24 May 2010

On royal weddings

Do you know what I was doing on 29 July 1981? I was sitting on the sofa with my sister, eyes as big as saucers, clutching our joint Lady Diana scrapbook, drinking in every moment and wearing plastic Union Jack bowler hats. We must have looked like Toddlers for Ukip. (I was seven at the time, but the years of emotional abuse and a diet consisting solely of burned fish fingers and fear had stunted my growth considerably.)

Oh, she was so beeyootiful! The doe eyes! The hair! My mother and her friend noted with satisfaction that it had been specially brushed back from her face for the day, but even this intrusion of maternal practicalities into magic could not entirely break the spell. Nor could the fact that the bride's dress, as she descended on to terra firma, had obviously been crushed to buggery in the landau. A landau! Be still my beating heart. It was a pity the man she was marrying was so ugly, but at least, as my paternal grandmother pointed out, he'd bought her a decent ring - good for pawning if the going ever got tough. I thought this was very considerate of him.

And, of course, we had the day off school. And every child in - what? The borough? The south-east? The country? - got a silver(ish) spoon with the happy couple on the handle (he still looked ugly, she still looked beeyootiful) to mark the day.


If and when Prince William ever decides to make an honest woman of Kate Middleton, rather than simply ennoble her for services to the royal penis and the A-line skirt, I doubt whether today's seven-year-olds, never mind the rest of the country, will be able to muster the requisite enthusiasm for the endeavour. A free spoon won't elicit much pro-monarchical fever these days. "Come back to us with a gold-plated Wii and we'll talk, mofo," they will say to the market researchers beating a hasty retreat under a hail of Ritalin bottles and knives. A day off school will just cause them to fail their Sats and doom them to a lifetime of burger-flipping and fomentation of rebellion against King Wills and his queen. They will be baffled that the shimmering figure under the Westminster Abbey transept towards whom the bride glides is not Simon Cowell but the Archbishop of Canterbury.

- Lucy Mangan, Guardian, 22 May 2010

[Alternate post title: 'Services to the royal penis']

21 May 2010

A sudden and violent looseness

One day, going on foot to the guildhall with his clerk behind him, he was surprised in Cheapside with a sudden and violent looseness [of the bowels], near the Standard. He turned up his breech against the Standard and bade his man hide his face; ‘For they shall never see my arse again,’ said he.

- John Aubrey (1626-97) recounts a tale of Sir William Fleetwood (1535-94) in Aubrey’s Brief Lives, 2nd modern edition edited by Richard Barber, 2004

19 May 2010

Hate muffins?

So do these well-known movie characters:

[Via /film]

18 May 2010

'Waiter, there's a bone in my pizza'

Investigators believe some pizza restaurants in Naples are using wood from stolen coffins to bake their famous pizzas.

The southern city's favourite dish is said to rely on smoke from wood-fired stoves for its celebrated flavour.

But police think many restaurant owners across the notoriously lawless port are purchasing cut-price wood from a gang of coffin thieves operating in the city.

"A real suspicion hangs over pizza, one of the few remaining important symbols of the city, that it could be cooked with wood coffins," said Il Giornale, the daily paper which belongs to the family of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. "Not only the pizza, the bread, too, may have been cooked with the wood."

Naples prosecutor Giovandomenico Lepore is leading an investigation into the suspected racket.

- Independent, 18 May 2010

14 May 2010

How the BBC works

Q: How many BBC employees does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: We are all about change! However, the bulb can only be changed once assessed for Health and Safety, and provided the new lightbulb is sourced from a Preferred Supplier to the relevant Department, and that requisitioning and payment for the new lightbulb has been submitted and approved via the appropriate channels to both your department manager, line manager and financial controller. Once this has been signed off by at least two senior departmental executives, and providing that the new lightbulb is fully compliant (compliance to be obtained and ratified prior to any invoicing thereof), and providing that the new lightbulb is requisitioned via the SAP system and conforms to all current policies on ethnic, sex and age discrimination, the lightbulb can then be changed by approved personnel from a Preferred Maintenance Outsource Supplier, provided this is budgeted for under the guidelines currently in force regarding lightbulbs and the changing thereof within the current financial year.

- Hugh Dennis, Steve Punt & Jon Holmes, The Now Show Book of World Records, London, 2009

13 May 2010

An urban liberal's dilemma

Columnist Lucy Mangan, on how to cope with the new Conservative government:

First of all, do not despair. I have known – thanks to university, law school and my husband's insistence that I meet his friends – many Tories and the first thing to realise is that they are not all evil. I was brought up to believe that they are, but this is not universally true. Cameron, Osborne and the rest of the cabinet are, of course. But the further out you move through the rings surrounding that toxic little nucleus, the more you will find basic humanity starting to creep back in. I would say that the average Conservative, while 100% wrong, is no more than 30% actual evil. It gives you something to work with.

- Guardian, 13 May 2010

10 May 2010

'France is not in Europe'

From an interview with educators from China, who are teaching their language in American high schools with the help of a government subsidy:

Ms. Zheng said she spent time clearing up misconceptions about China.

“I want students to know that Chinese people are not crazy,” she said. For instance, one of her students, referring to China’s one-child-per-family population planning policy, asked whether the authorities would kill one of the babies if a Chinese couple were to have twins.

Some students were astonished to learn that Chinese people used cellphones, she said. Others thought Hong Kong was the capital [...]

That afternoon, Ms. Zheng taught classes at Central Middle School, drilling 22 eighth graders on how to count to 100 in Chinese and explaining some Chinese holidays before turning her back to write a Chinese tongue twister on the board.

Out of the blue, a girl with long brown hair asked her classmates loudly: “Where’s France at?”

“In Europe,” a boy with baggy jeans called out from across the room.

“France is not in Europe,” another boy said. Ms. Zheng just kept writing Chinese characters on the board.

“American students don’t know a lot about the outside world,” she said later. “Mostly just what they see here.”

Ms. Zheng says she is hoping to do her part by teaching them more than how to write characters.

- New York Times, 9 May 2010

09 May 2010

Quite a mouthful

From a blog posting criticising the ever-expanding length of station names in the Washington DC Metro:

Over time, Metro's station names have gotten longer with the addition of nearby sites and neighborhoods. This "name sprawl" has gotten out of hand. Metro should return to the original 15-character limit on station names.

Station names range in length from Takoma's 6 letters to 44 characters for U St/African Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo. In fact, that station's name is the longest (by character) heavy rail station name in the United States. It beats out gems like Atlanta's Georgia Dome/GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center and New York's Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue-JFK Airport.

- Greater Greater Washington, 7 May 2010

08 May 2010

If you have nothing better to do with your life

Why not devote precious moments of your spare time photographing unimportant trademark infringements and dobbing retailers in to corporate headquarters?

A member of the public ratted on Nelson's Seabreeze City Takeaways for having a "whopper" burger on its menu, according to Burger King's New Zealand office.

Spokeswoman Rachael Allison said photos of the store's menu board were received by Burger King's international office.

"We haven't been involved in this at all. The matter was brought to their attention by a member of the public who took the photo. We certainly don't trawl New Zealand looking for instances of breach of trademark."

- Source: Nelson Mail, 8 May 2010

07 May 2010

50 Impressions in Two Minutes

Comedian Peter Serafinowicz performs fifty impressions in two of your Earth minutes:

06 May 2010

None Of The Above

And now for a bit of novelty. Press Association's Chris Montcrieff reports that a candidate whose surname is "Above" and whose "Other Names" are given as "None Of The" is contesting the election in Chingford and Woodford Green, the seat being defended by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader.

Unfortunately for "Mr Above" he appears, for alphabetical reasons, at the top of the list of candidates, with no one above him.

It might have been wiser for him to have renamed himself "Below", which would at least have put him second in a list of eight candidates.

- Guardian election liveblog, 6 May 2010

01 May 2010

A likely story

He was called to the Bar in 1952, but practised only briefly. In his memoirs he recorded that he secured the acquittal of a lorry-driver accused of indecent exposure by persuading the magistrates that the man had been "shaking the drops from his person" after urinating, and by getting the man's young wife to testify, wearing a tight sweater, that she and her husband enjoyed a healthy love life.

- Wikipedia.org, on Sir Robin Day, who later became a renowned British TV interviewer