Wednesday

Zen 139: Smiley dog

Look at this critter grin. I defy you, DEFY YOU, not to feel all warm and gooey inside. Epic dog smiling by anyone's standards.

Zen 138: Aaaaargh, tattooed FISH!!!

Make it stop. Please make it stop. Last one. Honest.



Full story: CNN - Tattooed fish: cool or cruel? [LINK]

Zen 137: Tattooed pigs!

OK, I promise this is the last one.

A Belgian conceptual artist tattoos pigs out on in farm in China. He does them when they are piglets and tracks each living 'canvas' as they grow. Ultimately, the piggies are topped, stuffed and flogged for £106 grand a shot. The artist, Wim Delvoye, justifies his work by bragging that the pigs enjoy a better standard of living than many Chinese people. So not only is he a tit, but a tit with a warped set of priorities.

When not vandalising dumb animals for personal gain, Wim has been known to sell the tattoos off his client's backs. One depiction of the Virgin Mary holding a skull (shocking!) on a Swiss man has been sold for 150,000 euros. When said Swiss man shuffles off this mortal coil, the purchaser gets to flay him and keep the skin. Use it for a throw, perhaps?

Zen 136: It's sort of cool, but it sort of really isn't

The tatt strand goes on. Sorry, it's becoming something of an obsession. This one is really very, very well done, but also sort of deeply unsettling. Tell me I'm wrong.























Mind you, it's not as unsettling as this dude getting his eyeball tattooed. Holy freakin' shit! Don't follow the link if you're squeamish. [LINK]

Zen 135: French protest the burqa ban as only the French can

I can't find any explanation for this protest, other than the photo was snapped by a tourist in Paris and it was against the burqa ban. Vive la différence.



Zen 134: Extraordinary pun density

Easter is always rich territory for desperate egg-related puns, but the Metro (fount of all knowledge) has excelled - sorry, egg-celled itself this morning. How many can you spot?

"It was a case of coops and robbers when police staked out all the large chicken farms in the area to crack the case of an egg poacher hoping to cash in on Easter ... [he] was shell-shocked to go before the beak and find he faces five years in jail."

Looks like the yolk's on him! (I'm here all week...)

Tuesday

Zen 133: Trololo-lolcat

Hard on the heels of ZOMG KITTEH aka OMG cat and Trololo Man aka Evil Rapist Face is the perfect YouChoob meme mashup. I give you TROLOLO CAT!!!

I love the web.

Zen 132: No. No you're not.















I'm loving this tattoo strand. Check it - a spelling mistake's not just for a drunken night out with your mates, it's for life.

12 misspelt tattoos [LINK]

Zen 131: God save Al Davis

Here's an exclusive, early, close-up, high def sneak shot of Craig Christ's new tatt. This is the bit just below his right nipple. What a sentiment. What a guy. Taking one for the team. Hell yeah.


Monday

Zen 130: Insert beaver gag here

The decision of Canada's foremost history magazine to change its name after 90 years is described by its editor as meeting the need to create "a one-stop shopping spot for anyone interested in Canadian history".

It's now called 'Canada's History'. It was called 'The Beaver'. Can anyone guess the real reason they changed the name?

It turns out that while The Beaver contained many fascinating stories about snow and guys called Dave, that wasn't the main reason people were visiting. Disappointed, the average visitor left within 10 seconds.

(This isn't the first time a Beaver-nym has been changed to protect from idle sniggerers. In 2001, Beaver College in Pennsylvania - formerly the Beaver Female Seminary - became Arcadia University because the original name "too often elicits ridicule ".)

Zen 129: You'd really have to hate your family

Just came across a very good bad film review. The Daily Telegraph's Tim Robey leaves no stone unturned in his hunt for the perfect description of just how much he hates the new John Travolta/Robin Williams vehicle 'Old Dogs'.

"... an over-the-hill buddy comedy of such singular dreadfulness it managed to halt time, fold space and play havoc with the very notion of the self," he writes, "... it’s meant to be a family film, you’d have to really hate your family to take them."

Zen 128: Getting ink done

Erstwhile chum Craig Christ spent five hours this weekend face down with a man on top of him.

Let me clarify. He was getting some serious ink done, and the tattoo - which is indeed mightily impressive - runs across the top of his shoulder and upper arm and down onto his chest. That's five hours of what apparently feels like "someone dragging a recently extinguished match over your skin". Each to their own.

But at least CC's tatt is something of a work of art. What about those ink fans who get seriously wrong work done? Take, for example, the rash of really very, very poor tattoo art encouraged by the death of Michael Jackson. I think Number 7 on the linked list, depicting a screaming child sitting on Wacko's knee, takes the biscuit. It's unsettling in both its subject matter and the awfulness of the execution. Edvard Munch is no doubt spinning in his grave.

Then there's the proliferation of truly terrifying facial tattooing which is just, well, very hard to look at. Not included on the linked list is the dreadful case of a woman who sold her forehead for $10K and ended up getting the name of an online casino tattoed across it. She did it for her son, apparently. This is her son who has now a) learned a very bad life lesson about personal integrity and b) thinks his mum's name is 'goldenpalace.com'

Then there are the massively inappropriate ones, for which I'd advise caution re: clinking on links to for those of you visiting from work. Needless to say, if you feel the urge to get your old fellah done up like an angry dragon, or you simply can't live another day without emblazoning the phrase "c*** puncher" down your leg, complete with illustrative diagram (I kid you not - it was a woman), you're clearly beyond the point where some constructive advice about not being a total dick is likely to be of any assistance.

The final, and most ...errr... refined category, is the deliberately dumb tattoo, which is almost entirely the preserve of one man - Steve O from Jackass. Let's face it, even if you don't like ink, getting a photo-real tattoo across your entire back of yourself giving the thumbs up, above the legend "Yeah dude, I rock!" is taking comedy to new heights. Or depths. Whatever. You decide.

Friday

Zen 127: "Poor old Roger always seems to get these sort of jobs"

The byline on the latest Times story about the paedo scandal involving the Pope (sort of allegedly) belongs to an unfortunate chap called Roger Boyes.

To be cursed with such a name dooms you to a lifetime of childish sniggers, and people asking: "Does he?". But to be a journalist whose career consists of covering stories about people who do actually roger boys is cruel and unusual punishment indeed.

As one insider at the Times said: "Poor old Roger always seems to end up with this kind of story."

(Interestingly, it was a sailor who brought this to my attention. Mate, if you put quotes round your Google searches, you won't get this sort of junk in your results. For example, you probably wanted to type in "Roger cabin boys". Happy surfing, Uze!)

Zen 126: "Quick man! Cling tenaciously to my buttocks!"*

Have just discovered this very cool site called 'Letters of Note'. It's a very Ronseal title, because this site is about ...well.... you guessed it. They describe it as "correspondence deserving of a wider audience" and lots of it actually is.

My favourite is the letter from Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi to a young fan who sent him some of his work. The letter runs to nine pages, complete with sketches and advice about drawing (John even sends the kid a copy of Preston Blair's classic 'How to Draw Animation'). It also contains a universal truth: "Old cartoons (from the 1940s especially) are better than new cartoons!"

When you consider the amount of mail he must receive, this is an extraordinarily generous response. He even signs off "Your pal, John K". And what I really love about it is that this is clearly the same handwriting you see in the opening and closing credits for Ren and Stimpy.

I am a geek.

*Legendary Ren and Stimpy character Powdered Toast Man. I seem to recall that this statement was made to the Pope, who responded with: "What? Both of the them?"


Zen 125: You'll go blind

This cat has seen what you are doing and he is sickened and appalled.

Zen 124: Think Bike

You know that new radio ad in the Think Bike campaign?

"Hello. My name's Paul. I live near Highbury Corner and I work backstage in a big West End theatre. So I've got meself a scooter - pistachio green ... so if you're driving that way, keep an eye out for me. Thanks."

If I ever see Paul on his pastachio green scooter, I'm going to run the fucker over.

Thursday

Zen 123: Drive a stake through its heart to make sure

It is with great sadness that I report the demise of Jarvis. When I say "with great sadness" I mean "with a great big 'fuck-you' and where do I go to dance on your evil grave?". And when I say "Jarvis", I mean "the infamous rail 'maintenance' company liable for the deaths of seven people at Potters Bar in 2002".

About a million years ago, I had the deep misfortune to work for a company that was acquired by Jarvis, thereby becoming an unwilling cog in their 'world class facilities management arm'. When I say "world class" I mean "utterly dire", etc, etc (you get the point).

Apart from slashing the budget to just under negligible and subjecting us all to an office share with 'proper' Jarvis employees who had apparently died at their desks years ago, they also bequeathed to us a new CEO in the guise of an alcoholic, mythomaniac dwarf with a personality like aggressive ball cancer and social skills to match.

The inevitable sad decline and collapse of the acquired company was drawn out over a couple of years, mainly due to the pathologically fraudulent activities of the aforementioned dwarf. The last I heard of him, he'd bounced some travellers for about £100K and then disappeared in 'mysterious circumstances'. (I suspect he may be fertilising the scrubland next to a mobile home park in the East Midlands. Ho hum.)

The Jarvis interlude was no doubt a tawdry and difficult episode in the lives of all involved, the one high point of which was working with some of the finest deviants and oddballs ever to grace a horrible red plastic cube building in Farringdon. No doubt the Minkstar, Colin the Cod, Gidge Barnet, Simon the Social Handgrenade, Tim Butters, Angry Angus and Party Hearty Lartey are all receiving the news about Jarvis with similarly unmixed feelings.

For old time's sake, here are some highlights from those special days:

1. Hitting Tester full in the side of the head with a beanie baby at point blank range.

2. Sol Rosenberg's Masturbation Box [LINK]

3. ... and a nice lamb lunch.



Full story: Jarvis to call in administrators [LINK]

Zen 122: Tiny art director

For anyone who has ever tried to create anything for their kids, this is pretty funny. 'Tiny Art Director' is an unflinching account by graphic artist Bill Zeman of his attempts to fulfil various briefs set for him by his daughter since she turned two. Basically, she requests a picture ("A bone dinosaur eating a baby", "A dragon sneaking up on a girl. She's picking flowers") and he tries to draw it as he imagines she wants it. She then brutally critiques it and the whole process is captured on the blog.

There's such a startling similarity between the little girl and her fully grown counterparts that virtually every reviewer has commented on it. The only difference being that she has an excuse for being quite so capricious and direct, i.e. she's a kid.

Bill has just released a book based on the blog, 'Tiny Art Director - a toddler and her vision'. And I am just a little insanely jealous I didn't think of doing something like this first.

Zen 121: "We are actors! We are the opposite of people!"*

Unlike most normal human beings, the playwright Tom Stoppard has long been immune to the lure of Hollywood, to the extent, it transpires, that he's even turned down Stephen Spielberg.

Apparently, Spielberg wanted him to do the screenplay for Empire of the Sun. Stoppard refused, citing a competing commitment to write a play for the BBC.

Spielberg was aghast and said, "But that's just TV." Stoppard replied, "Oh no, you don't understand. It's for the radio.

Ha ha ha! Take THAT Johnny Septic! But no, not really. Much as I admire Mr Stoppard's sang froid, and much as it makes a lovely anecdote, that surely has to be a really stupid decision.

* Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Wednesday

Zen 120: Creepy as hell Japanese potato chip commercial

Apparently, if you can offer a rational explanation for what's going on in this deranged 30 seconds of primetime advertising, you win a lifetime's supply of Calbee crisps.

Zen 119: Really, truly, godawfully terrible song lyrics

I heard 'Dont' Stand So Close to Me' by the Police earlier today. (By curious coincidence it was leaking from the headphones of some guy on the train who was, in actual fact, standing too close to me.) It's a song that contains possibly my least favourite lyric of all time:

"It’s no use, he sees her, he starts to shake and cough, Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov."

In just 22 words, Sting manages to be both monumentally pretentious and horribly contrived. But then I suppose he has had a lifetime of practice, so you'd expect him to be pretty honed.

With this in mind, I'd like to hear your least favourite lyrics too. Add them as comments, or let me know by some other means and I'll drop them in. There are rules though:

1. The lyric has to be by a band who are - or at least once were - credible, but have clearly suffered a momentary lapse of reason (cue Pink Floyd gag). We'll take it as given that Stock, Aitken and Waterman's contribution to the canon of great popular music lyrics is negligible, so let's not go there.

2. You have to explain why it personally riles you. You can't just Google "bad lyrics" - I'll know if you do.

3. The Trololo Man is off limits. His lolololololos and ho-ho-hos have no place here.

Zen 118: Hybrid bastards

Traditionally, there are three groups of drivers who top the Cock List of people least likely to give a monkey's about other road users. In descending order, they are:

- 20-year-olds in BMWs. Invariably drug dealers or kids taking daddy's car without permission, they add an extra dimension of devil-may-care recklessness to the standard Beemer pilot's psychopathic refusal to believe other drivers are real.

- Ladies in 4x4s. Despite lacking sufficient competence to steer a shopping trolley, these ladies will gladly take the wheel of a two-tonne death machine while simultaneously applying lipstick and chatting on their non-hands free mobile.

- Taxi drivers. Generally misanthropic sociopaths who believe that driving a cab for a living elevates you to a higher, rather than lower, form of life.

But coming up hard on the rails of late are the hybrids - specifically Toyota Prius drivers. I read recently that people who have an 'ethical' approach to consumer purchases like cars often compensate by being less moral in other areas of their lives.

Prius drivers seem to have picked up this ball and run with it, behaving with a myopically smug complacency the moment they take the wheel of their ludicrous, two-engined dick wagons, the purchasing of which, incidentally, has bugger all to do with ethics and everything to do with having more money than sense. If they are the future of driving, the sooner the oil runs out, the better.

Tuesday

Zen 117: It will not be hung, well or otherwise

I'm going to go ugly early and call the outcome of the General Election now. It's going to be a Tory landslide.

I don't say this out of any political allegiance. Frankly, I think that we are living in times that will be remembered for the dire, unimaginative blandness of our elected representatives, whatever their political stripe.

That might be a good thing. After all, when was the last time someone answering to the description of 'bland' or 'unimaginative' started a world war? But whichever way it goes we're going to end up being run by a collection of focus-group driven, polished zombies who will inevitably fuck it all up and get caught with their fingers in the till or their schlongs in a waitress. I hold no torch for any of them.

My conviction regarding the outcome is not based on an astute reading of the opinion polls either, which are in any case notoriously unreliable. Of the 25 polls taken since 4 March, support for the three main parties is shown to vary between parity and a 13 point Conservative lead. In colloquial terms, the pollsters couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo.

And it has nothing at all to do with Sam Cam getting up the stick (critical though the fecundity of a politician's wife is to the safe functioning of the world's oldest parliamentary democracy) or Labour suspending three former cabinet members for influence peddling. (There's a gag in there about David Cameron failing to withdraw and withdrawing the whip, but I'm not sure it's worth going after.)

Nope. None of the above. What I reckon it will come down to is this: the nation waking up on polling day and thinking to itself "do I really want another five years of that hopeless, dour, monocular Stalinesque, one-man, walking clusterfuck?"

My guess is that the answer to that will be no. And if it isn't, well, people get the leaders they deserve.

Zen 116: With my brains and your looks, we could go places...

Zen 115: Yeah baby!

It is with no small feeling of triumph that I have downloaded my first iPhone app - Blogwriter - and got the glitchy little bugger working. However, this is a triumph outweighed by the horrifying realisation that it is 2 in the morning and I seem to have lost the last three hours to Steve Jobs's Infernal Machine. Oi vey.

Monday

Zen 114: Obesity

Headline on BBC News Online today: Is seaweed the key to tackling obesity?

No. Eating less is.

Zen 113: Toasting Hitler

Good moment in Friday's Now Show (Radio 4: Now Show, Episode 3). The funniest bits often come in the last two or three minutes, when they reveal the answers the audience have given to a posed question. This week, it was "What was your most public cock-up?" One audience member wrote:

"While singing a war-time version of Colonel Bogey in a crowded bar, I lifted my pint and realised my friends weren't joining in ... I stopped after the first word and ended up toasting Hitler."

We've all been there. Interestingly enough, it turns out that there is some historical evidence that Hitler did in fact have just one ball, on account of having the other shot off during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. According to one army doctor, they nicknamed him 'the screamer' as a result. By strange historical coincidence, another massive historical bastard, Franco, is rumoured to have lost a plum in the same year during a battle in Morocco.

Drunk techno-ska-punk version on YouChoob [LINK]

Saturday

Zen 112: Completely brilliant piece of music

This is the music made by four postal workers franking stamps at the University of Ghana post office in 1975. They were recorded by 'ethnomusicologist' James Koetting. If you're interested, there's a description below of exactly what's going on. I think it's completely brilliant (a sentiment I may have alluded to in the title of this post).



"This is what you are hearing; the two men seated at the table slap a letter rhythmically several times to bring it from the file to the position on the table where it is to be canceled (this act makes a light-sounding thud). The marker is inked one or more times (the lowest, most resonant sound you hear) and then stamped on the letter (the high-pitched mechanized sound you hear). As you can hear, the rhythm produced is not a simple one-two-three (bring forward the letter - ink the marker - stamp the letter). Rather, musical sensitivities take over. Several slaps on the letter to bring it down, repeated thuds of the marker in the ink pad and multiple cancelations of single letters are done for rhythmic interest. Such repetition slows down the work, but also makes it much more interesting for the workers." [LINK]

Friday

Zen 111: Completely brilliant music video

A while back I posted a catchy pop song by a band called Ok Go, who are notorious for their very clever, single-take videos (Zen 43: Crikey, that was a ll a bit heavy. Here's a catchy pop song with a fun video to make up for it [LINK]). That song was called This Too Shall Pass. Not content with one very clever, single-take video per song, they've just shot another. I think it's completely brilliant ( a sentiment I may have alluded to in the title of this post).

Zen 110: Chatroulette improv

For the uninitiated, Chatroulette is the latest slightly (very?) vapid web-based timewaster. It's basically a one-on-one webcam chat room that randomly refreshes with a new chat partner at fixed intervals, or if either party disconnects.

So far, so very much something no respectable individual over the age of 15 would catch themselves doing. This talented bastard, however, has done something clever with it by using the Chatroulette to frame a piano improv. Sounds sucky but is actually v droll. Stay with.

Zen 109: That old black magic

This is great. Indian arch-rationalist Sanal Edamaruku challenges famous tantric guru Pandit Surender Sharma to use his black magic to kill him - live on TV.

The YouChoob clip is a fast-forward through the hours of temple massaging, cursing, gesticulating, water splashing and ultimately fruitless knife and stick waving. Normal programming was suspended while the duel to the ...errr... not death raged.

Eventually, the guru concedes it's not working and insists that he needs to carry out a different ritual, this time outside, but only after he's had a shag, some booze and a freshen up by rubbing himself with a handful of ash. Edamaruku, who never loses his spectacularly taunting grin throughout, obliges.

Result? Still not dead. As Pintoo put it: "It's wrong on so many fucking levels. I'm not sure I can even prioritise them ... the fact that a man of God agreed to kill someone to prove he could ... WTF. It's astounding."

But then ultimately, the guru with the moobs really does us a favour by spending many hours of his no doubt precious time demonstrating to the world that it's all a blatant load of cock.



This Times article from 2008 has a nice summary of Mr Edamaruku's work: Sceptic challenges guru to kill him live on TV [LINK]

Zen 108: Mr Toots

We know these crazy people. Don't get me wrong, they are very lovely people. But crazy. Ratting bonkers. A right pair of mentalists. I offer as evidence their planned album of 'doggy songs' about their faithful hound, who I shall call 'Mr Toots' to protect his identity.

We were recently treated to the rough cuts of the embryonic Mr Toots album over breakfast, when we were hungover and the Crazy People, who have temporarily given up drinking, weren't. The standout track was "Mr Toots likes to sniff" which goes something like:

(Sung to the tune of Supercalifragilisticexpialidotious)

Mr Toots, he likes to sniff and sniff and sniff and sniff,
Mr Toots, he likes to sniff and sniff and sniff and sniff,
Mr Toots, he likes to sniff and sniff and sniff and sniff,
Mr Toots, he likes to sniff and sniff and sniff and sniff!

It subsequently turns out that the Crazy People aren't that crazy after all. Indeed, it has become very apparent that four-year-old girls really like the 'Mr Toots likes to sniff' song and will sing it, incessantly, for days on end. Not only that, but said four-year-old girls will teach their friends until, I'm pretty sure, there will, one day, be a nation of squeaky anklebiters all singing the Mr Toots song in a single cacophanous union that may end civilisation as we know it.

Crazy People - get it into the shops for Easter. Your - and indeed Mr Toots' - fortune is made.

Thursday

Zen 107: Making the best of a bad hand

I have learned something today. I did not know that the name yakuza, as in Japanese Mafia, is derived from the old Japanese for 'eight-nine-three'. This is the worst hand you can get in the card game Oicho-Kabu (a sort of Blackjack played with traditional kabufuda cards).

Many take this as a cheekily self-deprecating reference to being a 'loser', but as with all things Japanese, it's a little more complicated than that. The yakuza never call themselves yakuza, but instead refer to ninkyō dantai, or 'chivalrous societies'. The yakuza tag comes from their origins in the gambling dens of the Edo era and is very definitely deprecation not of the 'self' variety.

Speaking of bad hands, here's some other stuff I didn't know about the yakuza. The practice of yubitsume - the cutting off of the top of your little finger in penitence for some screw-up or other - is meant to weaken your sword grip and thereby increase your reliance on the group for protection. If you screw-up again, you move up another joint. Tasty.

Apparently, the practice of 'pearling' is also common, in which the 'pearler' inserts a pearl under the skin of his penis, one for each year spent in prison. And everyone knows about the Japanese Mafia's love of a good tattoo. But, of course, Yakuza tattoos aren't done using a modern gun, but rather by the enormously painful and time-consuming old-fashioned method of manually jamming ink under your skin with a bamboo needle.

Still, the results are pretty sweet. Check it out, ladies. Check it out.

Zen 106: Suck 'em and Sea

Ten Cornish blokes have just signed a deal with Universal to record an album of sea shanties after an A&R man holidaying with his family heard them in a Port Isaac pub. It's one of those brilliant, heartwarming stories that is bound, one day, to be turned into a reassuringly British film starring Tom Wilkinson and Brenda Blethyn.

Particularly charming is their website (no doubt soon to be replaced by a suitably corporate alternative) with their first two self-produced albums - 'Suck 'em and Sea' and 'Another Mouthful From...' - complete with cover art featuring vintage pictures dodgily Photoshopped to insert the singers' heads.

There's no doubt they make a good noise.



More on YouChoob: FishermansFriendsTV [LINK]

Wednesday

Zen 105: Jesus the Musical

This is SO disrespectful. Don't you dare laugh.

Zen 104: Horse rescue

This is a clip of a horse being rescued by a helicopter in Arizona. Watch it with the sound off and from 14 seconds in, go 'wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' and hold it until 23 seconds.

BBC News: Horse rescued by helicopter in Arizona [LINK]

Zen 103: Kim Jong-il's personal shopper

This is fascinating. In 1993, a North Korean colonel called Kim Jong-ryul flew to Austria, where he faked his own death. Sixteen years later he has emerged from the Tyrolean woodwork with a book recounting his former life as Kim Jong-il's personal shopper. The 75-year-old says he wants to tell his story to the world so he can die with a clean conscience.

Fair to say, that's one conscience that needed a bloody good scrubbing. And in his book, 'In the Dictator’s Service' he goes to work with pearly Daz-white gusto, spilling his guts about the decadent lifestyles led by his masters while 3 million Koreans starved to death on their doorstep.

Kim (pictured here in his heydey) trotted the globe under the improbably pseudonym of 'Emil', cooking up fishy deals to ship luxury items and arms back to the staunchly (ahem) communist cadres back in Pyongyang, aided and abetted by morally blank Austrian banks and customs officials.

In amongst all the usual tawdry dictator geegaws of Hennessy brandy, porn videos, gold-plated guns and Ferraris are some real humdingers. Apparently Kim Jong-il wouldn't eat Korean food, and that's even before it all ran out and his people were forced to eat tree bark, then each other.

“What hit me hardest and made me sick to my stomach was when I was ordered to buy water filter systems and plumbing for the royal palaces. Yet my country’s water system and treatment network had broken down and thousands were dying from polluted water,” says Kim.

Kim now lives under a death sentence, but he's kind of philosophical about it: "I will die eventually anyway, so why die without some meaning? ... I’m now very afraid. I do not know where the bullet that will kill me is going to come from ... And so from tomorrow you will not see me any more. I will disappear."

This is an amazing insight into the truly bonkers nature of a wholly evil and warped leadership, but Kim's protestations smack a little of Nazi-era "I was just following orders" justification. And what of the family he left behind, who may now be the target of reprisals? "[T]hat's a risk he's willing to take." Well bully for him.

Zen 102: Alice in Wonderland 1903

The BFI has restored the first ever film version of Alice in Wonderland, and in a very public-spirited gesture put it on YouChoob. Shot in 1903 and pretty much neglected since, it runs a full eight minutes and is beaten all to hell, but still has some charming moments - particularly the special effects, which feature a shrinking Alice and a disappearing - reappearing Cheshire Cat. Not bad for a film shot just 10 years after the invention of moving pictures.

Tuesday

Zen 101: "You got Coldpray?"

Overheard in a convenience store on my way home:

Enter Chinese woman, short on social graces. She stands in the doorway and yells at the Bangladeshi shopkeeper, himself somewhat short on charm.

Chinese woman: You got Coldpray?
Shopkeeper: Vaht?
Chinese woman: You got Coldpray?
Shopkeeper: No. Vhe don't got any music.
Chinese woman: No! Coldpray! COLDPRAY! For duck men!
Shopkeeper: Vhat are you saying? Vhe don't got anyting vhat you say!
Chinese woman: COLDPRAY! For DUCK MEN!
(Shopkeeper's mate enters stage left. Whispers in shopkeeper's ear.)
Shopkeeper: No. Vhe got no coldpray.

Zen 100: ENLIGHTENMENT!

I felt I ought to mark the 100th Otter Zen with a big word in capital letters. Then I Googled "100 Zen" to see what came up.

What came up is this book, "The Iron Flute: 100 Zen Kōans". A kōan is a "story, dialogue, question or statement" used in Zen Buddhism to teach the value of divining truth by intuition rather than rational thought. I have learned something today.

Here's an example:

A monk asked Zhaozhou: "What is the meaning of the Buddha's coming from the west?" Zhaozhou replied: "The cypress tree in front of the hall."

Now, ordinarily you would think Zhazhou was hopped off his nut on some dodgy herb, but if you were a Zen monk you would realise that this was a kōan and spend a long time - possibly years - in deep meditative thought, attempting to catch this nonsensical riddle off guard and thereby lay bare its inner meaning.

I think you could have a lot of fun in a Zen monastery.

Zen 99: Fully sick rapper

This Aussie guy, Christiaan Van Vuuren, has been banged up in quarantine for months after contracting something horrible while on holiday. I believe it may have been squirrel AIDS (presumably the good type rather than the bad type). Anyroad, he's gone out of his mind with boredom and has taken to comedy rapping to kill time. I know comedy rapping should normally be classified as a crime against humanity, but given that this has all been recorded and edited by a total beginner within the confines of his hospital isolation room, I say full credit to the sicko for a job well done. Here's one to get you started. Get well soon, fellah.

Monday

Zen 98: The web will eat itself

In a bizarre case of us watching them watching us watching them watching... you get the point, the Trololo guy featured right here on Otter Zen (Zen 83: Lololololo lolololo lolololo, lolololo lololo-lalalalalalala LOLOLOLOLOOOOOO!) has appeared on YouChoob, observing and wryly commenting on people observing and wryly commenting on his original Soviet-spooky performance. Notably, the "evil rapist face" comment doesn't make the cut.

Here he is watching himself: Mr Trololo (Eduard Khil) is being interviewed [LINK]
Here's a sing-a-long version: Trololo Sing Along [LINK]
Here he is on X Factor: Edward Khil on X Factor [LINK]
Here's the old buffer (with curiously non-grey hair) indulging in a jolly reprise of his hey-day hit. Marvel as the same demonic joy exudes from every pore 40 years on: Mr Trololo sings again [LINK]


And here's how far the craze has spread, with eejits from across the globe trol-lol-lolling in tribute from Tirana to Timbuktu:

Zen 97: Vizsla wins Crufts

A Vizsla has won Crufts, thereby proving that these deranged, flap-eared, ginger Hungarian devil dogs are slowly but surely taking over not only the sofa, but the world. Yogi is the first Vizsla to win Best in Show and he is a handsome bastard, but not a patch on my Vizsla (pictured in natty wig*).

Clearly moved to words of great power and eloquence on this historic occasion, Yogi's owner said (and I quote): "He is just a very, very good dog." Well, I don't care how good he is, he's not the Best Tidbit Catcher in Chertsey and nor, in all likelihood, will he ever be.



















* I just couldn't do it. She looked so demeaned in her afro wig that I had to find a picture of her giving it the full 'Country Life' instead.

Zen 96: "When you see Arec Barrwin, you see the true ugriness of human nature"

The utterly brilliant Big Picture from the Boston Globe has just posted a 31 photo spread from North Korea's official news agency showing 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il inspecting a variety of industrial facilities. As Big Picture points out 'most of the photos are undated, no photographers are credited, and independent verification of circumstances is nearly impossible'.

Irrespective, there's little doubt that North Korea is a joyless shithole and the sooner Kim and his cronies join the ranks of the historical dead, the better. Particularly intriguing is the 'bountiful' photo of Kim inspecting fruit and veg with the only three pineapples in the entire nation positioned carefully in the foreground.

But until the happy occasion that Kim shuffles off, let's enjoy once again Team America's inspired send up of the runty little prick.

Friday

Zen 95: Hey, tree hugger...

I've pre-empted Pintoo's objections to my climate change scepticism by finding him a nice tree to hug instead.


Zen 94: How's your cryosphere doing?

Back in 2007, Arctic sea ice retreated to the greatest extent since records began. Many climatologists (and vocal types significantly less well qualified) started furiously clanging away at the alarm bells, insisting that the polar ice cap was in a vicious negative feedback loop of unrecoverable decline. The estimate for ice free Arctic summers was brought forward from 2040 to 2013. That image of a polar bear standing on an ice cube was every-fucking-where.

Bearing in mind that it's now March and we're all still shivering our nuts off, I was prompted to visit the very excellent Cryosphere Today, which hosts satellite images of the poles from 1979 to the present. I wanted to see if it was just Blighty that's suffering the cold snap, or if something a touch larger was going on.

The attached image shows 11 March 1979 on the left and 11 March 2010 on the right. Sea ice and snow cover are both thicker and extend further than at any time since the satellite record began.

I don't mean to be unduly cynical, but using a satellite record that only goes back 40 years to determine long-term climate trends is like trying to work out which way a path is going by looking at a single slab. Good scientists should know better and stop making dumb predictions about things they don't properly understand yet.

Thursday

Zen 93: Strangely hypnotic

It may be a bit of benign surreal whimsy. Or it may make your head explode.

Zen 92: Criticism, Chinese style

China's curling team didn't do too well at the Vancouver Olympics. Team unity was not helped by an underperforming captain, Wang Fengchun, who was dropped for the last two games then fired in disgrace for wearing a US team cap on the plane on the way home.

His team manager, Li Dongyan, commented in a manner that only the Chinese can, telling the press:

"It would be very helpful to slap him down. With pain."

Wang is apparently "heavily self-criticising" while he awaits his slapping, at home in Hunan...

Zen 91: Royston Vasey

I did not know that Royston Vasey, the town in the League of Gentlemen is the real name of old-school Northern 'comedian' Roy 'Chubby' Brown. (Producers chose the Derbyshire town of Hadfield as the set for the fictional Royston Vasey. Hadfield is noted for one of Britain's oldest wood recycling firms. And fuck all else.)


Word of the Day 20: Murmuration

1. (Noun) The stunning, super-coordinated aerial 'dance' carried out by flocks of starlings.

2. (Noun) The movement of breasts.

Usage:

1. "Ornithologists captured on camera the worldest largest recorded murmuration last weekend."

2. "Murmuration or no murmaration," said Alice, "If he keeps staring at my tits I'm going to smack his face in."

Source:

Wikipedia an' that.

Murmuration on YouChoob. Skip the first 45 seconds of waffle for the shots of amazing birds.

Dogs of War 3: Hatch

The Internets are alive with talk of the ship's dog of the Mary Rose. Said war dog has been 'painstakingly' reconstructed by archaeologists, who rather macabrely dubbed the two-year-old mongrel 'Hatch' after the closed item that almost certainly doomed her.

Hatch's remains were hoovered up off the bottom of the Solent, along with various bits of his 500 human companions (none of whom have been so meticulously reconstituted) and will now be displayed at Crufts from 11 - 14 March.

The Mary Rose Museum is a little over-excited about the whole thing, and plans to build a "world class museum" for the dog and its bones, "where ... visitors will be able to step back in time to understand the life of 'Hatch'."

Understand the life of Hatch? It's a dog. How much museum space does "sniff - eat - scratch - squirrel!" actually require?

Wednesday

Zen 90: Satan's axe

Was browsing around a reclamation yard today, as denizens of Surrey are wont to do. This one specialises in church stuff - pews, fonts, lecterns and the like. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I discovered this monster, tucked away on a high shelf, overlooking the endless stained glass and sternly religious statuary. Fair to say that only the Devil himself would carry an axe like this. But how did it come to be here? Surely only a shite Dan Brown novel can ever hope to reveal the truth...


Zen 89: Parents pushing their children too hard

Evidence that modern parents may be pushing their children too hard in the pursuit of 'life advantage' was starkly presented to me today. A whole bunch of kids had been over to play with my two. When the other kids left, there, amidst the detritus was this searing piece of self-criticism. Oh, the humanity.


Tuesday

Zen 88: Gay songs!

On a lighter note, here's a cavalcade of campness for my old chum Harvey who confessed to being somewhat discomfited by my dedication to him of the Stephen Lynch classic 'If I Were Gay'. Now, fair to say that if you're a) confident of your own sexuality; and b) unthreatened by gay people; and c) like a good tune, you're going to love this. It's every decent Gay Song that YouChoob has to offer. So Harvey, this post's for you...







Zen 87: Kill, Fido, kill

The Government's latest pre-election ruse to distract us from the overwhelmingly obvious fact that they are hopelessly shit is this: all dog owners in the UK will be required to insure their dogs against attacks on human beings if proposals put forward in a new 'consulation' are accepted.

Errr, OK. So that's the votes of several insurance company chief execs in the bag. Nice work Gordy. But why the sudden rush to scapegoat Britain's 7 million dogs, the vast majority of whom will go to their doggy graves having never mauled anything more significant than a tennis ball?

Well, it turns out that some dogs are big. All dogs have sharp teeth. Photographs of big dogs with sharp teeth are being obligingly prepared by newspaper subeditors the nation over as we speak to illustrate the scale of the menace we face. Dog attacks are undeniably bad things. And they are on the rise.

"Each week, more than 100 people are admitted to hospital after dog attacks," squeaks the BBC News website. According to politics.co.uk, dog attacks rose to 5,221 in 2009, "a significant increase from the 3,079 cases reported in 1997/98".

Worse still, the number of people convicted for allowing their dogs to cause injury has more than doubled in the past decade.

Holy Jesus. Just take Muffy outside now and put a cap in her ass. We're living with 7 million slobbering death machines that make Cujo look like Goldie off of Blue Peter.

Except we're not. As ever, if you take a closer look at the stats, they give pretty much no cause for alarm whatsover.

Point 1: The law does not distinguish between a dog biting someone and a dog striking someone. If your dog accidentally runs into you in the garden and you end up in A&E, would you characterise that as a dog attack? Probably not, but the law would. The overwhelming majority of hospitalisations are strikes not bites.

Point 2: So dog attacks have risen from 3,000 to more than 5,000 in a decade? Uh-huh. This reported increase is based on hospital admission figures, but then hospital admission figures have risen across the board in the last decade for virtually every category of illness or injury. The massive likelihood is that this 'jump' owes more to nervous doctors and compensation culture than it does to Rover going postal.

Point 3: Convictions for allowing out-of-control dogs to injure people have doubled almost exactly in a year. Doubled? DOUBLED?!? Yes. From 239 in 1998 to 481 in 2009. This represents 0.0007% of all crimes that went to court last year. In statistical terms, it is de minima - meaningless.

Also worth noting is that the rise in convictions was, in part, due to the vogue among colossal dickheads for ownership of so-called 'weapon dogs', most breeds of which are already banned under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act and the rest of which are Rottweilers and Staffies.

So why the focus on ALL dog owners? Because it's an emotive subject. Because there's an election on. Because the Tories thought of it first. Because people don't understand probability. Because we live in a nanny state. Because the 1871 Dog Act (which governs all but the four breeds of dog named by the Dangerous Dogs Act) represents a much more "time-consuming and complicated" way of bullying and harassing ordinary dog owners than a broader, blunter and more draconian new law.

Nobody likes to see children mauled by dogs, but I'm betting that once we've all been handed our dog control orders, paid our £30 a year tax insurance and generally submitted to a regime of aggressive legislation that radically complicates and restricts dog ownership, the number of children mauled annually by dogs will hold statistically steady at just above zero, and the number of colossal dickheads with weapon dogs will hold statistically steady commensurate with how fashionable it is to have one.

Zen 86: 'I dived forward, picked up the grenade and threw it off the roof'

This is an interview with Rifleman James McKie, who did that 'classic war movie' thing in of picking up a live enemy grenade and lobbing it back. When asked what was going through his mind, he replies: "I thought, oh, I hope it doesn't hurt too much."

BBC News: Soldier 'threw back hand grenade': http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8556788.stm [LINK]

Monday

Zen 85: Fucking ego!

Taiwan's inspirational Apple Action News has pulled it out of the top drawer once again with its coverage of the bullying allegations against Gordon Brown. AAN are famous for producing little CGI reconstructions of events nobody has footage for. Thrill as Gordon chins a parliamentary aid! Gasp as he hurls a female secretary to the floor! Scratch your head as the words "fucking ego" are inexplicably splashed across the screen! All here, all live.



Friday

Zen 84: The fat kid can play

The accordion is an instrument invented by the Devil, who is French, for the torment of Englishmen. That said, this chubby Russian kid plays a demented squeezebox. Seriously, I defy you - defy you I say - to watch this and not be impressed.



You're not impressed? You have no heart.

Zen 83: Lololololo lolololo lolololo, lolololo lololo-lalalalalalala LOLOLOLOLOOOOOO!

Thrill as this Soviet era Sinatra LOLs his way through three minutes of Brezhnev's favourite toe-tapper with scant regard for lipsynching, or lyrical content, or his "evil rapist face" (apparently). And the laugh. Dear god, the laugh. At 1 min 55 secs. It will stay with you and haunt your waking hours for eternity...

Thursday

Zen 82: Pants bomber was ...well... pants according to BBC doco

Remember the guy who tried to take down a jumbo jet with a bomb in his keks last Christmas Day? The one who only succeeded in blowing his own cock off? Well it turns out that even if he hadn't been a simpering buffoon and a monument to terroristic ineptitude, he still wouldn't haven't taken the plane down.

BBC documentary 'How safe are our Skies? Detroit Flight 253' has reconstructed the attempt (properly) using a decommissioned 747. Investigators found that the aircraft would not only have remained intact, but that the crew would have been able to take "this aeroplane without any incident at all and get it on the ground safely."

How do you like them infidel apples, beardy?

Zen 81: A year of living biblically

AJ Jacobs is a an "author, philosopher, prankster and journalist" who immerses himself "in alternate lifestyles and long, hilarious experiments". He once outsourced his entire life to Bangalore ("they even read my kids' bedtime stories") and on another occasion took on the concept of 'radical honesty' - "whatever is on your brain comes out of your mouth" - which he cites as the worst month of his life.

The difference between him and a smug dick like Danny Wallace (of 'How to Start Your Own Country' fame) is that he's insightful, intelligent and open-minded rather than irritating, superficial and self-aggrandising. That said, he has a great voice for print journalism, so that might get on your wick after a while.

His latest thing is the year he spent "living biblically" - following the 700+ rules of the Bible as literally as he could. Here's the TED talk. VG.

Zen 80: Blind gamer finishes Legend of Zelda

A blind Canadian gamer has completed the fiendishly complex Legend of Zelda adventure game with the help of sighted gamers who painstakingly put together a keystroke script more than 100,000 items long. It took four of them two years to create.

Now, before you think this is one of the dumbest, geekiest things you've ever heard, bear in mind the following two things:

First, the sighted gamers, led by a chap called Roy Williams, compiled the script for no other motive than the challenge of getting a blind guy they'd never met from one end of the game to the other.

Second, the blind guy, Jordan Vernon, was stoked. "I felt great," he said. "I felt strong. I felt like the sky's the limit."

Now that surely can't be a bad thing.

Zen 79: Fasten your safety belts, we're going down...

Japan Airlines has apparently taken extraordinary measures to halt the illicit trade in its stewardesses' uniforms. Airline execs have been so anxious to prevent a kinky sex black market developing for genuine uniforms that they've labelled every item of clothing with a trackable serial number.

This was all fine and dandy - and kept a pretty decent lid on things - during the good times, but with Japan Airlines' recent humiliating plunge into bankruptcy, the normal hyper-obedient cabin crew have seen the writing on the wall (it says 'redundancy' for many of them) and thought "fuck it", cashing in their spectacularly functional workwear for big bucks.

“It is hard to say, but it is at moments of confusion and anger like this that the black market for uniforms should do well,” says Yu Teramoto, owner of a 'specialist costumier' shop in Tokyo.

In 2005, twelve JAL uniforms were stolen during an advertising shoot. Eight were recovered, but four disappeared completely, apparently fetching in excess of £10,000 each.

PS Never, ever do a Google image search on 'JAL stewardess uniform' at work. Turbulence may be experienced as a result.

Wednesday

Zen 78: Paperclip, obsolescence does not beckon thee

In the modern office, there are many items in the stationery cupboard that have, frankly, been redundant for years. They are a monument to unthinking acquisition - a dusty reliquary of bureaucratic obsolescence. Consider the last time you had need of Tipp-Ex? Or a clear plastic ruler? Or those dangly string things used to hold together hole-punched presentations?

But, for the noble paperclip, an ancient design classic of sheer functional simplicity, the memory hole of filing cabinets past does not call you on to your final resting place. No. For in this multimedia, hyperconnected, on-demand, virtual world of ours, the paperclip has a new and wholly unforseen role.

For those of us who are not blessed enough to be in possession of a 'SIM card removal tool' for our iPhones, none other than the humble paperclip has now been officially endorsed as a 'suitable alternative'.

Welcome to the sunlit uplands, little fellah. Valhalla awaits.

Zen 77: I thought I'd never see the day, but here's something French and about football that's actually funny

As in all things, the French can't really do comedy without heavy overtones of death, ennui and garlic. But the gloriously stupid Remi Gaillard seems to have broken the national stereotype with a set of stunts that are part Jackass, part Trigger Happy and fully guaranteed to raise un sourire amongst even the most Gallophobic Englishmen. Here he is gatecrashing the French FA Cup final. Genius.


Tuesday

Monday

Zen 75: Laser-etched beef jerky business cards

Meat cards. Interestingly, there is also a vegetarian option ("It just looks like meat!").


Zen 74: Marmite Extra Old

The new Marmite XO (extra old) launches imminently. I'm not some marketing wonk's consumer whore and am therefore genuinely and determinedly agnostic on the whole "Marmite question". Nonetheless, the new limited edition Marmite XO jars are rather eye-catchingly lovely things, although I understand a less swanky version has been created for general release.

Zen 73: Biodiversity

The Guardian's long-running evolution photo mashup comp 'Survival of the Freakiest' will mess with your head, but in a good way.