31 March 2008

The crutch is mightier than the lightsaber

A backyard interview in Holyhead, north Wales, with the head of the British Jedi Church, who calls himself Jedi Master Jonba Hehol, was disrupted when a man dressed in a black bin-liner and wearing a Darth Vader mask leapt over the garden fence and proceeded to attack the interviewee with a metal crutch, the Telegraph reports. (Perhaps Darth Vader got his dodgy voicebox on the NHS?).

After besting Master Hehol in single combat, Vader, who The Sun reports was under the influence of alcohol, went on to assault the camera crew and a hairdresser.

Master Hehol, a hairdresser, who founded the first-ever British Jedi Church in loving homage to the world-famous science fiction franchise with his brother Daniel, was unimpressed by the revenge of the Sith.

"This wasn't a joke. This was serious," he said.

- 'Star Wars comes to Holyhead as Darth Vader strikes back in Jedi's back garden', The Telegraph, 29 March 2008

[Courtesy of Che. The story's even funnier if you imagine the event being played out with north Wales accents]

30 March 2008

'What's my motivation?'

The BBC has reported that the budget airline Flybe has advertised for actors to fly on its flights between Norwich and Dublin to enable the airline to avoid missing a passenger number target set by Norwich Airport. Without the extra passengers the airline was in danger of having to pay a stiff fine to the airport for breaching the terms of its contract. Although the airline didn't fly its acting passengers in the end, I wonder if RADA should now include the delicate art of stowing carry-on luggage under the seat in front of you in its acting classes?

- BBC, 30 March 2008

Putting Motueka on the map

But not for the best reasons - the addled complaint by a Motueka orchard worker to local police that he had been 'raped by a wombat' (mitigated only by his proviso that 'apart from speaking Australian now, I'm pretty alright you know') has been reported across the world. Doubtless the logical next step for the local worthies would be to erect a statue of a giant wombat on the outskirts of town. Not that we should be encouraging people to make light of sexual assaults by marsupials, far from it.

- 'Wombat hoax story hits world headlines', Nelson Mail, 29 March 2008

28 March 2008

A 300-year sausage-fest

The lovely Kristen Schaal (of Conchords and Penelope Princess of Pets fame) appears on the Daily Show to tape a message of congratulations to the first female president of the United States... in the year 2300AD.

Can scientists dance?

'No one quite knew what to expect as the lights came up on a pair of astrophysicists dressed as binary galaxies. To the tune of an old tango, Ruth Gruetzbauch stalked and twirled around Jesús Varela before surrendering to his supermassive gravity. The rowdy audience of scientists exploded with applause. The world's first Dance Your Ph.D. Contest, with Christoph Campregher at the controls of the sound system, was off to a good start'

Be sure to watch the videos! My favourite so far is Simone Recchi's interpretation of 'Dynamical and chemical evolution of blue compact dwarf galaxies'.

- John Bohannon, 'Can Scientists Dance?', Science, 15 February 2008

[Courtesy of Lauren]

Golden slumbers

In today's Guardian a report outlined several innovative new measures to encourage recalcitrant snoozers out of bed in the morning. One appealing, if frustrating, option is Clocky, the alarm clock on wheels that rings to wake you up, then runs off at random on its two knobbly wheels, blaring its alarm until you catch it. Similarly, the Blow Fly alarm drags you out of bed with a helicopter-style attachment that flings itself across the room and keeps ringing until it's reunited with its base unit. But my favourite for its sheer perversity is the surely too good to be true SnuzNLuz (yes, it's a truly awful name) that starts donating money from your bank account to a charity of your choice if you tarry in the sack!

- 'Cause for alarm', Guardian, 28 March 2008

18 March 2008

Bring the wife!

The Daily Show's Sam Bee, on how to double the sincerity by apologising for your infidelities with your spouse right there with you, which is the done thing in Washington.

15 March 2008

She came from Greece, Jughead

This is too tremendous for mere words to express: Pulp's 'Common People' told as an Archie comic.

Archie in... A Different Class!

[Courtesy of Fluxblog]

Simon's Cat

Two Flash animations by Simon Tofield.

14 March 2008

Circular logic

A Palmerston North businessman is angry that his city council is refusing to give him 2000 copies of its draft annual plan.  The council, in what seems a reasonable response, has replied that he can have 100 copies if he likes, but any more than that would be at his own cost.  And why does the businessman want the council documents?  So he can distribute them and encourage people to make submissions against a proposed council rates rise of 12 percent.  Quoth the businessman: "The people are going to have to speak up. If they don't speak up this time there's going to be financial strife."  Perhaps he's in the printing trade?
- Manawatu Standard, 14 March 2008

13 March 2008

Bigness is betterness

Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report on why Hillary Clinton's campaign is assuring America that it's the primary victories in the big states that really matter. He suggests that if Barack Obama wants to sew up the Democratic nomination, he should pull out all the stops and go for an all-out victory in the new state of South Georgiabamasippiana.

We Feel Fine

Take a moment to explore this appealing art installation project that attempts to depict the mood of the blogosphere in graphical terms, or as they term it, 'harvesting human feelings'.  Click on one of the six different modes in the bottom left-hand corner once you've launched it.  Interesting and pretty to the eye.   

Alert the media

The Timaru Herald has reported on the opening of a cash machine at a local supermarket, noting that 'after nine years' campaigning, Timaru District councillor Terry Kennedy was given the honour of cutting the ribbon, witnessed by a cluster of supermarket staff'.  A ribbon-cutting ceremony, eh?  Steady on there folks, if you start crowing everyone will want one. 
- Timaru Herald, 12 March 2008
[My other favourite headline from today's Herald is 'Causeway suggested'.  No fancy messing around there.  Does what it says on the tin.]

11 March 2008

The Really Terrible Orchestra

'Some years ago, a group of frustrated people in Scotland decided that the pleasure of playing in an orchestra should not be limited to those who are good enough to do so, but should be available to the rankest of amateurs. So we founded the Really Terrible Orchestra, an inclusive orchestra for those who really want to play, but who cannot do so very well. Or cannot do so at all, in some cases.
My own playing set the standard. I play the bassoon, even if not quite the whole bassoon. I have never quite mastered C-sharp, and I am weak on the notes above the high D. In general, I leave these out if they crop up, and I find that the effect is not unpleasant. I am not entirely untutored, of course, having had a course of lessons in the instrument from a music student who looked quietly appalled while I played. Most of the players in the orchestra are rather like this; they have learned their instruments at some point in their lives, but have not learned them very well. Now such people have their second chance with the Really Terrible Orchestra'
- Author Alexander McCall Smith, New York Times, 9 March 2008

09 March 2008

A likely excuse

"It's a common practice in Poland"

- An unnamed Polish builder, after a security guard who caught him in flagrante delicto with a Henry Hoover treated with scepticism his claim that he was vacuuming his underpants

[Source: Guardian, 8 March 2008]

08 March 2008

Now that's optimism

Notice anything?

When this was posted on the RNZ website, the 5th and deciding day of the test had only just started. I suppose it's a good sign that someone's been preparing their headlines in advance...

- RadioNZ.co.nz, 9 March 2008

07 March 2008

Top 10 excruciating email gaffes

In the future we won't remember television programmes, movies or remarkable holidays. Rather, we will hark back to the halcyon days before each and every one of us accidentally hit 'reply all' on that email, thereby sending shockwaves of irritation and embarrassment around the globe. Until that day, you'll have to console yourselves with this top 10 list of other famous examples of brain-mouse interface breakdowns. Claire Swire, the ketchup invoice lawyer, and the Ritz party girl: they're all here.

- The Times, 11 December 2007    

05 March 2008

Moses and Hendrix

Benny Shanon, a professor in Jerusalem, has published a study claiming that Moses was using hallucinogens when he set the Ten Commandments in stone on Mt Sinai.  According to the Guardian:
Writing in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy, he says concoctions based on the bark of the acacia tree, frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, contain the same molecules as those found in plants from which the powerful Amazonian hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca is prepared.

"The thunder, lightning and blaring of a trumpet which the Book of Exodus says emanated from Mount Sinai could just have been the imaginings of a people in an altered state of awareness," writes Shanon. "In advanced forms of ayahuasca inebriation, the seeing of light is accompanied by profound religious and spiritual feelings."

Speaking about his article on Israeli public radio, he added: "As far as Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don't believe, or a legend, which I don't believe either. Or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics."

If true, this theory is a hitherto unknown connection between Moses and Jimi Hendrix, who also used to compose his great works whilst under the influence of mind-altering substances.   



Front page news (in Palmerston North)

The Manawatu Standard placed the following story (with picture) on its front page today:
A triple treat for egg lover
It's so rare, you will struggle to find a photo of it. That's why Palmerston North's Daphne Stern immediately called the Manawatu Standard when her customary poached-egg breakfast gave her the shock of her life yesterday. From inside the giant shell spilled three perfectly formed yolks.

"I lived on a farm growing up and basically eat an egg every day, but I've never seen this before," Mrs Stern said from her Elliot Street home of 48 years. "I've had plenty of doubles before, but a triple? I was just shocked."

It's "all go" in Palmerston North, obviously.

- Manawatu Standard, 5 March 2008

Oh, now that you explain it

'In her stand-up act and on her show on Comedy Central, The Sarah Silverman Program, Sarah Silverman is as crude and cruelly insensitive as any male comedian, but with a sexy, coquettish undertone— a Valley Village version of Brenda Patimkin, the Jewish-American Princess in Goodbye, Columbus. In one scene, Sarah calls her sister "gay," then apologizes to her two gay neighbors. "I don't mean gay like homosexual," she says sweetly. "I mean gay like retarded."'

- 'Who Says Women Aren't Funny?', Vanity Fair, April 2008

04 March 2008

Orbital waltz

For an entertaining little science R&R, try out the orbital simulator at the University of Colorado site - use the drop-down box at top right to set up individual sun/planet/moon scenarios, and re-jig the vector arrows to redirect the bodies as you see fit.  Master of the planets!

Orbit simulator

[Requires Shockwave plugin]

A team to strike fear into the hearts of supporters

On the eve of the first test against England in Hamilton, the Waikato Times has compiled a Naff XI of some of the least impressive New Zealand test cricketers:

Waikato Times sports reporter Matt Richens takes a look at the worst players, statistically anyway, to pull on the creams for New Zealand in the past 20 years. Some of them were full of potential, some were head-scratching selections. Some only got in because of injuries and some just weren't able to make the step up to test cricket.

The team listing, along with number of tests played, is:

8 Darrin Murray
9 Blair Hartland
4 Phil Horne
1 Richard Jones
23 Chris Harris
6 Justin Vaughan
12 Lee Germon (+)
4 Mark Haslam
4 Robert Kennedy
14 Chris Pringle
10 Geoff Allott

He doesn't name a captain, but I'd guess either Vaughan or Harris. I'd put in a special mention for Michael Owens, who I recall bowled one of the widest test wides I've ever seen on a tour of England. The selection is a bit unfair on Richard Jones, given that he's only had one cap against a rampant Shoaib Akhtar.

- Source: Waikato Times, 4 March 2008

Finger poppin' Star Wars

Here's a stab at a Saul Bass-style opening credit roll for Star Wars. Swingin', baby!

[Courtesy of AL]