31 December 2007

Somebody get this man an agent!

Multi-media personalidee Che Tibby conquers the organs of the fourth estate one by one, in 2007's most prominent celebrity diarrhoea reportage.

"It was probably by evening that I started to get... a feeling of urgency," he says diplomatically. "There was a mass evacuation – it was like people leaving the Twin Towers on 9/11."

- Dominion Post, 28 December 2007

[Source: Ricc]

30 December 2007

Similes and shoplifting

Two notable English football stories from 2007.  First, we hark back to the wonderful command of the English language of the former Chelsea coach:
Young players are a little bit like melons. Only when you open and taste the melon are you 100 per cent sure that the melon is good. Sometimes you have beautiful melons but they don't taste very good and some other melons are a bit ugly and when you open them, the taste is fantastic… For example, Scott Sinclair, the way he played against Arsenal and Man United, we know the melon we have.
Jose Mourinho, 9 June 2007 (source: Londonist)
And second, a reminder that even well-paid professional footballers succumb to the baser urges of mankind:
Glen Johnson and Ben May, the Portsmouth full-back and Millwall striker, [were] arrested by a 74-year-old security guard for stealing a toilet seat and taps from B&Q in Dartford.  Bless.
Sunday Times, 30 December 2007  

23 December 2007

Students? You think?

Bad santas storm Christchurch cinema

Swearing Santas who had drunk a sleighful upset children with their presence at a Christchurch movie theatre. A drunken mob of rude oafs swarmed into the Hoyts Cinema on Moorhouse Avenue around 4pm on Saturday, wreaking havoc.

Kate Gorman was waiting to watch Enchanted with her two children when they arrived.

"At least 50 drunk idiots dressed up like Santa come in through the main door. They were kicking things over, ripping down posters and smashing everything in sight. They were shouting `Ho, f.... Ho'," she told the Christchurch Press.

Police told the Press they thought the Santas may have been students.

- NZPA, 24 December 2007

Bush Acknowledges Existence Of Carbon Dioxide

WASHINGTON — In an unexpected reversal that environmentalists and scientists worldwide are calling groundbreaking, President George W. Bush, for the first time in his political career, openly admitted to the existence of carbon dioxide following the release of the new U.N. Global Environment Outlook this October.

"Carbon dioxide, a molecule which contains one atom of carbon bonded with two atoms of oxygen, is a naturally occurring colorless gas exhaled by humans and metabolized, in turn, by plants," Bush told a stunned White House press corps. "As a leading industrialized nation, we can no longer afford to ignore the growing consensus of so many experts whose job it is to study our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is real."

Many of those whom Bush has long considered to be his most loyal followers, however, have expressed disappointment with the development.

"There is nothing about any 'carbon dioxide' in the Bible," said Rev. Luke Hatfield of Christchurch Ministries in Topeka, KS. "What's next? Claims that so-called 'fossil' fuels come from mythical creatures like dinosaurs? This has been a sad step backward for our nation."

- The Onion, 21 December 2007

Fine, except when it snows

'A restaurateur in Lower Saxony has refused to be deterred by the state's new ban on smoking in bars and restaurants: He has sawed three holes in the wall so patrons can smoke "outside." With the "smoking point," customers can put their heads through the large hole in the middle and one hand through each of the two smaller side-holes. The patrons can then legally enjoy a cigarette without having to leave the comfort of the inn'

- Der Spiegel, 20 December 2007

[Link includes pictures]

Pro-street Romania

The best (and only) Romanian street-racing website in English! I've just watched the video and am green with envy, not to mentioned gripped with fear at the massive speeds reached by these sleek road warriors. "Is slippery. Like snake!"

Pro-street Romania

Binocular football

It's quite hard to play football if you can only view the ball through binoculars, as this Japanese TV clip from 1984 illustrates.

Word up!

From a collection of new words observed in 2007:
bromance n.  A strong relationship between two heterosexual men.
global weirding n.  An increase in severe or unusual environmental activity often attributed to global warming. This includes freakish weather and new animal migration patterns.

n.  On the Internet, an odd or funny picture of a cat given a humorous and intentionally ungrammatical caption in large block letters. Originally called a cat macro.

post-kinetic environment n.  In military jargon, the site of an explosion, severe gunfire or a destructive engagement.

wide stance, to have a v. phr. To be hypocritical or to express two conflicting points of view. When Senator Larry Craig was arrested in a public restroom and accused of making signals with his foot that the police said meant he was in search of anonymous gay sex, Mr. Craig said it was a misunderstanding and that he just had a wide stance when using the toilet. The incident also popularized the derogatory term "toe-tapper," meaning a gay man.

- New York Times, 23 December 2007

20 December 2007

The rudest Xmas letter ever written

Not really rude by any means, but definitely a mordantly funny month-by-month summary of 2007 by critic Roger Lewis: guaranteed to amuse.  (See link below for full article).
October: I presented the prizes at a comprehensive school in South Wales. The girl who won for 100 per cent attendance during her whole school career didn't show up to collect her book token, which was ironic. "Fail! She can't have it, now!" I said. I asked for a glass of red wine at the buffet; an HM Bateman moment because only card-carrying poofters drink wine in South Wales. The metalwork teacher had to put on a disguise and run up the road to Oddbins. They gave me a bottle of Talisker Single Malt as a gift, which still had its security tag on. "You have very good shoplifters here," I said to the headmaster. The alarms went off as we drove home past the off licence. Even I'd have seen the funny side if the VIP guest speaker at a Welsh comprehensive school had ended up handcuffed in the cells of the local nick.
- The Independent, 20 December 2007

17 December 2007

To be played with a straight bat and a straight face

"Who made them boring?"
Looking straight at the camera, a deadpan Richie Benaud responds to Geoff Boycott's call for four-day Tests because five days are, apparently, boring
- Cricinfo, 'Quote ... unquote' 

Precocious youth

Beer not a study aid
'A Somerfield store in Brighton has been ordered to introduce ultra-violet security tags on all beer and wine to help police to trace any alcohol illegally sold to teenagers. The store, which has twice been caught selling to minors, will also be banned from selling alcohol in May, when students are revising for GCSEs'
- The Times, 17 December 2007

11 December 2007

A little confidence goes a long way in Hollywood


- Legendary scriptwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz's 1926 telegram to New York friend Ben Hecht

[Mankiewicz (1897-1953) won the award for Best Screenplay for Citizen Kane at the 1942 Oscars. By then Hecht (1894-1964) had already won two scriptwriting Oscars, in 1929 for Underworld and 1936 for The Scoundrel]

10 December 2007

Some people are never satisfied

France will today request the return to French soil of the remains of its last emperor and first president, Napoleon III. After lying ignored in a crypt in an English abbey for 120 years, the exiled emperor's ashes are suddenly the subject of a French ministerial delegation intent on repatriating them to the republic he helped bring about.

Christian Estrosi, the French secretary of state for overseas territories, said: "This trip will be for me an occasion to send a clear message to the British, to thank them for all they did for the imperial couple in exile, but also to remind them that we have some rights over them."
But Mr Estrosi, who will visit St Michael's Abbey, Hampshire, to request the return of the ashes, may receive a frosty reception from the abbey's Benedictine monks. They say the French disowned their former leader and continue to ignore his legacy.
In a statement to the French people, Abbot Cuthbert Brogan, who runs the abbey, said: "Unlike the English, who are very interested in the memory of your last emperor, not a single French person comes and meditates at the crypt where his remains lie.
"I hope that your overseas minister is coming to ask for forgiveness. It's the least he can do in terms of politeness because you, the French, attach great importance to politeness."
Commenting on Mr Estrosi's intention to spend 10 minutes in silent reverence by the tomb, the abbot went on: "Ten minutes for a silence of 120 years! They are not interested in the remains at all.
"What do you think of someone who has shown no interest in someone for much of his life and who suddenly claims, more than a century later, that the body belongs to him?"
- Daily Telegraph, 10 December 2007
[Hang on Mr Abbot, just a moment ago you said that no-one from France ever came to pay their respects.  And now one does, a secretary of state no less, and now ten minutes isn't enough? You're a hard abbot to please...]

03 December 2007

So, just to clarify, are you or aren’t you?

"He is categorically not with me. It's absolutely nothing to do with me. There is no way he is with me, there is no way he left for me, there is just no way. I am not involved in this in any way."
- Auckland businesswoman Diane Foreman has a Bill Clinton moment, Sunday Star Times, 2 December 2007 
[Courtesy of Felix]

29 November 2007

Taranaki writer pens Taranaki-related headline of the year

'New claims rock jandal orthodoxy' is pretty hard to beat, I think you'll find.  And don't forget to watch out for those pesky ceaseless icon thieves, either.   
- Taranaki Daily News, 29 November 2007

23 November 2007

What's my daemon?

At the moment apparently she's Vyena the gibbon. A gibbon, eh? I hope she's funky, at the very least.

22 November 2007

How To Sleep

Robert Benchley's short film from 1935 won an Oscar, don'tcha know. Pay attention in front! No drifting off.

[Source: mentioned in the New York Times]

Exceeding KPIs earns you priority entry to heaven

The Vatican has announced performance bonuses for its employees, bringing 'an element of incentive and remuneration into the Vatican salary system'.  But surely everyone knows that most people just photocopy their workmates' old performance appraisals anyway?
BBC News, 22 November 2007

08 November 2007

Far-fetched story of the week

Schoolboy's birthday treat?  A class stripper
A stunned schoolboy was given a birthday to remember when a stripper performed a no-holds-barred routine for him - while he was still in class.  The youngster's mother asked an agency to send a man dressed in a gorilla suit to mark his 16th birthday.  But the booking got mixed up and a 'sexy policewoman' turned up at the unnamed lad's drama class.  His fellow students could only look as she stripped off and invited him to rub cream on her bottom.  Now education officials have launched an investigation into the incident at Arnold Hill School in Nottingham.  A witness said: 'We were in shock'.
- Metro, 8 November 2007
[Imagine the kid's conversation with his mum when he got home from school that day...]

03 November 2007

A glutton for punishment

"I'm going to go with something Japanese this time"

- Vince 'Will he never learn' Mattingley, who had his name tattooed on his chest in Chinese 26 years ago and has just discovered that it actually spells 'Coca-Cola' (Source: Guardian, 27 October 2007)

20 October 2007

An unlikely England supporter

How long has Kenny Rogers been an England rugby supporter? And sir, respect for your immaculate beard, but in this day and age it's frowned upon to use the phrase 'French bastards'.

08 October 2007

Failure to keep a sense of perspective

'Anton Oliver reckoned the All Blacks dressing room [after the ignominious exit from the Rugby World Cup] had the same stench of death as a World War 1 battle field'
Stuff.co.nz, 8 October 2007
[Courtesy of FFA.  Jeez, people - it's only a bloody game!]

07 October 2007

Two cheers for the 21st century

The annual Ig Noble prizes for 2007, awarded by the science humour magazine Annals of Improbable Research, have been presented at a
ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Highlights included: "Chemistry" - Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Centre of Japan, for developing a way to extract vanillin, or vanilla fragrance and flavouring, from cow dung. "Linguistics" - Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles, of Universitat de Barcelona, for a study showing rats sometimes fail to distinguish between a person speaking Japanese backwards and a person speaking Dutch backwards. "Peace Prize" - The Air Force Wright Laboratory, Dayton, Ohio, for instigating research and development on a chemical weapon, the so-called "gay bomb", that "will make enemy soldiers become sexually irresistible to each other". "Economics" - Kuo Cheng Hsieh, of Taichung, Taiwan, for patenting a device in 2001 that catches bank robbers by dropping a net over them, known as the "net trapping system for capturing a robber
- Reuters
[Courtesy of FFA]

24 September 2007

Hasn't he heard of Gran Turismo?

An English car delivery driver has been jailed for 10 weeks and banned from driving for three years after 'borrowing' a Porsche 911 Turbo from his place of work and being caught in a motorway speed-trap travelling at 172mph (276km/h), which is the fastest recorded ticket ever issued.  Sounds like his boss was wise to his game: he 'had asked his boss if could take the Porsche out the previous day but was repeatedly told no, the court heard'. 
- Daily Telegraph, 24 September 2007

22 September 2007

Penelope: Princess of Pets

Comedian Kristen Schaal (of Flight of the Conchords fame) has laid the foundations for a superhero saga of epic proportions and legendary badness-whuppin' prowess... yes, it's Penelope, Princess of Pets!

Warning: contains oddness and irritable avians.

16 September 2007

Sensitive, me?

'Thanks for the question, you little jerk.  You're drafted'
- Sen. John McCain, responding jokingly to a high school questioner who commented that at 71, he might be too old to serve as President (quoted in Time, 17 September 2007)

15 September 2007

I hope he used 'protection'

'Former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage likens US relations with New Zealand at present to "dating".

"It's just like dating. I think we are on a date now," he said at the second US-NZ Partnership Forum in Auckland, which finished yesterday'

- NZ Herald, 12 September 2007

12 September 2007

A firm basis for policy-making

'I am an engineer, a master of calculation and tabulation.  I write out hypotheses for hours, I reject and I prove them again.  I make plans based on reason and proof'

- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his calculations as an engineer as well as his belief in god convince him that Iran will not be attacked by western powers trying to end its nuclear programme [Source: Reuters, quoted in New Scientist, 8 September 2007]

19 August 2007

On the semiotics of Ghostbusters

Okay, I know it's a corporate advert, but I still liked it. They play it at the Prince Charles all the time and it still gets a snicker from the audience.

12 August 2007

Think before you Facebook

Tom Beech, 20, an employee of UK retailer Argos, was sacked for gross misconduct when his employers discovered he'd set up a Facebook page titled "I Work At Argos And Can't Wait To Leave Because It's Shit". Beech was quoted as saying:

I'm stunned they've fired me for this. I had a really bad day and was feeling overworked and underpaid.

- Guardian, 11 August 2007

06 August 2007

Frogs' legs

I once went out walking in the Languedoc with a retired army general who always wore long trousers, even in the blistering heat. When I asked him why he did not wear shorts he looked at me sadly and said "there's already enough suffering in the world".
- John Laurenson, BBC News, 4 August 2007

02 August 2007

This man was born in 1917

And he's third in line for the US presidency. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) sure does like the word 'barbaric', or maybe repetition was just way more popular back in the days before the talkies came along.

[Courtesy of Ruth]

How to speak Lawyer

'Section 13 abolished the common law offences of champerty and barratry, challenging to fight, eavesdropping or being "a common scold or a common night walker." It also repealed the offence of praemunire, which had survived on the statute books since 1392. It preserves the common law offence of embracery'
- Wikipedia, on the (UK) Criminal Law Act 1967

Just one little word too many

Jola, 21, au pair

'In Belsize Park, I loved the summer house.  The father was very handsome.  The mother was pretty because she'd had a little plastic surgery.  At first, she liked me but we had an argument.  She called down the stairs, "Jola, the children are calling!".  I said, "I think they are calling you".  She said, "And I expect you to go to them".  I said, "Your husband is telling me about Hong Kong.  Two minutes, please".  Then she said, "You impertinent slut".  Then upstairs, she let me hear her say she had wanted a gay man as the au pair.  I said, "And what if the gay man was also attracted to your husband?".  I should not have said "also"'.

- Metro.co.uk, 2 August 2007

31 July 2007

Zen and the art of Dudeliness

'For me, the Dude has a certain type of wisdom. I like to call it the "Wisdom of Fingernails": the wisdom that gives you the ability to make your hair and fingernails grow, your heart beat, your bowels move. These are things that we know how to do, but we don't necessarily know how we know how to do them, yet still we do them very well. And that to me is very Dude. It's not like he's a know-it-all, the Dude. He's not a guy who has figured out the way to be or anything like that, but he is comfortable with what he's got, and, as the Stranger says, things turn out pretty well for him. I guess we can all take comfort in that because - who knows? - things may turn out pretty well for us, too'

- Jeff Bridges on The Big Lebowski, from the foreword to "I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski", quoted in Guardian, 27 July 2007

[Courtesy of Louwrens]

28 July 2007

Fair swap

'Dear USA. You have David and Victoria Beckham for the next five years. Would you please keep them? We had them here once and it was horrible. We've taken Madonna off your hands, so shall we call it square?  Yours, the Rest of the World'

24 July 2007

Contributing to moral decay in canine circles

'In 1955, Walt Disney was furious that his animated feature The Lady and the Tramp failed to garner even one nomination from the Academy. He blamed the Catholic church, which had come out strongly against the canine romance because it celebrated relations between an unmarried couple'

- The Observer Book of Film, 2007

18 July 2007

Okay, now you're creeping me out

"You have to look at why sex was created," Eric Love, the director of the East Texas Abstinence Program, which runs Virginity Rules, said one day, the sounds of Christian contemporary music humming faintly in his Longview office. "Sex was designed to bond two people together."

To make the point, Mr. Love grabbed a tape dispenser and snapped off two fresh pieces. He slapped them to his filing cabinet and the floor; they trapped dirt, lint, a small metal bolt. "Now when it comes time for them to get married, the marriage pulls apart so easily," he said, trying to unite the grimy strips. "Why? Because they gave the stickiness away"

- Abstinence education faces an uncertain future, New York Times, 18 July 2007

17 July 2007

On the rubbishness of Harry Potter

Nicholas Lezard, on the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling:

'...[F]or all that she is gifted enough in devising popular scenarios, the words on the page are flat. I think it was Verlaine who said that he could never write a novel because he would have to write, at some point, something like "the count walked into the drawing-room" - not a scruple that can have bothered JK Rowling, who is happy enough writing the most pedestrian descriptive prose.

Here, from page 324 of The Order of the Phoenix, to give you a typical example, are six consecutive descriptions of the way people speak. "...said Snape maliciously"; "... said Harry furiously", "... he said glumly", "... said Hermione severely", "... said Ron indignantly", "... said Hermione loftily". Do I need to explain why that is such second-rate writing?

If I do, then that means you're one of the many adults who don't have a problem with the retreat into infantilism that your willing immersion in the Potter books represents. It doesn't make you a bad or silly person. But if you have the patience to read it without noticing how plodding it is, then you are self-evidently someone on whom the possibilities of the English language are largely lost.

This is the kind of prose that reasonably intelligent nine-year-olds consider pretty hot stuff, if they're producing it themselves; for a highly-educated woman like Rowling to knock out the same kind of material is, shall we say, somewhat disappointing'

- Nicholas Lezard, Guardian Arts blog, 17 July 2007

Feeding baby: GOOD. Cat urine in hair: BAD

Parents 'played computer games as babies starved'

A couple in Reno, Nevada, have admitted child neglect after allegedly becoming so obsessed with online games that they left their babies to starve. The 22-month-old boy and an 11-month-old girl were severely malnourished and near death last month when social workers took them to hospital, authorities said. Both were doing well in foster care, prosecutor Kelli Ann Viloria told the Reno Gazette-Journal. Michael Straw, 25, and Iana Straw, 23, face up to 12 years in prison. Police said the girl's hair was matted with cat urine while her brother's lack of muscle development caused him difficulty in walking.
Associated Press in Reno, United States

16 July 2007

On literary critics

'I perused all the newspapers attentively. The Spectator and Athenaeum amused me. The critics of these papers are, I doubt not, acute men in their way - theirs is not the shallow weakness of The Observer and the Daily News. But when called on to criticise works of imagination, they stand in the position of deaf men required to listen to music, or blind men to judge a painting. The Practical their minds can grasp; of the Ideal, they know nothing'

- Charlotte Bronte, letter dated 9 November 1849, writing to her literary adviser William Smith Williams about the response to her new novel, Shirley

10 July 2007

Can we schedule a lift-meeting?

'There is a legendary story about a female newspaper editor who refused to travel with anyone else in the office lift in case they tried to talk to her.  (Janet Street Porter should remain nameless but are so few female newspaper editors that it is pretty obvious that it is she).  If anyone else tried to get into the lift she would simply shout, "Get out!"'
- Viv Groskop, British Airways Business Life, July 2007

So when you said you were lying, were you lying about that too?

A chap in Massachusetts tried to get out of jury duty by claiming he was 'homophobic, racist and a habitual liar'.  But the judge wasn't very impressed.  Here's the transcript of his interview with the superior court judge, Gary Nickerson:
"You say on your form that you're not a fan of homosexuals," Nickerson said.

"That I'm a racist," Ellis interrupted.

"I'm frequently found to be a liar, too. I can't really help it," Ellis added.

"I'm sorry?" Nickerson said.

"I said I'm frequently found to be a liar," Ellis replied.

"So, are you lying to me now?" Nickerson asked.

"Well, I don't know. I might be," was the response.

Ellis then admitted he really didn't want to serve on a jury.

"I have the distinct impression that you're intentionally trying to avoid jury service," Nickerson said.

"That's true," Ellis answered.

So can we clear this up - is honesty the best policy or not?

- CNN, 10 July 2007, via Fark.com

27 June 2007

PM's top tips

New Prime Minister Gordon Brown has fielded all sorts of questions from readers of the Independent, including this one:
Bill Hooper: Where would you recommend I take my girlfriend for a tasty but economical supper?

Gordon Brown: There's a great Chinese restaurant in Kirkcaldy called Maxin's.

- Independent, 27 June 2007

[Does he know a good fish & chip shop in London?]

26 June 2007

I hope he doesn't get his mum to wash his socks

Does my gun look big in this?
'A motorist tried to hide his loaded gun in between his buttocks when he was pulled over by police in Tooting.  Reggie Sackey, 27, who was stopped by cops who saw him driving without a seatbelt, had an 8mm pistol jammed in his bottom and wrapped in a sock.  He was arrested on possession of marijuana and the gun was uncovered in a station search.  Sackey pleaded guilty at Kingston Crown Court to possession of a firearm and drugs. He will be sentenced next month'
- This Is Local London, 23 June 2007 
[Spotted in Londonist blog]

24 June 2007

Creamed laboratory rat

'Easter [Island] is the sole known Polynesian island at whose archaeological sites rat bones outnumber fish bones.  In case you're squeamish and consider rat inedible, I still recall, from my years of living in England in the late 1950s, recipes for creamed laboratory rat that my British biologist friends who kept them for experiments also used to supplement their diet during their years of wartime rationing'
- Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Survive, 2005 

18 June 2007

Or perhaps his brother

'Nobody in the game of football should be called a genius. A genius is somebody like Norman Einstein'
- Joe Theismann, former Notre Dame quarterback

12 June 2007

The youngest consumer

'Despite the invisibility of our baby (except, of course, for the enormous bump protruding from Jennifer's midriff) it still manages to make its presence felt. In the manner of a dysfunctional ex-couple who communicate through their lawyer, the baby and I exchange information via Jennifer. For example:

Jennifer: The baby wants fish and chips for dinner.

Me: Can the baby wait until I've finished watching Top Gear?

Jennifer: The baby says no.

Over the past few months the baby's demands have become increasingly forceful, and have included requests to:

  • Straighten pictures which are annoying the baby because they're crooked.
  • Make midnight visits to the 24-hour petrol station to procure salt & vinegar crisps for the baby.
  • Cook a "delicious pudding" for the baby.
  • Buy the baby a 10 megapixel camera with 6X optical zoom'

- David Haywood, Southerly, 12 June 2007

10 June 2007

More work needed on excuses for speeding

Foreign tourists speed due to lack of trees

Police in Hvolsv√∂llur, south Iceland, caught eight foreign tourists speeding yesterday, one driving at 134 km per hour in a 90 kph zone. Some of the tourists said they were tempted to speed due to the lack of trees.  Apparently, the fact that the ring road is broad in south Iceland and that no trees block the view led the foreigners to believe it was safe to speed up, Morgunbladid reports.
- Morgunbladid, 7 June 2007, quoted on www.hostel.is

05 June 2007

Geek cats

Oodles of kitty pictures, and if the funny captions don't make sense, then read up at Wikipedia on the LOLcats craze, or maybe even in the Houston Chronicle... 

29 May 2007

For today's style-conscious baby

Is your baby down in the dumps? Perhaps she needs a fashion pick-me-up...

- Aisle sign, Sainsbury's supermarket in Warlingham, Surrey, 29 May 2007

25 May 2007

A few home truths

'England did nothing in that World Cup, so why were they bringing books out?  "We got beat in the quarter-finals.  I played like shit.  Here's my book"'
- Man City midfielder Joey Barton, Sport magazine, 25 May 2007

20 May 2007

Writing for yoof

'This week, I'm going to teach you to write a kids' book.  Why?  Because people think it's easier than writing an adults' book.  And it is.  Because children (1) are dumber and (2) know fewer words.  Also, they have such limited experience of the world that it's easy to trick them.  For example, if a talking rat who dreams of being a great poet shows up in an adult book, all of us adults go: "What a crock!  No one wants to be a poet anymore, not even a rat".  But kids have been on earth so briefly, they don't even know what a poet is, or how little money they make'

- George Saunders, Guardian Weekend, 5 May 2007

18 May 2007

A different sort of dirt

'Many vacuum cleaners seem to break down after a few years - but not Stanley Waller's remarkable model.  The former RAF pilot is still using the Goblin cleaner his parents bought in 1933.  His father spent £9 - or about two weeks' wages - on the vacuum in the year Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany.  Seventy-four years later, Mr Waller and his wife Sylvia, both 82, are still using it in their home in Norwich.  "It has not had to be fixed since it was bought, except for a 13-amp plug so I could plug it into the mains," Mr Waller said.  "Things were very different back then".
- Metro.co.uk, 18 May 2007

02 May 2007

In other news, Christmas has been cancelled

'The attention of Ministers has been drawn to the inconvenience resulting from the practice which has grown up, of Officers leaving the Buildings daily for luncheon, and the Government Offices being practically deserted in the middle of the day.  Ministers cannot find any authority for this practice, which is in direct contravention of the last order issued on the subject. The inconvenience caused by this proceeding is very serious, and Ministers have decided that it must be stopped.

In consideration of this decision, the official hours of attendance will be terminated at four o'clock instead of half-past four, except on Saturdays, the existing rule as to that day remaining unchanged.  It must therefore be understood that, in future, Officers in the Government Buildings are not, except when special permission is given, to absent themselves from their Offices for luncheon.

Heads of Departments will see that this rule is strictly enforced'

- New Zealand's Secretary of the Cabinet, Ebenezer Fox, 16 January 1880

[Quoted in R. Kitteridge, 'The Cabinet Manual: Evolution with Time', March 2006, Cabinet Office websiteIn a curious coincidence, Ebenezer Fox was also the name of a notorious poacher in Stevenage in the same era.  The poacher had a twin brother.  Perhaps one of the brothers secretly emigrated to New Zealand and found refuge in Parliament...]

Stunning research findings

'In a study last year, researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, found that children playing Dance Dance Revolution expended significantly more energy than children watching television and playing traditional video games'
- New York Times, 30 April 2007
[Courtesy of Louwrens.  I think parents worried about childhood obesity should employ a 19th-century cowboy from the Wild West to fire Colt revolvers at their children's feet, shouting, "let's see you dance now, little cowpoke"]

30 April 2007

Not suitable for Datsuns

'In January, the most expensive parking space ever sold by Harrods, in Knightsbridge, central London, went for £200,000.  Now the company is on the verge of selling another in its branded car-parking complex.  On the market for £225,000, and with a 93-year lease, it has gone to sealed bids and is expected to fetch much more.  Harrods estimates that it will equate to £1800 per sq ft, roughly the cost of a pied-a-terre in Mayfair. 
At the same time, Quintessentially Estates, the property-finding arm of the top end concierge service, has just looked at a garage for a client that is off the King's Road, holds three cars and is on the market for £600,000'
- Sunday Times, 29 April 2007
[Note for New Zealanders: £600,000 is NZ$1.6m]

27 April 2007

On brevity

From a round-up of the Democratic presidential hopefuls' debate in South Carolina:
The debate was free of personal abuse and Mr [Joe] Biden got the laugh of the night. He was called on to respond to an accusation that he was too verbose and asked whether he could provide an assurance to voters he "would have the discipline you would need on the world stage".

"Yes," Mr Biden said, refusing to utter another word.

- Guardian, 27 April 2007

26 April 2007

Defective automatic trousers hurl pilot from plane

Not only is the headline practically perfect, the tagline rocks as well: 'Rogue expando-pants amok in Wallace & Gromit style devastation'.  Tells you all you need to know right there.
- The Register, 26 April 2007

The perks of Catholicism

The Minister of Corrections is reviewing a legislative prohibition that inadvertently prevents Catholic prisoners detained by the Corrections Department from receiving communion wine.  If I ever get banged up, I plan to start a religion with rituals requiring gin & tonics and chicken & apricot pizza...
- Source: O'Connor asks Corrections to review communion wine, Press release, 26 April 2007

24 April 2007

Far fewer than six degrees of separation

A suspected fraudster has been arrested in Wellington after attempting to chat up a woman who happened to be the sister of an alleged victim.  The sister recognised the cad and called the police, after playing along with his chat-up attempt and securing his name and telephone number.  It just goes to show - it pays not to do anything dodgy in Wellington, because everyone finds out about it sooner or later! 
- Dominion Post, 24 April 2007

23 April 2007

On beards, false or otherwise

'The bearded man was now eating some sort of fish with sauce on it.  And Berry, watching him intently, became gripped with a suspicion that grew stronger with each moment.  That beard, he could swear, was a false one.  It was so evidently hampering its proprietor.  He was pushing bits of fish through it in the cautious manner of an explorer blazing a trail through a strong forest.  In short, instead of being a man afflicted by nature with a beard, and as such more to be pitied than censured, he was a deliberate putter-on of beards, a self-bearder, a fellow who, for who knew what dark purposes, carried his own private jungle around with him, so that any moment he could dive into it and defy pursuit.  It was childish to suppose that such a man could be up to any good'

- PG Wodehouse, 'Big Money', 1931 

18 April 2007

They always get their man, eventually

A warrant for the arrest of a man accused with assault in Southland in June 1979 has finally been carried out, when the man voluntarily appeared in the Invercargill District Court yesterday.  The man, on a regular visit back to New Zealand from his home in Queensland, appeared at court voluntarily, nearly 27 years after the alleged offence took place.  
- Source: Southland Times, 18 April 2007
[When the alleged offence occurred, Robert Muldoon was Prime Minister, Michael Fowler was Mayor of Wellington, and the doomed Carless Days scheme was just about to be introduced.  Which is not to imply a causal link]

England's cricket woes

"Fletcher and Vaughan should be made to swim home, covered in minced chicken livers, golden syrup and feathers," says Louise Peake.
- The knives are out for the England coach and captain after the team's capitulation in the Cricket World Cup; Guardian , 17 April 2007  

17 April 2007

Do as I say, not as I do

"There must be two Justin Langers in the world, I think"

- Ricky Ponting can't believe that Justin Langer, never shy of a word or two himself, wants sledging stopped in county cricket (Source: Cricinfo)

Australians being very stupid

'There was another big docudrama last week, Murder in the Outback (Sunday, ITV1), about the murder of Peter Falconio and the tribulations of his travelling companion, Joanne Lees.  This episodic whodunnit courtroom drama had only one tiny fault - we all knew how it was going to end.  It's really difficult to maintain the suspense when they send the jury out and do that nail-biting, pacing and muttering stuff when it was all over the papers four years ago.  Did they think we'd all get artistic amnesia?  As far as I could tell, the whole point of the programme was to show us Australians being very stupid indeed.  What confirms that they are probably all two dingoes short of a creche is that they co-produced this drama about how stupid they are.  The whole thing could have been made by the New Zealand tourist board'

- A A Gill TV review, Sunday Times, 15 April 2007

13 April 2007

Fame is a fickle master

When asked to decide who is more famous (in a global internet sense) between River Phoenix and Kirk Douglas... Amanda Peet and Sammy Davis Jr... Alan Rickman and Gene Kelly... and Matt le Blanc versus Steve McQueen... what would be your guess?
According to website Famousr, it was respectively River Phoenix, Amanda Peet, Alan Rickman and Steve McQueen.  (So at least some sanity re-emerged near the end there).  It's guided by the weird dictates of the massive and fickle internet community, which is as good a judge as any as long as you equate media volume with fame.  This site lets you rate the fame of the umpteen stars and would-be stars out there, and be warned - it's rather addictive...
[Courtesy of B3ta]

What, you mean you want it back?

Gordana Jankulovska, the Interior Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is using a BMW X5 that might be the one stolen from football superstar David Beckham last year.  News reports from Macedonia have indicated that the car, which was impounded in Macedonia and requisitioned for ministerial use after it was illegally imported into the country, may be the luxury car stolen from Beckham in 2006.  But Ms Jankulovska isn't too worried about the possibility of driving stolen property. 
'"If no owner claims the property, the car can be auctioned or kept for state use", Jankulovska explained to the BBC.  She told B92 radio in Belgrade that she was a fan of Beckham and would like to meet him if it turned out that the car belonged to him'
- Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 2007

Don't call me fatso or I'll sit on you

The Herald reports that 'supersize uniforms are being made to fit ever-larger children, and an Auckland school outfitter says it is now making school shorts with a 140cm waist and size 15 shoes.  School uniform manufacturer Underwoods says the national average had jumped by about six sizes over 50 years as boys and girls get taller and fatter'
Article linked below includes excellent picture of a flag-sized pair of shorts 'for obese boys'.
- NZ Herald, 12 April 2007

11 April 2007

Needed for the war effort

Reports from Christchurch indicate that the canopy of a MiG-21 fighter jet parked outside the city's Java Cafe has been stolen. The Canterbury police have a few leads, though. Their press release notes that 'it is believed the canopy was taken by two 'very happy' males with either Irish or UK accents'.

- Source: NZ Police press release, 10 April 2007

10 April 2007

Commuter cat

A white cat with one green eye and one blue eye has been using a local bus service in the English Midlands to save himself the bother of walking 400m down the street.  Nicknamed 'Macavity the Mystery Cat', the feline has been travelling on the 311 bus every few days since January, always getting on and off at the same two stops.  Perhaps there might be a clue in the fact that the stop at which he alights is near a fish & chip shop...
Passenger, Paul Brennan, 19, who catches the 331 to work, said: "I first noticed the cat a few weeks ago. At first I thought it had been accompanied by its owner but after the first stop it became quite clear he was on his own.  "He sat at the front of the bus, waited patiently for the next stop and then got off. It was was quite strange at first but now it just seems normal. I suppose he is the perfect passenger really - he sits quietly, minds his own business and then gets off."
Might be too good to be true, given it was reported in the Mail and the Sun, but so what - it's a great story anyway.  And there's some good pictures of said clever cat at the link below.
- ThisisLondon.co.uk, 10 April 2007

04 April 2007

Astor 1 Churchill 0

Many of you will know the famous verbal sally between Lady Astor, the first woman to serve as an MP in the House of Commons, and Winston Churchill:

Lady Astor to Churchill: "If you were my husband, I'd put arsenic in your coffee."
Churchill: "Madam, if I were your husband, I'd drink it!"

But she also had the better of Churchill on one occasion:

Lady Astor was giving a costume ball and Winston Churchill asked her what disguise she would recommend for him. She replied, 'Why don't you come sober, Mr Prime Minister?

- Source: Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor, Wikipedia

Friends for the time-poor

Ten seasons of Friends in 90 seconds, as linked to by Sideswipe / Spareroom.

Duck Soup and Cover

'This is Groucho Marx. A few days ago I was talking with the Director of Civil Defense and he told me some things that I feel everyone should know. That's why I'm speaking to you now. Did you know, for example, that your chances of surviving an atom bomb attack are excellent? It's true, but there's a big if! You must do everything possible now, to help yourself and your family. Nobody else will help you! Listen, because this is important! Keep a complete first aid kit handy. Keep a closed container of drinking water in your refrigerator, enough for 3 days. Be sure you have a good fire extinguisher. Take a look around your house right now and pick out the safest spot, away from windows and doors. Make sure every member of your family understands he is to rush to that safe spot when there's danger. I'm convinced that these precautions are necessary right now, and I hope I can convince you. They're important to your family, yourself, and your community'
- Groucho Marx, in a 1953 public service announcement for US Civil Defense
[For more peachy Civil Defense announcements from the A-Bomb scare days, see Atomic Platters]

03 April 2007

It's like the video for 'Black Or White' all over again

Courtesy of the B3ta newsletter, here's a morph-y face website for you to play with.  Says there are 750,000 possible variations you can come up with.  Worth a few minutes of your time to tinker with it, to see if you can produce the most heinously warped combination of face parts.

Who said men can't multi-task?

Murder trials are a serious business, but also rather time-consuming. So it seemed yesterday, when the police officer assigned as security to a murder trial in Invercargill was double-booked. So while the man accused of murder sat in the dock, the detective had to divide his time between two courtrooms and also some extra mobile telephone calls outside in the corridor. According to the Southland Times, the detective said,

"I was only outside in the hallway anyway, making a few calls and arranging witnesses. He would have had to come past me."

If the gentleman in question is found guilty of the crime with which he is accused, here's hoping his cellmates don't hear how he missed a golden opportunity to head for the hills. Or perhaps Southland chaps accused of murder are by nature a particularly law-abiding bunch.

- Southland Times, 4 April 2007

02 April 2007

Help Tha Police

Adam Buxton, formerly of The Adam & Joe Show, illustrates the law-enforcement-endorsing and hitherto unknown, not to mention non-sweary, themes running far beneath the surface of NWA's legendary track "F--- Tha Police", in this short clip.  Never fear, it's resolutely safe for work.  And for the ears of young children.
[Courtesy of Al]

All the news that's fit to print

From a fifth and last paragraph of a report on the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament:
'As for the three-day event, England and Scotland reached the last eight, Wales won the second tier plate final and Samoa took the title'
Nice to see they wedged the result in there somewhere.  The first four paragraphs of the article addressed the admittedly far more important issue of the crowd costumes, and were illustrated by two photos: one of five midriff-baring girls wearing short skirts and medical masks and gloves, and another of a girl wearing a tiny PVC skirt and a t-shirt reading 'Too Hot?'.
- Metro.co.uk, 2 April 2007 

31 March 2007

These aren't the droids you're looking for

For the most dedicated of Star Wars pedants... er, fans... everywhere, here's a wiki solely devoted to all things Star Wars. How can there be 46,000 articles on Star Wars out there? This website could probably settle half the arguments at comics conventions.


[Courtesy of Fleur]

Living dangerously

'Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, on Larry King Live recently, was waxing lyrical about his experiences overseas as a youthful Mormon missionary. "I went to a different country and saw how different life could be if we didn't have the values and the kinds of opportunities that exist in America," he trilled. And where was this foreign hellhole? Er, Paris, France'

- Guardian, 28 March 2007

[Minor milestone ahoy - this is the 500th post to the Very Friday Blog...]

30 March 2007

Heroic Secret Service Agent Takes Question Intended For Bush

'WASHINGTON, DC—White House Secret Service Agent Anthony Panucci is being called a hero after intercepting what could have been a critically damaging question aimed directly at President Bush during a press conference in the Rose Garden Tuesday. 

According to eyewitnesses, the press conference began with Bush fielding routine questions about March Madness and the dedication of a World War II memorial near his home in Crawford, TX. However, approximately seven minutes into the event, a lone reporter somehow managed to maneuver to the front of the press corps group and fire off a loaded, highly charged question concerning Bush's role in the controversial dismissal of eight federal attorneys last year.

"I just followed my training and did what I was supposed to do—put myself between the president and irreparable harm," said Panucci, who is credited with safely deflecting the attack away from Bush, as well as acting before the reporter had a chance to get off a follow-up question at close range. "And let's not forget my colleagues who rushed the president from the scene."
The reporter who aimed the pointed question has been positively identified as Walter Pincus of The Washington Post. He was pronounced dead at the scene after being shot more than 140 times by Secret Service agents, FBI sharpshooters, and D.C. police'
- The Onion, 28 March 2007

29 March 2007

Life in Stanley

An interesting photo-essay of life in Stanley in the Falkland Islands, as the 25th anniversary of the war between Britain and Argentina approaches.  It looks quite like the Chatham Islands... or at least how I imagine the Chatham Islands looks.
- Life in Stanley, BBC News

The red tape is now black for your convenience

'This is a personal question, but when you visit a public convenience do you notice who made the ceramic furniture? Does your heart lift when you see "Armitage Shanks" on the cistern? Can you think about anything else for the rest of the day?

Bureaucrats at the cricket World Cup are worried that spectators will leave with only urinals on their mind, which hardly says much for their faith in the quality of the cricket. At grounds across the Caribbean, strips of black tape have appeared across the makers' names on toilets, soap dispensers and hand dryers. Tape has also been put across fax machines, telephones and televisions. There has been so much black tape that one journalist wondered whether it was an odd way of marking the death of Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach.

But no. The International Cricket Council (ICC), the body that runs the game, fears that sponsors (or "official partners") will lose out with so many other brands about to grab the attention. There may not be an "official lavatory bowl partner", but if a product has a name on it, it must be covered over. It is a ludicrous example of the way accountants and lawyers control the game. Never mind match-fixing, cricket has a bigger problem with legal money'
- Patrick Kidd, 'Everything's banned at the accountancy World Cup', The Times, 29 March 2007
[Did you like the 'convenience' reference in the title?  A joke is always at its best if you have to point it out, I find]

26 March 2007

Matt Lucas's plans for world domination

Metro: 'You were named the ninth most influential gay in a poll last year.  How will you use your power?
Matt Lucas: 'If I become the number one most influential gay in the world, I'll make it my mission to turn the world gay - I will use my power for evil.  I will make everybody have an Erasure ringtone.  I don't want to aim too high - I want something achievable.  Everyone will have Love To Hate You as their ringtone'
- Little Britain's Matt Lucas, interviewed by Metro.co.uk, 26 March 2007 

25 March 2007

A truth universally acknowledged

Is the pitch for this new TV programme so irredeemably bad that it actually might be worth watching?

'In Lost in Austen, Amanda, a chardonnay-swigging West London girl, discovers a bonnet-wearing woman in her bathroom who introduces herself as Elizabeth Bennet. Through a series of accidents, Amanda is transported into Regency England, where she arrives at Netherfield Hall and melts in front of Mr Darcy's brooding glare. Miss Bennet, meanwhile, breathes life into the modern girl's useless boyfriend and learns to negotiate the Hammersmith flyover'

- 'Pride and Prejudice is put through time warp', The Times, 23 March 2007

24 March 2007

Square Pegs

Anyone else remember seeing Square Pegs back in the day? The new wave highschool comedy from 1982, in which Sarah Jessica Parker got one of her earliest lead roles on TV. The price to pay: she had to wear the biggest glasses in the civilised world.

'All we need to do is click with the right clique and we can finally have a social life that's worthy of us' 'No way - not even with cleavage!' 'I tell you, this year we're going to be popular' '...Yeah?' 'Yeah. Even if it kills us'

(Yeah, I think I must've misheard that bit about cleavage into something far more innocent when I was ten). Good snarly theme tune by The Waitresses too. Pity about poor Johnny Slash (RIP, totally...)

- Youtube: Square Pegs opening credits

A cavalcade of drunkenness

In the wake of England cricket vice-captain Andrew Flintoff's demotion after having to be rescued after a bender ended in him having to be rescued from a capsized beach pedalo at 4am, the Guardian takes a quick look at alcoholic excess through the history of sport. Well, football.

- 'Good advice for drunken sportsmen', Guardian, 20 March 2007

They call him 'Macca'

NZ cricketer Craig McMillan takes a break from his tiring World Cup campaign to plug away at his laptop to bring us the inside word from the NZ camp, not to mention a few recipes here and there. Interesting to have a look at this before they reveal who's actually behind it. Even if it's meant to be a viral advert, it's decent so far. There must be an innate humour in McMillan somewhere!

- (Not) Craig McMillan's World Cup blog

[Courtesy of FSC]

Four out of five journalists can't be trusted with statistics

From an article on a Maori TV documentary on New Zealanders' attitudes to sex:

'About 68 per cent of men want to have group sex in contrast to 36 per cent of women. However, the reality was quite different. Just one in three men have had group sex compared with one in five women'

Quite different? Well, I guess if you forget that one in three is more than one in five.

- NZ Herald, 17 March 2007

[Courtesy of Louwrens]

Association Football

From the Harry Enfield archives, here's some long-lost black & white footage of the champion 1991 Liverpool lineup facing the stealth, guile and really long shorts of the 1933 Arsenal side.

- Harry Enfield: Association Football

19 March 2007

But surely it was tax-deductable?

Wife-swap parties at Tory-owned flat

A tenant has been asked to leave a flat owned by a Conservative Club after officials learnt he was using it as a venue for wife-swapping parties. The unnamed man came to the attention of the Tories after a couple asked for directions to the flat. The Tories then discovered a website about Club 2000, which is described as a 'dedicated adult club for liberated and broadminded adults'. The flat is in the same building as the Benton Conservative Club, Longbenton, North Tyneside, and is owned by it.

Tory secretary Paul McGivern said: 'The tenant came in with very good references and in many ways has been a model tenant. To be honest, this has been greeted with general hilarity among club members'

- Metro.co.uk, 19 March 2007

French beatbox maestro

Courtesy of B3ta, this short clip of a young French chap appearing on an Idol-style show proves that he's already a beatbox legend at the tender age of 21. I don't speak much French, but I'm pretty sure the appreciative judges didn't even ask him to add in some Edith Piaf next time.

YouTube - Joseph : BeatBox de la Nouvelle Star 2007

Hang the DJ

But only because you can quite easily do the DJ-ing yourself with this little website. A bit repetitive after a few minutes, but fun to play with until then.

project two

16 March 2007

Highland cuisine

The Highland manservant of John Burnet of Barns is asked to give his own account of the diverse Scots dishes he can prepare, in a novel set in the 17th century Highlands at the time of the Covenanters:

'Your master gives me a good account of you,' said the cracked voice of the laird of Smitwood, 'and I would fain hope it true. I wished to interrogate you about - ah, your powers - ah, of cooking pleasing dishes,' and he waved his hand deprecatingly.

'Oh, your honour, I am ready for a'thing,' said Nicol. 'Sheep's heid, singit to a thocht, cockyleeky and a' kind o' soup, mutton in half a dozen different ways, no to speak o' sic trifles as confections. I can cook ye the flesh o' the red deer and the troots frae the burn, forbye haggis and brose, partan pies and rizzard haddies, crappit-heids and scate-rumples, nowt's feet, kebbucks, scadlips, and skink. Then I can wark wi' custocks and carlings, rifarts and syboes, farles, fadges, and bannocks, drammock, brochan, and powsowdie'

'That will do, you may go,' said the old man, rubbing his hands with glee. 'By my word, a genuine Scots gastronome, skilled in the ancient dishes of the land. I anticipate a pleasing time while he bides here'

- From 'John Burnet of Barns' by John Buchan, 1898.

[Crappit-heads and scate-rumples for tea, anyone? Incidentally, Buchan was a highly talented chap. He wrote this swashbuckling adventure tale when he was only 19. He also later went on to write 'The Thirty-Nine Steps', which was filmed three times including, most famously, by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935. In his later years, as the first Baron Tweedsmuir, Buchan became the Governor General of Canada from 1935 until his death in 1940]

14 March 2007

Thou art stricken, my liege

'[Under] current EEC rules, doctors from other European countries are free to practice here [in the UK] without proving their linguistic ability. The Westminster coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, recently drew attention to this anomaly after a French doctor spent 10 minutes on the phone to a 999 ambulance service trying to make himself understood. A patient had collapsed in his clinic after being injected with a steroid, and later died. The doctor in question said he had studied Shakespeare at school, but had problems with English dialects'

- BMJCareers.com, 13 January 2007

[Naturally, the death of a patient is no laughing matter. I just liked the idea that a foreign student of English might think Shakespeare would assist them in deciphering modern British English]

11 March 2007

The Bad Film Club

A new film club in Britain, led by two comedians, enables movie-watchers to hurl invective at awful movies without fear of annoying fellow attendees - because that's the whole point of the Bad Film Club:
The comedian Phil Nichol leads the assault before an enthusiastic crowd at the Ritzy in Brixton, offering front-row prompts that quickly have the audience joining in.  "It's payback," one smiling viewer says afterwards, "for all those films that treat the audience like morons".
I ask [club co-creator] Joe about the best audience contribution they have had.  "It was during Jaws 4 in Winchester," he says.  "There's a bit at the end where the shark explodes and the camera cuts to Michael Caine, and someone yelled out, "You're only supposed to blow the bloody jaws off".
If you don't get that joke, you're reading the wrong article.

For more info, check out the club's website.
- Norman Miller, 'As bad as it gets', Sunday Times, 11 March 2007 

10 March 2007

Staying focused on the task at hand

'Watching cricket is one of the best ways of avoiding working known to man'

- A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has warned that the British economy could lose 270 million pounds over the next two months, due to World Cup absenteeism (Source: Cricinfo)

09 March 2007

Rubbery soul

'Steven Seagal has been touring Britain these past few months with an improbable blues act.  We are reliably (if incredulously) informed that Mick Hucknall, Steve Tyler and Michael Caine have all requested tickets for his final gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on March 18'
- The Times, 9 March 2007

08 March 2007

I feel a money-making venture coming on

A Hamilton biologist offered a Te Awamutu boy $100 for his pet frog (sensibly named "Frog"). You see, the amphibian in question had six legs. Thing is, it still does have six legs, but now it's dead - of natural causes, one presumes. But the biologist is still keen to buy it for the same price - 'if it is not too badly decomposed', naturally.

So... anyone know any medical students with access to surgical equipment and a pet-shop owner?

- NZ Herald, 9 March 2007

Have a wine cooler!

From the people who brought you South Park (and, more directly, from the people who brought you B3ta.com), here's the Universal Studios internal film made by the dudes who throw together South Park. Okay, so the execs canned this film, and once you watch its wholesomely G-rated but overtly mickey-taking stab at studio politics and liquor company shareholders, you'll see why. But all those talking picture stars in it! Spielberg, Stallone, Demi Moore, Michael J Fox...

And of course, they're quite right about the soothing effect of porcelain deer statues. Go out and buy some for your home and office right now.

- Your Studio and You (Google Video)

Nora the piano-playing cat

Not content with merely playing her exquisite Phillip Glass-style minimalist piano pieces that wouldn't sit out of place on the soundtrack to an episode of Twin Peaks, Nora the Piano-Playing Cat also loves to play duets. Here's 168 seconds of kitty mastery for all those aspiring human pianists out there who just gave up lessons too soon.

- Nora the piano-playing cat (YouTube)

Can you spot the future Prime Minister?

Can you spot which of these nattily-dressed young students became the Prime Minister of the UK for nearly ten years, not to mention achieving the even greater feat of appearing as a guest star on the Simpsons? See if you can discern the hand of fate that spurred him to greatness.

- BBC News image

On martial arts movies

'Many film critics, not all of them on medication, think that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the acme, apex and apotheosis of the Chinese meaningful violence martial arts art movie, mainly because of the purportedly balletic beauty with which its featured personnel run up the sheer walls of the Forbidden City and along the treetops of the enchanted forest while slicing at each other with whirling swords made from fragments of a meteorite forged in the book-lined cave of a Confucian philosopher, with extra boiled rice.

Ancient Chinese swords, despite the legendary sharpness proved by their ability to puree a passing butterfly, rarely make contact with swordsmen, or swordswomen, in such a way that the victim loses a limb or even a little finger. Two opposing swordsmen or swordswomen - let's just call them swordspersons - will emerge untouched from a 15 minute stretch of virtuoso choreography, a pas de deux for interlocking whirlwinds.

If, after all that spinning, diving, somersaulting and grimacing, a sword strikes home, it makes only a small neat puncture which in no way lessens the loser's capacity to speak that special dialogue from the Orient that actually sounds more Chinese after it has been dubbed into English.

"Your skills are great," says Falling Snow.
"Your sword was quick," says Rising Cloud.
"Your quest is finished," says Passing Wind'

- Clive James, BBC column, 23 February 2007

Old jokes home

Mother Superior called all the nuns together and said to them, "I must tell you all something. We have a case of gonorrhoea in the convent."
"Thank God," said an elderly nun at the back, "I'm so tired of chardonnay."

07 March 2007

Dynamic management dynamism

An insightful discourse on the art of management:

'...like many people who are instinctively bad at something, the Archchancellor prided himself on how good at it he was.  Ridcully was to management what King Herod was to the Bethlehem Playgroup Association.  His mental approach to it could be visualised as a sort of business flowchart with, at the top, a circle entitled 'Me, who does the telling' and, connected below it by a line, a large circle entitled 'Everyone else'. 

Until now this had worked quite well, because, although Ridcully was an impossible manager, the University was impossible to manage and so everything worked seamlessly.  And it would have continued to do so if he hadn't suddenly started to see the point in preparing career development packages and, worst of all, job descriptions.  As the Lecturer in Recent Runes put it: 'He called me in and asked me what I did, exactly.  Have you ever heard of such a thing?  What sort of question is that?  This is a university!'

- From 'The Last Continent' by Terry Pratchett, 1998

[The Archchancellor had been inspired to carry out his fit of hands-on mangement by a tome entitled 'How to Dynamically Manage People for Dynamic Results in a Caring Empowering Way in Quite a Short Time Dynamically']

Believe it or not, I'm walking on air

I know you'll find it hard to believe, but recent reports suggest that young children occasionally injure themselves whilst pretending to be superheroes.  And some of them even delude themselves into thinking they can fly.  No, it's true! 
Research suggests children who dress up as superheroes are likely to be more adventurous in their play but tend to overestimate their ability and get hurt.  Several of those injured were hurt while trying to fly.  While risk-taking and adventure were an important part of growing up, parents needed to make sure they kept a close eye on their children, the British research, published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal, said.
Oh, so parents need to do parenting stuff.  Glad it's been spelt out clearly. 
Actually, come to think of it, those sorts of injuries are quite common at grown-up fancy-dress parties too.
- 'When wee superheroes go ker-splat!', The Press, 8 March 2007 
[Great article title, there]

Perhaps an image of him could mysteriously appear on the wrapper

KFC Inc. is introducing a new fish-based sandwich in its fast-food outlets - and, not being ones to miss a trick, they've sought the endorsement of none other than Pope Benedict XVI for the product.   
While the sandwich is being marketed generally, John O'Reilly, chief marketing officer for KFC, said the sandwich should prove especially popular on Fridays, when Catholics traditionally don't eat meat in the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday.
Now conventional wisdom suggests that's an endorsement worth having.  But is an octogenerian ex-Hitler Youth member really the sort of poster-boy they're after? 
(...Yeah, okay, that was a cheap shot!)
- MSNBC, 22 February 2007
[Courtesy of Louwrens.  I've had a quick look on Google News today and I don't think KFC has had a response yet.  Perhaps it's not exactly the highest priority in the Vatican at the moment.  Or perhaps everyone in the media lost interest 0.75 seconds after they filed the original report?]

Makes perfect sense when you think of it

Did you know that the French colloquial term for a paperclip is 'trombone'?  Think about it.  Isn't that a much better term than 'paperclip'?  (Okay, don't think about it for too long).
- Source: A box of trombones, 7 March 2007 

The missing Lynx

A Rotorua teenager recently got a first-hand lesson in elementary chemistry when he decided to polish the interior of his car.  He'd only had the Honda Prelude for three days, and wanted that extra-special shine, naturally.  So he dragged out that teenage stalwart, the good old can of Lynx deodorant, to polish the upholstery.  The can had been in the sunshine all day, and of course then he happened to light a cigarette.  Cue mighty explosion:
[The kid] suffered burns and spent three days in Rotorua Hospital and nine more days off school recovering after the blast in his uninsured $3000 vehicle.  The doors blew out and the windows shattered - the windscreen was found metres away down the driveway of his home.
Ouch - uninsured too.  Well, I suppose it could've been worse.  It could've been Brut 33.
- NZ Herald, 19 February 2007
[Courtesy of Jeneva]

06 March 2007

Pride before a fall

We're sh** and we're still beating you!
- West Ham fan chant taunting Spurs supporters, 4 March 2007
[But Tottenham went on to beat West Ham 4-3 with four goals in the 2nd half...]

04 March 2007

And you will know them by...

A nice potted history of the origins of band names (see link below) just can't leave out the Dead Kennedys, and I'm relieved to note that this one doesn't. Nor does it fail to mention EMF, the whole Jefferson Airplane name calamity thing, the Scissor Sisters (oo-er) and a whole lot more. One point of correction though: I always thought Was (Not Was) got its name because no-one could pronounce Don Was' surname properly?

- Contra Costa Times, 4 March 2007

Lost in translation

Extract from a book on England's 16th-century colonisation attempts in Virginia:
The English had great difficulty in communicating with the Indians: [ship captain Arthur] Barlowe managed to discover that [a] tribal elder was called Granganimeo and was more than a little proud of himself when he learned the name of the surrounding countryside, Wingandacoa.  This was put into all the official paperwork and it was some months before the English realised that this unpronounceable word - which the Indians kept repeating to Barlowe - actually meant 'you've got nice clothes'.

- From 'Big Chief Elizabeth' by Giles Milton, 2000

Number one rule when getting a tattoo

Make sure your tattoo artist isn't dyslexic.  A Chicago man is suing said tattooist for mis-spelling the slogan he wanted emblazoned on his chest for ever and ever.  And because people now think he's a dope.   
- Associated Press, 2 March 2007

On great writing

Author Kurt Vonnegut on the key to great writing:
Never use semi-colons. What are they good for? What are you supposed to do with them? You're reading along, and then suddenly, there it is. What does it mean? All semi-colons do is suggest you've been to college.
- Columbus Free Press, 5 March 2006
[Vonnegut was speaking at a college graduation ceremony.  The full article is here]


03 March 2007

Some dude you've heard of receives irrelevant title that never mattered to begin with

Justin Timberlake Apathetically Crowned King Of Pop

LOS ANGELES—Performer Justin Timberlake, whose hit albums include Justified and FutureSex/LoveSounds, was crowned the de facto "King of Pop" Monday by recording-industry executives and millions of fans unable to think of anyone else to bestow the title upon. Music industry observers said Timberlake was virtually the only candidate for the title since wildly popular singers such as Jessica Simpson and Shakira cannot technically be called "king."

- The Onion

[Courtesy of KL]

How much karaoke is too much karaoke?

I think we have an answer to that eternal question. The BBC has reported that a South Korean woman, Kim Seok-ok, recently set an unofficial world record for singing karaoke for 59 hours and 48 minutes, covering nearly 1000 songs during her mammoth ordeal.

The 52-year-old said she did it for her 45-year-old husband who is fighting a brain tumour.

Did her husband have to listen to it? After 1000 songs, perhaps the brain tumour didn't seem like much of a problem.

- BBC News, 15 February 2007

[If she sang the five minutes and 54 seconds of Bohemian Rhapsody non-stop for the entire time, she would have sung it 608 times. That's an awful lot of Bismillahs and Mamma Mias]

One for Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World

This one's a few weeks old, but perhaps the white-coated scientists have yet to solve the strange mystery of how a dead shark ended up outside the visitor centre in Turangi, more than 100km from the sea. Which is where sharks live, in case you'd forgotten.

Taupo District Council Turangi/Tongariro area manager John Campbell yesterday cheekily fingered global warming as the reason for the shark's presence in the town. "With global warming there's high tides and they've found sharks in Lake Taupo," he alleged.

- NZ Herald, 15 February 2007

[Courtesy of Alex R]

Get right back to where we started from

Now that I've semi-settled down in London it's definitely time to start posting to the Very Friday Blog again, surely? For details of what's been going on since my last post, see my travel blog. And as usual, for those who know me, do send any nifty websites or articles you come across to my email address.

Extra points for those who can identify the artiste who sang the above lyrics...

01 February 2007


Ahoy all - time for the Very Friday Blog to take a catnap for a while, as I'm moving to London for a year or two and won't have regular internet access at the outset. Regular update emails will start emerging once I'm hooked back up though, I promise! In the interim, there's always the archives to peruse, right?

For news of travels and trevails, keep an eye on my hopefully-not-too-dull travel journal, with the catchy title of Slightly Intrepid.

28 January 2007

A very sensible bear

A New Jersey family noticed a black bear in their back garden, perched way up in a tree. It turns out the implacable family cat had scared it up there. 'He doesn't want anybody in his yard', said tabby Jack's owner. See link for excellent pic.

- BBC News, 10 June 2006

Monkey Diving!

Oh it's been years and years since this completely took over my old workplace - - and it's still fearsomely addictive gameplay. Coax the monkeys to dive into the rolling surf, but make sure they hit the waves and not the evil rocks... and of course it gets harder and harder as you progress.

Monkey Cliff Dive

Going grey?

Oh dear. Hair dye for... um... down there. (Site safe for work)

Bettybeauty Inc.

[Courtesy of HolyMoly]

Kanye's penchant for stark minimalism

Pictures of rapper Kanye West's just-about-completed NYC apartment reveal a taste for minimalism with the volume knob turned up to eleven. Either that, or this is a ward in a psychiatric hospital that's been photographed by mistake. And only one bedroom, Kanye? Surely you could afford a guest room for when your mum comes to visit?

Kanye West's apartment

[Courtesy of HolyMoly]

27 January 2007

Misty's map of Hanwell

This excellent artiste has drawn her own idiosyncratic map of her neighbourhood, Hanwell in London. My favourite touches are the stray volcano on Church Road, and the Viking ship on the River Brent. Arty types, you should do one of these for your borough! Let me know if you do...

- Misty69's map of Hanwell

Tickle Me Emo

Or, how to get yourself beaten up at the Big Day Out: tickle an emo kid.

Games to Play at the BDO #37: Tickle Me Emo

26 January 2007

Want a cheap facelift?

This chap has an inexpensive option for you: he mangles his face with rubber bands. Link includes picture. Obviously.

- The Press, 26 January 2007

25 January 2007

Kiss of death

'Flintoff's underneath it ... he's a good, safe pair of hands ...er ... a good, safe pair of hands when he gets to it'

- Commentator Michael Atherton, as Andrew Flintoff executes a massive bellyflop and drops an easy catch against NZ at Adelaide, 23 January 2007

24 January 2007

You can run but you can't hide

'A quiet revolution has occurred since Saddam's overthrow. You didn't have broadband under the Baath party. You do now. Millions of Iraqis own mobiles. Despite the violence, the phone companies have gradually expanded coverage - although their security budgets are astronomical. Even in places like Falluja, you get good reception.

A surreal moment comes to mind, when I was there with a US patrol. My UK mobile rang. It was my credit card company, wanting to check a purchase. As I was talking, the patrol came under fire.

"I'm a bit busy now, I'll call you back," I shouted as I ducked behind a humvee'

- Andrew North, Baghdad diary, BBC, 23 January 2007

Bullshit generator

Those of us who write for a living all secretly hanker after such a marvellous tool as this... to assist us to 'harness impactful deliverables' while at the same time 'benchmarking robust functionalities'. Particularly helpful for tech writers.

Bullshit generator

21 January 2007

Reeling in Rocky

'We get the usual "training" montage showing this Saga-vintage Michelin Man running, lifting heavy weights and roaring motivationally at himself. The famous Stallone face now looks more asymmetrical than ever; it's as if a gallon of Botox has been injected into one side of his head, and his lower lip is so skewed that its right corner is now directly under his right earlobe. The unfortunate effect is that of an invisible angel of death hooking Rocky's mouth with a fishing line and implacably reeling him in'

- Peter Bradshaw reviews 'Rocky Balboa', Guardian, 19 January 2007

[Other reviews are reasonably positive - so, not a stinker]

20 January 2007

Burger contraption

Can you fine-tune the insanely-complicated burger-making apparatus to produce a decent meal? An entertaining brain-teaser to spend 5 or 10 minutes on.


[Courtesy of B3ta. Requires plugins]

18 January 2007

The perils of parking in Sydney

This is why you shouldn't let your sister mind your Maserati when you're overseas...

- NZ Herald, 18 January 2007

[Here's a picture of a Maserati, if you're interested]

The claws are out in the provinces

Apparently Pukekura Park in New Plymouth and The Square in Palmerston North are in an Internet competition to be named as a property in the New Zealand version of the Monopoly board game. And it's getting messy:

[C]alling The Square "a flat, largely featureless plot of land in one of the country's least remarkable cities" has ruffled a few feathers and upped the ante. True, Palmerston North's Square has a great toilet block and an austere Soviet-style clocktower but Taranaki voters have a vibrant contrast in Pukekura Park and its Festival of Lights.

Handbags at dawn, then!

- Source: Taranaki Daily News, 18 January 2007

Fruit & veg with personality

Pictures by a New York artist who seeks to bring out the inner personalities of fruit and vegetables. The shouting orange and the "what-chu-talkin'-bout-Willis" tomato are the highlights.

Saxton Freymann Gallery

[Courtesy of Che via Spare Room]