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...