I've been following Sarah Palin on Twitter. For the comedy value you understand. Sadly, precious little comedy just lots of relentless, folksy PR and twee insights into Alaskan (ahem) culture from America's next president.
What I have learned, however, is that she not only struggles with grammar, spelling, geography and international relations, but she doesn't understand sovereignty or basic jurisprudence either.
Take this Tweet on the subject of the monster Wikileaks leak of diplomatic cables.
"Inexplicable: I recently won in court to stop my book "America by Heart" from being leaked,but US Govt can't stop Wikileaks' treasonous act?"
Well that's just dandy Sarah, but you've managed to be badly and embarrassingly wrong twice in 140 characters.
First, you managed to stop publication in America. The US might have far reaching powers, but its courts don't have jurisdiction in Sweden.
Second, Julian Assange is not American, he's Australian, so therefore can't be guilty of treason against the United States.
While there is a long tradition that stretches right back to Eisenhower of painting Republicans as verbally challenged idiots, and while I suspect that George Bush just looked stupid rather than actually being stupid (controversial I know), I think with Palin they make actually have found the genuine knuckle-dragging klutz they've been looking for all these years.
OK, that's not strictly the motion to be debated, but the essence isn't far off. Our unlamented former prime minister Tony Blair takes on career contrarian Christopher Hitchens in a debate to decide whether or not religion is a force for good in the world.
It's fascinating and thought-provoking in equal measure, not least because it's a bit like watching a very intelligent man ruthlessly kick a poodle to death. The video is in several parts, but kick off this one at 5 mins in to skip the waffly preamble and get straight down to Hitch.
Buggeration. Looks like the whole arsenic DNA lifeform hypothesis has fallen to bits before our eyes. Eminent scientists are writing stern letters to the journal Science saying the paper should never have been published, and looking at the evidence it seems the critics have a point.
This smacks heavily of the Martian bacteria fossils NASA discovered when its budget was under pressure in 1996. Shame. this would have been so cool.
Looks like Wired has broken ranks hours before the big exciting news conference and disclosed NASAs huge new finding. Quoted at length below:
"NASA has discovered a completely new life form that doesn’t share the biological building blocks of anything currently living in planet Earth. This changes everything... they have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.
But not this one. This one is completely different. Discovered in the poisonous Mono Lake, California, this bacteria is made of arsenic, something that was thought to be completely impossible. While she and other scientists theorized that this could be possible, this is the first discovery. The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding beings in other planets that don’t have to be like planet Earth."
No details have been disclosed about the origin or nature of this new life form. We will know more today at 2pm EST but, while this life hasn’t been found in another planet, this discovery does indeed change everything."
Fascinating new development in the Big NASA Press Conference Furore (see below). Everyone seems to think it's going to reveal something massive, and the latest eddy to emerge from the rumour mill is that they've found the aliens here, on Earth.
Skymania says: "But our own investigations suggest that it follows a breakthrough in the discovery of microbes in a lake that get their energy from the usually poisonous arsenic. Experts say this shows they had a completely different origin to any other creature known on our planet. It means that life began not just once but at least twice on Earth."
I'm v excited.
Expect the Internets to be all a-buzz with speculation about NASA's press conference this Thursday.
They apparently want "to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life", and there's nothing like a bit if ET action to get everyone going mental.
The long list of scientific worthies and alien hunters attending the conference suggests the news is big, and the smart money is on an announcement that they've found arsenic on Saturn's moon Titan and that the arsenic is evidence of bacterial photosynthesis. Or similar.
Of course the proper response to this is sniffy detachment and the caustic observation that NASA always discovers alien life when its budgets are squeezed. That and the philosophical stance that the universe is predisposed to creating life, if not quite as we know it, and you're surprised they haven't found more of it and sooner.
Volkswagen have been running a competition for the best implementation of what they call 'Fun Theory' - namely the idea that people will do the right thing if you make it fun. The winner was a guy who made speed cameras entertaining.
Then there's the bin that cunningly bagged 40 kgs more waste than normal bins in the same park...
And the bottle bank arcade that scored 100 visits in 24 hours to the usual two...
A poor unfortunate American girl with no love of the sound of leather on willow has found herself bombed out on Twitter by smart-arsed English and Aussie cricket fans, by sole virtue of owning @theashes.
Bewildered by the attention, she initially threw her teddies, but has since rallied in true Land of the Free style, offering t-shirts for sale and signing off last night with a perky 'Howzat'?
News just in that two Iranian nuclear scientists have been targeted in separate but identical bomb attacks. Rumour has it that one is dead and the other not far off.
This follows hard on the heels of the cheeky Stuxnet virus attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. (What Stuxnet does is take over control of the centrifuges that the facilities use to purify uranium and send them spinning out of control.)
There are a number of possibilities for what might be going on here:
1) It's the Americans. Unlikely. The Americans much prefer to walk up and punch a guy in the face. Plus, this all feels a bit bargain basement for the Septics.
2) It's the Israelis. Much more their style, but given that Iran hasn't yet detonated a successful device, it's a bit too piecemeal for the Israelis. Until Tehran has a nuke, Israel is always more likely to carry out a sudden and devastating air raid, as per their hit on Saddam's Osirac reactor.
3) It's another Middle Eastern state. Possible, but unlikely unless underwritten by the Americans. Iran is a big beast and will want to swat anyone monkeying around with their bomb factory.
4) It's domestic opposition, probably acting as proxies for the US or Israel. This is the likeliest option. Run interference on the program while either stalling for time diplomatically or while preparations are made to shut off the reactors permanently.
5) It's the Iranians. OK, so this seems unlikely, but you have to consider that building and launching a nuclear-armed weapon is a very difficult thing to do. Even more difficult when the pre-eminent super power is trying to stop you, and your two biggest facilitators - Russia and China - aren't really interested because you're a bit nasty even for their tastes. Stupid idea, but for two things. Ahmadinejad has made a lot of boastful promises to a lot of people. If he's finding he can't deliver, who better to blame thank the Great Satan and/or the Zionist Entity for your shortcomings.
There's a long and ignominious history of people staging attacks on themselves to justify failings or extreme reprisals. Think Kristallnacht or the Marco Polo Bridge 'incident'.
More recently we have the example of Saddam Hussein, who thought he had weapons of mass destruction, but his people knew he didn't but were too afraid to tell him so Saddam fronted up to the US, furiously denying he had WMDs but refusing to prove it, because he thought he was lying but was actually telling the truth.
Ahmadinejad is too canny to fall for the same ruse, so a more elaborate set up might gave been required.
Who knows. But as long as Iran is a step further back from getting nukes, whoever is responsible please keep up the good work.
Damon Lindelof, co-creator of Lost actually said that stuff. That guy. The same one who brought you seven series of obfuscation and loose ends that were miserably and unconvincingly brought together in the most pointless and irritating series finale EVER.
(Seriously, Lost should have taken a leaf out of the Colbys 1987 series finale which featured Fallon being abducted by aliens. See below - skip to 6 mins for the actual scene. At least then the only frustrating never-to-be-resolved question would have been: did the aliens use an anal probe?**)
I hold no candle for the Boy Wizard, who strikes me as a derivative melange of lots of better books, but this does seem a touch unnecessary. Until you realise that Lindelof is using this review to make a half-arsed apology/plea to Lost fans everywhere. His thesis is that hating a season finale doesn't make you less of a fan. Oh no. It just makes you honest. So please go out and buy the DVD box set for Christmas anyway.
* The Rotund Yorkshire Sailor says this a lot. I think it's meant to be naval radio speak for 'pot calling the kettle black'. ** I bet they did.
One-take music vid legends OK Go have been hard at it again, following the enormous viral success of their 'This Too Shall Pass', featuring their epic Rube Goldberg machine, and (much earlier) 'Here It Goes Again' - you know, the one with the running machines.
This one's called 'White Knuckles' and is an extravaganza of multiple canine coordination. How you get a dog to do 'deadpan', I don't know, but they did.
Twitter has been lambasted for many things. Being trivial, silly, parochial and self-regarding. I'd agree that it can be all of these and more.
But when critics trot out that hoary old chestnut that people who spend their time tweeting are "not living in the real world", I'm inclined to disagree. I think Twitter has actually restored a very human and much missed facet of the "real world".
Consider that for most of our existence, human beings have lived in very close knit social groups, often being hatched, matched and dispatched within the same 10 mile radius. With industrialisation, universal education, massively increased social and geographical mobility, rapid transport between far-flung places and instantaneous face-to-face communications across vast distances, these very immediate and enduring social groups that have been the bedrock of our species for pretty much all but the last hundred years have gradually dispersed, becoming instead occasional and fractured.
Whether we realised it or not, I think at some fundamental level we need this village-level social interaction, for all its triviality, silliness, parochialism and self-regard. By losing it, we've lost something that we evolved for a reason*. There's a good argument to be made that Twitter, Facebook and all the other social networking malarky that old media types so heartily despise are actually tapping into something ancient and required.
So the next time you feel the need to defend tweeting where you went for coffee, or updating your status with how shitfaced you are, or sharing some YouChoob video of funny cats, don't fall back on the usual high-falutin' arguments about social media being a revolution in citizen journalism, or how it represents the ultimate exercise in freedom of expression, or how it is a liberating force in world gone mad for proprietary controls over creativity.
What you're actually doing is indulging a primal need to shoot the shit and catch up with the neighbours. Whether or not what you're saying actually matters, or indeed if anyone is actually listening, is rather missing the point.
* I have no clear idea of what that reason might be, but there's a really interesting PhD in here somewhere.
For several years now, the very excellent and scarily well-informed Wired blog 'Danger Room' has been running an affectionate feature on 'awesomely bad patches' - the unofficial insignia created by various US Black Ops units to celebrate the work they do.
Now Paglen is compiling a follow-up and he's been deluged with patches from every murky corner of the military, boasting legends like 'What would Jesus shoot?', 'Death wears bunny slippers' and the supremely web geek cool 'Omnis Vestri Substructio Es Servus Ad Nobis' (All Your Base Are Belong to Us).
But he'd particularly like to hear from you if you know anything about Ibis Dawn, Scarecrow, Sundowner or 'Invisus cum libertas et iustitia omnibus'. He'll even take a hi-rez scan if you can't get the badge itself. You can reach him at http://www.paglen.com/.
This shithead definitely picked the wrong ... errr ... defenceless female to flash his diminutive genitalia at.
Love the comments of the guy who filmed it - "Oh this shit's going onYou Tube, yo", just before someone else attempts to go in for the close-up. The perpetrator, 51-year-old Mario Valdivia of Queens, New York, has since been charged with 'forcible touching', lewd behaviour, sexual assault and a being a twat. I'm not sure if the last one is a crime, but it probably should be.
This reminds me of the time my sister came home from work with blood on her new coat after a guy tried to touch her up on the train. It wasn't hers.
Today, one of our developers announced - via group email of course - that he was leaving.
Many people responded to the thread, but mostly it was his fellow codeheads and java hobbits who with fulsome sincerity wished him well and suggested they all get together for a couple of drinks to see him on his way. The email banter flew back and forth for a few minutes, then gradually died down.
Nothing unusual there. Except that everyone who responded was either sitting next to or directly opposite/behind the guy who said he was leaving. They were quite literally within touching distance. And not one verbal acknowledgement was uttered.
I'd suggest that some of these guys could be conjoined twins and they'd still choose email.
A director from Kazakhstan is planning to hit back at the unlovely picture Sacha Baron Cohen painted of his country by releasing an unofficial sequel to 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan', called 'Borat, my brother'.
The premise is that Borat's brother, Bilo, takes an American journalist called John on an hilarious ride through the real Kazakhstan.
"The original Borat film is a black comedy and we wanted to make the sequel in the same genre," says director Erkin Rakishev, "But in contrast to the original film we are not going to such a low level of toilet humour."
Except for the scene where Bilo gets raped by a donkey.
"If it was Borat's brother who raped the donkey then perhaps it would be considered outrageous, but it is the other way round," says Rakishev.
With such impeccable logic, how can he fail? 'Borat, my brother' will be out on general release next year and Rakishev is hoping Baron Cohen and 20th Century Fox sue his ass to get him some free publicity. SPOILER ALERT. Given that the denoument of the film reveals Borat and Bilo to be not Kazakhs at all, but Jews from Romania, I'm guessing that 'Borat, my brother' is going to confirm more prejudices than it debunks. You decide.
I'm not quite sure why the prospect of an extra bank holiday to celebrate 'Kate and Will's' wedding has irritated me to the point where I'd happily beat the pair of smug, grinning, twatty woodentops to death with a corgi, but it has.
Seriously. Who the fuck do they think they are? More to the point, who the fuck do they think we are? Yes, thanks for the invitation to indulge in a four-day vomit-fest of warm 'Australian' lager and Iceland party food that closely resembles a tray of heavily battered and fat sodden locusts, in order to witlessly celebrate the nuptials of two of the most stupendously bland yet privileged human beings ever to walk the face of the Earth, and who are not only blissfully unaware of our comparatively pathetic and humdrum existences, but probably view the legions of drooling proles who will no doubt glue themselves to their 82 inch plasmas for all 96 hours of the 'telly event of the century' with the utter contempt that they frankly deserve.
The idea of enduring a four-day clusterfuckathon of simpering, arse-kissing obeisance at the Royal Hem, the like of which has not been seen since that other one redecorated a Paris underpass fills me with such nameless dread I may seriously consider the alternative entertainment of gouging out my own eyes with shards of commemorative mug to the strains of Candle in the Wind.
Just tweeted on BBC breaking news. No further information at present, but it doesn't feel like a positive start to the day. Especially following yesterday's breaking news about the massive secret uranium enrichment facility the North has been building on the sly.
Update: apparently North Korea shelled a South Korean island on what's being seen as one of the most serious provocations since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
FYI, the border between the Koreas is the most heavily militarised in the world. A hot war here would cost millions of lives. This is not a positive development.
Extensive research just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS ) has found that the US advanced combat helmet, while thoroughly super at stopping bullets, actually does you bugger all good in the event of an explosion.
That big hole is traditionally the one GI Joe's face sticks out of, so it's really a requirement rather than an oversight. But what happens if you cover that face hole with, say, a visor? The results, says researcher Raul Radovitzky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (no, seriously, that's his job title - how cool?) are 'radical'.
"Our simulations without the helmet and with it both show that the primary pathway for transmission of the energy of the blast into the brain tissue is through the soft tissues of the face," says Radovitzk. The visor dramatically improves the outcome by reducing the amount of shock reaching the brain.
That's not to say the US military will be racing to install visors. While they may be effective against bombs, they are stuff all good if you can't see when Jonny Taliban is shooting at you. But watch this space. After visors, tracking computers. After tracking computers, a million-to-one-shot raid on the Death Star...
Sweet Jesus. I don't know what possessed them, but the folks over at FilmDrunkDotCom have commissioned some deranged lunatic to compress all of the above into one eight minute segment. I can confirm that he makes not one extra-verbal meander throughout the entire Terminator franchise.
It's 46 years to the day since JFK stopped two bullets on a Dallas boulevard and simultaneously set in train enough conspiracy theories to power several movies, hundreds of books and a good chunk of the Internet.
So who really killed JFK? Was it the Cubans? The Mafia? The CIA? The Russians? Or all of the above, as Oliver Stone suggests in his baffling (and mammothly irresponsible) epic tribute to the illogical corollary.
It might seem disappointingly prosaic and unimaginative, but it was almost certainly without a shadow of a doubt Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone.
Not only did he have the motive - unstable loner with communist sympathies (he defected briefly to the Soviet Union) wanting to make his mark on history - but he also had the skills.
Forget what Stone says about 'three impossible shots'. Oswald was a US marine sharpshooter - a very good shot by anyone's standards - who used a perfectly good rifle to hit a very slow moving target with two out of three shots across a relatively short range (88 yards) on a clear, sunny day. Even you or I could've probably winged the bugger under those conditions. For Oswald, it was easy.
So why all the conspiracy theories? Probably because it hurts to think that someone in whom so many people had invested so much hope could be switched off in an instant by one twisted fucker with a mail order gun.
Update: Just found the excellent BBC documentary JFK: Beyond Conspiracy, which comprehensively debunks every alternative theory, in full on Google Video. Definitely worth a watch (embedded below). It's only when you watch this you realise quite what a pernicious and wicked thing it was that Oliver Stone did. And what a massive ballbag Jim Garrison was.
Hasbro has confirmed it won't sell its latest Transformer, dubbed 'Spastic' (pictured) in Britain following raised eyebrows and some indignation from disability rights groups.
The word spastic has no meaning in the United States, but thanks to Blue Peter's well-meaning intervention in the early 1980s, the word transcended from medical textbook to universal playground taunt within a matter of weeks, all thanks to their sensitive retelling of the life story of cerebral palsy sufferer Joey Deacon.
This is also the reason Friends spin-off 'Joey' was greeted with smirks this side of the pond.
Far from giving a generation of schoolkids a more enlightened view of disability, Joey the Spastic was the subject of ruthless lampooning and became a byword for maladroit stupidity.
If you've used the internet at all in the last year, you would have found it hard to avoid the video of Danny McAskill tearing it up on his trial bike.
For the uninitiated, a trial bike is somewhere between a BMX and a mountain bike, and in the hands of a skilled practitioner can be used to pull some truly astonishing stunts. Done properly, it's like parkour (free-running) on two wheels. Done wrong, you'll probably end up dead.
Anyway, Danny's back at it, giving us a tour of his native Scotland through the medium of things that shouldn't be possible on a bike.
Just been on Google Analytics with Craig Christ and discovered that Otter Zen has been read in every single US state - even Hawaii and Alaska - except North Dakota and South Dakota.
So in a shameless bid to raise my Dakota quota, here are some facts and figures about two of the United States' lesser known constituents.
- A vast sculpture of Crazy Horse, the brilliantly named Sioux chief, is being carved into South Dakota's Black Hills (pictured), presumably as a big 'fuck you' to the hubristic Mount Rushmore. Started in 1947, it still isn't finished.
- South Dakota is home to the Homestake Mine, the largest gold mine in the United States and the longest continually operating gold mine in the world. It is mindbogglingly huge.
- The largest buffalo herd in the States lives in South Dakota, at the amusingly named Standing Butte Ranch.
- South Dakota has the world's only Corn Palace. I don't know what a corn palace is, but South Dakota has it.
- If you balanced the United States on a pin, including Alaska and Hawaii, the geographical dead centre is in South Dakota. Apparently.
- Deadwood, the town where Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down, is in South Dakota.
- South Dakota is home to one of the world's highest densities of mammoth fossils.
- Sioux leader Sitting Bull was originally buried in North Dakota, until some enterprising South Dakotans nipped over the border, dug him up and took him home.
OK, so Indie journalist Johann Hari comes across as more than a little bit smug, but it can probably be forgiven in light of the wonderful job he does of pissing in Littlejohn's chips. The thunderously stupid football hooligan from the BNP actually looks quite relieved he won't have to answer any more questions involving difficult things like words and sentences.
This is a great 10 minute mini-doc about the burgeoning skateboard culture in Kabul, Afghanistan. It's burgeoning thanks to the work of a small NGO called Skateistan, set up by Australian skaters Oliver Percovich and Sharna Nolan, that provides Afghan kids with schooling and a safe place to learn how to ride a plank. It's an idea that's so mad it has to be genius.
I love the attitude of 12-year-old Fazilla, a girl who subsists by selling chewing gum on the streets: "I can feel people questioning my right to skate. Their opinions are meaningless to me. I really like skating and I won't stop."
Sergey Larenkov is a Russian photographer whose hobby is to blend historical pictures of war-torn European cities with their prosperous and peaceful modern selves. The effect is strangely profound and compelling, especially when the ghosts of the past are interposed among the living of the present. Definitely worth a look.
Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy for them. They've had a tough time of it. But three things prevent me from joining in the general hoopla around the Chandlers' release from captivity.
1) If you knowingly sail across pirate-infested waters, even if you are a harmless old couple on a round-the-world jolly, and you get kidnapped by pirates, I'd suggest this was something you could have seen coming.
2) Somali pirates very, very rarely kill their captives. If the French come to rescue you, then you might get killed. By the French. Chances are you won't be spending your internment in the lap of luxury, but one way or another you'll probably make it home intact.
3) Somebody paid the ransom, which means that the pirates have profited from their crime and will therefore be encouraged to do it again. It also means that the good people who clubbed together to raise the money to get the Chandlers released have been robbed.
In summary, two people who should have known better put themselves in a situation where their friends and relatives were comprehensively ripped off by a bunch of criminals who in turn remain at liberty to keep on kidnapping, stealing and extorting. Result.
No, this isn't a spoof. It's a genuine, self-published ebook called 'The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure - A Child Lover's Code of Conduct'. In its defence, Amazon has stated that it "believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable".
What the fuck?
I mean, seriously, what the fuck!?!
While I'm not in favour of ranting mobs chasing paediatricians from their homes, I do get suddenly and aggressively right wing once paedophiles have gone through the due legal process and have been convicted, invariably beyond reasonable doubt due to the huge mounds of kiddie porn they usually have encrypted on their hard drives. At that specific point, my coolly rational, liberal side evaporates and I'm all for hanging the bastards. In fact, I'd quite happily kick away the stepladder. Not for them the long-drop method. We'd get all 18th century on them - make 'em dance the Tyburn jig.
A quote from the ebook itself, written by a man who is both an nonce and an illiterate twat, says: "This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian rules for these adults to follow. I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter sentences should they ever be caught."
I believe strongly in free speech, but there are limits. This, right here, is one of them. Like a brick wall across a motorway. Marked 'Do not cross - Don't even go there - Leave well alone'. With barbed wire entanglements along the top. And guard dogs. Big rabid Rottweilers. Machine guns. Gibbeted corpses. Etc.
In Britain, the rule is 'innocent until proven guilty', that is unless you're involved in a libel case. Having to disprove the substance of the charge against you is just one of the idiosyncracies of British libel law that a) makes it grossly unfair, b) has created a hotbed of vexatious litigation and c) invites every nutter and his uncle to London to fight their stupid, anti-democratic, anti-scientific, anti-free speech crusades - so called 'libel tourism'.
A case in point is that of science writer Dr Simon Singh (see YouChoob below), who was had up before the beak for allegedly libelling the British Chiropractic Association. To paraphrase, he wrote that the BCA gladly promoted procedures for children that didnt' work. After several years and hundreds of thousands of pounds of his own and several kind benefactors' money, Singh's defence that what he had said was 'fair comment' was upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The new coalition government agreed that enough was enough and said that it would draft a new, simpler and fairer libel law. I'm not particularly keen on promoting causes, but libel is something of a professional hazard in the business I work in, so from a purely selfish point of view I'd ask you to sign the online petition to ensure the government actually follows through and does what it promised.
Yesterday's mysterious missile launch from the Californian coast has caused a feeding frenzy among America's armies of screw-loose conspiracy theorists. The fact that everyone official is denying it happened, despite some lovely photography by a press helicopter, is only stoking the fires (if you can actually stoke the fire of a feeding frenzy?).
This lady has somehow managed to cram all the aforementioned conspiracies into one single incoherent uber-theory, in which she is an Ascended Human in league with the Pleiidians, fighting the forces of evil represented by a United Nations, a Reptilian front for world domination, etc. She'll fill you in on the rest.
I'd feel sorry for her, but for the fact that she's clearly functioning OK, looks healthy (grey matter aside) and is apparently very well-heeled, which suggests she's less completely nuts than someone who has too much time on her hands.
As one commenter on her You Tube video says: "This woman speaks with absolute authority as though she's getting the information directly from the Pentagon! She's absolutely convinced of her story. Its quite a sad thing to see. Lady, chill out...don't believe the nutters...there are no reptilians....there are no aliens (at least that visit us). Your breasts keep me watching however. Keep up the good work."
The charming new advert for Patak's sauces, in which a small first generation Anglo-Indian lad explains why 'Britain loves curry', is narrated with what can only be described as fully authentic Subcontinental accents throughout.
This is all well and good, but you have to query the ad agency's wisdom, when the word 'Patak's' is rendered with a soft 'p' and a flattened 'a' in its native tongue, i.e. 'buttocks'.
I think we could be forgiven for finding buttocks sauce a less than inviting prospect, even if Britain really does love curry.
Art was pretty important to the Nazis. Hitler's personal background as a suboptimal dauber of chintzy postcards aside, they fundamentally understood the power of art as a medium for communicating your message and really getting inside people's heads.
Predictably, they had a preference for either grimly totalitarian expressions of nationalistic pride, or a cloying traditional aesthetic of healthy girls in dirdls and strapping chaps striding up mountains. There was no place in Nazi World for modern, or as they preferred to call it 'degenerate' art. Such was the Nazis' dislike of degenerate art that they set up a travelling roadshow so the lumpen proletariat could gather and laugh at it.
Happily, it turns out that some of this art has proved considerably more lasting than Adolf and chums. Eleven bronze and terracotta statues were recently found, safely intombed in the cellar of a bombed-out Berlin house, during excavations for a new train line.
The work, by German artists Otto Baum, Otto Freundlich, Karl Knappe, Marg Moll, Emy Roeder, Edwin Scharff, Gustav Heinrich Wolff and the brilliantly named Naum Slutzky, is set to go on show today at the Berlin Neues Museum. It apparently celebrates things like naughty sex and anti-nationalistic themes that would have properly got up the Fuhrer's nose. A must-see then.
Much is being made in the Press today of the bullet-stopping capabilities of the new Mark 7 helmet now worn by British troops out in Afghanistan.
It is indeed a remarkable piece of engineering, and at least three soldiers are known to owe their lives to it. One of these soldiers, Corporal Tommy Creighton of the Royal Irish Regiment, says it was a combination of the helmet and his lucky Irish shamrock that saved him from a sniper's bullet.
Let's consider this a minute. This is a charming tale (t'be sure), but there is a major flaw in it. Fair to say, the helmet itself is a proven marvel and beyond reproach. My beef is with the shamrock, especially when you consider its positioning, high up on Cpl Creighton's helmet (see picture).
I have a limited knowledge of military matters, but I'd venture that if he hadn't stuck a bright green target on his head, he might never have been shot in the first place. This view is leant some credence by the fact that the bullet strike clearly shows that's what Jonny Taliban was aiming for.
The lesson here? Stay low, move fast, don't make a target of anything you plan on using later.
French artist Le Gentil Garçon has teamed up with a bona fide palaeontologist Francois Escuilie to imagine what Pacman's skull might actually look like.
But the skeleton doesn't explain the Tardis-like superdimensional space that must exist within the Pacman. Where else does he store all of those cookies?
Given that Tardises are grown rather than built, it begs the question: has anyone ever considered that Pacman - as a similarly Newton-defying organic entity - might be from Galifrey? I think we should be told.
Prince Jefri of Brunei has more money than he rightfully knows what to do with. Money, for him, is literally no object. For example, he has a luxury mega yacht called 'Tits'. He keeps a harem of ethnically diverse women. He buys million dollar homes all over the world but rarely sets foot in them. He has a fleet of luxury cars he never uses because their tyres melt on the baked Bruneian tarmac.
Jefri also has a whispy little porno moustache and no discernable taste whatsoever, both of which are features of the half dozen or so life-sized (rather than life-like) pornographic bronzes of him and his fiance Micha Raines re-enacting scenes from the Karma Sutra. Grotesque and deeply unsexy, they were apparently commissioned to stand around the pool at one of the New York homes Jefri owns but doesn't use.
Quite why the porno statues have come up one of the prince's legal actions is not entirely clear. This may be because the case in question, which is being tried in New York, is phenomenally complicated, has cost close to half a billion dollars and seems to revolve around the prince suing his younger brother for a measly $6m. Weirder still, it seems Jefri's older brother is paying for both the prosecution and the defence.
I don't know what the right reaction here is, but I'm opting for open-mouthed disbelief with a fair dollop of point-and-stare. Lifestyles of the rich and shameless indeed.
Much has been made of the exploding engine on a Qantas A380 Airbus, which resulted in an emergency landing in Singapore on 4 November. (For those of you not up to speed on your aviation, the A380 is the world's largest airliner, nicknamed the 'super jumbo', seating up to 850 people.)
Plenty of space has been given over to pictures of the charred engine hull (see pic - I'm not above it) and the hole that the blow-out created in the wing. These are usually accompanied by the personal accounts of justifiably terrified passengers, who invariably said they were "lucky to be alive".
Now hold on a second. Luck had nothing to do with it. Phenomenal engineering, yes. Outstanding testing, yes. Hyper-efficient emergency drills, yes. Superb crisis management by the pilot, definitely yes. That's why this is really good news. An enormous jet engine explodes at 38,000 feet, on an aircraft that is carrying 550 people, and nobody dies. In fact, nobody is even hurt. In fact, most people were so unhurt they were able to take photos and footage throughout the entire event and blog/tweet them even before they'd disembarked.
Cool, I thought. As if defusing bombs wasn't heroic enough, these guys did it with the seconds literally ticking down. Then I noticed that the source for this claim was a French minister (Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux) and immediately assumed it wasn't true.
"British officials have told Channel 4 that they have seen "nothing to back up the claim" that one of the two parcel bombs defused in the East Midlands and Dubai was just 17 minutes from exploding ... One official in Washington said that experts in the UK and United Arab Emirates had not yet worked out when the timers were set to go off ... A security source in the United Arab Emirates said that the 17 minute claim was not an accurate description of the device found there." Etc.
Lord James of Blackheath, an apparently sane and respectable peer, has stood up in the House of Lords and revealed an offer by a shadowy organisation ('Foundation X' no less) that would like to give the UK government billion of pounds, no strings attached, to help us dig ourselves out of the current financial crisis. Foundation X apparently has unequalled gold bullion reserves and fancies throwing some of it around.
Sparkling excerpts from the Lord James's submission include:
"...Foundation X was introduced to me 20 weeks ago last week by an eminent City firm, which is FSA controlled. Its chairman came to me and said, "We have this extraordinary request to assist in a major financial reconstruction. It is megabucks, but we need your help to assist us in understanding whether this business is legitimate". I had the biggest put-down of my life from my noble friend Lord Strathclyde when I told him this story. He said, "Why you? You're not important enough to have the answer to a question like that". He is quite right..."
"...I have had one of the biggest experiences in the laundering of terrorist money and funny money that anyone has had in the City. I have handled billions of pounds of terrorist money ... My biggest terrorist client was the IRA and I am pleased to say that I managed to write off more than £1 billion of its money. I have also had extensive connections with north African terrorists, but that was of a far nastier nature, and I do not want to talk about that because it is still a security issue. I hasten to add that it is no good getting the police in, because I shall immediately call the Bank of England as my defence witness, given that it put me in to deal with these problems..."
"...These things can be done, if wished, but a senior member of the Government has to accept the invitation to a phone call to the chairman of foundation X—and then we can get into business. This is too big an issue. I am just an ageing, obsessive old Peer and I am easily dispensable, but getting to the truth is not. We need to know what really is happening here. We must find out the truth of this situation..."
There are three possible stories here, in which excitement is inversely proportional to likelihood:
1) the old buzzard has gone doolally;
2) someone is pulling his dick;
3) it's all legit and there really is a guy out there, probably stroking a white, long-haired cat, who can afford to buy Britain.
If 3 is right, I'll believe that JFK was shot by Cuban mercenaries hired by the CIA and financed by the Soviets.
The US military has a long history of bloated procurement programmes that run into many billions of dollars, often before being cancelled without delivering anything. The project to build tactical digital communications, complete with mapping apps and the like is already ticking over to half a billion dollars without a tangible result in sight.
A contract won't be awarded until next year for the laughably macho-named 'Nett Warrior', envisaged as a 7lb bundle of strap-on comms kit, so the special forces chaps have done what they do best - made up their own minds about the best tool for the job and used that instead. (This is how the SAS ended up with the Heckler and Koch G3 instead of the problematic standard issue SA80.)
In this case, they like Google Android, apparently because it allows for lighter equipment, it does peer-to-peer, can be suitably encrypted and is able to recover from “network outages and substantial packet loss", namely all the sort of crap you might have to deal with while hanging out in the arse end of Afghanistan. And because Android is open source, you can mod your apps as you see fit.
The incredible thing is that up until now, they've been using a Windows OS. Small wonder we're not winning the war yet.
Great little story on Steve Blank's blog about Iridium, Motorola's audacious bid to corner the mobile phone market way back in 1987. In a nutshell, they planned to launch a comprehensive network of satellites to provide mobile telephony from anywhere in the world, whether you were in the middle of London or the middle of the Antarctic. Sounds good? It certainly sounded good enough for investors to bankroll one of the most expensive unproven ventures in history.
Imagine a start-up with a shopping list that included 15 rockets, 72 tailor-made satellites and an eight year uninterrupted research and development cycle. I guess the minor miracle of it was that the project only cost $5.2 billion to go operational, largely thanks to the stupendously innovative and clever technical implementation.
When Iridium did finally become available to the public in 1998, it was met with a gigantic shrug and went bankrupt within 9 months.Why?
The reasons are many, but can be narrowed down to three main causes:
1. In 1987, there was virtually no mobile phone coverage. By 1998, there was mobile coverage everywhere that mattered.
2. Calls through Iridium cost $7 per minute versus 50 cents per minute on normal networks.
3. You had to make all your calls with a clear line of sight to the satellite, so you couldn't get a signal if you were indoors, underground or in the shadow of something big. Like a building. Or a mountain. Or the average American.
Iridium survives today as a niche provider of satellite phones to the military, aid workers and people sodding about at the North and South Poles, but as concepts go, it's still an awe-inspiringly gigantic turkey.
There's a very, very important lesson to be learned from the Iridium experience. Never, ever embark on designing anything when your head is so firmly planted up your own arse that you don't realise the rest of the world has moved on without you.
A dating site for biffers and shovelheads has launched and it's called theuglybugball.com. I applaud the stunning directness of their "5 ugly truths about dating" (below) and wish them every success. The world needs more honesty.
# Half of UK daters aren’t pretty so instead of fishing in a small pool of prettiness and getting nowhere dive into an ocean of uglies and have more choice.
# Ugly people are a better calibre of human - pretty people generally aren’t very nice and tend to be a bit shallow
# Ugly people have had a tougher life and therefore tend to be more considerate and more loyal. A recent TUBB survey also proved that they try harder in bed.
# Once with an ugly partner it is unlikely that anyone will try and take them from you meaning you can let yourself go completely once you’re together.
# In these straightened times TUBB is cheaper as a) We don’t charge much as the pretty sites and b) Ugly people have lower expectations – for a first date A Family Bucket will usually do the trick.
Daily Show host Jon Stewart held a 'Rally for Sanity' in Washington DC last week. More than 200,000 people showed up to make an overt display of reasonableness, following Fox News pundit Glen Beck's bizarre 'Rally to Restore Honor' (sic) in August. For those of you who don't know Glen Beck, he's a foaming-at-the-mouth apologist for a peculiarly American brand of unthinking right wing extremism - a sort of alternative Redneck wank fantasy. You know, for when your sister is out.
The Jon Stewart rally was very funny, but arguably funnier was the ingenious sloganeering of the crowd, triggered by a running gag on the Daily Show where Stewart periodically held up his own placards, bearing legends like: "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler."
Some of the best for your delectation and pleasure. Who says the Septics don't do wit?
- I'm here from the internet to put captions on your rally
- Hyperbole is the antichrist
- Look at my ironic hipster sign
- Signs are an impractical medium for civil discourse
- Somewhat irritated about extreme outrage
- I'm pretty content actually
- Cheer up, it's only politics