29 July 2012

A well-earned hiatus

Goodness me, it's been ages since I've posted anything to the VFB. Attention has been elsewhere - at Slightly Intrepid, my main blogging focus, to be precise. With regret, I should probably mark the retirement of the site as a going concern. Generally, when I come across the sort of material that would have once been earmarked for this site, it now goes onto the aforementioned SI blog or just onto Facebook where relatively like-minded souls might enjoy it.

The Very Friday Blog started in late 2000 or early 2001 as an email circular, heavily indebted to Deeknow, who included me on his own mailing list. I copied the idea and set about spreading timewasting internet ephemera in time for Friday morning-tea, mainly to divert my then work colleagues. I still have a batch of those old Word version Very Friday Emails (VFEs), and they progressively increased in size as I secured more source material. VFE4 in February 2001, the earliest one I still have, was a modest five pages, while VFE108 from April 2005 (the last Word version I have) weighed in at a hefty 22 pages.

I tested the waters of online publishing early on, with an abortive attempt to use the now-defunct Homestead hosting site in 2002. Surprisingly, that Very Friday site is still up - from memory I got locked out of editing it somehow, and in any case the Homestead interface was annoying to work with. Much later I settled on the now-prominent Blogger network, and in May 2005 I made my first post to this blog - a typically brief joke about no-smoking areas in French restaurants. Following in its wake were 1226 other posts, with the most popular tag being the general all-purpose 'nifty' appellation (344 posts) followed by 'NZ' (152 posts), which generally consisted of peculiar stories from New Zealand's regional newspapers, which may never have graced the blogosphere, I like to think.

Certain sources became the mainstay of the VFE back-catalogue. The Onion, naturally, but also Private Eye, Popbitch, Buzz.se and Lileks were amongst the roster. Plus the aforementioned trawls through the more obscure portions of the Stuff.co.nz stable - the Timaru Herald and the Southland Times often providing sterling service in this regard. And in examining the blog traffic stats, certain posts regularly rose to the top of the ratings. Here's the top 5 Very Friday Blog posts by views in the past four years, according to Blogger:

  1. Let's all go get positively alabandical (2006, 975 views)
  2. Hens in the skirting board (2009, 550 views)
  3. Illiterate spirit frustrates Ouija-Board players (2006, 431 views)
  4. Penguin bat game (2005, 399 views)
  5. Rosamund Pike spices up the Baftas (2011, 348 views) 

It warms my heart to think that in 12 years I have in some small way filled vital and hitherto uncharted gaps in the internet's understanding of the human condition, and the above list illustrates this point marvellously. Who could fail to love the word 'alabandical', for which my post is the second-listed search result on Google? Victoria Wood's Acorn Antiques sketch, containing a top performance from Julie Walters and the singular 'hens in the skirting board' line, does even better, being the number one Google result. Clearly, not that many people search Google for that exact phrase, but if they do - or better yet, if they hit 'I'm Feeling Lucky', if anyone does that these days - they come straight to the VFB. Job well done, that. Although it only provides a few words and links to the Youtube video, so I can't claim to have added an awful lot of value. The Ouija-Board item is a good representative of the traditional paragraph length pieces from The Onion that were perfect VFB fodder. And the Penguin Bat Game has long featured in my top posts, being popular with surfers across the world, particularly those from US military addresses. (That link above no longer works, but you can find it here, or at least one very like it). And lastly, a bit of live TV gold from last year's Baftas, with the lovely Rosamund Pike nearly giving the game away.

I'm only sorry there wasn't room in the list for the incomparably excellent Monkey Diving dame, which caused so many lost hours of productivity in certain early 21st century workplaces. There have also been brushes with fame, like the visit and comment from the judge from the Philippines accused of consulting imaginary mystical dwarves when forming his verdicts, and the brief flamewar with a promoter of the thoroughly stylish and not-at-all-silly-looking mantyhose. Yes, it is what you think it is.

So, unless I change my mind, this will be the last VFB post for the time being. Head on over to Slightly Intrepid for a mix of Very Friday-ish things and the odd photograph or travel blog. And thank you for visiting!

23 February 2012

No pickle, no performance

[Harold Kennedy's] book [No Pickle, No Performance] is dedicated to actress Renee Taylor, who refused to come on stage during a play's opening night until she got a pickle with her sandwich, as she had during the previews. The coffee shop that had provided those sandwiches was closed, and the curtain was held while a prop man got in his car and went searching for the holy pickle. It arrived seven minutes after the advertised curtain time, and the show went on.

Unknown to Taylor, the stage crew was so enraged by her antics that they performed "a little ceremony" with the pickle before giving it to her. Gloria Swanson later said: "Poor Miss Taylor. Can't you see her shopping around to every delicatessen in New York complaining that she can never find a pickle to match the caliber of the one she had in New Jersey."

- Max Millard, interviewing Harold Kennedy, TV Shopper, 22 July 1978

21 December 2011

How to refuse a Christmas drink

During the socially fraught Christmas party season it's always advisable to have a legitimate-sounding reason to turn down a drink, but now the "I'm driving" ploy has been exposed (thank you, Medical Research Council, which conducted the study), what's needed are a few surefire excuses that will stop you getting served right away – no further questions asked:

"No thanks. I get really racist after a few drinks."

"Before I accept, I should warn you I brought a guitar with me."

"I love drinking, but it doesn't half make me vomit."

"Not for me, I have a flight to catch later on. No, I'm a pilot."

"I know I don't look it, but I'm only 15. It's a long and deeply disturbing story."

"A few more of these and I'll be ready to describe my unpublished novel to you!"

"Just the one – I left my tiny children home alone with nothing but an angry dog and a gas fire for company."

"I would, only I swallowed all these condoms full of drugs earlier."

"Well, it breaches the terms of my Asbo, but what the hell – it's Christmas!"

- Tim Dowling, Guardian, 15 December 2011

05 December 2011

Pippa Middleton's new book

A predictable wave of rage greets the news that Pippa Middleton is writing a party planning guide, for the amusing fee of £400,000.

We've been here before, when the Middleton parents were accused of "plotting to cash in on the royal wedding" by selling party props. That is one serious plot. They started a company selling party props in 1987. So the ground was laid for the Great Bunting Wheeze when the potential royal bride was only five years old; eat your heart out, Guy Fawkes.

The nation, or at least its gruesome reflection on TV discussion shows (a self-selecting bunch, you have to admit), is "shocked anew" at this latest cash cow from the royal in-laws. What on earth can Pippa advise about parties that's worth so much money?

("Fast of all, make sure you have enough chars. It is rarely important – like, rarely rarely important – that everyone can sit dyne. This is even true if you're iteside. And nobody wants a hog roast in the jolly old rain, so a marquee is a tairbly good idea…"?)

- Victoria Coren, Observer, 4 December 2011

27 November 2011

New Order

'We picked the name New Order in complete innocence. Rob [Gretton] came up with it after reading about Kampuchea in the newspaper. We released our first bloody record and everybody's like, "You've done it again you Nazi bastards". We said, Fucking hell! Why didn't you tell us it was also Hitler's new order?! We kind of laughed at our own stupidity and thought, It's fairly typical of the way we do things, let's stick with it'.

- Bernard Sumner, Mojo, July 2011

19 November 2011

Growing up in the Waikato

'They had an escalator in Hamilton - one at 2-4-6, I think.  We used to go ride it on a Friday night - that was the best thing going'.

- Neil Finn on growing up in Te Awamutu, Radio New Zealand, 19 November 2011

23 October 2011

Till their eyes are almost staring out of their heads

From a biography of 18th century English explorer Samuel Hearne (1745-92), who travelled extensively in the vast northern regions around Hudson's Bay, a discussion of Hearne's record of the medical traditions of the Dene Indians (First People):

The Dene had conjurors of their own, highly skilled men who reminded Hearne of magicians and 'jugglers' (sleight-of-hand artists) he had seen working the streets of London. To treat injuries, Dene conjurors would blow, spit and suck on the wound, or else chant over it unintelligibly. 

'For some inward complaints, such as griping in the intestines, difficulty in making water, etc., it is very common to see those jugglers blowing into the anus, or into the parts adjacent, till their eyes are almost staring out of their heads; and this operation is performed indifferently on all, without regard to either age or sex. The accumulation of so large a quantity of wind is at times apt to occasion some extraordinary emotions, which are not easily suppressed by a sick person; and as there is no vent for it but by the channel through which it was conveyed thither, it sometimes occasions an odd scene between the doctor and his patient; which I once wantonly called an engagement, but for which I was afterwards exceedingly sorry, as it highly offended several of the Indians; particularly the juggler and the sick person, both of whom were men I much esteemed, and, except in that moment of levity, it had ever been no less my inclination than my interest to show them every respect that my situation would admit... Being naturally not very delicate, they frequently continue their windy process so long, that I have more than once seen the doctor quit his patient with a face and breast in a very disagreeable condition. However laughable this may appear to an European, custom makes it very indecent, in their opinion, to turn any thing of the kind to ridicule'.

- Samuel Hearne, quoted in Ken McGoogan, Ancient Mariner, London, 2004.

07 October 2011

The dignity of scientific endeavours

Defences were found against U-boats. The great (New Zealand) physicist Sir Ernest Rutherford was held upside-down from a rowing boat above the Firth of Forth to see if he could hear anything, and eventually a hydrophone was invented, able to hear underwater noise.

-          Norman Stone, World War One: A Short History, London, 2007, p.102

15 September 2011

No bananas for Plato

Kaspar say when he were rilly young he crave adventure so he go to Balaclava. He do the spellings so I know I got it right. Balaclava is near Sevastopol.

'There I am making the Grand Crimean Central Railway. I am that which you English people call a navvie'.

'I aint a Inglish people'.

'I beg your pardon. Are you only borrowing that nose and mouth? Are you speaking their language only for a time?'

'I want coin,' I say, hoping to end talk that turn sly.

'What are you desiring coin for, liebling?'


Kaspar reply to me, 'Plato is saying that there is only one thing for which all coin should be exchanged, and that is wisdom'.

Prolly Playtoe never et a binarna.

- 'Halfie', in Hokitika Town by Charlotte Randall, 2011

14 September 2011

Heaven and hell to merge services

It has just been announced by a joint panel of representatives from both above and below that Heaven and Hell are to merge many of their services in an attempt to reach budget targets set by their respective bosses.

According to a press release, admin and some policy roles currently supporting both Saints and Sinners are to be cut back with many positions merged into one service.

The aim is to continue delivering the complete heaven/hell experience to those who arrive but reduce the amount of paperwork required for the process [...]

The statement said the proposed amalgamation of the policy divisions of heaven and hell would bring a more robust approach to the development of guiding documents. It cited the Ten Commandments as a classic example of great policy writing.

"There are only 10 bullet points in the entire document. They are succinct, devoid of waffle and easy to understand. The mission statement developed by those managing hell is also sharp and to the point. Terms like fire, brimstone and damnation are very evocative and clearly represent the nature of the experience awaiting those heading that way.

"Merging these two different messages into one brief directive: "Good or Evil - You Choose" then syndicating the concept to a reality TV programme will reduce staffing costs and boost profits."

- Terry Sarten, Wanganui Chronicle, 28 August 2011