Friday, December 30, 2005

Stuff Of The Year

It's the end of the year (crumbs, this one has gone quickly), so I feel duty bound to force my views upon you! Best stuff of the year coming up, but first, here are the things that have been rubbish/ boring/ repulsive...

Family Guy: The Movie - How someone can turn a pant-wettingly hilarious and offensive cartoon into 75 minutes of puerile crap is beyond me. A clip show consisting of Quagmire quotes would have been more entertaining. More disappointing than when Father Christmas gave me a Duplo car instead of the Lego pirate ship I asked for (I think it was to punish me for stealing a Ghostbusters toy from one of my best friends).

The Fantastic Four - Without a shadow of a doubt, THE WORST film I have ever seen. No plot, hints of paedophilia, and the most embarassing set of dialogue ever written. Not even the considerable charms of Miss Alba could save this car crash of a film. Catch it in bargain bins everywhere now!

The Killers - Everytime I hear them I fell like my ears have been mugged. There's no need for them to exist. Obvious & predictable tunes, terrible singing and elevated self-esteem are just three of the ten thousand reasons why they should be covered in snow and displayed as snowmen rather than being hailed by the NME as "perfect pop". "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier"? What are they trying to say? That you don't have to be a soldier to have soul? I would have thought that was pretty bloody obvious. Also, there's no need to repeat this 100 times. We got it the first time, thanks. You're sh*t.

Crazy Frog - I don't think I'll start ranting because it could go on for a while... ah but I can't help myself... Crazy Frog is a cancer on this planet and should be placed in ringtone hell where he belongs. I'm not sure if I'm more outraged by the fact that companies made money from this nonsense, or by the f*cking stupid people who paid £2 to hear a frog with a speech impediment to shout meaningless crap from their pockets, annoying everything with ears within a 20 metre radius. Argh.

OK, enough. Onto the good stuff...

Great new albums from Bright Eyes, Sufjan Stevens, Low, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Joy Zipper, Roots Manuva, Sigur Rós, The Go! Team, The Mountain Goats, The New Pornographers, Antony & The Johnsons and Caribou to name a few.

Great films included Batman Begins, Sin City & Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Mmm... I haven't been to the cinema enough this year.

Excellent TV has been provided in the form of the fabulously addictive Lost and the genius My Name Is Earl.

The Snowman

We made a snowman!

The cheeky smile, spiky hairstyle and silly arms were all inspired by Tom. ;-P

Congrats to everyone who managed to have snow fights this week. I had a particularly amusing snow fight with Tom - I was wearing old shoes with no grip, so whenever I wound up the ol' throwing arm, I fell over face first - thus creating what is known as a "snow drunkard" on the ground.

Why is coal the usual material of choice for snowman buttons?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Hometime, Spaniards, Drunks

The time has come for me to return to my beloved Blighty. I fly back on the 16th of December (hopefully to a heroes reception) and I stay until the 3rd of January. This means that I'll be around for the usual carnage on Nick's birthday / New Year's Eve / Silvester - whatever you want to call it, I can't wait! It'll be great to see everyone while I'm back, I hope that you'll all be available for some sort of rendezvous involving Gin, catching up and possibly card games... I need to use the poker set Jay gave me after all!

Already planned: G's birfday celebration on the 19th, plus gig on the 21st at the Rhythm Factory starring Van Tango faves Carpet Ministry and Esio Trot - see here for details on how to stick it to the man!

Short Austria update: There was merriment aplenty last night as the Spaniards organised a Christmas party in our kitchen with sangria and secret Santas... they sang songs in Spanish that I didn't understand, but were reliably translated for me by Isaac (my Peruvian neighbour). One of the songs involved using a ship as a metaphor for male genitalia, with the sailors as the hairs and the wake as the sperm. Interesting song to sing at a Christmas party - whatever happened to carols? Silent Night anyone?

The aftermath...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Another Week, Another Holiday

The existence of yet another national holiday on the 8th December (see previous post) meant that I've had a long weekend spent mostly in Vienna. On Wednesday after work, Rita (a friend of a friend of my parents, who happens to live in Linz!) drove me to her daughter's (called Alessa) flat in the city where we stayed until Friday. It was great - we went to a party in a student residence where the drinks were all €1, but this meant that I was up for 24 hours and was too tired to take many photos on Thursday. However, we did go to see the Naturhistoriches Museum which I missed last time - a really interesting place. They have a model elephant outside that constantly attracts tourist attention, and inside they have more stuffed animals than you can shake a dinosaur bone at!

In the Museums Quartier

More Punsch was also consumed, both at the Rathaus Christkindlmarkt and at Schoenbrunn. The Wildbeeren Punsch at Schoenbrunn is magnificent, although it had better be for €3.80!

The Rathaus becomes a giant Advent Calendar during the Christmas period.

Shoenbrunn has the best (and most expensive) Christmas market.

We also went to some excellent traditional restaurants ("Heurigen"), one of which had a live accordian player making a nuisance of himself while we tried to eat our meal! He really added to the atmosphere - as did the way you hang your coats up between your table and the next, creating a sort of private curtained booth. Great food too. It think I'm getting plumper by the day - and I still have Christmas at home to survive...

Marco the accordianist was a hit with the ladies...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Krampus .vs. Niklaus: The Big Fight

Well, there I was, sitting quietly at my desk this morning, minding my own business, when suddenly... BAM! Someone put a strange marzipan figure in front of me. "What the devil is that?", I exclaimed, because it did indeed look like a small devil. "Das ist KRAMPUS!" warned my assailant in a mysterious voice, before disappearing behind her desk with a puff of smoke.

"Come out from behind the table Sieglinde, I can see your feet. So, why is this on my desk?"

"On the 6th December, the good children are visited by Niklaus, and the bad by Krampus. You didn't bring me back any tea from England so you have been bad. Now you give me back my marzipan Krampus..."

"But you don't even like marzipan! Why do you want it back? I love marzipan, can I eat it?"

"I like to look at it. Here, have a chocolate Niklaus instead."

"I don't want chocolate. I want marzipan. I'm not doing any work until I get some marzipan!"

Christmas is ... different in Austria. On December 6th, children are visited by one of two characters; St. Niklaus or Krampus. Niklaus is pretty much Father Christmas, and gives out chocolate to the children who have been good. The Krampus looks like Satan and carries a sort-of whip made from sticks like a broom, and a bag of coal. Needless to say, the naughty children think twice about their misdemeanours... In past times it was basically an excuse for people to dress up, with Niklauses and Krampuses running around the streets of Austria on a drunken rampage. That tradition has sadly petered out as the winters get colder, and more emphasis is put on Weihnacht (Christmas Eve evening, when all the presents are opened).

Some more interesting stuff that I learned today...

  • The public holiday on 8th December celebrates the conception of Mary. Not Jesus, but Mary, which at first I found a little strange. But then I found out that the important thing was that she was conceived without "original sin"... now it makes sense.
  • New Year's Eve is called "Silvester". I'm not sure what this refers to, but I assume that it has to do with large quantities of alchohol and dancing, and very few black and white cats chasing yellow birds...

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Prague: Cheaper Than David Dickinson

The Main Square, some lampposts and a pointy roof.

My latest expedition took me to Prague, which is incredibly beautiful (in a gothic way!) and practically gives away food and drink. In one bar we went to (that's myself and some Austrian friends; Mario, Kathi, Max and Eva), I paid less than 50p for half a litre of Staropramen - cripes. In the supermarkets, you can pick up the original Czech Budweiser (Budvar) for 20p per half litre bottle. I turned into a small child, running up and down aisles excitedly and attempting to fit as much stuff into my bag as was physically possible... Cigarettes cost between 1-2 Euros depending on brand, which means that everyone smokes, and they have amusingly strict rules on importing goods - you are allowed to bring back 25 cigarettes for "personal use" - how do you buy 25 cigarettes?

We did some cool stuff - we saw an ice hockey game at the biggest stadium in Europe which was incredible and although the atmosphere was a little disappointing the quality of the game was great (not to mention the appealing female dancers during the breaks!).

We also laughed a lot at the silly places names...

Stayed in a bloody nice hotel...

(4 star luxury for 2 star prices...)

Ate and drank more than our body weight in food that cost no more than a G&T in Wetherspoons...

Eva, Max, VT, Kathi, Mario

Walked through the city...

Karlmost - Karl's Bridge

And caught some pretty awesome views from the castle...

The whole city is amazing, managing to be beautiful and romantic at the same time as feeling unspoilt and... downright cheap. Can't wait to check out more of the nightlife when I return...