29 December 2008

So I still get paid, right?

A footballer playing for English minor league club Chippenham Town has been red-carded and sent off a mere three seconds into a match against Bashley.  David Pratt's wild tackle earned him the record for the quickest sending-off in senior football, although he's not proud of the record.  Bashley went on to win the match 2-1.

Entertainingly, a few years ago another player was sent off in even fewer seconds for a non-playing incident:

Also in 2000 an English amateur player, Lee Todd, was sent off after two seconds when he responded to the referee's whistle to start the game by saying "xxxx me, that was loud" and was dismissed for foul and abusive language.

- Stuff.co.nz, 30 December 2008

19 December 2008

If in doubt, blame it on the monkeys

The Plan
by Jack Handey

The plan isn’t foolproof. For it to work, certain things must happen:

—The door to the vault must have accidentally been left open by the cleaning woman.

—The guard must bend over to tie his shoes and somehow he gets all the shoelaces tied together. He can’t get them apart, so he takes out his gun and shoots all his bullets at the knot. But he misses. Then he just lies down on the floor and goes to sleep.

—Most of the customers in the bank must happen to be wearing Nixon masks, so when we come in wearing our Nixon masks it doesn’t alarm anyone.

—There must be an empty parking space right out in front. If it has a meter, there must be time left on it, because our outfits don’t have pockets for change.

—The monkeys must grab the bags of money and not just shriek and go running all over the place, like they did in the practice run.

—The security cameras must be the early, old-timey kind that don’t actually take pictures.

—When the big clock in the lobby strikes two, everyone must stop and stare at it for at least ten minutes.

—The bank alarm must have mistakenly been set to “Quiet.” Or “Ebb tide.”

—The gold bars must be made out of a lighter kind of gold that’s just as valuable but easier to carry.

—If somebody runs out of the bank and yells, “Help! The bank is being robbed!,” he must be a neighborhood crazy person who people just laugh at.

—If the police come, they don’t notice that the historical mural on the wall is actually us, holding still.

—The bank’s lost-and-found department must have a gun that fires a suction cup with a wire attached to it. Also a chainsaw and a hang glider.

—When we spray the lobby with knockout gas, for some reason the gas doesn’t work on us.

—After the suction cup is stuck to the ceiling, it must hold long enough for Leon to pull himself up the wire while carrying the bags of money, the gold bars, and the hang glider. When he reaches the ceiling, he must be able to cut through it with the chainsaw and climb out.

—Any fingerprints we leave must be erased by the monkeys.

—Once on the roof, Leon must be able to hold on to the hang glider with one hand and the money and the gold bars with the other and launch himself off the roof. Then glide the twenty miles to the rendezvous point.

—When we exit the bank, there must be a parade going by, so our getaway car, which is decorated to look like a float, can blend right in.

—During the parade, our car must not win a prize for best float, because then we’ll have to have our picture taken with the award.

—At the rendezvous point, there must be an empty parking space with a meter that takes hundred-dollar bills.

—The robbery is blamed on the monkeys.

- Jack Handey, The New Yorker, 24 November 2008

16 December 2008

Once a polly tito...

English exponent of gobbledegook and surrealist Stanley Unwin (1911-2002) demonstrates his command of an alternative vocabulary on an old episode of Parkinson:

15 December 2008

What about a nice unicorn instead?

A 79-year-old Dunedin grandmother, Paula Westoby, has hired a tattooist to permanently inscribe the words ‘DO NOT RESUSCITATE’ in 35-point Arial font across her chest. It’s her first tattoo, and she was pleasantly surprised by how little the one-hour procedure hurt:

I wanted to add 'If you do I will sue' at the bottom of it, but you have to stop at some point.

However, a St John’s Ambulance representative pointed out that its ambulance officers respected the rights of patients who took out ‘do not resuscitate’ orders, and that these were probably preferable to getting a tattoo.

- Otago Daily Times, 12 December 2008

Learning the ropes

Gaby Wood interviews British film director Sam Mendes:

Mendes has never been a 'genius' in the traditional neurotic mould; he's much more like a charismatic magician with a seemingly bottomless bag of very elegant tricks. This in itself can be nerve-racking. Mendes tells me about his very first moment in motion pictures. There he was, with a budget of $15m, several highprofile stars and a veteran cinematographer, yet he had to approach Conrad Hall before the first day of shooting American Beauty and say: 'I know this sounds really stupid, but when do I say "Action"?'

Hall explained; the moment arrived; Mendes said it. Instantly, he drifted off into a reverie of boyish excitement. 'I'm thinking: "Oh my God, I just said 'Action'! That's amazing! I'm in Los Angeles, California and I actually said 'Action'!" And the whole crew is standing there looking at me and I say, "What?" I'd forgotten to say "Cut".'

- Observer, 14 December 2008

11 December 2008

The delicate art of Japanese politics

From a BBC report on the foot-in-mouth problems besetting recent Japanese governments:

In recent months, [Prime Minister] Aso has accused doctors of lacking common sense, criticised parents and made contradictory policy statements. His most recent target was the "feeble" elderly - a group whose support is vital to the ailing LDP. Why, Mr Aso asked, should he have to pay taxes for those who "just eat and drink and make no effort".

Public anger forced top government spokesman Takeo Kawamura into a clarification. The prime minister had wanted to stress that pensioners should take an active role in maintaining their health, he said.

"It would be better if I did not have to explain [the comments]," he added. "But it's part of his character and there may be various comments from now on, and it's my job to make efforts to let everyone understand his real intention."

Taro Aso is not alone; there is an established tradition of gaffes from Japan's leading lawmakers. Almost as soon as Mr Aso took office, his tourism minister, Nariaki Nakayama, had to resign after calling Japan an "ethnically homogeneous" country that did not like foreigners.

Shinzo Abe's cabinet was plagued by ill-judged comments. One of the most high-profile was when his health minister called women "birth-giving machines" and appeared to blame them for the low birth rate.

By far the most notorious plain-speaker, however, was Yoshiro Mori, prime minister briefly between 2000 and 2001. He joked about Aids, said the US was full of "gangsters" and offended the entire city of Osaka by calling it a "spittoon". After a few months in office, bureaucrats reportedly made him speak only from cue cards.

- BBC News, 9 December 2008

09 December 2008

Back to the future

This collection of illustrations of what artists thought the Space Age would look like is a fond reminder of how optimistic views of the future used to be (apart from the last one pictured, in which a couple appears to be driving off the roof of a skyscraper for no known reason). And look! I had a copy of Usborne's Future Cities when I was a kid. But even then I would've known instinctively that skiing whilst being pulled by a helicopter wasn't the brightest of ideas.

45 Vintage ‘Space Age’ Illustrations

[Courtesy of B3ta]

08 December 2008


The Times has compiled a list of the 100 worst films of 2008. A film that I’ve never heard of called Never Back Down is described as follows: "[It] reveals a genuinely repugnant validation of street violence, a palpable hatred of women, and the worst aspects of crass barrel-scraping Hollywood studio movie-making. Then again, maybe you just had to be in the right mood. Or a Nazi".

Special mention must also go to Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is reviewed thusly: "The latest instalment of George Lucas’s interminable franchise has the charm of a cash machine. This noisy animated feature is set in a galaxy that isn’t far away enough".

100 Worst Movies of 2008

04 December 2008

What's that in old money?

[Courtesy of Bob]

Fantastic fish blimp

Goldfish are far too much work, what with having to feed them, clean their water tanks and make morally troubling decisions about their health and wellbeing. Why not get one of these fishies: one that flies instead of swims, and responds to remote control?

Photo cliches

You know that cool gimmick you've always wanted to photograph with your mates? Yeah. It's not clever, and someone's already thought of it.

Photo cliches


In this entertaining Flash game the usual 'match three' puzzle is complicated by extra powers that can be earned by collecting orbs. Watch out for the skulls...


Keith Moon

From an article listing some of the world's worst celebrity hotel guests (including Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Nicole Kidman), some reminisces about the entertainingly sociopathic havoc wrought by The Who's drummer, Keith Moon:

An early legend (the details of which differ, depending on who is consulted, but nevertheless is representative of Moon's routine post–check-in behavior) recounts how in 1967 he drove a car into a pool at a Holiday Inn in Flint, Michigan. This was only after he dropped his own five-tier birthday cake all over the carpet of his room during a party where guests sprayed the decor with fire extinguishers. The incident allegedly resulted in Moon's arrest, $24,000 in damages, and a Holiday Inn chain-wide ban on the Who. A year later, in Australia, Moon threw a TV off a balcony on the top floor of the Southern Cross Hotel and into the pool below. When a manager arrived in the suite with a drenched television in hand, demanding to know who did the deed, Moon exclaimed "I did!" before snatching it back and throwing it over the balcony once more. It became his signature move at hotels, a whimsical routine less psychotically “Shining”-esque than the time he went to a hardware store, bought a hatchet and proceeded to turn each piece of furniture in his Saskatoon, Canada, hotel room into timber. Our favorite, though? The time Moon set off a dynamite explosion in the bathroom of an American hotel to teach the manager, who had asked him to turn down the racket on his cassette player, the difference between "noise" and the Who.

Here's a clip of a very louche Moon remembering the happy day when he tormented a Copenhagen hotelier by destroying not one but three rooms in a single stroke.

- MSNBC.com, 27 August 2008

Tan socks

The New Yorker illustrates the gravitas and prowess characterising meetings between George W Bush and his senior economic advisors, in this anecdote concerning Ben Bernanke, chair of the Federal Reserve:

In June, 2005, Bernanke was sworn in at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. One of his first tasks was to deliver a monthly economics briefing to the President and the Vice-President. After he and Hubbard sat down in the Oval Office, President Bush noticed that Bernanke was wearing light-tan socks under his dark suit. “Where did you get those socks, Ben?” he asked. “They don’t match.” Bernanke didn’t falter. “I bought them at the Gap—three pairs for seven dollars,” he replied. During the briefing, which lasted about forty-five minutes, the President mentioned the socks several times.

The following month, Hubbard’s deputy, Keith Hennessey, suggested that the entire economics team wear tan socks to the briefing. Hubbard agreed to call Vice-President Cheney and ask him to wear tan socks, too. “So, a little later, we all go into the Oval Office, and we all show up in tan socks,” Hubbard recalled. “The President looks at us and sees we are all wearing tan socks, and he says in a cool voice, ‘Oh, very, very funny.’ He turns to the Vice-President and says, ‘Mr. Vice-President, what do you think of these guys in their tan socks?’ Then the Vice-President shows him that he’s wearing them, too. The President broke up.”

- The New Yorker, 1 December 2008

[Courtesy of Popbitch]

More quality programming from TVNZ

From a Metro interview with English actor Jeremy Sheffield:

Q: What's the worst thing you've been in?

A: A show called Bombshell by the producers of Footballers' Wives. The only place it was ever shown was New Zealand, which was a godsend. The script was really diabolical. It almost made me give up acting.

Q: Isn't their stuff supposed to be tongue-in-cheek?

A: It was supposed to be serious but they couldn't manage it so tried to make it camp halfway through. I was playing an army officer who'd had his foot blown off. By the last episode I was stalking Zoe Lucker, hiding in some bushes while she's having dinner with her boyfriend, with camouflage paint on my face, holding a submachinegun. It was insane.

Can you guess which New Zealand network screened this masterpiece? Yes, it was TVNZ, the network that's supposed to be operating under a public service broadcasting model and that (I understand; correct me if I'm wrong here) neglected to purchase the BBC's fantastic Cranford, the 2007 drama series that rivalled the near-mythical levels of quality of the 1995 Firth and Ehle TV production of Pride And Prejudice. Still, at least I'm better off than TVNZ's viewers - I've seen Cranford and haven't had the chore of switching off Bombshell.

- Source: Metro.co.uk, 4 December 2008

Standard measure of 'horrified' downgraded to virtually nil

Journalists bandy the word 'horrified' around left, right and centre these days to jazz up news stories, when they actually mean 'alarmed' or 'concerned' instead. The dictionary definition of horrified is 'struck with horror', i.e. 'an intense painful emotion of fear and repugnance'. So, lazy journalists, horrified is a pretty serious state of being: picture the women screaming at the sight of Godzilla looming above them, just about to dispense stampy crushy death.

With that in mind it's worth noting this fatuous showbiz report, which wins the prize for the least accurate journalistic description of public concern stemming from a minimally newsworthy celebrity event:

Beyonce Knowles revealed her hairy arm pits when she waved to shocked fans. The glamorous star had apparently forgotten to shave as she walked the red carpet at the New York premiere of her new Etta James biopic Cadillac Records.

One horrified onlooker said: "Beyonce always looks her best at these kind of events. She obviously either ran out of razors or just missed a bit in the bathroom."

Alert the International Court of Justice in the Hague and issue a warrant for her arrest immediately! Sheesh...

- Source: Bang! Showbiz, via Stuff.co.nz, 4 December 2008

03 December 2008

Crime and punishment

A judge in Ft Lupton, Colorado, has sentenced young people found guilty of using loud music to disturb the peace to a session of compulsory music of his own choosing, typically something teeth-grindingly awful like Barney the Dinosaur or Barry Manilow. You can skip the interminable set-up waffle of this CNN piece and go to 1:57 where the true agony of the offenders is made plain. O the humanity...! (p.s. I also recommend Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum) by the Cheeky Girls)

02 December 2008

How to annoy pilgrims

A New South Wales motorist, Ian Bryce, has been fined for erecting a transparent box atop his car containing a mannequin dressed as the Pope, which he drove to the Catholic World Youth Day in Sydney earlier this year as a form of protest. Police charged him with ‘having a roof ornament likely to distract motorists’, after quite a bit of deliberation:

The State Government had passed laws to give police extraordinary powers to arrest and fine people for "creating annoyance" to pilgrims during World Youth Day. However parts of these laws were overturned by the Federal Court following widespread protest. Bryce's legal representatives from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties yesterday told the Downing Centre Local Court that the case could not proceed until police provided further details of the charges.

Outside court his lawyer, Stephen Blanks, said the charge did not seem "particularly appropriate" given the condition in which police found the car. "The police are being particularly intelligent in trying to find a way to prosecute Mr Bryce," he said. Bryce said police had detained his Popemobile for about an hour "going through a range of possible charges on the radio to headquarters. I was very surprised [by the charge] because I thought that all advertising is designed to distract.

I wonder what the correct response is when a policeman tells you that you've done something wrong but then takes an hour to work out what law you've broken.

- Sydney Morning Herald, 2 December 2008

29 November 2008

You must only use your powers for good

'Bruce Lee' uses his super nunchuck skills at the table tennis table to smite his opponents with mighty ping pong prowess... (yes, it's an ad, but it's still neat).

28 November 2008

A quiet swim at the baths

Public bathing was a central feature of ancient Roman society, but as this passage from Seneca the Younger's 'Letters to Lucilius' points out, the bathhouses could be hard to relax in:

The hubbub makes you sorry that you are not deaf. I hear the beefcake boys wheezing and panting as they lift their lead weights, and the masseur's hands slapping their shoulders. Then, the ball players arrive and start yelling out the score - that's usually all I can take. But there's also those people who plunge themselves into the water with an almighty splash, and that only gives a mild idea of what goes on. At least these people have normal voices. Apart from them there is the depilator who screeches for customers and never shuts up until he's stripping the hair from someone's armpits and making them yell even louder than he does. Then there's the drinks pedlar, and the sausage salesman, and all the other hucksters, each bawling in his own special way.

- Seneca the Younger (c.4 BC - AD 65), quoted in Philip Matyszak, 'Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day', London, 2007

27 November 2008


Former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter ‘Hooky’ Hook, on the best advice anyone’s ever given him:

The best bit of advice anyone’s ever given me was ‘shut the f—k up’. This was back in about 1990 when I was on a panel at some new music conference in New York. I was f—king off my trolley, spouting off at the mouth about bootlegs or something else I knew nothing about and Barry White leaned into the mic and went (adopts an earth-rumblingly low voice) ‘OK, shut the f—k up!’ I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I’ve just been told to shut the f—k up by Barry White. Class.’

That was quite an eventful conference actually, because Ice-T and Ice Cube were there and it was all kicking off between their respective posses. They were running around with guns and all that, it was f—king wild. Ice Cube was actually supposed to be on our panel but he stormed off and some journalist put his hand up in the audience and said, ‘Excuse me, is Ice Cube coming back?’ Again, I was off me trolley and quick as a shot I said, ‘No mate, he’s f—king melted!’ It went down like a lead balloon…

The interview also mentions his fondness for practical jokes. If you listen to the original 12-inch version of ‘Temptation’ you can hear Bernard Sumner shouting at 0:50 when Hook and Stephen Morris shoved a snowball down his shirt during the recording.

- NME, 29 November 2008

26 November 2008

The Popdose Top 100

Popdose has compiled a list of their favourite century of singles from the past 50 years of popular music, and it's chock full of goodness. But I'm with the dude in the comments: is The Mayor Of Simpleton really the best XTC single they could think of? Not Generals And Majors? Or Senses Working Overtime? Still, brilliant stuff.

- Source: Popdose.com

But did she have a nice hairdo?

Melanie Reid REALLY doesn't like the idea of Nicole Kidman starring opposite Hugh Jackman in Australia:

Australia the movie [...] has one huge problem. It stars Nicole Kidman. Big mistake. Big, big mistake. At a stroke, the world's female cinemagoers will say as one: “I'm not going to see it if she's in it.”

Kidman is one of those women who turns other women off. And no, not just because she's pretty and we're jealous. It is because we perceive, and men don't, that she's one of the most overrated actors in the world, a woman who has been the kiss of death in practically every movie she has starred in.

Kidman is exquisitely accomplished at being awful. Did anyone see Cold Mountain? The sweeping American epic (note: another epic) foundered on the rocks of her gormless mirror-gaze. She can't act. Instead, she drifts around films like a lost porcelain doll, looking frozen, brittle and vapid, staring at the camera with her oh-golly-look-how-I'm-looking-interesting blue eyes.

And today's (predominantly male) directors haven't quite woken up to the fact that it just isn't enough for female actors just to wander around like supermodels: they need another skill too. Like emotion.

- The Times, 20 November 2008

25 November 2008

He'll give you the answer that you'll endorse

From a report on Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who is soon to take up the rotating presidency of the European Union:

Bohumil Dolezal, a leading commentator who once advised Mr. Klaus, said Mr. Klaus’s greatest talent was his ability to appeal to average Czechs, who imbibed his easy populism along with their beers.

“Czechs have a deep and hysterical past full of injustice, and Klaus is a master at tapping into this,” Mr. Dolezal said, adding that the office of the presidency, despite its limited powers, lends the aura of emperor-king.

“Even if a horse was president of the Czech Republic, it would have a 50 percent approval rating,” he said. “And Klaus is surely much cleverer than a horse.”

- New York Times, 24 November 2008

24 November 2008


Libby Purves on the institution of British cartooning that was (Carl) Giles of the Daily Express:

He distrusted Churchill, who in return disliked his work even when he was a powerful morale-booster during the Blitz. Perhaps his humane cynicism about high-flown rhetoric stung the war leader: Giles was in the Home Guard and saw domestic destruction close-up, and in drawing his unheroic soldiers followed the tradition of Bruce Bairnsfather in the first war, observing that squaddie humour still worked: “mud, cussing, lorries that won't go, shells that fall too near and boots that pinch too tight...” Who can forget the soldier looking up at an approaching missile and observing: “Oh look, here comes your Easter Egg.” Or the GI bride taken home with a baby, but horrified to find that her Wally lives not in a skyscraper but a hillbilly shack?

In 1944 he was a correspondent at Arnhem; he drew pictures of cells and gallows at Breendonck transit camp, and went into Belsen with the liberators. But here he flatly refused to draw, saying that photographs alone must tell the story that 50 years later was still to “haunt and horrify” him. Yet out of this grew the warmth and gaiety of Giles's postwar work. His Britons - stumpy, impudent, longsuffering, domestic, anti-authoritarian - cluster in the Giles Family, at whose head stands the baleful circular black figure of Grandma, a mouthpiece for every bracingly incorrect view: a fan of Lenin, hanger and flogger, hedonistic gambler and drinker, keen on violence. She smells of embrocation and mothballs yet is beadily on the ball.

She links the postwar tribe with its history: her mother “helped wash up at a Fete attended by Queen Victoria”. On a Christmas album we find her playing poker with an equally grumpy Santa in her nightie, while his presents go undelivered.

I was bewitched by the mysterious yet delightfully droll ramblings of Giles when I was growing up in the 70s and happened upon my grandparents' collections of the omnibus editions. Aside from Grandma Giles, who seemed rather terrifying, I liked his attention to detail in his backgrounds, where waggish short-trousered lads, babies in silly hats, rangy scavenging dogs and wary, one-eye-open cats capered and undermined any lingering pretence of seriousness.

There's an exhibit of Giles' work on at the Cartoon Museum in London until 15 February 2009.

- Source: The Times, 24 November 2008

23 November 2008

Enjoy your first day at work! Here, have some urine

Repairs are underway on the International Space Station, where astronauts are hurrying to patch up the station's expensive water treatment system, which has been playing up recently:

Astronauts hope they have a solution for getting a pivotal piece of equipment working so it can convert urine and sweat into drinkable water and allow the international space station to grow to six crew members.

Flight controllers asked station commander Michael Fincke on Sunday to change how a centrifuge is mounted in the $154 million water recycling system. The centrifuge is on mounts and Mission Control asked Fincke to remove them.

"Fantastic! That is something we can do," Fincke told Mission Control.

The astronauts have been working for the past three days to get the system running so that it can generate samples for testing back on Earth, but the urine processor only operates for two hours at a time before shutting down.

You don't find many workplaces in which the employees are queuing up to get to work so they can drink urine and sweat, do you?  (Although to be fair the water apparently tastes perfectly normal when the system works properly).

- Associated Press, 23 November 2008

21 November 2008

'I met her brains out'

Transcript of a live BBC Radio 1 interview on the Chris Moyles show, 21 October 2008, following up the ridiculously overblown ‘Sachsgate’ controversy, the resignation of Russell Brand from the BBC, and the suspension without pay of Jonathan Ross:

Russell Brand (RB):
… and could I take this opportunity to apologise to British institution and Manuel actor from Fawlty Towers, Andrew Sachs, whose answerphone message I besmirched … or more importantly, Jonathan Ross who I know was problematic when he came on your show Chris … He was … I phoned up Andrew Sachs to apologise for a matter live on radio and Jonathan Ross blurted out an expletive regarding Andrew Sachs’s grand-daughter who I’d in inverted commas recently “met”.

I met her brains out.

Chris Moyles (CM):
Wow ..


What a … wow.

And she’s in the hot tub?

There was a hot tub incident, but remember, that hot tub in a way is like Lourdes – people come there to be cleansed … and play cricket.

- BBC Editorial Standards Committee findings (PDF, 19 pages), November 2008

The future of religion

An extract from 'The Sleeper Awakes', the 1899 science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, in which Mr Graham, a citizen of Victorian England, falls into a coma that lasts 203 years and emerges from his slumber into a vastly altered London of the future. Here Wells enjoys himself with some social satire as Graham discovers there's been some changes in the world of religion since his own time:

...his attention was arrested by the facade of one of the Christian sects. They were travelling seated on one of the swift upper ways, the place leapt upon them at a bend and advanced rapidly towards them. It was covered with inscriptions from top to base, in vivid white and blue, save where a coarse and glaring kinematograph transparency presented a realistic New Testament scene[...] Graham had already become familiar with the phonotype writing and these inscriptions arrested him, being to his sense for the most part almost incredible blasphemy. Among the less offensive were 'Salvation on the First Floor and turn to the Right', 'Put your Money on your Maker', 'The Sharpest Conversion in London, Expert Operators! Look Slippy!', What Christ would say to the Sleeper - Join the Up-to-date Saints!', 'Be a Christian - without hindrance to your present Occupation', 'All the Brightest Bishops on the Bench tonight and Prices as Usual', 'Brisk Blessings for Busy Businessmen'.

- H.G. Wells, The Sleeper Awakes, 1899 (revised edition 1910)

Bush's memoirs

'Gosh. Poor old George Bush. He's having a rough time, isn't he? He has the worst presidential approval ratings in US history. Under his stalwart leadership, the country has taken an economic, social and emotional nosedive. His own party attempts to distance themselves from him on a daily basis. And to top it all off, can you believe that nobody wants to buy his memoirs? To add insult to injury, publishers are courting his wife with fervour, each clamouring for the opportunity to bid on her memoirs. It has to burn at least a little, right?

I don't really understand why people aren't interested. I'm assuming that watching Bush attempt to justify the myriad interesting choices he's made – all of which fall somewhere in the range of "irresponsible" to "deadly" to "Were you asleep?" – holds the same sickeningly captivating appeal as watching a car crash. Still, other readers might be interested in seeing just what new and grammatically impossible bastardisations of the English language Bush could spew forth next. It seems intriguing to be afforded the opportunity to see into the mind of a man who felt compelled to lie (poorly) about his favourite book from childhood. Granted, I certainly wouldn't pay for the privilege, but that's why we have such an efficacious library system, no?'

- Meg Kane, 'Bush: The memoir no one wants to read', Guardian, 19 November 2008

Good thing it wasn’t a lifetime supply

Speights brewery have presented a year’s supply of their ale (52 dozen bottles) to retired shearer Paddy Mathias, 95, who now lives in a rest home in Queenstown. Not wishing to advocate alcoholism amongst the extremely aged, perhaps it would be better for Paddy to restrict himself to one bottle per day. At that rate they’d last until July 2010… assuming Paddy lasts that long, that is. Good luck to him!

The Otago Daily Times also reported that:

On his birthday in June, Mr Mathias told the Otago Daily Times he had "not yet" been tempted to get married, and when asked yesterday if he had asked any of the nurses to marry him, he replied, sharp as a tack, "Not yet."

- Otago Daily Times, 21 November 2008

20 November 2008

It’ll be all white on the night?

Dunedin, New Zealand, will be playing host to a test match against the touring West Indies cricket team in December, and the Dunedin City Council and the Otago Cricket Association have devised a cunning slogan for the match to show the fighting spirit of the locals. Officials are:

...encouraging Dunedinites and cricket watchers to use the catch-cry, "it's all white here" and dress in white for the occasion. The Dunedin City Council and the Otago Cricket Association say the concept mirrors "black-outs" created during the All Blacks' [rugby] games in the city.

I'm fairly sure that the West Indies team aren't close followers of rugby, but someone will probably point out the connection for them. Here's hoping they're not sensitive souls because when a largely white city welcomes a team of black sportsmen* it could be seen as extremely ignorant and borderline offensive to use the phrase "It's all white here!"

- Source: The Press (Christchurch), 20 November 2008

* Note that the current West Indies team has one white player: 30-year-old all-rounder Brendan Nash, who was born in Western Australia. His dad competed as a swimmer for Jamaica in the 1960s.

19 November 2008

The 25 most ridiculous band names in history

Matt Wilson expounds on his picks of the most dreadful, unimaginative and just plain nincompoopish choices of band names ever.  Warning: posting may contain traces of Fred Durst.

- Cracked.com

[Courtesy of Largehearted Boy]

18 November 2008

Spike Milligan

"My lords, ladies and gentlemen, and that swine the chef. I am here a) because of an invitation and b) hunger. The invitation came from a Miss Coil, whose grandfather invented it... I asked her why I was to be honoured as after-dinner speaker – she said 'well we'd run out'. I said 'of speakers?' She said 'no – money'. I said 'I understand as I've heard that people are being paid £3 to come here and £5 to eat the dinner'."

- Spike Milligan, extract of a speech to the Chelsea Arts Club in May 1982, quoted in the Independent, 18 November 2008

17 November 2008

'And he felt very angry because he didn't shoot her dead'

William McGonagall (1825-1902), the Scots poet esteemed as possibly the worst in history, holds forth on the events of 2 March 1882, when would-be assassin Roderick Maclean attempted to take the life of Queen Victoria as she left Windsor station:
Attempted Assassination of the Queen

God prosper long our noble Queen,
And long may she reign!
Maclean he tried to shoot her,
But it was all in vain.

For God He turned the ball aside
Maclean aimed at her head;
And he felt very angry
Because he didn't shoot her dead.

There's a divinity that hedges a king,
And so it does seem,
And my opinion is, it has hedged
Our most gracious Queen.

Maclean must be a madman,
Which is obvious to be seen,
Or else he wouldn't have tried to shoot
Our most beloved Queen.

Victoria is a good Queen,
Which all her subjects know,
And for that God has protected her
From all her deadly foes.

She is noble and generous,
Her subjects must confess;
There hasn't been her equal
Since the days of good Queen Bess.

Long may she be spared to roam
Among the bonnie Highland floral,
And spend many a happy day
In the palace of Balmoral.

Because she is very kind
To the old women there,
And allows them bread, tea, and sugar,
And each one get a share.

And when they know of her coming,
Their hearts feel overjoy'd,
Because, in general, she finds work
For men that's unemploy'd.

And she also gives the gipsies money
While at Balmoral, I've been told,
And, mind ye, seldom silver,
But very often gold.

I hope God will protect her
By night and by day,
At home and abroad,
When she's far away.

May He be as a hedge around her,
As he's been all along,
And let her live and die in peace
Is the end of my song

Tatler: 'an entire alternate dimension of shit'

Charlie Brooker waxes, mouth-foamingly, at the sycophantic tiara-licking survey of pointless heirs and heiresses that is Tatler's 'Little Black Book', after a friend tipped him off.  Brilliant!
I turned to the Little Black Book section, which turned out to be an authoritative A-Z of overprivileged arseholes (most of them still in their early 20s), plus the occasional celeb, rated and compiled by the single biggest group of wankers in the universe. You're supposed to want to sleep with these people, and the text attempts to explain why. It's the ultimate in self-celebratory nothingness, 2,000 times worse than the worst ever article in Heat magazine. It includes five lords, six ladies, four princes, five princesses, two viscounts, three earls, a marquess, and 16 tittering poshos whose names are prefixed with the phrase "The Hon" (which, I've just discovered, means they're the son or daughter of a viscount or baron). Names like Cressida, Archie, Guy, Blaise and Freddie feature heavily. How annoying is it? Put it this way: James Blunt is also on the list, and he's the least objectionable person there.

Each entry takes the form of a chortling mini-biog guaranteed to make you want to punch the person it describes flat in the face. Thus, we learn that "Jakie Warren" is "the heartthrob who lives in the coolest house in Edinburgh and has the initials of all his best friends tattooed on his thigh. You can touch them but he'll make you buy shares in the racing syndicate he co-owns with Ed Sackville ... Good in bed, we hear."

Or consider "The Hon Wenty Beaumont": "The growl, the growl - girls go weak for the growl ... Utterly divine Christie's kid who enjoys nothing more than playing Pass the Pig during weekends at the family estate in Northumberland or in Saint-Tropez."

In other words, the only thing these waddling bags of arseflesh have going for them is unrestricted access to a vast and unwarranted fortune. Strip away the coins and it reads like a list of the most boring people in Britain.

As an additional poke in the ribs, each entry is accompanied by a tiny photograph, so you can squint into the eyes of the cosseted stranger you've suddenly decided to hate. The girls are technically pretty in a uniform, Sloaney kind of way, while the men are more varied, falling into three main categories: dull preening James Blunt types, dull preening indie types, and simpering ruddy-cheeked oafs who look like they're about to pull a pair of underpants over their head and run around snorting like a hog in a bid to impress a blind-drunk debutante.

In summary, it's an entire alternate dimension of shit, a galaxy of streaming-eye fart gas, compressed into a few glossy pages. It will have you alternating between rage, jealousy, bewilderment and distress, before dumping you in a bottomless slough of despond. Buy a copy. No, don't. Stand in a shop flipping through the pages, deliberately fraying each corner as you go. Drink it in. Feel your impotent anger levels peaking. The headrush is good for you. Try it. You'll hate it. Thanks for the recommendation. I'm off for a cry.

- Charlier Brooker, 'Tatler's Little Black Book is the most dispiriting document mankind has produced. Fight for a copy', Guardian, 17 November 2008

13 November 2008

Non-sucky Youtube video contest

YouTube Contest Challenges Users To Make A 'Good' Video

[Courtesy of Cousin Alex]

Movie reviewing rules

Roger Ebert, tongue in cheek, outlines some of his rules for movie reviewing:
Do not make challenges you cannot back up. For example, never say in your "Hamlet 2" review, "I challenge anyone who goes to see the movie not to sing the words to 'Rock Me, Sexy Jesus' for years to come." When Gene Siskel predicted that "Hakuna Matata" from "The Lion King" would become a national catch-phrase, he later gracefully acknowledged he was wrong, after only a little prodding from me. [Note: A reader informs me that Gene was right. I believe the jury is still out on "Rock Me, Sexy Jesus."]
Sit down, shut up, and pay attention. No cellphone use. No texting during the movie. No talking out loud. No sucking up the last Coke out of the Kidney-Buster. It is permitted to laugh, or to scream when a movie scares the crap out of you. It's okay to join in the general chuckle after the It's only a cat! moment is over. There was a special amendment forgiving Pauline Kael for saying "Oh! Oh! Oh!" in astonishment. We eagerly awaited her "ohs!" and took care to note when she uttered them. It is acceptable, but rarely, to join in a general audience uproar, as at the first Cannes press screening of "The Brown Bunny." Even then, no cupping your hand under your armpit and producing fart noises.
- Roger Ebert, 28 October 2008

Dodgy food miles

Ronald Bailey points out that advocates of 'food miles' awareness are over-simplifying the problem of greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural production:
Local food production does not always produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the 2005 DEFRA study found that British tomato growers emit 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of tomatoes grown compared to 0.6 tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of Spanish tomatoes. The difference is British tomatoes are produced in heated greenhouses. Another study found that cold storage of British apples produced more carbon dioxide than shipping New Zealand apples by sea to London. In addition, U.K. dairy farmers use twice as much energy to produce a metric ton of milk solids than do New Zealand farmers. Other researchers have determined that Kenyan cut rose growers emit 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per 12,000 roses compared to the 35 tons of carbon dioxide emitted by their Dutch competitors. Kenyan roses grow in sunny fields whereas Dutch roses grow in heated greenhouses.
Of course I'm biased: without New Zealand milk and apples the economy would be shot. 
- Ronald Bailey, Reason.com, 4 November 2008

[Courtesy of AL Daily]

12 November 2008

George Brown

Broadcaster and historian Andrew Marr remembers the hard-drinking British Labour Party front-bencher, George Brown (1914-85):

A typical story about him, probably apocryphal, has him attending an official reception in Peru, and, very inebriated, approaching a willowy figure in scarlet for a dance. Brown is repulsed and protests grandly that he is Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; why could he not have a nice dance? The reply comes: for three reasons, Mr Brown. First because you are disgustingly drunk, second because that music is not a dance but our national anthem, and third because I am the cardinal-archbishop of Lima.

- Andrew Marr, A History of Modern Britain, 2008

11 November 2008

Sourav Ganguly

And so Sourav Ganguly has retired. The Spin would like to point out at this stage that not all English writers referred to him as Lord Snooty. In fact, some - including this one - actually quite liked the bloke, not least because he did not appear to pay any attention to what other people thought of him. But, hey, we couldn't let the moment pass without a misty-eyed look back at some of Ganguly's greatest hits...

1) India had not forgotten Andrew Flintoff's pecs-out rampage round the Wankhede a few months earlier when they completed a stunning two-wicket win chasing 326 in the final of the 2002 NatWest Series at Lord's. Watching from the balcony, Ganguly took his shirt off and yahooed it round his head like a tequila-sozzled mercenary. It was very funny - and very Ganguly.

2) During India's epic 2-1 home win over Steve Waugh's Australians in early 2001, Ganguly developed a habit of making Waugh wait at the toss, thus achieving outside the hours of play what few managed to do inside them: raise the temperature of the Iceman. Waugh pronounced himself "wound up" by Ganguly's "continued petulance" and, after muchconsideration, called him a "prick". Ganguly smiled to himself and got on with the business of winning a series.

3) Ganguly was once batting with Mike Atherton during his stint with Lancashire in 2000 when, in between overs, he regally summoned Athers to his end. Expecting to gain some valuable insight into the quality of the bowling or the nature of the pitch, Atherton was surprised to be handed Ganguly's sweater instead. Ganguly may not have said"dispose of this, my good man," but he probably wasn't far away.

4) Arriving in New Zealand for India's ill-fated visit in 2002-03, Ganguly and his entourage (wife, child, maid) whizzed through customs ahead of the rest of India's tour party and allegedly commandeered the team bus to take them directly to their hotel without waiting for anyone else. Well, he was the captain.

5) After India's left-arm swing bowler Ashish Nehra was given the new ball against Namibia during the 2003 World Cup, he retired with figures of 0.1-0-0-0 courtesy of a twisted ankle. Asked later why he had opened with Nehra, Ganguly was straight to the point. "We wanted to see what Ashish did with the new ball," he said. "We found out that he falls over."

6) India were 1-0 down at home to Australia in 2004-05 when the teams travelled to Nagpur for the third Test. Ganguly asked the groundsman to remove the grass from the wicket, only to be presented with a greentop that prompted the umpire David Shepherd to chuckle "Looks like home, don't it?" With immaculate timing, Ganguly developed a groin problem "at the very last minute", according to his coach John Wright. India lost by 342 runs.

7) In 2006 Ganguly turned out for Northamptonshire. It quickly became apparent that he had left his best form somewhere in the Bay of Bengal, and Jason Brown - Northamptonshire's off-spinning rabbit - was persuaded to strike a bet with team-mates about who would average more. Ganguly's championship scores during his brief stint were 2, 0, 6, 2, 5* and 9: a total of 19 runs at 3.80. Brown (80 runs at 6.66) won his bet.

8) After India had lost in the final of the 2001 Coca-Cola Cup to Sri Lanka in Colombo - their eighth successive one-day final defeat - Ganguly was summoned to see the match referee Cammie Smith, who felt he had verbally abused a Sri Lankan batsman. But rumours of Ganguly's unpopularity must be exaggerated: not one person, including the Sri Lankans, would testify against him. Cordial relations were regarded as more important than stuffing Sourav. The Sri Lankans "played the game," remembers Wright, "and pulled the rug out from beneath Smith's feet."

9) You must have heard the one about the time Ganguly scored a 50 for Lancashire, turned round to salute his adoring team-mates on the balcony and then discovered they were all inside the dressing room doing more important things like cutting their toenails. Here's how Flintoff summed up the dynamic: "It's a struggle with him. He wasn't interested in the other players and it became a situation where it was 10 players and Ganguly. He turned up as if he was royalty - it was like having Prince Charles on your side."

10) Ganguly falls out monumentally with Greg Chappell, Wright's replacement as India coach. One report suggests Chappell's messages to Ganguly out in the middle, urging him to speed up his batting, were routinely ignored. He is dropped from the side in 2006, but - amid widespread outrage - returns soon after. A year later he makes 239 against Pakistan at Bangalore. Post-Chappell, Ganguly averages 46, four more than his career figure. You've got to hand it to him. And you've got to admit: we'll miss him.
- Lawrence Booth, The Spin, 11 November 2008

Not just an ageing popstar, then?

"Never mind the enduring brilliance of Madonna's self-created "brand" or the many reinventions of her stage persona, fabulous though they are. The real appeal is in the twists her life has taken, and the way they always seem to echo the experiences of "ordinary" women...
The soon-to-be-former Mrs Ritchie remains the zeitgeist queen, a one-woman barometer of where women are at. To mix metaphors, it's as if she's the digital image and we're the pixels."
- India Knight, Sunday Times
[Courtesy of Private Eye]

09 November 2008


The Kinks' 'Lola' in chart form, for those of you who have trouble determining a subject's gender.

23 October 2008

Area Boy Enters Jumping-And-Touching-Tops-Of-Doorways Phase

BROOKINGS, SD — Local 11-year-old Dylan Adams entered the stage in childhood development Wednesday in which a boy feels the uncontrollable desire to run, jump, and touch the top of every doorframe he encounters. "It is perfectly natural for young males to start exhibiting a tendency to touch things that are slightly higher than they can reach from a normal standing position," child psychologist Gerald Bakerfield said. "In many cases, the child is experimenting with his newfound ability to make his own choices, whether that means jumping to touch ceilings, street signs, or low-hanging tree branches." Bakerfield added that Adams would soon progress from the jumping-and-touching-doorways phase to the crossing-your-arms-over-your-chest-turning-around-and-pawing-at-the-back-of-your-own-shoulders-to-make-it-seem-like-you're-making-out-with-someone phase.

- The Onion

22 October 2008

Don't sugar-coat it, Alan

Alan McGee of Creation Records fame has a few strong opinions about the Q Awards, just announced in London:
...in Q World (a dull place full of accountants and estate agents) the biggest band in the world are Coldplay: music for grown-up teenage emos, who, when not crying and writing bad poetry about sad colours, are giving a few pounds to Amnesty International charity workers, because that is what Chris Martin would do (weeping bitter tears for the world as he did so). Of course, Coldplay went onto win best album and why not? We are in Q World now...
If depression, blandness, and boredom would ever manifest itself in physical form, it would be the Q Awards. Someone actually said "there are no losers tonight, only people full of win!". No, there is one big loser: music. The Q Awards are the meaningless musical equivalent of Homer Simpson "winning" the First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.
- Alan McGee, 'Why I hate the Q Awards', Guardian, 21 October 2008 
[Yeah, two Guardian articles in a row, losing my touch!  Disclosure: I still buy Q Magazine now and then, but not every issue like I did from 1993 to 2006]

21 October 2008

Is there something I should know?

Republicans in New Mexico have backed down from initial allegations of electoral fraud in the state, in which they produced a list of 28 possibly fraudulent votes cast in the Democratic primary, including one voter named Duran Duran.  Turns out there actually *is* a Duran Duran in the Albuquerque phonebook.  Oliver Burkeman comments that 'even so, Republican anti-fraud operatives expect to spend election day in New Mexico keeping an eye out for bad Eighties blow-drys and people wearing blazers with the sleeves rolled up'.
- Guardian, 21 October 2008

The meltdown explained

The economic meltdown explained for graduate students in comic form...
[Courtesy of AL Daily]

19 October 2008

Crowded skies

A cool 71-second video displaying all commercial airline traffic in the world in a 24-hour period. The route between Europe and the northeast of the United States is fluid and organic, but take a look around the rest of the planet too - it's a busy world.

24 Hour Air Traffic Video

[Courtesy of Deeknow]

16 October 2008

Optimists a rare breed

'Consternation at Newsweek, which published a poll earlier this week revealing that 86% of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction in which the nation is going - a historic low, coupled with lower approval ratings for George Bush than Richard Nixon ever had to confront. A further 4% didn't know how they felt. So who on earth are the 10% who think everything's fine? "The obvious guess is that the responders misunderstood the question," one reporter for the magazine speculated. "So maybe a few old ladies thought the nice Newsweek pollster said, 'Are you sad it's tied?' And they said, 'Yes,' because they thought their guy had a big lead." Intrepidly, he headed for the streets of Washington DC to find some of these sunny optimists. In the course of much questioning, he found five, two of whom were pretty clearly relentless optimists - the kind of people temperamentally unable to feel depressed about anything, no matter how catastrophic the economic news. Another two were Canadian. The fifth was drunk'
- Oliver Burkeman, Guardian, 16 October 2008

How not to break the ice

Police in Picton would like to speak to a man who has been belching at women in the town, thereby flouting the basic tenets of good manners and endangering the already tenuous grip on reality prevalent in small-town New Zealand life:
An unknown man has approached three women in the last two weeks, made inappropriate comments and belched in their faces before going on his way.  Senior constable Paul McKenzie, of Picton, said the man entered a shop in High St, Picton and carried on verbally at the retailer, again ending his performance with a belch.  "He badgers them with inappropriate comments of a non-sexual nature, but it is offensive to someone not expecting it," Mr McKenzie said.
- Marlborough Express, 16 October 2008

15 October 2008

How to finish an interview quickly

John Cleese discusses his technique for responding to inane interview questions:

Finally, she girded her loins, leaned forward in a haze of pheremones and Chanel, and purred,

“So, what exactly do you think of when you answer the call of nature?”

It took a few seconds to work out what she meant, and I decided the only fair response was to respond with perfect media-trained skill to which I felt sure she could relate - I answered her question with a question.

“Sitting, or standing?”

At which, she suddenly became confused, blushed, started to stammer, gathered her audio recording device and hurriedly left.

- Cleeseblog, 23 July 2008

13 October 2008

Hazy phrasing

'Literary theorists used to say that their most abstruse prose was "writing the difficulty"—that the sentences were tortuous because there was no briskly commonsensical way of representing a complex issue. Sarah Palin, alas, talks the difficulty. She may claim, as she did in last Thursday's Vice-Presidential debate, that "Americans are cravin' that straight talk," but they are sure not going to get it from the Governor—not with her peculiar habit of speaking only half a sentence and then moving on to another for spoliation, that strange, ghostly drifting through the haziest phrases, as if she were cruelly condemned to search endlessly for her linguistic home: "I do take issue with some of the principle there with that redistribution of wealth principle that seems to be espoused by you."'
- James Wood in The New Yorker, 13 October 2008

12 October 2008

The stupid vote

The US presidential election is only a few weeks away so John Oliver, Senior Polling Analyst for The Daily Show, highlights the importance of a section of the voting public that seldom receives due credit for the pivotal role they play in deciding election campaigns: the stupid.

10 October 2008

Dishonesty is the best policy

A cranky local MP, Chris Ruane, has painted over a shopfront sign in Rhyl, north Wales, that has proclaimed the now-disused establishment to be "Rhyl's biggest receiver of stolen goods".  Ruane argued that 'the name is emblazoned across the front of the building, which sends out completely the wrong message about Rhyl'.  The sign had been in place for decades, and Ruane said that the sign was often used by the media to portray Rhyl in a negative light.
If it was up to me I'd relish the opportunity to live in a town in which the criminals are so helpful!
- BBC News, 10 October 2008  

De-boganising Upper Hutt

Council business services director Chris Upton summarised past feeling about the city in a report put out for public consultation.  "Upper Hutt has been tagged with a negative perception for many years," he wrote. "This is not just from people who live in Wellington, or people that knew somebody who drove a [Holden] Torana and wore a black jersey".  Poor perceptions had spread to "many developers, investors and retailers who carry negative connotations of our city - that is, if they even have a reason to think about Upper Hutt".
The newspaper article then goes on to spoil the effect somewhat by interviewing as many local residents owning Holdens as possible.
Incidentally, I have fond memories of a visit to Upper Hutt to see an Arts Festival play a couple of years ago.  The performance - the Maori drama 'Battalion' - was enjoyable, but soon the time came to return to the bright lights of Wellington City.  As I was unfamiliar with the layout of the Upper Hutt town centre, I got a little lost navigating through the many roundabouts.  Luckily I espied a sign - 'City Centre' - so I followed that, hoping to find the route back to the motorway and home.  Unfortunately I just ended up amongst more roundabouts, Pizza Huts and dairies.  Only then did I realise that the sign wasn't pointing the way to Wellington city centre: it was directing me to the Upper Hutt 'city centre'.  Something of an oxymoron there. 
- Dominion Post, 9 October 2008

09 October 2008

Dens of iniquity

'Puritans detested the theatre and tended to blame every natural calamity, including a rare but startling earthquake in 1580, on the playhouses. They considered theatres, with their lascivious puns and unnatural cross-dressing, a natural haunt for prostitutes and shady characters, a breeding ground of infectious diseases, a distraction from worship, and a source of unhealthy sexual excitement. All the female parts were of course played by boys - a convention that would last until the Restoration in the 1660s. In consequence, the Puritans believed that the theatres were hotbeds of sodomy - still a capital offence in Shakespeare's lifetime - and wanton liaisons of all sorts.

There may actually have been a little something to this, as popular tales of the day suggest. In one story a young wife pleads with her husband to be allowed to attend a popular play. Reluctantly the husband consents, but with the strict proviso that she be vigilant for thieves and keep her purse buried deep within her petticoats. Upon her return home, the wife bursts into tears and confesses that the purse has been stolen. The husband is naturally astounded. Did his wife not feel a hand probing beneath her dress? Oh, yes, she responds candidly, she had felt a neighbour's hand there - 'but I did not think he had come for that'

- Bill Bryson, 'Shakespeare', 2007

Overclocking debt

The famous National Debt Clock in New York has reached its own mini-Millennium Bug moment.  When the US national public debt figure reached $10 trillion last month, the clock was unable to show the full amount, because it only had 13 digits.  The clock's owners are adding two more zeroes, although when they need to use two more zeroes there may not be enough money around to pay for the electricity to illuminate the sign...

Perhaps we should take Matthew's advice and get clued up on how things ended up so shaky?

- Source: BBC News, 9 October 2008 

08 October 2008

Fixing a hole?

A birthday party was held in the street by local traders in Edinburgh... for a pothole.  Protesting at the time taken to fix the hole in Leith Walk, the traders erected a banner: 'Happy birthday hole - one year old'.  But to their surprise their mock birthday celebrations were interrupted when local tram-line contractors tore down the banner and began popping the balloons the traders had tied up.  A minor scuffle ensued:

Diane Taylor-Wallace, owner of the Snail Mail shop, said: "I'm still a bit shocked, it got nasty really quickly. I was in the shop chatting and I heard the noise of balloons popping and automatically thought some kids had got hold of them.  So I went out with my best stern granny look but to my amazement I saw all these grown men bursting the balloons"
See how upset people can get if you throw a party and don't invite them?

- The Scotsman, 7 October 2008

New Zealand ants found in New Zealand

An Invercargill family feared a biosecurity incident had occurred when they discovered ants inside a tin of Chupa Chups lollipops imported from Spain.  However, after further examination by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, it was revealed that the ants were... black house ants from New Zealand.  So, basically someone left the lid off a tin and this warrants a newspaper story?

- Southland Times, 7 October 2008

06 October 2008

Eagle-eye Cooper

From a book chapter on mapping the Earth from space:
'...the most fruitful of the Mercury missions was the last, the 22-orbit flight of Gordon Cooper in May 1963.  Cooper was equipped with a hand-held 70mm Hasselblad [camera] and with incredibly acute vision, 20/12 instead of the normal 20/20.  Because of the weather conditions below and the configuration of his orbit, nearly all of the best colour pictures Cooper took were of Tibet.  He passed over that country several times, travelling at an altitude of more than 160 kilometres and a speed of 28,000 kilometres an hour.
Cooper's report after the mission astonished everyone.  "I could detect individual houses and streets," the astronaut said, "in the low-humidity and cloudless areas such as the Himalaya ... area, the Tibetan plain, and the southwestern desert area of the US.  I saw several individual houses [probably large lamaseries] with smoke coming from the chimneys in the high country around the Himalayas ... I saw what I took to be a vehicle along a road in the Himalaya area and in the west Texas-Arizona area.  I could first see the dust blowing off the road, then could see the road clearly, and when the light was right, an object that was probably a vehicle"
Could this really be possible?  Or was Cooper seeing things?  Since the physiological effects of space flight were at that time largely unknown, a number of scientists suspected that Cooper, under the influence of prolonged weightlessness, had suffered hallucinations.  But subsequent investigation revealed that a large white-topped truck had indeed driven along that rather deserted southwestern highway at the exact time and place Cooper had reported.  
- John Noble Wilford, 'The Mapmakers', 2002  

05 October 2008

'Disaster capitalism'

Stephen Colbert interviews Naomi Klein about her new book 'The Shock Doctrine', which sets out how governments manipulate public opinion in times of crisis to advance hidden agendas. Despite the comedic setting this is an excellent interview, and I enjoy how even the friendly Colbert audience gasps a little when Klein makes some of her more contentious (but hardly radical) points.

03 October 2008

Breaching the peace

A man has been convicted of a breach of the peace and fined £100 in Scotland after admitting taking a photograph of an ill woman who had emerged from a bar to 'get some fresh air'.  Sebastian Przygodzki was arrested when the ill woman took offense at being photographed and called for police to intervene. 
Sheriff Kenneth Hogg said the matter "could be best described as exceptionally unchivalrous.  The lady concerned was entitled to her privacy and not to have a passing stranger take a photograph," said the sheriff.
So, just to recap, in Scotland it's not a breach of the peace to be 'ill' in a public place, but it is to take a photograph of it?  While I agree that taking the woman's picture was undoubtedly ill-advised and unchivalrous, that's a matter of poor manners, not a matter for a court.  And I presume the same legal test doesn't apply to nearly every paparazzi picture of Amy Winehouse?
- BBC News, 3 October 2008    

The price of credulous ignorance

...is apparently $44.99, which is the sum self-taught weather forecaster Ken Ring is asking for his annual publication of weather predictions for New Zealand in the coming year:
His predictions for this month are a lot of rain on October 24 and if you have something planned for the first 11 days of February 2009, cancel them and prepare for flooding.
Mr Ring is also a global warming skeptic, arguing that we shouldn't be fretting:
"Please tell your children to stop worrying. The planet is fine. Enjoy the planet. That what it is here for".  He said the planet's weather systems could never be affected by carbon dioxide emissions and it would not make any difference if all the CO2 currently stored in wood, coal and fossil fuels was released in the atmosphere all at once.  Even if it did, he said a warmer planet was not something to be afraid of. "We have a moral responsibility to create global warming because we need a warmer planet. We really do. A warmer world is better. Really. Life likes warmth."
Maybe I should give this weather forecasting lark a go too.  Here goes.  In New Zealand, in the coming year, it will rain, like, heaps.  Wellington will be windier than is strictly necessary, Auckland will be sticky and humid, Invercargill will be chilly, and as a blanket rule the nightly television news programmes will devote a comically large proportion of their running time to talking about the aforementioned weather, in lieu of actual news to talk about.   

- Source: Taranaki Daily News, 3 October 2008

01 October 2008

Members Of Twisted Sister Now Willing To Take It

NEW YORK — In a stunning reversal of their long-stated reluctance to take it, members of heavy-metal band Twisted Sister announced Monday that, after 24 years of fervent refusal, they are now willing to take it. "I acknowledge that we promised not to take it anymore, but things change. The world is a different place today, and with that in mind, we would like to go on record as saying that, starting right now, we are going to take it," read a statement released by the band's lead singer, Dee Snider. "To clarify, we would still prefer not to take it, but as of now, taking it is an option that we would be open to. That is all." Bassist Mark "the Animal" Mendoza also stated that, in regards to what he wants to do with his life, he no longer solely wants to rock, but would instead prefer doing other things, such as raising a family and working as a claims adjuster in Rye, NY.

- The Onion

30 September 2008

Automotive bling

Would-be gangsta rappers seeking to augment their collection of car-badge neckwear should look no further than Constable Henderson of the Wanaka police.  He's got a bag containing 30 car badges lifted from vehicles in the area.  Should be enough to outfit an entire army of Central Otago Beastie Boy wannabes?
- Otago Daily Times, 27 September 2008

29 September 2008

The thankless role of the local radio host

Martin Kelner discusses the favourite 'Alan Partridge moment' from his local radio career:
I was presenting an evening show across several northern local radio stations, combining news and sport. My guest was the former Liberal MP Michael Meadowcroft, newly returned from former Yugoslavia, where he had been advising on how democracy could be brought to the region.

Alongside my conversation with Meadowcroft, I was to take regular reports from numerous midweek football matches across the north. While I was lining up the football reports, I half-listened to the internationally renowned expert on democracy explaining how unstable the situation is in the Balkans, and how it was essential for the future of Europe that a lasting peace was achieved.

"The Balkans," he said, "is where the flame was lit that ignited the Great War, and it is no exaggeration to say that if we do not get this right, it could lead to a confrontation from which the world might not recover." To which I responded with the immortal words: "I'm afraid I'm going to have to interrupt you there, there's been a goal at Chesterfield."

- Guardian, 29 September 2008

27 September 2008

New Zealand logic

A New Zealand voter was asked what was the deciding factor for him in the upcoming general election:

[I]n Invercargill, 24-year-old travel consultant Rob Wilson said he was switching to National because Labour had simply "had their day".

"New Zealand needs a strong leader to get it economically focused and Labour is not providing that," he said.

"Neither is National really, but change is as good as a holiday."

- NZ Herald, 27 September 2008

25 September 2008

The key to happiness is low expectations

From an article offering possible explanations why Denmark has yet again been ranked as the world's happiest country:

In 2006, researchers from the Institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Denmark examined a range of possible factors, from genes to cycling habits to cuisine. In a charming report, they offered two explanations: the Danes have never got over their rapture at winning the European football championships in 1992 (their happiness rose to new peaks that year, and has stayed on a plateau since), and—the main finding—Danes, unlike the woeful Greeks and Italians, have very low expectations of the immediate future. "Year after year," the researchers write, "they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark."

- Sally Laird, 'Why Hamlet's Heirs Are Happy', Prospect Magazine, September 2008

Sarah Millican

The winner of the best newcomer award at the 2008 Edinburgh comedy festival, standup comedian Sarah Millican discusses marriage guidance counselling, divorce (the inevitable result of marrying the first person who likes you), and the lamentable lack of attention paid to the culinary properties of hash-cakes.

See also her interview with Lauren Laverne on the Festival Show.

23 September 2008

Fly on the wall

Transcript of the fascinating fly on the wall doco 'Coverage of People Running a Safari Park':

Presenter: Hello and welcome to 'Coverage of People Running a Safari Park' and I'm talking to John who looks after the zebras which you can't see because they ran away from the camera.  John, what are you doing?

John: I'm getting the zebras their zebra food. 

Presenter: Do the zebras find it colder here in Wiltshire than in Africa?

John: They do, because it is.

Presenter: Well, while we let John who you don't know get on with his job which he does every day, Jilly has been talking to Head Tree-counter Mike.

[Cross to Jilly]

Mike: Fifteen thousand, fifteen thousand and one...

Jilly: So Mike, we're getting coverage of you counting trees, is that right?

Mike: Yeah...  Oh, I've lost count.  [Starts again]  One, two, three, four...

- That Mitchell And Webb Look, s1 e2

22 September 2008

What men don't get about women

'...And, please, do not become angry if she suggests that she looks fat. Fretting aloud about weight is womankind's least charming habit but you can't stop them. Awful Men don't understand this and will either accuse women of fishing for compliments or scream "You're not FAT! For GOD'S SAKE stop going ON ABOUT IT!"
You must, always, simply put your head on one side and say, as if it's the first time you've had the conversation: "You don't look fat to me," and smile'
- Independent, 22 September 2008

18 September 2008

Elementary mathematics

The Timaru Herald reported on the low turnout at a meeting held in Timaru by the United Future candidate for the Rangitata electorate, Brian Ward, with his party leader, Hon Peter Dunne, Minister of Revenue attending too.  Under the headline 'Three listen to Dunne speak', the Herald observed that:
Peter Dunne came to talk but no one came to listen.

The United Future leader didn't pull the punters to a public meeting yesterday with just three members of the public attending.

So, no-one apart from the three people, that is?  Those little numbers are so fiddly, after all. 

- Timaru Herald, 18 September 2008


16 September 2008

Conchords posters

Gigposters.com has a selection of 12 stylish Flight of the Conchords gig posters; my two favourites are these ones:

[Courtesy of Wellmedicated's guide to great gig posters]

The musical significance of The Rutles

'Listen, lookit - very simply, musicologically and ethnically The Rutles were essentially empirical melangists of a rhythmically radical yet verbally passe and temporarily transcended lyrical content, welded with historically innovative melodical material transposed and transmogrified by the angst of the Rutland ethnic experience, which elevated them from essentially Alpha exponents of, in essence, merely Beta potential harmonic material, into the prime cultural exponents of Aeolian cadenzic cosmic stanza form'

- Stanley J Krammerhead III, Jr. (Occasional Visiting Professor of Applied Narcotics at the University of Please Yourself, California), played by Eric Idle, in The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, 1978

Golfing fashion don'ts

'[T]hey still look like a bunch of publicans on a Licensed Victuallers' Association outing to Plumpton races who have tried to reach a compromise with dressing down while not excluding the possibility of passing a nightclub's no-jeans entry policy later in the evening'
- Guardian, 16 September 2008, on the dress standards of the European Ryder Cup golf team

Coffee, tea or Prozac?

From an article following the daily work of flight attendants:
As with the flight attendants I worked with earlier, my new companions described their job as being one where they constantly had to calibrate the mood of the passengers. "Over a typical month," said Tim, "I will be a teacher, I will be a pastor, I will be a counselor, I will be a mediator." As he slid his 5-foot-11-inch frame into the sliver of space between the cockpit and the first-class bathroom, he slumped into the jump seat and let out a barely audible sigh. "I'll have to tell people that a two-and-a-half-foot-deep bag will not fit in a one-and-a-half-foot hole," he said.
"People need to understand that the rules of social order do not go away when you get on an airplane," Tim added, his Texan twang kicking up a notch as he laid down his commandments. "You cannot have sex on an airplane. When you purchase a ticket, that does not give you the privilege of yelling at me. It does not give you the privilege of sitting anywhere you want to sit. They assign you a seat. I do not have an extra airplane in my pocket if my flight's delayed."
- 'Flying the unfriendly skies', New York Times, 14 September 2008

15 September 2008

'I can see Russia from my house!'

Tina Fey and... er, another lady I don't know (sorry!) her Baby Mama co-star Amy Poehler as Governor Sarah Palin (the former 'small-town mayor of Alaska's crystal meth capital'), and Senator Hillary Clinton (who is in no way bitter, nuh-huh), uniting (sort of) to take a stand against the evils of sexism in politics. Brilliant!

12 September 2008

The dignity of high office

Entertainingly, reports of the party antics of a new minister in the New South Wales state government have circulated around the world, mainly due to the fact that the minister in question was reported to have been dancing in 'very brief underpants' during a rowdy party in his offices in Sydney's Parliament House. The story contains a quote that no employee wants to hear from their manager:

...there are too many reports of you in your underwear for me to ignore.

- NZ Herald, 11 September 2008

[Courtesy of Matthew]

11 September 2008

Growing up at the side of Chairman Mao

The music today's young people listen to? I dunno. Back in the day, songs for young people had meaning and purpose... like the ones on this stirring children's classic, I Am A Sunflower. The two catchiest numbers from this vinyl relic from the (first half of the 1970s) years of Chairman Mao's rule in China include Little Red Guards Attend A Repudiation Meeting, and that chart-topping smash, Criticise Lin Piao And Discredit Him Completely. It's also worth mentioning that the cover art depicts happy, smiling Chinese kids marching with rifles.

(Lin Biao (also Piao) was a famous revolutionary general who rose to become Mao's anointed successor, but died in a 1971 plane crash after what appeared to be a coup against Mao)

LP Cover Lover - Mao Sounds

Sexism is bad

Jon Stewart on the Republicans' recent stand against sexism (...when it applies to their own candidate). Many politiLOLs.

Free accommodation in Napier

A young Napier man was imprisoned for two nights by a judge known for his hard-line stance on tagging and graffiti, when he was caught defacing the Napier District Court Building.  How was he caught?  Well, it wasn't that hard:

It was bad enough that he targeted the Napier District Court building, worse that it was broad daylight, and still worse that it was in front of a security camera.

They're right you know: there's a very clear CCTV picture in the article. Wave hello! Bit of a waste of money imprisoning someone for a tagging offence, but still, he did make it rather easy for the authorities so perhaps there was some lenience in the sentence!

- Dominion Post, 11 September 2008

10 September 2008

Secret Irish speed limit

'As you go to cross the tiny, narrow, decorative bridge over the Shannon connecting Killaloe and Ballina, there is a large, vulgar, dirt-encrusted notice which says: 'Speed limits in kilometres per hour (km/h)'. The legend is repeated in Irish, for the benefit of the millions of fantasy people in this country who can only read Irish and know no English. But there is no number on the sign - that is, there is no actual speed limit specified. Just the statement.

The notice would be perfectly valid as a reminder for foreigners at the exit of a seaport or airport or crossing the border from Norn Ireland, but in Killaloe, you're just crossing the Shannon to the other side, so why is it there? And it's supported on two huge pieces of scaffolding embedded in concrete, so whoever put it there, put it there for keeps. Who is the guy on the County Council who sanctioned the notice and signed off on its construction, and what was he thinking of at the time? Wouldn't you just love to find out how his mind works?'

- Irish Independent, 8 October 2006

09 September 2008


Popdose writer Jason Hare is challenged by a blogger foe to aural purgatory: he must listen to an album by New Zealand's very own Asian singing sensation Wing, who once featured in an episode of South Park and whose singular talent bears striking similarities to that of Margarita Pracatan of Clive James fame. In part one Hare struggles through Wing's Beatles covers album, and in part two he receives a personal singing performance from the great lady herself via the medium of a telephonic device! Now that truly is service to blogging above and beyond the call of duty.

Wingmageddon pt.1
Wingmageddon pt.2

The consolations of weedy leaders

From an article celebrating 'uniformly mild, paunchy, metrosexual British politicians', here's Caitlin Moran's survey of leadership criteria:
'...wanting a slightly anaemic-looking accountant as leader seems to be the watermark of all peaceful, civilised countries. The election of a buff leader almost invariably leads to trouble. Ólafur Grimsson, President of Iceland, for instance, looks like someone who eschews the viscerality of tea in favour of a weak, lemony drink. In New Zealand, Helen Clark had her most controversial moment when, at a charity auction, she attempted to pass off another person's watercolour sketch as her own. As for Pascal Couchepin of Switzerland, he might - just - be able fight his way out of a single wet paper bag. But if two were to come at him at once - game over.
Russia elects Vladimir Putin, on the other hand - a man who releases topless, buff shots of himself - and suddenly there's nuclear and Chechnya and Cold War all over the place. It's almost as if, should you vote in a leader who appears to have a "surviving a geo-political meltdown, merely with the power of his fists" function, you shouldn't be surprised if, one day, he wants to test it'
- Caitlin Moran, The Times, 8 September 2008

The young and the feckless

'Despite all the hoopla about young voters -- the great hope of the future! -- only one news story in 2001 drew the attention of a majority of them: 9/11. Some 60 percent of young voters told Pew researchers that they were following news about the attack closely. (Er -- 40 percent weren't?) But none of the other stories that year seemed particularly interesting to them. Only 32 percent said that they followed the news about the anthrax attacks or the economy, then in recession. The capture of Kabul from the Taliban? Just 20 percent.

Six years later, Pew again measured public knowledge of current events and found that the young (aged 18 to 29) "know the least." A majority of young respondents scored in the "low knowledge" category -- the only demographic group to do so.

And some other statistics are even more alarming. How many young people read newspapers? Just 20 percent. (Worse, studies consistently show that people who do not pick up the newspaper-reading habit in their 20s rarely do so later.) But surely today's youth are getting their news from the Internet? Sorry. Only 11 percent of the young report that they regularly surf the Internet for news. Maybe Obama shouldn't be relying on savvy young voters after all'

- Rick Shenkman, '5 Myths About Those Civic-Minded, Deeply Informed Voters', Washington Post, 7 September 2008