29 April 2010

Helpful instructions

Care instructions: Hand wash only. Wash before first use. Freezer safe.

- Instructions on packaging for a flexible ice cube tray from Tesco

Henning Wehn

Understated German comedian Henning Wehn, introduced by Stewart Lee, on the concept of comic timing and the German sense of humour.

They fight crime! Well, orcs.

Caddoc, standing around seven foot tall and with axes seemingly emanating from every orifice, is good at knitting. No, wait, not knitting! Melee combat. That's it. His elfin buddy [E'lara], as well as possessing breasts of +3 later life back pain, is more of an archer, loosing arrows from her bow with a speed and accuracy that only comes from wearing entirely no clothes.

- Rich McCormick previews Hunted: The Demon's Forge, PC Gamer, May 2010

28 April 2010

Death by Powerpoint?

No one is suggesting that PowerPoint is to blame for mistakes in the current wars, but the program did become notorious during the prelude to the invasion of Iraq. As recounted in the book “Fiasco” by Thomas E. Ricks (Penguin Press, 2006), Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan, who led the allied ground forces in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, grew frustrated when he could not get Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the commander at the time of American forces in the Persian Gulf region, to issue orders that stated explicitly how he wanted the invasion conducted, and why. Instead, General Franks just passed on to General McKiernan the vague PowerPoint slides that he had already shown to Donald H. Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time.

- Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, 26 April 2010

27 April 2010

A glass half-full

"I got so sick of bowling no-balls I decided to do something permanent about it" - former New Zealand fast bowler and current cricket coach Heath Davies shrugs off the recent amputation of his left foot after an accident at his workplace involving a fork-lift truck.

- Andy Bull, The Spin cricket newsletter, 27 April 2010

26 April 2010

"We're all doomed, doomed"

The second so-called debate last week was a cross between the Who Wants To Be A Prime Minister show and Dad’s Army. The three contestants put on their best performances for the viewer’s vote, each displaying their own qualities from the classic 1960s series: David Cameron reminded me of Private Walker, a slick-talking spiv, trying to sell us a load of old junk. Gordon Brown was Frazer, the Scottish undertaker who effortlessly exudes doom and gloom. And Nick Clegg, despite his recent bombardment of adoration, perfectly took on the role of the boyish Private Pike, prattling on about what life would be like in his Liberal La La Land…

- Peter Flynn, Sheffield, letter to the Independent, 26 April 2010

23 April 2010

The live abortion of democracy

Marina Hyde, on the sea of insincerity, desperation and hubris in the Sky Leaders Debate spin room:

"Mos Eisley spaceport," sighs Ben Kenobi in Star Wars. "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy ... " Evidently Obi Wan never visited Sky's post-debate spin room, which – pound-of-flesh for pound-of-flesh – must have been one of the most distasteful places to be in this galaxy or any other tonight.

The venue was an interactive science museum in Bristol, magically transformed by Rupert Murdoch's news network into a fully operational 10th circle of hell. Behold, the cream of Britain's arseoisie, as journalists, spin doctors and politicians interact in scenes that just scream "Come, friendly bombs …"

To the left, George Osborne robotically repeating "David Cameron showed passion, leadership and commitment." To the right, Michael Gove simulating anguish that Nick Clegg should have referred to the dead Polish president's party as nutters: "The sort of comment that no one who wants to be taken seriously should utter." In the middle, Alastair Campbell failing to pull off sang froid: "It's a poll, it's a poll – you can take them or leave them." And unifying the picture, Sky's endlessly pant-wetting coverage of its own coverage.

It was like watching the live abortion of democracy. Had the network decided the evening should have been immortalised in oil paint (surely only a matter of time), Hieronymus Bosch would have declined the commission on the basis that it was a hellscape too far even for him.

- Marina Hyde, Guardian, 22 April 2010

22 April 2010

Philosophical debate

Religion A: My God is the only true god. He is kind and just. He knows everything and he can perform any miracle that he wants. My god is omnipresent -- that means he's everywhere, even in the plumbing!

Religion B: Fancy being so superstitious! Your God is just a figment of your silly imagination. My God is the only true god. He is genuinely kind and just, and can really do all the things that your imaginary god claims to be able to do. Plus he's the God of love and tolerance. Oh, and if you don't believe me I'll kill you!

Religion A: Not if I kill you first!

Followers of the Scottish Premier Football League will be familiar with the general flavour of such philosophical debates, and indeed the above conversation could equally well be rendered as follows:

Rangers' FC supporter: Jimmy McGrory kicked like a jessie!

Celtic FC supporter: I disprove your argument thus...

Rangers' FC supporter: Oof! [as his nose is broken by a head-butt from Celtic FC supporter...]

- David Haywood, Southerly, 22 April 2010

21 April 2010

Granny power!

Turn the vamp factor up to ten for Eartha Kitt, here performing the 1929 Fats Waller standard Ain't Misbehavin' on the Later With Jools Holland show in April 2008. Kitt, who was aged 81 at the time, died on Christmas Day of the same year.

16 April 2010

Beware the poison damsels

There is another fair and good isle, full of people, where the custom is that when a woman is newly married, she shall not sleep the first night with her husband, but with another young man, who shall have ado with her that night and take her maidenhead, taking in the morning a certain sum of money for his trouble. In each town there are certain young men set apart to do that service, which are called gadlibiriens, which is to say ‘fools of despair’. They say, and affirm as truth, that it is a very dangerous thing to take the maidenhead of a virgin; for, so they say, whoever does puts himself at peril of death […]

I asked them what the cause and reason was for such a custom here. They told me that in ancient times some men had died in that land in deflowering maidens, for the latter had snakes within them, which stung the husbands on their penises inside the women’s bodies; and thus many men were slain, and so they follow that custom there to make other men test out the route before they themselves set out on that adventure.

- Source: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, a 14th century novel that supposedly details the diverse wanderings of an English knight from 1322-56. This edition translated by C.W.R.D. Moseley, originally published 1983, revised edition 2005

15 April 2010

K-9 and Company

As featured on Charlie Brooker's You Have Been Watching, the title sequence of the 1981 Dr Who spin-off K-9 and Company, featuring Elisabeth Sladen. Stylish! Exciting! Featuring a wall!

Serial apostrophe abuse

Repent, sport's nut's!

[Via Marathonpacks]

14 April 2010

Just a little off the top thanks

In Hong Kong a red and white striped pole outside a premises may not necessarily indicate a barber shop. It's also a sign for a brothel. Which is bad news if you go in and ask for a number two all over.

- David Mitchell, The Unbelievable Truth, Radio 4, 11 April 2010

13 April 2010

Police and thieves

It was meant to be an imaginative way of hammering home the message that some householders are making life too easy for burglars. But police were under fire today after admitting they had been sneaking into people's homes through open doors and windows and gathering up their valuables into "swag" bags.
Officers in Exeter –who left the swag behind, together with crime prevention information – found more than 50 unsecured properties and claimed people had been glad to receive the wake-up call and advice. But not all residents were happy and a criminal lawyer suggested that the police may have been guilty of trespass [...]
Devon and Cornwall police said the operation was launched after a "spike" in burglaries, mainly at student accommodation. Officers had encouraged householders to take security more seriously but warnings were not heeded.  Other forces have tried initiatives such as rattling windows and trying doors then shouting to residents – sometimes waking them up – to warn them they may be at risk.  Officers decided a more "innovative approach" was needed and the "swag" campaign was launched [...]
A spokesman said: "This initiative was carried out with the best of intentions. However we do accept that our actions of entering properties to leave the bags could be deemed as trespass.  This was a one-off initiative which we will not be repeating."
- Guardian, 29 March 2010

10 April 2010

Wellington hair

It's universally acknowledged that women who live in Wellington have terrible hair. Women who move to Wellington from somewhere else have especially bad hair.

They get down there, and the wind maddens them, and they get tired of trying to do their business in a Force 5 gale, and so they cut it all off, and they style it into a short sharp bob, regardless of the fact that throughout history, the short sharp bob has been proven to suit precisely two New Zealand women - Katherine Mansfield, and Rosemary McLeod.

Katherine and Rosemary aside, it's a look that is best left to women who are either teenaged or French, or preferably both. On the women of Wellington, the effect of the short sharp bob is less Josephine Baker, more prisoner cell block H.

- Noelle McCarthy, NZ Herald, 9 April 2010

[No mention of Josephine Baker should pass without mentioning her famous banana skirts. Not very practical for the Wellington breezes though]

09 April 2010

Cutting out the middle man

Man happy to accept jail term

A 35-year-old Hamilton man convicted of receiving stolen goods from two burglaries has welcomed a sentence of jail, saying it would act as a deterrent.

"Sounds good to me", Steven Rakuraku remarked as he was sentenced yesterday in the Hamilton District Court to 18 months' jail after he admitted a charge of receiving stolen property and assaulting a female.

Rakuraku, representing himself in court, asked Judge Merelina Burnett to sentence him without a pre-sentence report, saying he agreed with the Crown's submission for imprisonment.

He said a prison sentence would serve as a deterrent against future offending.

- Waikato Times, 9 April 2010

On Palinspeak

I don’t think Palin’s phraseology is actively attractive to her fans. Rather, what is remarkable is that this way of speaking doesn’t prevent someone, today, from public influence. Candidates bite the dust for being untelegenic, dour, philanderers, strident, or looking silly posing in a tank. But having trouble rubbing a noun and a verb together is not considered a mark against one as a figure of political authority [...]

The modern American typically relates warmly to the use of English to the extent that it summons the oral — “You betcha,” “Yes we can!” -- while passing from indifference to discomfort to the extent that its use leans towards the stringent artifice of written language. As such, Sarah Palin can talk, basically, like a child and be lionized by a robust number of perfectly intelligent people as an avatar of American culture. And linguistically, let’s face it: she is.

- John McWhorter, 'What Does Palinspeak Mean?', The New Republic, 6 April 2010

[Via ALD]

07 April 2010

John Oliver sounds like the Queen

From an interview with Daily Show comedian John Oliver:

If Oliver was able to quickly command the minutiae of American politics and of the American media, he surely had some other hurdles to overcome, like the accent. Born in Birmingham, he is pretty Brummie-sounding. Was that, well, a handicap? Don't Americans like their British accent posh? "They think it is, that's the problem," he replies laughing. "They can't hear. It's all posh to them! They wouldn't be able to tell where I was from. They just think I sound like the Queen".

- Independent, 7 April 2010

01 April 2010

I feel inclined to blow my mind

It's perhaps the biggest threat to the nation's mental wellbeing, yet it's freely available on every street – for pennies. The dealers claim it expands the mind and bolsters the intellect: users experience an initial rush of emotion (often euphoria or rage), followed by what they believe is a state of enhanced awareness. Tragically this "awareness" is a delusion. As they grow increasingly detached from reality, heavy users often exhibit impaired decision-making abilities, becoming paranoid, agitated and quick to anger. In extreme cases they've even been known to form mobs and attack people. Technically it's called "a newspaper", although it's better known by one of its many "street names", such as "The Currant Bun" or "The Mail" or "The Grauniad" (see me – Ed).

In its purest form, a newspaper consists of a collection of facts which, in controlled circumstances, can actively improve knowledge. Unfortunately, facts are expensive, so to save costs and drive up sales, unscrupulous dealers often "cut" the basic contents with cheaper material, such as wild opinion, bullshit, empty hysteria, reheated press releases, advertorial padding and photographs of Lady Gaga with her bum hanging out. The hapless user has little or no concept of the toxicity of the end product: they digest the contents in good faith, only to pay the price later when they find themselves raging incoherently in pubs, or – increasingly – on internet messageboards.

- Charlie Brooker, Guardian, 22 March 2010