27 February 2008

All bets are off in US election

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

[Courtesy of Helen]

Join the aristocracy?

Sir Benjamin Slade is still searching for any distant relatives to be the heir to his estate, having met but not signed up the American indie rock singer Isaac Slade of The Fray last year.  Now he's keen for a TV company to make a programme to help him find the right heir for Maunsel House in Someset.  It sounds like he's got a fairly long list of criteria, if you're a Slade thinking of applying:
"I have said that drug-takers are out, which upset the people of Amsterdam where the entire population seems to be on drugs," he explained. "I have also said that I don't want a communist, because they would give it all away and because I don't think Stalin was any good, or Castro.
"I don't want homosexuals, because they don't breed. I don't want Guardian readers, because this is a Guardian-free household. Independent readers are marginal.

"I had an email from Papua New Guinea and sent them a reply. I'd rather like to go there, although there aren't any Slades in Papua New Guinea, but I do worry about getting eaten or speared. So I sent them an email saying, 'Do your women have bones in their noses and if they have them how then can I give them a bit of tonguey?'

"I also asked about bows and arrows. I said we hadn't used them since Agincourt. I never got a reply. I suppose it's lucky no one got hold of the email; it could have got me in an awful lot of trouble."

- Independent, 27 February 2008

I'd pay good money to see that

'There is a greater chance that I would dye my hair green and get tattoos all over my body and do a rock tour with Amy Winehouse'

- Republican US presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, on rumours that he may stand for the Senate if his nomination bid fails
[Source: Newsweek, quoted in Economist, 23 February 2008.  I think Ms Winehouse's views on the proposal should be sought before it's definitely ruled out.  Huge crossover potential, surely]

25 February 2008

Does she do 'Stairway'?

More musical munchkins. All together now: 'Hey Rude!'

[Courtesy of Copy, Right]

Harsh but fair

'If there is a more pointless programme in 2008 than 'Kerry Katona: Crazy In Love' (MTV1), then shoot me now.  "At the end of the day, I just want to be liked," moaned the poster girl for the pramface generation in a reality show so out of touch with reality it made you rue the day MTV stopped being about music and turned to the kind of low-rent trash that makes 'Supermarket Sweep' look like Stephen Hawking"'
- Keith Watson, Metro (UK), 25 February 2008

24 February 2008

Star Wars: the pre-schooler's eye view

Everyone likes a birthday party

And if your dad's important you get the very best venues.

- Noticed in McDonalds, Almeria, Spain, 23 February 2008

14 February 2008

What sort of music do you like?

'If you ask me, you can tell almost all you need to know about a person by asking them what sort of music they like.  And while that's the sort of question usually only asked by boys between the ages of 12 and 18, I was asked it a few weeks ago by someone I'd never met before.  And even though I could have easily beaten it back by saying something flippant, I was stumped. 

The American writer Chuck Klosterman said recently that, having for years experimented with a litany of abstract responses when asked this question, he has started to say, with some honesty as well as accuracy, "Music that sounds like the opening 14 seconds of Humble Pie's 'I Don't Need No Doctor', as performed live on their 1971 album Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore".

Now, never having heard this record, I couldn't comment, but apparently it has the desired effect, the reply having the added bonus of significantly changing the conversation, or ending it entirely'

- Dylan Jones, The Independent Magazine, 26 January 2008


A Welsh bar has started a mini-craze of posting photos of people posing to impersonate album covers.  Demis Roussos is my favourite: he looks rather miffed at being mimicked. (See 'In Pictures' link in article).
- BBC News, 13 February 2008

What a way to go

The fearful suicide of a Rear Admiral
'The London papers contain details of the terrible suicide of Admiral Versturme at Falmouth.  It was noticed that he was depressed in spirits, and it was surmised that he was suffering great disappointment at the loss of a fortune he had expected would have come to him, but which went to a relative.  After dining with his wife in the evening he adjourned with her to the drawing-room, and half an hour later the servant, hearing groans proceeding from this room, effected an entrance, and found both the Admiral and his wife lying on the floor.  Mrs Versturme had fainted, and the Admiral was holding in his hand a poker which he had made red-hot and then thrust three or four times deep into his bowels.  Medical assistance was soon at hand, and the sufferer received every attention, but he died about 4 o'clock next morning.  Before his death he said, "It was on account of the whiskey I did it," and he presently added, "I commend my body, soul and spirit to Christ"'
- Evening Post, 2 April 1888
[Accessed via National Library of New Zealand's Papers Past]

Friendly Coasters

"We received a warm South Island greeting when we stopped off at a coffee shop on the West Coast which I would like to share with my fellow Jafas. Attached to the till was a note that read (in brief) 'ATT AUCKLANDERS we pay 0.05c/lt tax on our petrol to build your roads so we will charge you 50 cents extra on your cup of coffee to cover the costs of filling the pot holes in the parking lot.' Not sure how they could distinguish us from other New Zealanders, perhaps it's our accent. Coffee was purchased further up the coast as we travelled on the roads that Jafa tax paid for years ago."
- Reader's comment, 'Sideswipe' column, New Zealand Herald, 13 February 2008

The rising tide of ignorance?

From a profile of a new book, 'The Age of American Unreason', by Susan Jacoby:
'A popular video on YouTube shows Kellie Pickler, the adorable platinum blonde from "American Idol," appearing on the Fox game show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" during celebrity week. Selected from a third-grade geography curriculum, the $25,000 question asked: "Budapest is the capital of what European country?"  Ms. Pickler threw up both hands and looked at the large blackboard perplexed. "I thought Europe was a country," she said. Playing it safe, she chose to copy the answer offered by one of the genuine fifth graders: Hungary. "Hungry?" she said, eyes widening in disbelief. "That's a country? I've heard of Turkey. But Hungry? I've never heard of it."
Ms. Jacoby said, something different is happening: anti-intellectualism (the attitude that "too much learning can be a dangerous thing") and anti-rationalism ("the idea that there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion") have fused in a particularly insidious way. Not only are citizens ignorant about essential scientific, civic and cultural knowledge, she said, but they also don't think it matters. She pointed to a 2006 National Geographic poll that found nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds don't think it is necessary or important to know where countries in the news are located. So more than three years into the Iraq war, only 23 percent of those with some college could locate Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel on a map.


The author of seven other books, she was a fellow at the library when she first got the idea for this book back in 2001, on 9/11. Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day's horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:

"This is just like Pearl Harbor," one of the men said.

The other asked, "What is Pearl Harbor?"

"That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War," the first man replied.

At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, "I decided to write this book."

- 'Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?', New York Times, 14 February 2008

13 February 2008

Or maybe just 'Lou'?

'One man who has struggled more than most with his moniker is Lucifer Howse, a 33-year-old alternative medicine practitioner in Brighton. Mr Howse only discovered his true first name in his late teens - prior to that, his family called him Luke for short. "I had a real crisis when I found out my name was Lucifer. I went off the rails", he says. When he picked up his driving licence a few years ago, the woman behind the counter barked Biblical phrases at him and shouted: "It's you. I know it's you." But he has now embraced his name. "People don't automatically call their children William, Henry or Mary anymore. They are more experimental."'
- BBC News, 13 February 2008 

Have beer, will travel

'Removing Jesse Ryder's rough edges is still a work in progress.  Last night's lesson for the international newcomer was that it's not a good look to wander into a press conference clutching a bottle of Heineken.  New Zealand Cricket news media manager John Durning managed to put the offending bottle in an unseen spot (no Trevor Mallard jokes please) before it was noticed by any others among the throng of Kiwi and English journalists gathered after last night's 10-wicket drubbing of England by the Black Caps'
- Waikato Times, 13 February 2008

12 February 2008

Great PR work

A Wellington hotel surprised two blind guests by sending them a bill for $85 to pay for the clean-up it said was required after the honeymooning couple's guide dogs allegedly moulted everywhere during the visit to the capital.  And just to add the finishing touches to this PR coup, the manager was quoted as saying:
"We did something nice for them because they wanted a harbour view, which I kinda thought was funny because they're blind ... but we put them in a nice room," he said.
- NZ Herald, 12 February 2008

It's for charity, I swear

Burly Labour MP Stephen Pound has made a bit of a name for himself by dressing up as a Cheeky Girl in hotpants and a tight vest and performing alongside the actual Cheeky Girls for a cancer research charity gig at the weekend:
'The newly-formed trio performed the Cheeky Girls' hit Touch My Bum and the Right Said Fred number I'm Too Sexy before an audience of MPs at the Intercontinental Hotel in central London. But Mr Pound - who dressed up as Queen guitarist Brian May at last year's event - said he was "so overcome with terminal embarrassment" he could barely look at the crowd. "I think they viewed it with a mixture of disgust and pity," joked the MP'
- BBC News, 8 February 2008

08 February 2008

Think your neighbours are bad?

At least they haven't kept a dead body on their living room sofa for up to eight years like this chap in a block of flats in Bristol. 
'According to local reports, the dead man had not been seen for up to eight years, and repeated complaints about the smell from the first floor flat went unheeded'.
- Guardian, 8 February 2008

07 February 2008

The delicate art of repetition

'No good can come from repeating the 1926 assertion of H. L. Mencken that fundamentalist Christians are "yokels" and "morons"'
- James Q. Wilson in the City Journal (Winter 2008), still manages to repeat it, though
[The article (linked above) discusses liberal Jewish ambivalence towards the pro-Israel support of evangelical Christians]

06 February 2008

Zen or cruel?

Can you judge which of these five tales is a Zen parable and which is just someone being cruel?

Zen parable or just someone being cruel?

[Source: Oliver Burkeman, 'This Column Will Change Your Life', Guardian Weekend magazine, 2 February 2008. Burkeman's article uses the phrase 'fridge-magnet wisdom' to describe some contemporary 'pop Zen' philosophy - which is a phrase worth remembering for your next wine and cheese evening...]

01 February 2008

A general's view of journalists

'If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from hell before breakfast'
- William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-91), US Civil War Union Army general

Rogue diphthongs

'...younger New Zealanders will be utterly gobsmacked if you suggest that the words 'near' and 'square' don't rhyme. An assertion which, in turn, may make people of a certain disposition demand the reinstatement of compulsory military training and/or the death penalty.

For myself, I do differentiate between 'near' and 'square' -- although I can usually guess what shabbily-dressed young people are trying to say. I've even become acclimatized to television advertisements for a company called "Ear New Zealand" (apparently they also have a fleet of planes)'

- David Haywood, Southerly

[The rest of the article (see link above) is bloody funny, with examples of our ever-mutating incomprehensibility]