Thursday, November 11, 2010


Regarding the student demonstration that "erupted into violence" yesterday in London - I see the press are suggesting a rogue element of anarchists were responsible for the trouble.

Oh, those anarchists, eh? If only we could all be as organised and punctual as they are. Tsk.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010


In today's news, researchers from Cardiff University have presented a report stating that if newly qualified drivers were banned from driving at night and with their peers in the car it would cut road deaths by roughly 200 people a year. It's true, see here:

Now, this sounds like a pretty bold claim, and campaign groups are already urging the government to take action and ban those qualified drivers before we're all mown down by their crazy night-driving antics.

Well, I hate to bring reality into play here, but isn't the great finding of this report really just saying that if there were less people driving we'd probably get less road casualties? I'm not sure that's such an exciting finding as the media makes out. Hey, if no one drove, it's a safe bet to say that we would reduce car-related road casualties entirely.

As conclusions go, I'm not sure this one needed all that research. However, I've done no research at all but I'd estimate that if Cardiff University were to employ less researchers at night or working with their peers in the lab, they would save roughly £200 of money. Maybe more! That's my conclusion and I'm giving it away for free.

Now drive safe, you kids.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010


A woman is walking through a station concourse with her child when she asks a passer-by for the easiest way to Euston Station in London. The passer-by, a seemingly normal gentleman in a suit, proceeds to shout about eustachian tubes before blabbering on about something else that results in his doing an impression of a monkey. Several other people on the concourse join in.

Now, this is apparently how searching the internet had been until came along. Really, this is their current television advert. You would ask for the best route to Euston and every internet search engine in the world ever would reply with a medical examination of your eustachian tubes followed by an impression of a monkey flinging feces at your face. Or so the people would have us believe.

So I tried it. I went to a popular search engine (rhymes with poogle, other search engines are available) and typed in "Euston Station". Lo and behold, "poogle" gave me a page full of information about... Euston Station, all of which was relevant. Ta-da!

So, I'm not quite getting the advert's point. All I can get out of this advert is that if I search for "Euston Station" on their search engine they'll end up flinging feces at me until I go elsewhere. Which seems to be unnecessary.

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Friday, August 13, 2010


If you take a step back, cooking food seems a pretty random thing to come up with. I know there are benefits to cooking - killing bacteria, etc. - but even so, it just seems such an odd thing to think of in the first place, doesn't it?

Y'see, someone must have started with something edible (or, if they were Japanese, something exceptionally fatal to human beings) and then figured "I'll stick it in the fire for a while and see what that does." It's already edible, you're a caveman, why would you decide to cook it? Because it's going to keep you warm, perhaps? No, that doesn't make sense, you have a fire right there - the one you're using to cook the food with. To get any hotter, you're retiring to Florida... there are few other options left once you have the fire going.

No matter what way you look at it, it seems like it was your honest-to-gosh "moment of madness" that spawned the whole industry of cooking, without which we wouldn't have such great inventions as the oven (great!), the toaster (okay) and celebrity chefs (Eurgh! move on, people, nothing to see here).

The inevitable conclusion is cooking stuff was all down to inventing fire. Because fire's a seductive mistress, my friend, once you've got a fire burning you really have to fight to resist that primal urge to burn something just to see what happens. So, it seems to me that we eat cooked meals today because some distant ancestor was basically a pyromaniac who got lucky.

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Monday, August 09, 2010


In today's Metro, collector doyen Dave Valentine tells us how he has amassed 500 empty crisp packets over the years, dating back all the way to his first packet in 1984. That means he's collected over 19 empty crisp packets a year - that's about one every three weeks! Quite a feat.

But alarm bells ring when Dave explains that "the designs are so retro and cool". Waitaminute! Designs from 1984 are "retro"? Aren't they just "old"? "Retro" would be something that is intentionally harking back to another era, not something actually from it.

See, this kind of misuse of terminology is helping no one, even the crisp guys find it tasteless.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Have you ever wondered where rock bands get their names from? Because I keep worrying they're going to run out now, there have just been too many artists with wacky names. Already, music artists are twisting the spelling in on itself - Dizzee Rascal, Def Leppard - or making up words that simply don't make any sense outside of Tellytubby land - Tinchy Stryder, anyone?

Meanwhile, on the internet, people are wont to say "Hey, that would make a great band name" at an innocuous turn of phrase. "I almost lost my gatorade"... "Hey, 'Lost My Gatorade' would be a great band name*, dude." (*actually, it would, but that's not the point)

Wouldn't it be easier if we just named music artists the same way they name legal firms? McCartney, Lennon, Harrison & Starkey. Morrissey, Marr and Associates. Tony Hadley and Partners. That would work out fine and save on all the Lady GaGas and Lynyrd Skynyrds we're coping manfully to file in our music collections just now.

Of course, Hall & Oates are ahead of the curve on this one. They could switch from being musicians to lawyers without missing a beat.

"I'm out of touch, you're out... in 8-10 with good behaviour. Case closed."

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Saturday, May 22, 2010


This morning I was awoken to a discussion on BBC Radio London about how spoilt the children of today are. Apparently, even working class families (for shame!) are now lavishing £500 at a time on children's birthday parties to hire a professional entertainer and allow every attendee to leave with a "party bag" full of toys, sweets and, I don't know, gold bullion or something.

What really struck me though was the outspoken expert and mother highlighting this, amid her otherwise rational argument, mentioned playing Pacman - a video game which turned 30 years old this week. "That was simple entertainment," she assured the host, "nothing flashy about it. And my children loved playing it online for free, they don't need all these complicated expensive things."

If the experts are now holding up Pacman as an example of a return to the simpler days of yore then I'm afraid it's Game Over for the human race.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010


Last year, Microsoft launched a new internet search engine called I say "new", it is in fact the same old Microsoft MSN Live Search only with a new name. And - bizarrely - random wallpaper in the background.

Apparently, the name - Bing - took two years of research and testing to settle on. Microsoft's high-ups figured out that the reason Google was so popular was that it had a great name - people would happily say "I'll Google that". But no one in their right mind had ever said "I'll Microsoft MSN Live Search that". And I do mean, ever. Ever, eternity, ever. Of course, the fact that Google actually found relevant answers to searches seems to have passed the Microsoft folks by, so they instead invested in that random wallpaper in the background. Yes, that's adding to the experience of looking up information on Leukemia, good job, guys.

Anyway, two years of development and they launch "Bing me!" "I'll Bing that!" "Bing Crosby!" Oh - they had a dream of changing our language use forever, my friend, in much the same way that Google... wait, this sounds like the Microsofties thought that Google planned it all along, when surely it's just a reference to a number of things. If only they had some kind of workable search tool to find out information like that, huh?

So - after all this research, money, time - why, presumably in an effort to raise Bing's profile, has Microsoft decided to sponsor the Simpsons on British TV (a show close to this ol' klown's heart) with what constitutes the single most repellant and offensive advertising campaign in human history? Have you seen these abominations? A young couple, possibly married, certainly cohabiting for several years when we come to meet them, seem to be having what can only be described as a passive-aggressive relationship with no "passive" left whatsoever. Oh, they've cranked the "aggressive" up to 11 to make up for the lack of passive, but it's pretty clear that one of them's ending up under the patio or chopped up in the wheelie bin before the end of summer. I've seen less disturbing adverts on the side of cigarette packets, people - and they show cancerous lungs and dead infants, for goodness sake!

She: "Have you decided what you're getting me for our anniversary, dear?"
He: "Of course, light of my life." Grimaces, makes gagging gesture, searches on for human poison.

He, staring at the television: "Can I just check on the footie score?"
She, showing him the score on her laptop via "It's nil-nil, the game's stupid, you're interrupting Hollyoaks, and I killed your hamster. Now LEAVE ME ALONE!"
- or something. I don't know, she's watching a soap opera with such vigour here that she's also on her laptop yet still won't let the guy change channel for two seconds to check the score of the match he wasn't allowed to watch in his own home.

She: "I'm popping out or whatever. There's a salad in the fridge."
He: "That's thoughtful." (makes face, searches for mail order bride with some cooking experience)

What I'm trying to work out is just what sort of people Microsoft's search facility is aimed at. Based on these adverts, I'm going with the selfish and emotionally maladjusted. There are people with Asperger's who are more socially adept than this couple. All people with Asperger's, in fact.

And, let's be honest - once you've used once, you're really going back to using google. Because MSN Microsoft Live Search is still as utterly, incomprehensibly, mind-bogglingly useless as it always was, even if you add some random wallpaper in the background. Look up on and I'll bet it can't find it!

But then, given the clientele they seem to be pitching for, it's probably for the best if these mentally unbalanced would-be killers don't have all the facts to hand. Safety, you understand?

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Saturday, October 17, 2009


So, after all these years they've finally figured out the way to make us save energy.

I'm talking about the new, energy efficient light bulbs that are now the law and how anyone selling anything other than an energy efficient light bulb can be imprisoned and shot and have their family deported to a space prison on the moon.

And the really great thing about these energy efficient light bulbs is how they're exactly like the old light bulbs, except for being funny shapes and a lot dimmer.  So, if you can get them to fit in your old light fixture, you have the joy of sitting in the greyish gloom of your living room, or squinting as you read by the dimness of that used-to-be-100-watt bedside lamp.

It is a truly genius plan, machiavellian in its intricacy.  You see, for years and years we've all willfully wasted energy, leaving lights on, burning the brightest bulbs.  Now nobody dares turn on one of their last remaining energy inefficient bulbs, because once they're gone that's it - you're in the gloom, my friend.  Ho ho, the Shadow knows.

By introducing a product that isn't really up to the job, finally the government has found a way to make us turn off the lights when we leave a room.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It is with a growing sense of horror and revulsion that I learn that the workers in overseas call centres are now being coached in the fine art of small talk.

The scenario breaks down like this:  A UK business employs a call centre in India to field their queries because it's cheaper and - let's face it - no call centre in the recorded history of time* ever provided any help to anyone ever, so what the heck does it actually matter who answers the phone?  But there is the perception that these overseas call centres are alienating that precioius client base by being a bit too gosh-darn foreign.  So, now the overseas employees are being coached in current UK events, like what's happening in Eastenders and who's doing well in the Premier League Football competition.  Slip in a couple of cultural references and a line from a Lily Allen song and, the theory goes, no one will realise they're actually discussing their Sky Plus television subscription with someone in Mumbai.

Except, I don't watch Eastenders, I don't like football.

In fact, it is fair to say that I spend my life studiously avoiding situations that will require small talk as I find it to be the last gasp of a dying society with nothing left to say.  So, coaching an overseas sales rep in the minutiae of soap operas and sporting events I couldn't care less about only serves to make me hate him - and you, UK-based company - more.  Now, I am no longer politely rejecting your product - I am wishing its swift demise, that your scripted anecdotes about how well "Man U" did in last night's "ruddy important game" will just leave me alone.

As is so often the case, whatever it is you're selling - I'm not buying.

(* For training purposes, your history of time may be recorded) 

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Monday, October 05, 2009


In today's Metro newspaper they are running a poll to find out whether you think we are about to see a resurgence of swine flu.  A poll.  You can text in your vote, be it yes or no, to say whether you think swine flu will make a resurgence.

Is this how we're deciding illness epidemics these days?  Have we become so ingrained in voting for who's got talent, who dances the best, who should leave the Big Brother house, that now we've got to vote on everything?

The irony, of course, is that actual voting - you know, that stuff you do at election time to decide who's going to run your country - is dropping because interest in politics is dwindling.  The trouble there, it seems, is that you can't just text in your vote, you have to go to the designated voting booth, say who you are, ensure it is an honest, democratic process.  So what this basically boils down to is people are okay about voting until you ask them to wear shoes.  Shoes is just too much effort.  Theoretically, if a political party were to stand on a platform of "We'll accept text votes" they would win, even if their spokesman was Hitler's dog.  Presumably, he'd stand for the constituency of Dagenham and Barking, or perhaps the Isle of Dogs.  In fairness, Hitler's dog probably knows more about politics than many politicians in the public eye whom I could mention.

Back to the starting point here, what is a poll about whether you think we'll see more swine flu going to prove?  "Well, it turns out that 97% of our readers think we won't see a second wave of killer disease swine flu, so that means you'll all be safe and no one will die.  Another triumph of text vote democracy over life-threatening disease.  Nice work, Metro readers."

They really should run a poll asking whether these polls mean anything.  That's one poll I'd vote in.  So long as I didn't have to wear shoes.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009


So, the winner of the UK Air Guitar championships has just been announced.  Phew, am I glad that competition is finally over?!  Some guy pretends to play guitar for 60 seconds while an audience sits in judgement.  Yes, really.  As much as it pains me, I am not making this up...


Isn't this a rather insensitive competition?  You have no musical talent, you failed to buy a guitar to practice on, you've done none of the painstaking practice that is required to read music and master a musical instrument, and now you've entered yourself into a competition to show just how much effort you are willing to put into being utterly talentless?  Surely, whoever wins this competition is still a loser by any basic definition of the word?  "Yes, and we're proud to say you still can't play the guitar."

What does the winner get?  A million air pounds?  A pretend gold plated trophy of nothing?  A non-medal?

And who on Earth is judging this?  What do you need to qualify for that role?  A basic inability to play guitar?  Or perhaps, an air guitar judge has to be incompetent at their designated role - guitarist who can't play guitar gets judged by exceptionally indecisive person who takes days to make up their mind.

Rewarding people for their inability to do something offends me on some basic level.  Where does it all end?  If we're going to hand out meritorious awards to people who can't play guitar, why not hand out an award to the best pretend doctor for curing made-up cancer?  Why not give the Victoria Cross to the best not-war hero for doing nothing to save us from the not-Nazis?

Everyone's singing from the Hymn Sheet of double-think, my friend, and if you don't know the words they'll single you out - for an award.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008


When it comes to Star Wars, there are some interesting anecdotes about where George Lucas came up with those wacky alien names.

One story has it that he and a pal were driving out in the middle of nowhere one night when the driver bumped over something in the road.  The driver turns to George and says, "Hah, think I just hit a wookiee back there" and that's where Chewbacca the wookiee came from.

That's a great story.  Not, perhaps the greatest, but still great.  It's a little funny, a little quirky.  I mean, what's going through your mind to (a) randomly make up a word when you hit something in the road and (b) just keep on driving? There's this lingering doubt in my mind that some poor hiker is waking up from a coma, 35 years later, saying, "Well, I was out in the middle of nowhere when this car just runs into me and drives off.  And the last thing I remember is some guy laughing about - what did he call me? - a wookiee...?"  Can't wait for that guy to see Star Wars.

But I'm sure it was an innocent bump, they probably knocked into a fallen branch or something.

The lesser known part of that anecdote is how George Lucas and his pal were making the exact same journey 20 years later and the very same thing happened.  This time, older, wiser and with an eye on the insurance, George's pal says, "Hah, think I just hit a wookiee back there.  But he hit me first."

"Hmmm," thinks Lucas, "maybe the wookiee should hit first..."

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Sunday, October 05, 2008


People seem very concerned with being cool.  Even the people who say they aren't concerned with being cool are really concerned with being cool.  Or, at least, not appearing to be uncool.  Because, while "cool" is something one might justifiably sneer at, "uncool" is really a thing that one still wants to avoid.

Yet, when cool is in the clothes and music and mannerisms and - sweet valley high! -  the gosh-forsaken blather that passes for "street lingo", it all seems a bit of an effort to truly make oneself cool.  And surely the point of being cool is that you don't really try, you just are.  It's a conundrum, my friend, and one I am happy to wrestle with for you.

If you are struggling under the pressure of emulating coolness, I would like to recommend this eye-opening solution:  the DVD audio description track.  You know the one, it's the descriptions for the partially sighted or, as my old TV boss used to considerately call it, "subtitles for the blind".

What the audio description track does is it lets the movie run with a narrator chipping in now and then to paint a picture with words so that those less fortunate in the eye stakes can still experience the glory of whatever it is that Lindsay Lohan is doing on screen.  I guess that narrator's job is to be as unobtrusive as possible, and thus they use this awful monotone.  Really there's just no inflection there.  You wonder if they're just employing corpses to do this stuff, really, it's that bad.  Remember Ferris Bueller's teacher?  Yes, him.  Always him.

Nothing quite destroys the credibility of cool as when that soulless-voiced narrator butts in on an exciting nightclub sequence in a movie and explains, "There are a number of people talking and dancing while wearing hip, punky outfits."  It's like boiling down cool until all you have left is some terrible, terrible residue clinging to your fingertips.  And no matter how much you try to regain your cool mojo, that residue just won't wash off.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008


The banks really ask a lot of security questions, don't they?  Is all this stuff really necessary?  I thought the whole point of putting my money into the bank was to make it work for me and yet, here I am, working real hard trying to come up with secure answers for someone in a call centre to talk to me.

And the questions, mercy me, the questions...

"And can you tell me a recent transaction?"  That's a great one, especially if you haven't accessed your bank account for a couple of weeks.  "How recent?  I opened it around 1987, does that count?"

Because they've already asked my name, my account number, I've confirmed my street address - yes, including zip code.  And now they want a recent transaction?

Okay, I'm smart, I admit it.  When I phone up my bank I have my statement in hand.  You know, it has the bank's phone number next to my account number, I figure it's a good thing to have.  I mean, I haven't committed my bank's phone number to memory.  I don't know my account number either, it's, like, 12 digits long - who am I, Rain Man?  So, I'm on the phone, the statement's in my hand, I'm using it the way Nature intended.  So, they need me to quote a recent transaction?  "Oh, I'll give you a recent transaction, my friend.  I'll recent transaction you like you've never been recent transactioned before!"  I'm reeling off cheques paid in, cash taken out, I'm throwing in locations - "it was from ATM number two in that branch, as I recall, and the time was 11.43 am.  I had croissants for breakfast, it's very vivid in my memory" - I'm doing all I can.

And then the call centre guy will say, "No, I really need something more recent than that, sir."

These bank statements are released monthly and the one in my hand is, like, a week old.  How recent?  In the last hour?  Do they need me to conduct a transaction while I'm on the phone and tell them how much it was for?  Would that help?

And yet, when I opened the account I was asked for a super secret password.  Ever try quoting that to the bank people?  They back away, put their hands over their ears.  "We're not really allowed to know that, sir."  So, what was that password for?  Because I've carried that password with me for years and no one's ever asked for it.  Is that for the really special transaction?  You know, when I've found me a pretty Klowness, we're writing vows, looking at rings in the jeweller's window, I'm taking a lot of money out...

"You know, I think I'm going to use the super secret password for this transaction - I think this could be The One."

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Monday, April 14, 2008


The celebrity endorsement is always a tricky one, because the celebrities don't like to get too involved. It's like they're okay to sit by the pool, just so long as they don't get wet. They don't use the product, they don't drink the product, they've never eaten a meal from the product's range... but they're happy to shill for it if the money's there.

When you get to the more expensive items, they have special terms for these people. Fashion, beauty products, that kind of thing - you're not advertising, you're "an ambassador". Oh, yes, look this up - actress Anne Hathaway is an ambassador for Lancome. She's not advertising, she's an ambassador. She's negotiating the successful release of political prisoners for Lancome.

Of course, tastes change, you can go off a product. If a celebrity doesn't actually like the product, if they start saying it's a bad item, do they become a lambassador?

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I'm getting a little sick of all these lists of things that I have to do before I die. You know the things I mean. Fifty places you just have to visit before you die. Fifty albums you have to listen to before you die. Fifty hilarious things you have to say to a waiter... before you die.

I mean, really? Before I die, you say? Before? I can't leave it until afterwards? Maybe just listen to twenty CDs from your important list now and catch up with the others in the afterlife?

Because, come on people, everything you have to do, everything you're going to do - it's all got to be before you die. There's not much happening afterwards. There's no critical CDs you have to listen to after you die. Really, there just isn't. And it's not only morbid, it's nonsensical. No one's writing lists of albums you have to listen to after you've been born. We just call that "listening to albums".

And, look - once you die there's just a couple of hymns and a nice suit you have to wear, really. That's all the things left on the to-do list.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Several hundred years ago Britain was sending its convicts to Australia. Today, it transpires that Australian police forces are now trying to recruit British police officers into their local force. Does nobody see some kind of irony to this? I mean, send the criminals, send the police.

What would be really smart is if we sent all the minor celebrities there, you know who I mean. We can tell them it's a celebrity Big Brother/Survivor type show and dump them there. Then we can send all over the idiots who make those types of shows and leave them there, too.

I think the world would be a better place.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


It’s tough to leave a job. It’s not so much that heady goodbye to the steady income, it’s really the fact that it’s so hard to put it into words, the whole language is against you.

Retire? I want to retire? Well, that seems a pretty odd way of saying it. I mean, I was tired, I can’t deny that, but do I want to retire? Get more tired. Improve my tire ratio? I’ve got to tell you that I really do not. The only retiring I’ll be doing, Bazooka Joe, is when the klown car gets a flat.

Resign? Well, I’m not sure that’s what I was looking to do. Really, I signed a long time ago now, that’s pretty much what got me in this whole employment situation to begin with. What I’m really trying to do is un-sign. De-sign. If I re-sign surely I have to do more of this job, not less.

I think they could streamline the terminology used in this situation. What if they just call it job and un-job. Then you’d know what you were getting into or out of.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Captain Kirk and crew met a lot of alien races that were obsessed with games. It seemed to me that every other week they'd be in the thrall of the Game Masters of Andromeda of the Game Players of Titan and the Starship Enterprise would be locked in orbit until they figured out a way to defeat the latest game.

When I was younger this all seemed fantastically cool on the part of Captain Kirk. No matter what game you threw at him he could always figure out the way to win, to throw the whole thing in the alien's face. And so the Enterprise would go free to have another fly around before getting picked up by the Dice Thrower of Rigel IV.

Looking back, however, you have to wonder what was going on there. Captain Kirk has a crew of trained, naval minds aboard, his right hand man is the most logical being in the universe and he's got a starship with enough speed and firepower to theoretically handle any situation. Yet, some alien kid with a playstation can trap the Enterprise for 40 minutes just because it's flying past? That doesn't inspire me with confidence in mankind's space exploration programme.

"For goodness sake, Cap'n, it's an alien child with an xbox. And we cannae get outta the grip o' its power ray!"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I find myself increasingly dissatisfied with the drinking water options in restaurants. When I ask for water the waiter or waitress will inevitably ask one question: "Still or sparkling?"

Now, I think about water at this point and I see the splashing waterfalls of Niagara, crystal clear and fresh as can be. So clear that they sparkle in the rays of sunlight. By contrast, the stagnant pool, the kind of putrid water you find in swamps, that stuff doesn't move. It's still. And so I think it's reasonable to assume that the options I am being given are "Stagnant or refreshingly clear water?" when asked "Still or sparkling?"

But no, friend. That's not the way these restaurant cats play their little game. Sparkling means it's water with some fizzy added. Foul disgusting fizzy, ruining my wonderful glass of water. Someone got water and they sexed it up. Why anyone would want to ruin the perfectly fine drink of water is beyond me but they have, and then they went and stole the best name for it.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but it's unnatural. Are there any fizzy rivers or oceans? Is the Pacific fizzy? The Seine? The Mississippi? Many bodies of water are sparkling, few are carbonated. So called "sparkling water" is like drinking water that's having an epileptic fit. It's bipping and bopping in your mouth like it got its finger caught in a power outlet.

However, perhaps the difference that is being highlighted to me is really simple. Maybe that question "Still or sparkling?" is actually shorthand for "Do you want the sparkling water, the stuff with the added 'sparkle' in inverted commas, or do you want something that's pretty much still water, as far as we can make out?"

I'll take the stuff that's still water.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


The problem with writer's block is that it's called writer's block. I mean, that's an example right there of writer's block isn't it? When they named that? You have all your smart wordsmiths together and they're trying to give a good name to this problem of not being able to write for a temporary period and the best they came up with is "writer's block"? Man, they must have all been suffering that day. Where's the romance, where’s the excitement?

Now, I do admire the writer's block name. It has a certain flow. It sounds kind of Soviet, like some big commune full of writers that has declared itself free of the mother country. "Yes, we are now Writer's Bloc."

It just doesn't seem a great term for something that's all about using words. If I was giving a name to the phenomenon of not being able to write I'd want to call it something clever, something poetic and kind of flashy. Something that romanticised the whole thing just a little.

I'd call it Scriptonite poisoning.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


If misery loves company does that mean a hermit is the happiest guy in the world?

He's spending all his time alone, he has no company and hence, no misery. You see my reasoning here, yes? I'm not pretending to be an expert on making people happy, don't let my cheery demeanour and jolly expression fool you.

I'm just trying to work the equation through, simple mathematics. If x = y, where x is misery and y is company, you see this, don't you?

As a rule, serial killers are loners. Often the term used is "neurotic loner", that's a popular catch-all descriptor for the serial killer type. I think they must be very, very happy people. And serial killers. Hmm...

I guess too much happiness is a bad thing. That's a good lesson to take away from your old pal Krusty, I think.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Were people really calling their loved ones "honey" before the advent of pop music? There's a lot of "honey" and "baby" going on in the rock and the roll, I notice, but I'm suspicious that no one uses these terms in Victorian novels.

Now "darling", that's very popular. Darling has it covered in the pre-pop music world. The term darling is dropped with gay abandon. ("Gay abandon" is also dropped with significantly more gay abandon than it is today, I've noticed, but that's a whole other issue. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

But "honey"? Nope, that just doesn't show up.

I get the meaning here. My darling is sweet, honey is sweet, I call her honey. But I think it's really down to lazy lyricists who couldn't come up with enough rhymes for the accepted term of endearment.

You see, "My honey" can easily be funny, earn money, enjoy days that are sunny, have a pet bunny, like her eggs runny and so on. The rhyming opportunities are as limitless as you need in a three and a half minute pop song.

But "darling"?

I love my darling,
She looks like Joe Stalin.

That's all I've got, comrade, and, let's be honest, no woman wants to hear that comparison.

Monday, May 21, 2007


It's strange to think that the whole idea of shaving ever caught on.

I mean, what was the sales pitch on this one?

Tired of that facial hair? Why not use a remarkably sharp blade on your face to trim those pesky whiskers away?

Because wouldn't you be shouting at the TV set the first time you saw this concept? Um, hello? You want me to use a very sharp blade on my face?! Around my mouth?!? Here?!? This spot is, like two inches from my eye socket - what happens if I slip? There's water and foam everywhere, it's not like there's no chance of slippage. There is every chance of slippage. And I do this first thing in the morning? That's your idea? Before I've really had a chance to wake up? I don't think so, Mister Adrenaline Junkie. I'm keeping this beard right where it is.

I think maybe this is where the term "safety razor" originated. Those marketing guys at Bic were wondering why they couldn’t sell their "lethal blade to the face" idea and some bright spark suggested adding the word "safety" to the front of it.

"Well, it says safety... it can't be that dangerous."

Thursday, May 17, 2007


One of the most disturbing television trends of the past five years has been the move towards broadcasting "The Real" something. You know the shows I mean... You've watched the fictitious and entertaining exploits of a dancing couple who fall in love, now our cameras follow around a real one in "The Real Dirty Dancing". Those fictitious jack-the-lads have been ripping off stereotype villains who deserve it in "Hustle", now watch as real conmen cheat your grandma out of her savings.

I wonder if the TV people actually get fiction. Fiction can give us insights into ourselves, the human condition, the lives of others. But it's fiction so that it can entertain and educate, so you can cut out all the boring stuff that goes up to making the "scam", the "dirty dance", the (make it stop) Chucklehound. A shaky camera chasing around a couple of misfits desperate to get on TV does not fulfil the same need in your audience.

Look, there have actually been programmes about "The Real (insert name of popular comedy show here)". Comedy - funny. Real life - mostly not funny. Do you think my life is funny?

The trouble with doing "real" versions of fictitious television programmes is that you start to wonder how much fiction there is left in the world. One of these days that will be the lead story on the ten o'clock news: "Fiction drought as 'Real' television shows take over." And twenty minutes later you can change channel and watch "The Real News" where the headline will be about fiction taking over from reality, presented in badly white-balanced shaky cam.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


In today's news: In light of recent kidnappings, the Gaza strip has been declared as too dangerous for most Westerners to visit.

What level of danger is that, exactly? Is that an official military classification of threat level - "too dangerous for most Westerners"? On the danger scale where does this sit? Is this at the "stepping out of the shower onto a slipperly floor" end of the spectrum or is it closer to the "stepping out of the shower onto a slipperly floor in the house of Anthony 'Psycho' Perkins" end of the scale?

Because, between the elderly, the very young, the sick, the nervous flyers, the people whose passports have expired, the people who don't even have a passport, the people who didn't get their shots, the overweight, the tall people with the deep vein thrombosis, the pregnant women and the people with spinal problems who can't sit in airplane seats for an extended period, I think most foreign lands are considered too dangerous for the majority of Westerners to visit. You add all those people up, that's gotta be 51% who won't be flying anywhere. I'll take that as most, if I may.

When are the news people going to realise that these unquantified statements in the press just aren't helping anyone? When you tell me that a part of the globe is too dangerous for most Westerners to visit, I really have to insist that you show me the full list of Westerners who are allowed there. I'm guessing Batman, John Rambo, Bond'James Bond, maybe Breakfast Club era Judd Nelson. Anyone?

Friday, April 20, 2007


Can we not just standardise the Last Number Redial button on the phone now? Every phone I use it's a different symbol, a different process to access it.

Go into this menu, this submenu, it's there.

Press the button marked LNR (the N stands for Number).

Press the double-arrow-backwards key.

Push the button with the R on it.

They are actually issuing instruction booklets with office phones now. Telephones have become that complicated that we need a manual to use them. The whole point of the telephone was that it made it easier to talk to people, not more difficult, surely?

Maybe the problem is that "last number redial" is such a strange facility. It's completely inapplicable to anything else in your life. You don't do a last watered plant rewater. You don't do any kind of last sock removed remove. Last number redial is a whole otherness that is alien to the rest of our lives.

And, as such, it's quite hard to come up with a simple, credible visual representation for it that you could put on every phone. Still, that hasn’t stopped the Fire Exit people who've universally settled on "running man" as the ideal representation of escaping a possible fire. Which, let me remind you, is the one thing you're asked not to do if there is a fire alarm in your building. Of course, the motto of the Fire Exit people is "never say die".

So, please, telephone people - just settle on a generally accepted sign and stick with it. I propose an illustration of someone on the phone, looking angry and frustrated that the person they're calling didn't pick up the first time. That embraces the emotion of Last Number Redial pretty well for me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


It seems awfully strange that we still use horsepower as the standard measure for an engine's pulling power. You get these motorbikes that are, like, 900 horsepower or something. When you get into jet aeroplanes you're talking in the tens of thousands of horsepower. I think like most city slickers, I have no real concept of what one horse's power might be, let alone hundreds.

Surely there's some point where this scale becomes irrelevant. You don't get astronomers telling me the distance to the sun in footsteps, do you? They're using meters , kilometres, light years. They're not telling us it's 390,000,451,067,003,001 average horse lengths to the sun, are they?

And yet, your new Saab motor car comes out and it's horsepower this and horsepower that, always with the horsepower. I have no idea what 900 horsepower even means. Am I supposed to imagine 900 horses running along? Is that the sales pitch?

You see this fighter plane? That's 470,000 horsepower you're looking at, flying up there in the sky. Yup, imagine 470,000 horses trotting along, Pegasus-style, in the sky - they're all there, in that jet plane. Whoosh. And they're gone.

Friday, April 13, 2007


"Well, it's not exactly rocket science," they tell me.

Rocket science appears to be the default reference point for things that are easy (putting out the bin) compared to things that are not (rocket science). But, is rocket science actually that hard? I mean, you've got your payload of fuel, your aerodynamics and plenty of thrust to get it off the ground - that's it, isn't it? Is there anything I've missed? Is the process that much more complicated? Are there sub levels I've left out?

I get that achieving the rocket scientist's goal may require dedication, determination, some thought. But the principle isn't that much different to me throwing my computer in the air (against the push of gravity, d'you see?) and shouting at my boss (discharging fuel) to stop comparing my job to rocket science already.

And, look - do rocket scientists actually call their occupation "rocket science"? It seems a bit of a dubious name for an occupation to me. "What do you do?" "Oh, I do rocket science." Fer sure!

These people are educated, they've got degrees. I think they probably call it physics, or perhaps a subset like thermodynamics. Don't quote me, but I think saying that something "isn't rocket science" probably just shows how little you know about the various disciplines of science there, effendi.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


The doors close button in elevators seems redundant. Because you know that the doors will close anyway, right?

Doors open I get. You see someone coming towards you, there's an emergency patient being rushed to surgery, I have an interview, I'm late for my meeting, can you hold the doors? Yes, yes I can. I have this button here - doors open. There are so many circumstances where the doors open is a handy option to have. Not even handy - necessary, I'd say. It's a little button that says "I am part of society, I will do this for my fellow man."

Doors close is like its evil twin. No one actually needs doors close. It just sits there, confusing things. Strange diagrams with arrows antagonistically pointing at each other. There are times, I admit, when I've seen someone approaching my elevator, the doors are closing and I've reached for doors close by mistake. It's those arrows, I can't work out what they mean in time so I panic. I just need one button there that reads "Doors" and does the opposite of what they're doing now. That would cover all eventualities for me.

No one needs doors close, surely? Is anyone in that much of a rush? Are they such a control freak that they need to constantly stab at buttons with their control freak fingers so that they can feel in control? You've selected your floor, the doors are closing, let it just happen now.

Maybe it's a cunning form of exercise. You know, "Hey, blubber boy, what - you're too unhealthy to walk up a few stairs?! Press this button, lose some weight already."

The doors close button is only really useful when facing a horde of flesh eating zombies. Then, you really want that degree of control. You're not really thinking about which floor you need, you just want that door closed. Well, that's not the only time it's useful, you can substitute veloceraptors, cannibals, pretty much any angry, life threatening mob, but you get my gist.

They should be clear with the labelling. Doors open and next to it zombie attack. Forget the arrows - let's have an illustration of a brain devouring undead on that button. Then I'd know which one to press.

Friday, February 16, 2007


His bark is worse than his bite. That's reassuring isn't it? His bark is worse than his bite. He barks real loud, it's very scary, you jump out of your skin, but if he clamps those big, slavering jaws around your hand you'll think that that is okay.

Does this sound right? I'd suggest that any bite whatsoever is not good. If at any point someone or something bites me, I'm calling that a bad day. He's hanging on my arm, I cannot free myself from the clutch of his jaws, and you tell me his bark is worse than this? It's louder, sure, but there was no actual physical attack at that point, let me remind you. Until then, he was just talking loudly.

Is there any situation where a bark is worse than a bite? Alsatians? Tigers? Tyrannosaurus Rex? I'm ticking them off here on the fingers I have left after trying to be bitten by these mean barking animals, and I have to tell you that the barking stage of our relationship was a comparative utopia. I'd like to go back to that. I may not be conscious of the barking so much now, what with the biting of the ears from that rabid Doberman during my research for this piece.

I'll tell you what I'll do. When that sucker is clinging onto your leg leaving indentations with his teeth, you can tell me that his bark is worse. Right now, I don't think I'll test your theory.

No matter how many times I hear that phrase, I can’t help thinking my life is better off not actually risking it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


So let me get this straight.

We've had the combustion engine for, what, 150 years or something. And yet we're still watching people ride bicycles around the European country that is France.

Riding a bike.


A whole country.

In fact, this is such a great bit of sport that Britain has actually asked to be part of it. The Tour de France is going to have a leg in London, I think.

What are these people thinking?

If you're popping down to the local shops the bike is all well and good. If you want a leisurely amble by the riverside, the bicycle is a fine option. But if you need to travel around a whole country get a car. A cab. A train. Get yourself a pony even. But, come on - riding a bike with all the pedalling and the leaning?

They should call that race the Chore de France.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Hair loss is a big concern for men, there's no point denying it. You can pick up any newspaper and find an advert for hair replacement of one type or another.

And they always have that before and after photo in those ads. The "before" is always the same old story - the guy is bowing down, displaying his lack of hair for the camera. It's thinning, it's patchy, maybe it's almost all gone. Oh yeah, this guy is the first to tell you that it has started raining when you're out .

It's the "after" picture that really gets to me, though. I mean, the "before" - getting old, going bald - that's natural, I expect to see that on a guy. You may not be happy with your lot in life, Before Guy, but it's pretty much inevitable, chum.

But the "after"? Wow, those people sure get hair. Nobody ever seems to grow "some" hair - it’s always 1970s footballer hair, glam rock hair. It's not just hair, it's HAIR!

One minute they're Lex Luthor, next they're son of the Wolfman. Blofeld - Lassie. Cueball - the vampire Lestat. Hidden dragon - crouching tiger.

What is going on at these clinics?

"The treatment seems to be working, Mr Jones. Was there something specific you'd like?"

"Pile it on, baby. I've been going bald since I was 15. I'll tell you when!"

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Help an old klown out here, someone - what's the Latin for "in front of the television"? Is it "-athon" or is it "-acizer"?

I think you can add those suffixes to anything, can't you?

Back in the old days, when people wanted to exercise to get fit they'd go out and choose a specially designed piece of equipment - say, a set of weights or a rowing machine - and use said equipment to get healthier. "Weights" is a good name for them because, well, they're heavy, I mean, they weigh a lot. They are weights. Rowing machine - a machine to row on. Exercise bike - a bike to exercise with. These were clear, medically approved definitions. It all made sense.

These days you don't even need to get out of your chair to order exercise paraphernalia. You turn on the TV, there's an hour long commercial featuring a svelte young woman or a buff muscleman doing star jumps with the help of the latest "revolution in exercise miracles". And you can order it then and there and someone delivers it to your door. Just pick up the phone, your job is done.

And the names of these things - the aerobathon, the fitacizer. They're Dr Suess words that sound a little like they're to do with fitness...

"Spend some money, you old miser."
"I'm busy on my walkacizer."

I don't care how many dress sizes Shelley in Baton Rouge dropped - the only person getting fit from these things is the guy who carried it up your path for delivery.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


My local council has announced plans to charge higher residential parking fees for "gas guzzling" vehicles, like 4x4s and SUVs. The reasoning, they say, is that these vehicles cause more damage to the environment and thus should be penalised. The residential parking fees will be up to three times as much as those applied to a standard car.

Great theory. Just great.

If the real concern is that these gas guzzling vehicles are contributing to the CO2 emissions by being driven, surely you want to encourage their owners to park them. You don't want to charge higher and higher parking fees - that just sends out the message that these vehicles should be driven, they should never stop and park.

Suggestion to local council - if you want to cut down on emissions charge these vehicles extra for moving.

Friday, October 13, 2006


You have to admire the "Caution Wet Floor" guy.

You know the guy I mean - you see him on the yellow plastic sign they put on tiled floors of public places like stations and shopping malls. He's there, he's giving it his all. His back is bent almost double, he's falling backwards, his arms are windmilling, one foot is off the ground and up in front of him - he's falling and nothing is going to stop him. You don't just walk off a fall like that, let me tell you. He's looking at some kind of serious - possibly chronic - spinal damage there. Chronic is the medical term for this type of injury, friend.

Do you ever wonder who this guy is? When he got this gig, he really threw himself into it. He must be some kind of stunt man. A trained professional, that's for sure. Maybe he's had some circus training. I can’t tell who he is, because I can’t see his face. He could be falling over right in front of me right this second and I wouldn't recognise him unless there was a bright yellow light behind him and he was in silhouette.

That's a life wasted. He's managed to achieve almost-fame. It's not actual fame. No one knows who he is, yet he's still instantly recognisable as the guy who slips on wet floors.

That movement he does - the arched back, the windmilling arms, one leg up in the air - that to me is a pratfall. That's the very definition of a pratfall. When you look up pratfall in the dictionary they really need to have this guy's picture in there.

Pratfall - see the Caution Wet Floor guy.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Life begins at 40. Have you heard this?

Life begins at 40. That's 39 years of your life wasted right at the start there. 39 years, 364 days you're sat around, just waiting for your life to get going. "C'mon, let's get started already. I've been here hours." Sorry, it doesn't begin until you're 40. Until you reach that benchmark, really, you're just cooling your heels, chum.

It had to be someone pretty old and bitter that came up with that phrase. Life begins at 40? No, really, that's the middle ground you've reached when you're 40. There's no beginning then, my friend. Failing eyesight, hearing loss and going bald are the things that begin at 40. Back strain, muscle cramps. Not understanding modern music. These are all things that kick in at the 40 part of life.

No one's life begins at 40 unless they've been in a coma for 39 years. The idea that life begins at 40 - that's a youthemism.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


In today's news, the IT industry has launched a calendar to try to dispel the image that IT people are nerds. According to the press release, "the calendar's makers hope to challenge the perception that IT is a nerdy profession and encourage women to join the industry." So they've got some women who work in IT to dress up and pose as "screen goddesses" from the movies.

Thus, to discourage this dreadful fallacy that IT women are nerdy, Jane has chosen to dress up as Princess Leia... in full Jabba the Hutt's slave girl mode from Return of the Jedi. Meanwhile, Sarah has opted to pose as Catwoman (and not just any Catwoman, my friend, that's the loss-making Halle Berry turkey film version of Catwoman).

Now, Krusty has no problem with women dressing up as Princess Leia or as Catwoman. I am, however, pretty certain that dressing up as sci-fi babes and comic book heroines isn't the number one way to dispel the image people have that you're a nerd.

(And Sarah, have some self-respect - Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Michelle Pfeiffer, there are plenty of good Catwomans to choose from. Never Halle Berry. It's the rules)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Is it necessary for anyone who doesn't wear fur to also not wear clothes?

That's the campaign, isn't it?

"I don't wear fur" - picture of model naked.

And this has been the campaign for 20 years now. "I don't wear fur" - naked model. "Wearing fur is wrong" - naked actress. "Please don't wear fur" - naked, naked, naked.

You know what? I don't wear fur. I don’t have a stole. I don't own a mink coat. There is no man-fur in my wardrobe. No giant furry klown slippers. Really, I have no fur products in my life. I am not wearing fur right now.

But, I can still wear clothes. I am aware that the negation of fur from my wardrobe does not mean that I must automatically wear no clothes. I can put things into two piles - fur that is wrong to wear, and non-fur that is okay to wear. That way, I can just choose from the okay pile. When it comes to the wearing or not wearing of fur, I can solve the equation - no fur, wear other clothes. To me, that's simple.

But these PETA people and their naked campaigning. What are they thinking? "Is there fur in this? I'd better not wear it, just in case. I don’t want anyone to catch me out."

Monday, September 18, 2006


What is this obsession with getting music downloads free? Why is there this element of society who are convinced that music should be free?

Let me explain it to you - music is free. If you want free music, drum your fingers on your keyboard, start whistling. There's your free music. You can carry that anywhere, friend.

What? You want the freakin' Beatles to provide the free music? Now, it seems to me what you're asking for is something entirely different. Not just a little bit different - entirely, do you see? What you want is not free music, what you want is specific, studio produced, successful music that cost money to create, by the greatest artists in the world to be free. Stop me if I'm going too fast for you here.

Would you like me to resurrect the corpse of Roy Orbison and send him round to sing you a lullaby? Is that what you feel you deserve?

If everyone took illegally mined gold, would iGold be available on the internet free, too?

Today's Klown College speech was provided by me, Krusty. What, did you think I'd stop speaking forever!?!!

Friday, September 15, 2006


Sideshow Bob Underdunk Terwilliger

Kia ora and why hello there fair citizens, my name is Bob.

I have just completed displaying at the IFA 2006 Consumer Electronics Trade Fair here in Berlin, where I had the great pleasure to unveil my company's new innovation in clothing – the light-emitting t-shirt.

Light-emitting t-shirts are the ingenious result of integrating LEDs into the garments' fabric, enabling patrons to wear a t-shirt that will fashionably light-up at the flick of a small hidden switch. Soon we can expect our fine English language to become a little brighter too, with new phrases like:

"Bob my misunderstood and entirely trustworthy muffin, does my backside appear to be overly luminous in this?"

and "You're flashing."

and "I'm sorry, I can't come out tonight – my batteries are low."

Like it or not, fairly soon we can expect to see this wondrous new idea literally change the face of our world. Already our talented and hard-working engineers are adapting the technology to embed multi-coloured sequences, animations and even televisions into the new fabric. The phrase "watching the boob-tube" is set to take on a whole new meaning.

But lest history miscast us as fools, let us also be wary, brothers. Eventually it will become possible to attach a live webcam to one's back, project whatever it sees onto one's front, and become effectively invisible.

And when that day comes, friends, the crime rate in our country is liable to increase exponentially. It will become child's play to, say for example, break into someone's home, wait for them to fall asleep, and then make that smart snivelling spikey-haired Bart Simpson WISH HE'D NEVER HEARD THE NAME OF SIDESHOW ROBERT UNDERDUNK TERWILLIGER. (cough) Just for example.

Right now, it seems to this impartial commentator, that the only practicable way to defend our loved ones from such entirely hypothetical promises, will be to pay an extremely reasonable fee to purchase such invisible fabrics for ourselves. Ultimately, we will all disappear, and in doing so we'll usher in a peaceful new age, free from the folly of judging each other by fickle appearances. I urge you, yes you, to join me in embracing this brave new world.

Thank you. I'm Sideshow Bob – and I'm listening.

Thanks Sideshow Bob for filling in for me today. Hey-hey-hey, kids. What say we blast my guest host into orbit with a cannon?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


What is the deal with charities thanking the sponsors? When did this start? Did I miss a meeting?

Isn't the whole point of charity, surely, that they need the cash more than we do? I've got some spare change, some free time, a little something to give. This is not a tax. I'm quite happy to do my run, or walk or dress inappropriately for work and then I pay the charity of my choice so that I feel less guilt about the plight of the world - or usually smugly satisfied that whilst I'm not actually doing anything constructive about it myself, I've played a small part in making the world a better place. Ah!

So I don't need a letter telling me this.

I especially don't need a poster from Blue Peter with three grinning young people and a speech bubble saying, "Thank YOU!"

And, you're not telling me they posed specifically for that shot are you? In all honesty, are we even pretending that the Blue Peter presenters have the time or inclination to pose for charity posters when there are spaceships to be made from plastic bottles and ridiculous stunts to be performed somewhere near Leeds.

It is the natural state of being for a Blue Peter presenter to be smiling like it's Christmas morning and this year they know they've got a new bike. They can't help it. Maybe they're getting some... Erm... artificial help for this state of mind, who can say?

The picture I'm waiting for, the picture I'll send them a thank you letter for is the stern photo. The one that says, "I'm disappointed in you. You've let Blue Peter down, you've let the children down... But most of all, you've let yourself down..."

Today's Klown College speech was provided by Sideshow Ivanskavinski, in between other assignments. That man's a workaholic. Eurgh!

Monday, September 11, 2006


Do you hear that sound? Those quiet scratchings. That’s the noise of millions of schoolbooks being rewritten, now that Pluto has disappeared from the diagram. Well, not literally, not in a doomsday weapon demonstration kind of way. "Heh heh, Mr President - Imagine if this little planet had been your West Coast? I give you one hour to comply!"

No, Pluto has been demoted by an astronomy conference, which is a bit more impressive as a convention achievement than just taking over the hotel bar on a Saturday night and singing rude songs about astrologists.

How did it happen? Was it like Pete Best, quietly asked into the office and told he wasn’t going to be in the Beatles anymore. "The thing is, Pluto, you’ve just not got what it takes to be a planet in the 21st century."

Maybe it was really formal, Pluto being marched down a column of raised telescopes, then getting its planetary epaulets torn off. Poor old Pluto, one minute orbiting with the big guys, now pushed in with a bunch of C-list asteroids. Spending its days opening office crèches and considering a presenting offer from a shopping channel.

Fact is though, this planet is far too distant to really worry about what a bunch of Earth astronomers think, even when they called it a planet in the first place. It's like me hearing that I've been voted Funniest Man in the Ukraine by Ukraine Fishermen's Weekly. It's nice n'all, but not really something that makes a whole lot of impact in my day.

"What? That blue dot thinks I'm not a planet? Talk to mah dark side cause the sunny side ain't listening!"

Today's Klown College speech was provided by Sideshow Gaz. Angry, angry young man.

Friday, September 08, 2006


It amazes me how far the technology of communication has come in the last few years.

These days, you can't walk down a busy street without seeing at least one person talking on their mobile phone. And yet, barely ten years ago we mostly seemed to manage without them.

Go back another ten years, and even the cordless home phone was a wild bit of future tech that you'd only seen on news reports and oddball science shows.

What really brings this home is when you hear Marvin Gaye singing "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." That was 1967. Yes, less than 40 years ago, people were getting daily information through the branches of a plant, people. You couldn't make too much wine in case it affected reception. This is the primitive world these people were living in.

Who says this isn't the 21st century? Do you know who? Confused time travellers, that's who.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Coming next week on "Klown College, Please", Krusty hands the reins over to some of his greatest sideshow pals in a feature I like to call - What does that say? Bring it closer so I can read it - "Krusty's Run Out of Material Week". Wait, I kid! It's called "Krusty's Guest Hosts Week". Join them. Eurgh!

Thursday, September 07, 2006


When it comes to Batman villains, you're hard pressed to find one half as terrifying as the Joker.

The Joker spends his days forcing people to smile. He's obsessed with seeing those teeth, beaming back at him. He pumps people full of weird chemicals to create these bright, shiny smiles. Or, he'll spray people with laughing gas to keep them incapacitated.

The reason that the Joker is such a frightening foe - the bright smiles, the weird chemicals, the laughing gas, the inappropriate suit - he plays on mankind's genetic fear of dentists.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


There are two things about the DVD warning that I really like.

Firstly, when they make it really specific. "If you watch or copy this illegally we will fine you $302,000 and 50 cents." That's great. I like to be clear about the exact depth of the hot water I could find myself in. Sometimes they throw in some vague connection to a government agency, like the FBI. I'm pretty sure the FBI have better ways to spend their day. You know - matters of national security, that sort of thing.

Even worse is when they just make up some agency that's apparently dedicating vast resources to the capsizing of video pirates: "FACT - the Films And Crime Team". This is really just the film companies saying "If you do something wrong I am telling my Mum."

The second type are the warnings where they run in a dozen different languages, one after the other. If it's a really popular film there are languages in there that you never even knew existed. What is Suomi? Who's checking stuff in Norskt?

No matter what language the warning appears in there's always one bit you can recognise... "DVD - Digital Versatile Disc". Don't other languages have their own words for "Digital", "Versatile" or "Disc"? Do they need to steal our words? Isn't that some kind of piracy they're doing there before they even start? Shouldn't they have someone looking into that crime before they start accusing me? All I did was bought a Rockford Files box set here, these guys are stealing whole words.

"That French guy, he stole my word for Digital! Come back here, you garlic munching freak!"

The trouble with the DVD warnings is you usually can't skip past them. You actually have to sit through them before you can watch the film you paid for. That's one problem you don't have with pirate discs. They let you get straight to the film. Which would you really prefer?

Monday, September 04, 2006


Watching Knight Rider you got to see a car that could do anything. That car could park itself, drive itself, it could even tell you where it was going and how it was going to get there.

"Yes, Michael, I plan to take the Hayes Bypass to avoid congestion."

At the time, this all seemed very cool to me. Owning a car like that was something to aim for in adult life.

As I look back now, I start to think that maybe Michael Knight was just a very bad driver. Why else would he need a car that could park itself, drive itself, tell him where it was going and how it was going to get there? I think there's an outtake somewhere where KITT broke down and we see Michael Knight trying to slip it into the right gear, doing that kind of kangaroo style stop-start with the clutch as he pulls away from the lights, then parking the car across two spots outside the supermarket. The show was essentially a shadowy journey into the world of a man who just couldn’t drive.

When seen in that light, Knight Rider suddenly doesn't seem half as cool.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I'm having some trouble getting my head around the living in outer space thing. NASA are in the news this week, once more promising we'll be all over Mars and the moon before we know it. All over them. Won't be able to move for the people.

And yet, whenever there's a space shuttle launch it always seems to get called off three times before they actually find the right "launch window". Those astronauts must feel like they've bought stand-by tickets... "What, we're not going today either? Oh man! You promised us yesterday..."

And it doesn't seem to be a big catastrophe that stops the shuttle launching. The reason seems to be that there's maybe a bit of rain in the air or the wind is picking up a little.

Are we really supposed to be colonising planets when we can’t make a spaceship that launches in inclement weather? Come on, NASA, fit some windscreen wipers to that baby, let's get into the stratosphere already. What are we waiting for?

Thursday, August 31, 2006


I think America tried to have some revenge on the tsunami ("Hello?! It was called a tidal wave!") about a decade ago with that terrible Godzilla film they made. It was like "Japan has made all these great Godzilla movies, but we're going to make everyone forget those and believe our Godzilla is the real one." It didn't take off, and, with hindsight, it was pretty obvious it wouldn't. I mean, Godzilla's spent forty years taking on all comers, smog monsters, giant moths, bat mutants - no one can beat Godzilla. Not even a new Godzilla.

If you put real Godzilla up against American Godzilla, real Godzilla laughs.

Godzilla would win a wrestling match with King Kong without breaking sweat. He could take on Pluto - the dog or the ex-planet (eurgh! Details correct at time of going to press) - and come out laughing.

Basically, Godzilla beats everyone. Because, not only is Godzilla a great, hulking monster with radioactive breath, he's also got the kung fu moves. Godzilla can take on all comers and win because Godzilla is cool.

There are two fights Godzilla might struggle with. One would be if he took on Batman. Not any Batman, my friend: Adam West Batman. Because Adam West Batman has everything going for him. He has the cool car, he has the crazy camera angles, he has the wild script delivery. You just know that if Adam West Batman took on Godzilla he would pull some "Bat-Japanese radioactive mutation repellent spray" or similar out of his utility belt. Basically, it doesn't matter what the label says, the technical name for that spray is "a can of bat-whoop ass".

The other close fight with Godzilla would be Captain Kirk. I mean, he's Kirk. Godzilla can stomp Tokyo a hundred times over; only Kirk knows when to ask a computer what is love.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


People always look up when they try on hats.

It's a compulsion. It's one of those genetic throwbacks, like some weird, tribal memory. Whenever we try on a hat we look up. Is it because there's something new on top of our head? Because you don't actually see it there by looking up. Sure, maybe the brim of the hat, if it's quite wide. Maybe if it has a big ostrich feather in it, then you may see something by that looking up gesture. But, you're not going to get a solid idea of what the hat is all about by glancing upwards. It just cannot be done.

This is why you have mirrors in milliners. No need to look up. No need. Just look in this here reflective surface. That will show you not only how the hat looks, but how it looks on you. It's some kind of weird, reflection magic we have going on here. No need to look up. Stop with the looking up now. Just stop. Stop.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Ah, the lure of easy money - who can deny it? So many people enter the lottery no matter what the actual chances are of winning. Because, the odds may be 5,000,000,000 to one against you, but, hey, that's 5,000,000,000 suckers that didn't win when you do, right?

I like it when people say they're playing the lottery. Playing. Are you really playing the lottery? Is this playing to you? You've written down six numbers, you've paid an entry fee. From there on in, your involvement is negligible. This is the kind of play of the level of sports at school when you were the last picked. It seems that there's not a lot to this sport or game if the sum of your participation is "3, 6, 19, 27, 28, 43, money for my ticket."

Okay, there's something. There's a few million in the bank if you win, and the 5,000,000,000 suckers who you beat. But it's not really much playing. I can think of more playful things than the lottery. Kittens.

Go out, buy a kitten instead of entering the lottery. "I'm playing the kitten." That's got a nice ring to it.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Scientists have today announced that spring is about two weeks earlier than it used to be. They have engaged in serious studies across the globe to determine this fact and, yes, the season of spring is arriving about a fortnight earlier than it used to.

I'm no scientist, but can I just propose we think outside the box for a moment here? If spring is actually arriving earlier than it used to maybe the problem isn't the seasons, maybe the problem is with the calendar. I mean, we've all bought into this 365 day/12 month shtick and it seems to have worked out well so far - we all know when to celebrate our birthdays, when to start our Christmas shopping and when the public holidays are. Is it National Eat a Sandwich Day? I'll just check the calendar... and it surely is, friend.

But, I'm really not sure that Mother Nature is checking our calendars. It's not like "Oh, April 1st, time for spring."

What we need to do is hit the big reset switch on the calendar, skip two weeks and get back in sync with the seasons, friends. You missed your birthday? Tough.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Who would be the better doctor to have as a friend - Doctor Frankenstein or Doctor Moreau? Both went to medical school, both are at the cutting edge of eugenics, both are reasonably well off.

With Frankenstein, you'd hear a lot of stories about dead bodies.

"You'll never guess what I'm making this time, Krusty," Frankenstein would enthuse. "It's a brand new, living, breathing human being. He's eight feet tall, has the emotional capacity of a six year old child and I've used body parts stolen from corpses to create his body."

"Eurgh! Always with the parts from corpses. What is wrong with you people?"

Moreau, by contrast, he's got a wider repertoire to draw upon.

"Let me show you what I've been working on, Krusty," Moreau would begin. "This is my new, hyper-intelligent chimpanzee. He can recite the alphabet, count up to ten and is currently developing his own, fully operational religion system based around pasta shapes."

"Heh-heh-heh. Look at him worship! S'funny."

For my money, I think Moreau has the edge. You can't beat intelligent monkeys.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Now, come on. Had they used up all the good names when they came up with lemon drizzle cake? Is "drizzle" really an appellation that makes the mouth water? In this or any other context, I think the answer is "no".

I can’t figure this one out at all. Drizzle cake is moist. Drizzle is moist. And yet, it's not selling it to me. I'm not getting hunger pangs when it starts raining, just yet.

Lemon meringue pie makes sense. It's lemon flavoured, it's got some meringue in there, it's a pie. Yes, that's clear. But drizzle? Lemon drizzle cake? Really? This is what you want to call it? This? With the drizzle?

No two ways about it. It's just wrong.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Zombie has to be the lowest form of horror monster to be turned into.

Think about it. If you're being turned into one of the classic horror creatures, zombie is pretty much bottom of the list. It's no coincidence that it begins with Z.

Vampire would be okay. Black never goes out of fashion. You can turn into a gaseous cloud to entertain your friends. You're hanging around a lot of attractive virgins. The vampire is a fairly sweet gig.

Werewolf doesn't strike me as so bad. For one thing you've got that heightened sense of smell. You also get enhanced strength, and quite often that carries over to your human form. Plus, you're only a wolf for two, three days a month. What's that, one weekend in four? It's not like it's going to eat into your social life too much.

But the perks of being a zombie seem pretty minimal. You walk with the shambling gait. Bits of you are falling off. You can't eat nothing but brains and flesh, and you have to dress in the ragged remains of whatever you were buried in. The slow walking, the bad meals, the poor health - these I can handle. Having to walk around in that uncomfortable suit I was buried in for the rest of my unlife... that seems needlessly cruel.

Monday, August 21, 2006


I think I've seen about all the news reports I can cope with that use a shot of the internet to illustrate their point. Honestly, how lazy is this?

"The leader of an animal rights group today, said..." cut to shot of the group's website.

"It's been reported in the Independent..." cut to shot of the Independent newspaper's website.

"Election fever grips Turkey this week..." cut to shot of the Turkish Tourism Board website.

Oh, sure, they try to make it a little more interesting by having the page move slowly upwards, as though they're reading it as they're filming. Have you noticed this? Those three clicks on the mouse wheel have me convinced that they are doing some insightful investigative reporting here, I can tell you.

Does anyone else miss the old way of television news, where they'd send a reporter to the places they were talking about? I can visit the webpage for this animal rights group, for the Independent newspaper, for Turkey. I expect you, my news reporting friend, to be outside the headquarters of the animal rights group, at the main gates of the Independent, in Turkey. Do you not realise this? "Here's some stuff we found on the internet" isn't the same as investigating news. I get that e-mail every day and it goes straight into my spam folder. What's next, news reports trying to sell me Viagra?!

Friday, August 18, 2006


Can you actually believe they had to pass a law to stop people using mobile phones while driving? I mean, have you ever seen people just trying to walk while they're engaged in a conversation on a cell phone? They're going very slowly, they can't seem to change direction with any degree of accuracy. I have seen zombies with more control of their movements than these people. If they're part of a crowd, other people are having to skirt around them the way you would an angry, rabid dog.

And yet, some people still think they can drive while using these things? Wake up, people. They're not called "mobile" phones because you have to be moving to use them. They're not run by kinetic energy. There's no dynamo inside them.

If that mobile phone of yours rings the first thing you need to do is pull over to the side of the road, whether you're in a car or just on foot. If it helps you any, try calling it a "stationary phone" in your head.

Just one of Krusty's top tips, friend.

Friday, July 28, 2006


There is a war going on, my friends, all around us, and every day, we see another salvo fired. This war is going on right under our very noses. It is the war between recycled paper towels and hot air hand-dryers.

You go into any public bathroom - at a restaurant, a bar, the station - and it's the same old story. There's Mr. Paper Towel fighting it out. There's a little sticker on the front of the dispenser - "These paper towels are made from recycled paper. They're just great for the environment. The ultimate goodwill gesture to a planet that's suffering. Your conscience, like your hands, is clean."

But you pop into another restroom - at the airport maybe, or even your place of work - and there's the Hot Air Hand-dryer Gang, waiting in the corner, just looking for an excuse to blow up. The sign on these ne'er-do-wells reads along the lines of "The hot air dryer is more hygienic and creates less waste than paper towels. It's just super to the environment. The best, my friend, the best."

Both of these guys can't be right, can they? They can't both be the best thing for the environment, surely. I've heard their arguments, I'm all over the basic logic. But I can’t decide.

Whose side am I on? Tell me.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Do you realise how much of a chore having superspeed would be?

I mean, imagine that you're Superman - you're out there, you have the big S on your chest, you're saving lives. That all makes sense. An engine blows out on the space shuttle while Jimmy Olsen's on board, the thing is plummeting towards the Daily Planet building, you have to evacuate the whole street because of falling, flaming debris. And, you know, it's really no big deal. You can handle it all in the blink of an eye because of your super-swiftness.

Three minutes later, you're in the shirt and tie, you're at the weekly editorial meeting in the Daily Planet as Clark Kent. How dull is this life? Those monthly meetings are bad enough when you don't have superspeed. Add the ability to track the complete life cycle of a single spark from a bonfire in minuscule detail, you're spending a lot of your life waiting for stuff to happen.

This, for me, is the reason Clark Kent shouldn't have married Lois Lane. That's a great relationship when she's falling out of helicopters, getting attacked by giant apes with kryptonite vision and drowning in a submarine at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean while Brainiac changes the orbit of the Moon. There's some fun to be had in those situations. But when she's chatting to her best friend on the phone for twenty minutes and you've paused the DVD in the middle of the film you were watching together... my friend, that's a long twenty minutes when your natural inclination is to see and do everything at superspeed.

Many's the time Clark has left that fateful note "Just popped out for gum" for Lois with no intention of ever coming back. Usually in that situation the husband returns eight years later, with two new kids and a trailer trash wife. In Clark's case, he's fled the stifling old relationship for approximately 16 seconds, comes back, Lois hasn't even read the note. To him, that 16 seconds is an eternity. He's super-refreshed. "Let's go, Lois! I'm ready for another 50 years of marriage, right now!"

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Do you ever wonder how annoyed Korea is with Ikea? Because, they almost have the same name there. It's not like you wouldn't notice. The patent office would at least hear your case if you presented them with that argument.

One is a country that has been split by political turmoil for over 50 years. The other is a furniture store. If you're the country, you've got to take some offence that a sofa shop is ripping you off. I mean, Korea was there first. I'm pretty sure they named the country before they named the shop.

North Korea is often in the news with frightening reference to an increasing military build-up. I think they plan to wipe out Ikea for stealing the name. Koreans versus Ikeans, mano-e-mano.

I think the last straw would be if Ikea split into North and South Ikea. That would be the ultimate provocation. If that day ever comes, you'll see the flat packed imitation pine furniture fly, my friend.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Man, which boy didn't want to grow up to be James Bond? I mean, Bond is the epitome of male cool. He has the coolest cars, he gets the coolest women, and he has the licence to kill.

Not much of a licence to drink, though, have you noticed? Everyone else is ordering spirits or pints of beer, and Bond will leap in and proudly ask for a martini. Shaken, always; stirred, not so much.

It's not the most masculine choice of beverage, is it? Martini's great, but it's the kind of drink you get an umbrella in the glass with these days.

The rule here is: any drink that you actually have to mix, that's something you order for the attractive female assistant, Mister Bond.

Next thing you know he'll be ordering a Casino Royale with cheese (because, over there they don't know what a quarter pounder is).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Do you want to know why flies are so dumb? Because, really, they are. They fly in your house from an open window, then they spend hours and hours walking up and down the same window unable to figure out how to get back out. I mean, why did they even bother to come in if that was all they planned to do? They're fascinated with walking up and down glass, seeing what the outside world looks like. They don't want to explore indoors, oh no. They just want to walk up that pane of glass getting a prisoner's eye view of the outside world.

I think it's mostly down to the name. When they were naming all the critters they got to the fly and they had two big attributes to choose from. It was either "fly" (a lot) or "walk" (now and then). Until you really got those microscopes invented there wasn't much chance of calling it "gross eater" but I can accept that as a name too ("Hi, I'm a fly - I'll just be vomiting on my food before I eat it...").

So they went with fly as the name of the thing and man figured he'd done a pretty good job there. It seemed descriptive, it got to the essence of the insect. Dictionary Guy gave it the seal of approval, "fly" it was.

But it's a fait accompli. The fly must fly. Otherwise it doesn't really have much purpose. If it doesn’t fly, it doesn't have a whole lot else to do with its day.

Now, just imagine if ancient man had called that little bug "the smart". Suddenly, no more bumping into the window pane, angrily buzzing his way up and down the glass. Now the fly's doing Boolean algebra and working out the flaws in Einstein's theory of relativity.

Of course, if flies were smart they'd actually invent machines to do the flying for them. You'd be wondering what that buzzing was in your bedroom in the middle of the night - switch the light on and it's a "smart" in a miniature bi-plane. Yeah, he's saving his wings.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Do you ever wonder why Superman doesn't drive? Because, really, you never see him at the wheel of a car. He would sooner pick up a ten ton truck than drive one.

There's really no reason for him not to drive. Sure, he can fly but does that mean he'd always choose to fly? I can walk, I still catch the train to the Klown College. I'm not walking everywhere, effendi.

Do you want to know my theory on this? Kryptonite. That's the problem. That's why Superman doesn't drive. It's got to be in the traffic lights. Your green for go traffic signal - that’s kryptonite, right there, cub reporters. And, when he's exposed to the green glow of kryptonite, as any super-fan knows, Superman is significantly weakened and could potentially die. No one should be behind the wheel in that state. You don't need to be Superman to work that out. Pull over, get out of the car, take some deep breaths.

Of course there's also the red kryptonite there at the top of the traffic light. Red K (as it's known) has an unpredictable, random effect on Kryptonians like Superman. One minute he's at the traffic lights in an SUV, next thing you know it's become a formula one racing car and he's sitting in a giant bear costume.

And then there's the amber light, which I figure must be gold kryptonite. Gold Kryptonite is the one that takes away all of Superman's powers permanently. Yes, all. Yeah, that's a bad, bad day to be stuck in a traffic jam, isn't it? "And I was only going out for Nick O'Teen brand (tm) cigarettes..."

Monday, July 03, 2006


Boy, it's always fun getting e-mail from your friend's work address isn't it? You get that marvellous disclaimer after their message written in pseudo-legalese by someone from the accounts department. There's a lot of "nothing in this e-mail should be construed as binding" in that complimentary disclaimer, and that can sure confuse things when your pal's e-mail is "Let's meet up at 8 at the pub". I mean, can that message be construed as binding or should I start to doubt the word of my best friend for the last 20 years? He's never let me down before - now he's working for this new company has he been indoctrinated into unreliability? Is that what the company has done to him?

Sometimes that disclaimer can go on and on, can't it? Your friend sends you the cinema times for the new Superman movie, the whole message is over in two sentences. Following that, there's two paragraphs stating how this is not a cast iron guarantee that the company has any interest in you.

And it's usually a tough read, too. It's very dry, there's just no pep to the e-mail disclaimer. Whoever writes these things isn't really writing to keep their audience's attention. It's almost like they don't want you to read it at all.

And maybe that's the point. You get past that third sentence and that disclaimer is telling you all sorts of stuff you really ought to know about, my friend. "If you reply to this e-mail we will officially own your first born child, seriously", "Reply now to get more junk mail through your letterbox", "We put poison in all our products but because you've received this warning you now know about it and can’t sue, buddy", and so on.

I think the worst one I saw was from a friend who worked for one of those QUANGO advisory firms to the government. Her message to me would be "I'm moving house, here's my new phone number..." then I'd get - literally - a page and a half justifying the purpose of the company she was working at and advising me of my various rights (i.e. none) in refuting anything the company now did with me. It pretty much boiled down to this company having very much my worst interests at heart. But most people would just breeze past it, ignore the legalese spiel and completely miss what it was telling them. In short, it wasn't a disclaimer at all - it was a misclaimer.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Vampires aren’t very excitable, are they? They breeze through unlife, generally trying to avoid the shocks. So many things can hurt vampires - your garlic, your stake through the heart, your beheading and sunlight - but they overcompensate by not having fun with anything much.

I think the problem isn't the vampires, I think it's the phraseology of fun. It kind of excludes vampires.

When advertisers talk about a new rollercoaster they call it "a white knuckle ride". What's white knuckles to a vampire? He's already pale, he's not going to notice the white knuckles, really, he's not.

"This'll get your blood pumping!" we're told when something is guaranteed, shoo-in excitement. Vampires don't get so much of the blood pumping. The only blood pumping they're interested in is the blood of their victims.

This is why it's so tough being friends with a vampire. I mean, how would you get your pal excited about stuff? That's why Count Dracula's only friend was Zoltan, his faithful dog. He must be cross about that.

No, wait... Note to self: vampires also not so good with the crosses...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Just between you and me, do you think the gears on a bicycle actually do anything?

Nobody really knows what they're there for, I'm thinking. You're going up a steep hill - sure, change gear. You're going down a steep hill - what the hell, change gear. You're carrying a heavy load - are you a crazy mixed up fool? - you obviously need a lower gear.

No, seriously. No one knows.

Thirty years ago I don't think bikes even had gears. When you see those old bicycles in museums, they don't have gears, do they? There's no gears on the penny farthing or the old bone shaker. (Okay, in context, there's also no suspension and no rubber tyres on those old bikes, but even so, my point still stands.)

And there's no uniformity to the gear change on a bicycle like there is with a car. On one you might get to twist the left or right handlebar, click it round until you reach the gear of choice. On another bike, it's a little lever off to the side, next to the bell. Sometimes it's been inconveniently placed somewhere along the crossbar, so you end up having to reach down somewhere around your groin while travelling at high speed - that's never a comfortable operation, is it?

But, honestly - do you think the gears are doing anything? Maybe if you're riding in the Tour de France there might be some relevance to the various gears on offer, but for the vast majority of people, well... we're really just using the bike to get to the station or bus stop so we can start to use a vehicle that has a clearly defined purpose for the use of gears. Two wheels, two pedals and a bit of control of direction - that's bike enough for everyone. If we want to go faster while expending less energy we'll just choose a road that's going downhill.

Friday, June 23, 2006


A frequent jibe levelled at the Americans is that, when it comes to naming their domestic sports they bandy around the term "World" with gay abandon. They call their baseball the "World Series", wrestling is the "World Wrestling Federation", that kind of thing.

Can I just point out that the World Cup, that bastion of international mingling through sport, does not technically feature the world? As far as I can tell, they just have the eleven men from each country, maybe a couple of substitutes and a coach. Are there very many nations with only the eleven men in them? How many countries have proportionately no women whatsoever? Is this really a genuine World Cup or is it just an "Eleven-a-side Cup"? There's a miniscule amount of each nation playing, you could put the teams into a fairly tiny space - what we have here is the World Cup-a-Soup.

So, let's all just lay off the belittling of the American naming traditions, lest the abyss stares at us, shall we?

Now, if they painted the football to look like the globe, then you'd be onto something....

Monday, June 19, 2006


Are chalk and cheese actually so very different? I mean, where did that phrase originate? They're as different as chalk and cheese.

Chalk is a pasty-looking solid which crumbles under a little pressure. Cheese, similarly, is a pasty-looking solid which crumbles under a little pressure. It's really the writing on blackboards angle that chalk has to differentiate itself from brer cheese. Cheese, by contrast, is nothing without some toast or dry biscuits.

If you put chalk on a pizza instead of mozzarella you'd notice the difference, that I grant you.

If you tried to mark out a hopscotch grid with a piece of edam you'd wonder where you were going wrong until you realised it wasn't a piece of yellow chalk in a handy red plastic wrapper that you were using there.

But, for the most part, they're pretty similar objects. If you get some pale cheese, or some yellow-coloured chalk, you'd have a tough time discerning them from a distance. So, who came up with the chalk and cheese differential? Was that one of those things you say without really thinking?

"So, what do you think of our chances against a Martian invasion, Mr Wells?"

"It's hard to tell. Why, we're as different as... chalk and... cheese."

"As different as...? What was that?"

"Chalk. Cheese. It's a phrase. Everyone uses it. Really, they do."

"Naaaahhh. You just made that up."

"Did not."

"Did, too."

Now, happy as a gypsy. That's a phrase, my friends.