Archive for December, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Toby the Red-Cheeked Reindeer

A pensive moment, thinking about leading Father Christmas' sleigh if the night gets foggy.

'Tis the season to be jolly.

Waiting For The Beat To Kick In

While watching Harvey with Mrs. Monkeyshines recently, one of Elwood P. Dowd’s lines struck me as a nice complementary quote to the one in a Kurt Vonnegut book which I wrote about before. And since such thoughts seem appropriately Christmassy, and because I’ve been listening to Dan Le Sac/Scroobius Pip lately, I was minded to set down the quote. (Listen to the song below to understand the significance of the Scroobius Pip reference; NSFW due to swears. If you already got the reference, award yourself a gold star.)

“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’ – she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

The Grisly Dribbly Truth

As a proud father, I’m unashamed about the generally hagiographic tone of my blog posts about the Little Monkey. But I feel the need to balance out his up-coming über-cute Christmas pictures; plus I don’t want it to seem like parenthood is one long chuckle-filled, gleeful picnic (else how will he appreciate our hard work when he reads this blog in the future?) Toby is mostly a delight, but gosh is he loud; Mrs. Monkeyshines was on a rare night out recently, leaving me at home to hold the baby. And the grumpy little chap created such a fuss when I couldn’t get him to sleep that my ears were literally ringing. And I know that dribbling is to be expected (especially when teething), but really, sometimes he seems to be trying to perfect an (increasingly accurate) impression of Victoria Falls. The following photo was taken just before bathtime, having removed a sodden bib 10 minutes previously, and not having a replacement bib, as he’d soaked half a dozen of them throughout the day. Fatherhood must have a strange effect on your brain, though, because I still think he looks like a little sweetheart.

Cute, even when he's a mess

Book Battle 5: Bibliomania

Just in time for Christmas, the return of a Monkeyshines “favourite” that precisely no-one has asked to see make a return! Yes, it’s a rather random, rather pointless, book battle, where the books (rather than the books’ characters) struggle against my tortuous metaphors and each other, and the rounds are decided using a list of adjectives from my random word generator. This time it’s a tag-team face-off between the books I’ve read since War and Peace.
In the red corner: Dune Messiah and Children of Dune by Frank Herbert;
and in the blue corner: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, and Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo.

Round 1: Whispering
The Finkler Question and Dune Messiah are first up, circling each other in the ring; The Finkler Question throws itself against the ropes, to return with momentum at its opponent. But the whispering sands of Dune Messiah solidify into an arm, which catches the lumbering Jewish novel in the neck. Verdict: Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

Round 2: Homely
The Finkler Question‘s prone form struggles to its corner while Dune Messiah showboats, and manages to tag Cosmopolis, which tries to catch its cocky rival unawares. The roar of the crowd tips off Dune Messiah, however, and it hops over the scything move from Cosmopolis. The novels, both far from homely, grapple in an unseemly manner before the referee breaks them apart. Verdict: Draw.

Round 3: Adventurous
Out of nowhere Cosmopolis defies its weight disadvantage, and slams Dune Messiah into a corner post, before springing backwards in readiness for the finishing blow… But, wait, Children of Dune is stood on the post behind Cosmopolis, and launches itself across the ring! Cosmopolis senses the attack coming and sidesteps neatly, leaving a knee trailing to catch Children of Dune in the midsection. The adventurous prose and the scope of the imagination in DeLillo’s modern novel have KO’d the more conventional sense of adventure in the Dune novels; it’s a good job the pedestrian The Finkler Question wasn’t in the ring for this round, though. Verdict: The Finkler Question and Cosmopolis.

Round 4: Icy
Well, the decent story of Frank Herbert’s sequels couldn’t match the superior prose of their opponents, particularly Cosmopolis, and this bout is over after the third round. That’s quite a… WHAT?! Utopia by Lincoln Child has cracked a chair across the noggin of The Finkler Question, and it’s out cold! And The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross has hurdled the ropes to take on Cosmopolis; the sci-fi genre isn’t going to let the Dune books take a pounding without fighting back. The bleak, icy humour of The Atrocity Archives, bolstered by freezing winds from a portal to a dying universe, throws Cosmopolis to the canvas! Verdict: Utopia and The Atrocity Archives.

Round 5: Zealous
Utopia has been bundled to the ground, still outside the ring, by the judges of the Booker prize. Cosmopolis is up off the floor, and is looking to vanquish the remaining interloper. The fervour of The Atrocity Archives allows it to get Cosmopolis in a headlock; but the latter has plenty of fight left, and enough zeal to flip over, sending The Atrocity Archives flying into a tangled mess in the ropes. Verdict: Cosmopolis.

The winner: Cosmopolis. Being here, at a battle like this, we’re all winners. But the standout novel, from a pretty decent selection, is the rather strange, entirely absorbing, contribution from Don DeLillo.

I can only get away with sentimentality like this at Christmas

I don’t know if it’s a side effect of fatherhood or just age, but I seem rather more prone to sentimental, watery-eyed moments since the Little Monkey came along. I’ve lately been watching Secret Millionaire and getting choked up at the denouements. Earlier in the year I was moved by an article about children who live in dreadful poverty that has no reason to exist in 21st century Britain; I missed the accompanying documentary, but no doubt it would’ve had me blubbing.

So I got suitably sentimental about a YouTube video that’s doing the rounds, of Charlie Chaplin’s speech from The Great Dictator, with appropriately stirring video clips and images. I’ve never seen the film, but the speech is quite brilliant, and the images are calculated, but are emotive nonetheless. Here’s hoping that my boy gets to grow up in “a kind new world where men will rise above their hate and brutality”.

Sleeping Kitten, Sitting Monkey

The Little Monkey has always enjoyed being toted around, getting an adult’s-eye view of the world. Until recently, however, he’s always had to rely on a grown-up (or a restrictive seat) to get a right-way-up perspective. So it must be quite satisfying for him to sit, semi-stably, watching out for brightly coloured and excitingly shaped insectoids to stuff in his mouth. Binky, who mastered sitting some time ago, is less impressed, and dozes oblivious and camouflaged in the background…