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I believe I've mentioned that one of my persistent problems with profiling is that I don't know what anyone else looks like to a normal person, because I've never been one. I am occasionally reminded of this, usually with all the subtlety of a brick to the head. Moggie recently turned up this piece, by Amy Raphael for The Observer -- the Sunday Guardian, more or less -- as press for the third series of The Mighty Boosh, which was out late 2007-ish.

She's not particularly wrong in her observations, or at least no more factually wrong than any other entertainment reporter -- how she could talk to Fielding for any length of time and think he was from south London, I have no idea, do other people not hear the th->f bit everywhere? -- but her interpretations of a lot of their interactions are completely alien to me. I assume hers are more normal than mine, primarily because Fielding mentions that people tend to take Barratt as more aloof and sometimes abrasive than he ac…
Been entertaining myself with that perennial favorite, teaching myself new languages from random documentaries on YouTube. Bunches of episodes of Mystery Diagnosis on this playlist have foreign language subtitles; the Dutch ones are old hat to me now, but the handful at the start are more interesting.

Mind you, I don't have the foggiest clue what language this actually is. For all I know it's Lower Venusian. I'm just doing crypto here.

Reader Questions: A Beginning Makeup Kit

Anonymous writes:

So I always kind of imagined makeup to be a purely about practice, and I just haven't been assed to learn. So starting from absolute point zero, what do you think should be included in sort of a beginners starting kit? (And how much should you expect to pay for it?)

I keep thinking this one over, and I may be the wrong person to ask. I inherited all of my starter kit from my mother, who has terrible taste, and from a friend of mine in high school whose aunt was a former beauty queen and current Mary Kay sales rep. It was rather eclectic, to put it mildly.

The second question is easier to answer than the first. You should expect to pay whatever your local Walgreens, CVS or Rite Aid charges for the stuff. Makeup is much like shampoo and conditioner, in that there are three main price brackets: Unusable crap, perfectly serviceable, and ridiculous mark-up. Drugstore brands like Maybelline, Revlon, Cover Girl, Almay, L'Oréal, Neutrogena, etc., all work fine. A cou…
It has recently come to my attention that a whole passel o' people think that Sunflaaash here on Twitter may be where Noel Fielding migrated after internet trolls were trolly at him on his official account. Considering that forensic document analysis is what got this blog attention in the first place, I thought I'd take a crack.

There are a lot of tools you can use in document analysis. There is the blindingly obvious, like checking for spelling -- don't laugh, the guy who forged the Hitler Diaries fucked this up and put the wrong initials on the cover because he couldn't tell an A from an F in Fraktur. It's also surprisingly difficult for people who can spell correctly to spell things appallingly badly. Many an amateur kidnapper has flunked Ransom Note 101 because of this. Phrasing is also a useful thing to pay attention to, particularly if your target is writing in a second or third language, and particularly particularly if that second or third language is Engli…
I am toying with my list of New Year's Resolutions. I'm not entirely sure that having them is such a good idea -- if I get too ambitious, that's effectively just a list of ways I am scheduled to have failed at life by December 31, 2013.

I know myself too well to try anything like "get up before noon every day like a normal human" or "stop spooking people inadvertently", at least. Over the years, I have come to recognize that feeling that means that no matter how hard I push myself to do a certain thing, it is simply not going to happen. It's not even a declaration of rebellion. It's more a sort of prognostication. That feeling means that regardless of how much I try to push, wheedle, talk, trick or bribe myself to do whatever it is by whatever the arbitrary deadline is, I will just keep getting more and more anxious about it and generally overwhelmed, and then the deadline will pass, and the whatever will not have been done. And if I keep trying…
I've gone and crammed Russell Brand's books -- plural, there are two now, which I thought was either a great sign or a really horrible one -- into my head, on the basis that I was bored and already at the library. I have a lot of Thoughts on the stuff in them, most of which are probably important solely to me, which I will type out one of these days, when I'm not standing in the Dollar Tree trying to figure out if buying clearance wrapping paper solely to keep decorating the rat cage is completely insane, or merely charmingly whimsical.

One thing I inevitably get asked when I talk about other people's autobios is, "Do you think they're telling the truth?" And there are actually two different answers to that, on two different communicative levels.

Specifically about Brand's book, yeah, I think he generally is. He's incredibly flippant and probably rather hyperbolic, but it's a consistent kind of flippancy and hyperbole. Doing enough research an…

Advent Calendar: NMTB Christmas Special!

Happy holidays, all y'all!
Yes, that is a dress. He's wearing it with shiny gold cowboy boots. I don't know. Because. At least this one is long. Fielding is distinctly not good at remembering that when you raise your arms when wearing a minidress, the dress goes with. This is hilarious, possibly unintentionally, but probably ought to be encouraged mostly in live shows, where no one will stop him and make him do the number again before they get complaints.

Yes, he is in full face tonight, and in fact is wearing more makeup than the lady on-panel. I've seen him in the whole nine yards before, both in drag for a character part and in whatever it is you consider Vince Noir's normal wardrobe to be, but he doesn't normally bother. Christmas episodes are evidently a special occasion. His eyeshadow is very Theda Bara. The lady's is a very modern look. I can dig up references for both if anyone cares.

Yes, the other one does look remarkably normal, until you notice…
Let's check the weather forecast for the next day or two, shall we?

Hm.
Tornadoes in the Bayou, says The Weather Channel. Apparently we're all gonna die.
Snow in the Deep South. Also all gonna die.
Still digging out the Midwest. All gonna die.
Round two of whatever that was that soaked NoCal expected. Gonna die, usw.
Winter Storm Euclid (wait, we're naming all our precipitation now?) scheduled to sweep across the entire country, leaving chaos in its wake. We're all definitely gonna die.
Except me, apparently. Boston is scheduled to be cloudy and just around freezing, at about 50% relative humidity, with light snowfall starting early Christmas Day and tapering to a stop right around sunset. The airport hasn't even noticed, and they're prone to issuing warnings whenever they feel the tarmac will be slightly damper than normal. I feel almost guilty.
Also, have a random space-related Christmas story.

Advent Calendar: The Santa Trackers!

Once upon a time, in a long-ago era known as "1955", the world was a dark and scary place. The Second World War was over but certainly not forgotten, and behind every addlepated political press conference lurked the spectre of those godless heathen Ruskies, who were just itching for an excuse to start a nuclear holocaust. There were no such things as the Beatles. Brylcream reigned supreme over maddeningly impractical haircuts. In order to telephone someone, you had to physically find a telephone, which was tethered to the base with a cord and to the wall with another cord, and it was the Official Property Of The Phone Company And Don't You Forget It. The moon landings were over a decade away, and the internet almost two. It was a frightening time.

The government felt it could do little about telephones and Brylcream, frankly, but it did have a thing or two to say about the Russians, and in 1955 most of those things were symbolized by CONAD, the Continental Air Defense br…

Advent Calendar: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

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The Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation classic, "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1964). Out of print and unavailable for many years, you can now buy the R1 DVD on Amazon whenever your little heart desires.
I, as you may have noticed, do a lot of ordinary things slightly caterwampus. In some cases this is obvious, and in some cases it isn't; sometimes my way makes so much sense to me that it never occurs to me that anyone might do it any other way and I am horribly startled when I find out otherwise.

One of these things is knitting. My mother taught me to knit, some years ago -- it's one of the very few useful things she ever taught me intentionally, most of the others having been inadvertent life lessons by counterexample, such as the one about Why We Are Not Supposed To Float Checks Even If We Are Out Of Groceries Right Now. I took some scrap yarn and some of the straight needles she was trying to get rid of off to college with me after that Christmas and had a go at a scarf. A few inches up I decided that the standard method was inefficient and occasionally stupid, and was also killing my wrists, so I picked it apart, squinted at the interlocking for a while, to see if I could…

Advent Calendar: Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (1970)

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Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation, "Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town" (1970). Available on  R1 DVD on Amazon.
Things I do when actual work doesn't take up quite enough processing cycles to keep me from getting horribly bored:


Watch documentaries in languages I don't technically speak. So far I'm running about 30% comprehension on a thing on eating disorders which is entirely in Dutch. It sounds a lot like Hochdeutsch with a very French accent, although by saying that I probably just managed to insult all three countries involved. I used BBC Radio Cymru for a while, but it turns out that most radio in Welsh is just as boring as most radio in English. The main point of Radio Verda is to be in Esperanto, and consequently their content is very scattershot and mostly inane.Taunt rats. Getting peanut butter on their tails keeps them deliciously occupied for quite a while.Read up on murder and horrible transit disasters. I don't really like all the death per se, but for some reason those occasions are the only times in our culture where it's acceptable to collect endless minutia i…

Advent Calendar: The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)

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Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation, "The Year Without A Santa Claus" (1974). Available on R1 DVD on Amazon.

Advent Calendar: Twas The Night Before Christmas (1974)

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Rankin-Bass traditional cel animation, "Twas The Night Before Christmas" (1974). Available on R1 DVD on Amazon.

Is it just me, or is there something odd about Rita Ora?

[Important Note: Odd does not mean bad. Just odd. I haven't seen her do anything that makes me think she's anything but a perfectly decent human being. I also have no opinion whatsoever on her talent or music, not really having come into contact with any of it ever.]

[Important Note bis: Almost always, when I do this, what happens is my brain pops up a flag and does not bother to tell me why. Then I have to rewind and figure out what set it off. This is therefore another friendly reminder that I am not magic, and I am fully capable of fucking things up if I think about them too much. Don't take what I say as gospel -- actually look at this stuff before deciding if you agree.]



She doesn't seem to be stupid, although judging from the way she keeps putting her foot in her mouth and scrambling words she's probably more than a little nervous. (Why doesn't she reword things when it becomes apparent it's the…

Advent Calendar: Sherlock Holmes

Doyle was not overly sentimental about Christmas when writing the Sherlock Holmes stories, but he did set one just after the holiday, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle", available here as a Project Gutenberg e-text (as part of the collection "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"), and here as a Librivox audiobook recording (part 1, part 2) by Ruth Golding.

Slightly more recently, the long-running Sherlock Holmes radio shows did occasionally include a Christmas special, such as this one, "The Night Before Christmas", part of the archive of the show happily available in the public domain.

Advent Calendar: John Barrowman on "Never Mind the Buzzcocks"

(Before you ask: No. There is no apparent reason for Fielding to be dressed like that. It just happens sometimes. Judging from the backstage snapshots that surface from time to time, the makeup ladies think he's hilarious.)

If anyone doesn't know who John Barrowman is, you might want to come out of your cave and check, because he's fucking fabulous. You might have seen him in  De-Lovely or The Producers, but most geeky audiences would know him from Doctor Who and Torchwood, in which he plays the cheerfully omnisexual Captain Jack Harkness. Aside from being incredibly attractive and charming, linguists in the audience might wish to note that he is bi-dialectical -- he's originally Scottish, and when his family moved to the United States for a spell, he deliberately taught himself the local accent so that the other little heathens in school would stop wanting to punch him, at least for that. For the Brits, his American accent is specifically and distinctively from Chica…
So out of sheer curiosity, I went and looked up Topshop the other day. I gathered from the Boosh stuff that they're a high street retailer, probably very Mod-y, but I was unaware until I went poking through their website that they were also somewhat mad. The have tights with panthers flocked onto the front. Mixed in with the suits sets with drainpipe trousers are things like matching motorcycle jacket and hot pants in flower-print PVC. Half of their socks glitter, ffs. This explains a lot -- not leastly, where Fielding gets some of his more baffling sweaters.

There is actually a Topshop US now, both online and in the form of a few freestanding boutiques and in-store sections in a number of Nordstrom's locations. I would characterize their prices as "not entirely out of the question" -- higher than Target/Kohls, lower than Lord & Taylor -- and they gained a lot of points with me when I discovered that their entire shipping policy is "That will be $10". N…
There are many things that annoy me about all those "learn to ready body language" lists of cues you see in magazines and self-help books. One is that half of the things they tick off are completely fucking made up. The thing where liars supposedly look to one side while thinking, and truth-tellers to the other? Bollocks. People look away from the speaker for lots of reasons. They're thinking and they don't want to process visual input on top of that, they're trying to escape the conversation they're having, they think you're some sort of frightening madman continually scrutinizing their face for imaginary signs of deception, etc. It means nothing. And, in fact, some of the most accurate truth-tellers you can find will wobble their eyes all over the place -- it's not uncommon for eidetickers to exhibit eye movement corresponding to what their real eye movements would be if they were checking for details on an actual photo held up in front of them.
Ove…

Advent Calendar: Claymation!

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A few selections from the infamous 1987 Claymation Christmas special.

Advent Calendar: Jack Frost (1979)

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Rankin-Bass' "Jack Frost" (1979). Available on R1 DVD on Amazon.

Advent Calendar: Frosty The Snowman (1969)

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Rankin-Bass traditional cel animation, "Frosty The Snowman" (1969). Available on R1 DVD on Amazon.
Dear speakers of British English:

Judging from the comments on YouTube, and the occasional American/Canadian making a fool of themselves on your television shows, I have this feeling that nobody has told you that "to get off with [someone]" has a very different meaning in North America than it does in the Commonwealth. In AmE, the phrase "to get off" has explicitly sexual connotations, and indicates that whatever it was you were up to with the named person involved an orgasm. Hence the reflexive pronominal construction, "to get [oneself] off", i.e., wank. Saying that someone "gets off" on something is therefore a mildly rude phrase, which retains a metaphorical tint of taboo sexuality, something along the lines of "screw you". The AmE equivalent to the phrase you want is "to hook up with [someone]", which has much the same range of meaning, although with a progressively more explicit skew as the speaker and audience age out o…

Advent Calendar: College Christmas Trees

Moggie was kind enough to share with me one of her tumblr finds: A collection of slapdash college dorm room Christmas trees. Enjoy!

http://keyboardwarrior1.tumblr.com/post/37666413297/myrunningfeetcouldfly-i-just-googled-college

Advent Calendar: QI "Ice"

Advent Calendar: QI "Hocus Pocus"

Advent Calendar: QI "Groovy"

Advent Calendar: QI "Fire & Freezing"

Advent Calendar: The Smurfs' Christmas Special

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"The Smurfs' Christmas Special". As far as I can tell, Amazon only makes it available as part of the first season of Hanna Barbera holiday specials on Instant Video.

Advent Calendar: The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

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Traditionally regarded as the worst of all possible Star Wars tie-ins, this is the infamous "Star Wars Holiday Special" (1978). Mercifully lost for decades, it was re-posted on the internet several years ago, probably by the same people who think goatse is the height of hilarity. I make it a point to share the pain with others every year.
In a rare display of sense, Amazon does not make this item available at all, although if you're a dedicated masochist you can request to be notified when it comes out on DVD.