The 13th Warrior (1999)

The 13th Warrior is a superb film about the Vikings, seen from the point of view of an Islamic poet. Our unlikely hero has been banished to the North for lusting after someone else’s wife at the court of the Caliph of Baghdad. Well-researched, acted, and directed, this intelligent version of the Beowulf story shows that not all Hollywood historical epics are crap (though most are).


Live from the 2007 Moisture Festival in Seattle, a showcase for comedy, variety, and burlesque acts. The aptly named Shoehorn plays saxophone and tap dances at the same time. I have fond memories of the Moisture Festival, a wonderful, wacky event that reaches parts other festivals can’t even find with both hands. Watch out for more acts over the next few weeks.

No Time Like The Future

A rare heart-felt ballad from Vivian Stanshall (1943-1995), founding member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. They were a huge influence on my musical tastes, eccentric to perfection, in a peculiarly British way that was also groundbreaking in its effect on music and culture. Vivian Stanshall personified the intoxicating, surreal, art school, dada, music hall, trad jazz, psychedelic pop mix.

Stanshall appears in this 1991 BBC documentary, Crank, introduced by John Peel in a special obituary show. Anarchic genius.

The Banquet of Cleopatra (1653)

The Banquet of Cleopatra - Jacob Jordaens

A satire by Flemish painter, Jacob Jordaens. The dog in front is clearly begging for scraps. But so are the humans pressed round Cleopatra – they want sexual, political, professional, and business favours rather than food, and their need is just as great. Jordaens implies no distinction between their cravings.

The unlikely top dog among these competing supplicants is asleep on Cleo’s lap.

Beautiful Minds: Richard Dawkins

Rooting about in the great YouTube basement of forgotten television programmes, I came across this BBC documentary in the Beautiful Minds series. I saw all the second series, broadcast last year.  This episode was interesting to me because I knew practically nothing about Dawkins’ scientific credentials – it was primarily as a polemicist for atheism that I came to know him, and of his many books I’ve only read The God Delusion. I’m probably similar in that respect to his detractors, who may not even have read that one book.

What comes across is his absolute respect for the scientific method, combined with an almost child-like wonder at the world it reveals:

Science is magical in the best sense of being spell-binding, spine-crawling, exciting, magical in that sense.

I  can understand his impatience with religion, which seeks to reduce all this incredible complexity to an authority-driven dogma.