30 May 2008

The implied violence of neckwear

The BBC has reported that after a US wingnut blogger complained about a Dunkin' Donuts ad featuring TV chef Rachael Ray wearing a scarf supposedly resembling a traditional Arab keffiyeh, the company has since pulled the ad, seeking to avoid any doughnut-related controversy.  The blogger was quoted as saying:

Fashion statements may seem insignificant, but when they lead to the mainstreaming of violence - unintentionally or not - they matter.

So next time you're on TV in America, you'd better steer clear of any potentially subversive neckwear, or in fact any clothing accessory that might be construed to have an impact on popular perceptions of violence and/or doughnuts.

- Source: BBC News, 30 May 2008

[Courtesy of RH.  The news item has a picture of the dastardly scarf]

Is your pet feeling unsafe?

Then they need to acquire a set of Canadian artist Jeff de Boer's designer armour for cats and mice.  Although they may need a friend with opposable thumbs to shine the metal for them to keep it in mint condition. 

Cats and Mice

[Courtesy of the B3ta newsletter]

28 May 2008

Not a good day at the office

An over-eager Customs official in Japan has committed an impressive faux-pas: hoping to prove the drugs-sniffing ability of his Customs dog, he secreted a 142g package of cannabis in a random passenger's suitcase, and then set the dog to finding the drugs.  Unfortunately the dog couldn't find it, and by the time they gave up the canine search the officer had forgotten which suitcase the drugs were in!  Humbled and apologetic, the officer is asking for the random passenger with the surprise present in their luggage to bring it back to Customs.
"I knew that using passengers' bags is prohibited, but I did it because I wanted to improve the sniffer dog's ability," the officer was quoted as saying. "The dogs have always been able to find it before... I became overconfident that it would work," he said.
- Source: BBC News, 26 May 2008

27 May 2008

Not a Cambridge wally

'Cut it out! I drink in public bars with the best of them thank you very much. I'm not some Cambridge wally.'
- Former NZ wicket-keeper, now TV commentator Ian Smith responds to former England captain Mike Atherton's joky jibe that he spent an evening drinking in a working man's club in Manchester (Source: Cricinfo)

‘No more fishing for you, old man'

From a report on the release of formerly classified UK government documents on UFO investigations, which have revealed that there were no dramatic alien cover-ups in operation: 
In 1950, the government convened a secret committee, the Flying Saucer Working Party, to investigate sightings of U.F.O.'s. It concluded that U.F.O.'s were optical illusions, weather phenomena, airplanes seen from strange angles and the like, which has been the government's line ever since.

In 1979, the House of Lords debated the matter at the urging of the Earl of Clancarty, who believed that man was descended from aliens who crawled from the earth's core via special tunnels or flew in spaceships 65,000 years ago.

He was not the only noble believer.

"I should like to tell your lords about some of the sightings I have seen," said the Earl of Halsbury, "beginning at the age of 6, when I saw an angel."

Lord Gainford said he had seen a U.F.O., which he described as "bright white ball with a touch of red followed by a white cone," at a New Year's Eve party in Scotland. Some children saw it, too, he added, and they "had been drinking soft drinks."

None of their accounts were as detailed as that of a 78-year-old ex-soldier in Aldershot. His story, which he told to a U.F.O. investigator, can be found in the newly released files.

Out fishing in 1983, the man had just poured himself a cup of tea, he recalled, when he was approached by two four-foot-tall beings wearing pale green overalls and large helmets. They led him into what turned out to be their ship — "I thought, Christ — what the hell's that?" he said — and, apparently considering whether to subject him to extraterrestrial experiments, suddenly announced: "You can go. You are too old and infirm for our purposes."

"Anxious to avoid causing offense," the report said, the man asked no questions, even obvious ones like, what planet do you come from? Instead, he returned to the riverbank, where he finished his tea (by then cold) and resumed fishing.

He was reluctant to tell his family, the report says: "I knew my wife would say 'No more fishing for you, old man.' "
Note: The Earl of Halsbury would've been 71 years old when he debated UFOs in the Lords in 1979.  Incidentally, Wikipedia reports that 'he was also a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien and was one of the few people to read The Silmarillion in Tolkien's lifetime in 1957' 
- New York Times, 26 May 2008

26 May 2008

Sex And The City

'Say what you like about Sex And The City - and I have, the thrust of most of my previous comments being that it was an act of surpassing collective lunacy ever to elevate to the status of feminist icons four women who habitually:

a) turned into a gibbering, prancing, hair-tossing flutterwit whenever she came within 10 feet of her supposed soulmate (corsage fetishist Carrie);

b) turned into a gibbering, prancing, hair-tossing flutterwit whenever she came within 10 feet of any man from the Upper East Side and upper tax bracket (Charlotte, pretty as a picture and dimmer than a trout);

c) scared men away by having short hair (Miranda - a successful lawyer, yet still too stupid to take the morning-after pill);

d) reduced herself to a giant vagina (Samantha - although, to be fair, the writers occasionally gave her breasts as well).

I mean, you may as well have claimed that Ally McBeal was written by Mary Wollstonecraft...'

- Lucy Mangan, Guardian, 24 May 2008

24 May 2008

Ban all hair

Students at Feilding High School in the Manawatu have been banned from using hair products after some students spiked their hair up.  Now one student has been suspended for breaching the principal's rule.  Principal Roger Menzies said:
"Some of the kids started spiking their hair right up. When kids start abusing their privileges, we get into the dilemma of what is enough."

The easiest way to remedy this was to rule out hair product altogether, he said.

"It's an old chestnut really, you get kids complaining about free expression."

I don't have a problem with schools implementing arbitrary rules.  But they should be a bit more creative as they seek to foster uniformity in the student body.  Rather than banning hair products, wouldn't it be simpler just to ban hair?  It would stop all the hair-based rivalry amongst the school's female students, would save time in the shower in the morning, and would be refreshingly cool during summer months (although hats would probably be required to avoid melanoma).

- Source: Manawatu Standard, 22 May 2008  

23 May 2008

Destructive criticism

'Here are some of the nastiest ever reviews:
Laurence Olivier as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (TV, 1974), reviewed by Clive James in The Observer:
'...any fan of Walt Disney comics could turn on the TV and see that he had modelled his appearance on Scrooge McDuck'
Peter O'Toole as Macbeth at the Old Vic Theatre, London (1980), reviewed by Robert Cushman in The Observer:
'His performance suggests that he is taking some kind of personal revenge on the play'
A revivial of the musical Godspell at the Old Vic Theatre, London (1981), reviewed by Michael Billington in The Guardian:
'Godspell is back in London... for those of you who missed it the first time, this is your golden opportunity: you can miss it again'
Jackie Mason's first Broadway show, a play entitled A Teaspoon Every Four Hours, New York (1969), reviewed by Clive Barnes in The New York Times:
'I realised it was not a particularly distinguished play when at the intermission I found myself rushing up the aisle for a cigarette outside.  It was not until I got there that I remembered that I don't smoke'  (The play's opening night was also its last)'
- James Inverne, Inverne's Stage & Screen Trivia, 2004

21 May 2008

From Nob End to Bitchfield

Ah, the many joys of the proud tradition of spotting rude British placenames. Some examples from the article include:


Wetwang is a Yorkshire Wolds village that sits on a busy main road along the coast. Debate surrounds the origins of its name; it means either "field for the trial of a legal action" or just "wet field". Whatever the meaning, the name attracts so many sniggers that the late Richard Whiteley was bizarrely made the honorary Mayor of Wetwang, a title now held by the BBC Look North weatherman Paul Hudson.


Muff – from the Irish word "magh" – is a village in County Donegal, on the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Over the last decade, Muff has seen a huge growth in population, with people from Northern Ireland moving across the border. The first week in August sees the Muff Festival – and there's a diving club in the village called, yes, the Muff Diving Club.

For a more in-depth look at one such burgh, see Shitterton: The village that dare not speak its name.

- Source: Independent, 21 May 2008

20 May 2008

World's largest Lolcat

Now this is cool: a whole building in San Francisco now sports a snazzy Lolcat "invisible bike" mural.   Pretty soon there won't be any real world left and we will just exist in internetland.  Geeks rejoice!

World's Largest Lolcat

Human Brain Cloud

As featured in B3ta, the Human Brain Cloud is a word association game building a massive database of English language word associations.  A word or phrase pops up and you type in your first reaction to it.  Then you can see how many other people said the same thing, and it builds a picture of how our understanding of words fits together.  Click on 'view the cloud' to experiment with the cool graphical interface to see what the consensus is.  For example, type in 'duke' and you'll get 'of wellington' and 'of earl', but also 'nukem'.  (This is the internet, after all).  And on the topic of '80s', the cloud reveals the common phrases, 'leg warmers', 'bad hair', 'bad music' and possibly along the same lines, 'hair metal'. 

Human Brain Cloud

The limits of the barter economy

The newspapers reported this week that a 28-year-old mechanic queuing to purchase some snacks at a petrol station in Carterton in the Wairarapa opened a bag of M&Ms to nibble on before he'd paid. After scoffing a few, he realised that he didn't actually have any money with him. So, being a lateral thinker, when he reached the front of the queue he decided to offer the only item of value he could think of in part exchange: 12 grammes of cannabis and his pipe.

Guess what? The next person in line was a police officer. As Fark would say, jailarity ensued - or, more accurately, bailarity. New word, that. No, don't thank me.

- Source: 'Unexpected bite to case of the munchies', Dominion Post, 20 May 2008

[Courtesy of Helen C]

15 May 2008

How to combat terrorism

'Apparently in America they're building a big tower on the site of September 11 - Freedom Tower - and they're looking at ways of trying to make it terrorist-proof.  I think they should just build a giant mosque - no-one's going to fly into that, are they?  Or even better: a runway.  How galling would it be if you hijacked a plane then had to come in and make a textbook landing?  They're always going "oh, don't deal with terrorists, we mustn't deal with terrorists"...  Let's deal with them: "what are they offering you, boys?  A hundred virgins?  We'll offer you fifty slags.  Or two women from Dundee"'

- Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle, on Mock The Week, 2007

14 May 2008

The onus of responsibility

'Lad, don't be playing those Twenty20 shots, you're in my fantasy team'

- Former England opener Geoff Boycott cautions New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor, on the eve of the 1st test at Lord's (Source: Cricinfo)

Worst #1 songs of the 80s

Jon Cummings of Popdose trawls through the video archives for a rundown of his picks for the worst songs of the 1980s. Warning: includes gratuitous Bette Midler references...

[Wings Beneath My Wings is] the kind of song that, when the DJ puts it on, you’re forced to leave your own friend’s wedding reception (true story). It’s really a bellwether of sorts — one of those indicators you can use to measure someone’s personality. Guys, if you’re on a first date and you ask, “What do you think of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings?’” and the woman gets all verklempt and can barely pull it together to sob “Beaches!”, you must Leave Immediately

Jesus of Cool: The Worst Number One Songs of the 80s

12 May 2008

A dance to unite all Europe

After recent rather-dubious-but-still-entertaining reports that Cliff Richard might have been diddled out of the 1968 Eurovision song contest title by a conspiracy instigated by Spain's fascist dictator, General Franco, TV panel programme Have I Got News For You wondered why he didn't win in 1973 either...

Cliff Richard (Eurovision 1973) - Power To All Our Friends

(The song's not that bad, but the key moment is from 1:25 onwards. What was he thinking?)

When can a man wear a denim jacket?

Reader's query: When can a man wear a denim jacket?

'At precisely 23 minutes past the hour of never. It is simply impossible for a man to wear a denim jacket. Whoa there, gentlemen! Stop your outraged fingertips from speeding to your quill pens to address an outraged missive, full of accusations of sexism, fashion fascism and even style racism. For this edict is no mere fashion whim but rather a statement of fact and basic personal protection. To the former first, a man should not wear anything on his lower half other than jeans, smart trousers or knee-length shorts. The denim jacket simply does not work with any of the above: with jeans you get the dreaded Double Denim effect, a look that contravenes all known laws of human decency; with smart trousers they look as ill-matched as Liza Minnelli and David Gest, and with long shorts they turn you into a Krankie.

But even if those aesthetic objections do not persuade, surely the matter of self-protection will. Come closer, men, and I shall let you into a sphinx-like secret about what goes on in the minds of us ladies. Sadly we just don't have the time or space to divulge what is the secret chat-up line that will make all women immediately jump your bones, or the seemingly disgusting habit that we all actually find deeply attractive. But I can tell you that all women, when looking at a man sporting a denim jacket, think the same three words: Billy Ray Cyrus. Now, there are many phrases that may spring to mind when confronted by the man whose heart was once not just achy but, indeed, breaky, but "aphrodisiac" is not, except for the special few, one of them'

- Hadley Freeman, Guardian, 12 May 2008

'I love America AND hot sandwiches'

In an April 2008 episode of sitcom My Name Is Earl, a policeman filming an episode of the reality TV programme Cops is called to a disturbance at the trailer park.  An outraged JOY (Jaime Pressly) is wielding a Weed-Whacker against a cowering EARL (Jason Lee) while his brother RANDY (Ethan Suplee) looks on and cradles a box containing a new kitchen appliance.

JOY: I'll tell you what the problem is - I sent this doofus to the Fair to find a way to make us some money and he ends up spendin' all the cash we have left on some stupid soccer-mom toaster!

EARL: I bought a patriotic sandwich maker because I love America and hot sandwiches, and she attacks me with a Weed-Whacker...

RANDY: It's the All-American Sandwich Press: it burns an American flag into any food item.  [Reads slogan on box] "French toast?  Not any more!"

JOY: It don't even make sandwiches!  It just decorates them.  I mean what's next?  You gonna buy a dress for a watermelon?

- My Name Is Earl, s.3 e.8

How the other half live

From a book on an East African military campaign in the First World War, describing the unruly aftermath of the capturing of the town of Bukoba on Lake Victoria from the Germans in 1915:

'Some of the [British] looters, writes Byron Falwell, "were scandalised … by their glimpses of the Germans' sex lives. One soldier discovered companion photographs of the German commandant: in the first he stood resplendent in full dress uniform beside a woman (his wife?) who was completely naked; in the second, the same woman stood fully dressed in formal attire beside the naked commandant'

- Giles Foden, 'Mimi and Toutou Go Forth: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Tanganyika', 2004

11 May 2008

Tina Fey achieves world domination

From an Observer profile of US comedian Tina Fey, star of 30 Rock and the new Baby Mama, and the writer of Mean Girls:

Fey was so happy at Second City that she had doubts about moving to New York when Lorne Michaels invited her to join Saturday Night Live. The show, which started in 1975, has a reputation as a fearsome testing ground, especially for women, who had always been outnumbered by the men. The brutal and relentless weekly process by which sketches and jokes get winnowed down before the show can be devastating.

One thing Fey learnt from her fellow comics on the show was that, 'If you want to make an audience laugh, you dress a man up like an old lady and push her down the stairs. If you want to make comedy writers laugh, you push an actual old lady down the stairs.'

The first sketch Fey wrote, about Bill Clinton, died in read-throughs. 'This weight of embarrassment came over me, and I felt like I was sweating from my spine out,' she recalls. 'But I realised, "OK, that happened, and I didn't die". You've got to experience failure to understand you can survive it.'

Survive she did, and in 1999 Michaels made her head writer, the first woman to hold the post. The following year he made her co-host of the centrepiece 'Weekend Update' segment. Weekend Update features two faux newsreaders dissecting the previous week's news and disembowelling those unlucky enough to have been part of it.

'Prostitutes in Lyon, France, sent a fax to the government to complain that they are losing business to Eastern European women who are protected by the Albanian mafia,' said Fey in one typical segment. 'First of all, how rough-looking are these French prostitutes that all their customers are running to the Albanians? Secondly, why did they send a fax, and from whence? Do they have a fax machine in the whorehouse, or did they all trundle down to Kinko's - "You fax these, I'll let you shave me". Thirdly, how come French whores know how to work a fax machine, but every time I try to use it, I hit Powersave, or I forget to dial 9? This just proves what my boyfriend always says - that I'm dumber than a French whore.'

Other examples of Fey's Weekend Update repertoire: 'A Harvard Medical School study has determined that rectal thermometers are the best way to tell a baby's temperature. Plus, it teaches the baby who's boss.'

'Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman say their split is amicable, and they want everyone to know that after their divorce their two adopted children will be returned to the prop department at Universal Studios.'

'In order to feel safer on his private jet, John Travolta has purchased a bomb-sniffing dog. Unfortunately, the dog came six movies too late.'

'U2 lead singer Bono met with President Bush on Wednesday and urged the president to help the world's poor, while the president urged Bono to get back with Cher.'

- Observer, 11 May 2008

09 May 2008

Real men use Vaseline?

Former England rugby star Lawrence Dallaglio advertises Vaseline moisturiser for men, in a billboard at Taunton railway station in Somerset. I can't help wondering if any New Zealand rugby player has crossed that social barrier to advertise such contraband material? Will we see its like in our lifetime?

08 May 2008

A spatial analysis of Ludacris' alleged 'hoes'

I'm glad to see that someone has taken the time to analyse the statements of the rapper Ludacris to investigate if his preferences for, ahem, 'hoes' as expressed in his track 'Area Codes' are distributed in a particular fashion. Some of the findings are that 'there is a ‘ho belt‘ phenomenon nearly synonymous with the ‘Bible Belt’, and that 'Ludacris has a disproportionate ho-zone in rural Nebraska. He might favor white women as much as he does black women, or perhaps, girls who farm'. For others of its ilk, see the excellent Strange Maps website.

Ludacris' rap map of US area codes

Ferris Bueller squirrel

humorous pictures
more cat pictures

Dudley Moore: Piano man

If you're of a certain age you might only remember Dudley Moore (1935-2002) from his appearances on the Muppet Show (which were ace) and, in his 'Sex Thimble' phase, in dodgy movies like '10' and Arthur (which were, um, not). But he brought a deep well of comedic talent to the comedy team of Beyond The Fringe and the later legendary pairing with Peter Cook. It also should be remembered that he was a remarkable talent on the keyboard, as these three clips illustrate - all in glorious black & white. First off, the jaunty farewell signature theme 'Goodbye', sung with Pete in matching silly Robin Hood hats. Then, two stage performances showing his skill and versatility: one operatic (deploying his unearthly falsetto) and one fiendishly complex yet intrinsically funny Beethoven parody.

Dubious moments in comic history

James Lilek's lovingly compiled archive of old comic book covers, complete with mickey-taking wiseacre commetary, will keep you occupied for FAR too long. Be warned - there are 89 pages to get through before you reach the spine-tingling conclusion, in which Robin is being strangled by the stretchy arms of a grandfather clock. (No, me neither). Lileks resists the temptation to delve into the 'killing time' motif, but I obviously have far lower standards.

Dubious Moments in Comic History

Is that an official request?

This lady is concerned about the place of proper English in American society. Something tells me her campaign might struggle.

- Source: Buzz.se

Confirm or ignore?

Facebook is creepy, isn't it? But I still like it.

Hooray for bacon

For those of you who prefer an orderly approach to life's little problems, here's a flowchart to help you through the tricky process of preparing and eating bacon, the pig's raison d'etre.



The stomach turns at the very thought of the wares offered by this stylishly-designed website.  Krautkramer's Meatwater is just what you think it is: meat-flavoured water.  (Unless it's just a particularly swish hoax...)  Beverages come in Cheeseburger, Chicken Teriyaki and Fish 'n Chips flavours, among others.

- Source: Popbitch

Lesbians of Lesbos

The Guardian sent a reporter to the Greek isle of Lesbos, ancient home of the poetess Sappho, to investigate recent reports that some islanders are disgruntled about the stream of lesbian visitors to the island, and that the term 'Lesbians' should be reserved for people from the island.  She found that the outcry led by low-profile right-wing editor Dimitris Lambou was not reflected in the views of ordinary islanders, who often welcomed the money that the international visitors provide.  Quotes from the article:

'What do the visitors think about Lamrou challenging their right to be called lesbians?  "Thank God Sappho was born on Lesbos, not Rhodes," says Sandra, on holiday from Leeds with a group of friends to celebrate her 60th birthday.  "Or we would be stuck being known as Rhodesians".
There are few visible local women in Eressos, but I speak to an older shopkeeper, who tells me that the lesbians bring some excitement to what is "a very ordinary Greek village".  "I could easily be a lesbian if I was younger," says another woman.  "It would be far easier.  Those women are lovely and I have a horrible husband"

- Guardian, 8 May 2008

Contextualising the humble shed

[Architect] John Jessop [has] earned a cult following among his colleagues after his withering comments were leaked in an e-mail which has been sent all round the country.

After being asked to fill in a "design access statement" for a storage shed on a small farm, he wrote: "The density is like on a farm, the social context is a farm in the country, the economic context is farming in the United Kingdom in 2008 (which is not very economic), the opportunities are to store equipment inside rather than the outside, the constraint is the planning system."

And under a section headed Context Analysis, he said: "The use is compatible with a farm because it is a farm building.  It is located where it is because it is in the most convenient place, being on the farm and near the farmhouse."

Mr Jessop said he launched his attack on planning red tape after the planning and amenities department of Mendip District Council in Somerset sent him a lengthy form with what he saw as a serious of "silly" questions.

- Telegraph, 6 May 2008

Cattle nappies

Trucking companies in Southland have united to claim that they shouldn't be responsible for stock effluent discharges from their trucks when transporting cattle, after one of their number was fined $750 by Environment Southland for waste discharges in Invercargill.  New Zealand Road Transport Association spokesman Tony Friedlander made the obvious point that 'You can't really expect livestock to keep their legs crossed for the whole day'. 

They're missing a trick for a major new product line.  What self-respecting trucker or farmer would be seen dead without his cows sporting all-new comfort-fit Cattle Nappies?  We could call them Cattle Diapers for the American market, of course. 

- Source: Southland Times, 8 May 2008

02 May 2008

How scarfies save on heating

They'd be spending every waking hour in the Otago Museum's tropical forest exhibit, if they had any sense.  It certainly beats shivering in a freezing cold flat whilst wearing three layers of jerseys.  Oh wait, it's $8.50 for an entry ticket.  Is that cheaper than running a one-bar heater?  And, more importantly, what is Willa O'Neill's view on the important matter of student accommodation heating in Dunedin? 

- Source: Otago Daily Times, 2 May 2008