28 September 2009

Licensed crime in Ankh-Morpork

'Ankh-Morpork's enviable system of licensed criminals owes much to the current Patrician, Lord Vetinari. He reasoned that the only way to police a city of a million inhabitants was to recognise the various gangs and robber guilds, give them professional status, invite the leaders to large dinners, allow an acceptable level of street crime and then make the guild leaders responsible for enforcing it, on pain of being stripped of their new civic honours along with large areas of their skin. It worked. Criminals, it turned out, made a very good police force; unauthorised robbers soon found, for example, that instead of a night in the cells they could now expect an eternity at the bottom of the river.

However, there was the problem of apportioning the crime statistics, and so there arose a complex system of annual budgeting, chits and allowances to see that a) the members could make a reasonable living and b) no citizen was robbed or assaulted more than an agreed number of times. Many foresighted citizens in fact arranged to get an acceptable minimum of theft, assault, etc, over at the beginning of the financial year, often in the privacy and comfort of their own homes, and thus be able to walk the streets quite safely for the rest of the year. It all ticked over extremely peacefully and efficiently, demonstrating once again that compared to the Patrician of Ankh, Machiavelli could not have run a whelk stall'

- Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters, 1988

23 September 2009

Never trust a sailor

'[During a sea voyage] in the early 14th century, Ludolph de Sudheim was amazed to see flying fish:

There are some marvellous [fish] which lift themselves out of the water and fly for quite a long time like butterflies, but I don't know how long they can stay in the air. I asked experienced sailors about this, wanting to know where the fish came from. They replied that in England and Ireland very beautiful trees grow on the shore bearing fruit like apples. In these apples, worms are born, and when the apples are ripe and fall they break open and the worms fly away because they have wings like bees. If they touch first on land they become airborne and fly with other birds. If they touch first at sea they become sea creatures and swim like fish but from time to time they also use their natural ability to fly.

Perhaps wisely, Ludolph remarked that he wasn't sure if trees like this really existed but he recorded what he'd been told'.

- Quoted in Susan Rose, The Medieval Sea, London, 2007

22 September 2009

Space Trek And Wars

From a Mitchell & Webb live comedy performance comes this space opera pastiche. 'Captain, the little green men have made a hole in the silver wall with their laser thingy and now the space is getting in!'

21 September 2009

Dr Horrible Hijacks Emmy Awards

Neil Patrick Harris as Dr Horrible with Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer, in a sketch for yesterday's Emmy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles:

[Courtesy of Matthew]

19 September 2009

Supermarket security obviously immune to Jedi mind trick

[British Supermarket chain] Tesco has been accused of religious discrimination after the company ordered the founder of a Jedi religion to remove his hood or leave a branch of the supermarket in north Wales.

Daniel Jones, founder of the religion inspired by the Star Wars films, says he was humiliated and victimised for his beliefs following the incident at a Tesco store in Bangor.

The 23-year-old, who founded the International Church of Jediism, which has 500,000 followers worldwide, was told the hood flouted store rules.

But the grocery empire struck back, claiming that the three best known Jedi Knights in the Star Wars movies – Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker – all appeared in public without their hoods. Jones, from Holyhead, who is known by the Jedi name Morda Hehol, said his religion dictated that he should wear the hood in public places and is considering legal action against the chain.

"It states in our Jedi doctrination that I can wear headwear. It just covers the back of my head," he said [...]

Tesco said: "He hasn't been banned. Jedis are very welcome to shop in our stores although we would ask them to remove their hoods.

"Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all appeared hoodless without ever going over to the Dark Side and we are only aware of the Emperor as one who never removed his hood.

"If Jedi walk around our stores with their hoods on, they'll miss lots of special offers."

- Guardian, 18 September 2009

18 September 2009

Have you tried 'mind your own business'?

Eckhart Under Media Pressure To Find Love

The Dark Knight star Aaron Eckhart is feeling the pressure to find a girlfriend and settle down - because reporters always quiz him about his love life when he's promoting a new movie.

The actor is currently starring in romantic comedy Love Happens with Jennifer Aniston and he's been bombarded with questions about when he'll get married and start a family - even though he's still single.

Eckhart, who was previously engaged to actress Emily Cline, admits the constant speculation is starting to annoy him - because not even his mother pressures him as much as the media.

He says, "You know who I'm getting pressure from? The press! When you're promoting a new movie they want to know a) have you slept with your co-star, which I have not, and b) why are you so old and never been married?! And they're getting down my root (on his nerves) about it.

"I think that once you get over the age of 40 people start to ask questions. When you're younger and single, it's cool. Now it's dirty."

- IMDB.com, 18 September 2009

11 September 2009

How to be immodest

'How easily and cleverly I do write just now!  I am really pleased with myself; words come skipping to me like lambs upon Moffat Hill; and I turn my periods smoothly and imperceptibly like a skilful wheelwright turning tops in a turning-loom.  There's fancy!  There's simile!  In short, I am at present a genius: in that does my opulence consist, and not in base metal'
- From the journal of diarist James Boswell, 9 February 1763 

10 September 2009

Reasons for joining the Girl Guides

Letter to the Times, 10 September 2009:
Sir, Today's Guides are clearly very different from those of my youth (Archive, Sept 4 and letters, Sept 8). My friend and I joined the 59th Croydon because we wanted to meet the young Scouts who shared the hall. We were then somewhat disappointed to find the two groups met on different nights.

Thelma Hewitt

Stamford, Lincs

09 September 2009

The Los Angeles of Waikato

'Hamilton is fighting back over comments from the South African rugby coach, who described the city as 'boring'.  Peter de Villiers was explaining the decision to prepare for this weekend's Tri-Nations test against the All Blacks on Australia's Gold Coast.  Mr de Villiers says there's nothing in Hamilton, so players can start to suffer 'hotel fatigue' causing them to lose interest quickly and start thinking about going home.

Hamilton identities and other proud locals are describing the Springbok coach's comments as rubbish and are backing their city to the hilt.  All Black and Waikato player Stephen Donald says he'll use de Villier's comments as motivation when he lines up against the Springboks on Saturday.  He says the comments hurt him "immensely" and while the beaches on the Gold Coast are not bad, there are lots of nice spots along Hamilton's beautiful river.

Linda Topp of the Topp Twins, who grew up in Huntly, describes Hamilton as the Los Angeles of Waikato and says the South African coach couldn't be more wrong.

However not everyone is offended by the Springbok coach's comments. Local identity Graham Cairns, also known as the Laird of Hamilton, has thanked Peter De Villiers for helping keep the river city free of Aucklanders'
- Radio New Zealand, 9 September 2009

02 September 2009

I'd pay to see that

Frozen koalas may be thrown at rally cars

By CHRISTINE KELLETT - BrisbaneTimes.com.au
Last updated 11:23 02/09/2009

Police say dead koalas and other frozen road kill may be used to disrupt the Australian leg of the Repco World Rally Championship in the Tweed Valley tomorrow.

Head of the Tweed-Byron police, Superintendent Michael Kenny, told local media protest groups rallying against the racing event would be watched closely after rumours began circulating about the use of dead animals, the lighting of fires and people laying across the track.

"Some of the bizarre things are that there is road kill been put in freezers that is going to be thrown on to the road during the event," Superintendent Kenny said yesterday.