it’s well and truly stuck in mine. Tiny velvety platypi. Tiny… velvety… platypi.

“Look at the tiny velvety platypi! Aren’t they just the sweetest ickle things?”

Then I looked at the comments under the image and there were lots of people wondering if the plural of ‘platypus’ is, indeed, ‘platypi’. Some were sure that it was ‘platypode’ and others were convinced you could say ‘platypuses’. Intrigued, I Googled it and I came across this post on a science forum from a rather clever sort of fellow:

The ‘pus’ in Platypus (Flat Foot) and Octopus (Eight Foot) is Greek, so the plural is ‘pode’. The ‘pus’ in Hippopotamus (River Horse) is part of ‘potamus’ (horse) and is Latin, so uses ‘pi’ for the plural.

Platypode, octopode, and hippopotami.

So if you’re really, really anal about these things, you should listen to the clever fellow. However, ‘tiny velvety platypodes’ doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

In other news from the cuteoverload.com discussions, baby platypi are apparently known as ‘puggles’ (which may or may not be true, as there’s some debate on the matter) and their little rolls of fat are called ‘collops’.

And if you fancy some more pedantic word fun, go here for a list of the names of groups of animals. A shiver of sharks? REALLY?

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“I name that tune in, uh, twenty years…”

I have spent the last twenty years of my life looking for a particular piece of music I heard in my childhood. It’s beautiful beyond words: a lonely, wooden flute repeating four notes in a rising crescendo, peaking as an orchestra of violins takes over to create one of the prettiest noises you’ll ever hear on planet Earth.

The nameless tune has been with me for as long as I can remember and has been impossible to find. Ever try going up to somebody and saying, “Name this tune!” and seeing their blank face as you hum it? Occasionally I’d hear it on a BBC trailer (they use it at least once a year) but I’ve never been able to track down the name.

All I knew was that the music conjured up images of jungles in my head and that it was definitely the theme to a film or a TV show. I spent at least a decade thinking it was the theme from Life On Earth, until I watched it last year and discovered it wasn’t. I can still remember my disappointment, knowing my quest was going to have to continue.

Last week, inspired to find it one more time, I spent an hour wandering around iTunes, clicking on various film and TV themes and being disappointed over and over. Finding a random piece of music with no name? Impossible. My mission to find the home of those four rising notes was hopeless.

Until last night, when I decided to watch Roland Joffe’s The Mission for the first time since my childhood. Four minutes in… and there it was! Playing over the jungles of South America was that incredible melody that had haunted me for two decades! At last I knew who composed it (Ennio Morricone) and, needless to say, I downloaded it from iTunes within minutes and keep getting chills as I play it over and over again. [NB: If you want to hear it yourself, look for the soundtrack to The Mission on iTunes and download the song named “Falls”.]

There are two things that disturb me now: one, that I spent twenty years on a mission to find something from The Mission… And two, now that the quest is over, I don’t have anything else to hunt for.

But at least I have something to listen to while I don’t.

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Learning Curves

You may recall me mentioning the wonders of London’s Natural History Museum on this blog before – many times, in fact, because I go there a lot. After all, it looks like this:

Which makes it, in my book, the prettiest building in London. And then you go inside and find this:

Which tells you that it’s not just pretty, it’s COOL. You turn left and there are dinosaurs coming out of your ears – including a T-rex that roars at you and has a motion sensor, so he’ll turn and look you right in the eye – and then you round a corner and there are hundreds of animals to stare at, plus an entire hall filled with whales and elephants and antelope*, and then you cross the hall and you’re looking at thousands of birds and then taking an escalator through the planet Earth and experiencing an earthquake in Japan via the museum’s earthquake room and…

Well, you get the gist. The Natural History Museum is pretty bloody good.

Yesterday I had the chance to take a child to the museum for the first time ever, as my friend Roger and his nine-year-old son were in London with his girlfriend. I was looking forward to it for weeks: at last, an opportunity to walk around this magnificent place and impart my substantial knowledge of the natural world to a youngster! I could dazzle Jay with my trivia, tell him about the endangered kakapo and the difference between an Asiatic and African elephant, how an angler fish catches its prey and how the first platypus that arrived on our shores was thought to be a hoax. It was going to be me and Jay having fun, with me as the woman he could look up to and say to his dad afterwards, “Jayne knew everything!”

Yeah, right. We walked into the dinosaur exhibit. I pointed at an iguanodon and said, “Ooh, I wouldn’t like to find him nibbling on my leg!”

Jay replied disdainfully, “Actually, iguanodons were plant-eaters.”

“Oh,” I said. And the wind left my sails, never to return.

I swear, that kid knew everything. I don’t think I got a chance to show off once. When I was nine years old I’m sure I knew a lot about the natural world (if you read Willard Price’s wildlife adventure series as many times as I did, you picked up a few things), but Jay could recite facts like a miniature Google-monster. It was amazing. I managed to tell him about the kakapo, true, but it was a drop in the ocean compared to the stuff he already knew.

What a cool kid.

They’re not all like Jay, though, as I was to discover. We were staring at the blue whale and he told me cheerfully, “Their heart is the size of a car, you know! And look – they have some baleen plates hanging up there. Whales use those to strain their food!”

“Great,” I said, feeling put-out that I hadn’t explained that to him first. Jay moved on and another boy, who looked at least a year older, came and stood in his place.

“What’s that thing?” he asked his mum, pointing at the bones of a whale hanging from the ceiling.

“It’s a skeleton,” said his mum, sounding bored.

“What’s a skeleton?” asked the kid… who, may I remind you, was older than the child who’d just been telling me the function of baleen plates.

His mum told him that skeletons are the bones inside your body and the boy looked bored and walked on, leaving me pondering the disparity between children who spend their early lives soaking up information like little sponges and kids who just don’t give a rat’s ass and will, no doubt, be too dumb to achieve anything once they’ve grown up.

It’s sad, but I guess that’s life.

Honestly, though: when you were ten, you knew what skeletons were, didn’t you? How the HELL did that boy miss out on information like that?

There are no words to describe the immensity of my bafflement.

_ _ _

* In a totally unrelated incident, which I may have recounted elsewhere on this blog but is worth repeating, a few years ago I was standing in front of a case of antelope which had been stuffed with impressive attention to detail. Struck by a sudden observation, I said rather loudly to my companion, “Hey, look at the massive ballsac on this gazelle!”

And turned round to find a man staring at me in horror as his small child followed my pointing finger with his eyes and stared at the testes in question.

I have never apologised so much for anything in my entire life.

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Believe It… Or Not

[NB: There are no spoilers in this post!]

I found myself in a terrible dilemma on Wednesday night.

At 6pm I was standing in a scorching hot Leicester Square, about to meet my friend Matt to attend the press screening of a film called Tropic Thunder, and I had to decide whether to join him… or whether to stand exactly where I was and watch David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson arrive for the UK premiere of The X-Files: I Want To Believe.

In 1994 there would have been no question. I was as committed an X-Files fan as the world had ever seen, eating, sleeping, drinking, breathing Agents Mulder and Scully because I’d never known anything like their spooky-freaky-thinky show. Back then, I was an avid collector of the X-Files trading cards, comics, videos, books, keyrings and magazines (including SFX, long before I ever knew anybody there or was even thinking about becoming a journalist). I watched the show and I loved the show and it took me a long time to admit that it was getting worse with every year that passed, until it eventually breathed its last in 2002 and I found that I barely even cared any more.

I ended up working for the magazine that once put David Duchovny’s face on its cover and made me squeak with joy in the middle of a supermarket when I saw it. Somehow I even ended up in the end credits of a programme the BBC made about The X-Files, listed as “Creative Consultant” or something similar (I don’t even have a copy of it now to check). I bought the DVD box sets up to season seven, rewatched them all last year and fell back in love before realising I couldn’t bring myself to watch season eight and lose the glow again.

So I went to see The X-Files: I Want To Believe on Monday night feeling a little trepidatious, knowing that I once loved those two iconic FBI Agents but our relationship had soured. Could this new movie be the thing to make me believe again? Could it rise to the heights of “Squeeze” or “Clyde Bruckman’s ‘Final Repose'” or “Anasazi”? Could it rekindle in me a burning passion for all things Mulder and Scully?

Could it hell. What a pile of pants. After half an hour I suddenly realised, to my horror (the only horror anywhere to be found around that film, by the way, as it’s as scary as a kitten sniffing a geranium), that I was bored. As time wore on, as eons passed and galaxies formed and died and still nothing much was happening on screen, I realised that the movie was actually embarrassing: a cut-price (boy, does it look cheap) X-Files episode in which Mulder and Scully spend far too much time talking about their relationship and not enough time is spent with the villain of the piece – who was, quite frankly, a big fat nothing. Even the inclusion of one of my favourite actors in the world (Callum Keith Rennie), a few amusing one-liners and a scene at the end involving someone cradling Mulder (no spoilers here!) couldn’t prevent me from breathing a huge sigh of relief when the credits rolled.

And this is why I was faced with such a terrible choice as I stood in the bright sunlight of Leicester Square, staring at the red carpet and all the fans and X-Files posters as I tried to decide whether to stay or whether to meet up with Matt and see Tropic Thunder.

If I hadn’t watched the new movie the night before, I would still have had some respect for creator Chris Carter. I wouldn’t have been cringing at the very thought of The X-Files: I Want To Believe and its uninteresting plot and feeble premise. I’d have stood by the barrier and yelled with all my might as David Duchovny had walked past me, grinning like a maniac at the thought of sharing the same air as Spooky Mulder. I wouldn’t have had to make a choice at all. In the end, however, I did.

Tropic Thunder is really funny. Go see it when it opens.

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