Monday, 31 January 2011

John Barry RIP.

Legendary British film composer John Barry, who won five Oscars and composed some of the most iconic themes of all time (yes, Bond) has died suddenly of a heart attack today.

Fellow Bond composer David Arnold wrote on his Twitter feed: "It was with a heavy heart that I tell you John Barry passed away this morning". 

"I think James Bond would have been far less cool without John Barry holding his hand," Arnold later told BBC Radio.

Barry's Bond compositions included "Goldfinger", "From Russia With Love" and "You Only Live Twice". His Academy Awards included best music for "Dances With Wolves", "Out of Africa" and "Born Free"
Our thoughts and sympathies go out to his family. 

Friday, 28 January 2011

This Weeks Tipple

For those who dined in the nylon halls of The Ataraxian's at Latitude Festival 2010, you may be familiar with the produce of one Fat Cat Brewery, Norwich.It provided the warm, flavoursome beer which was much passed round among the young people by the dwindling fireside (turns out recycling bins only provide so much cardboard).

It is which such whimsical memories in mind that I heartily endorse the Fat Cat's Marmalade Cat ale as this weeks Tipple.

A classic mid-brown coloured strong bitter, with a markedly bitter finish from the generous use of Styrian hops. Flavoursome English pale malt adds balance and a smooth finish, which lasts and lasts. Full-bodied, yet with an ease of drinking which belies its strength.

For those of not in the vicinity of Norwhich Fat Cat beer is currently available by the Firkin (72 Pints) on the Fat Cat Website (Polypins are also available at at cheaper rate) This should at least keep you merry until next week's tipple.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Viktor Frankl: Why to believe in others

In this rare clip from 1972, legendary psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor Viktor Frankl delivers a powerful message about the human search for meaning -- and the most important gift we can give others.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


We’ll mak our maut and we’ll brew our drink,
We’ll laugh, sing and rejoice, man
And mony braw thanks to the meikle black deil
That danc’d awa wi’ th’ Exciseman.

The fires of Scotland burn tonight in tribute to the bard of the Highlands,
so prepare to get bare-breasted in old Highland manner! Toast to the defeat of the Long-shank with a solid Dalmore 12 year old.  
Sit back, cross your legs (you're wearing a kilt after all) and prepare your face with woad. We give you Brian Cox reading Tam-O 'Shanter.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Best of the Auction house - Men's Shoes

Ever crusaders of paying less for something, The Ataraxians are at hand to provide the good-to-honest dapper chappie with a monthly guide to the best quality items currently available second hand (vintage, if you really must insist) on this hyper-mega-web-spider thing.

This month we highlight the honest shoe - oft overlooked and frequently awful.

British men have access to the highest quality footwear anywhere in the world yet, as I gaze across the souless wasteland of the Tube I see square fronted, near-plastic insults to Empire adorn the feet of Britian's professional workforce.

I ask you how can a country escape national debt crisis if it can't even tie a decent pair of laces!

It is interest of the nation's salvation that I have provided you with a few fruits of the worlds most respected shoemakers currently available for some very, very reasonable prices.

The Dream: Currently availible on Ebay for £139

Hand made British shoes:
Loake Tassel-Loafer sz 8.5
Loake Brown Leather lace up sz 10
Loake Black formal Lace-Up sz 8
Cheaney 'Deacon' leather Brogues sz 10F
Barker Brown Brogues sz 8F
Alfred Sargent Men's Tan Brogues  Sz 9
Alfred Sargent Suede Slip-on's Sz 8

Continental shoes:
Bally Brown Tassel-Loafer sz 10
Bally Dark Blue Loafer sz 10
Bally Dark Brown Buckle Brogue sz 8
Tods Dark Brown Oxford brogue sz 8
Prada Brown Loafer sz 8.5

Reiss Brown Loafer (Not hand made) Sz 8
Savile Row Co. Brown Leather shoes Sz 8
Savile Row Co. Brown Stirrup Shoes Sz 9
Urban Outfitters Grey Suede Desert Boot sz 9

End of public information broadcast.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Fundamental Human Writes

These days when we write, whether for work or pleasure, we instinctively head straight for the computer and type away. And why not? Typing is easy and fast, it offers the convenience of spell-checks and layout templates, and once we’re finished our work is effortlessly disseminated via printer, email and the Internet for all to see. This is all very well and good and thoroughly convenient and modern and practical and time-efficient and so on. But if your mind works like your dear correspondent Hemlock’s – and I pray for your sake that it does not – then you might reflect on us all, hunched over glowing screens, hammering away at plastic keyboards, marshalling unseen legions of silicon semiconductors to our will, and you might conclude that it all looked a bit dreary and industrial, a touch conformist and maybe, well, just a teeny tad totalitarian.

Meanwhile the process of writing, actual writing, that timeless union of the physical art of penmanship and the cerebral powers of language, has been cruelly relegated to the servile duties of an aide-memoire. With no laptop handy, we scribble onto sticky notes, scrawl shopping lists and doodle on the backs of envelopes with the aid of cheap, disposable and environmentally unfriendly ballpoints and glutinous gel pens. We neglect that special power of handwriting to produce something unique: an original composition, in an individual script.

Many of us here in the Ataraxian Club feel that this should not be. That’s why our members may often be found scribbling away right here in the Club’s drawing-room, still instinctively flinching at the memory of Teacher's cane each time they blot the page, continuing to make good use of that most illustrious and refined of writing instruments: the noble fountain pen.

Perhaps the last time you even saw a fountain pen was in your school days, when it was squashed into your games bag and subsequently ruined your rugby kit, prompting your father to strip to his jodhpurs in a fury and thrash you with a length of birch. Fear not, I can help. Of course not with your unresolved childhood trauma, don’t be silly. But if it’s a recommendation for a fountain pen you’re after, I would humbly suggest you strongly consider something from Pelikan’s Souverän range.

Widely regarded as some of the best writing instruments in the world, they’ve got the lot: a unique and time-served pressure-equalising differential piston system; massive ink reservoir; brass components; quintuple-lacquered resin barrel; and most important, iridium-tipped, diamond-ground, rhodium and gold plate nibs that are readily interchangeable and available in a range of sizes. They really are beautifully crafted things. Certainly there are other, pricier pens out there, adorned with swanky hand-cut engravings or incorporating more precious materials into their design. Observe, for instance, this overdesigned carbon fibre Italianate monstrosity (though perhaps not if you’ve just had a heavy lunch). It’s yours for a mere thirteen hundred and twenty quid with no change for a ciabatta. But few of these alternatives, if any, will match or surpass the writing characteristics of the Pelikan.

Best place to get one? You can pick up the mid-sized M600, your humble Hemlock’s preference, from Cult Pens for £135 in their winter sale. Considering the spotty adolescent manning the concession stand in your local John Lewis will charge north of £200 for the same pen, that is no bad deal; even other online retailers typically put them around the £180 mark. If your budget won’t stretch that far, the M200 uses all the same mechanisms as the pricier Souveräns but lays off on the expensive materials. It will also give you years of impeccable service. Yours for £45 from the same place.

While you’re there, pick up a bottle or two of Diamine ink. It’s excellent stuff, British made, and comes in a broad variety of colours to suit all tastes. Best to steer clear of permanent and registrar’s inks for now, since some are acidic or contain iron compounds and they can royally bugger your new pen if you don’t know what you’re doing.

“But Hemlock,” you may cry in indignation, “Why bother? Is it not just the worst sort of sentimentality and neo-Luddism to harken after hand-writing in the modern age? Don’t you even want an iPhone 4?” Of course, the great innovation of typesetting has given us everything from The Oxford English Dictionary to Penguin Books, from The Wall Street Journal to Heat magazine; and computers have spurred us on to create inestimable and ever-growing quantities of blogs, essays, articles, opinion-pieces, periodicals, polemics, and public notices of all descriptions. All of this does great service to society, with the obvious exception of Heat magazine. But in all these cases, technology is aiding the process of writing with the broader, impersonal public in mind.

What print and computers cannot do is to make your writing personal. As soon as the typesetter’s block or the digital interface is placed between the writer and the recipient, some element of the human connection diminishes: the letter, diary, poem, note, or whatever-it-is that we intended to write becomes that bit less personal, that bit more standardised, less unique, more mundane. If you are writing with someone in mind, whether it is a letter to a friend or to someone whose work you admire, or even for your own gratification in a diary or jotter, then you do yourself a great disservice if you do not write it by hand.
So it is that in my idyllic and unrealisable vision of a better, brighter, more human, more enlightened and altogether sexier world, we would all be enthusiastic amateur writers, eagerly sending and receiving great quantities of handwritten letters, furtively swapping diaries with loved ones and closest friends, fervently leaving a paper trail of our emotion and experience behind us as we live our lives. Yes, I did just say that handwriting makes the world a sexier place. Think about it. Sex can only connect you with the animal aspects of a person. Writing connects you with the human. That is a far more personal thing to share, far more intimate, and it possesses the power to move you so much more deeply, and to change your outlook on life forever.

Hopefully by now you have leapt from your seat in a passion, sworn against typing another word on a computer ever again, and swept the contents of your desk to the floor in the grandiose throes of your excitement. If so, relax. Sheepishly recover your computer from the floor and stick an Elastoplast over that conspicuous crack in the screen. You’re still going to need it. But don’t forget to treat yourself to a fountain pen, or if you already have one sitting unused on a shelf, take it down, dust it off, send away for a bottle of ink and promise yourself that the next time you go to write, you make sure to take it personally.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

First date Thigh - rubbed, stuffed and thoroughly sprinkled.

So there comes a point in a relationship where a chap wants to have a lass back to his flat/ pad/ ministry/ secret dungeon. He wants to wine her, he wants to woo her but most importantly he must dine her. Alas, the supermarket monolith has yet to match an input of flavour to even the crudest of in-house catering. With such considerations in mind I provide you with this incredibly simple and inexpensive recipe with which to declare your lustful machinations

The largest container of Chicken thighs available
2 Lemons
1 large Garlic bulb
Salt Pepper

We are talking simple, when you prepare this a second time you will want to do it with crushed new potatoes, however taking one thing at a time, I suggest you go with boiled and buttered with a light salad (the XX chromosome loves greenery).

First step - buy chicken thighs (or butcher you’re own) you will want two each with the meal but get the biggest packet because they are just great cold with a hangover. Take your sharpest knife and cut into the chicken at 90 degrees to the bone and bone deep. If this feels good that's fine, you're just dealing with the decline of the BBC. If it fills your loins with joy, consult the nearest physician.

You want about three slashes in each thigh. In to which you want to stuff garlic, or to be more specific; take garlic top and tail numerous cloves, rip the skin off so it’s as pale as a newborn Scot.
Now slice the cloves into vaguely geometric segments (I recommend the Trapezium). Bung these segments in to the three slashes made.
OK, once that is done you're going to want to lightly zest the lemons all over the thighs in the Pyrex container, add the oil, the juice of the lemons, salt, pepper and oregano.

Cook for 25 minutes at 200 degrees (Gas Mark 6), and then flip the thighs. Cook for a further 25 minutes flipping once more. If you like crispy skins crank the heat up just before service.

If it is part of your plan to inebriate the female, any medium dry white wine should compliment the dish nicely. If such a suggestion flies in the face of everything you hold dear (you're far to much of a raging torrent of machismo for the wine!) then I can only advice St. Peter's Organic Ale, fresh and light without overruling the dish; splendid stuff.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The Voice of Reason.

In a world of amplified, instant half-truths the omnipotent focus of tragedy and failure continues to pervade. We ingest such misdirection each day we choose to interact with the wider world.  Through the negation of empathy, we turn to blame, we refuse to forgive, to see the world from another's eyes. 

On that note I leave you in the capable hands of Dr Carl Sagan and NASA.

This Weeks Tipple

This week's liquid courage comes courtesy of The Hawksmoor Restaurant, Seven Dials. Well known for serving the best Roast Dinner in London, it also serves a cracking cocktail. The 'Shaky Pete' is a rather masculine concoction of Gin,Ginger and Ale bringing together two of the great staples of British Alcoholism into one finely spiced drink. 

Please enjoy irresponsibly 

35ml Sipsmith's Gin
35ml Ginger Syrup
50ml Lemon Juice
London Pride

Blend gin, ginger and lemon with ice, strain into half pint mug and top with ale. 

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Ataraxian 'Icons' series I: Christopher Hitchens

Always eloquent, frequently arrogant and never ignorant, Christopher Hitchens deserves to be a national icon - drinker, smoker, womanizer; a source of great pride. His dignified, non hysterical approach to his oncoming fate only seals my admiration for this titan of British journalism. Although Hitchens would undoubtably disapprove of taking his comments out of context. I enclose the following 'best of' of Mr Hitchens stance on religion and his fantastic interview with Paxman (who is clearly in awe) filmed  November last year.

South Coast Murders

As a great lover of Graham Greene, whose novels can be found in the Ataraxian Library, this is my most eagerly anticipated movie release of 2011. Ill let the trailer speak for itself...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Le Luminaries!

A general love of things which are ludicrous and french is something that the Ataraxian club is never ashamed to admit, and they don't come much more ludicrous and  french than this trailer for 'Panique Au Village' which I'm sure needs plenty of explanation but I am going to offer none. 

Described by one reviewer as 'Toy Story on Absinthe', and currently gathering a following of English youths as it is currently being used as a crucial part of the French GCSE curriculum.  

Round the wireless!

We occasionally like to listen to post 19th Century music here at the clubhouse,and word on the street (according to Hojo, our street boy) is that hipster boy & girl duo 'Summer Camp' are going to big in the Royal parks this summer. Check out 'Round the Moon' from their 2010 EP (the video taken from a delightfully 70's European version of Grange Hill isn't half bad either). 

Nibble of the Week

We at the Ataraxian Club love bloody good food, and recently I indulged on a new year jaunt up to Edinburgh. I dinned at the Hadrian's Brasserie at the Balmoral Hotel. The service was impressive, some of the best I have experienced, not too stuffy or invasive, relaxed and modern. The restaurant was beautiful, very well presented but again modern and relaxed. Having had an ever-wonderful Hendricks Gin & Tonic in the bar, we headed into the restaurant where I had a the excellent Char Grilled Scottish Chicken, Herb Gnocchi, Wild Mushrooms with a Café au Lait Sauc followed by the second best Crème Brûlée (sounding like my grandmother) I have had the pleasure to break. If find yourself north of the wall this winter it is well worth your time making a pilgrimage and taking refuge from the predictable Scottish weather at Hadrian's Brasserie.

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year, New Suit.

As part of our ongoing quest for the advancement of society, The Ataraxian is ever on the lookout for new ways to smarten up the general populace. However with limited club funds, we understand that a stand-alone suit is often a hard to justify extravagance. 
It is with such considerations in mind that in the coming weeks we will bring you suggestions for well made, affordable solutions to your Sartorial problems.

I) Reiss Window-Check Flannel Suit £195

Pete Postlethwaite R.I.P

One my own personal favorites of stage and screen the Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite peacefully died of cancer aged 65.

Recently seen in the climate change soapbox 'The Age of Stupid' and  Nolan's 'Inception' Postlewaite has starred in over  forty films including starring turns in 'The Usual Suspects' 'The Constant Gardener' and of course TV's 'Sharpe'. 

Our condolences to his family and friends.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

This Weeks Tipple

Whilst being treated to a much appreciated dinner at the excellent Riddle & Finn's, I immensely enjoyed the sublimely light and refreshing Little Creature Pale Ale, brewed on an old crocodile farm in the habour in Freemantle , this great little brewery takes great pains to escape the shadow of Australia's considerable contribution to brewed horseshit.

With high citrus overtones it serves as a perfect morning beer settling you in for the throws of the oncoming day. Excellent with fish. 
Available in the UK (RRP £1.94 - 330ml) here

Dancing Girls!

We always love a pretty lady here at the clubhouse, and they didn't come much prettier than Ms.Lowe of Camden, Middlesex. Courtesy of those excellent purveyors of tasteful filth Esquire magazine.

The fantastic backing track is 'Tiger' by Maximum Balloon.   

Canaletto at the National

Last chance to catch Canaletto at the National Gallery


The Ataraxian is, as its name implies is a haven from the throws of the out-there, a place where conversation, opinion, reviews, suggestions, musings and stratagems play out there course. 
Like a pair of the brigadiers old red corduroys, the Ataraxians are deliberately  ridiculous, barely comprehensible  and frequently insulting . Forgive us our pretentious and condescensions and we shall forgive yours.

Come in, be seated, sigh your sigh and sip your drink....  after all it's your round.  
Ignorance is a crime and must be fought.