Saturday, October 31, 2009

Keep an eye out for Crinkly!

Crinkly is a Bewick Swan with an unusual double kink in her neck. She and her Bewick Swan friends should be arriving in Britain in the next few days, as part of their annual migration from Russia. If she makes it this year, she will have flown over 20,000 km in the course of her life so far.

If you see Crinkly, report the sighting to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.


v/a "The Kids at the Club: an Indiepop Compilation"

This has a great hat-trick of top tunes by people I know (broadly defined). First up there is Wintergreen's 'The Magic Road', that fascinating band's showstopping encore piece.. Then there is Shimura Curves with 'Noyfriend' – electropop shoegaze insanity, can you dig it? Finally, The Gresham Flyers blast past the keeper with 'Blackpool'.

I have not really bothered so much with the other tracks, but I am sure that, one day, I will have equally incisive things to say about them.

spooky panda

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fortran 5 "Bad Head Park"

I bought this from Oxfam for one track: 'Layla (Derek Sings Derek)'. It is a cover of the Derek and the Dominos classic, with the vocals by Derek Nimmo, created by sampling him saying the words separately in various sitcoms. It ends up sounding like he has no trousers on and is afraid that the vicar is going to walk up the drive – only he is the vicar. One day I hope to hear the other song where Fortran 5 play this game – 'Bike (Sid Sings Syd)' (where judicious sampling makes Sid James provide vocals for 'Bike' by Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd).

Other tracks include 'Fire In The Sky', a rave tune reminiscent of 'Smoke On The Water', boasting a wonderfully ominous vocal sample, and another piece called 'Choppers' with what sounds like the same guy delivering a looped report about helicopters flying by. I like all the named tracks, but fear that this early rave classic may not be fated to remain in Panda Mansions.

panda lady

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pas De Printemps Pour Marnie "Soon" (CD single)

I picked up this novelty item at Indietracks… it is basically some bunch of chancers covering three songs from My Bloody Valentine's Loveless album. While inessential, this record is enjoyable, emphasising the enveloping oceanic end of the MBV sound over the abrasive and combative.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

v/a "Ray Davies - Featuring His Funky Trumpet & The Button Down Brass"

This is a CD-R of stuff by Ray Davies – not the guy from The Kinks, but the other one, a trumpeter who played on a lot of library music stuff from the 1970s. This is incredible. In a good way. There has been a lot of parping in Panda Mansions since this came into our life.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nik Turner – live

This concert by the former Hawkwind sax sensation marked the first time I made my way to Dublin's legendary rock venue Fibber Magees. Unfortunately, the passage of time and a few too many sherries on the night mean that I cannot tell you too much about it. I recall liking the support acts. Sketchy entries in my notebook suggest that they were Ugly Megan ("semi-electronic") and Goodtime John ("folkie").

Nik Turner himself came on pretty late, meaning that I was not on top of my game the next day. As is his wont, the composer of 'Brainstorm' did not play any Hawkwind tunes, or anything that sounded like a Hawkwind tune, instead playing an odd confection of good natured tunes. I cannot say how well it went down with the attendees generally, but I enjoyed it.

More recently, friends of mine were at a wedding, and the wedding band was... Nik Turner! I think this is primarily an indication of how amazing the wedding was.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

A Trip to The Ballroom of Romance

The Ballroom of Romance is this occasional multi-band night, usually in the Lower Deck in Portobello. The bands on the bill tend to come from broadly the world of punk and avant garde music. It is usually an enjoyable night, even if many of the bands that play are not that great.

On the Friday after Indietracks, we made our way along to the latest Ballroom, partly as a palate cleanser after all the fey indie music we had seen the weekend before. We arrived a little bit late, missing the first band but catching the second, Kaplan. I liked them – they were loud, bassy, full of rock, very much the antithesis of what I had seen the week before. The fact, perhaps, that I had earlier had a load of beers with my workmates might have influenced my opinions. Maybe so, but even sober I would probably still have liked the chunking slabs of bass and the guitarist's solo riff action.

The next band were called Feed The Bears. Or maybe Free The Bears. They had joined the bill at the last minute because one of the bands (Hired Hands) had had to drop out, pleading swine flu. Like Hired Hands, Free The Bears have a mixed gender line-up and a somewhat folkie aspect. They were also not very rock, with their music being semi-acoustic. They also seemed a bit prog – not just in the sense of playing (some) long tunes with multiple movements and eccentric lyrics, but also in strange musical inventiveness. At times they seemed to be influenced by Congolese music, with guitar sounds reminiscent of Papa Wembe and then guitars managing to produce sounds like that of a thumb piano. I hope to see this lot again some time.

And finally we had Humble Grumble. At the Ballroom of Romance, the headliner tends to be the band who has come from the furthest away, but they always get to play for the least time, as the other bands all over-run, leaving the headliner up against the venue's curfew. So it was tonight. Humble Grumble are from darkest Belgium. They wear masks and dress up in funny clothes, of a sort that made me think that they might, at any moment, break into 'The Safety Dance'.

And they play funny music too, broadly of a jazz-influenced nature. It was of a high quality, if you like weirdo music. The lamer jokes of their guitarist/singer bloke only added to the quality – they seemed to come from a world of strangeness with no suggestion that they would be even remotely funny in the his first language. With the tunes themselves, maybe the one in which the guitarist kept calling out "I'm horneeee" (to which other band members reply "He's horneee") was the most memorable. This is not the same song as that 'I'm horny, horny-horny-horny' one from a few years ago, but the comparison is important – there is a big difference between two lovely ladies singing about how horny they are, and one big Belgian fellow telling us the same thing.

Closer examination of the lyrics suggests that this might actually be a song about animals with horns.

So anyway, we loved Humble Grumble so much that we almost invited them back to our place to shotgun scotch whisky, but instead we decided to just buy their CD. Our rubbish CD player is not so forward thinking and will not play all of this album properly. What we can hear does sound forward thinking, but they might be best appreciated live.

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If you want to look at pictures of random Irish posters, mostly political, then this might be the place for you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Have you ever wanted to look at puppies who are in training to become police dogs? Then this website is for you.

The puppies are not there right now, but they have some puppy pics.

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I recently bought some records - by Oneida

There are three of them. And the first one, Rated O is a triple album. That has to some extent made engaging with it a bit difficult, but I can confirm that it is forward thinking. It is also, after last year's Preteen Weaponry, the second in a trilogy of records that will herald a new age in the history of the world. What is odd about this one is the dance-music direction this record takes on some of the tracks. The opener, 'Brownout in Lagos'. sounds like it should be appearing on some Warp drill 'n' bass compilation. This is a great record, but I reckon that if you were new to the music of Oneida then maybe Preteen Weaponry would be the one to go for, if only because it is more manageably sized and thus easier to digest.

I bought two other records (by Oneida) at the Oneida concert. One of these is the wonderfully titled Come On Everybody Let's Rock. It is early Oneida, from 2000, before Each One Teach One (the album with 'Sheets of Easter'). It is a bit more based on normal songs than the full-on tunes they would later become famous for. The inner sleeve does however feature a great photograph of one of the band in the nip, his charms on full display.

The Wedding, meanwhile is more recent, from 2005. I listened to this before checking the date, and was surprised that it was so recent. The first couple of tracks do not sound like the Oneida we now know and love, but almost like some kind of lamer sub-Mercury Rev outfit. However, the last bloc of songs, beginning with 'Heavenly Choir' are ones of great power, tunes that will, I think, find their way into the ranks of any Oneida-lovers list of the best songs by Oneida.

Listening to these a bit more, I think The Wedding is the better of the two old ones. Come On Everybody Let's Rock is enjoyable enough, but it is with the later tracks on The Wedding that the Oneida we know and love now is more clearly starting to emerge. Even the beginning songs on The Wedding sound more promising when I return to them.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Superman: World of New Krypton" #8, by James Robinson, Greg Rucka, Pete Woods, and Ron Randall

The Kryptonians find themselves caught up in a huge ruck with the Thanagarians, who seem to be some lot of winged people who fly around in spaceships that look like birds. How could this have happened? A tragic misunderstanding, or perhaps a sinister plot? Fortunately Kal-El manages to sort things out, but now Callisto (formerly a moon of Jupiter) is now on a collision course with New Krypton. Oh noes.

That gets sorted out too.

I am starting to think that this title is in decline. Let us see what the next issue brings.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Sherlock Holmes" #5, by Leah Moore, John Reppion, and Aaron Campbell

This is the last issue of the story whose first episode ended with cops bursting into a locked room from which a shot had just been heard, only to meet Holmes standing there with some fellow dying from a gunshot wound and Holmes standing over him with a smoking revolver. In this one, the great detective finds himself on trial (conducting his own defence, naturally), supplying an ingenious solution to this whole conundrum.

This is a fundamentally good title – atmospheric art, basically good writing – but it does have one fault: the whole thing has been a bit drawn out. I think maybe they could have scrunched the five issue story into two, and one problem of it taking so long is that I find myself forgetting a lot of the details of earlier issues. I suppose this will not be a problem for those who read this when it is collected, but then why bother publishing it in issues first?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Batman & Robin" #5, by Grant Morrison, Philip Tan, and Jonathan Glapion

So Batman (now Dick Grayson, who used to be Robin) and Robin (this scary kid called Adam, Bruce Wayne's son by the daughter of sinister oriental mastermind Ra's Al-Ghul) find themselves fighting against the Red Hood and the Red Hood's creepy kid sidekick, only to discover that he is none other than Jason Todd, who used to be the second Robin. But wait, wasn't Robin dead? I seem to recall the Joker beating him to death with a monkey wrench, in a story where comics readers got to vote on whether he lived or died. Well of course, this is in the world of superhero comics, where no death is permanent. It seems as though he found his way into one of these Lazarus Pit things that bring the dead back to life.

I am beginning to wonder about this title… it is getting a bit too into continuity bullshit, and like many Morrison stories it is a bit hard to follow. Still, I will probably keep buying it on autopilot.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Criminal: The Sinners" #1, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Wow, these guys are really going for it, it seems like only ten minutes since the final issue of Incognito, the limited series about a supervillain on witness protection finished. This sees them return to the crime title they seem most at home on, with the issue number once more set back to #1. This brings back Tracy* Lawless, the sulky badass from the title's second story. Having deserted from the US army, he now finds himself working as a hitman for some shady crime lord. Lots of grim stuff happens, but this one seems to have more in the way of dark humour than previous episodes, which does rather lighten the mood. It also features the identikit Brubaker-Phillips lady character (in this book, the boss's wife, with whom Lawless is predictably having an affair), although this time they are trying to establish her individuality by giving her blonde hair. Anyway, it's all a bag of fun, with a great OMG last frame. And a big essay on some Sam Peckinpah film, which I have not read yet.

*you might think Tracy is a girl's name, but if you were to say this to Mr Lawless he would break every bone in your body.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Sweet Tooth" #2, by Jeff Lemire

OK, let's not hold back here – this is a work of genius. As mentioned previously, this is the one about the little boy with antlers and a faun-like face (and hooves, I've just noticed). Sudden violence has saved him from the sticky end his last issue, and now he has fallen in with a tough man who might or might not have his best interests at heart. From him we learn a bit more of what's going on (some kind of plague or something that is killing off all the normals but leading to births of weird hybrids like the boy who are immune). That said, we only have the tough guy's word for this, so anything could really be happening.

This is about atmosphere as much as plot, so, even if you think my outline sounds like the usual rubbish, I urge you to seek out this title.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Planetary" #27 by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday

Do you remember Planetary? It was the one about these three larger than life characters who investigated weird stuff, with the weird stuff often being based on well-known fictional (or, occasionally, real-life) characters or situations (so an early issues was set on an analogue of Monster Island and featured a character clearly modelled on Yukio Mishima). Over time, the story became rather focussed on attempts by Elijah Snow, the main character to overcome the blocks that someone had put into his memory, and on his struggle against The Four, sinister analogues of the Fantastic Four.

Anyway, I had thought that Planetary had finished a couple of years ago, when in #26 Snow managed to defeat the leader of The Four (supposedly the most powerful and brainy man in the world, for all his terrible evil) with an unconvincing parlour trick. But now Planetary is back! I think this is probably the last issue ever, as it feels like the title is just tidying up one remaining loose end. I found it a bit unsatisfying, the extra length and fold-out cover only serving to emphasise how this once-great title had rather trailed off over the last few issues. The art is nevertheless as stunning as ever, and the characters retain the epic quality that made the best issues so enjoyable.

One thing that was great about Planetary was that it was a very issues-based comic. They have issued collections, and the book reads well enough in them, but unlike so many comics today, this was written so that it could be enjoyed issue-by-issue. Each episode was typically self-contained – although the episodes would knit together to build a larger story, any given issue would usually work on its own. As someone who typically reads comics in floppy format, I must salute the title's creators.

There is a preview in this for some new steampunk zombie title. Dude, get with the programme - zombies are so over.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Indietracks: rounding off with some quick ones

A couple of other bands deserve quick mentions:

Tendertrap sounded pretty good, but we were wandering around the nearby farm looking at rabbits and llamas while they were playing. Their sound seems to have beefed up a bit, or maybe Amelia Fletcher (the singing economist) has always had a certain fondness for the hard-edges of music.
Cats on Fire were some Finnish fellows who seemed like a version of British Sea Power with better tunes and a more appealing frontman, surely a good thing.

Lucky Soul seem like the sort of band I should like, with their 60s influenced sound, suits and smartly dressed lady singer, but it did not come together for me.

Help Stamp Out Loneliness also had a smartly dressed lady singer, sporting a fetching hat of rather militaristic cast, but it was Mad For It Dave on guitars that I was more struck by.

And that's it, really. Would I go again? Yes I would, but I think if I did I would either bite early and book one of the handful of B&Bs in nearby Ripley, or (shudder) camp in the campsite attached to the park in which the railway centre lives. Staying in Nottingham and spending two hours a day on buses is very much the path of madness, particularly as the buses finish so early that you end up missing the last bands on Sunday.

One great thing about getting the bus back from Ripley was seeing this sleepy country town transformed. By day, Ripley seemed like somewhere where little happened, but on Saturday night the place became a centre for full-on mad for it action of a sort that would make Dublin's Temple Bar look like a place for the slippers and cocoa brigade.

And that's it for this year's indietracks, as I'm sure you will be pleased to hear.

more rabbit action

Monday, October 12, 2009

Indietracks: Are you ready Art Brut?

Emmy the Great was less enjoyable than in Dublin, partly because the Indietracks crowd seemed less into her and far more inclined to chatter away to their stupid friends over her not that loud music. But one band who did go down well, at least with me, were Art Brut. These fellows could not be described as twee indie-poppers, as they are a band comprising blokes (and one lady) who eminently live to rock, fronted by a guy whose thing seems to be drink-fuelled stream of consciousness vocals. He had a slightly combative relationship with the audience, berating them for their tweeness but accepting that, broadly speaking, the twee-fuckers and Art Brut are on the same side – for are we not all enemies of The Kings of Leon?

Art Brut also touched a lot of my buttons by singing songs about comics (OK so they were songs about rubbish DC comics, you can't have everything) and public transport (buses, admittedly), and they also sang a tune about male erectile dysfunction which dovetailed nicely with one about having an exciting new girlfriend. Fundamentally, though, one must emphasise Art Brut's total rock animal character, and the singer's endearing habit of beginning songs by shouting to the band "Are you ready Art Brut?" He also introduced the band – "Bass guitar – Art Brut. Lead guitar – Art Brut. Rhythm guitar – Art Brut". You get the picture.

Astonishingly, after Art Brut finished it was revealed that the festival had run out of beer. Yes, the pasty-faced legion of bedroom saddos had drunk the Midlands Railway Centre dry. So we left.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Indietracks – the killing continues

One great act I saw playing in the locomotive shed was called Disasteradio. This is basically one person, a New Zealander called Luke Rowell. The least Indietracks act imaginable, he played up-for-it electronic dance music – the kind of thing where you combine live generation of the music with weird treated vocals. The reaction was easy to imagine – armies of outraged indiekids fleeing from the venues, while others of their fellows were so incensed that a riot was a real prospect. But there were some of us who found it all rather entertaining.

What makes Disasteradio a lot more fun than the usual nerdy bloke making electronic music was Rowell's showman persona. He is the kind of guy who is great at working the crowd, and I reckon he would have gone down really well at a festival more open to mad-for-it electronic music. Even as it was, there were a good few forward thinking people who derived great enjoyment from his set. I must try and locate some of his recorded music.

The band who most lived the dream at the festival were probably Sucrette, Japanese indie-popper from somewhere in Japan. They are a band of unbelievable feyness, with their lead vocalist singing like a little girl and the music being generally like something for people who found Sarah bands a bit too hard-edged. They also really dressed the part. I am not sure if they were necessarily up to that much musically, but I must salute them for being the feyest of the fey, proving yet again that the Japanese do all sorts of music better than everyone else. Sucrette also seemed to remain in character while wandering around the festival site later in the day. Spirit of adventure.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Yet More Indietracks

This is turning into one of those boring series where I drone on about bands you've never heard of at some stupid festival I went to. Anyway, outside on the main stage (at Indietracks) I saw Nick Garrie, some folkie fellow from the 1960s. He released one album back then (but only in France), before sinking back into obscurity. Then Rev-Ola re-issued his record (and not just in France), apparently to some acclaim in retro-folk circles, and then he released an entirely new album on Elefant (the Spanish indie label sponsoring the festival).

I was not quite sure what to expect from him, I was thinking we could be looking at some lost folkie mentalist from the 60s, a kind of acid crazed lunatic who had only been coaxed back into the world of music by some sinister psychiatrist of dubious ethical provenance. But in reality perception, Nick Garrie is just some amiable older geezer who seems to have happily moved on when his 1960s musical career failed to take off. So while he seems happy to be playing music again, I did not get the impression that he has spent the last forty years moaning about how he could have been a contender.

Garrie's singing and guitar playing remain impressive, with his set blending old and new tunes seamlessly (mentioning occasionally that some of the old songs had full orchestral accompaniment on record). For most of the time he played largely on his own, with a couple of other musicians backing him unobtrusively.

Garrie was joined later on by some guests. One of these was a fellow I had seen wandering around the festival the day before. With his beardless moustache I briefly entertained the idea that he might be Lemmy from Motörhead, but with his hooded cardigan this seemed somewhat unlikely. When Nick Garrie introduced him, he was revealed to none other than indie legend Duglas (from the BMX Bandits). He helped Nick Garrie out on kazoo chores.

Garrie was also joined by his daughter, her friend, and a load of other children, who provided backing vocals on a song or two. It sounds dreadfully twee, I know, but it was actually quite sweet.

One day I will track down records by Nick Garrie.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

More Indietracks - now for some good music

Indietracks has three stages – an outdoor main stage, an indoor main stage (in a locomotive shed), and a second indoor stage in a small corrugated iron church. The Church was always full, and if you wanted to see anyone in particular playing in it you really needed to start queuing before the person on before them had finished (or even started), a lesson I consistently failed to learn over the weekend.

I did manage to see one band inside, the delightful Hong Kong In The 60s. This lot (two boys, one girl) play electronic tinged music that sounded largely like it would be more at home at another festival entirely, perhaps one aimed at people who like experimental music. They still worked here because they were not so forward thinking that they would frighten the horses. The music is still tunes-based, and perhaps a bit wistful and melancholic, and I suppose people might lump them in with Stereolab or Broadcast, but they are a good bit less in-your-face.

I did just about manage to get into the Church in time to see the last few songs of The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut (after queuing outside for some time with these Scottish fellows who were extolling the virtues of the Wicker Man Festival. Pete Green is kind of like a cross between neo-folkie singer-writer music and fey indiepop. This means that he ought to be rubbish, but no – he is awesome. As are his Corporate Juggernaut, basically his backing band.

Pete Green's songs are all nicely observational, sung in a regional accent, and the playing creates a pleasing musical environment. The big hit would have to be 'Best British Band Supported By Shockwaves', a caustic commentary on the depths to which the NME has fallen. That it makes the false assumption that the NME was ever about the music does not detract from the enjoyment it offers. Pete Green also played an unlikely yet storming cover of Shocking Blue's 'Send Me A Postcard'.

The third great church act were The Specific Heats. We only heard them from outside, occasionally pressing our faces against the window to see them (and, we realised later, making ourselves look like total spas to the people inside). They served up a garagey surf rock sound. If from outside their singer lacked a certain testifyin' "YEOOOOWWW!"-ness, I would have to still accept that they totally went for it musically and I wish I had been inside to see them. Looking in through the window, I was particularly impressed by their lady bassplayer, who seemed to be really going for it.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ian's World of Brainy Music

Two bits of exciting news for brainy music fans. First of all, there is a new issue of the Journal of Music out. They seem to be eschewing their previously tried and trusted approach of putting an attractive young lady on the cover, but there are some interesting articles inside. I particularly liked Raymond Deane's review of a book about music by well-known philosopher Roger Scruton, though I would have liked if it had gone on a bit longer and featured more Scruton kebab action.

One thing I like about the Journal of Music is that it breaks away from the interview-review straitjacket beloved of other magazines. Instead it features a lot of articles about music rather than interviews with boring musicians. It does have reviews, but they seem a bit less pro-forma than elsewhere. Anyway, check it out for yourself... it is available from many outlets and can be subscribed to online.

The other fascinating development is the launch of Kaleidoscope, a monthly night of live brainy music curated by Kate Ellis and ClĂ­odhna Ryan (at least one of whom is in new music sensations the Crash Ensemble). It is on on the first Tuesday of every month, in the Odessa Club (in Dublin, so you won't be able to go to it if you live in Reykjavik). I have been thinking for a while that what Dublin needs is something like this, serving up live new music on a regular basis, and now we have it. Sadly, I missed the opening night, but I see that the next event is scheduled for the 3rd November.

i n d i e t r a c k s - start with the bad

Indietracks is this annual music festival, based around indie pop music. It takes place at the Midlands Railway Centre, a railway museum in Derbyshire (near where the BNP hold their annual garden party). I found myself in attendance, lured along as much by the trains and the promise of all kinds of real ale as the music. I saw a lot of bands, many of whom self-identified as twee in a rather alarming fashion. In general, the music at the festival came from a narrow band, and I found myself primarily enjoying those who most deviated from the no-hoper indie schmindie model.

Let's get the bad bands out of the way first.

Do you remember 1990s band [REDACTED]? They went away, but now they are back! From a musical point of view, it might be best if they had stayed away, as their songs are not really up to much. However, their between song patter is of such an exceptionally high quality that perhaps a future as a successful live band awaits – if perhaps they could just not play any songs and instead treat us to an all patter show. Or maybe they could do the between song patter for other bands, ones whose talents primarily lie in the realm of music.

Another essentially rubbish band were [REDACTED]. Their big song starts off with the 'Be My Baby' drum-roll (as do many songs), then sounds like the start of the Eastenders music, and then it settles down as a knock-off of Tracy Ullman's 'They Don't Know' (itself probably a cover). Baby! Avoid. For some reason their song was being played on every stage between bands. SuXoR.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Cats, Hitler, the Humourless, Nazis

The gang's all here.

There is this website called Cats That Look Like Hitler, on which people post pictures of cats who look a bit like well-known 20th century dictator Adolf Hitler; the cats are referred to as "kitlers". It's somewhat amusing rather than roffletastically funny. What is funny are all the hostile comments they have received. These range from the usual complaints about mocking the victims of the Nazis to a wonderful comment from some subliterate called Barney who reckons they are mocking the greatest strategic genius who ever lived.

What do you think?

Today's featured Kitler's name is Poldi.