Zen 775: The Middle East situation explained as an Angry Birds - Disney mashup

This is very good. The splicing of the soundtrack and oldy-worldy wobbly animation with the Angry Birds aesthetic is nigh on perfect. I'm not sure you'll learn much, other than it's handy to have the Mighty Eagle* on your side. But, then again, maybe that's enough.

*This will no doubt really annoy the French, given that they see Libya as 'their' war.


Zen 774: Awkward stock photos

The world of stock photos is a curious twighlight place full of people who can't smile with their eyes doing peculiar things like laughing at salad. Now, at last, there is a home for the most bereft and hopeless of these images. It's called, appropriately enough, Awkward Stock Photos. A thing like this could easily catch on.

Zen 773: Is it legal to arm the Libyan rebels?

This is the question posed by the BBC's Nick Robinson on his blog this morning. He chews over the point in a typically inconclusive way, but I think it's the wrong question.

The proper question should be: what do we want to achieve in Libya?

I'd say that what we want in terms of good old fashioned self-interest is regime change with Gaddafi conveniently dead and a grateful/friendly new government in his place.

This is the point from which we should be unpacking our requirements, not quibbling about what we can get away with under the terms of Resolution 1973, which in any case is so loosely worded as to allow pretty much anything.

Consider this. The resolution was passed to allow for the protection of the civilian population. Given that said population is now engaged in a headlong charge across the country courtesy of close air support by 350+ coalition aircraft, we could arguably have passed beyond the point where they need protecting from anybody.

And surely the best way to defend them long term from the depravities of the Gaddafi regime is to destroy Gaddafi.

So really the question is: why are we fannying about with niceties when we should be finding him and killing him?

Answers on a postcard please.

Zen 773: Gun-toting Barack Obama rides into Tripoli and defeats Gaddafi in barechested gladiatorial combat

An analysis of Obama's speech on Libya, as told by NMA World Edition, which, if you haven't seen it, is like Newsnight viewed through the bottom of a beer bottle by the creators of Shrek.


Zen 772: Fuck off Punter!

I've been searching all day for something suitably pithy and fitting with which to send off outgoing Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting.

Think I've nailed it.

Zen 772: Foo's spectacularly crap, half-arsed video is pure rock genius

Shot on a budget usually reserved for a White Lightning run down to Aldi, White Limo is the latest video offering from the Foo Fighters. It stars Lemmy out of Motorhead as the driver of the eponymous vehicle and features the sort of production values normally associated with amateur porn. Which is why it's just utterly brilliant.

In an era when a lot of music doesn't sound like it was created by humans and the accompanying videos are obliged to feature nearly naked women grinding in a way that's presumably meant to be seductive but actually makes them look just a teensy bit silly and try-hard, it's nice to see a bunch of guys who apparently don't give a shit about all that stuff, well, not giving a shit about it.

Not only that, but the track itself - which you're guaranteed to hate if you don't like atonal screaming - owes more than a little bit to Faith No More's 'Angel Dust' and is therefore such a marriage of complete and perfect pedigrees it should go on to win Crufts.

Zen 771: The club with the floating football pitch

This is a charming short film about a bunch of kids who lived on the island of Panyee in Thailand - technically they lived moored to the island in a village of floating houses - where there wasn't enough space to stir-fry a cat, let alone play football. Unperturbed, the kids set about building themselves a floating football pitch and the rest is an inspiring parable about thinking outside the box. And the fact that this is actually an advert for a bank that is lyrical and funny and doesn't make you want to punch a man in a bowler hat only makes it all the more surprising.

Zen 770: School children re-enact graphic ritual hate crime murder as teachers egg them on

Where is this? Ku Klux Klan era Alabama? Some hellish corner of Afghanistan? Uganda's version of Old Compton Street? Errr, no. Rural Surrey actually.

Thing One came home from school and talked me through the whole terrible scene. What really turns my stomach is that they had him playing the victim of the aforementioned atrocity. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the teachers encouraged the children to show happy-face-sad-face placards depending on how the whole miserable thing made them feel. Shocking, I know.

As I explained to Thing One, just because the Romans used to do it all the time doesn't make it acceptable fare for a bunch of six-year-olds, no matter how keen they are on history. I note that for some crimes the Romans used to throw you into the Tiber sewn into a sack with a snake, a rooster, a dog and a monkey, but I don't expect them to put in on the bloody curriculum.


Zen 769: Weatherman explains to thicky CNN presenter that Japanse radiation is not a danger to the US West Coast

Marvel as Accuweather's Bernie Rayno spars with TV 'news' presenter Nancy Grace. She basically adopts a line of discourse slightly less sophisticated than jamming your fingers in your ears and yelling "La-la-la I'm not listening". I think it's the first time I've seen an anchor troll someone live on air.


Zen 768: Dogs only ever itch in one place

Think about it. Have you ever seen a dog scratch itself anywhere other than that bit between shoulder and ear?

I rest my case.


Zen 767: Boycott on Yardy - a sympathetic hearing for depression

Michael Yardy, the England cricketer just sent home with depression, has received a less than sympathetic hearing from commentator Geoff Boycott, who has dismissed him as simply not being good enough.

It's interesting to note that if a cricketer goes home with a bad knee or appendicitis, that's perfectly acceptable, but when he has a problem with the most complicated structure in his body, it is seen as some sort of personal failing.

"I don't understand depression," opines Boycott. Well then, perhaps you should shut the fuck up about it until you do.


Zen 765: Game deaths

Love this compilation from Boing Boing's Rob Beschizza, although some of the deaths engendered a weird kind of post-traumatic stress, encapsulating as they do the oft-repeated moment of failure and total frustration you experience when you simply can't beat the goddam game.

Just me then.

Also really enjoyed the 8 bit-esque cover of Mad World. Good work all round.

Zen 764: How many people a year die from falling off their bicycles onto train tracks?

Last night I got off the train at West Bumble and got on my bike. I take my bike on the train. It's about five yards to the station exit and car park and usually the damn place is deserted. This time, however, there was a mob of South West Trains Gate Nazis in attendance.

By Gate Nazis I'm not referring to the standard ticket inspectors who are generally OK, but chumps dressed up to look quite a lot like police officers, complete with hi-viz jackets and a surly air of aggressive self-importance presumably born out of the fact that they're weren't good enough to get into the police and now want to take it all out on you.

Anyway, I showed them my ticket and was then apprehended by a plain-clothes Gate Nazi, who announced he was going to 'yellow card' me for riding on the platform, a process that requires taking and confirming your name and address so they can 'red card' you next time.

Now, you and I both know that I shouldn't have been riding my bike on the platform, but you and I also know that for the two or three seconds I was actually on my bike, I represented a danger to no-one and that the appropriate response would have been for them to simply advise me that it wasn't sensible and send me on my way.

But no. These are Gate Nazis. They are not programmed to be reasonable.

I objected. They threatened me with a fine. At which point I went into full-bore smart-arse mode. It's not big, or clever, but it is guaranteed to get the back up of even the most calm and patient individual. I reckon that on a good day I could have had Mother Teresa swinging for me. By the end of it, the female Gate Nazi was yelling in my face about £80 on-the-spot fines that she has no authority to administer, and the gang of scrotes who'd been collared for fare dodging had gone into full revolt. Fun.

I'd also got the plain-clothes Gate Nazi on the run, cornered on the question of how many people are killed every year toppling from their bicycles onto train tracks. He had asserted that it was 'loads', so I asked him how many. He said that he definitely knew the answer, but wasn't going to tell me. So I suggested he had no idea and that he was undermining his own credibility by claiming that he did.

To cut a long story short, he lost his temper too. I left this merry scene after about 20 minutes of sparring, with the scrotes in full revolt and the Gate Nazis in disarray. Childish, I know, but they had exhibited exactly that combination of ignorance, aggression, unreasonableness and misplaced self-regard that I reckon should be dragged out the back and given a fucking good metaphorical kicking wherever it is found.

So how many people a year do actually die from falling off their bicycles onto train tracks? According to the Railway Safety Statistical Report , there is no single instance of anyone having been killed in this way for any of the years on record.

Zen 763: In defence of Rebecca Black and 'Friday'

In case the phenomenon has passed you by, there's this kid called Rebecca Black and her parents paid a bit of money to make her a 'professional' music video to go with her self-penned track 'Friday' (see below). Now, don't get me wrong, it's truly execrable. It's a banal, monotonous, autotune nightmare of preppy kids in saturated HD, but it isn't the worst thing I've ever seen on the Internet. That would be goatse. Or two-girls-one-cup. (If you don't know what these are, leave it that way. Step away from the Google - especially if you're at work.) This song, however, isn't even one-girl-two-chords.

But I subscribe to the Ray William Johnson ethos that if you're just doing your thing on You Tube and not hurting anyone else, more power to your elbow. She's just a kid having some fun and that's absolutely fine. Unfortunately, the rest of the internet didn't agree and set about her with a ferocity normally reserved for paedophiles and people who deny there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy.

As Charlie Brooker put it on 10 O'Clock Live last night, this led to the "single largest act of bullying in history", as morons flocked to Twitter to call her a whore and tell her to go and kill herself. I'd really like to show you the clip of Charlie defending Rebecca, but you need to endure about a billion adverts and wade through what was a pretty turgid show before getting to the good stuff. If you really must, it's here at about 33 mins in : 10 O'Clock Live (24/3/11).

This is what Charlie said:

"A startling number of the most vicious messages seem to come from angry Justin Beiber fans - people who actually listen to the dickless mewling of this quasi-sentient boy thing - just to be clear, a Justin Beiber fan moaning about a banal pop song is like someone gargling a cupful of skunk piss complaining that the dog has blown off in the corner. However, this high-tech hate mob did affect Rebecca ... [it was] genuinely upsetting stuff and it's impossible not to feel quite sorry for her ... but to address the members of the Rebecca Black hate mob directly for a moment - Dear Imbeciles, thanks to your hard work Rebecca Black, who you dismissed as a hopeless wannabe, is now a bona fide megastar. Look, here she is on a brilliant edition of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, just like you'll never be. See, she's famous. Perhaps you'd like a picture of that image to hang on your wall ... so you can look at it every morning before going to work in the shitty megachain burger outfit you'll be trapped in forever, selling Happy Meals with Rebecca Black's face on them ... and as you pass these to customers who accurately look at you like you're nothing, you'll hear Rebecca Black's song looping on the in-store Muzak system as you slave away behind the counter five days a week from Monday to Friday, Friday, you've go to get down on Friday because that's the day you mop the fucking floor." Superb.


Zen 762: Japanese surfer dude dived into tsunami to rescue wife and mother, then goes back for everyone else

Hideaki Akaiwa, a Japanese surfer from Ishinomaki, one of the towns worst hit by the tsunami on 11 March, apparently donned scuba gear and dived into the raging torrent to look for his missing wife. After swimming through swirling debris that included whole houses and cars, fallen electricity pylons and any number of things that could have killed him instantaneously, he found her and brought her out. Then, like the title says, he went back for his mum before going looking for everyone else.

The description of events on Badass of the Week really captures what a badass this guy is.

Badass of the Week: Hideaki Akaiwa [LINK]

Love the expression of the guy behind him. "You did WHA..!?!"

Via Van Bleurk.

Zen 761: Japanese roadworkers repair horrendously ruptured highway in just six days

Anyone who doubts Japan's ability to recover from the 11 March megaquake and tsunami take note. Roadworkers began repairing this buckled section of the Great Kanto Highway on 17 March and worked balls-out for six days solid. Yesterday, they declared it ready to reopen. I want to buy these guys a drink. Legends.

Via Lord Jim.


Zen 760: Cutaway infographic wallcharts of the world's nuclear reactors

Nuclear reactors look cool. Deny it.

Flickr: Nuclear Reactor Wall Charts [LINK]

Via Bibliodyssey.

Zen 759: Divine justice driving religion to extinction

A study of nine countries - Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland - where religious affiliation is recorded in the census has found that religion is in a full on nosedive to extinction.

The analysis uses something called 'non-linear dynamics' to show that people move from groups where there is declining perceived benefit to belonging to groups where there is increasing perceived benefit.

So if the momentum is against you, it's likely to stay that way until your group dwindles to nothing.

Interestingly it's the same dynamic that religions have been using to undermine, suppress and destroy nonconformist thought for centuries that's ultimately going to undermine and destroy them.

If there's any such thing as divine justice, that's probably it.


Zen 758: What price a safe, democratic world? About six grand a year apparently...

Just found this quoted in Dambisa Moyo's book 'Dead Aid'. It's an insight from a paper called 'What makes democracies endure?' by Przeworski et al. If it's true, the upshot is basically that people need to get rich before they get democratic, rather than vice versa.

"... A democracy can be expected to last 8.5 years in a country with a per capita income under $1,000 per annum, 16 years in one with income between $1,000 and $2,000, 33 years between $2,000 and $4,000 and 100 years between $4,000 and $6,000 ... Above $6,000, democracies are impregnable ... certain to survive, come hell or high water."

I guess the takeout here confirms that human beings really are simple creatures. Let them earn just more than enough to live comfortably and they won't give it up for anything.


Zen 757: Pakistan actress tears bigoted mullah a new one

You'll probably want to watch this with the sound off (it's subtitled), unless hearing two people yelling at each other simultaneously is your idea of mood music. But what is rather special about this otherwise really hard to watch clip is the comprehensive pasting actress Veena Malik unloads on the shifty mullah who appears via video link to criticise her appearance on Bigg Boss, the Indian version of Big Brother.

If there's footage of anyone blowing their top with more poise and yet more venom, I'd like to see it. When she delivers the line: "I am more angry with you than you are with me" you are left in no doubt that she speaks the truth.

Zen 756: Can't we do a no-fly zone without blowing stuff up?

Less than 48 hours into the enforcement of the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya (actually a bigger resolution allowing for the protection of the civilian population) and already there are rumblings that it's all a bit heavy handed and didn't we just want a gentle peppering of stardust to make Gaddafi's Naughty Men go away?

A word on no-fly zones. In order to impose one effectively, you need to claim total air superiority. This means that you need to completely destroy your enemy's capability for fighting in the air, or for launching stuff off the ground that can kill your aeroplanes.

This necessitates not just the destruction of Gaddafi's airforce, but also his air defence systems (anti-aircraft batteries, ground-to-air missiles, geezers shooting at you with heavy calibre machine guns mounted on the back of pick-ups), his radar, his command and control centres and his ability to repair and resupply any of the above.

All of which requires a lot of ordinance to be dropped, with resulting flashes and bangs. Innocent people will no doubt be killed, which is a without doubt a terrible tragedy, but arguably many fewer than will be killed if Gaddafi is left to do his thing.

And that's before you even get to the 'protecting the civilian population' bit.

War, by all reliable accounts, is a very horrible thing. Everything we know about it tells us that it is not something reasonable people resort to if they can possibly help it. It's also acknowledged to be the best way of containing, controlling and (with any luck) killing bastards like Gaddafi.

We just need to remember that the acceptable level of violence is defined by the aims selected at the outset, not by whether or not watching the News at 10 makes us feel a bit queasy.


Zen 755: A message for Japan - get a photo of you with your message and send in to Otter Zen

I think this is rather lovely and inspired. And the feedback from the friends I've spoken to in Japan suggests they feel the same. If you'd like to send a message of good luck, solidarity and/or encouragement like the good people in the link below, do like the man says and email it to me at

Zen 754: The Economist - of all people - pays tribute to Smiley Culture and 'Cockney Translation'

As any fule no, Smiley Culture died during a police raid on his home last week. The cause of death (according to Interweb rumours) was a knife wound, which suggest the dutty Babylon are in the clear and it's someone else wot dun for the little patter merchant.

Other rumours indicate that he was dealing Colombian marching powder and had otherwise become a very naughty boy since his 1984 heyday and the chart-storming 'Cockney Translation' - an above-par novelty track in which he verbally flick-flacks between his East London and West Indian roots. It's good stuff, and coincided serendipitously with 2-Tone and all that Madness, Specials, Selecter, little-pork-pie-hat-and-thin-tie brigade schtick.

So finding a glowing obit to a 'toasting translator' in the Economist was a bit of surprise. They even refer to him as 'Mr Culture', a precedent for ludicrous formality set by Jeremy Paxman some time ago, when he studiously referred to Dizzee Rascal as 'Mr Rascal' throughout their interview. All the same, the track is worth a revisit. See The Economist for lyrics...

Zen 753: Note to Gaddafi - we have no fear of a black planet

Gaddafi has tried a few ruses to get the West to see it his way, but there's one in particular that shows just how badly he understands the Western mindset - presenting himself as a bulwark against an ever-burgeoning tide of black immigration. In the video below he trots it out again while discussing the no-fly zone. He says: "Millions of black migrants will drown France, Italy and Europe, and they will all become black in the shortest time."

Now I'm sure that there are significant pockets of people who would share his horror of a latter-day African invasion through the soft underbelly of Europe, but crucially they do not include Europe's leaders. In fact, they are probably more likely to consider action, just so they won't be accused of tacitly endorsing Gaddafi's views.

And there's another thought to consider. It's a very long-term view, but one that any right thinking person would surely endorse. Maybe African emigration would cease altogether if more of the continent's countries were run by stable, democratic governments under the rule of law rather than kleptocratic old fucks like Gaddafi. So the sooner the bastard gets JDAMed the better.

A hot sausage roll and a cup of Horlicks to the first person to mash-up Gaddafi's Zenga Zenga with this track:


Zen 752: The Chertsey Beer Challenge supports disaster relief in Japan - please come along in bulk! #jpquake #charity #beer

Having lived in Japan and, amongst other things, acquired many splendid friends (and experienced the after effects of an earthquake to boot) I'd like to show a bit of solidarity and use the Chertsey Beer Challenge to raise some funds for disaster relief.

Yes, Japan may be a rich country, as many seem only too eager to point out, but it's a rich country full of human beings under incredible stress. They've just lived through the sixth largest earthquake in recorded history, a 10-metre tsunami, blizzards, plummeting temperatures and a nuclear reactor gone berserk. This isn't the time to stop and examine their tax returns, it's a time to help.

Don't worry, it won't be anything heavy! The plan is to simply charge for tickets to the Challenge (£2 per adult, £1 for kids) and to have an entry-fee for beers (£5 per beer for adults, £2 per beer for kids), so please come along and enjoy the occasion even if you aren't brewing.

We might also have some stuff to auction and, in all probability, a bucket for spare change. The Challenge is on Saturday 23 April at the Crown Pub in Chertsey, beer registration from 4pm, judging from 5pm.

* LINK: Entering the Chertsey Beer Challenge (grown ups)

* LINK: Entering the Chertsey Ginger Beer Challenge (kids)

Zen 751: Japan looks to Fukushima Fifty as nuclear crisis enters 'catastrophic phase'

As if a 9.0 earthquake, a 10m tidal wave, blizzards and sub-zero temperatures weren't enough to contend with, Japan is now facing the prospect of a potential meltdown in one or more of the six reactors at Fukushima.

The incident has just been upgraded to Level 6 on a scale of 7. To get an idea of what Level 7 looks like, Google 'Chernobyl'.

The only thing currently standing between Japan and a large radioactive wasteland are a bunch of people dubbed the 'Fukushima Fifty' - actually more like 180 technicians and workers who work in shifts of fifty at a time.

Since the earthquake, they have dealt with three explosions and two major fires, while working amid 'elevated' levels of radiation to contain the situation. The health consequences in the immediate and long term will not be negligible and their dedication should be applauded by a grateful planet.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world continues to turn, with one forward thinking individual bagging and putting up an information page to prevent it falling into the hands of moneygrubbing squatters. Someone ought to do the same for pronto.

Academics seem to be pretty relaxed about containment at the plant, but industry professionals are being less circumspect.

"Unfortunately the situation seems to be developing under the worst scenario," says Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's state nuclear corporation. And he should know, his country having presided over the biggest nuclear cock-up since the atom was first split.

And as Andriy Chudinov, one of the first men into Chernobyl in 1986, put it: "These are good guys ... They have had it even worse than we did ... That's a nightmare for any atomic worker."

Gambate reactor guys. May the Force be with you.

Zen 750: Japan's nuclear crisis explained as only the Japanese know how, that is, it sort of makes sense but is utterly surreal

Via Yutakun. So let me get this straight. The earthquake gave the power station a stomach ache that made it trump and only the ginger doctor could stop it ..?

Yutakun explains further: "... People thought he soiled himself but it was only wind. Doctors keep giving him some coolant, so that his stomach settles. He has passed some wind but no turd so far. Let us hope the reactor gets well..."


Zen 749: Dog with a moral compass

Boz the Dog was really quite content with life before the arrival of the young interloper, Mack. The latter arrived courtesy of my parents, who discovered very quickly that puppies are bastards. Cute bastards, but bastards nonetheless. So we took him in.

To put it mildly, Boz was disgusted. Suddenly her entire world, including her much-loved bed and toy pheasant, were invaded by an irrepressible, nippy, frenetic and heedless ball of scruffy attitude whose sole mission in life was to ride roughshod over her domestic contentment and repeatedly bite her on the arse.

Yesterday, Boz retired to the garden with the inevitable Mack in tow. For once, they seemed to be getting on quite well. Boz was obsessively watching the spawning frogs and Mack was obsessively watching Boz. Such was the lack of clamour, that my Darling Wife took her eye off them for a couple of minutes.

Next thing she knows, Boz is in the kitchen, woofing furiously in full Lassie what's-that-little-Jimmy's-fallen-down-the-well mode. Mack, it turns out, had managed to get himself stuck under the pond grate, head completely submerged. Two more minutes and he would have been a goner for sure.

One can only assume that Boz acted very much against her better judgement, choosing to do what was right rather than let the bum-chewing little fink buy the farm.

She's a dog with a moral compass, a remarkable trait that she has no doubt been regretting ever since.

Zen 748: Pegg and Frost bootleg Star Wars

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg as C3PO and R2D2, re-enacting the droids-lost-on Tatooine scene from A New Hope. It's really quite clever.

Zen 747: A jar of moles

Yep. That's what that is. A big old jar of moles. Contrary to expectation, this isn't a Heston Blumenthal amuse bouche but one of the 67,000 attention grabbing specimens housed at UCL's radically upgraded Grant Museum of Zoology in London.

I simply have to go and see this place. By all accounts, it's a vast cornucopia of odd, marinating in a bucket of fascinating. I mean, they have a dodo, a Tasmanian tiger and a quagga. All very dead of course, but how cool is that?


Zen 745: The Chinese have their knockers, but this is ridiculous

This is NSFW. And not suitable if you have easily enraged feminist tendencies. Generally, it's just not suitable. But so empowering!

Zen 744: Don't give up Japan! #japanquake

'Dont give up Japan!' is fast becoming the rallying cry of the Japanese quake/tsunami recovery. Sounds better in the original tongue, but neatly captures that Japanese spirit of absolute steadfast determination in the face of overwhelming odds. And there are plenty of artistic responses to it, but this one is my favourite so far (via Yutakun).

Zen 743: What the haters are saying about Japan #japanquake

Don't read this if you'd rather not be in a killing rage. The aptly named 'Ignorant and Online' has been logging the monstrously stupid, offensive and apparently quite prevalent opinions that have been voiced about the earthquake and tsunami disasters in Japan.

The only reason I bring this to your attention is because it is a means of naming and shaming the moronic fuckers. Like this prick Alec Sulkin, who writes for Family Guy and felt the need to tweet this piece of sparkling humour. The twat.

As the author of Ignorant and Online puts it, "these people should not reproduce".

Ignorant and Online: Japan earthquake March 2011 [LINK]

Zen 742: UPDATED: If you're having a hard time getting your head around the destructive power of a tsunami... #japanquake

...this footage should help. This is basically what happens when a 9.0 earthquake picks the entire ocean up and throws it onto the land. It's awe-inspiring and awful in equal measure.

UPDATED with You Tube version:

Video: Tsunami hitting a town in northern Japan [LINK]

Zen 741: Help Japan #japanquake

This poster is excellent. I'm not sure if I like it, but it's really well done and all profits go to the disaster relief fund. It's available from US shop Signalnoise: sold out. I'll let you know if they make more.

Zen 740: French accused of cowardice - by the French, for a change

On Saturday, Italy recorded an heroic victory over France. It was their first win against Les Bleus in the Six Nations and sparked scenes of great emotion and gang-rape of fellow players, if the post-match footage is anything to go by.

French coach Marc Lievremont responded quickly, dropping a raft of established players, including Chabal, Jauzion, Poitrenaud and Rougerie.

"Certain players have worn the French shirt for the last time," he said, "They are good guys, but cursed with ... cowardice."

Nice to see the French following their usual pattern of completely imploding before a World Cup. That said, they'll still probably beat New Zealand in the quarter finals.

Allez les Jaunes.

Zen 739: A heartwarming tale of unreconstructed Surrey folk

This morning, I was engaged in the rare act of ironing. It is my belief that a surefire sign of a wasted life is to die with a wardrobe full of ironed shirts. But needs-must occasionally.

My Darling Wife was sitting at the kitchen table doing something fiendishly intellectual on her laptop.

A knock at the door reveals our pheasant poaching neighbour, a country gentleman in his mid- to late-Fifties.

The dogs predictably mob him - Boz the Senior Dog and Mack, the 12-week-old interloper. Pheasant Man hasn't seen Mack before.

"What ARE you doing?" says Pheasant Man, a fairly standard response when people find out we've got another largish dog living in a smallish house.

"Oh, this one? He's my parents' dog, but he was a bit much so we've taken him on," says I.

"What are you doin' THAT for when you've got one sittin' down over there?" he says, gesturing at Darling Wife.

"Not sure I follow?" says I.

"Not the dog, the ironing," says Pheasant Man, "What are you doin' that for when you've got 'er sittin' down over there?"

He's dead now.

Just kidding. She let him live. With the scarring. But really, she thought it was very funny and we're all still good friends. Except for the evisceration. And the pickle forks in the eyes. No, honestly, he's fine. Etc.


Zen 738: Before and after Google Earth photos of northern Japan

This is a Picasa gallery of satellite imagery taken before Japan's monster quake and tsunami, and what the same area looks like after. If you needed help getting your head around the utterly mindbending scale of this disaster, this should help.

Google satellite gallery [LINK]

These are images of Sendai airport. Or rather Sendai airport, then the space where it used to be.(You get better resolution by clicking on them. Better still, go to the gallery proper.)

Note to Japanese friends. If you need a place to stay, you are always welcome. We don't do seismic in Blighty.


Zen 737: North Korea's got talent

Mainly because if you don't train hard enough they march you out the back and shoot you.

In Stalinist North Korea, the flamenco guitar plays you.

Zen 736: Adolf Hitler's girlfriend, blacked up

I don't really know what to do with this photo. It's genuine. That's Eva Braun, girlfriend and eventual wife of the most racist man who ever lived. She's blacked up. The picture is captioned 'Me as Al Jolson'. Whatever. It's really fucked up.

Via Life: Eva Braun's personal pictures [LINK]

Zen 735: Photographic evidence of British warplanes in Libyan airspace

This just in from my dad. You can see the shadow of his Canberra top centre of the picture. This was taken just 6 years before Gadaffi's coup.

"Taken 28 November 1963. I was 20, and already 6 months into my first flying tour! No 32 Sqn Canberra B15 WH971. We flew from El Adem RAF airfield, now Tobruk Airport. 250 ft 420 kts 25lb practice bomb delivery by LABS (Low Altitude Bombing System) following low level navigation exercise over Cyreniaca. We are approaching the LABS IP (initial point) for El Adem bombing range, running in for a forward toss attack. This is how we would have delivered a nuclear weapon. Camera - F95 fixed forward facing."

Zen 734: Bad Dad - How to build your own potato cannon, aka awesome firepower from a few plumbing bits and some hairspray

Here's the latest from Bad Dad, one of the Otter Zen family of blogs. Like the title says, it's basically an instructional that teaches you how to deliver Awesome Firepower using a few plumbing bits and some hairspray. There's also a video to demonstrate aforementioned construction and firepower. Happy shooting!

Bad Dad: How to build your own potato cannon [LINK]


Zen 733: Brilliant, brilliant TED talk by French graffiti artist JR - must see

I guarantee, when you first fire this video up, you'll think he's a pretentious, mannered, Gallic ponce. The meandering, slightly self-aggrandising preamble doesn't help much either. Or the fact that he's wearing shades in a darkened auditorium. But trust me, stick with it. This talk is fantastic and the art JR has produced is fantastic, as well as funny, thought-provoking, challenging and good.

From the roofs of a Kenyan slum to the hillside favella in Brazil, to the way him and his chums evaded arrest in India or got around the minaret ban in Switzerland, I defy you to watch this and not think his stuff is very, very cool indeed.Further testament - if any were needed - to the fact that the really interesting and worthwhile art around the world seems to be done, in the main, by graffiti artists. Well worth 25 minutes of your life.

Zen 732: 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world - indeed, it's the only thing that ever has'

This is the quote that opens the X Prize Foundation's overblown and bombastic, yet undeniably inspirational promo video (see below).

"The X PRIZE Foundation is an educational nonprofit organization whose mission is to create radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity thereby inspiring the formation of new industries, jobs and the revitalization of markets that are currently stuck. Today, it is widely recognized as the leader in fostering innovation through competition," says the Foundation's website.

The amazing bit of it is that none of this is hyperbole. These guys created the conditions under which a private enterprise put a man in space. Similarly, they inspired the creation of not one, but three hyper-efficient 100 miles-per-gallon cars. And that was just for starters.

The Foundation challenges private individuals to take on insanely ambitious 'impossible' projects in areas from engineering through education and climate change to genomics. By leveraging an endless well of human ingenuity, they've actually produced some massive and awe-inspiring results.

Question is, why don't more people know about this? It's a thoroughgoing goddam mystery, but I suspect it has something to do with priorities, i.e. most people's appear to be fucked, if prime-time TV is anything to go by. Their loss. Watch and be inspired.

Zen 731: In celebration of International Women's Day - an empowering weather workout

You're not telling me a guy could do cute, pink and ditsy half as well. Think of it as our version of the glass ceiling.

Sisters really are doing it for themselves. Even meteorologically.


Zen 730: Hooray for Usama Hasan, the progressive imam

Props to Usama Hasan, an imam who preaches that the theory of evolution is compatible with Islam.

Predictably enough, this has triggered a vitriolic hate campaign and accompanying death threats from 'radicalised' Neanderthals who are, if nothing else, proof that evolution can go backwards as well as forwards.

Speaking about the rampant strain of aggressive medievalism currently dogging the Muslim faith, he said: "There are enough nutters out there."

Unfortunately, such is the temper of the reaction against him that he's been forced to retrench, saying that Islam "isn't ready" for this particular debate.

Full credit to him for trying all the same. He's a brave man in a mad world.

Zen 729: Forget the 2012 Olympic logo - why aren't the Iranians annoyed about the marathon?

You've no doubt heard the news that the Iranian Olympic committee has made an official complaint about the London 2012 Olympic logo, claiming - as many anti-Semitic lunatic conspiracy theorists have already (see below) - that it spells the word 'ZION'. Never mind that you have to artfully rearrange the logo in order to achieve the desired effect. Following the same rationale, you can also detect the evil guiding hand of Lisa and Bart Simpson (see below below).

What is clear, however, is that the Olympic games harbour a much more direct affront to Iranian national pride which weirdly no-one seems to be too bothered about. Every Olympics of the modern era since 1896 has contained this exact same slap in the face, a fact that has failed to raise even a squeak from thin-skinned Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

I am, of course, talking about the marathon. The event celebrates the legendary run of the messenger Pheidippides, who galloped 26 miles on foot from the place for which the running event is named to deliver the news that the Athenians had inflicted a resounding defeat on the numerically hugely superior Persian army, an event that was a deep and personal humiliation to the prestige of the Persian king Darius and arguably the beginning of the end of Persia's dominance as a regional superpower.

It's a bit like the British naming the archery event the 'Agincourt', or the open water swimming event the 'Trafalgar', and inviting the French to take part in the full knowledge of both parties that what we were really doing was reminding them that we'd given them a good stuffing and sent them home with their tails between their legs, while pretending it was an expression of transnational solidarity and togetherness under the flag of competitive sport.

Come to think of it, that's actually quite a good idea.


Top rated comment: "Wow dude, I agree the logo is shit but you are just retarded." The top commenter is right. This guy is not only ignorant and racist, but illiterate too. Nice to see he's playing to type.

And here's Lisa and Bart.

Zen 728: Chinese fail to embrace skinny plastic trollop for girls

Mattel have closed their flagship Barbie store in Shanghai after just two years because the Chinese basically looked at it and went 'meh'. I know. It's incredible that a nation of more than a billion people and home to one of the most ancient cultures on Earth managed to look at a ropey plastic rendering of an anorexic 1950s air hostess and not instantly take it to their hearts, but that's exactly what happened.

Maybe the failure of the store was down to the fact that Barbie is tall and blonde in a country where those are not two characteristics noted as being 'generic'. Maybe decades of programming against exactly this sort of naked cultural imperialism actually paid off for Mr Mao and the rest of his mass-murdering, aforementioned ancient culture trashing henchmen. Yay for them.

Or perhaps it was just a lack of relevance. Maybe Mattel should go again with Sweatshop Barbie, who wears a t-shirt bearing the legend 'Li Gang is not my father' and earns 50 cents a day while her 'communist' boss drives a gold plated roller. Or Dissident Barbie, firing squad and hole in back of head included. Or Olympic Barbie, complete with personal doctor, hypodermic needles and outlandish biceps for a girl. The possibilities are endless.


Zen 727: Footballer wins free kick by hitting himself in the face with opponent's hand

This is Bryan Carrasco of Ecuador slapping himself across the face with the hand of Chile's Edson Montano during an Under 20 kissball international. I've always suspected football is a game for histrionic sissies and this may be the clearest, most irrefutable proof yet to come to light. This and snoods.

Zen 726: Awe inspiring piece of graffiti

Speaking of Banksy, the Bristolian graffiti wunderkind has just bailed out two Russian graffiti artists who are currently awaiting trial for a variety of art-related offences allegedly carried out by their collective Voina ('War'). One such work was a huge penis daubed on a drawbridge. As the drawbridge rose, the HQ of Russia's secret police was greeted with an epic rising member. Who says Russians don't have sense of humour.

The artists, Leonid Nikolayev and Oleg Vorotniko, are now free but still face the spectre of being sectioned after a very Soviet-era sounding 'pyschiatric assessment'. Fingers crossed the dicks in the FSB don't follow through, and full credit to Banksy, who continues to be more interesting and principled than any other artist working in Britain today.

Zen 725: Angry Banksy

I don't know much about art but I do like Angry Birds.

Angry Birds meets Banksy in Angry Birdksy by Bortwein Ortwein.


Zen 724: Intrigued to discover the Americans have a warship called USS Ponce

Which only gets better when you find out it's named after a city in Puerto Rico. A whole city of ponces that isn't Paris.

Zen 723: Lesbians making out in the sky

Superb video FX created by Freddie Wong using two static shots - one of him with a big shouty dude with a beard (Epic Mealtimes Guy) and one of a dead-end urban street. Drama, guns and sportscars crashing from the sky. What else do you need? Lesbians making out in the sky? Let's just say this video is SFW, so don't get excited.


Zen 722: The world's most radical commute to work

At least I think that's what this guy is doing. I see no other rational explanation for him launching himself down a mountain through a barrio while wearing a pinstripe suit.

VCA 2010 RACE RUN from changoman on Vimeo.

Via Dowsey.

UPDATED: Here's the skinny from Bike 198.

"The Valparaiso Cerro Abajo Downhill race is one of the craziest DH events in the world. Held on the streets of Chile, this urban assault race has riders blasting through stairways and doing street gaps with little to no room for error on each side of the track. The 2010 race was won by by Filip Polc of MS Evil/Redbull and this video was shot by another rider known as changoman on Vimeo who had the increased difficulty of having to avoid a dog on the track."

Zen 721: The inevitable Gadaffi remix - ZENGA ZENGA!

You'll be humming this bastard all day.

Zen 720: What do you buy the seven year old who has everything?

Overheard on the train:

"I don't know what to get her for her birthday. What do you buy the seven year old who has everything? She's got an iPod, an iPhone, a 42 inch flat screen in her bedroom, a DS and a Playstation..."

A book?

Zen 719: O2's hilariously stupid Catch 22 censorship

O2 has suddenly taken to blocking access to sites it considers are for 'over 18s'. Presumably this is a measure designed to protect its revenue not its customers.

I'm guessing they looked at the bottom line and realised heaps of people were honking bandwidth looking at naughty videos. Quel suprise. Hence the over 18 website injunction.

I hasten to add that I was trying to get the Drambuie website when I discovered it. So I went to 'My O2', looked through the settings and found 'age verification'. Clicked on age verification and got this.

What price usability.


Zen 718: And you thought the guy from 127 hours was nails...

Here, Samson Parker explains how he took less than the running time of the movie '127 hours' to go from trapped to hacking off his own arm with a penknife. I defy you to watch this and not say "holyfuckinggoddamjeezusfuckinggaaaarhthatshorrific" while chewing your own knuckles up to the wrist. Awesome.

Zen 717: Nazi chic is big in Japan

Japanese boyband Kishidan has been bounced into a hurried apology after appearing on MTV wearing suspiciously Nazi uniforms.

Sony, which owns these particular bleach-blonde pop Twinkies, publicly abased itself after the Simon Wiesenthal Centre pointed out the mammoth cultural insensitivity.

They hastened to add that the uniforms had "no ideological meaning", which isn't strictly accurate. They have extremely potent ideological meaning, it's just that you lot were too bubble headed and glittery to recognise it.

Still, quite a result. As we know, it's terribly difficult to get the Japanese to apologise about anything to do with the war.

Zen 716: More cats with opposable thumbs - the end of the world is nigh

I don't usually do ads (unless they're demented and Japanese) but this one is worth a look for the West Side Story moment alone (via Dirty Kate).

Zen 715: Shakespeare you use everyday, plus a tasty bit of French-bashing

Was doing a bit of Agincourt with Thing One before school today and we naturally watched some of Kenneth Branagh's Henry V on YouChoob to properly get in the idiom (see below). Nothing like seeing the French fleeing in disarray to set you up for the day.

Disappearing down the YouChoob rabbit hole, I also found this clip of Branagh explaining some of the Shakespeare we use everyday. It's only 60 seconds - nothing heavy.

Henry V Agincourt speech (highest rated comment: "i was so moved i punched a frenchman.")


Zen 714: Famous objects from classic movies - how many can you get?

Lovely to look at, with a diverting, hangman-style interface, this is an entertaining way to test your film geek credentials. I'm 40 questions in and I'm not even sure there's an end to it. Nice work, person who made it.

Take the quiz: Famous objects from classic movies [LINK]

Zen 713: Charlie Sheen - deep thoughts of a bitchin' rockstar from Mars

I'm not particularly interested in celebrity meltdowns. They usually involve some overindulged theatre brat meandering up the well-trodden path of booze and/or crack addiction with accompanying weight gain, wardrobe malfunctions, embarrassing photographs and peculiar public utterances. These unfortunates then become the focus of public derision and inexplicable mob hatred, as if having a lot of money and/or fame immediately exempts you from any normal considerations of empathy or compassion.

It must be hard enough at the best of times to present yourself as normal in the full glare of publicity. Trying to do it in the midst of a full-scale breakdown while pursued by legions of gibbering hacks whose sole mission is to expose you to the world as some kind of deviant, drooling loon-bag must be nigh-on impossible.

Charlie Sheen has been exhibiting many of the aforementioned signs and portents of the classic celebrity flip-out, but he's not the best paid TV star in America for nothing. Even in the thrall of some sort of epic psychotic prolapse he's pulling in the punters like no other entertainer on Earth. What a pro.

Clear indications of mental instability abound: the self-destructive behaviour, the delusional ranting, the locking hookers in closets, the belief that 9/11 was a conspiracy, the seeking of advice and succour from bug-eyed alcoholic anti-Semite Mel Gibson. The list goes on.

What really stands Charlie apart is what he says. And he's been saying a lot recently, having embarked on a titanic media blitz to ensure the whole planet gets a fix on just how unrepentantly barking he has become. He now communicates purely in soundbites apparently derived from the frenzied sex talk between an Eighties arcade shoot'em-up and a Speak and Spell haunted by the unquiet spirit of Sam Peckinpah.

He has Warlock blood and Adonis DNA. He has fire-breathing fists with poetry at his fingertips. Parts of him are Dennis Hopper.

"People are mystified by this odyssey that refuses to quit calling itself Charlie Sheen," says Charlie, "Winning, anyone? Rhymes with winning. Anyone? Yeah, that would be us. Sorry, man, didn’t make the rules ... I am battle-tested bayonets, bro ...
I’m so tired of pretending my life isn’t perfect and bitching and just winning every second and I’m not perfect and bitchin’ ... Look what I’m dealing with, man, I’m dealing with fools and trolls ... It’s just strafing runs in my underwear before my first cup of coffee, because I don’t have time for these clowns."

In five interviews he produced enough ripe verbiage for 87 t-shirts, nearly a thousand I Can Haz lolcats and a rebounding Internet meme that will last until the end of recorded time.

Happily for Charlie, when he crashes out of the back of this manic episode, he'll still have more money than he knows how to spend to fall back on, and may even have a career if they can section him quickly enough. All of which means we can keep laughing at the mentally ill guy without feeling too terribly guilty, right?



Zen 712: 'A new film about King John shows him as a cruel tyrant. But does he deserve to be the pantomime villain of English monarchs?' asks BBC News



Zen 711: Cat able to give thumbs up and thumbs down proves that felines are about to make bid for world supremacy

One day, a human astronaut will arrive on Earth thousands of years from now, having been hurled through a wormhole in the space time continuum. He will discover a world in which cats have become our furry overlords and in the final scenes will find the Statue of Liberty buried boob-deep in kitty litter. It all started here.

You think that thumbs up is cute? It's the beginning of the end, I tell you.

Zen 710: Playable Angry Birds birthday cake

A part of me is deeply jealous that I didn't come up with this first. That's assuming of course that I'd ever attempt a series of stupidly ambitious birthday cakes.

Which being a big, rufty, outdoorsy sort of bloke I absolutely never would.


Zen 709: Dogs who listen to children reading

This is either bonkers or genius. It may actually be both. Kids at Oakhill Primary School in Staffordshire now have a 'listening dog' - in this case a greyhound called Danny - who basically just listens to them read aloud.

"It helps with their self-esteem in reading out loud because he is non-judgmental," says the Danny's owner, Tony Nevett, "He doesn't judge them and he doesn't laugh at them."

Danny has been trained to patiently prick up his ears and occasionally nod as he listens. His performance is so good, some of the kids have even taken to showing him the pictures as they go along.

Apparenty greyhounds are perfect for this sort of work, because they don't bark and have short coats that don't produce allergies. Plus, they are lazy bastards who like nothing more than lying around all day, occasionally pricking their ears and nodding.

See also: Zen 648: The British Granny Cloud - how genius is this? [LINK]

Zen 708: Would you buy these crisps?

It's not much of an endorsement is it?