Sunday, 18 July 2010

Never Mind the Buzzcocks dream lineup

After extensive internal debate, it seems important that I relate to you, my blog readers, the results of my Never Mind the Buzzcocks ultimate dream line up.

If you're not familiar with Never Mind the Buzzcocks, I'm not too sure what to tell you that wikipedia can't. If you like music, and you find British humour funny, then chances are you will enjoy this show.

The Dream Line Up:

Host: Simon Amstel
Panel 1: Jeremy Clarkson, Phil Jupitus (captain), EITHER Rhys Darby (manager from Flight of the Conchords) OR some disposable member of a boy band (see Antony Costa below)
Panel 2: David Tennant, Noel Fielding (captain), Gwen Stefani

I picked Clarkson and Tennant as panel members because, although they were guest hosts, Amstel is just too good at being host to not do it:

Panel 1 was the most difficult choice. Jupitus is captain because he has appeared on every single episode of the show, and he's hilarious too. Clarkson is also on his team because, although it seems doubtful he knows much about music, he and Jupitus had great chemistry when he was host and when Amstel snarks at him, Clarkson will just get upset and wave his hands around like an injured buffalo ( -- would not let me embed). The third choice was the toughest, because it's always wonderful to have a boy band member to be whipping boy, but Darby has a great accent and is very very funny:

Panel 2 was the easiest, and will certainly be the prettiest, choice. Stefani because, why not, she's never been on and I'd love to see her there. Fielding because he's my favorite captain:

And Tennant because of this, my favorite clip from any Buzzcocks episode ever:

Saturday, 10 July 2010

A cycle trip to the east.

The villages to the east of Oxford have been unexplored territory for me, with the exception of a single foray down the A40 to Forest Hill, so last weekend, E and I went out for a cycle ride that encompassed several picturesque, thatched-roof cottage, village churchyard type places.

Here's the route, it was about 20 miles:

Our first stop was the church of St Thomas of Canterbury, Elsfield. I'm not entirely clear on what the connection to St Thomas was but they had some fine artwork of him on the inside of the church. Unlike many churches in Oxfordshire (and throughout England) this one seemed to have quite a bit of money, and they had just completed adding a hall onto the church. The church building itself was quite small, and, as you can see, did not have a bell tower:

Inside, there were the usual monuments and a few interesting tombs. This one struck me in particular.

Looking back towards the renovations -- I thought that the gallery walk was a nice touch.

And leaving the church and stepping out into the sunny churchyard...

From there we carried on along country roads towards the next villages. Riding a cycle on English country roads can be exciting, because the speed limit is essentially "do whatever you like" but luckily English drivers seem to be very attentive (in general) and are often very nice about how the pass cyclists -- unless they are on motorcycles, at which point all bets are off. This concern is especially good for me, because my back wheel is in bad shape and it is difficult for me to go up hills at any speed.

Don't be deceived by how flat the landscape is; Oxfordshire is composed of rolling hills. Here's a wheat field; this picture is very indicative of the countryside in general. The view is probably quite similar to what it would have been a thousand years ago.

The next stop on our tour took in a larger country church, this one that had some connection with John Buchan, as several plaques around the place attested.

This is my new style for artistic picture taking :).

One of the coolest things inside this church was this stained glass window:

There was also this confusing stairway that seemed to lead nowhere -- once it went around the corner, there were stones across it's original path, but it was nowhere near any galleries or the bell tower. Our only guess was that the pulpit was originally much higher and it led to that.

Fire safety is important, especially in stone buildings!

Following this, it was a long cycle ride through Forest Hill (which involved a hill, natch), then on across the A40 (road to London) and to Wheatley. On the way we passed Waterperry, which sounds like another good trip for an afternoon -- I think I'll check that out some weekend soon. From Wheatley, we ascended Shotover Hill, aiming to take the original route into Oxford from the east.

Shotover Hill apparently means "steep hill" in Old English, per wikipedia. It certainly was a steep hill -- hard to believe that it was the best route into Oxford for many years. It was made into a turnpike -- an official road -- in 1719. It was originally forested, part of the Wychwood Royal Forest from at least the time of Domesday until the 1660s, but was badly deforested by the time of the turnpike. Not too long after becoming a turnpike, highway robbery along it became a serious problem, and it was replaced by what would become the A40 not too long after. I'm not sure why this major road originally went over such a big hill instead of skirting it.

Either way, the hill was definitely steep, and due to my wheel problem, I was walking my bike up much of it. About 3/4 of the way up, I got a phone call from 13,000 ft in Colorado, which was pretty awesome.

This is what the top looks like today:

And from the top there is also a view of Oxford:

Unfortunately this view is much less pleasant than the classic "dreaming spires" view that one gets from Boars Hill or Rose Hill. Ah well. The best part of the cycle ride is the long downhill from here -- it is downhill to Headington, and then of course (for those who know Oxford), a long downhill from Headington to the city centre itself which is in the valleys created by the Cherwell and Isis. Ice creams halfway down seemed the perfect way to end the day.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

it's the freaking weekend

This is a little bit early, but the big clock across Woodstock Road just banged out twelve bells to signify that it is officially Friday, and so it's time for a little ritual that I like to engage in on this particular day when I've had a particularly trying week.

Granted the week for me was only really trying in the sense that it took me about 24 hours to travel 5,300 miles, which would make Marco Polo punch me in the face, but, well,

after the show, it's the after party
after the party, it's the hotel lobby
around about 4, you gotta clear the lobby

that's right, it's time to listen to R. Kelly's Ignition (Remix). My only concern for the next 3:09 is that listening to this song so early on Friday is going to cheapen the experience when I listen to it again right before I go home from the lab tomorrow (today!) night.