Dabbler Diary – Velociraptor!

The comedian Frankie Boyle is what the Americans would term an ‘asshole’. An unfunny, attention-seeking asshole. Lately he’s been trying to gain attention through offending people (sensitive disabled people, and hysterical politically-correct people) by making unfunny jokes about the Paralympics on Twitter. Sure enough, sensitive disabled people have been offended; and hysterical politically-correct people have wailed about ‘hate crime’ and what have you.

In response, and as always in these cases, libertarian types like James Delingpole then get outraged on Frankie Boyle’s behalf. I’m not sure whether they feel that sensitive people have an inalienable right to express their annoyance at being offended, nor whether the politically correct have a right to wail hysterically about hate crime, but they have praised Frankie Boyle as a sort of hero of free speech.

I expect that in the past and even still today in many parts of the world there have been heroes of free speech who’ve spoken out on profound and worthwhile matters. These days they heroically try to offend disabled people with unfunny jokes on Twitter, and anyone who goes on telly to defend free speech always finds himself trying to defend an asshole.

This might be indicative of our society’s maturity, or of its decadence, or of its progress, or of its irredeemable triviality. I’m not sure but I am getting tired of Twitter-manufactured mainstream news stories, in which liberal stand-up comedians are treated like pseudo-intellectuals. It’s an insult to real pseudo-intellectuals, like Alain de Botton.


Signs that one’s youth is over: having children (check). Admiring Margaret Thatcher (check). Going on diets (check). Becoming very fussy about lager (check). Buying a Vauxhall Zafira (check). Worrying less about death but much more about debilitating illness (check). Gaining a genuine appreciation of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Laughing out loud at the idea of going to a nightclub. Realising that everything you used to know to be true is wrong (check, check, check).

And now I’ve bought a Brennan JB7. It’s a wonderfully retroprogressive piece of technology designed for uncool people with very large CD collections who like Later with Jools Holland. Jools even features in the ads for it on the back of the Radio Times. Basically it’s a CD player but it sucks all your songs onto a hard drive and becomes the greatest jukebox in the world. The advantage over using an iPod-plus-speakers is that it cuts out the middleman (a computer) in the loading process and it has a remote control. It also has a pleasingly amateurish feel. The controls are awkward as hell and there’s a really crappy ‘digital watch-circa 1989’ LED display. Steve Jobs would vomit at first sight. But I love it. In fact it’s been a life-changer, because all the music I’ve accumulated over the years now fills the house every day, instead of gathering dust in inaccessible racks, and by God I’ve got brilliant taste.


To Bristol Zoological Gardens, Clifton. We have an annual membership so we go pretty often. So often that I’m actually on nodding terms with most of the monkeys. Some still take a dim view of zoos. Images of sad-eyed lions pacing concrete prisons, the theme to Born Free playing accusingly in the background. This was always a little bit misguided since underpinning it is a romantic notion that animals are ‘happier’ and more spiritually fulfilled in the wide open spaces of nature, whereas in reality nearly everything in the wild lives a very short, terrified existence on the brink of starvation. But zoos have also changed beyond recognition (at least in the UK) from the days when they were essentially stationary circuses. They’re extremely well-regulated and devoted to animal welfare and conservation projects. Without them, a whole load of species still just about hanging in there would be now extinct.

That said, they are businesses and do have to attract visitors. Bristol’s latest wheeze is dinosaurs. Bloody great life-sized animatronic monsters scattered around the park, growling and squirting water at frightened infants. The T-Rex is astounding, with a roar like a Centurion tank sliding into a lake of gravel. They’re in the uncanny valley of realism, where the kids both believe and don’t believe they’re alive. When I went up to pat the Triceratops (always been one of my faves) Brit Jnr Major cried out “Come away, Daddy!” She does look out for me.

It seems we humans have an odd, deep regret not to have co-existed with the dinosaurs. Let’s call it the Jurassic Park Syndrome. Much as I enjoyed them I can’t help thinking there’s something a little sad about having to stick a load of fake beasts in a zoo to get people through the turnstiles. How tame, how provincial our lions and gorillas seem, compared to the real monsters!


Talking of dinosaurs, the Brennan’s random playlist feature has proven the theory that a pomp-era Rolling Stones track will generally blow whatever preceded it out of the water. I’ve been teaching Brit Jnr Major to Do the Jagger with tips picked up from that incredibly useful episode of The Simpsons in which Homer goes to Rock Camp and Mick conducts a seminar in strutting, pouting and finger-wagging (“everybody’s naughty [wag, wag, wag]..and freeze-finish!”). The Beatles are objectively the greatest pop band but I’ve long believed that they never made a song to touch Gimme Shelter. Importantly, for posterity, I now add to the list Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women and Sympathy for the Devil.


Slightly more up-to-date, Kasabian are a very good band, being extremely groovy, riffy and hooky, and also unfashionable with Twitterati types who consider them a bit thick and chavvy. Nonsense, it’s just that they don’t mess about when it comes to lyrics. The title track of their most recent album is called Velociraptor! And the chorus goes like this:

Velociraptor! He gonna find yer!
He gonna kill yer!
He gonna eat yer! […]

Peerless stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.
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30 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary – Velociraptor!

  1. tobyash@hotmail.com'
    September 3, 2012 at 09:26

    What type of diet are you on Brit – A Nando’s one?!

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      September 3, 2012 at 19:22

      If it were practical to eat only Nando’s, Toby, I surely would.

      • Worm
        September 3, 2012 at 19:42

        nando’s is a vitamin isn’t it?

  2. wormstir@gmail.com'
    September 3, 2012 at 09:40

    Frankie Boil inhabits that same world as Rod Lidl and Brendan O’neill – professional shockers. Must be a strange and horrible feeling to wake up one morning and find yourself in the position of being paid to be unpleasant for the rest of your life.

    Kudos on the Brennan JB7 Brit, a true piece of slightly bonkers british engineering a la Clive Sinclair. I covet one

  3. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    September 3, 2012 at 10:26

    I often think that Boyle is a latter-day Bernard Manning with weight loss. Talking of venomous reptiles, does the zoo have some Brit, no zoo worth it’s camel dung should be without a venomous reptile or two. And a few keepers, the tigers tend to throw a hissy fit if unable to maul a keeper before close of play.
    Re the Stones, no mention, I see, of Ruby, classic stuff don’t you think.
    I note, with a contented smile, that you plug Rüsselsheim’s finest, the Zafira, as you sit aft of the tiller think on, all that you survey was doodled by a five foot porridge scoffer from Portpatrick, a town so far west it’s in the Belfast suburbs. Aforementioned scoffer, when plied with Talisker in the living room became unstable and spent the rest of the night behind the sofa, muttering in Scoto-German, as junior cryptically remarked, “it’s that bloody Zafira, it’s finally done for him.”

    I went to Anfield the other day to watch a match. A scouse lad said, ‘Can I mind your car for you mister?’ I said, ‘No! And for your information, there’s a Rottweiler in the back.’ The lad said: ‘Put out fires, can he?’

    Its the way he told them.

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      September 3, 2012 at 19:24

      Plenty of poisonous things, Malty, including a black widow spider that lives in a specially-adapted toilet.

  4. peter.burnet@hotmail.com'
    September 3, 2012 at 11:16

    “When I joined the Marines I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, including the rights to free speech and a free press. For fifteen years I stood ready to take up arms or, if necessary, to lay down my life in the defense of these foundations of liberty. I believe in protecting the freedom of speech, whether it comes from terrorist-wannabes like Ted Rall, know-nothing pundits like Joel Stein, or religious-bashing Danish cartoonists. I believe that, like religious liberty, this is a divinely permitted freedom that demands due vigilance.”

    “But just once I’d like to be called upon to champion speech that is true, honorable, just, and pure. Just once I’d like to defend a freedom that wasn’t vulgar, degraded, and profane. Just once I’d like to defend freedom that aspired to the ideals of Thomas Jefferson rather than to the inclinations of Larry Flynt.”…”

    –Joe Carter

  5. jgslang@gmail.com'
    September 3, 2012 at 11:39

    Masterly first sentence. Ditto second. Terse, delaratory, accurate. However, while slang don’ need no fockin’ politics, and far be it from me, etc., an admiration of Thatcher is not a sign of advancing age, rather of having been at the time of an insufficiently advanced one to have properly experienced her grim reign. That, and I do but tease, or senility.

    • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
      September 3, 2012 at 16:42

      Re Maggie, the twentieth centuries Bess Of Hardwick, she done right by me, Mr Slang………

      20% against purchase of plant and machinery.

      First three years rent and rate free.

      Pensions left in peace.

      Do that now and in five years…….we could even afford the NHS, dream on.

  6. nigeandrew@gmail.com'
    September 3, 2012 at 13:54

    But Brit – you’re so ridiculously young!

  7. Worm
    September 3, 2012 at 14:17

    I’m the same age as Brit so lets see…having children (yup). Admiring Margaret Thatcher (yup). Going on diets (yup). Becoming very fussy about lager (yup). Buying a Vauxhall Zafira (not yet, but I do find myself admiring the spacious capabilities of the Skoda Yeti). Worrying less about death but much more about debilitating illness (check). Gaining a genuine appreciation of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (definitely!). Laughing out loud at the idea of going to a nightclub. (not yet but the time is fast approaching) Realising that everything you used to know to be true is wrong (oh yes).

    oh dear the writing’s on the wall

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      September 5, 2012 at 22:05

      The Zafira is da bomb, Worm. The things you can do with the seats! It’s like a Transformer, really – a very practical, family-friendly Transformer.

  8. hooting.yard@googlemail.com'
    September 3, 2012 at 14:33

    My favourite sentence here is “I’m actually on nodding terms with most of the monkeys”. Back in the day when the Key tinies were still tiny, and not grown adults, we had a season ticket to London Zoo, and the monkeys and I were on similarly familiar terms.

  9. henrycastiglione@hotmail.com'
    September 3, 2012 at 14:42

    HP Jeffreys (age 9 months) rocked out with me to Vamos by the Pixies on Saturday. She especially liked the bit where Frank Black sang:
    “I keep getting friends/ looking like lesbians/ if we get bored/ we’ll move to California.”

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      September 3, 2012 at 19:43

      Mine’s into the Pixies too, especially Bird Dream of Olympus Mons, aka ‘The Mountain Song’. It’s great being able to impose your tastes on uncritical tinies, isn’t it?

  10. george.jansen55@gmail.com'
    September 3, 2012 at 22:33

    “Gaining a genuine appreciation of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours.”

    I do hope that you will dedicate a future posting to explaining this.

  11. zmkc@ymail.com'
    September 4, 2012 at 12:20

    Re Mr Slang’s comments, didn’t Auberon Waugh divide Thatcher’s reign into the good bit and then the mad years? So you can admire her for the first part of her reign and still object to her later follies. And Worm, be careful about buying a Skoda – when you buy it they all say, ‘Ooh yes, it’s really a Volkswagen’ and then when you sell it they all say, ‘Okay Volkswagen owns it, but it’s still a Skoda and you know the jokes about Skoda (why do Skodas have rear window heaters? To keep your hands warm when you’re pushing them, What holds the steering wheel of a Skoda? A nut et cetera et cetera)

  12. philipwilk@googlemail.com'
    Philip Wilkinson
    September 4, 2012 at 19:53

    I’m with Mr Slang on La Thatcher. I’m also old enough to remember that rear window heater joke being told about Range Rovers. Skodas have improved over the years, as their makers have renounced the vagaries of what is known, with a kind of admiring exasperation, as Czechnology.

  13. Gaw
    September 5, 2012 at 08:05

    I note that in the latest ads they’re pronouncing Skoda in a Czech way ‘Shko-da’. Also am I imagining it or are they making more of the hacek over the ‘S’? Very Czechnological. Do they still do tanks?

    • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
      September 5, 2012 at 09:08

      Many say that onkel Addie invaded Czechoslovakia to free the Sudatenlanders, be that as it may Heinz Guderian received a large bonus, the Skoda tank works, its products superior to the German tanks. Excellent automotive engineers they developed in the thirties one of Europe’s finest V12 engines.

      All automotive companies spend small fortunes buying and studying their competitors products, stripping them down to the last piece of moulded in China plastic (’tis a pity our own NHS doesn’t adopt this policy, they have much to learn) there have been some notable shocks, Fiats huge increase in quality, BMW sulking as they contemplated the VW Polo and all and sundry admiring Skoda’s revival under the VW banner, everyone chortling at Renault. Anyone contemplating buying a Skoda can smile as they pocket the savings, having not bought the equivalent Volkswagen.

      • Gaw
        September 5, 2012 at 14:09

        I believe Bohemia was one of only two places where manufacturing productivity actually rose under Nazi occupation, the other being Belgium. You may also note how Prague is perennially unscathed by war damage.

    • philipwilk@googlemail.com'
      September 5, 2012 at 11:51

      They are definitely making more of the haček. Perhaps they are realising that it is OK to be Czech, like it was in the 1920s and 1930s. I’m not sure about the tanks, but they do make trains and trams.

  14. Worm
    September 5, 2012 at 09:44

    I currently have a Seat, which is one notch up from a skoda, and the build quality is awesome, can’t fault it

  15. john.hh43@googlemail.com'
    John Halliwell
    September 6, 2012 at 14:32

    ‘And now I’ve bought a Brennan JB7. It’s a wonderfully retroprogressive piece of technology designed for uncool people with very large CD collections who like Later with Jools Holland.’

    Thanks, Brit, confirmation, if it be needed, that I’m uncool. I do have a fairly large CD collection and I do like Jools. It’s a grand piece of technology; all that music sat there inside a book-sized box and available via a remote control a little bigger than a credit card. And you can load your music in ‘lossless’ form: no compression – sound as good as the CD. Marvellous! But my initial experience was less satisfactory: I attempted linking the JB7 to my hi-fi using the headphone socket – as recommended: hopeless. After telephone conversations with the tech people and having followed their suggestions, without success I returned the device. The JB7 was eventually passed to Martin Brennan, designer and top man. He checked it over and concluded there was nothing wrong. He returned the JB7 with a note advising I simply turn up the volume on the earphone out to maximum and adjust the volume on my amplifier to suit. Result: perfection. I bet he thought ‘Pillock! Why didn’t he just turn the thing to max?’ That was two years ago, and the device has worked perfectly since. I am currently listening to the JB7 – June Tabor and the Oyster Band, Freedom and Rain – sounds wonderful!

    • Brit
      September 7, 2012 at 23:14

      Fantastic stuff John – a fellow Brennanite!

  16. davidanddonnacohen@gmail.com'
    September 6, 2012 at 14:58

    What an American actually says is, what in the world is a Vauxhall Zafira?

    Also, you lot don’t actually have free speech. if the President were to push, for example, an American version of the Official Secrets Act (and I suspect the President Obama is looking longingly at the OSA right about now), he would immediately be denounced.as a fascist tyrant looking to destroy the last vestige of liberty.

    • Worm
      September 6, 2012 at 18:00

      …yet if a British prime minister said they were going to ban swear words and breasts from newspapers and the telly people would think they were a fascist prude who stifled free speech too

      • davidanddonnacohen@gmail.com'
        September 7, 2012 at 19:20

        I take the point, and yet it’s worth noting that neither breasts nor swear words are banned in US newspapers and any attempt to ban them would likely be unconstitutional.

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