Monday, April 27, 2009

Nerd Alert!

I read in the Sunday papers today (brilliant sorting out Holly's birthday party avoidance tactic* number 47**) that the new Star Trek movie involves all previous Star Trek TV series, movies, novels, comics and bubble-gum cards being an alternate reality. None of it 'really' happened - thus giving the creators a totally new new (ish) slate to write on. Am I the only person in the world for whom this brings back memories of the Man from Atlantis stepping out of the shower and discovering the whole Xth series of Dallas was just Pammy's nasty dream?
I loath Star Trek with a vengeance, partially because of its total self-referential, closed-loopiness which produces pointless, insultingly idiotic drek like Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country but hearing that the new people trying to defibrillate the DOA corpse of the franchise have thrown it all away and started again gives me hope. I look forward to reading what Star Trek fans make of it. If they hate it, I might actually watch it. If they love it, I won't.

Okay. Nerd Alert over. It's safe to come out now. (Though if someone could convince Warner Brothers to make Tales of The Rangers go away from the B5 universe I would be very grateful.)

Holly is seven tomorrow. It's hard for me to believe that seven years ago, I wasn't a father. It seems a lot longer than that! (Rimshot and canned laughter go here, thank you.)

Most of today was spent preparing for, and having, then clearing up after, her Birthday Party. Holly being 'a big girl now' had definite ideas about what she was going to have at her party. I was given my instructions: "make lots of sushi" (Holly loves sushi) and yesterday she and Merriol bought party food in Oban including; "those little brown sausages that are already cooked." (I would have taken this as a mortal insult, but, having burnt the last load of party sausages to charcoal, I took it as a compliment to my child rearing skills; she has learned something from me, even if it is only 'Don't trust your dad to cook small sausages'.)

Instead of games and all their attendant 'making sure everyone wins something' hassels, we did 'experiments'. Making volcanoes with baking powder, vinegar*** and washing up liquid, blowing up a balloon with baking powder and vinegar, and just plain blowing things up (Aluminium foil in hot water with washing soda = lots of hydrogen. Hydrogen + match = small bang. Un/fortunatly I didn't make the next logical step of filling a Balloon with hydrogen and having a mini-Hindenberg moment in the comfort of my own kitchen. The kids seemed to like it. The foaming messes of the 'volcanoes' went down best.

* - I have a dozen or so kids arriving in less than an hour and I'm still not sure what I'm feeding them.

** Number 48 is writing about number 47.

*** Malt not balsamic. I didn't want to appear too middle class.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not a lot happened today. I finally got to go shopping - I had to; we've run out of food. Cooking the kids' tea last night consisted of opening three cans from the back of the long term rolling disasters and emergency food cupboard - God knows how long some of that stuff has been in there - and then warming up the contents of one of them. Actually we opened five cans but decided that tinned Guavas weren't supposed to be fizzy - or that colour - so their pudding of tinned fruit salad and evaporated milk went unenhanced.

So - nice day, lots of sunshine, went shopping, saw Dan, came home, spent the next five and a half hours getting my family to go to sleep. It's a quarter to midnight and they are all finally snoring. It's ME time! A quarter to fucking midnight. Whoop de doo... I'm going to bed - and not sleep. Just like I did last night because when I went to bed I did all the thinking I didn't have a chance to do during the day.

Here's the last thing I wrote in my bedside notebook last night:

Note for autobiography: "When in Paris we often went antique hunting on the Rue San Germaine. Once we we fined for shooting a chesterfield out of season."

Monday, April 13, 2009

I can't get used to this.

For the past thirty years years I have been the only male in any house that I have lived in. Since my just after my post student days (and we are talking days not years) I have lived by myself or with women. For the past thirteen years it has been with Merriol for the past seven it has been Merriol, Holly, and Daisy - all female, all 'she's. Now Eben is here there's another male in the house. And it's very disconcerting. Several times a day I think people are talking about me when they're not. They're talking about him.

Since we bought him home my kitchen has been full of people. Every woman of child-bearing age, and older, within a five mile radius has called by, bringing us presents for the baby, little cards to remind us what sex he is, and staying for endless cups of tea and a cuddle of my small, hairy, very orange son and heir. "Hasn't he got a lot of hair?" they all ask, and "Oh he's a bit jaundiced isn't he?" I've been waiting for someone to say he looks like an Orang Outang for days. The jaundice is fading now and he's looking more babylike pink, so they've missed their oportunity.

I've had the same three conversations about the birth of, and relative sizes of, every baby born around here in the last 25 years and explained my shock / horror / bemusement at coping with someone else's tiny willy several hundred times. I'll be glad when we can get back to normal. Whatever that turns out to be.

Sometimes, as I'm automatically making yet another pot of tea for the assembled multidudes*, I hear Merriol say something like: "He did [whatever] this morning..." and for a moment I think "Oh no I didn't! I've never peed on the backs of my knees in my life! (Not that I remember anyway.)" It takes a moment for me to realise she is talking about my son.

After thirty years, it is very disconcerting to suddenly have to share a pronoun with someone else.

*The collective noun for a assembly of American surfers.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I did watch one more movie last month but forgot to add it to last month's list.

Spermula - Yep, you read that right, 'Spermula'.
I have no idea who (or why) the American distributors of this movie took it upon themselves to chop an original French, arty, soft porn movie into small pieces (with a blunt machete by the look of it), cut in several shots from the SF movie Silent Running, from two years earlier, and re-write the dialogue into some of the funniest stuff I have heard for ages. But I'm glad they did.


So instead of beautiful people swanning about the same rented Châteaux they shot every other French porn movie*, fucking each others brains out, and being torridly Gallic with each other over long meals, we get this:

Faced with imminent, unspecified destruction the invisible aetherial inhabitants of the planet Spermula set out to invade Earth "a tiny distant sphere, no more that a gnat's turd in the eye of god" by sending down an advance party in the form of beautiful women who wear couture dresses with necklines that stop at the navel and pout a lot - their master plan? fellate the male population of the world into impotence thus paving the way for the rest of their kind. And it's hilarious.

Part of the fun for me was trying to work out what the original was about. Whatever it was must have been weird enough before the massive re-edit involving as it did: a midget shooting down a model aeroplane with a sawn-off shotgun, a cardinal getting fellated in a swimming pool, vast quantities of rose petals shooting out of someone's bum, shoe licking, transvestites, contortionists etc. etc.

Apparently very hard to find as it has never been released on DVD - hell, it doesn't even turn up in's title search, unless you sneak up on it via one of the actors! - it is downloadable in Glorious CrapyQualityVision (R) from about halfway down this page if you feel so inclined.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yet Another Short Scene From the Film Script of My Life


The Baldwin family has just watched The Empire Strikes Back. Some of us for the first time.

Mummy, Darth Vader was Luke's dad!

That's why they fight a lot.

I'll remember this when Eben is a teenager.

Another Short Scene From the Film Script of My Life


You know those French fish
with the noses - or are they
 from Spain? The ones you have to give
 to the Queen if you catch them...?


Well, if you get one, you have to give
it to the Queen. Drive it down to
 England and give it to her. (PAUSE)
I don't know what she does with them.

Maybe she has a big fish tank.

Or a big cupboard.  Why are you laughing?
 It's not funny. Stop laughing or I'll
go and tell her. You shouldn't
laugh at the queen.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Oh No! I've Dropped My Castanets Down the Toilet!

I just don't get the card thing. I really don't. I suspect it's one of those women's things which, despite 100+ years of Feminism and the blurring of the gender divides, will forever baffle the average man. (And as Merriol will tell you, I'm pretty average in all sorts of ways). Women have been giving each other small pieces of cardboard according to the precepts of ever variable, and highly complex sets of rules since Jane Austen's day - and probably before that.

In Austen's time the cards were fairly small and plain and were part of an incredibly formal etiquette which determined one's standing in the pecking order of Society with a capital S; these days cards are larger, and are given as recognition of some event rather than a mere formal announcement of one's existence. They are often elaborate and expensive, and may well still form part of an incredibly formal system of etiquette; I have no idea. If there is such a system, I'm blissfully ignorant of it. I just know that getting cards seems to make Merriol happy and spending hours making them, happier still.

At the moment the house is full of elaborate and expensive cards saying "It's a Boy!".

It's a boy. This is a fact of which I am well aware, and of which I am constantly reminded by Eben's attempts to pee in my face whenever I change his nappy. It is also a fact that the fact my son is a boy is something we told the people who have given us all these cards. We know he's a boy! Why do people come round to the house, give us a small piece of cardboard in an envelope, then stand by expectantly as we open them, and then look pleased when we look pleased that they have given us a formal statement of something we told them in the first place?

This is as incomprehensible to me as the Japanese Tea Ceremony. At least you get a cuppa at the end of the Tea Ceremony. With the Card Ceremony you get a piece of cardboard which is then stuck up on a wall with Blu-tack to be totally ignored for three weeks. Why?

Here is a run down of the rules Austen's characters worked by. I wish someone would write down for me what's going on now, because I haven't got a clue.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Somehow I seem to have neglected to tell the world this year that, between waiting for Eben to arrive and watching all the crappy movies I have been watching so you don't have to, I have also, from time to time, picked up a book - and read it.

So before Eben takes up what time I have left over from making sure the girls aren't feeling left out and usurped by this small squealing thing called their brother here is what I've read over the last quarter. These may well be the last books I read for a while.

To be more accurate, it's Eben's bottom half that is taking up my time. Merriol is in charge of filling him up (there's a bit of biological determinism going on here) and I'm in charge of making sure he gets emptied and cleaned up. I've never changed a boy baby's nappy before and, well, I'm discovering things are different. First off, when you take their nappies off, girls very rarely pee in your face, or even - spectacularly - over the top of their own heads. When little girls pee it just bubbles up like one of those stupid little 'indoor water features' that clutter up garden centres. With boys it's more like a randomly directed, very small, high-powered water pistol. - The fact that very small children, of both sexes, always wait until a perfectly dry nappy is removed from them before peeing all over the place is just one of those things that generations of parents have had to learn to live with. It's a learning curve and in the case of Eben's pee, a parabola.

Lesson one in how to deal with very small penises was given to me in the hospital by one of the midwives who had had three boys of her own. Apparently you hold the thing down with a finger and wrap it up quick before it gets a chance to move.

Lesson two was given to me by our local midwife when I bumped into her in the coffee shop this afternoon; place something absorbent over the thing as soon as you open the nappy up - I like to think I would have eventually worked this one out for myself before I had too many facefulls - apparently in America you can buy little paper cups to drop over your darling baby son's microtackle to prevent this sort of random wettage (I haven't looked but I hope they are called 'Dicksy Cups'.) I'm experimenting with making little origami hats out of tissue paper.

  1. Consider Phlebas - Iain M Banks
  2. Hostage London - Geoffrey Household. I've only read two Geoffrey Household books. This one and his first: Rogue Male. Both contain what seems to me an extraordinary amount of creeping along hedges and sneaking about in open countryside.
  3. Gimlet's Oriental Quest - Capt. WE Johns. Prompted by a thread on Palimpsest, where someone asked, 'Does anyone read Biggles books any more?' I realised I had the next best thing right at my elbow. A 'Gimlet' book by the same author. I read it. It's crap. I can see why they're not read any more. Aside from the expected casual racism: "It was a typically Oriental trick." etc. The story (it's not really a story, more of a chain of events and coincidences that eventually stop) was so thin, and the pace so sluggish that kids these days would see right through it within a few pages.
  4. Lightning World - Trebor Thorpe (aka Lionel Fanthorpe). An early typo-ridden work from the master of crap SF. Fanthorpe hadn't fully yet developed his style of combining maximum verbiage with minimal content but the signs are all here. No discernible characters, a clichéd story that only gets going about two chapters from the end and then suddenly stops, and, of course, Fanthorpe's uniquely wonderful air of vagueness.
    When they had all descended Tony did a couple of experimental steps. That was another factor in their favour. The gravity was about two thirds earth normal - maybe not much over fifty per cent. He felt light and strong.
  5. Ten Bad Dates With De Niro - Ed. Richard T Kelly.
  6. Callahan's Crosstime Saloon - Spider Robinson.
  1. Perry Rhodan 10 - 'The Ghosts of Gol' - I read one book this month. ONE! (I console myself with the fact that it is the shortest month of the year, but even so - ONE?!) And what a piece of shit it was too.
  1. Magic Hour - Jack Cardiff the cinematographer responsible for so much that was brilliant about Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes, The African Queen etc. Highly readable cinema autobiography lite which got really interesting when it got into the technical aspects of things, which it didn't do nearly often enough. I could have done with a lot more of how to make a scene look like it's lit by one candle, when in reality there are fifty lights hanging over the actors head and a lot less of Errol Flynn's drink problem.
  2. Riverworld and Other Stories - By Philip Jose Farmer. Prompted by his death (not an obvious marketing move) and the fact that the book was at eye level in my To Be Read pile (I was lying down). I had been wondering for a while why I hadn't read more of his books. I remember now. I don't like them. Even after this short collection of stories I was irritated by his obsession with early morning erections and anal sex. Farmer's first published SF story in 1953 'shocked' the SF world, won him the Hugo Award for "most promising new writer" and is critically recognized as the story that broke the taboo on sex in science fiction. (Slathering BEM perverts drooling over pert nosed, full breasted daughters of venerable professors aside.) Farmer seems to have spent a lot of the rest of his life upping the sexual ante.
  3. King of Cannes - Stphen Walker. Since I seem to spend most of my free waking time watching low-no budget movies it makes sense to spend the rest of my limited, not running around after the kids time reading books about low-no budget film making. This one is a cracker - though to be accurate it's a book about the making of a movie about the making of movies. Very, very funny and I suspect, from what I have seen of the real world of no hope film makers, very accurate. I only spotted three people I have met (very briefly) in real life - one turns out to be a multi-millionaire (there's a lot of money in shit films apparently).
  4. Money from Holme - Michael Innes - thin little crime novel in which the only crime is the forging, by the original artist, of some already existing paintings. Felt like a short story stretched way beyond its length, or an idea in a notebook that never really went anywhere.
  5. The Carpet People - Terry Pratchett. I've been carrying this one round in an inside pocket for weeks now. Finally finished it. Time to find a new, thin, easily losable book for the jacket.
  6. The Bat Tattoo - Russell Hoban. Meh. If I hadn't been stuck on a bus with nothing else to read but the labels on my clothing I doubt if I would have bothered finishing it.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Folks, meet Eben Tobias.

A few more photos here.

We're home after two days in hospital (Merriol on a ward and me in a clean and serviceable industrial NHS barracks for long distance reletives and patients) and we're suddenly realising how unprepared we were for all this (ferinstance, as we were leaving to go up to the hospital - over the other side of the country in Inverness again - Merriol had the somewhat obvious idea that it might be a good idea to take some baby clothes with us. As it turned out the bag she grabbed on the way out did contain baby clothes but mostly toys and books. Mind you, I only got the car seat we had remembered we needed out of the attic after her waters had broken.

Hang on Eben, we'll get organised. I promise.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I'm typing this on a pissy wee hospital bedside console thing. Merriol in in the bed. Eben Tobias our new minted son is sleeping in the cot the other side of her. Both are well. I am in a state of shock. I have son.

Missing CD? Contact vendor

Free CD
Please take care
in removing from cover.

Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

(this copyright notice stolen from

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